Monday, February 18, 2013

What the Feck (WTF): Did We Read the Same Book?!

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...
by Jonetta

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.
Thanks guys!


  1. Yes! I'm actually trying to write a review for I book everybody loved and I almost DNF. It's also a book for one of my favorite series and one I was eagerly awaiting to read. Let me tell you I'm having problems writing this review. :(
    I hate when this happen, especially when friends that usually have the same taste in books love love a book and can't understan why I didn't like it.

    1. I get your pain, Bookaholic Cat! Just do the best you can in acknowledging you know everyone loves the book but let them know what didn't work for you.

      Good luck!

  2. It doesn't happen often, because the bloggers I follow are pretty aligned to my taste. I probably am hardest on YA Contemporary Romance. I am sure that I bring my 40 year old ideals, mother of a teen daughter & teacher at an at-risk high school bias along for the ride. Sometimes it causes me to like the flaws more than most people. And sometimes it causes me to judge harshly.

    1. Knowing your bias is key and you already do!

  3. I find that I am often very different in what I think about books from other bloggers. Often it is where style is concerned. And, sometimes with whether characters are well-developed. Very often I think poor research detracts hugely from how I feel about a book because I know the topic or area. Becca Fitzpatrick is like this for me, because I live in the area she wrote about and I think if you use real place names you should at least know where they are (use googlemaps for goodness sake).

    Also sometimes the fine line between hate and falling into bed together is too finely drawn for me. THere has to be a reason for a change of heart or intentions.

    Or, other people don't want to hurt a writer's feelings. I will be civil but figure the writer needs a thick skin or they should do something else.

    But I sometimes think I am just weird.

    And, sometimes we like a book for reasons other than the quality of the writing - personality of the writer, liberating sexual experience of the characters. Whatever. And the other person might not be in that place so the book doesn't resonate the same way.

    For me one of the most important things in a book, in any art, is sincerity and a lack of pretension. Another is making me feel unsettled or even disturbed. THAT makes me think about something and want to understand it. Tiffany Reisz's books do that for me -- it makes me want to understand BDSM, not do it, but understand it. Where are the limits and when does it go from okay to not okay?

    Different strokes baby!

    Greta post! Steph

    1. Thanks for your comments, Steph! I love that you are unconventional in your perspective. I can only imagine what's on your bookshelf.

    2. Steph, I loved this comment. Especially when you said that one of the most important things in any art is sincerity and lack of pretension.

  4. Often a negative or not soon great rating/review will suck me into trying a book to see if I agree with my fellow reader/blogger.

    One that comes to mind is A Blood Seduction by Pamela Palmer. You either love it or hate it. Some find the book is way too dark but that's the reason I loved it.

    Right now I'm in the middle of the Psy-Changeling series and people are raving about it but it's just ok for me. I'm not even sure I want to continue.

    The other day a fellow blogger tweeted that she couldn't get through Unholy Ghost which is one of my FAVORITE series.

    This is what makes the reading world go around. Not everyone is going to agree on a book. Yeah I'd love it if everyone loved my favorites but it's ok. I may not love one of theirs.

    1. Yep I couldn't do it though I know everyone else I know loves Unholy Ghost :) (Calling myself out)!

      With Gone Girl, I am another who marked the book down because of the end. Not because I wanted justice but I thought the tempo change just ruined the whole thing for me.

      I think I was in the minority for Lover Reborn. I didn't have a problem with N'one but Tohr I wanted to b*tch slap. (The biggest part of my feeling came from Tohr himself--he would say she was a woman of worth and at times treat her the exact opposite. He was pretty screwed up in the head and at times I couldn't stand him. ). Though I am also one of the few that loved Payne/Manny LOL

      I am that reader, I guess! I can't even dislike a book the same way other people do :)

      I am thrilled when people have different reactions to books. I have always loved that there is a book for everyone BUT not every book is for everyone.

    2. LOL. I didn't want to point fingers.

      I was the say about Thor. The parts I liked best about LR was the JM and X scenes and Q/B scenes. I didn't really care for the main couple.

      With Payne and Manny I feel like they didn't get enough page time with their own story. It felt like V 2.0 story.

    3. I really appreciate these varying points of view. We read the same book and came out of it with differing reactions and imprints. When given a chance to interact, we gain something new to consider.

      Btw, I'm a big Manny/Payne fan, too:)

    4. YEAH! I wasn't the only one Jonetta! I adored their love story. Payne needed someone like Manny!

      Jennifer--that was my biggest complaint with the last few books. It seems like the main couple is a side story in their own book. I am guessing that doesn't happen in Quinns book or she will have a riot LOL

  5. I haven't read Tohr's book yet , so behind on this series, I need to read it before Blay and Quinn, but I was like that with Time Untime by Sherrilyn Kenyon. I am a huge fan of hers but with this book I have to say it just wasn't my favorite while others raved on and on. I think my main problem was the mixture of two different mythologies at the same time.

    1. I'm reading Kenyon's series but am not that far along. Sometimes, it just doesn't work.

  6. This is an excellent post. And I think this happens to everyone. I wonder if people withhold their differing reviews b/c they don't want to be crucified or b/c they think they must be crazy. This happened with me with Shirley Jackson's Haunting of Hill House. A masterpiece...only I didn't love it. I feel kind of stupid that I couldn't find the literary nuances of the book, but I just didn't like it...I was a little bored. I do love to hear varying opinions though because I love hearing about things I may not have thought of.

    1. You raise a good point about some being reluctant to give their feedback when it's so opposite of popular opinion. It can get nasty sometimes and I understand why people might choose to keep their feelings to themselves.

  7. "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." I am the exact same way, Jonetta.

    **SPOILER FOR BDB FANS**So the main reason I have not read Lover Reborn is because Tohr moves on! I want him to, really I do. But I read the books one right after another, so I don't think I've had enough time to heal and move on. Pathetic? Yep. But I'll get there soon, haha.


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