It is possible to have a good time at “RED,” but it is not a very good movie.
Sure enough, I had a great time even though it's not a very good movie.
By contrast, music reviews might as well be written in Italian for all they help me figure out if I'll like something. That's mostly my failing; I lack the musical intelligence to understand what people who have that intelligence are saying to each other. For musical recommendations, I find Pandora to be a better way to go.
So what went wrong? Obviously, I thought I was getting one sort of book after reading the review, and instead I got something that was just badly written. The prose in Reckless Dream -- all of it -- was the sort you get in sex scenes: misty allusions and gauzy metaphors to prevent calling a penis by its anatomically correct name. As a result the sex scenes in Reckless Dream weren't bad, but the rest of it was deeply frustrating.
Okay, so the writing wasn't very good, and as a result the pacing seemed off. It also didn't help that Reckless Dream's author withheld a lot of back-story that could have kept the reader clued in to what was going on.
Here's what I'm struggling with. Why did the plot and characters sound crystal-clear and sparkling in the book review and then be ditch-water gray and murky in the book itself?
One explanation is obvious: the book reviewer is a better writer than Reckless Dream's author. The reviewer made the characters more coherent -- in the book, they were a mess -- and presented the plot as compelling and intriguing. Maybe the reviewer was able to tease out all the good bits for the review and ignored the rest. Maybe I'm just intolerably cranky. But for whatever reason, my cynical verdict is that the book was a snore but the review was great.
Most reviews focus on a recap of the plot and characters, and then finish with a short statement of the reviewer's enjoyment level plus one or two things that were particularly pleasing or disappointing. It's rare that I read a review that actually discusses the style and techniques the writer used. Sometimes it seems the review is of the romance, and not of the book presenting that romance. You know -- the review's all about how much the reviewer liked the characters and believed their relationship, with no mention of whether the book is any good.
What's your experience with book reviews? Have books lived up to, exceeded or fallen short of what the reviewer(s) led you to expect? Are there reviewers you trust, or is it the review itself that helps you to know if you'd like the book? Finally, what elements in a review help you know if you want to read the book?