Book Reviews: The Good, The Bad & The Downright Ugly

For some reason, I don’t really enjoy writing book reviews. I love writing. I love reading. I don’t mind tweeting how awesome a book was or posting a similar comment on facebook or verbally discussing it. But I just can’t get any thrill from writing reviews on books I’ve read. Even great ones.

However, I have learned how important these are to writers. So I do them. Even for those I don’t know but whose books I have enjoyed. And that’s all I wrote for the most part. Good book reviews. If I didn’t like the book I didn’t write a review.

I really dislike hurting people’s feelings. But I realized something recently. Just like at a workshop, I’m really not doing the author any favors by not giving a decent critique if there are issues that he could address in subsequent novels which would make those much better. This is especially true for those who are self-publishing and don’t have the advantage of having agents and editors looking over their material before it’s out there. (Not that I haven’t read plenty of traditionally published novels with problems. And I’ve read many  self-published books that I’ve loved.)

Most importantly though, I realized it really wasn’t doing the reader any favors by allowing someone who writes like a 6th grader to look like his book will be excellent just because his friends have posted all 5-star ratings. Which is what happened to me yesterday. I downloaded a book with 4 awesome reviews. Thank goodness it was free!

Frustrated reader, perhaps? Image by Kalavinka at flickr

Okay…going off on a tangent here. I know some of you will say I got what I paid for and that you don’t read the cheapies because they (of course) couldn’t be any good. I disagree with that. While some of the material definitely should not have seen the light of day — at least not yet — I have been quite surprised by some of the eBooks under $2.99. Some were lowered just to get people interested in their other novels which are priced higher. And it worked. For me anyway. I have found new authors that I love to read because of experimenting with the lower priced books. And I don’t mind  taking a chance on someone new to me when the cost is so little. Okay…back to the main topic.

The book I read yesterday was a horror. In the horror genre that is. Although reading it felt sort of horrifying at times. I wouldn’t have finished reading it except that it had a good premise. The plot was working and it was even kind of eerie at times. But the sucky writing kept pulling me out of the story. So, I wrote a review. I pointed out a few of the major problems such as word echoes, poor sentence structure and incorrect word usage — not to mention so many typos!

Seriously, this book had so much promise. It just needed a writer who was committed to the craft of writing. Someone who would take some classes, join a workshop and have someone professionally edit and help tighten the work. Create the flow. I love to get lost in a good horror book and I think this one would have been a good one to be able to get lost in. Too bad it didn’t work.

I’ve seen reviews that were raving about a book that so obviously didn’t deserve them. I’ve seen reviews that were so downright ugly I felt horrible for the poor author. Maybe the book was horrible. I just don’t think there is ANY reason to be condescending with intent to hurt. So in my review I pointed out the potential and the good qualities along with the things that need some adjusting. Just like I would to my friends who ask for feedback on their writing.

So what do you think? Have I blown my Writer’s Karma all the way to Hades? Do you leave reviews on books? Only good or do you leave reviews on books that aren’t very well done as well?

Follow Rhonda Hopkins:

The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

14 Responses

  1. Jennette Marie Powell

    I don’t love writing reviews, either, but like you, I do it because they are sooo important to the author. I applaud you for having the guts to write a not-so-good review! I’m just now getting comfortable with leaving 4 stars, because I know readers often give these reviews more credence than one that’s completely positive. Since you’re being honest, thoughtful and kind, the authors should be able to accept it. Feel free to give me a less-than-stellar review if you read my book!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hey Jennette! Thanks for the comment and your time. I have Time’s Enemy on my Kindle and it’s next on my list TBR. Can’t wait!

  2. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    I don’t write book reviews and have never even tried to write one. I will write that I liked a book and why but won’t go into a big shebang about it. I don’t think it’s necessary to bash a writer to death over a bad book because it is in the eye of the beholder. But from what you said, you gave positive and negative criticism and in a kind way. That’s like what we receive when we enter a contest, right? And it’s often helpful. Obviously, the writer can take it or leave it but you weren’t bashing them over the head with your review. Kind reviews, both bad and good, ARE possible.

  3. Rhonda Hopkins

    Thanks, Patti! I get all antsy when trying to write one, even the good ones. I think I flash back to having to do book reports in Elementary School. I hated doing those! Of course, it was the public speaking I hated but it’s all tied together in my psyche.

  4. Ashley

    Hi Rhonda,

    Up until now, I’ve only given book recommendations for stories I really enjoyed. But you make a good point. Thank you.

    I’ve been thinking about doing reviews for books I read, and the idea of sharing honest information in a nurturing manner appeals. This may be a good goal for later in the year, after I master the ones currently on my plate.

    Cheers, Ashley

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Ashley! As you can tell from my post, I’m not at all comfortable with giving bad reviews. I’m still fretting over it. Hopefully the author will take it in the way it was intended. Thanks for your time and comment!

  5. Alica

    Last week I read 4 books written by friends three are great! I loved them and quickly went and left great reviews- the other is only so-so, well maybe so-so, and I haven’t left a review yet because I don’t know what to say. I don;t want people to think that I write like she does if I give her a good review, and I don’t want to lie and mislead anyone who also loved the first three books into thinking that hers is of the same caliber. ACK! I really don;t want to give her book 2 stars on Amazon, but that’s what I’d do if I was being truthful. *bites nails*
    I think as long as it is kind constructive criticism then it fine. Karma is about intention and as long as your intention was to help it’s all good 🙂

  6. Rhonda Hopkins

    Oh Alica! I feel for you. I really hate it when it’s someone you know and you can’t give a good review. I think if it were me, instead of doing a public review (if it’s self-pubbed and can be changed) I’d email the person and tell them where I found problems and offer to help. I’d even offer to do a line edit and hope I didn’t lose a friend. I sincerely wanted to do a line edit of the book last night. Because it could be soooo good if fixed. However, if the book is traditionally published I really don’t know how I would handle it. Good luck to you!

  7. Catie Rhodes

    I haven’t yet started reviewing books, even though I probably should…because I am afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or making them hate my guts. So…there’s my answer. I do read book reviews, though, especially at Amazon.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Catie! Yeah, that’s the part I don’t like either. And I certainly don’t want to make enemies. I read the book reviews too. Good and bad. The only ones I avoid are the really long ones because they usually have spoilers in them. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you’re dog is feeling better!

  8. Julie Glover

    I have never written a book review. I would be nervous writing something negative, I suppose. However, you make a great point. Oftentimes, someone has a great idea, but their book just isn’t ready for prime time. Maybe they need to know that. All books need some editing to be their best.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Julie! I hope that as long as I point out the positive as well, the author will be more willing to accept the negative parts of the review and not hate me. I can edit my work to death and others still find things wrong with it and when it’s pointed out to me it’s like “glarlingly” wrong. I think we get so close to something that we see what it should say rather than what it actually says at times. So absolutely having others edit for us is a must!

  9. Angela Wallace

    I love writing book reviews, though I have been holding back a lot lately. I always try to be objective if there’s something I didn’t like, talking about it in a way that shows it’s something I don’t like, but others may not mind. That’s for traditionally published books, but after reading even a few of those that I did not like at all, I decided not to write a review. “If you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

    Then there’s the self-pubbed author. Reviews are very important. Hey, even I eagerly check to see if there are any new ones for my books. But I’m afraid to write one if I can’t rave about it. Especially for other authors I know. Amazon has a minimum length requirement for writing a review, and I haven’t been able to meet it, so I haven’t left reviews there.

    It’s such a dilemma, and it’s so great that you went ahead and left the review anyway. I should do that…

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hey Angelia! I don’t think any of my reviews are very long. Just enough to say a few things I liked about it. Or in this last case the things I liked and didn’t. The longest one was the one I also posted here on the blog for Anaszi Runner by Jeff Posey. I don’t think I could leave anything but a good review though for someone I know. I guess I probably just wouldn’t write one if I couldn’t honestly say it was good.