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 Post subject: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:42 am 
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There were these warrior women in antiquity who loved to read and review books. But, that's a diversion.

I often rely upon Amazon reviews to decide to buy a book. In particular I look at the 1 and 2 star reviews to see if:

1. There are common criticism threads.

2. If those threads illuminate areas that are off putting to me.

It has worked well.

Then, based upon my current interest in WWII in Italy, I purchased Mark Sullivan's Beneath a Scarlet Sky. It received massive positive reviews, won all sorts of awards, was an Amazon #1 bestseller, was purported based upon interviews with an Italian resistance fighter and seemed right down my alley. The negative reviews seemed minimal, so I ignored them. I should not have.

It was horrible. Badly written, unbelievable, an exercise in repeated dei ex machinis, puerile in human relationships. I didn't finish it, and I finish everything.

Any insights into how you use reviews to select books?

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:50 am 
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The way you do. But sometimes you're going to get a lemon anyhow.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 11:51 am 
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On the whole, I don't pay attention to Amazon reviews.

Most books I buy are by authors by whom I've already read some of their books. Otherwise, I rely on recommendations from other books or sources. For example, if I'm reading a blog post or listening to a podcast, and the author is talking about a particular topic and says 'for more on this topic read such and such a book by such and such an author' then I will often pick that book up.

There are some authors that I will almost always buy, or even pre-order, sight unseen. One such author is Orson Scott Card's 'Enderverse' books. I have read all of the 'Ender' books, and I immediately pick up a copy of the newest book in the series as soon as it is released. The Ender books are not ALWAYS good, there are a few that I really dislike, including 'Children of the Mind' and 'Shadows in Flight', but on the whole, they are excellent, and when a new book in the series is released, I know there's a high probability that it will be good.

Other authors I always or nearly always buy are David McCullough, Walter Isaacson, Ron Chernow, Jonah Goldberg, Jon Meacham, and Alison Weir.


One person I frequently ask for advice on books is GKC. He is not an expert on every possible book I might be interested in, but if the topic of the book is science fiction, the Tudors, or related topics that I know he has read a lot about, I assume he's familiar with it and I ask him. He isn't always familiar with the book I ask him about, for example, I once asked him if the book 'The Forever War' by Joe Haldeman. Amazing to me given that that book is a science fiction classic, he told me that he hasn't read it. But when I ask him about a book that he has read, he hasn't steered me wrong yet. Among the books that he has recommended to me are 'The Martian' by Andy Weir and a biography of CS Lewis by Alistar McGrath.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 11:59 am 
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Doom wrote:
On the whole, I don't pay attention to Amazon reviews.

Most books I buy are by authors by whom I've already read some of their books. Otherwise, I rely on recommendations from other books or sources. For example, if I'm reading a blog post or listening to a podcast, and the author is talking about a particular topic and says 'for more on this topic read such and such a book by such and such an author' then I will often pick that book up.

There are some authors that I will almost always buy, or even pre-order, sight unseen. One such author is Orson Scott Card's 'Enderverse' books. I have read all of the 'Ender' books, and I immediately pick up a copy of the newest book in the series as soon as it is released. The Ender books are not ALWAYS good, there are a few that I really dislike, including 'Children of the Mind' and 'Shadows in Flight', but on the whole, they are excellent, and when a new book in the series is released, I know there's a high probability that it will be good.

Other authors I always or nearly always buy are David McCullough, Walter Isaacson, Ron Chernow, Jonah Goldberg, Jon Meacham, and Alison Weir.


One person I frequently ask for advice on books is GKC. He is not an expert on every possible book I might be interested in, but if the topic of the book is science fiction, the Tudors, or related topics that I know he has read a lot about, I assume he's familiar with it and I ask him. He isn't always familiar with the book I ask him about, for example, I once asked him if the book 'The Forever War' by Joe Haldeman. Amazing to me given that that book is a science fiction classic, he told me that he hasn't read it. But when I ask him about a book that he has read, he hasn't steered me wrong yet. Among the books that he has recommended to me are 'The Martian' by Andy Weir and a biography of CS Lewis by Alistar McGrath.



My blushes, sir.

(Check's in the mail. And I'll read the Marsden next. The direction is not merely one way ).

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:18 pm 
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GKC wrote:


My blushes, sir.

(Check's in the mail. And I'll read the Marsden next. The direction is not merely one way ).


Other books I read based on your recommendation are 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' and 'Ender's Game'. You never said it to me directly, but I saw you talking about 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' so many times on this board that I decided to pick it up, and it is great. And I got far deeper into Ender than you apparently did because I have read all the books but I think you told me once that you've never read any of the sequels.

And I read 'The Mote in God's Eye' based on a recommendation by DCS (what does he call himself now, Perignator, something like that?) but I think you concurred with him on that recommendation if I recall correctly.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:19 pm 
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I also go to the 1-stars, and work my way up. I also check to see what else the person reviews. I ignore anything posted by someone who reviews beauty products, garden implements, some doohickies anyone could pick up at a dollar store. I ESPECIALLY ignore anything posted by a member of the 500+ review club. He/she has way too much spare time and posts ephemera.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:35 pm 
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Doom wrote:
GKC wrote:


My blushes, sir.

(Check's in the mail. And I'll read the Marsden next. The direction is not merely one way ).


Other books I read based on your recommendation are 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' and 'Ender's Game'. You never said it to me directly, but I saw you talking about 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' so many times on this board that I decided to pick it up, and it is great. And I got far deeper into Ender than you apparently did because I have read all the books
And I read 'The Mote in God's Eye' based on a recommendation by DCS (what does he call himself now, Perignator, something like that?) but I think you concurred with him on that recommendation if I recall correctly.


I've read 2 Ender sequels, SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD and something else that isn't SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD. Oh, yeah. XENOCIDE. I liked them well enough and own several more such; 4-5 titles at least. I was about to read one of them, title forgotten, but Fr. Obi-Wan threatened me with something vaguely theological sounding if I did, so I didn't.

Am glad that you did like CANTICLE and MOTE, 2 of my all time favorites. I never know how folk will react to my enthusiasms.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:57 pm 
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GKC wrote:

I've read 2 Ender sequels, SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD and something else that isn't SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD. Oh, yeah. XENOCIDE. I liked them well enough and own several more such; 4-5 titles at least. I was about to read one of them, title forgotten, but Fr. Obi-Wan threatened me with something vaguely theological sounding if I did, so I didn't.



Oh, when did you read those? I could swear the last time I talked to you about it you said you had never read any of the sequels. :scratch:

Xenocide is where Card's Mormon theology starts to creep into the story. In Xenocide, Ender theorizes about the ansible and he speculates about the pre-existence of the soul. Ender's theories are actually Mormon belief, and the resolution of the story hinges on Ender's belief in pre-existence being right. At no point in the narrative does Card ever draw an explicit connection between Ender's theories and Mormonism, and many of the readers of the novel might not even be aware that Card has introduced Mormon ideas into the story. I recognized it only because I have some pre-existing knowledge of Mormonism.

I don't think I'm really all that bothered by the Crypto-Mormonism in the story, I figure it's just fiction and at any rate, Card can only draw on his own personal experience, after all, what is it that writing teacher tells you? 'Write about what you know', and that is what he knows. And Card's Mormon assumptions are certainly less offensive than the sometimes explicitly atheistic assumptions present in the works of science fiction giants like Asimov and Clarke.

The last two books in the Ender Quartet, 'Xenocide' and 'Children of the Mind' are similar to the Chronicles of Narnia. I think many readers of Narnia never really notice the crypto-Christian themes in it. Many people read 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe' and never draw a connection between Aslan's death and the crucifixion. I know that I was about 10 years old I saw the old BBC production of 'TLTWATW' and didn't notice a thing. It was only when I read the series as an adult that the subtext became apparent to me. The Ender series is kind of a Mormon Narnia. I figure that there are plenty of non-Christians who enjoy the Narnia series simply as a fantasy story, I figure I can enjoy the Ender Saga in the same way, without really absorbing Card's Mormonism.

If you've read all the way to Xenocide, then you've gotten as far into that series as is necessary, the concluding volume 'Children of the Mind' is not particularly good.

I would recommend the Bean Quartet, starting with 'Ender's Shadow' which is a parallel novel to Ender's Game told from the perspective of Bean. The Bean quartet is excellent and doesn't seem to me to have the crypto-Mormonism of the Ender quartet except for one thing: in the Bean quartet, there is a strong emphasis on the importance of marriage and child-rearing as being the purpose of existence. But then, I suppose you don't have to be Mormon to believe that.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:04 pm 
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I would never be vague :fyi:

Children of the Mind is not worth the time to read it.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:10 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
I would never be vague :fyi:

Children of the Mind is not worth the time to read it.


Was that perhaps what you had counseled me against? I know I had set the book up in the "ready" position.

OTOH, I am knowledgeable enough about Mormonism to raise an eyebrow at CHILDREN OF THE MIND. So maybe it wasn't that one. It's still in the den, likely. It will show up.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:10 pm 
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Doom wrote:
...
One person I frequently ask for advice on books is GKC. He is not an expert on every possible book I might be interested in ...

But he is an expert on every possible book you should be interested in. He says. Cryptically.

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There’s music and laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!
~Hilaire Belloc

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:15 pm 
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Doom wrote:
...

Most books I buy are by authors by whom I've already read some of their books. ...


Ah, I see your problem. If you mainly buy books from authors with whom you have had previous exposure and buy some books that are referenced in other works ... then you are clearly not buying enough books. I buy books based upon all sorts of references and from all sorts of interests and from various peripheral linkages and just cause they strike me as interesting.

And I'm a piker.

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There’s music and laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!
~Hilaire Belloc

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:17 pm 
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Doom wrote:
GKC wrote:

I've read 2 Ender sequels, SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD and something else that isn't SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD. Oh, yeah. XENOCIDE. I liked them well enough and own several more such; 4-5 titles at least. I was about to read one of them, title forgotten, but Fr. Obi-Wan threatened me with something vaguely theological sounding if I did, so I didn't.



Oh, when did you read those? I could swear the last time I talked to you about it you said you had never read any of the sequels. :scratch:

Xenocide is where Card's Mormon theology starts to creep into the story. In Xenocide, Ender theorizes about the ansible and he speculates about the pre-existence of the soul. Ender's theories are actually Mormon belief, and the resolution of the story hinges on Ender's belief in pre-existence being right. At no point in the narrative does Card ever draw an explicit connection between Ender's theories and Mormonism, and many of the readers of the novel might not even be aware that Card has introduced Mormon ideas into the story. I recognized it only because I have some pre-existing knowledge of Mormonism.

I don't think I'm really all that bothered by the Crypto-Mormonism in the story, I figure it's just fiction and at any rate, Card can only draw on his own personal experience, after all, what is it that writing teacher tells you? 'Write about what you know', and that is what he knows. And Card's Mormon assumptions are certainly less offensive than the sometimes explicitly atheistic assumptions present in the works of science fiction giants like Asimov and Clarke.

The last two books in the Ender Quartet, 'Xenocide' and 'Children of the Mind' are similar to the Chronicles of Narnia. I think many readers of Narnia never really notice the crypto-Christian themes in it. Many people read 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe' and never draw a connection between Aslan's death and the crucifixion. I know that I was about 10 years old I saw the old BBC production of 'TLTWATW' and didn't notice a thing. It was only when I read the series as an adult that the subtext became apparent to me. The Ender series is kind of a Mormon Narnia. I figure that there are plenty of non-Christians who enjoy the Narnia series simply as a fantasy story, I figure I can enjoy the Ender Saga in the same way, without really absorbing Card's Mormonism.

If you've read all the way to Xenocide, then you've gotten as far into that series as is necessary, the concluding volume 'Children of the Mind' is not particularly good.

I would recommend the Bean Quartet, starting with 'Ender's Shadow' which is a parallel novel to Ender's Game told from the perspective of Bean. The Bean quartet is excellent and doesn't seem to me to have the crypto-Mormonism of the Ender quartet except for one thing: in the Bean quartet, there is a strong emphasis on the importance of marriage and child-rearing as being the purpose of existence. But then, I suppose you don't have to be Mormon to believe that.


I likely read them after seeing the Ender movie, just because I had them and hadn't read them.

I caught on to Narnia right away. Likely that was because I didn't read them until I was a sophomore in college.

ENDERS SHADOW does sound familiar. I think I did read that, too. Yes. I did. Wonder if I read any others.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:18 pm 
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Highlander wrote:
Doom wrote:
...
One person I frequently ask for advice on books is GKC. He is not an expert on every possible book I might be interested in ...

But he is an expert on every possible book you should be interested in. He says. Cryptically.


I have many cryptic books on cryptic subjects.

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Save that the sky grows darker yet
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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:19 pm 
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Highlander wrote:
Doom wrote:
...

Most books I buy are by authors by whom I've already read some of their books. ...


Ah, I see your problem. If you mainly buy books from authors with whom you have had previous exposure and buy some books that are referenced in other works ... then you are clearly not buying enough books. I buy books based upon all sorts of references and from all sorts of interests and from various peripheral linkages and just cause they strike me as interesting.

And I'm a piker.


Yes. Yes, you are

And no one is buying enough books. Not even me.

I will try Amazon used books soon.

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And the sea rises higher."


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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:38 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
I would never be vague :fyi:

Children of the Mind is not worth the time to read it.



it is worth the time to read if you really want to know the ending of the story, but I agree it is the weakest book in the series, he is clearly running out of gas by that point and....well...even then it's not really the ending, there is one more book currently in production, 'Shadows Alive' which is supposed to connect the Ender Quartet (or Quintet if you consider 'Ender in Exile' which fits between 'Ender's Game' and 'Speaker for the Dead' to be part of the series, some fans don't) with the Bean Quartet and answer all unresolved questions left over from Children of the Mind.

On the other hand, just yesterday, I finished 'Children of the Fleet', which is the first book in a new trilogy that takes place after 'Ender's Game' and concurrent with 'Shadow the Hegemon' and takes place at the old Battle School which has been reconverted to Fleet School. I will admit that it took me a while to get into it, but by the end, I really liked it and I look forward to the next book in the series, whenever that will be published.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:42 pm 
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GKC wrote:
[q

I likely read them after seeing the Ender movie, just because I had them and hadn't read them.

I caught on to Narnia right away. Likely that was because I didn't read them until I was a sophomore in college.

ENDERS SHADOW does sound familiar. I think I did read that, too. Yes. I did. Wonder if I read any others.


Ah, so it was recently. Ender's Shadow is good, but it takes a while to really get started, the first half of the book I really, really hated, I thought it was Card's worst writing ever. But by the time Bean gets to Battle School, it becomes really good. Unless you have a good memory of the events in Ender's Game (which I do, given that I've read the book 4 times) it is definitely worth the effort to re-read Ender's Game before reading Ender's Shadow. The first sequel to 'Ender's Shadow', 'Shadow of the Hegemon' is the best, an excellent adventure story that takes place entirely on Earth. The chief focus of the Bean quartet is establishing Ender's brother Andrew as the Hegemon, the ruler of a unified Earth.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:38 pm 
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Doom wrote:
GKC wrote:
[q

I likely read them after seeing the Ender movie, just because I had them and hadn't read them.

I caught on to Narnia right away. Likely that was because I didn't read them until I was a sophomore in college.

ENDERS SHADOW does sound familiar. I think I did read that, too. Yes. I did. Wonder if I read any others.


Ah, so it was recently. Ender's Shadow is good, but it takes a while to really get started, the first half of the book I really, really hated, I thought it was Card's worst writing ever. But by the time Bean gets to Battle School, it becomes really good. Unless you have a good memory of the events in Ender's Game (which I do, given that I've read the book 4 times) it is definitely worth the effort to re-read Ender's Game before reading Ender's Shadow. The first sequel to 'Ender's Shadow', 'Shadow of the Hegemon' is the best, an excellent adventure story that takes place entirely on Earth. The chief focus of the Bean quartet is establishing Ender's brother Andrew as the Hegemon, the ruler of a unified Earth.


I know this is awkward, but each one you mention, I seem to recall reading.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:04 pm 
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GKC wrote:


I know this is awkward, but each one you mention, I seem to recall reading.


Really? Well, they are worth reading again in any case.

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 Post subject: Re: Amazon Book Reviews
PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2018 7:04 am 
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If at all possible, I check the book out from the library first.

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