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New format for Amazon reviews?

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

New format for Amazon reviews?

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue March 24th, 2015, 11:22 pm

Now This is interesting.
apparently Amazon is experimenting with making it easier for inarticulate readers to describe a book by having a few global 'rating' criteria on perceived quality of writing, plot complexity, violence, sexual content, and whether the story is told in first second, or third person.
I have often wondered if having something like that would be useful on the forum.
What do you think?

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Mythica
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Preferred HF: European and American (mostly pre-20th century)
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Post by Mythica » Wed March 25th, 2015, 12:05 am

Interesting - I know some people on Goodreads have asked that they add a star rating breakdown for things like writing, plot, characters, etc - sort of like Trip Adviser has for things like service, value, etc. But most people pan the idea (hardly surprising since most commentators on GR seem to love shooting down ideas and suggestions). This looks less like ratings though and more like the metadata options on GR.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed March 25th, 2015, 12:34 am

As a reader, I have often wished that I could know ahead of time if there are things like overly graphic violence or gratuitous erotica and saved myself the time and money.

Not that everybody's opinion on that will be the same, but I quickly learn to sort who likes what.

For HF, I would dearly love a rating for historical accuracy. It wouldn't stop me from reading a sufficiently good yarn, but I would at least like to know how much credence I should give the story elements.

Of course, with controversial people like Richard III, there would be two competing groups who could get into slamming the historical accuracy, depending on your opinion of his character. But even that would be lively (and on this forum, it would stay polite.)

Ash
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Post by Ash » Wed March 25th, 2015, 12:42 am

Everyone I know who writes reviews has a different take on what the stars mean. For me 5 stars is a rare event, and I consider those books to be among my all time favorites, 4 star is great writing, interesting plot, complex characters and readable 3 is ok, 2 has lots of of problems , and 1 star is a book I didn't finish or one I threw against the wall if I did. My DH however grades them by entertainment value. So I don't think something like this would work at all.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Wed March 25th, 2015, 1:01 am

I think if one reads a variety of reviews then those questions are answered. There is always someone who is put off by violence and sex. So if you read enough reviews then you should get that. I also ususally tell someone what narrative its in.
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Carla
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Post by Carla » Sat March 28th, 2015, 4:02 pm

There's something of a conflict between having ratings on lots of dimensions to accommodate aspects that are important to different readers, and having so many that it becomes too complex to use. From my side I would prefer just to read several reviews; I agree with Divia that across several reviews most of the dimensions will be covered anyway, as different reviewers pick up on different things.

I agree with MLE about the usefulness of a rating for historical accuracy. However, it might be difficult for reviewers to apply in practice (even apart from the Richard III-type partisan controversies), because judging accuracy requires a strong knowledge of the period and events. I wouldn't feel able to make such a judgment in most settings.

I already look for the author's note first as a sort of proxy to give me an idea about the historical accuracy. If the author's note apologises for moving a character from one prison to another in May instead of August, or has an outline along the lines of 'these characters were historical figures, this and this event happened, the rest is invention', I find that's generally a pretty good pointer to a novel that has taken the historical framework seriously.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat March 28th, 2015, 4:14 pm

That is certainly true on the historical accuracy. I suppose what I really want to know is, how well does the writer know the setting, and what is their general take on sticking to the facts? There is a wide range, from Elizabeth Chadwick, who feels that she must do her utmost to 'connect' with a historical figure's personality and feelings, to C.W. Gortner, who (at least in The Last Queen, about Juana of Castile) admitted that he left out her overwhelming religious character so that she would not seem like 'a freak' to today's reader. I enjoy both writers' work, and didn't mind the switch in the case of Juana la Loca, but if this had been my only introduction to Juana of Castile I would have appreciated an author's note to that effect.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Sat March 28th, 2015, 6:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Carla
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Post by Carla » Sat March 28th, 2015, 4:46 pm

That's a good way of putting it, and that's what I'm trying to glean from the author's note (also the author's website, if they have one). It's not by any means perfect, but so far it's the most effective way I've found.

I haven't read CW Gortner's book on Juana of Castile yet (though I intend to at some point). Where did he say that he left out the religious aspect to Juana's character? It sounds like it wasn't in the author's note to the book (is that right?) so I am just wondering where you came across it? It's just the sort of thing that I would want to know.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Sat March 28th, 2015, 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat March 28th, 2015, 5:02 pm

Carla, it was on this forum. Once we switch formats so the searchability is better, I'll be able to bring up the quote.

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat March 28th, 2015, 5:30 pm

Of course, Author's notes can be dangerous. I remember enjoying 'Year of Wonders' by Geraldine Brooks, until I got to the author's note. Apparently the heroic actions to keep the plague from spreading which were engaged in by the real-life village pastor were in fact, true, and I was astounded at the influence of a man who could persuade a whole village to quarantine themselves instead of fleeing in all directions. And then she admitted to destroying the man's character to create drama for a story (which hardly needed any more) even though both he and his wife had held fast despite one of them dying. It so completely pissed me off that, even though I had enjoyed the story, I have never read another of her books.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Sat March 28th, 2015, 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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