July 9, 2014

Idle Chat: Does your beliefs/experience affect how you rate/review?


Idle Chit-Chats is where @ Jules Bookshelf talks about bookish and non-bookish topics that is related to a bibliophile.

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Things that affect how you rate/review books

Have you ever read a book that is so against your beliefs? But you still ended up liking it? Or maybe hating a hero/heroine because you don't understand his/her actions? Or avoided books about bullying, slut-shaming or cheating due to bad experience?

It would be automatic for reviewers to be open minded. Being a reader and reviewer demands that we not only see if from our POV, but from the characters themselves, but all of us have our own limits right?

From my perspective the basic things that are wrong were ingrained in my brain since I was a child. Growing up in a Christian family, I had been taught this way, understanding a very distinct knowing of what's right or wrong, or black and white. Things like cheating, murder (especially kids and animals, I can't handle it when a baby cries or when a dog whimpers), physical abuse or even emotional and verbal. Guys who think they're bosses of the world (in short douchebags and asshats), incest, stealing, etc etc. But in books, some of these things are too normal right? It somehow always happens that someone has abuse history. That boy cheated on this girl. A guy murdered those around him because he was high on drugs. These things happen in books all the time, so when will we react?

I have a pretty high tolerance (but within my limit)  to all I said above, I tend to keep my mind open and try to understand why they did it. My religion doesn't affect heavily whether I'll like a book or not. I know black and white, but in life there are a lot of gray areas, and I choose to be in the lighter area. Lesser of two evils if I may say so. I'm not like this because I have a weak belief towards my religion or my beliefs, but I think its important to try to understand a POV from someone else than you. To me, its refreshing to understand why someone did it, it helps me connect with the characters. Connecting with the character helps me love him/her more, especially the emotion of the story. As a somewhat artist, I use emotion whenever I paint, its important for me to feel that, and when I feel the emotion behind the characters' action, I understand them better. Sorry, I'm ranting now. Haha.

Anyway main point is, I don't let my belief overshadow my judgement. Its a 50-50 thing for me. Even if he/she did something I don't like, I'm going to make myself see why they did it, I want to understand them, I want to know them as if they're my friends or I am in their shoes. I will do what I can to see if I can like them, even a little bit. As for the book in general, I can try to understand the whole meaning of the book, even if I don't agree to it, sometimes, even if the book has something you can't tolerate, it would teach you things you never thought of, because it has a different point of view. But I have my limits, I know that if its offending, it would automatically affect my rating. That's where my beliefs come in, they set a limit in my tolerance to books with sensitive topics

I also asked a lot of people on twitter!




Thank you guys so much for the responses that you all gave me, I couldn't put it all here, but thanks for answering my questions and having a chat with me! You guys are the best!

I love you too Jack, my love... I just love Finn more <3

What about you?
Does your beliefs/experience in life affect your rating/reviews?

38 comments:

  1. I thin that there would always be a personal bias when it comes to reading and reviewing. That's why some love a book but some don't. I'm a Christian too, but I don't really let that get in the way of the books I choose to read. I like to see different perspectives. But I'm not fond of reading religion books, especially if it's bashing a certain community or belief system. It's usually harder when it's contemporary because it's too close to reality. I do like the more fictitious ones though like angels and demons, gods and goddesses, etc. Other things that annoy me are stupid characters and stereotypes or whatnot. These all usually affect gyrating despite trying to be logical about it.

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    1. Me too, I'm a Christian, but I don't think its right to be degrading other religion or my own, respect is the best way to go. I hate it when bashing happens, its to mean and personal. Yes, I hate cliques in books, it just sounds so annoying, I don't think it happens here, I never saw that here at my school. But maybe it happens elsewhere :/

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  2. Personally, I try to be open minded but if I am not satisfied with the explanation than I am not going to end up liking a book. As someone with a strong sense of justice, I will get PISSED if justice is not served or if someone gets away with something they shouldn't.

    Cheating is a big no-no for me and usually there is nothing that could make me feel better about someone doing that to someone but at the same time I have read one book where it wasn't cheating per se but it was handled so beautifully that I couldn't help but fall in love with the characters and their story.

    I do try to keep an open mind but it all comes down to how things are justified and their explanations and whether I believe I can except that or not because in the end, it is my opinion.

    FANTASTIC discussion post, Jules!! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

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    1. "Personally, I try to be open minded but if I am not satisfied with the explanation than I am not going to end up liking a book" -- YES! I need it to be justified as well! :D

      In terms of cheating, for me as long as they can make me understand why they did it, I'll somehow get it, but if its cheating its cheating, and it will be hard to make it look okay.

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  3. Nice post! I'd add that, for me, my beliefs are ingrained in and thus inseparable from my judgment. They're an integral part of my identity. However, I'd also add that you don't need to agree with a person's/character's actions or choices in order to seek to understand, sympathize or love him or her. The problem I sometimes come across is when people don't want understanding or love, but agreement that their beliefs/actions/values are "right" and equally valid, which gets into the realm of absolute truth. And stuff! :D

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    1. Yes, there is definitely some things I cannot separate from my judgement as well. As a girl who had bullying experiences, let's just say that I have a low tolerance towards bullying of any kind.

      I don't remember if I encountered something like that Kel, maybe I forgot about it, but I definitely see how that would be hard.

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  4. Oh, Jack...*gushes*

    There are exceptions to the rule. I mean, I love "In The Company of Killers". And if I take into account my personal beliefs, then I'd hate it. I don't condone killing for money, or torturing for pleasure, so I try to keep an open mind when it comes to reviewing books.

    Another example is "Maybe Someday" by Colleen Hoover. Yes, there is somewhat cheating involved, and for someone who has undergone such experiences, I should have hated it, but I loved it. I had to set aside my personal feelings, and put myself in the perspective of the main characters.

    If I get into a book already fighting off the main characters with my beliefs, then what good would it do to me? I will probably hate all books. But I do want things to be justified in the end.

    Brilliant post, Jules! <3

    ~ Sporadic Reads

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    1. Yes, even if some of us enjoy books that had cheating, killing or illegal stuff in it, doesn't mean that we agree to it, yes? I loved a lot of books because I put aside my own beliefs and try to understand the situation. I wouldn't want to hate every book that I read. Thanks Dre :D

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  5. This question is really thought provoking, I'm actually glad that you asked it. I still stand by what I said in my tweet. There are really some stuff that I try to avoid. But sometimes, I can't help it and my curiosity gets the best of me so I will end up reading a book that I usually don't read. So even though the topic/plot/concept is not my thing, but the book is well constructed and really really good, of course that's what will I say on my review. I think that'll help me as a reviewer as well. To be more professional =))

    I love reading the answers of the other bloggers. Just proves how awesome and unique we all are.

    Fantastic discussion, Jules!! <3

    - Paula M. @ Her Book Thoughts!

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    1. Thanks for having a long chat with me Paula! I agree, that's why I love reading different kinds of reviews, I not only see things I never saw when I read it, but I get to see how this certain book would affect another reader. We all have different beliefs, experiences and limits to what we can handle, so all of us have different reactions as well :D

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  6. Interesting topic, Jules! I can relate to you in that I grew up (and am still growing up; I haven't left for college yet) in a Christian family, and was taught a lot of things that clashes with what I'm reading in YA books these days. The most occurring one? Same-sex relationships. Don't get me wrong: I have NO problems with homosexuality at all. I have a gay best friend and he's one of the most important people in the world to me. But I was taught that being gay is wrong, and here I am reading about it in a lot of YA novels (though they're mostly in the background).

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm with you: I don't let my religion dictate what I feel about a book. I go in with an open mind and review with an open mind. Otherwise it'd just make reading a book a whole lot harder, I might as well just stick to Christian girl books or something. :P And I'm going to continue keeping an open mind because there's still so much in the world I don't understand. There's still so much about MY religion that I don't understand. Or maybe it's just 'cause I'm not strong in my beliefs, lol. Whatever. I think keeping an open mind is still the best, no matter from what background you come from. :)

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    1. Yes definitely! For me, the most common type of occasion that clashes with my beliefs (in terms of religion) would be Pre-Marital Sex, I've been taught long ago that (and I don't mean this the wrong way) that its wrong. But does that affect my view of the book? No. That's why I rarely do DNF's because even if it a book was annoying, I would still want to finish it. And yes, if I let my religion dictate the way I like a book, I would just stick to Christian books as well. And like you, I want to learn more from the world, and through these books, I've achieved that :)

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  7. Yess sometimes I find that my own personal morals and religion can affect the way I read. But I try not to let it because I'm way more open to see how it affects the character and not me. It can be very hard to distance yourself from something as serious as rape or murder. I'm getting better with being more open to reading topics that include that. What a great discussion and thank you for including my tweet, Jules!

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    1. I'm happy that you joined in on the chat Giselle! Yes, even I have my limits, and I think all of us do. Rape and murder are definitely something serious, and for me to find it "acceptable" I want their reasons to be justified. Do you get what I mean? I'm not saying that rape or murder is not wrong. It is. ITS HORRIBLE. But to me, I just want to understand why some characters do it.

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  8. Hey, Jules! This is such an insightful post. I love it. :)

    Don't we all want to be objective and open-minded? As a reviewer, you'd want that because you have to be credible and professional. But books are works of art. And art is subjective. A book that I like can be something that you hate for various reasons. And I will not deny that I often let my emotions get in the way of my reviews but I see that as a good thing. If a book affects me emotionally, it must mean that the author did a good job.

    It's okay to not like a book if it's against your beliefs, as long as you indicate that in your review, and let your readers know that they can still enjoy the book because your opinion and beliefs differ from your readers. I'm blabbering now, but I hope I made sense. :)

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    1. YES! I somehow understand what you mean haha :D

      I agree, there are times where you just personally hate a book, but its important to point out that others might like it as well. :D We all have different levels of tolerance anyway so it always depends on the reader :)

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  9. The thing is, cheating in books never used to bother me, until it happened to me. And now every time there's cheating and it involves the main characters, I can't see myself from their perspective anymore, but the person who is being cheated on. This only counts for romance though, because I can't romanticize the fact that a couple is hurting another. It sucks and I know it's biased but right now, that's just how I feel. So I just stay away from books with that theme since my prejudice against it is pretty huge. Maybe I'll get over it one day, I really hope so. But for now, because a personal experience really scarred me, I would just have to stay away. Everything else though, I have an open mind so I'm sure this will pass :)

    Great discussion Jules!

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    1. I think its okay that you feel that way Amir, I mean I don't avoid it per se, but I have an immediate dislike towards bullies in books (I think its because I've been bullied before) and I try not to be too affected but its hard. Its okay Amir! I already told you this, but you're awesome and it sucks to be him, because he lost one amazing girl :)

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  10. Oh, awesome discussion. x) I have to say...not really. There's not much I won't read, actually (well, so long as it's YA, because that's really all I read). I sometimes get twitchy if a book portrays a topic and gets it wrong , especially if I have experience. :| But I guess that's kind of different? I totally respect people who won't read certain books because of their beliefs, but I just want to KNOW about everything. I love knowing about different perspectives, which is a huge reason of why I even read!
    Thanks for stopping by @ Notebook Sisters!

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    1. There are some books that I avoid because its either I'm not at ease with the topic, or if I am not interested in it. I don't usually avoid books just because they're against my beliefs or something like that, because I've read a lot of good books that are like that, and they taught me so many good things. Being a 16 year old girl, it helped me understand people more, that's why I love reading edge-y books. There was a book that I avoid until now which is one of Dan Brown's books, but I don't know, maybe someday I will read it, because I am curious, but its not in the near future. :)

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  11. Hi again! I was just reading through some of the other comments and it's awesome that this topic inspires so much discussion. I noticed that a number of comments seem to indicate that morals/beliefs need to be moved to the back burner or temporarily locked up/ignored in order to read a book with "objectionable content." I remember one gal mentioned not letting her religion dictate what she feels about a book, namely that homosexual practices are inconsistent with Biblical principles. ... I'm not sure that's the way I work at all. I don't have to agree with something to read about it, nor do I need to lock away my beliefs in order to enjoy something... I don't know. Theoretically your beliefs are part of your everyday life all the time, not just Sunday or Saturday or five times a day. What do you think of this separation of faith and reading?

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    1. Well, you definitely have a point there. Hmm... well for me, I don't really fully separate my faith and reading in terms of the way I rate or review (as I said before on my post, which is a 50-50 thing), but the thing is, I try to see the meaning behind the picture. The author wrote a book to show a new perspective, its a way of understanding a topic in a new set of eyes. I definitely agree that you don't need to lock up your beliefs in order to enjoy a book. (Of course not, that's why we have some books that we hate and some books that we absolutely love, right?), and if there's a meaning to this book, I would want to understand it, not only because of my personal enjoyment, but more importantly because it helps me understand other people in real life as well. (Do i make sense? Haha :D)

      Furthermore, yes, we are who we are. Our beliefs and experience make up who we are, 24/7. We cannot just click off our beliefs and let them go, that's why we rant about some books, because some of those books might infuriate or annoy us. Whether its religious, experience, or moral knowledge. I don't necessarily think that we put our beliefs in a " moved to the back burner" situation, its more of putting an open mind so you could see the story behind it. Do my beliefs still affect my reading experience even if I was being open minded? Definitely. I cannot take it away from me, because its part of who I am, but when I get to my limit, then it would definitely affect my rating of the book. I hope I answered your question. Thanks again Kel :)

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  12. I try to be open-minded as much as I can, but the thing is, whena reader reads, he brings his experiences and biases and beliefs with him. That's inevitable, and the author and everyone else has to understand that that's what makes discussion and discernment about a book and its messages so much more fulfilling, because there are so many angles that a scene or a theme could be viewed in. As for me, when there is cheating, I don't like it so I'll be less forgiving when it's in a book, unless it is used as a plot device to teach readers its effects and consequences. When there's bullying, I don't mind it as long as it is used for the same thing (like TEASE by Amanda Maciel). I know a particular person who won't read anything that has sex scenes, and that's okay! It's the individual preferences that we have that makes reading more interesting, in my opinion :)

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. Yes definitely. Even if we as bloggers are open-minded, our beliefs, experience and biases will definitely affect us at some point. I'm a bit the opposite of you, haha, I hate hate hate bullying, like actual bullying in school (Maybe because I've experienced it myself), but I am somewhat neutral with cheating but it still depends :D

      "It's the individual preferences that we have that makes reading more interesting, in my opinion" <--- SO TRUE! :D

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  13. It's only natural that our beliefs affect the way we view things, and despite my Christian belief, I'm actually pretty open-minded. I have come to accept gays, not that I approve of their lifestyle, but it's mean and indecent to shun them because of religious prejudice.

    I don't approve of books approving of cheating, but I would try something if people say that they liked it or that it wasn't portrayed in the usual jerky way. I hold a strict standard on bullying books because I myself was bullied so of course I would be expecting something. And I think it's not such a bad thing, because it makes a book a bit more personal. I think that it should be explained though why someone was biased when reviewing, though.

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    1. I agree with you there. I take bullying books much more seriously too. I think its because of the experience, we connect more to the story so it gets a bit more sensitive, and as you said, personal. Tho even if I hated one particular book if it had something a bit offensive, I would love it to be justifiable and explained as you also said :D

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  14. I totally agree! I'm a Christian too, so I have my own opinion on what is "right" and "wrong," and it's definitely difficult to read something where the character doesn't share that belief. However, I always try and go in with an open mind and put myself in the characters' shoes. As long as the author is addressing everyone's beliefs respectfully, I think I'm fine with hearing different viewpoints and beliefs from a character's perspective.

    Thanks for sharing Jules, and BRILLIANT post! This really made me think quite a bit! :)

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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    1. "As long as the author is addressing everyone's beliefs respectfully, I think I'm fine with hearing different viewpoints and beliefs from a character's perspective. " --Yes! So true Zoe! :D

      I actually love reading books like these 'cuz they're edge-y and you learn from these. But whenever it disrespects a different belief, then I get annoyed, even if the belief wasn't my own. I'm glad that it got you thinking Zoe! It made me think deep as well :D

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  15. This is a really fascinating discussion Jules, and I like how you tied it to your own experiences. As you said, as a reader we try and see things from a characters' point of view, but there are just a few things that are completely unforgivable. While I try and be open-minded, I cannot stand cheating for instance, and I do not hate those "douchebag" love interest guys who are possessive and marginally abuse them out of their rights.

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    1. YES! I may have been known to fall for the bad boy most of the time (but only in books tho, haha ) but I can never just accept it when a guy abuses the girl (doesn't matter if physical, mental, emotional or whatever). I don't ever like cheating, but I never found a book that just made me hate it so much which contains cheating. I hope I don't encounter it tho, both in fictional or in real life.

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  16. This is such a great discussion topic. I'm a Catholic and like you, I've been raised to know what's good and bad and was pretty aware of some boundaries I cannot cross. But when it comes to reading a book, I always strive to have an open mind. My religion might affect my review in one way or another but it doesn't mean that I'm going to solely react to a certain book only in this light. In fact, I get it that many people don't share the same beliefs that I have and that even though I'm raised as a Catholic, there are some teachings I don't agree with and I feel like they need changing especially with our evolving times. Although, I do put an author in high regard if they manage to still respect what I believe in or they didn't incorporate these themes just for shock value or to be liberal just for the sake of it. This also applies to topics that I generally tend to avoid like rape or incest. They generally make me uncomfortable but there are always exception to the rule and it really depends how the author would handle it. So basically, my religion or my belief might or might not affect my reviews, but I think my reading preferences will, at one point or another.

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    1. Yes, I do what you do as well. When I know that I won't like a book or agree to it, I avoid it, just so I wouldn't have to read a book with something that would/might offend me. I always give respect to other religion. To me that's the most important, as long as the book doesn't offend anyone in general, then I won't be bothered by it. Thanks for visiting Sarah :D

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  17. Great topic! I was raised in a very conservative environment and still live in it as an adult. We didn't even have a tv growing up :p There are areas that I'm still pretty conservative, but when it comes to reading I'm usually pretty open minded. I read just about everything (and I really do mean everything, lol). But there are a few subjects that I stay away from-more from experiences that I've been in, then my conservative, religious beliefs though. One example-I Hated Beautiful Disaster, even though everyone else raved about this book. But, it portrays an abusive relationship in a positive light, and I've seen first hand how ugly those kinds of relationships really are. (when you have a friend call you from a battered woman's shelter, because her husband tried to kill her in front of their kids, it leaves a pretty big impression sigh....).

    Just found your blog and I'm now a new follower through bloglovin :)

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    1. I KNOW!! i HATED BEAUTIFUL DISASTER TOO!, I mean so much. I hated how she wouldn't stand up for herself, I mean. Its just offending to me, because if I were her, I would not let myself be treated like that. This doesn't go with my religious belief tho, I just firmly believe that women shouldn't let themselves be treated that way. :) Thanks for following my blog Finley! You are much more awesomer for that! :D

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  18. Hm…I am a protestant and I've always avoided Gay and Lesbian books, they don't get along with my beliefs so I would most likely end up hating the book. I wouldn't want to spend money on useless romance…I'm sorry, but I don't support Gay marriages. Please don't kill me, but yeah…I can't seem to empathise with them. Thank you so much for sharing, Jules!

    www.lite-rate-ture.com

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    1. Aww don't worry Chyna, haha :) . Everybody has different beliefs, and if you have a different, I would respect that as well. :)

      I agree, I wouldn't want to spend my money on a book I know I would hate, that would be a waste. :( Its not a matter of "I won't like it", its more of "Its not the kind of book for me" sort of thing. :)

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  19. Great topic! For me I think it depends. I live in a world filled with people who don't believe everything I do, so I've learned to accept this to an extent both in life and in reading. However, sometimes something happens that upsets me or makes me sad because I feel it's wrong, and I can't help but be affected by that at least somewhat. I probably won't instantly put down the book or rate it super low because of one thing, but it can affect my opinion of the book to an extent. However, I also look at the overall story arc and character arcs. Sometimes characters learn from these moments, and sometimes they don't, but the rest of the story makes is clearly not about the one thing that upset me and it's overall a really good story.

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    1. True. When something I don't like happens in the book, that doesn't necessarily mean that I will hate it. I think of the overall story, if that incident affected the whole story then it will definitely be a problem.

      And character development! Yes! SO important! :D

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Hi! I love reading your opinions, whether its the same or different from mine. I will reply to all kinds of comments and I hope to have the chance to talk to you guys!