Monday, May 23, 2011

Book Reviews - Should You or Shouldn't You?

There's been an interesting discussion going on among members of a writing group I recently joined about whether or not we should review books. It was an interesting discussion.

Then today author Roni Loren talked about it on her blog. You can find today's post here. I think she raised some very good points and reached some of the same conclusions I have.

What about you? Do you review books and tell it all, even if you hated it?


  1. I'll review books on Goodreads, but rarely on my blog. I won't put negative reviews on my blog because the couple of times I've done it, a writer friend has asked me, and I had to make sure it was worthy of high praise before committing.

    I'll check out the link.

  2. I have a gush-only rule. If I find a book or story I really love, and it does something in particular really well, I will blog about it (and tag the post "fangurl gushing"). If I want to illustrate something I think was a mistake, I will do so without using the author or book name.

    This is just what I'm comfortable with, especially as a writer myself. I think of it as professional courtesy. If I was a reviewer, or a reviewer first and a writer second, I'm sure I'd be looking at reviewing from a different angle. Reviewers need to be able to be totally honest.

  3. Occasionally, I'll review books, but I've gotten very skittish about it because I'm not comfortable shredding a book in public. In the past, I've found myself in the awkward position of having agreed to review a friend's book and then disliking the book so much that what in the world could I say in a review? I won't tell you how I weaseled out of that awkward situation, but I don't want to be in it again. Another time, I volunteered to review a book, but then only sorta liked it--three stars. I liked enough about it that I could come up with positive things to say in my review, but it wasn't a very helpful review for readers as far as letting them know what I really thought.

    Now I'm not inclined to volunteer, and it someone asks me to review a book, I'm cautious. I'll either politely decline or warn them up front that if I don't like the book, I won't review it (unless I'm so familiar with the author's work that I'm confident I'll like it).

  4. Interesting post. I can see why people feel the way they do, but it ends up making reviews just a way to promote books, not really reviews, and it ends up sounding like excessive flattery. I'd rather a little more honesty and an understanding that taste and opinion vary from person to person.


  5. Theresa--Goodreads might be an option though it could still be an issue based upon Roni's concerns.

    Margo--I love the idea of the fangurl, gushing approach.

    Stephanie--I had a similar situation where I was asked to post something about a book on my blog ... and I HATED it. Ugh. Not good.

  6. Mooderino, then maybe writers should leave the reviewing to others. There are certainly plenty of bloggers out there more than willing to bash a book.

    I like Roni's comment that actors don't critique the acting of other actors.

    And reading--and liking or not liking a book--is so subjective.

  7. I'll read other reviews, but when it comes to me--I've come to have a "don't talk down about it publicly" rule. If someone wants to know what I thought of a book, I'll share it with them, but if I didn't like something, I'll not talk about it publicly. I know how hard writers work on their books, and as you've said, liking or disliking a book is so subjective. We all have such different styles and write different genres. I want to be a positive influence on other writers as much as possible.

  8. i don't think it's necessarily about bashing a book. When I was researching my post on The Hunger Games I found a review of it by Stephen King. He liked it but he also pointed out a few issues and similarities to other books (inclusing his own The Running Man). He's no stranger to criticism himself. I think as long as the people giving it out can also take it there shouldn't be a problem.

  9. I'm not into liking and not liking a book. If you're a serious author shouldn't we be analyzing novels. I can analyze a novel and really detest the story, but praise all sorts of things the author does to put that story across. The point of view may be done well. The opening chapter could start in the middle of the action and not waste my time with lots of back story. The dialogue could be authentic, not filled with all sorts of narrative summary, and push the story forward in very compelling ways. The author's voice could be very mature, without too many declarative sentences strung one after the other, descriptive language, and varried between shorter and longer sentence structure. The author could be inventive and take me to places I've never been and write of things I've never considered. The novel may be a wonderful string of on-scene, real-time events that, when told one after the other, invite me into a real live world in which the story unfolds.

    Technically the novel could be brilliant, but the story could be something I don't like. So far everyone says that they have a hard time reviewing a story "they don't like". But shouldn't we divide that "like" or "dislike" into two categories. One for techical skill in telling a story. And two, our enjoyment of the story. I know a lot of authors who write brilliant stories, but their subject matter is either morally corrupt, or idealogcially so extreme compared to MY WORLD VIEW that I simply don't enjoy the story. I could praise the author's skill, but I can't praise the subject matter of the story.

    So, Stephanie Black (and others) is it that you don't LIKE the story or is that you don't like the technical aspects of how the novel was written? I know that if I find all sorts of technical issues in the opening chapter I have a hard time reading further. And I would rate the story is poor or terrible or stinky or atrocious without even knowing what the story is about. I'm sure I've rated some top-notch stories with very poor grades because the technical skill of the author so destoryed the experience for me that I simply CAN NOT GIVE THE AUTHOR OR THIER STORY ANY THUMBS UP. Becoming an author has destroyed my personal joy in a lot of stories.

    But if the author shows some serious skill in voice, point of view, narration, on-scene real-time events, character development, dialogue, etc. then I'm at least willing to read on and find out if I LIKE THE STORY.

    I think there is a HUGE upside to an author analyzing, in detail, the writing of other authors. But you don't have to share your TEARING APART and RIPPING into the story with anyone else. Your personal, private analysis has served its purpose. You've become better at recognizing what makes and good or poor story and you're betting able to recognize those pitfalls in your own writing.

  10. I review books occasionally, but am wondering if I should continue as I'm getting more serious about my writing.

    When I review a book, even if I don't love it, I'm able to find things the author has done that I like, and things I don't. I want to be honest, but I don't shred some books like I want to. I try to word my reviews very carefully in that I will not say I recommend a book if I can't; I just give the purchase link.

    I also write "sandwich reviews." I start with some positives, then a few things that didn't work for me, then end with positives.

    Great post. You've given me more to think about. Good thing I liked the next book I'm about to review.

  11. Mooderino, you're right and many authors go ahead and say what they think. But it's a fine line to tread (between evaluating and bashing), and some writers aren't comfortable crossing it.

    Anonymous, great points. And I think we writers do analyze other books, frequently in detail. The question is whether we're comfortable (either on the giving or the receiving end) with that detailed analysis. I love to discuss books because it's fascinating to see what different people see that I didn't--or missed that I picked up on. J.K. Rowling spoiled me for a lot of authors because I've been trained no to look deeper. Unfortunately not all books are as deep as Harry Potter (or Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings). Some might take a deep analysis of a book as simply bashing.

    Like you, becoming a writer has taken some of the pleasure out of my leisure reading.

  12. Laura, that's my approach now. I'll talk about the things I didn't like in a book with people I'm physically with.

    Rebecca, ain't it the truth? As I mentioned to my writing group, I've decided not to dis a book. If I mention that I'm reading it and I don't review it, that COULD be a sign that I didn't like it. Or not. Because I don't review everything I read. =D

  13. As a book blogger (who attempts to write fiction and may or may not pursue publishing a novel at some point), I have to agree with Roni. Here's why: I believe if you're going to review books, you should do so in an honest, forthright manner. No "gush-only" policies. Publishing only positive book reviews ruins your credibility. It's a fact of life that not every reader is going to love every book. We should all be adult enough to understand that. Just like we should all be adult enough and thick-skinned enough to accept criticism about our writing.

    Except it doesn't really work like that.

    Authors are very protective of their babies (books) and if you want to stay in their favor, you should probably stay away from slamming their books in a public forum. Even on Goodreads. Plus, it can make for some awkward meetings should you happen to meet authors you've criticized. Trust me on this one.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion. This is one of those hot topics that I've been thinking about a lot!

  14. Reading and writing go hand in hand. That said, it's almost natural that a writer does review books. It's rare that I can't find something good to say about a book and usually, if I hate it, I don't finish, so for me, there's nothing to review.

  15. I would never trash a new author; I would simply bin the book.

    I don't have a problem though with negatively reviewing so-called classics.

  16. Personally, I choose not to because I say when I don't like something just as freely and easily as when I do, and I believe book reviews of any kind if you're in the writing field require a certain amount of tack that I just don't have. So, if done well, a person can excel at it, but if not it can be detrimental to them as writers.

  17. Susan--I agree about being honest. I won't say nice things I don't believe. But I also recognize that what I don't like others may love. I was very upset at the conclusion of a trilogy last year. It's one of the few negative reviews I gave before I started my writing blog. I won't do that again. Many people thought the book was brilliant, but it ruined this well-loved series for me.

    J.L.--that's the way to do it, I guess. Just don't waste your time on a book that's no good. As my time for reading becomes more precious I'm also becoming more discerning and will set a book aside.

    Donna--you made me smile. Which classics would you dis?

    Colene--ah, discretion. I'm a firm believer in the 'discretion is the better part of honor'.

  18. I try my best to be careful, because I do review books every so often. I'm honest, but I don't mention every little thing I don't like. I do try to accentuate the positive.

    I've gone back and forth on this, because I understand that some people might be offended by not getting a perfect five star review. But I also like to share books that maybe I didn't think were perfect, but still enjoyed reading.

  19. I always like the Thumper and Bambi thing: If you can't say anything nice, well, you know how it goes.

  20. Danyelle--many writers feel they can find the balance. I will you luck. =D

    M.K.--That's my approach now. I don't think it's being dishonest only to talk about the books I like. There are plenty of people out there happy to trash a book. It's their take versus my take. Some people hated Stephanie Meyer's writing style. I was fine with it. It's a difference in taste, and as my late father was fond of saying "Opinions are like derriers. Everyone's got one, and they usually stink."

  21. I've reserved my blog for my readers, such as they are right now :). That means no book reviews, no blog chain letter gigs where you pass the torch to another blogger, and no tips on how to write, etc.

    I'll write a review for any book I read but I'll post it on Amazon, Nook, Goodreads, etc., not on my blog. Some blogs are dedicated for book reviews and that's great. A reader knows to go to that blog if they want to read a book review.

    I don't begrudge bloggers who do book reviews. They're free to do whatever they please with their blog. The first good, and honest, review of my current release was published on a blog. He also published it on Goodreads, Amazon, and Smashwords.

  22. I've decided to not do book reviews on my blog for several reasons: The first being I just don't have time. The second being, I don't feel comfortable doing it. I figured I'll leave it to the librarians and bloggers who devote their blogs to book reviews. Of course I'll promote friend's books and all, but as a general rule, I won't review them.

  23. Nice to see you Ev! Blogs are indeed the property of the owners. It's good to consider the potential ramifications though of what we blog about.

    Abby, having enough time. Seriously I wish the earth was a little bigger so our days were just a little longer...or that I could get away with less sleep. =D

  24. I was just talking to someone about this the other day. I am happy to do author interviews and help an author possibly find some new readers that way, but I absolutely will not do book reviews. I'm just not willing to rip another writer apart when they are trying to get out there. Now, someone who is popular and already has a significant following may be different, but as of right now, I don't plan on doing any book reviews. I'd just rather help than hurt in the world of writing, you know?

  25. I don't intend to do book reviews, per se. But I intend to write posts that focus on the lessons I learn as a writer from books I read.

  26. Shannon--if we look for fault we'll find it. Anywhere.

    Sarah--I like your approach.

  27. Interesting post! I do review books. I do tell all. I am honest about my views. If I hate it, well, to be honest, I haven't read a book I hate, but then again, I'm selective with the kinds of books I read so that I won't have to say anything bad.

    I will say that if there was something I didn't like, I will say it, but it needs to be constructive with an explanation and not just a tossed tomato!

    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

  28. Elizabeth--thanks for not being a tomato tosser ... especially if you ever got the chance to review anything I've written. =D

  29. I'm a little late to this conversation, but I want to add my thoughts. I think book reviewers are a great resource, especially now that there are so many people self-pubbing on Amazon. How else will we know if a book is worth reading? If I personally enjoy the book, say 3 stars and up, I will review it on my blog. I like to post mostly positive reviews but also point out what didn't quite work for me. Those people who follow my reviews and like the same books that I do will know that they can trust my recommendations.


Comments brighten my day.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...