Not the very good ones and the very bad ones, anyway.
I read two books in the past month that were somewhat of a surprise to me. One was Hard Contact, a Star Wars EU novel by Karen Traviss. People kept complaining about a) the language being too military and impossible to understand, and b) not “getting” the plot, as in, they literally didn’t understand the plot. In a pretty straight-forward action novel. It’s depressing to read a review that says “Those guys are clones of the guy who captured Han Solo for Jabba!”. Just… no. You can critique away and rip the book apart for good reasons, I don’t care, but please get your facts right. And maybe pay attention to the story you’re reading. As you’re supposed to do when reading a book. That’ll help.
For an EU novel, Hard Contact is actually really good. Not the best stuff out there, but a decent read (if you don’t mind 35% ads in the Kindle edition. For the love of god, why?!). Anyways, that was the nice surprise.
The not-so-nice one was Evensong by Krista Walsh. I heard nothing but praise about it, but boy, was that book a letdown. Maybe precisely because of all the praise and my subsequently high expectations, I don’t know. But even so, the book just didn’t live up to any kind of expectations. Unlikeable characters, a plot full of holes and a world that didn’t make sense. Yet it didn’t have even one review below four stars on any Amazon incarnation. I don’t understand. Nothing that irked me so, SO much while I read it was even mentioned in the reviews. Sure, it’s always a matter of personal preference, but I thought at least someone would notice blatant mistakes in the in-universe logic? Like the whole point of getting The Author into his book (to change the story) literally falling apart when people start realising he might not be that omnipotent after all? But then stick to the plan anyway, and then he suddenly is The Creator and God of All? When everything pointed to “nope, he’s not, he’s just a mediocre scribbler who doesn’t even know how big the country is he himself supposedly created“. I fail to see how this makes sense, in-universe or outside.
This is why I usually don’t trust praise. But I guess the whole “author gets sucked into his world” thing sort of lured me in. I wish it hadn’t. Meh.
That’s also why I rarely do very good or very bad reviews of my own. It doesn’t help anyone, and it gives a skewed picture of the product in question. Five stars are for the stuff that makes the “all-time favourite” list; and that’s not much. One star is for the things that not only are bad (or mediocre at best), but also have a generally unappealing package (like the fucked-up chronology of the Clone Wars episodes on the blurays, or the 35% ads and excerpts in Hard Contact’s Kindle version). Those two sets of criteria seldom apply (usually there’s at least something saving the thing in question), so I usually don’t consult the praise and the hate, either. If that’s possible. It’s when it’s not that I get most often disappointed.