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 Amazon.com, 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?