Saturday, January 14, 2012

If you can't say something nice...what to do?

One of the worst things about being a reviewer is trying to figure out what to say when I really don't like a book.  I can usually find something nice to say but when I am completely frustrated by the end of the book, it is really difficult to avoid saying everything that I want to say.  I don't want to insult the author because this is just my opinion but I often wonder if I have read the same book that was read by those who are giving rave reviews.  I realize that we are all a product of our upbringing and everyone's sense of humor is different but sometimes I really have trouble with the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" adage.  My friends know that I tend to give my opinion (whether I'm asked for it or not) which is why I am so tough to have as a friend...I have worked hard on becoming more diplomatic but I tend to be honest.  I feel some responsibility as a reviewer to give my honest opinion but I also feel uncomfortable when the author (or his/her agent) has given me a copy and I think the work is awful.  What to say?  So I procrastinate.  I pick up another book and read it (and another, and another) while I ponder.  Sometimes I reach out to the author or publisher and ask if they want to know about overt errors that I have found (not usually) but that doesn't always go over well and there's no diplomatic way to ask, "do you want to know why your book doesn't seem to make sense?".  Reactions range from, "that's why I have an editor" to "well, there's nothing I can do about it" to "yes, please!".  I'm really not trying to be insulting but some authors seem to take it that way.  So, reluctantly, I write my review.

I try to accentuate the positive...yet I as a reader would be really annoyed at spending my hard-earned money on a book that is choppy, full of errors (grammatical, typographical, logical) or I try to find some middle ground.  Be warned...if my review states that something is an adequate light read, I probably think there are inconsistencies and I wasn't terribly intrigued by the story!  But that's just my opinion--you should decide for yourself.

On a personal note...Happy Birthday to my younger (but not smaller) brother!


  1. If and when I review a book, which isn't's usually because I either really liked over the top loved it..or I really hated it. Those books that I just liked a bit like everyone else..I don't usually write reviews for because so many others are and I'm just not a good review writer. lol

    The funny thing is yesterday I put a review on amazon for a book I hated. I don't have a problem saying I didn't like it and telling other to stay away from it. It is after all my opinion of a book I took the time to read. Even if others who read it give it gushing reviews...if I read it and didn't like it, I am entitled to me opinion and so is everyone else. The review will be on my blog later today too. Readers want the truth, the want an honest opinion about the books that are reviewed and in my opinion that who we are really giving the reviews to. When I go looking for reviews it's because I want to know what other readers thought about the book.

    Of course the author is going to say, but my books it's great! But it's the other readers opinions that really matter to me and if they didn't like it, I want to know that.

  2. I think it's important to be honest. If you don't like a book, tell us why you don't like it. Same if you like it. I say this as a writer and a reader. I've noticed that lately every single book seems to receive no less than a B or 3.5 stars. Somehow, I just don't think it's possible that every book released is that good. The truth is, everyone learns more from a well-written, thoughtful negative review than a meaningless positive review.
    The thing I find really confusing is that I've read negative reviews, yet after writing a negative review, the reviewer rated the book a B or a B+ or a B-. This does not compute.

  3. Thanks for your comments. I very rarely give less than a 4 star review for my "formal" review site (but those are my okay reads, 4 1/2 for those I really like and very rarely 5 for those I think are exceptional). I always wonder if authors groan when they see that I am reviewing their book as my rating is often much lower than others have rated their previous works on the same site. I am usually a little more blunt on my Goodreads site (3 is my version of ok, 4 is really good and 5 is great) and I started this blog with the thought of explaining some of my comments or being more detailed about my opinions. I am always aware that this is just MY opinion so I hate to pan somebody for making a mistake or two. I see some reviews that are just plain nasty and I would hate to come across that way because I know that these books are usually the products of many many hours of work. I seem to have different standards than many people as there are several really popular authors that I really am surprised to learn are practically worshipped and their books are pretty disorganized or illogical to me.

    I usually give a relatively good review for a cohesive story, good chemistry between the main characters, and an imaginative plot. Those that I rate as below 4 on Night Owl or below 3 on Goodreads, I had serious trouble finishing (I have not finished less than 1% of the books that I have read). There are some titles that I receive automatically because I started the series. I groan about some of them because I really don't think that they are well-written but I try to start them with a sense of optimism anyway. And now, it's even tougher since I am starting to meet some of the authors whose writing I am less than impressed with (I never know whether to duck or not, lol, but then I figure they don't know who I am!). I always feel badly about panning someone who is perfectly lovely as a person because I wonder how much my negative review will impact on their future contracts. I know logically that this is silly but I wonder if there is some plus/minus column that publishers use when they make their decisions given the sheer number of poorly written works that are being published! I am starting to hear from enough people that writers have to have thick skins that I don't worry as much as I used to. Anyway, that is probably more than you expected to have as a response but I really appreciate both of you giving me your perspectives!