I find reading to be much like experiencing any other piece of art, everybody comes to it with from their own viewpoint. Nobody is going to read a book and experience it the same way. Maybe the characters really relate to you, maybe the plot brought up unpleasant memories, maybe the style is not something you can get into, maybe it was a perfect book for that particular time in your life, all of these are just a very few of what can influence your feelings toward a book. Some people read almost all their books with a particular slant, some see things with a feminist view and pick up on elements that may disturb them, but may not bug a different reader, some people read with character development in mind and can't help but phsycoanalyze each and every character to grace the pages, while another person could not care less about the possibility of a third string character who only appears for three pages may have undiagnosed OCD. All this to say again, reading is a very personal experience. Keeping this in mind, it only makes sense that if one reviews a book it will be with the same viewpoint and slant that the reviewer read the book with...and that is ok. I do not think it is possible (certainly not for me in any case) to review a book with 100% objectivity, you will always approach a book with your own personal likes, dislikes, and experiences and these will probably come out in your review. After all in my mind that is what a review is, a persons particular reaction to a book for any number of reason. This is one of the reasons I love reading other peoples book blogs and reviews is to see why other people may or may not have liked a book I have just read. I do not go to these sites to necessarily have my opinion changed, but rather to hopefully join a discussion on various aspects of the book and to get other viewpoints that I may not have considered before, this is also why I personally write my ramblings, so I can talk and discuss books!
Now we get to commenter's (I include myself in this group as well, because I frequently comment on blogs and reviews). I will say the majority of the time commenter's are awesome, we as a group usually gather at these blogs to have a lively, civilised, often hilarious discussion on books and all things related. Sometimes it gets bad, really really bad and these are most often the times when an author does not like a particular book. Most of the blogs I frequent are well written, that is one of the reasons I enjoy them. The reviews are well thought out and explained, most of the time they are balanced, with even books that are disliked having some element the reviewer can try and compliment, and the author is never attacked on a personal level. When the verdict is negative, the reviewers usually set out what they did not like and why in a complete and mature way. That is when sh*t hits the fan. Commenter's start throwing out insults and all caps yelling about what an idiot the reviewer must be, and how his mother is a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries. None of this is conducive to discussion any more than you can talk to a person while they are screaming and throwing things. I have no problem with people disagreeing with reviews, in fact I rather like it when a person disagrees with me...provided they tell me why in a mostly adult manner, I like when people agree with me, but for different reasons, I like it when people agree with part of my thinking, but not all of it. The goal of reviewers is not to make everybody see it from their viewpoint and nothing else, but rather show their own personal reaction to a book, and invite you to join a discussion. When a commenter feels the need to freak out because somebodies opinion does not match their own, it makes me think the commentator does not actually know what he/she is talking about, I feel they are not mature enough to be part of a conversation, and that they missed the point of a review, and don't even get me started on authors who can not stand to see bad reviews of their books, I understand that (hopefully) each book is a little piece of the author, and the criticism is hard to take, but if you allow honest and open feedback, you will probably get more readers than you will if you go off on a commenting diatribe on how the reviewer obviously did not "get" your work, and that they are just out to ruin you (hm this may actually be a topic for another post).
Ah that was a long diatribe of a post...oh well it's my blog so I'm gonna make it a little longer. When you are commenting, whether you are a reader, blogger, author or just a passer-by please remember to keep it civil. You will win more people to your side. I read a comment from an author on a review site that had duel reviews of his book, one of the reviewers loved it, and the other one did not like it very much. Both reviews were well written and thought had obviously been put into what was being said, the author in his comments said he enjoyed the fact that his book produced two different reactions, and that he was glad both reviews were up...even the negative review. This made me completely fall in love with this author (here are the reviews). Please remember not everybody is going to love the book you love, you are going to hate books others can't put down, and the reasons for these will always be different from person to person. Happy reading and happy discussion everybody!
What do you think about "mean" commentators? Do agree that is impossible to write a book review objectively? What do you think the responsibility of the reviewer is? What is the responsibility of the commentators?