reading reviews

What Reviews Do We Trust Nowadays?

(Update: I’ve been told that “someone” linked to this post, so if anyone has any questions at all about my identity as a him or a (her?), please follow this link, thanks. It’s unfortunate I have to update this way, but sometimes it is what it is.)

This morning I posted about Rose Marie Terenzio’s memoir, “Fairytale Interrupted.” I left five star reviews everywhere for the book. I read other reviews that were far less kind. Evidently, not all agreed with me.

This afternoon I read a review for a different book on a well known romance review web site that was scathing. The reviewer had one of those peculiar names, which is a red flag for me at once. When I can’t pronounce a reviewer’s name, I tend to trust her less. She reviewed the book with the lowest possible rating, and then went on to rip the book to shreds in what appeared to be a narrative that resembled a short story more than a book review.

I didn’t read the book in question. I don’t know the author. I was simply perusing. To be completely honest, I DNF the review because as reviews stand it was awful. There is nothing more annoying than a book reviewer who can’t get the basics out fast, simple, and neat. I lose patience and interest if a review is too damn long. I would imagine other’s feel the same way. Who has the time?

All this aside, after I read the review I went to Amazon to check out reader reviews for the book in question. Huzzah! The largest percentage of customer reviews on Amazon for this book were five star rave reviews. There were a handful of three star reviews. And one or two one star reviews.

This puzzles me deeply. If all these people on Amazon can read a book and give it rave reviews, how am I supposed to take a “professional” book reviewer seriously? Years ago we didn’t have any choice. Amazon didn’t have customer reviews and we were subjected to the tastes and choices of book reviewers in print periodicals. In other words, the book reviewer’s opinion had more influence on our purchases. This isn’t the case any longer. We now have to vet reviewers as well as books.

I’m not knocking the book reviewer, not by any means. Even though I think her name is stupid and her review far too long for my taste, I believe it was an honest review and she has every right to her opinion. But that doesn’t make it any easier for me as a reader to decide whether or not I might want to buy this book. And, once again, because the review on the “professional” review site was so long and so cutting, I actually decided to buy the book myself thanks to the bad review.

This isn’t the first time a bad review has prompted me to buy a book. The author should send this odd name person a small gift. In this case I wasn’t even planning on buying the book. But I’ve learned that some of the worst reviews on some web sites actually mean a book can be quite interesting. And when there are dozens and dozens of rave reviews on Amazon, I’m more than willing to take the chance.