Lola’s Ramblings: Book Comparisons

February 16, 2017 Lola's Ramblings 32

LolaRamblings

Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.

The topic for this post came to me thanks to one of the comments on a review I posted. The review in question was for Lydia Sherrer her book Love Lies and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings, the first book in her Lily Springer series. The blurb states: “If you enjoy magic-filled adventures like Harry Potter and Sabrina the Teenage Witch then you’ll love Lydia Sherrer’s delightful new series.”. Someone who commented mentioned they weren’t into harry Potter and weren’t sure if this book was for them, which got me thinking about the comparison and how this book compared to Harry Potter and it brought me to a point I think about more often, namely what such a comparison actually means and what gets compared. I know a lot of books use comparisons like these in their blurb, often things like “XX meets XX” or “for fans of XX”. I can see why sentences like that can be helpful, but at the same time they can also work the other way around. So I thought book comparisons would make for a good topic for discussion post! Be warned this post is going to get a bit rambly.

What do you compare when you compare two books?

One of the first things I always ask myself when I see a book comparison is what does get compared in that scenario. Lets stick with Harry Potter for this example, if you say a book is for fans for harry Potter or similar to Harry Potter, that still leaves the question to what exactly it is similar. Harry Potter has lots of different topics, to name a few: magic, wizards and witches, magic use, boarding school, castle, secrets, wizards and muggles, prejudice, coming of age, main character that doesn’t know their parents, orphan, bad parental figures, dangerous magic, dark versus light, different houses, battles etc. And that are just some themes or topics I can list from the top of my head.
So which of these elements can you expect in a book similar to Harry Potter? I wouldn’t expect the book to have all the same elements, but still enough to have some of the same feeling or appeal to the same readers. But then that begs the question why does someone like the Harry Potter books? If someone likes the books because of the young main character they might not like an adult book that’s similar to Harry Potter. If they like harry Potter because of the magic, they might like other fantasy books with magic. The book I mentioned above is similar in some sense to Harry Potter, both Lilly and Harry don’t fully know their parents, there is magic in both and there are wizards and witches. But there are also so many differences. The main character in the Lily Singer series actually did know her mom, but is angry with her because she never told her about her magic. And while there is magic it’s totally different than in harry Potter. While there are wizards and witches they are different than in harry Potter. Having said that I can see the ways in which the book is similar and comparing a book to a well known book as Harry Potter can be handy as people know that one. So overall I think it is a fitting comparison.

Book Comparisons yay or nay?

I always find it difficult to give a definite answer to whether I like book comparisons or not. I used to be firmly in the no camp. Mostly because I want to read original stories, not books similar to X or Y. And it always rubbed me wrong how those book comparison made it feel like the book on itself needed that comparison to explain what it’s about. But lately I’ve grown more positive towards comparisons and I’ve realized the point is not to diminish the uniqueness of a book, but to compare a book with something people already know and to make them curious. I think comparisons can be done well and if I am looking to something similar to certain movies or books I read it can be nice to know where to start. I even picked up a few books because of the comparison with Firefly or Star Trek last year. I like sci-fi, but not necessarily hard sci-fi, but I do like Star Trek, so the comparison with star trek has made me pick up some books I might not have else. Firefly is actually more complicated as there are parts I loved about that series and parts I disliked. So if books get compared to that I always wonder to what part of Firefly they compare to, like I mentioned above. Often the rest of the blurb can give a bit of a feel which similarities I might expect. A western sci-fi setting or maybe a low tech sci-fi setting or a close group of friends who might not be totally on the right side of the law? Yes count me in! But if the similarities go to the darker side of the series or torture scenes I rather stay away. But in the end the book comparison in combination with the blurb can be very helpful in determinign fi something is a book for me.

From a marketing point of view I can also see how comparison like this can be helpful. Deciding whether a book is for you, can be very difficult and a comparison to books in the same genre can be helpful. I also see reviewers often mention other series or author a book is similar to in their review, which is a bit of an indication people actually think in such terms as well. I also think a comparison doesn’t mean a book is exactly the same as the book it get’s compared to, but it does give the reader some sense of what to expect and it’s another tool in deciding whether it’s a book for you or not. In some cases I also am very aware the comparison is probably just a marketing tool and it can make it easy to dismiss it for that reason at times.

What I would like to see in a Book Comparisons

I personally would like to see book comparison be more specific, I want to know in which ways a book is similar to the one it gets compared to. Which themes of book A I must like to also enjoy book B or which themes are similar between books and what different. But at the same time I understand that there is no space in a blurb to go into this. Blurbs have to be short and to the point and to have a comparison be as specific as I would like them to you would need a whole paragraph just for that, so that will never work. Which basically brings me back to how comparisons are done now and maybe that’s the only way they will ever work. Short and to the point and just enough to make readers curious and maybe have them wonder why these books get compared.

What is a good Comparison?

My ramblings about my personal opinion about book comparisons also makes me wonder what is a good comparison? As I mentioned before you can never have books that are similar to every aspect, nor would you want to. Because if you want exactly that book, you can just as well read that book. So what does make for a good book comparison? I think a good book comparison is if the books have enough in common to appeal to the same audience and maybe have the same feel and some same themes. Or maybe not the same themes exactly, but still have a similar feel or the big lines appeal to similar audiences?

To get back at the comparison with which I started the post. I do think it’s a decent comparison. Having read the book I can say it’s not 100% accurate, but I do see the similarities with Harry Potter, but also the differences. I also feel that having the book be compared to two things, namely Harry Potter and Sabrina the Teenage Witch is also a good thing as it gives a more complex feel for the book and at the same time the elements like magic that are present in both those are present in this book as well. As far as comparisons go it’s a pretty good one but that’s not to say people who don’t like either of those won’t enjoy this book, because at the same time this is it’s own book and different than both of those.

Book Comparisons work both ways

As I just mentioned I do think book comparisons have their place, but while they can help readers decide to pick up a book I also think they can work the opposite way and using readers away. Either because readers don’t like comparison in general, or because they think the book has a part they don’t like which is similar to the book/ movie it gets compared to or because they don’t know or don’t like the book/ movie it gets compared to. If I don’t know the book/ movie a book gets compared to I feel like a comparison has less influence on my decision process then when I do. Although even if I haven’t read or watched the movie I might still have heard of it and certain ideas about it anyway. Like when a book gets compared to Game of Thrones I assume that means it has lots of character death’s and high fantasy themes, as that’s all that I know about that without having read or seen it.
I think the worst case scenario is when a reader doesn’t like the book or movie a book gets compared to and decides to not read the book because of that. Ofcourse this can be a good thing if this isn’t a book for that reader indeed. But I always image I might miss a good book because of something like that. This can also apply to other things like blurbs, covers etc. Sometimes one thing can make me decide not to read a book while with another cover and blurb I would pick it up and enjoy it. I know thinking like that doesn’t get me anywhere. But it does make me wonder if book comparisons work as much two ways and if in the end it is worth it or not? As these comparison seem to get more and more common I figure they must help or people think they help. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Summary

To sum it up, nowadays I am sort of okay with book comparisons, I can see how they can be helpful in some situations when deciding what to read and I have picked up a book myself because of a comparison sometimes. Although at the same time I can’t help myself and have to pull them apart as well, wonder on what part the comparison is meant for and how two books are similar to not. For books I read I can usually see why the comparison was made, but at the same time I often can see the differences better as well. I think book comparisons can be a valuable marketing technique if you compare your book to a well known book or movie. On the other hand I do think comparisons can work the other way around as well and push people away from a book because of it. Then again I think a comparison is only one tool a reader can use to decided whether to read a book or not and as long as you have a good blurb, cover and reviews next to that book comparison I think the right readers will find the book. As most readers will look at multiple things and take that into account when deciding to pick up a book or not. I also think that with book comparison it’s important to keep in mind that even with the similarities with the compared books there also will be differences as well as each book is different. So in the end I think I land on the slightly positive side in my opinion to book comparisons.

Do you like book comparisons? Do you think book comparisons are effective?

Have you ever picked up a book or not picked it up because of a comparison? What’s the best book comparison you’ve seen?

32 Responses to “Lola’s Ramblings: Book Comparisons”

  1. Sophia Rose

    Great question. I’m on the fence about comparisons because I’ve had them work both ways for me. I always want to give a book a chance to be a good one for me, but the comparison starts me down the road of creating an expectation- good or bad depending. Fortunately, my biggest influences to pick up a book is the blurb or other reviews.

    • Lola

      I totally agree the expectations and comparisons can go both ways. I usually look at other things as well, so the comparison is only one thing that’s part of my decision to read a book or not.

  2. Laura

    I’m definitely on the same page as you with this one. I can see why book comparisons are used, and in some cases they can be useful, but mostly I’m not a fan of them. For one thing I think that they only tend to be loosely related to the book itself – I think often it’s just a case of ‘well it’s the same genre as this other book, so let’s just say it’s like that.’ And for another, as a writer I don’t think i’d like if my book basically had ‘this book is like this, but another author did it first!’ written all over it.
    Great post! 🙂
    Laura recently posted…Review: The Brontë Cabinet by Deborah LutzMy Profile

    • Lola

      I think book comparisons can definitely be useful, but not all comparisons are good ones. And if they are too global and just have the same genre the comparison doesn’t tell you much.

  3. sjhigbee

    Mostly I don’t like them because they really exasperate me if they aren’t accurate – and often as not, I think the comparisons are very flimsy. And like you – anything compared with The Game of Thrones, which I can’t get through, will have me edging away fairly fast, despite reading a lot of epic fantasy, anyway. The best comparison I’ve come across, which I think was spot on, was the description for The Martian, which compared the book to Robinson Crusoe in space.
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    • Lola

      Yes comparison can really rub me wrong when they are not accurate, but they can also make me curious. And they can be nice when well done. That’s interesting you also inch away from anything that compares with Game of Thrones even though you do read that genre a lot, that shows how they can work the other way around too. I haven’t read the Martian myself, but from what i heard of it that description seems pretty spot on!

  4. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

    Honestly I feel like comparisons almost never turn out well. They scare people off if they’re not fans of the thing being compared to, or they let people down when they expect one thing from the book because of the comparison but then don’t get that. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a comparison that made me more interested, though I’ve seen plenty for which I was like, “Well I didn’t like that book, so no thanks,” or, “I’m not interested in either of those books they just compared it to, so I guess I’m not interested in this one either.” Actually, to use your example, the fact that that series is compared to Sabrina is actually one reason I’m still hesitant to try it. So that comparison isn’t pulling me in, it’s pushing me away even though the rest of blurb and your reviews make it sound interesting. There was also one series I read and loved, and it wasn’t until after I read it that I saw one of those comparisons in the blurb, Walking Dead meets the Terminator, I think it was. And if I had seen that before reading, I probably wouldn’t have read the series at all, and I would’ve missed out on something great.

    All the points you made in the “what are you comparing” section are such great points! Every book has so many themes/aspects to it that yeah, it’s impossible to know what’s actually being compared. And if you like HP for the friendships but the author was making the comparison for the magic… then you might not like this new book. But if they’re going to explain why they’re making the comparison, they might as well just skip the comparison and explain who would like the book, kind of like how I do my “Recommended For” section of my reviews.

    So anyway, I just don’t think book comparisons in blurbs tend to work out well from the number of complaints I’ve seen, and from my own personal experiences they almost always turn me off a book rather than interest me. But if a reviewer makes a comparison and explains why the two are similar, then that does often help
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    • Lola

      Good point about how comparisons can create certain expectations which can be a bad thing if those expectation aren’t met or steer you in the wrong direction. I have seen some comparison to books I wasn’t intnerested in as well, although even then they might serve a purpose namely to make sure the right readers read it and those who ‘won’t don’t read it. On the other hand that could be wrong and you might actually enjoy the book.

      I think the comparison with Sabrina is because of the talking cat? And the magical/ sort of episodic nature of the books. But that’s just my point of view as while I have watched some Sabrina, I can’t remember a lot of the details.

      I always like your recommended for sections as while they are still broad, they do give a bit of a feel for what kind of readers the book is. I think comparisons are meant to act in that way, just by being less specific. The what gets compared thing is always what I ask myself when I see a comparison as indeed there are so many aspects to each book, it really depends on why you like one of them and if that’s what gets compared or not.

      I have picked up books for comparisons and I do think they can work well. But they definitely have a downside as well and can turn people away, although in some cases that also could be a good thing. I think comparisons in reviews often have a bit more time to go into the comparison, which can be great. I usually don’t compare books myself, but I remember reading the Amanda Lester series and I think I compared that to Harry Potter in my review of book 1.

  5. Berls

    Like you, I used to be firmly in the “I Don’t Like Them Camp” but I think I’ve moved to the, they can be helpful if done right camp. I think it helps is if there’s more than one comparison, so you get a sense of what exactly about the book the think is like the other books. What frustrates me, though, is when a book has a comparison like that and then you read the book and can’t find anything that makes you think of the book it was compared to. Then, I feel like it was a marketing scheme and it does the book no favors in the long run! Great post Lola 🙂
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    • Lola

      Yes I think comparing a book to more than one thing can be helpful as it gives a more complex view and you get a better sense of what this book will be like.

      Yes I’ve had some books like that too where after reading it I can’t see the comparison at all. It is kinda fun to look back after reading a book and see if you can understand the comparisons. I agree that a comparison has to make sense as else it doesn’t do the book any favors either.

  6. chucklesthescot

    I totally hate book comparisons. If a book says ‘for fans of…’ and it’s two books I really hate, there is no way I’m going to risk buying it. So straight away I’m disengaged from the very idea of that book and will go buy something else. If it says ‘if you love Harry Potter you’ll love this’ I’m skeptical right away because most things will compare unfavourably if Harry Potter is the benchmark so I’ll probably be disappointed. I’d be expecting brilliant writing, action, humour and great plot and if I don’t get it, my rating will be poor. If I was an author I would not want a comparison on my books, I’d rather readers chose based on the blurb.

    • Lola

      Sometimes that can be a good thing, but it can also mean you miss out on a book you might enjoy. that’s the tricky part of book comparisons. I do think comparisons can be done well and well people decide whether to read a book. I usually prefer if book comparisons are at the end of the blurb so I can read the blurb first. But I also have picked up some books because the comparison made me curious.

  7. S. J. Pajonas

    As an author who does my own marketing, I love using comparisons because I want the right readers for my books. So like chucklesthescot says, “If a book says ‘for fans of…’ and it’s two books I really hate, there is no way I’m going to risk buying it.” GREAT! That’s exactly what I want. I don’t want people getting a book they won’t be interested in. That’s the reason why good marketing works. So if I’m going to write a sci-fi that has the light sci-fi of Star Trek but takes place on a India-controlled far-away planet, I might say, “If you love the sci-fi of Star Trek and the drama of Bollywood, this book is for you.” And let the rest of the blurb speak for itself. (Now, I kinda want to write that book. Lol.)
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    • Lola

      I do think turning people away through your blurb, cover or in this case book comparison can be a good thing. I was just commenting about this in a reply to Kristin as well. Sometimes it’s a good thing you don’t pick up a book if it’s a book you wouldn’t enjoy. Ofcourse you never know that for sure, but comparison are just another tool to make sure your book reaches the right readers. You want the people who would enjoy it pick up your book and those who wouldn’t not pick it up. The goal of marketing is always twofold in that way.

      Now I kinda want you to write that book ;). It sounds like something I would enjoy. And that’s a good comparison to make. It’s still short and to the point, but you do hint at what you compare, namely the sci-fi of Star Trek and the drama of Bollywood. And readers always have the rest of the blurb next to that as well, so it rarely will be the comparison only that makes readers decide whether to read a book or not.
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  8. Mary Kirkland

    I don’t really like book comparisons. Sometimes they really don’t end up being as similar as the comparison says they are. I’ve also received a few emails soliciting a review where the author compares her book to another book I read and reviewed and it sounded good but when I read it, the comparison made no sense at all.
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    • Lola

      I agree the comparison does need to make sense else it doesn’t work. I also have received a review request e-mails like that and just from reading the blurb I had no idea how the book would be similar to the one I read, so that makes me question why they made that comparison.

  9. Bookworm Brandee

    Great topic, Lola! I don’t like it much when publishers make comparisons between books. This usually sets the book up for failure in my opinion, particularly if the book being used as a comparison is a favorite of mine. And this is because it sets unfair expectations of the book I haven’t read. Then if the book doesn’t live up to those expectations, if I don’t feel like the comparison was accurate, it affects how I feel about the book.
    Now, sometimes when I read a book I get a “feeling” that another book affected in me, I might choose to draw a comparison myself and I might even mention it in my review. But since it’s my opinion it’s more subjective, right?
    Anyway, I’m glad you chose this as a discussion topic. 🙂
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    • Lola

      I agree comparisons can set unfair expectations and expectations can play a role in whether you enjoy the book. On the other hand I’ve read some indie books like the one I mentioned in this post that had comparisons that seemed pretty well done after finishing the book.

      I have had that a few times when reading a book and it reminded me of another book. Sometimes I mention that in my review and then you actually have the space to explain the comparison. And that’s more subjective indeed, but it’s a type of comparison as well. They do often have a different feel as that’s your experience when reading then and not a marketing technique.

  10. Greg

    I agree comparisons are so problematic! I feel like as readers sometimes we fall for them and other times we can parse them, and realize it’s just marketing lol, but even when as bloggers we say “this book is killer if you liked x” that can be true for some people but not for all. You might turn away as many as you convince ha ha! Your HP example is awesome because yeah, there are so many things in a book, just saying “this is like that” is way too complicated.

    And if I see any more books saying this is the next Gone Girl or Girl on the Train I might scream lol. But… yeah they work sometimes too I have to admit. Your post got me thinking that I have two minds on this- sometimes I roll my eyes but like you I HAVE tried books based on a comparison, and enjoyed them. So I guess they do serve a purpose? But I think in the end it’s usually not just a comparison that grabs me- the whole premise/ blurb whatever has to make me want to read it. A comparison might help or hurt but it’s not enough all by itself.

    Great post!
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    • Lola

      I do think comparisons can be very subjective and there’s so much going on in a book you can compare almost everything on something. I always want to try and figure out how books are similar as each book has so many themes and topics it really depends on what is similar and if you like that parts.

      Some comparisons really are overdone. I haven’t even read Gone Girl or Girl on the Train, but I’ve seen quite some books getting compared with them. I also have bought some books because of the comparisons, so I do think they work and serve a purpose. But yes most of the time it won’t be just the comparison that grabs you, if the cover and blurb is bad you probably won ‘t buy it. But if those sounds good too you might buy it. So a comparison is just one tool to decide whether to read a book or not.

    • Lola

      It’s difficult to be fully on one side of this topic as like you said sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. And some people like them and others don’t. Tropes are a good way to give a feel for a book without directly comparing it to another.

  11. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    I feel bad for authors with certain comparisons because people sometimes go in expecting the book to be just as good as the book it was compared too, and I think it can blind some readers. If it hadn’t been compared to their favorite book, maybe they would have liked it better This is true with book comparisons at least. If it’s compared to movies or TV shows, it’s a bit different.
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    • Lola

      I do think as a reader you have to temper your expectations a bit when it comes to a comparison. Just because you love the book it gets compared to, won’t mean you also love this book. But it hopefully does mean they have some themes in common. And expectations like that can definitely influence your enjoyment of a book and you might enjoy it more without the comparison and the expectations. Sometimes a comparison of a book to a movie or the other way around works better as you know it won’t be exactly the same.

  12. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    This is tough. See, I don’t like them, BUT I also understand why they’re used? I think some are a bit misleading- or perhaps, I am just thinking of different aspects of whatever book they are using to compare, perhaps? Either way, I try just to ignore them. Because I simultaneously don’t want the book to be too similar to the books mentioned, yet I also don’t want them to be too dissimilar, because then I am like “wait, why did you compare this to that anyway?” I get general genre references, I suppose, but I am not a fan of reading about “X Book meets Y Book” or “for fans of Insert Super Popular Book Here”. So while I am personally not a fan, they also don’t necessarily bother me, since I just ignore them haha. Great post!
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    • Lola

      Yes sometimes I wonder about that too, maybe I don’t get a comparison because different things get compared, but then I want to know what aspects they do compare?

      Good point! I have the same I don’t want books to be too similar because I don’t like that when books are too similar But if they are too dissimilar, then why the comparison? There does need to be some overlap or common ground, but not too much. And maybe that’s a very high expectation of a comparison.

  13. Michelle @ FaerieFits

    Oooh, good topic! I used to be vehemently against book comparisons/recommendations. I think this was largely because my mom bought me every book she could find that said “If you like Harry Potter …” when I was obsessing over the first two or three books in that series. And I didn’t like anything she got. I’ve since realized that this was more due to the fact that I didn’t want to read something “like” Harry Potter and my mom had no idea what I actually liked than the fact that the recommendations were bad, so I’ve loosened up my stance quite a bit.

    But what I find more than anything else is that books are compared to something that’s overly hyped and that I didn’t really like. I’ve read books that I’ve LOVED and have later seen it recommended as a “If you liked xx, you should read this book!” I never would have picked it up or given it the time of day if I’d seen the comparison before I’d read it, because I didn’t like “book xx.” I can’t begin to count the number of books I’ve really loved that I’ve seen compared to Twilight. Just because they’re YA and have vampires or something. Sometimes I feel like those are there more for people who don’t read a lot anyway?

    Or, like you mentioned, I would feel like if the book has to compare itself, then I won’t like it anyway. I’ve definitely softened to that thought since I started blogging and seeing books recommended in “bundles” with posts like TTT and whatnot.

    That said, I totally acknowledge that they work for a lot of people, and I’ve tried not to view them negatively and just ignore them. It’s all marketing anyway, lol.

    Great post!
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    • Lola

      Just because you like Harry Potter doesn’t mean you like anything that gets compared with it. But sometimes that also doesn’t mean the comparison is bad. its quite the complicated topic actually when you think of it.

      And yes sometimes you wouldn’t have picked up a book if you had read the comparison first or you can hate the book it gets compared to and love the book itself. But comparison can be very helpful too and I have bought books because of comparisons.

      And yes it’s all marketing anyway, a way to help people decide what to read or not. Just like a blurb or a cover etc.

    • Lola

      It also matters who is making the comparison indeed. But even marketing has a goal, namely to have people who like the book pick it up. But if a blogger you know and trust makes the comparison it still will hold more weight as you can understand better what they like and why they make the comparison.

  14. Wattle

    I…don’t like comparisons.

    I remember years ago picking up a book in a bookstore that I *loved* the cover of, and it said something like ‘An adult version of Harry Potter!’ and I was all “why would I want to read this, when I can read Harry Potter?” I nearly put it down, but then read the blurb and discovered it was the second in the series. So I bought the first as well; despite feeling pretty apprehensive about that comparison.

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Harry Potter soooo much, but I just hate it when books are carbon copies of other books, you know? And as it turned out, the series is nothing at all like Harry Potter! It just happened to have magic in it, that’s the only similarity :/ no wands or anything.

    I can understand why comparisons are there; to draw people to new works because they enjoyed something else. But when it comes to me, personally, that backfires. I would not have bought that book mentioned above if it had a crappy cover, I guarantee it. And there’s plenty of books I have not read simply because they get compared to something I hate (or something I love too much).
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    • Lola

      I think comparisons can be pretty global, like the example you gave where the only similarity was the fact that there was magic, which is okay, but it would be nice to know that beforehand. Because books are so complex, comparisons could be about everything. The book I mentioned here actually doesn’t have wands either, but it does have some of the magical feel that’s similar.

      There are also other things that influence whether you decide to read a book and I think comparisons are only one part of that and sometimes they work and other times they don’t.

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