Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Beating a Dead Horse . . .

Following the outcry that arose after it came to light that an author(s?) has been pseudonymously* posting Amazon reviews praising their own books and panning fellow authors' work , (read story here) I heard many readers say "I'm no longer trusting reviews by strangers.  I'm relying on the opinions of book bloggers I know."

But Cynical Me can't get past wondering how well we really know the bloggers we're trusting.  Are we always getting an honest opinion?  The reason I question is because I know I've done it myself.  Forgive me bloggers, for I have sinned!  I confess - I have written reviews that may have (slightly) exaggerated the pros and (slightly) underplayed the cons of a book.  In the name of good manners, I have glossed over slothful plots and gluttonous verbosity.  Brothers and Sisters, I have prostituted my blog out of greed for a measly free book. None of this is news - I've discussed this topic before - repeatedly (*see post title) - most recently when I had a little "Come to Random House meeting" with myself, changed my book review policy (the vague one in my head since I've never actually written one down), cancelled my affiliation with the two blog-tour sponsors I have used, stopped entering contests for giveaways that come with real or implied agreements to write a review, renewed my commitment to finding my reading joy, and vowed to leave it alone.  

But here I am, flailing at this poor horse again because of a Twitter conversation and/or experience this morning.  I was scrolling through tweets, stopping to click on links to book blogs, book news, book reviews, book magazines . . .  When I had finished, I tweeted: 

  • Is anyone else overwhelmed by the volume of book genres, sub-genres, discussions, analyses, explanations and reviews available?
  • I used to just go to the library and pick a book. Now I have to research a Master's Thesis in Literature to decide what to read next.
That observation led to a conversation with a Twitter friend (who shall remain anonymous so she's not accused of sharing any views or sentiments expressed here) about how difficult it can be to sift through all that information, glean what is useful and toss the chaff; to not let the perceived "prestige" of reading what's trendy encourage or discourage me from reading what gives me joy.  Let's face it, the person on the train or in the doctor's office reading 1Q84 appears smarter than the person reading Wicked Business, but it doesn't mean they're having more fun.

I'm not pointing fingers or implying that any specific bloggers are deceitful in their reviews, or biased in their reading choices in order to promote their blog, gain prestige or carve out a bigger piece of the blog world for themselves.  The point to this rejuvenated attack on a defenseless deceased equine is to remind myself that the friends who visit here trust me to say what I really enjoy reading and my honest opinion of those books; to reiterate my determination to stop letting my reading choices be swayed by hype, media and book tours, and trust the book blogger I know best - me.  And now, honestly, I will let dead horses lie.

*That's really a word - I looked it up!


  1. I'm also guilty of a few writing reviews that:
    a) underplayed the weaknesses of the book
    b) made it seem that I liked the book better than I really did.

    I have no excuses.

    I hope this whole thing doesn't blow up and discredit all book bloggers. That would be a shame.

  2. Okay, first of all, that is funny (especially the non-picture!). Second of all, I've done the same thing. I really just can't pan a book; I know the author has worked very hard and I imagine how I would feel in their place. A hand full of times I have panned a book - and sure enough, those are the times the author leaves a comment! But you're right, we should probably be more honest.

  3. Beat away … it isn't a topic that should go undiscussed. I hope that most bloggers (if not all) blog from a spirit of loving books and wanting to talk about them honestly. I mean we all know we don't love every book we read so I wouldn't expect a blogger to love every book they review (and if they did, I'd have some serious concerns.) It is hard to write negative reviews though … I do admit that and I always try to be balanced and explain why perhaps this book isn't good for me but still share what didn't work so others can take that and use it as they wish.

  4. I'm trying to read just what I want to read and no pressure to review a particular book. As an Amazon Vine reviewer, I've tried to avoid requesting books this past year and focus on non book items to try and review. I don't want to feel compelled to finish a book I don't like because I got it for free.

  5. It's tough when you accept a book for free to then turn around a less than positive review. I used to occasionally accept books from authors, but not any more, the relationship is too close and it's too hard to be biting if you are trying to be tactful :)
    I do have one exception, Les Roberts a local author, and his publicist have offered me his books and I accepted the last one because I am a huge fan already.