How Did You Say That–Book Review?

Have you ever written a book review and posted it online?

I’ve been thinking about the act of reviewing books. Yes I know, anyone can write a review whether they’re qualified to do so or not, and with the internet these days anyone can post their review online and they do. But what does that really mean? I ask because I’m not certain. Do people pay attention to these reviews or do they read them for the entertainment value? Does it effect their decision when it comes to buying a book or reading a book? Am I asking too many questions here?

Every author loves a good review– a bad review, not so much. But who are book reviews really written for, the author, the reader or the reviewer?

I recently read a review of someone’s book that pointed out plenty of positive aspects, as well as negative, with a clear defined reason as to why this person didn’t particularly like the book. I thought it was wonderful. They even went so far as to say they understood why this book would appeal to others. That particular review made me feel that, if I were to ever write a negative review, I’d want to offer such a balance the same way this reviewer did. Seems to me there are always nice ways to get your point across.( Our intent should never be to offend.) Not only that, feedback, if offered the right way, gives the author something to consider and keep in mind when writing their next book should that feedback be at all helpful. Good solid criticism never hurt anyone. It’s what makes us better writers. Nasty comment, on the other hand, shouldn’t be worth our time writing or reading. Just saying.

I’ve read a few reviews that felt like a personal attack on the author. Have you?

Perhaps I’m sensitive that way knowing what all goes into writing a book and finding a publisher. Perhaps the reviewer’s energy would be better spent bashing the publisher who deemed a particular worthy book of publication and not the author. After all, it is our art, take it or leave it.

Interesting things to consider.

Would I ever write a negative book and post it on line? Probably not. That’s just who I am personally. I have to be honest here and say that maybe if I wasn’t a writer myself, who knows? Maybe I would. Would I write a negative review that was nasty and hurtful, that had nothing positive to contribute? Absolutely not. What would be the point? That would make it my own personal bias. While we’re all entitled to our own opinion, and rightfully so, can’t we at least be mature about it?

What do you think, if you truly disliked someone’s book would you write a negative review? If the review was negative would you just lay it all on the line or would you offer some solid reasons as to why the book wasn’t for you? Would you mention some positive aspects about the book if you felt there were any? Or do you think the author doesn’t even factor into the review, their book is out there and you have a right to say if you think it stinks? I’m really interested in some honest, helpful opinions on this.

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18 Comments

  1. I’m not qualified to write a professional review. If I’ve read a book, and I like it, I don’t mind saying how much I enjoyed it, and what a good book I think it is. If I don’t like a book, I don’t finish reading it. End of story. No words forthcoming. After all, genres have their audience, and certain authors appeal to certain people. Just because someone doesn’t like a book, doesn’t mean that someone else will not like that very same book. Blessings to you, Laura…

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    • There are very few books that I haven’t been able to finish. I often wonder if I tried reading them later on, when I was in a different mood, if I’d feel the same way. It’s usually disappointing not to be able to finish it. I agree with you when you say genres have their audiences. I do think it makes a difference.

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  2. When Gail Bowen wrote a review for my current novel I was beside myself with glee. I still am. Course, I do wonder if she meant every word. LOL. Yes, even though she doesn’t know me and really, why would she lie?

    In answer to your question, I think reviews, if done well can help a reader decide whether the book’s worth reading. And really, isn’t that we authors want?

    “Here’s a review of my novel that I hope you’ll read because it means you really can read my book without fear of wasting your time.”

    Not very elegantly put, but you get my meaning. Reviews are like those little blurbs we see on our TV guide. They help us decide.

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    • A good review, from someone we respect, can set us on cloud nine and for good reason. I’m sure Gail meant every word and you’re right when someone doesn’t know us their opinion isn’t clouded. I’m so thrilled for you, Joylene. I hope your sales go through the roof and you reach a wide audience. You’ve worked hard and deserve it.. 🙂

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  3. I only post good reviews. I feel like if I were to post a bad review, I’d have to put a LOT more work into it. Also, the only reviews I’ve EVER done on my blog are because a book totally blew me away with its awesomeness. That’s when I do a book review – OR when I’m asked to do them.

    Now, I post my favorite five lines, and people can decide for themselves. But again, I only do it with books that I love.

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    • I really liked the five lines you posted on your blog, Jolene. It gives the reader and excellent idea of what the writing is like, not just the story. For me, each are equally important.. 🙂

      Oh, and welcome to my blog!

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  4. I love writting book reviews. If I read a good book I need to tell the world about it. If I read a so-so book, I can’t be bothered. I took a one day course on writing book reviews which helped. We were taught to be clear and concise and not give too much away. We were also taught to be honest. I also know how good it feels to have your book reviewed positively and posted. I guess it is the “do unto others” idea.

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    • I agree that it’s nice to tell others when we’ve discovered a book we love. A crash course on writing book reviews sounds like a good idea. By some of the reviews I’ve read on line, I’d say a lot of people could benefit from taking one before attempting to write them.. 😉

      BTW loved the review you wrote for “Bitter, Sweet.” 🙂

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  5. I only write a review if I like the book. If it ain’t so great, I either put it down or slog through, & keep my opinions to myself. Can’t see the point in bashing someone’s effort.

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    • I’d pretty much take that same attitude. If I don’t like a book I won’t even mention it. That said, I’ve read plenty that I haven’t blogged about but I never feel qualified to write a formal review. Guess I’m a bit self-conscious that way.

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  6. As for the next part of my answer: no, I wouldn’t write a review if the book was bad. But if someone I knew asked me, and it turned out the book wasn’t stellar, I’d find something good to say about it regardless. I know for a fact that many books I don’t like go on to do very well, so I’d hesitate to say no. I think if one looks hard enough, there’s always something positive to say.

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    • “I think if one looks hard enough, there’s always something positive to say.” Good point. Some reviews I’ve read spoke only of a negative aspect the reviewer saw about the book, making it feel as though they hated everything about it, and maybe they did. In that case, I think I’d do what Dave mentioned and I’d just stay silent. As writers we understand more than anyone how much work goes into writing a book. No one wants to hear that someone thinks it absolutely stinks. Of course they’re allowed to think it but maybe writing a totally negative review speaks more about the reviewer than the book.Who knows?

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  7. I have mentioned on my Goodreads site whether I liked a book or not and why, but that’s not really a review and I think I would be bad at it so I don’t.

    I think the worst book I ever read was from someone who had an “in” (kin to a major publisher. Works for a major publisher, etc) to the business and flaunted it by writing lazily. She never went through the trials of rejection and had all the doors open for her. She could have had blank pages and still got it published. But it was the public’s outrage and horrible reviews that got me to reading it. If a book is hugely unpopular, I want to read it. Is that normal? 😉

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    • I think I’d be bad at writing reviews too. I’m wirht you on that one, Tricia.

      So right. Sometimes negative reviews can have the opposite effect, as you say, and people read it out of curiousity, wondering if it could actuallly be THAT bad.. LOL! I’d probably be curious..

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  8. pattisj

     /  July 8, 2011

    I don’t know the proper way to write a book review. I will recommend a book to others if I found it helpful, entertaining, or a good story.

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    • Seems to me there are plenty of people writing reviews who don’t know how to do it properly. Just from some of the ones I’ve read. On the flip side there are those who do an excellent job. Darlene mentioned that she took a course on writing reviews and that sounds as though it might be very helpful. Recommending books is a great way to help promote authors and books you enjoy. 🙂

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  9. I rather prefer not to write reviews for books I don’t like. it’s quite useless as I usually just points out the things I dislike about the story. and then I’m sure other readers would object to what I say. everyone has a opinion but it doesn’t mean we all have to say it out loud.

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    • I agree with your Lissa. It probably doesn’t serve any real purpose to write a negative review. And you’re right, we don’t have to voice our negative opinions about someone else’s work. It goes without saying that there will always be someone who doesn’t like a particular book even when everyone else seems to.

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