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After six months of not writing one single solitary review, it seems a flood is coming. I would apologize for the glut but… nah, ‘sall good 😉

Anyway, a recent author’s response to my usual courtesy email (“My review of your novel [title] has been posted here [link]”) included something along the lines of “I like your reviews because I can tell you actually read the book.”

Picture me blinking in incomprehension.

Seriously? People out there write reviews without reading the material they are reviewing?

People other than Harriet Klausner, that is *cough*

On another note–but somewhat related–I’ve been mulling a variation of “if you can’t say something nice…” This one is called “For the life of me I can’t understand why harping on the negative and not the positives”.

Here’s the background: the first ever RomCon was held last weekend in Denver. Since it was billed as a reader and blogger event, quite a number of well-known bloggers attended and participated in various ways (DA’s Jane and SBTB’s Sarah had a roundtable/panel thing, for example).

As happens with other conferences, posts went live as soon in the evening as people got to their hotel rooms (if they had internet access, of course) reporting on each blogger’s experiences. Both SBSarah and DAJane happened to have less than stellar things to say about the first day of this convention, which resulted in longish comments threads.

Some of the commenters were happy they hadn’t attended (‘hadn’t wasted their money’ was how it was put) while others offered contrary opinions on the convention as a whole, based on their experiences.

Late in the thread at SBTB, Katiebabs (who had a wonderful time throughout the convention) posted a comment that included the snippet quoted above: “For the life of me I can’t understand why harping on the negative and not the positives” and that got me thinking…

If a person’s experience is negative–or if among the positive there was some really big negative stuff, or even if it just struck them wrong, or they had a bad day, or had a personal grievance, or… (fill in the blank)–why shouldn’t they feel free to talk that aspect up as much as other people should be free to talk up how great the whole deal was for them?

Isn’t it like saying, “if you cannot write a positive review, you shouldn’t review the book at all”?

What say you?

14 Comments »

  • Hey AL,

    Glad to see reviews are forthcoming! I have not been able to get this blog to load in Firefox lately for some reason, so I’ve been merely reading and not commenting.

    I’m glad folks posted their honest perspective on their experience at the conference. The nice thing about blogs is that readers get to comment, too, so Katiebabs, Kim in Hawaii, Kristie(j), myself, and authors such as Lori Foster, who were all there as well, all chimed in to share our more positive perspectives. So everyone had their say, and bystanders can judge for themselves.

    It was unfortunate that blog readers who were not in attendance judged the conference as a failure based on a couple of “day 1” reports. I think the vast majority of people who were actually there, including Jane and Sarah, felt the conference was a positive experience overall. But that’s the internet for you.

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  • I agree. Though initially I felt kinda glad that I didn’t go because of a few things both Jane and the SBs said, as I kept reading I saw that the experience had not been shared by everyone and it all balanced out in the end. I’d be wary (and bored) if all I read was how wonderful this event was. I want to know the good and the bad, and then and only then, decide if I would like to attend a future event. I apply the same concept to books I am interested in. To make a truly informed decision, at least in my opinion, you do need to know the good AND the bad.

    As to the comment you received AL, Harriet Klausner is infamous regarding the writing of a review without reading a book. Why? Because many authors and readers have caught glaring mistakes regarding plot/character names/etc. in her reviews. They are so frequent, that it is not only the improbability that she has read all of those books that she has reviewed what gives grounds to believe that she does not read the whole book (if at all, she is actually the one writing those reviews. It has been argued that she has ghost writers who write a lot of those reviews), but also the fact that plenty of mistakes have been caught in those reviews.

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  • Eh, people should be free to voice their opinions, period. Positive or negative. If they voiced the negative, maybe they had more of a negative experience than others. I dunno.

    IMO, nobody really has the right to tell another person how they should voice their opinion-not unless they want other people return that favor.

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  • For RomCon’s first year, I would say I was very impressed. The majority of those who attended, authors, readers and bloggers had an incredible time.

    One author gave her opinion about HK, which was blown up beause of 2 people who had a less than pleased opinions about RomCon.

    But again that’s their opinion, as well as mine and the other bloggers who have posted what they both liked and disliked.

    We see the same situation when RT and RWA happens. Those who can’t go rely on blog posts and now Twitter to see what’s up.

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  • I used to be one of those ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ people. I wouldn’t ever offer a negative review of anything, from a book, to my managers when I quit jobs. I would always look for the positive. And while this is definitely my natural inclination (I’m a through and through optimist), I’ve since learned that the negative needs to be said as well or there’s never a chance for change.

    I do believe that even if there are negative experiences they can be expressed in a respectful manner. So that’s what I try to do now.

    Everyone has the right to express their views, negative or positive. Everyone has different experiences, so we can’t all be expected to agree on every little thing.

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  • willaful
    July 16
    5:21 pm

    AztecLady, rush out and get a copy of Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich, which includes, amongst many other things, her personal take on how women talking about their breast cancer aren’t “allowed” to be angry or sad. Very interesting book.

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  • The site isn’t loading in Firefox. Just FYI in case you didn’t already know (though I see Jessica mentioned it above).

    If a person’s experience is negative–or if among the positive there was some really big negative stuff, or even if it just struck them wrong, or they had a bad day, or had a personal grievance, or… (fill in the blank)–why shouldn’t they feel free to talk that aspect up as much as other people should be free to talk up how great the whole deal was for them?

    I think people should be able to talk about both. It annoys me a great deal when people make broad, sweeping statements about anything without experience (like those people who didn’t go to the conference but swear it sucked).

    But without constructive critisism, there can be no growth or improvement. I think talking about the negative is a good thing. Being negative (as in, always seeing nothing but the worst in everything) isn’t great, but I think we must take the bad with the good in all things.

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  • Weird. I’m on Firefox and the site loads fine for me.

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  • katieM
    July 16
    6:38 pm

    Off topic – This site hasn’t been loading for me in Firefox, either, so I switched to my Chrome browser. Then today, it loaded okay for me.

    On Topic – Whenever I read reviews on Amazon, I automatically skip all Klausner reviews and I read all 1 star reviews first.

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  • The Firefox issue is weird–the site has always loaded okay for me, and I only use Firefox.

    On the topic: I know from reading their blogs that both Sarah and Jane had a very positive experience overall at the convention, despite their issues with the first day, but that was not the point I was aiming for.

    willaful is closest to it, I think: if a person chooses to talk about a negative aspect of something, because that is their take or their experience of that something, why do we so often rush to condemn them (or accusing them of twisting the truth, or whatever it is) if our own experience or take differ?

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  • Mireya
    July 16
    9:25 pm

    This is kinda off topic, my Firefox browser tries to redirect the link to a different site, and yes, I have firewall up at all times, I have anti-virus software (updated automatically whenever there are new definitions) I run Ad-Aware and Spybot regularly as well. I am suspecting there may be a “hole” of some sort with Firefox. I know I got malware in my PC, while using an app in FB even with all of the above running. I ended up having to reformat the PC. I am considering doing it because of this situation when trying to log on to Karen’s. I am now using Chrome but still, doesn’t make me feel better.

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  • No problem with mixed convention reviews. My Dragon*Con report from last year is called A Fine and Pleasant Misery, and details the worst time it is possible to have with three of the most awesome ladies I know. Most of it was my own acrophobia and crowd issues.

    And if people don’t talk abotu problems, they don’t get fixed.

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  • Jackie U
    July 17
    4:26 am

    I agree completely that people should be able to voice their views no matter how positive or negative they are. What I had a problem with was the misquoting. Complain, bitch, moan, do whatever you want to–it’s a free country–but please, get your facts straight and they DEFINITELY did not do that. I completely lost respect for them because of that. Hi, I’m one of the reviewers they misquoted in their blogs. : ) Had they not gone for the sensationalism and focused on what was *really* said, there wouldn’t be a problem. As it is, it’s a very sad state of affairs.

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  • People should state their honest opinions. The reality is that DA Jane and SB Sarah have a large following. For better or worse, this means people who only visit their blogs will come away with a less than stellar view of RomCon. C’est la vie.

    I’ve been burned many times online by jumping to conclusions based on what someone said someone said. It’s like Chinese Whispers. By the time twenty people have blogged or tweeted about the latest controversy, it’s hard to know what really happened.

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