books,  reading,  reviews

Reader Reaction

So I read a book a few weeks back that really left me with a strong, negative reaction when I’d finished with it.  It was a short story collection called Three by Blades. My initial reaction was to jump onto Amazon and give the book an awful review, calling it depraved, sick, and absolutely revolting. If you know me – you know it’s hard to elicit that kind of a reaction from me.  However, instead of reviewing the book I left it alone.

Now here I am two weeks later thinking about the story and wondering how that author managed to elicit that kind of a reaction from me.  It was expertly done, really. The author got the exact reaction he intended to get from me. He drew me into the story, lulling me into a false sense of security, and next thing I know he hits me with the 2×4 of reality. No one likes having a fantasy ruined with a brutal, but realistic ending.

Brilliant. Anyone who can get me to react that strongly (emotionally) to something I’ve read certainly doesn’t suck as a writer even though my initial reaction may have been to jump on Amazon and tell the world how much his story crafting sucks.

This made me wonder about some of my other reactions to books I’ve both loved and hated over the years. Have some books gotten a bad review from me because the author manipulated my emotions and made me feel vulnerable? Did I merely disagree with the book’s message? Does a reader’s mood play a role in how we (as readers) judge the books we read? Could I not get into Glen Cook’s Black Company series because I was in a somewhat disagreeable mood the week I tried to read the first book in the series? Was my review of his work even fair? What about Mercedes Lackey? I loved some of her later books but some of the early ones I couldn’t even read all the way through.

I’ve enjoyed all of the Madelyn Alt’s (even though there were some obvious problems in the first two) and yet the most recent one I’m wondering if an editor even looked at the MS. Is it my mood (I’ve been somewhat critical and apathetic lately) that is causing me to think this, or was this latest book just poorly edited? Again it tells me that what’s good is subjective. Possibly even subjective to our moods.

I know I’ve gotten reviews based on a reader’s difference of opinion. Christians have scorned Outer Darkness and my books about demonolatry. People who are one-true-wayers have told me the relationships in my erotic romances are nothing like *real* (i.e. their own narrow viewpoint) bdsm. People with an aversion to “capture” novels have been disgusted by some of my erotica.  People who are anti-Demonolatry have allegedly bought every book I’ve ever written about the subject (why I have no idea) and told me how awful my books are. All of these  are emo reactions to what they’ve read (if they’ve actually read them, in some cases I have my doubts). So all of this makes me think I’m really on to something and it’s made me reconsider what I’ve judged harshly. It’s also made me view reviews of my own work differently.

In the meantime I’m thinking of giving Glen Cook another go…

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at

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