Elizabeth: Language, Ladies!

While I occasionally read the intentionally amusing product reviews on Amazon (here’s a link to some), I normally don’t pay too much attention to the reviews people give to books.  I noticed a long time ago that my tastes rarely ever align with those of review writers, and some of the reviews are plot spoilers or just plain obnoxious.

Occasionally, however, when I’m not sure about something that happened in a story I just read or when I’m curious about a freebie that appears in a Bookbub email, I peruse Amazon or Goodreads to see what others thought.  Sometimes the results are helpful, sometimes they’re not, and sometimes they make me roll my eyes so much I’m afraid they’ll get stuck.

A recent book I looked up had a real eye-roll of a 1-star review:

“If you like books with filthy language, you’ll probably like this book.”

In a single short sentence, the reviewer managed to insult both the writer of the book and any reader who might enjoy it.  I pictured the reviewer clutching her pearls and wearing a scandalized look as she made her pronouncement.

I had read the book, which I picked up as a freebie from Bookbub, and didn’t remember any “filthy” language in it so I did a word search for the 7 Words You Can’t Say on Television, but none of them appeared in the book.  I searched for a few dozen other words, but found nothing that could remotely be considered “filthy.”

I guess filth is in the eye of the beholder (or reader, as the case may be).

Another 1-star review said:

“The story would have been good, but there was too much sex.  It was practically porn.”

Okay, that review isn’t as insulting as the first, and I get that people have different levels of comfort when reading relationship stories.  Having read my share of stories that turned out to be a string of sex-scenes weakly tied together by a minor plot, I could even appreciate that kind of head’s up review.  But the couple in the story in question never did anything more than kiss.  It was one of those “and we’ll close the bedroom door and leave things to your imagination” kind of books.  All I can think is that the reviewer must have had a rather dirty imagination if she saw porn or anything approaching it in the story.

I guess porn, like filth, is also in the eye of the beholder.

I couldn’t help thinking, as I have in the past, that it would be helpful if there was a “this was not the book for me” option for reviewers to choose, to weed out those readers who picked up a book that turned out not to be their catnip.  Many of the 1-star reviews I read would have fallen into that category.  I’m also rather curious about someone who would give a bad review to a book just because it wasn’t the right book for them.  A 1-star review for something that was poorly written or had fatal plot flaws–sure.  But for picking up a book that you didn’t realize would have -gasp!- sex or language or a storyline that you didn’t like?  That seems wrong.

For now, I think I’ll just stick to reading the intentionally amusing Amazon reviews (here are a few more, courtesy of the UK Daily Mail).

Though I’m guessing humor, like porn and filth, is also in the eye of the beholder.

8 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Language, Ladies!

  1. I have a three-star review on Amazon with the headline: “Not a clean romance but good if you don’t mind that” which cracks me up every time. I also have a one-star review on the same book that leads with “This is not my kind of book.” I’m so glad, then, that she reviewed it anyway and gave it a star.

    I’m with you about offering the “not for me” option. I have strong feelings about calling books “clean” when what readers mean is “no sex” or “no intimate touching.”

    One thing about those hilarious Amazon reviews: I spent about a day one time reading all the reviews for those “Bic Pens for Her.” At the time—years ago—there were more than a thousand reviews, all of them incredibly funny. I’d read that Bic was taking that down and/or renaming the product, and when I just searched for it now, I couldn’t find this entry. There is still one entry for “Bic for Her” with only 23 reviews, all of them dead serious. But I laughed really hard at all of these examples.

    • Kay, I know those amusing Amazon reviews were very popular a few years back; they seemed to be popping up on any number of products. Seems like it could have been a fun marketing strategy for an otherwise rather dull product (ball-point pens, I’m looking at you).

      Bummer about the 1-star review. I’ll never quite understand why reviewers do that for a “not my book” scenario. Then again, I don’t know why they do it for “I bought this product by mistake” or “my order didn’t arrive” or things like that either. People are odd.

  2. I gave a one-star review recently; it was for a supposedly Regency romance, which had three major failings:

    – the author went from past tense to present tense in the first two sentences of a paragraph REPEATEDLY. It clearly wasn’t bad editing, because the pattern was repeated over and over.

    – Her view of the Regency period was straight out of bad Hollywood movies. A gentleman does not call on a respectable woman wearing only ‘slacks’ and a linen shirt. People do not say ‘swell’ unless they’re talking about the sea. Barrettes are 20thC – it would have been a jewelled comb.

    – Finally, an annulment was not something easily obtained, and a married woman moving in with a man she was not married to? Had the author not heard of Criminal Conversation?

    • Zuleikaa, I’m surprised you made it all the way through that book. Poor editing and an abundance of historical inaccuracies would have spelled a quick end to the book for me. Giving a one-star review in that case seems completely reasonable.

      • I actually don’t think it was poor editing – I think that the author thought that it was correct. Actually, that was in the same sentence, now I think about it.

        It was fortunately a very short book, and I’m very stubborn!

    • Jeanne, that was a good Argh post and discussion. I have noticed that a lot of the freebie-books I pick up seem to be trending more and more toward explicit sex, with plot as an afterthought. Perhaps that’s the “sex sells” mentality. Fortunately, there are plenty of strong storytellers out there to compensate for the misses.

  3. This post was more relevant than I thought.

    In today’s Facebook news feed I saw this post from author Christina Dodd about a review she received:

    “I hated this book because it is all about sex, sex, sex. The story gets lost in the descriptive sex pages which are numerous.” — Amazon one-star review about SCENT OF DARKNESS

    Christina said it was her favorite one-star Amazon review ever. 😂

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