Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writing Book Reviews

If you're a writer, chances are you're probably also a reader. If you're not, you should be. But that's a lecture for another day. (Hmmm, I should write that down.) And if you're a writer, you're also probably a blogger. (Again, if you're not . . .) So many of us feature book reviews on our blogs, but sometimes I put myself in a quandary. What do I do about those pesky two and three star books? (I don't finish one star books, so that's not a problem.) 

On the one hand, there's honesty. If a reader comes by my blog and picks up a book recommendation from me, I want them to trust me. Heaven forbid they read the book that should have been a two star and wonder what I was thinking when I wrote the review. On the bright side, as a free-lance editor, I haven't picked up a manuscript or book yet that I couldn't find a few good things about. It's easy to play up that. But playing up the good things does not for a good book make. 

On the other hand, there's "if you can't say something nice" and plain old karma. I don't like posting bad reviews, period. While a reader would appreciate my honesty, I'm sure, the author might not. Oh, sure, we're all working on getting that tough skin, but it doesn't feel good to be on that side of the criticism. So far my solution has been to only post reviews of books that I give four or five stars. But does that help? Certainly not if everyone did it! I know one person on Twitter who removed all his reviews from Goodreads because he didn't want to post negative ones and didn't think it helped to only post positive ones.

So what's your take? What reviews do you post?


  1. I always find it difficult to do under three star reviews. Three stars still means I liked the book, there were just some issues I couldn't get past. If it's a two or one star review, I'll just post my star rating and leave it at that. If someone asks me to elaborate, I'll do so in comments (this happened to me once with an indie author friend, talk about uncomfortable). If it's really bad, and I don't want to offend- I'll mark it as read and leave the star rating alone.

    Two days ago I finished a trilogy and was mad at the author. I LOVED the first two books. LOVED. Then she finished the trilogy off with absolute crap. I honestly felt almost betrayed as I started writing my scathing review. Then I stopped, breathed, and deleted. I still haven't posted a rating or review. I know, even though I didn't like the book, she worked hard on that book(crap). I did skim through some other reviews, and realized I wasn't alone in my objections. Of course there were plenty of people who disagreed with me- I'd like to think it's based on loyalty to the author.

    So I guess what I'm saying is I have to take it case by case, but realize that as a writer- I know how much work goes into a book. I look at my reviews much differently now, because I know the authors are probably reading them- and cringing at my snark. I also realize that to be in this business you have to have a thick skin- and realize not everyone is going to like what you put out there.

  2. I always feel bad giving bad reviews too! I usually forgo a bad review unless I have something constructive to say. For example, the novel A Certain Slant of Light would have been absolutely fabulous - beautiful writing, creative storyline, well-developed characters - but the graphic sex scenes and repetitive use of the f-word made it practically unreadable. I gave the book one star, complimenting the author where possible, but hoping to convey that there are a great many readers who will be put off by the graphic content.

  3. Phew! Glad I'm not the only one who balks at giving a bad review. But I do see the point of constructive reviews. Once I emailed an author before reviewing and gave her the choice. I pointed out that the review wouldn't be good because of several issues but that I liked the plot in general. She opted not to have me post it.

  4. i am not a writer, but an avid reader, and try to write good reviews. i shy away from indie writers, because of issues. but that's not fair, because some of them are really good! So glad to hear from other bloggers and writers too. Is it okay to just not mention a book i put down because i didn't like it, not because of issues? Not review it? i got one on my shelf now. Thanks for the help

  5. @ Marianne so I love the blog "I am a reader, not a writer" and she talks about a shelf of "Couldn't finish" books on goodreads. I started a shelf like that of my own, and so far have only shelved a few books that way. I've rated one of them (because the language was so bad- and I wanted the author to know that is why I couldn't finish it), but the others I've left unrated with a brief reason. I think of goodreads as a place I go for recommendations, so if I couldn't finish a book- I'm assuming the people reading my reviews want to know why. So they can make their own choices. So from the goodreads according to Laura handbook- I would say it's important to state the reason you couldn't finish a book for the readers, and the writers. :)