Sunday, September 4, 2011

The New Book Review -- Good or Bad?

by Susan Santangelo

Good morning from the gray skies of Cape Cod MA. Not that I'm complaining. Especially since Irene was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm by the time it reached our shores. Still managed to cause major power outages and floods, but compared to other parts of the country, we were very lucky.

I think I've mentioned before that our daily paper, the Cape Cod Times, has a full page in the Sunday edition devoted to books. Today's story was a wrap-up of summer reading choices, according to local booksellers. The headline was, "Summer Reading Is In The Bag. Local booksellers list their favorites and buyers'." It was no surprise that the top choices were "Caleb's Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett, "The Harry Potter" series, "The Greater Journey" by David McCullough, and "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. Of "The Greater Journey," one bookseller was quoted as saying, "It's been absurdly popular."

Another local bookseller was quoted as saying that he thinks good verdicts from newspapers and magazines still play a part in sales.

But the truth of the matter is that, with the e-book phenomenon, anyone can post a book review these days. No credentials required. Amazon Kindle encourages readers to write reviews. Goodreads is another popular site. And let's not forget all the reader (ahem) blogs popping up all over the Internet.

I review cozy mysteries every month for Suspense Magazine, which is a highly respected publication. Not all the books I'm given to read are, in my opinion, fabulous. But the author put so much time and effort into writing that they deserve a respectful review. As my mother always told me, you can always find something good to say if you look hard enough.

While I can certainly see the benefits of open reviews, there's a flip side to this as well. Bad reviews often beget more bad reviews, and a perfectly good book can be trashed before it has a chance to build an audience.

My two cents. Others welcome to chime in.

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