Friday, 3 February 2012

Five Star Amazon Reviews

I've been reading a lot lately and most of my reading has been done on the Kindle which, being so easy to use, encourages me to read more quickly and, consequently, more full stop. My Kindle purchases have been downloaded from Amazon and several times recently I have been asked if I would mind adding a review to the site. As I love both reading and writing, this presents no problem and I am currently gathering my thoughts together on what to say and I think I've pretty much got that sorted. The problem lies in the star rating. So many books on Amazon have five star ratings (especially in the self-published category) that I feel churlish in suggesting that those I review are anything less; but to class an enjoyable romance or crime novel in the same category as, say, John Updike's  Rabbit Run, Kazuo Isiguro's  Never Let Me Go or Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger implies that if I ever find such wonderful books, they will have no better rating than the perfectly good novels I've been asked to review.

If you hold the cursor over the Amazon stars when writing a review, the following legends appear :-

***** I love it
****   I like it
***     It's OK
**       I don't like it
*         I hate it

But these descriptions don't appear alongside a book's star rating on it's home page which I feel leads potential buyers to use their own perception of five stars and for me (a big movie fan who reads the film reviews every week) that means exceptional. I will always want to see a film with four stars which I think of as very good and will be very happy to form my own opinion of three star films (a score which tallies in my mind with Amazon's "it's OK") although I would rarely bother with one that scored lower (on average across a number of critics).  

So when I write my reviews I will try and be as fair and honest as I possibly can but if I start throwing five stars around, what happens when something exceptional turns up?

Such as anything by Carolin Smailes who we went to hear speaking at Birkdale library yesterday. A full house heard Caroline talk about her Damascene moment whilst watching "Richard And Judy" (I wonder if it was one of the three or four episodes that our long suffering son appeared in); this inspired her to enroll for a writing course. She then went on to get her work noticed via the blogosphere (there's hope for me yet), suffered the pain of a publisher's liquidation but saw that pain relieved by success when her work was picked up by Harper Collins. It was good to hear somebody who clearly loves books, and language, and we were fascinated to see how her novel Like Bees To Honey (definitely five stars) and it's original cover, developed. Her books are one instance where the Kindle is not the best medium to read as she plays with fonts, layout and other innovative features which can't be reproduced on en e-reader. I'm looking forward to her next novel.

I love the iPhone. I spend far too much time on it but it's such a wonderful piece of equipment that it's hard to put it down. I hope that I'll get one of the new ones with the personal assistant Siri. I see that it's going down a storm in Scotland.