My Reviewing Dilemma

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This is going to be a long post, a TLDR: I’m stressed out about how I’ve been reviewing, and things are changing a bit….. again.

Everybody has their own reviewing style, and it’s been really interesting watching the judges this year for SPFBO and their very different thoughts on the same books. It’s really made me think about how I review, and why I review the way I do. There have been many debates on the r/fantasy discord channel on how to review ‘fairly’ and if ‘objectivity’ should matter in reviews, (if objectivity is even possible) or if they should be someones personal feelings and nothing more.

There is no right answer there, and I don’t want someone to get the wrong impression reading through this post – this is just how I’ll be doing things on my blog, and is in no way a statement on the other blogs reviewing processes despite the fact that other bloggers and reviewers have made me reflect on my own way of doing things.

I agonize over reviews, I really do, I stress myself out sometimes when I can’t figure out how to score a book. This happens most often when a book is ‘good’ but wasn’t at all to my taste and I’m trying to hash out how to score things. This happens quite a lot, but I try not to let it show in my reviews.

The purpose of reviewing, for me, is to get the right book into the right hands, and so far it’s been less so about how much I liked it myself. I believe that every book has an audience if you can find it. The “best” books with authors that have a fanbase in the millions will still have those who don’t like the book. Likewise, a book that is ‘universally’ known as ‘trash’ will still have its fans. Just because it wasn’t my thing, doesn’t mean it won’t be yours – and I try and write my reviews so that you can tell if you’ll like it or not.

I’m going to try and expand my audience sections going forward, and I’ll also be trying to include more of my personal feelings to go along with my ratings. The way I’ve been doing my reviews up until now makes me feel like my reviews read a bit like book reports, and that’s fine to a point, but I want to add more personal thoughts to my reviews from here out as well. (I’ve been doing that a little bit since Jan)

So, when I first instituted my grading system it was a shot in the dark to see if I’d like it, and I do to a point. I like how, for instance, even though a book could bomb the writing section if the characters and plot are strong enough it evens out the score. One area that needs improvement can’t really destroy a book’s score given the way I review. I feel this really evens things out and it can help me judge a book that’s totally outside of my wheelhouse more ‘fairly’ than just a gut reaction to how I felt about it personally. A perfect example of this would be Pilgrimage of Skara. The character wasn’t at all to my taste, however, like some other reviewers have said, the world building, pacing and writing were there. So, the book didn’t totally bomb given the way I personally score things. To get a 1 star from me, a book has to be severely problematic in every single category.  That said, I’m seeing a bit of a problem when I look at the spread of scores.

I’m approaching the end of my 100 book journey, and things aren’t shaping up quite how I thought they would.

Out of 100 books, they have all scored at least a 5.9/10 which basically is 3/5 stars, and no one got above a 9/10. When I think back on all that I’ve read this just doesn’t sit right with me, it’s a very condensed spread of numbers. I know I’ve read a few 2-star books, and I feel like a few of them should have hit that 9/10 or higher. I do not anticipate giving any 1 stars, there wasn’t a book that I felt was completely problematic on every level.

I am going to be going back through all fucking 90 books and revisiting their scores before I hit 100, so when I announce my top 30, do my giveaway, and a post on my overall thoughts on this whole thing, I’ll be able to feel like it’s an accurate portrayal of how things went. My guess is that over half of them will stay right where they are, but some will go up or down.

Please don’t hate me if your score goes down a little, no one’s book is suddenly going to go from a 4 to a 1. I actually just went through my entire goodreads catalogue of books and my average score dropped a substantial amount, but this isn’t because I suddenly hated everyone’s book, I simply stopped rounding up, I really want my 5 star books to stand out.

I was nervous about making this post, I personally don’t like leaving negative reviews because I feel it serves the opposite purpose of what I’m trying to do, so don’t worry, I’m not going to be going back and changing the reviews to say how much I didn’t like them. My purpose is still to promote authors and books.

If you’re reading this, it means I finally mustered up the ovarian fortitude to post this.

 

5 comments

  1. I think reviewing sounds HARD. There’s just so many aspects to a book. And you want some objectivity, but there’s no way to be totally objective, because reading is an utterly objective thing! I can’t believe you’re going back through them all! you’re amazing.

    1. so far one score has gone down, 3 have stayed the same, and one has gone up. it’ll be interesting even for myself to see how this turns out lol

  2. My reflection is that Emily May is not a top reviewer without a reson – she writes deeply about a book and on her feelings about it and she won’t shy away from giving low scores to generic books. That makes her reviews valuable and entertaining. For me your reviews will become more attractive once you’ll add more personal thoughts and start calling fictional characters names if they deserve it 🙂

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