Friday, August 1, 2014

Negative Reviews, Stickers and Other Pet Peeves

Moving to a new city, leaving th comfeort of my home, looking forward (not) to two years of university life made me dig up this old draft about things that make me uncomfortable: my bookish pet peeves. I suppose two years will turn me into a very accommodating person, I can only hope, but you have to admit, finicky obsessions do have their personal touch.

Review / Blogging:

Negative Reviews: Of course, there are whole big complicated annoying discussions about this one. But my problem is not whether negative reviews are morally right or wrong, but simply this: do bad reviews really affect your decision to buy? Ever since I started writing this blog, I have discovered many great authors through rave reviews of their books. Five-star reviews and unending praise do play a part in convincing me to pick up a book. Negative reviews, unless I've already read the book, are kind of pointless. I've never decided to not buy a book because someone thinks it SUCKS -  It's just someone venting their frustration: too subjective. 

Stock Reviews: I suppose I went through this phase too, where all my reviews read the same; the plot is fast-paced/action-packed/slow/meandering. The characters are realistic/fake/blah blah. Reviews that make no real expansion on what the book is reminiscent of, what it makes you feel, the theme, the point of the book are kind of pointless anyway. Pointless overly-commercialized posting is a big problem in the world of blogging, I think.

Book - Appearance:

Book Stickers: I hate stickers on books. They ruin the prettiest cover pictures. The offer stickers (50% off, 3 for 2) are generally easy to remove, but you can't say the same for price or "Oprah's Book Club Read" stickers. When I bought the latest addition to my Rowling collection, I made sure to meticulously and almost fully scratch off the sloppily unimaginative sticker on The Cuckoo's Calling. For those of you who share this pet peeve, but would rather not attack books with your fingernails, the How to Remove Stickers from your Books tutorial is very helpful.

Edge gilding or colouring: This is a new peeve. I have a mystery novel with red coloured edges and my old library had a Philip Pullman book with black edges. Both look preposterous in my opinion. Colouring the edges of books is such a needless waste of... well, colour and money I guess, and I do believe page edges browned and yellowed with colour have a certain finesse that you lose when you colour them artifically, even if with gold leaf.

Book - Content

Slabs of writing with no spaces - Okay, so I understood and appreciated the creative need for this in Jose Saramago's Blindness; the effect the writing had of wading through darkness like a blind person. But then I started reading another of his books that had little to do with losing your sight and it was just the same. I left that book. Reading shouldn't be an effort, should it? What's the fun in that.

That's enough complaining for today, I'd say. Although, this post has given me the idea of posting about things I love to see in books, a much happier post, don't you think? But till then, what don't you like to see in books?

9 comments:

harish p i said...

I love reviews that explain certain things that I overlooked while reading the book. It may be positive or negative.

Priya said...

Harish - You have a point. It's always nice to read another's perspective on a book you've read. But the negative reviews I don't like are the kind that only go on and on about how the book sucks without any insights, and you have to admit, there are many such reviews!

Divers and Sundry said...

"Reading shouldn't be an effort, should it? What's the fun in that."

Amen!

Viktoria Berg said...

I have sometimes taken a bad opinion as a recommendation - knowing the reviewer´s general tastes compared to my own. Or not, even. And sometimes, praise makes me suspicious.
I tend to skim over, or don´t read at all, any poems that appear in stories. I have become better at reading them with age, but as a rule I don´t particularly like seeing poetry in the prose I´m reading. That said, I loved Vikram Seth´s "Golden Gate", which is ALL poem (or maybe verse, I can´t quite make the distinction), and read it twice!

nishitak said...

I actually value negative opinions on books, they tend to be more honest than all those fakey wah wahs out there. Of course, the best reviews are those balanced ones which give enough information and talk about what worked and what didn't. What I hate is those phoney ones (there are quite a few nowadays :( )

In books, turn offs are bad fonts, cheesy graphics on book covers, and poor editing.

Priya said...

Viktoria - I haven't read all that many books involving poems, but I am wary of poetry as it is. I will read Vikram Seth's book though, from what little I know, I'm better with verse than with poetry!

Andrew Blackman said...

I can see the value in someone posting a negative review of a popular book that everyone else is raving about - I always like to read contrary positions. If the arguments are valid and I trust the reviewer, it might also save me from wasting time on a bad book. But I don't see the point of a negative review about a book I'd never heard of and would never have read anyway!

I'm with you on stickers and spaceless writing too. Edge gilding doesn't bother me personally, but I don't see it too often anyway.

Divers and Sundry said...

I want the reader's honest opinion, for good or ill. I don't write real reviews, but I do keep track of books I read on my blog. Sometimes I don't like the book, and I say so. Many of the reviews I see aren't reviews intended for the formal literary world or Amazon and certainly haven't been solicited by publishers but are more personal reports on personal blogs. I don't see the point of them reporting books they like and not books they dislike. When I get to "know" particular bloggers the negative reviews can be more helpful that the positive ones.

One of my pet peeves is used books with seller stamps inside.

Priya said...

Divers and Sundry - What you've said makes sense. I suppose negative reviews could be more helpful than positive ones, and a negative review need not be just the bashing I was referring to.

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