Friday, September 26, 2014

The Reviewer Snob

I know that title sounds really bad, but I promise you that this is not a personal attack on anybody in particular. Hell, it's not even an attack on reviewers in general. This is just me, wanting to let off some steam and vent about a problem I have. And that is being a reviewer snob when it comes to books.

What do I mean by that? Well, critiquing is fun. You guys know that. It's why you're reviewers. You read books, you pick them apart, and then you write reviews for them. Sometimes they're filled with gushing and fangirling and OMGs and this is a new favorite of mine because it's so amazing! And sometimes they're not. Sometimes they turn into full-on rants where you rage about everything that went wrong and why you're so pissed and disappointed with the story. But what happens when you can't take off your critic hat to just enjoy what you're reading?

I'm in a place right now with reading that has left me feeling burnt-out and just tired. In the last two weeks, I've read 9 books. One was the first in a serial (3 stars), which I'm not counting in this rant because I'm not a huge fan of installments anyway. Out of the rest, I had a 4 star read (Raven) and a possible 5 star (I say possible because I haven't rated it or reviewed it yet, but it's likely to get the highest rating from me). That book was Burying Water by K.A. Tucker. It's the only one out of those 9 that hasn't left me feeling disappointed in some way (I should have known; KA never lets me down). But the rest of them just haven't hit the mark. Some of them were because of the high expectations I placed on them, due to my love for the authors or series. And some of them went in a completely surprising direction that I ended up not liking. Because of that they've been in that middle place, 3 or 3.5 stars, which are hard to write. They're harder to write because you liked the story, right? However, you had problems with it. It wasn't the best you'd ever read but it wasn't the worst. It was just...disappointing.

But am I being too critical, too analytical about every little detail in the books? Guys, I love reviewing. I love fangirling and writing about how much a book has impacted me and why I think everyone in the world should read it. And of course, I love writing ones that end up being major rants about all of the things I disliked about the story. But at some point, I become a reviewer snob.

I critique EVERYTHING. I pick apart every little thing that happens. And when I do that, I stop enjoying the book to an extent. Because then I'm focusing on all that's wrong with the story and why I want to stop reading it. It becomes more about the review I'm writing out in my head than what the author is trying to tell me. And, I think, that's a very troubling thing for a passionate bookworm like myself. 

It showed with those 6 other books I read. Three were new-to-me authors, but they just didn't wow me. One, I downright disliked. Queen of Someday, which had so much potential to be freaking amazing, but it fell short in everything. And the other two were not what I was expecting and left me disappointed because I didn't like where the story-lines headed. I liked the books. I think they had great potential. But they just didn't WOW me. They didn't bring anything new to the table and they didn't amaze me. It sucks when it's an author I've never tried before, because then I'm not as invested in their other books.

It especially sucks when my expectations are not met, when I've previously read and enjoyed the author's other works or because it's part of a well-loved series. Out of those 9 books, three of them were disappointing because I placed them on a higher scale. Sacrifice by Brigid Kemmerer was, by far, the biggest letdown. I have loved this series from the beginning, so it killed me to rate this no higher than 3.5 stars. I was disappointed with the conclusion and it just didn't make me as happy as the rest. The Fine Art of Pretending was another little letdown. Rachel Harris is one of my favorite authors, but this book just didn't feel up to par with her other ones. Don't get me wrong, it was adorable and perfect for the kind of mood I was in. But it wasn't very thought-provoking and deep (which I've come to expect in contemporary romances). The last one that really killed me was Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire. As a lover of BD and Trent, I couldn't wait to dive into his story. So imagine my shock and utter disappointment when I didn't get his POV. It pissed me off, and the story just kind of went downhill from there. And after that bullshit of an ending, I'm not interested in the next Maddox book. Not really.

And, I just. I know that expectations are not good! I know that I need to stop holding books to a high standard, because most of the time, they do not meet them. It's not good if I go into a story with an expectation, of any kind. And I think that when my snobby reviewing comes out, it just amplifies the disappointment I feel when a book is not meeting my standards. It happened, especially, with Beautiful Oblivion (which I just finished tonight). Right from the beginning, I was pissed because Trent didn't have a POV. I think that clouded my reading experience, because I started raging about everything. And I honestly can't wait to write this rant review (I'm a horrible person, I know).

Buuuut, sometimes I know I'd love books more if I didn't worry about ratings and reviews, if I didn't let other bloggers influence my reading decisions, if I picked up a book at the store or library without checking Goodreads first. There are times when I hate reviewing, when it feels more like a job than a hobby. There are times where I just need to take off the critic hat and enjoy what I'm reading. Where I need to lower the expectations and just let myself get swept up into the story without being nit-picky about every little detail. I need to stop worrying about what's wrong and dissecting all of the parts. I just need to stop being a freaking reviewer snob.

And because of these last few weeks of disappointments, I'm feeling a little burnt-out on reviewing and reading. I don't know if it's me or these books or my ridiculously high expectations, but something is just not connecting and it's affecting my reading. My bloggy friend Val suggested rereading a favorite of mine, so I think I'm going to do that. I'll be heading to the library tomorrow, so I'm going to pick up The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I'd already planned on doing a reread of them before Blue Lily, Lily Blue comes out, so this would be the perfect opportunity. And I'm hoping that by doing this, I'll get out of this negative reading slump, take off my critic hat, and just enjoy my favorite hobby again without all the expectations.

Your turn: do you ever feel like critiquing books lessens your enjoyment? Do you ever get tired of reviewing? What do you do when you're in a reading slump?

10 comments:

  1. I know exactly what you mean!! My average GR rating has tanked :0 I used to love basically every book I've read. As I've gotten more and more critical I've noticed I'm looking too much into everything instead of just enjoying the book. I'm always on. I'm always critiquing. It kills me!! Every once in a while I lose myself in a book and don't even think about the critiques until it's review-writing time. But oh gosh, sometimes I wish I weren't so critical. Lovely post idea <3

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    1. I used to be able to ignore most problems I had with a book. I used to inflate ratings because I never thought too critically about them. But, at some point, I put on the critic hat and never took it off. And think it's a bit harmful for me, because I'm so passionate about reading and I don't want to become this "snob" who can't enjoy a book without ripping it apart.

      Thank you, Rachel! I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. And I hope the both of us can find some kind of balance so we can enjoy books more. :)

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  2. Oh my goodness, YES! I have to tell you this silly story, but it illustrates your point: I was reading a book (The Book of Ivy, which I did enjoy when I stopped being ridiculous). It's a dystopian, and the girl was wearing a bathing suit at one point. Now, there was an explanation of how some conveniences were still accessible, and it was a quite plausible one. But here's what I got hung up on for like, twenty minutes: Lycra. Freaking LYCRA. I could not get over the fact that the damn lycra would have dry-rotted in the years that passed. I mean, why did I let that interfere with my enjoyment of the book!?

    Sometimes it is really hard to find the balance between being too easy to please (a post I have for next week, actually!) and being critical of stuff that probably wouldn't have bothered us pre-blogging/ reviewing.

    As for slumps, they are HARD to get through. I have had them. I definitely agree with Val, reading a favorite is great. And taking a few days away from blogging can help too. Good luck getting through the slump, and great post :)

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

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    1. I do the same thing! I'll get hung up on this one issue (in Beautiful Oblivion, it was the POV thing), and then it'll just mess with my head and ruin my experience.

      And yeah, finding that balance is SO HARD!! I was definitely not as critical as I was pre-blogging. In fact, I just read books for fun and didn't think too much of them. They were just an escape for me, so I didn't care if there were problems. I didn't look to hard at them.

      Thank you, Shannon!! I think I'm slowly getting over it right now. :)

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  3. I love this post Holly! I think the downside to reviewing books is becoming overly critical of them. I try really hard to just enjoy a book and not overly criticize things. (I fail big time sometimes)

    I've noticed that bloggers I used to love to follow, it just seems like they don't like anything anymore. Everything is underwhelming or 3 stars and under. It's a damn book, you either enjoy the story or you don't. No need to over-analyze everything!
    Have you noticed that almost every book that is coming out is already butchered rating-wise on GR months before the book even releases? Makes me not want to even read the book. But then I try some of them and it's not even bad. Then I feel like if I like it, people accuse you of 'liking everything.'

    I guess I'd rather be the girl who loves a lot of books as opposed to the blogger who hates everything.

    And about Beautiful Oblivion, that book was shit. It was a plot twist that made no sense just to add shock value. No freaking way would Trent NOT find out that his brother is dating the girl he's 'loved all his life' when everyone else in town knows. So many things just didn't make sense which is a shame because I was actually liking the book until the last page.

    Reading slumps suck. I'm going through one right now so I'm just saying fuck it to my TBR and re-reading some of my favorites. I think if I force myself to read ARC's I would just end up hating everything any.

    Great discussion post!

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    1. It definitely is the downside to reviewing, especially when you're reviewing book after book and not taking time to read a "fun" one.

      I've also noticed the Goodreads thing! When more and more ARCs are reviewed, I watch as the rating goes down or fluctuates. Or I'll see people having such polarizing reactions to it, and then I'll start to push it back because of them. I try SO HARD not to let ratings steer me away from books, but I've done it in the past. And I'm trying to stop because what if I'm missing out on something great?

      I would so much rather be the reviewer who likes everything, but I have inflated ratings in the past (mostly because I rated right after I finished a book and then I realized later on when I was writing the review that I didn't love it as much as I thought. But I just want to save those 5 stars for truly amazing reviews, because otherwise, they'll lose their value to me. Then again, maybe it's just because I'm being too critical.

      Nereyda, there were many things in your Beautiful Oblivion review that I didn't even think about! That book was so freaking disappointing, and I pretty much butchered it in my review (which will hopefully be up tomorrow). I'm just so...disappointed and I HATED that plot twist and ending!

      That's what I'm doing right now! I'm reading some "me" books and it is so nice. :) Thanks!

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  4. I HAVE BEEN MENTIONED. I have yet to read The Dream Thieves, but I'm pre-ordering the paperback version which is supposed to come out on the 30th (Also I need help, I have 3 out of 4 books chosen to order off of Amazon, Throne of Glass, Anna and the French Kiss, and The Dream Thieves, but I need a fourth book. And I've been stuck between Ruin and Rising or Cress, or some other book.....idkkk)

    OK BUT ANYWAYS. I kind of have this problem, but it's more of me enjoying ripping books apart (because I'm a bad person), while not enjoying reading a really bad book. Basically, I hate reading a book that just doesn't suit me, but reviewing it is fine, because I have so many thoughts about it.

    To be honest, I'm not sure I had this problem before having a blog, so maybe thinking a book is bad is due to writing reviews? I don't know. But then again 1) I CAN NEVER GO BACK to thinking like that and 2) writing reviews makes me remember what happened in the book or series, and I used to never remember anything I read. So I guess I'll choose keeping my memory over not enjoying the smallest of things in a book.

    NICE DISCUSSION HOLLY <3

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    1. BECAUSE YOUR SUGGESTION WAS SO GREAT! (But you should know that my library didn't have The Raven Boys, so I couldn't reread the books! *cries*). And girl. You should totally get Cress, and we should read it together! Yes, no? Maybe? :)

      Oh, dude, I really love ripping apart books sometimes, so I guess I'm a bad person too? Oh, well. *shrugs* I'm not sorry about it, especially if the book was so bad that I can't help but be snarky and ragey.

      I never had this problem before blogging! I was never a reviewer until I decided to join the book blogosphere, and sometimes I wish I could go back to the time when I read books just for fun and not to review them. But I agree with the memory thing! They are really nice for helping me remember books, especially if it's a series with those long-ass waits in-between the sequels. Then again, I rarely ever put spoilers in my review, so I guess I'm not going to really remember the biggest and most important parts. Haha.

      Thanks, Val!! :)

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  5. Maybe you should take a few books that you have no plans to review. I haven't been in the same place as you but during my last reading slump, I ended up reading some books that I wasn't going to review for different reasons. It was so relaxing and a much-needed break :D

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    1. That's what I decided to do!! I picked up two books from the library that I'd been wanting to read, so hopefully they'll help me get out of this reading slump. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

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