Apologies to the regulars for the sudden unsheathing of claws in the ETA yesterday, but I felt a need to fend off drive-by commentary from strangers who had assumed that my not-happy-about-this reaction to a specific DA post means that I think that reviewers must never say anything critical about a book.
My view of reviews is this -- their main purpose is to allow others to make an informed judgement of whether they might want to read the book, or to remind the review writer at a later date of what they thought of the book.
Reviews that are nothing but fluffiness about how wonderful the book is, without any indication of why the reviewer thinks this, are of little use. Equally, reviews that exist purely for the reviewer to show off how much cleverer they are than the book's author are of little use.
There is a wide range in between that *is* useful. It is quite possible for a reviewer to have a policy of not criticising books, while still discussing in detail what they enjoyed about the book. And a reviewer can write an analytical review that is critical in both senses of the word without it being an attack on the author. There are examples of both on my feed, and I find both useful to me *as* *a *reader*. Which in turn means that I find both useful as an author seeking review, because I know what sort of reviews I find useful in considering whether to buy a book.
I don't think authors have a right to have everyone like their book. I do think there are some reasonable expectations to hold of reviewers, and they're the ones that james_nicoll put forward in a post on his LJ, and later on a reviewer's community, and expanded upon by various commentators (including me). As far as I'm concerned, an author isn't being unreasonable to feel aggrieved about a review on those grounds, although it may be unwise and will almost certainly be futile to publicly complain.
For context, James is a professional reviewer, his job being to read ARCs and then write reports on them for various book clubs that want to know whether to buy the book club rights. The people commenting are mostly science fiction and fantasy fans, some of them also being writers and/or reviewers and/or editors. (In the sf genre there is a lot of overlap between roles, and most pros are also fans in the sf sub-culture sense of that term.)
Having had some time to think about it, I think part of my reaction to the live-blogging thing was that from my perspective it was edging into the territory of point 1a, i.e. criticising a book for not being the book you expected it to be. In this case, the expectation wasn't actually that unreasonable, as the book is published by Harlequin Spice -- long-time romance readers are going to have certain expectations because it says Harlequin on the cover, even though the Spice range has apparently starting experimenting with books that don't fit the normal genre conventions.
- further to Sunday's post...