Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Are We Talking About the Same Thing?

I love to read reviews. I do. I’m a sucker and read my own. Sometimes it’s a great experience. Sometimes, not so much. I look at reviews this way, different strokes for different folks. What might be your favorite book, won’t be mine necessarily. That’s fine. In fact, I prefer it that way. If we all liked the same books, then what fun would that be?

But I came across something in my reading that bothered me. When there’s a review, the book is classified. Fine. The tags make things easier when you want to find a book with certain aspects in it. But this particular review I’d read condemned the book on the basis of a tag. Which book? Nah, I’m not going to throw the author or reviewer under the bus. That’s not the point here.

My point is two-fold. Just because a book has a tag of say, BDSM, doesn’t mean the book will be all about that tag. BDSM is a broad tag. BDSM doesn’t always mean a D/s relationship. It doesn’t mean the couple (or more) will be living in ‘the lifestyle’. BDSM can mean anything from using handcuffs on one character to lashing one to a cross, while using a crop on the character. It’s a wide range. Just because the book was labeled BDSM but the characters are playing a little slap and tickle doesn’t mean the book is any less of a book. It’s not. BDSM happens to have a broad definition. The same thing works for fantasy and paranormal. Paranormal is a gigantic genre of literature. Vampires, Fae, Zombies... paranormal can be a lot of things. A reader can get a book about ESP. That’s got a paranormal slant. Is it any more or any less paranormal than a book about vampires? No.

This leads me to my second part of my point. As the reviewer, you’re not helping your cause if you rate a book low because it’s not what YOU expected. Forcing your expectations onto a book won’t make it any better and will probably make it worse. When you write a review and say things like ‘this book didn’t live up to expectations because it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I can’t rate it high because of this’ you’re missing the point. Did you read the blurb? Look at the cover art? Did you go to the author’s website? If the cover doesn’t give you an idea what the book is about, then go to the author’s site. Most likely there will be excerpts. Read those. Read the first chapter if possible.

Make sure this is a book you want to read before you buy. You’ll save yourself the headache of reading a book you didn’t care for. Grabbing a book that’s labeled paranormal and expecting it will be about vampires isn’t fair to the book or the author. Same thing works for a book with BDSM elements. If you go in expecting the lifestyle and find it’s not about the lifestyle, is that enough to rate it a zero? Or is that irrelevant?

My thought is this: You’re looking for a book to read. You want something paranormal with BDSM elements. You want hardcore. Then look for a book with those tags. Go for it! I’m excited for you. But make sure you read all the tags, check out the blurb, and read excerpts when possible. If it’s the book for you, then read it. If you feel moved to do so, write a review. But be objective. Honesty is fantastic, but it loses its effectiveness if you’re too busy being negative about the nitpicky stuff. The author wants a review so she/he can learn and grow. Help them grow.

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