Tag Archives: how to write a review

When Is Harsh Too Harsh: The Need to be Nice in Book Reviews

3328472594_6e128e3016_bSome time ago I posted about whether or not writers should review books. At that time, I wasn’t sure myself, though I do post reviews even if I am conflicted. (Some of the negative reviews I post I do worry about potentially making it more difficult for me to get published…the whole “burning bridges” idea, though I try to be analytical in my reviews and not a rant-fest like some reviews I’ve seen. I also never fangirl reviews (posting obsessively positive reviews due to being a rabid fan of the book and/or author)).

However, recently I read a post titled “Be nice”  by author Becca Fitzpatrick. She discussed how aspiring authors should only post positive reviews because they don’t know who will read their reviews, and so they don’t want to burn any bridges.

While I agree that scathing reviews are not always the most helpful – neither are fangirl reviews – not commenting on any novels you didn’t like skews book ratings.

I hardly ever decide to read a book without first looking at reviews. If all I saw were positive reviews, I’d get excited about the book, purchase it, and then be angry when I ended up greatly disliking the book because it’s something I would have never read if not for the reviews. What would make that scenario worse is if I later found out that many people didn’t like the book, but because they were afraid that by posting a negative review they’d potentially hinder their chances of publication, so they didn’t say anything. I’d feel like I was lied to.

One of the book reviewers I follow, posted a response to Becca Fitzpatrick’s post. I thought it was intriguing and found that I agreed with the belief that while it’s difficult to see people bash your story (by the way, this happens all the time in critique groups and workshops), negative reviews can also be beneficial. They allow authors to know what they may need to improve on, and, also, sometimes people aren’t going to like your story regardless of whether or not it’s well written.

During one workshop I participated in, someone said to me that he hated all fantasy and science fiction writing. Because of that he thought everything in my story sucked. It didn’t matter that most of the class liked the majority of the things that person hated. My story dealt with fantasy and was therefore trash.

It stung that his critique was so incredibly harsh. I showed it to some of my friends and they were shocked at how rude he was, but I eventually shrugged it off. That’s probably one of the most important aspects I learned during workshops…how to strengthen my backbone against negative feedback.

What do you think? Should aspiring authors only share positive reviews or should they be free to express themselves?

(Photo courtesy of Carrie Kellenberger.)

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Getting Your Review On

book-reviewI’ve always wondered about how people review books. From The Guardian and The New York Times to Amazon and Goodreads (which is owned by Amazon but has separate reviews from it) reviews of novels are prevalent.

How do people go about rating a book or writing a review of it? I’ve seen reviews that are thorough and go through both the positives and negatives of novels, reviews that are no more than giant rants or superfluous praise, and reviews that are either so skeletal that they provide nothing constructive or have nothing to do with the novel.

When I review books, I find that I have two parts of myself: the writer half and the reader half. The writer half is a harsh critic. It nitpicks, deconstructing the novel and examining it on a more academic level. Is the writing good? Are there plot holes? Are the characters flat, stereotypical, believable, etc.? Is there sentence variety, correct punctuation and spelling, metaphors?

The writer half of me will rant about books that are poorly written and go off on tangents about how books like such and such should have never been published because they are everything agents and editors say they don’t want.

However, the reader half of me will look at those same books and love them. Because although they may be stereotypical, have poor world building, have characters you want to smack for either their (1) lack of intelligent decision making skills, (2) jerk behavior, or (3) some combination of (1) and (2), and are overall horribly written, I still get pulled into the story. I find myself laughing or rooting for the characters. I want to know what happens next.

pile-of-booksIf I didn’t have these two parts of myself, my reviews would be quite different. If only the writer half existed, I would have a lot more one and two star reviews (one being absolutely atrocious and five being one of the best books I’ve ever read). If only the reader half was there, I’d have a ton of five star reviews. The writer and reader parts of myself balance each other out. I have very few five star reviews and even fewer one star reviews. The vast majority of my reviews are either three or four stars, and then I get into the meat of why I’ve rated a book what I’ve rated it.

How do you go about reviewing books? You don’t have to place your reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, or other review sites to appraise a book. Every novel you read you form an opinion about. How do you mold the opinion you have?

(Photo courtesy of inkspand and pinterest.)