Friday, January 22, 2010

Reviewing . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

Word recently came out that a major book reviewer, Kirkus, will no longer be doing reviews. It's a shame. Prior to that, many newspapers stopped having their own review pages. Professional reviews and reviewers are disappearing practically every day. One of the few places left to find reviews of books is at, below most of the books listed there. Some of the reviews there are by professionals, some by knowledable book lovers, some by the authors friends and relatives, and some by snarky people looking to hit writers in the knee caps.

So what part do reviews play in your decision to buy books? I didn't really think they made much difference to me, since I tended to ignore movie reviews from professional reviewers because I usually hated the movies they loved or loved the ones they hated. However, I'm a picky mystery reader and reviewers usually give enough information to let me know if the book is something I'll enjoy. Or not.

For instance, if there is graphic language or violance in a book (or a movie for that matter) it's not for me. I read to escape when the world seems to dark or difficult. I don't want to escape into fiction that's too dark or difficult. I know there are loads of readers who like the dark stuff. To each his/her own. But reviews help me save money by not buying books I won't enjoy just because the cover is interesting. And reading the first chapter isn't always helpful. Sometimes books slide downhill fast after the first chapter.

There are discussion lists for readers that can help us find books we love. DorothyL is terrific for mystery lovers, helping all of us sift the wheat from the chaff. And there are lively discussions about the various parts of writing and publishing, as long as it doesn't stray to far from the point . . . the point being which mysteries are good and which aren't. You can find the DorothyL discussion list by doing a search. Same is true for romance, science fiction, and all other genres.

I read a lot of reviews but I rarely give them. As an author I simply can't say out loud in public that I hate another author's book (though I might tell a friend or two privately) and if I only review the books I love, people will stop listening. I do mention books that really capture my attention, the can't-put-down kind. Those you just gotta share with others.

My fave read last year was PRAYERS FOR SALE by Sandra Dallas. Not a mystery, but a wonderful book about the relationships between women friends. I've read a couple of other Dallas books and enjoyed them. My fave author for mystery is Donna Andrews because she makes me laugh. So does Bill Crider. I love learning from Tony Hillerman while reading his mysteries. Anne Perry's Monk mysteries are enjoyable as are her Christmas mysteries. I'm reading her latest. And I'm enjoying re-visiting some Agatha Christie's.

What were our fave reads for 2009? And how much do reviews influence your buying/reading habits? Oh, and did you get any good books for Christmas?


signlady217 said...

Loved "Prayers For Sale"! And I love Donna Andrews, too. Some of my favorites from last year were Jennifer Chiaverini's Elm Creek Quilts series; read the entire set (11 or 12 of them at that time) in a week!

Some other great ones were Nancy Thayer's Hot Flash Club books, Haywood Smith's Red Hat Society books, and Robert Dalby's Piggly Wiggly books. All three series had me rolling on the floor laughing. The way the characters interact with one another reminds me so much of me and my friends (except for the drinking!) We're all such good friends, and love to have fun together, but also are there for each other when things get tough. Couldn't get by without my "peeps"!

Sandra Parshall said...

My favorite book of 2009 was The Help, not a mystery but a fantastic book that I will never forget because its characters are so real and true. My favorite mystery was The Last Child by John Hart. I read a lot of reviews. They steer me toward the things I might like. So many books are constantly being published that I need a little help!

Anonymous said...

Don't stop posting such articles. I love to read stories like this. Just add more pics :)

Marilynne said...

I do reviews and I try to do them honestly. Like you, I usually don't agree with a movie critic's take on movies. So, I do book reviews of the things I read so I can help other readers like me.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Signlady, I love Chiaverini's series too! I'll have to check out the Red Hat series since I'm also a Red Hatter, so thanks for the tip.

Sandy, my book club is reading The Help for next month. I've heard good things about it.

Thanks, everyone, for your comments!