As a writer, one of the things I really appreciate is when someone takes a few minutes to place a thoughtful review of one of my books online, either on their blog, Amazon, or Goodreads. Whether they like the book or not, the fact that they took the time means the book meant something to them. That said, not everyone feels comfortable writing a review.
Earlier this week, I was going through some reviews of the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild on the website Rotten Tomatoes. Most of the reviewers loved it but a few didn’t. That’s not surprising. One movie can’t please everyone. That said, one of the reviewers compared the movie to Disney’s infamous Song of the South. I happened to notice the reviewer was a white male and I was curious if any black reviewers shared his opinion. Browsing through Rotten Tomatoes, it struck me how many professional reviewers are white men. In fact, I couldn’t find a black reviewer whose opinion was cited. It struck me that this is a serious problem and I couldn’t help but wonder if by giving such weighted value to the opinions of white men, it keeps others from sharing their opinions as freely as they might. It also made me wonder whether or not white men dominate other review venues so thoroughly. I haven’t had a chance to pursue that question.
At the same time as I’d noticed this, I took part in a discussion of book reviews at The Steampunk Empire. It occurred to me that one of the difficulties of reviewing books and movies is that they walk in two worlds. They can be both art and consumer products. What’s more not everything that’s good consumer product is good art and vice versa. In an ideal world, the two come together and a good thought provoking book will also sell well, but that doesn’t happen very often.
It occurred to me that when I review books, I tend to look for the best in them. Were they fun? Did they make me think? Were they good art? Did I have a good time reading them? I realize that’s not true of everyone. Some people have very specific things they look for in a title. For others a good review will simply reflect how well the book met that person’s expectations.
Do you review the books you read? What kinds of factors do you look for in your reviews?
Before I leave just a couple of news items. This weekend, I’m at Las Cruces Comic Con in Las Cruces, New Mexico. My table is the first one against the left-hand wall as you walk in. If you’re in town, be sure to drop by! Also, I’ve heard my editor is hard at work on The Brazen Shark and I should see her notes in the next couple of weeks. I’m wondering if I’m going to get notes for both my steampunk novel and my horror novel The Astronomer’s Crypt at the same time. Yikes!