What the Feck?! (WTF?!)
Is a new feature here at The Book Nympho.
Every Monday we will post a book related topic
that had us thinking WTF?! while reading a book
or talking to others in the book community.
Did we read the same book??
Or is it just me...
Did we read the same book??
Or is it just me...
If you've followed my reviews it probably doesn't come as any surprise that I have fairly eclectic reading habits and enjoy many genres. I also love to talk about books no matter what the experience. It's pretty interesting to get others' perspectives as I'm open to new ways of thinking. I expect that people will have differing points of view and that's normally a good sign that the writer has done a good job.
There are times, though, when I see reviews on books I've read where the experience was polar opposite of mine. It seems to happen mostly when I've had an extreme reaction to the story (love or hate it). Someone is chewing up and spitting out a character that I absolutely adored or has fallen in love with a plot that I found ridiculous. It's most puzzling when the majority of reviewers are on the opposite side of my point of view.
Here's a recent example. I reviewed Linda Howard's Shadow Woman a few weeks ago and while I thought it was okay, I also believed it should not have been positioned as romantic suspense. When 80% of the story occurs through the character's mind and the heroine/hero don't interact until the end of the story, I think what you have is a good mystery/suspense with some romance elements. I love the mystery genre and don't have to have a romantic angle to enjoy it but if you tell me I'm going to get it, I read the book with those expectations.
Well, initially I was getting hammered on Amazon amidst the 4 and 5 star reviews. I kept wondering if I missed something in the story to suggest that more romance was in the air. Then, the tide started to shift and lo and behold, my review is the third most popular for that book (even with a heavy load of dings) behind two other 3 star review. I even have 8 comments attached to my review! I guess other readers who have similar points of view were slow in getting to the book or were waiting for more views like mine to appear (don't mess with Linda Howard fans!).
I don't feel bruised or uncomfortable when someone loves a book that was just average or less than that for me. But, when I love a book or a character and many others have a far different opinion, it rubs a little. It's almost like it was my book and how come no one likes my work? I so want others to have the enjoyment I had and feel a bit deflated when they didn't share the experience. It feels similar to having put my heart into making this great meal and everyone thought it tasted like it came out of a can (my husband ONCE said that to me). It happened when I raved about one of my most favorite books, The Wild One by Danelle Harmon, to my sisters-in-law and my friend during our weekly pinochle session. They promptly got the book, read it and then...nothing. When I asked about it, they politely told me it didn't do it for them. I was crushed as their opinions REALLY matter to me and we rarely disagree. (I have many other friends, though, who share my feelings about this book.)
I've also found that passions run high when you have a strong opinion about books from popular series. Not everyone is going to like every story and that's expected. Emotions run even stronger when the author "messes" with beloved characters or storylines.
My best example is J. R. Ward's Lover Reborn. I thought she took incredible risks with Tohr's character. ***SPOILER ALERT**** His relationship with Wellsie was so special and beloved, so to completely destroy it destroyed the man. His recovery spanned several books and this book was tough and honest (I thought). Mine was an early review and I got crucified by mostly long-term fans of the series. At first I thought I had missed something completely or read it with a bias toward seeing him happy again no matter what. Most absolutely, without a doubt, HATED No'One. If you haven't read some of those reviews on Amazon you should check them out. Opinions were really strong and I just didn’t understand a lot of their take-aways from the book. This was one of the few times where initially I questioned my opinion and perspective (I'm now over that).
When I get the chance to interact with other readers about a book, I mostly find it to be a very productive and enriching experience, no matter the point of view. It tells you a lot about the reader and it does give you pause to consider another way of relating to the story. Often, there are patterns that get revealed, either some of yours or the other participants. You've got to be careful, though, when reaching out to someone you don't know...normally, the tone of the review will give you a clue. I'm not looking for an argument, just clarity.
Regarding patterns, I've also learned that I should stay away from some storylines. One example is where the hero cheated on the heroine at some point. I'm never going to forgive him, no matter what and that's going to affect my assessment of the entire book. It may be unfair but I'll always be clear about that as a factor in any review I write if I inadvertently read a book with that event in the storyline.
The best we can all do is try to state as specifically as we can what about a story made us love or hate it. I get frustrated with feedback that doesn't help me understand the "why" behind an opinion (loved it-best story I ever read, hated it-worst story I ever read). I'm not looking to argue a point of view but if you tell me you hated it because there was too much suspense, I'll probably run buy the book. If you tell me you loved it because it had a great love triangle, I'm moving on (probably, but we've already talked about that:)).
We bring our own personal experiences, and biases, to a story and they're going to influence our assessments. I know one of the reasons I read and like so many different genres is because I started reading really young and liked the fantasy of fiction. I suspend reality and allow writers to take me on their journeys. It's up to them to get the paths right. It's rare for me to have any pre-ordained notion of how the story should go and I typically roll with the author. It'll either be a great experience or a bumpy ride but one I choose to let the writer direct.
A great example of letting the author choose a path and reader bias is Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. Most reviewers that hated the book had that reaction because of the ending (they were all pretty clear about that). I happened to believe the ending was brilliant because the writer stayed true to the characters in how vindication was inflicted. Others wanted to see one or more characters really get justice a different way, which revealed a bias toward their ideal of what that should look like. I never would have conceived the ending but Flynn effectively led me to the water and I was able to drink it.
- What's your experience?
- Do you have any examples of books you just couldn't figure out why others had such opposite opinions of yours?
- What do you do, if anything, to try and figure it out?
- Are you aware of any biases you bring to a story?
WTF has been nominated for Best Feature
in the #BBTC Awards.
in the #BBTC Awards.