book reviews

What Makes a Review?

Recently, fellow book blogger Shannon of Giraffe Days wrote a post called “On Writing Reviews, Or Whatever You Want to Call Them.” Apparently, there’s been renewed debate in the blogosphere on the topic of “‘bad’ book blogger/reviewer and author behaviour, and whether book bloggers/online reviewers actually write ‘real’ reviews at all.” I’ve heard of this issue before, and I’ve seen a few stories online about author responses to negative thoughts on their books, but I had no idea this had all been sparked again.

First, please have a read of Shannon’s post to get up to speed. The following will make more sense then. (She helpfully includes links to other posts and describes what’s been happening.)

Now. I’ll start off with a little disclaimer here. I’m about to talk about the ideal review, and that is not to say I believe I’m the ideal reviewer. I’m hoping I don’t sound like a contemptible prig in this post. I’m not perfect, of course, and I often wonder if I’m a fraud or justified in tacking on “A Review” on my post titles. But I do try my damndest to reflect in my reviews my own values and opinions of what constitutes a good review. I hope I succeed at least a little.

What follows may sound somewhat harsh, and that’s because I’m frustrated. One reason is this: of course this issue of what constitutes a “real” review and reviewer (in which is couched potentially “bad behaviour”) will never be resolved as long as readers write crap and authors get pissed and everyone becomes entangled in definitions and defensiveness. But I do think it all bears addressing: there is clearly an issue of validation regarding book bloggers. And perhaps more importantly, something needs to be said because there is actually a valid reason for authors to become upset. That’s not to say how they respond shouldn’t also be mature, but we are bloggers, and that’s what we’ll stay concerned with.

Here’s what I’ve always believed: Whether or not we consciously do it, we teach others how to treat and perceive us. If our reviews and status as book bloggers are being invalidated and questioned, we may want to start looking for the reason on our own turf.

So what makes a good review? Well, even if authors are truly writing garbage, the fair (I dare say even proper) way to convey this is not to add to the trash but to say why it’s garbage. And fair means to both our readers and the author. This also means in as intelligent a way as we can muster — not, for example, using our ignorance, poor reading skills, and prejudices as the reasons we dislike a story, as shown by the feedback in this article (yes, it’s about a film rather than a book, but the two are related, since the film did follow the book’s descriptions).

Also, and this is important, ego has no place in a review. I’ve read snarky negative reviews by both bloggers and newspaper and magazine writers. What these pieces often convey to me is a profound love of one’s own voice and a superiority and smugness that smacks of arrogance and lacks respect and consideration. And these are professionals (which may actually be the problem in some cases). Recently, I read three reviews for a manuscript I was working on that was already published in the UK last year but which a Canadian publisher is putting out in May. The reviews, all online and for prominent newspapers, were pretty much copies of each other, but more than that, worse, they all contained the same disgustingly self-satisfied, condescending tone with which they criticized the author, barely covered the book, and betrayed, to me, a gross ineptitude in being able to see the literature for what it is and put it in its context. Instead, they couldn’t wait to sound so fucking clever. I discredited these pieces not because I disagreed with them, though I did for the most part, but because ultimately there was little value to them.

There is nothing wrong with negative reviews by dissatisfied readers, of course. I totally get it. I become pretty indignant myself if I feel an author’s wasting my time and money. But if a person wants to write a negative review, it had better be for the right reasons and actually give me something to go on, perhaps especially if I’m the author. Otherwise, it too is wasting my time. A good reviewer doesn’t say, as Shannon mentioned, “I hate this book, it sucked and isn’t worth your time,” or “this was boring and not really about anything,” and end there. That is indeed not a review, as Stiefvater suggested. Like a good positive review that tells us why a book is worth reading, a good negative review tells us why, in the right context (that is, recognizing a book’s purpose and evaluating it on those terms), a book fails to deliver. A good reviewer says everything with tact and respect, not in a tone that feels triumphant at the last word.

Of course, this applies to all reviewers, not just bloggers. Yes, it’s less likely you’ll encounter a deficient review in the NYT. But the assumption going around that book bloggers in particular, and in general, aren’t real reviewers is a bit of a problem. We need to understand that this debate is not, or should not, be geared toward what group of people is doing the reviewing — or not reviewing, as the case may be. The real issue at hand, as I’ve mentioned, is the calibre of output, whether by book bloggers or newspaper or magazine writers.

Real reviews are not only New York Times Book Review-type pieces. You don’t need me to tell you that. It is only one kind of review. There are many different kinds of readers, and not all of them appreciate or desire a review of the academic sort. That’s where the book blogger comes in. Our point is to not be writing stuff like that included in the NYT, but rather to be infusing our conscientious considerations of what we’ve read with a little emotional feedback as well. That’s what separates us. That can even be what makes us great. We’re not writing theses, or literary criticism à la Harold Bloom—and on purpose; what we’re doing while backing up what we think of the book is also relating our experience reading it. We get our readers to relate. We get them emotionally involved. This is what many book buyers, particularly blog readers, want. In short, bloggers add a more personal touch, which is just as much desired by an author as a fair analysis.

Frankly, if an author prefers to have his or her book treated only by the NYT type of reviewer, it’s their prerogative. Who knows: that might be saying something about their own view of their work. But to discredit book bloggers as not really reviewers is an unfair assessment based on unfortunate generalization. Where this perception may come from is important, and addressed above — that is, from our shoddy reviewing. If we bloggers want to be taken seriously, if we want our treatments of books to be called reviews, we need to up the quality of what we put out. That doesn’t mean mini essays. But it doesn’t mean ranting rundowns, either. It simply means, as I said, being thoughtful and fair. Think of it this way: if the author wasted your time and you’re ticked about it, why would you do the same to your readers?

A while ago, Toronto author David Penhale read my review of Half-Blood Blues and emailed me to say I was writing in the spirit of John Updike’s guidelines for reviews. I’d never seen these guidelines before, so I followed the link and read them. There are only six. They are simple and right on the money. All we need do—if we want to be taken seriously, if we want to be counted as valuable, if we want to say our posts and articles are reviews—is follow them.

28 Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Steph. As a new book “reviewer” I didn’t even know this debate existed. I fear I may be guilty of writing a snarky post or two. Though I will continue to speak my mind and opinions, I’ll at least try to do it with a little more tact and constructiveness in the future.

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      I think it’s totally acceptable to speak your mind and opinions! It’s just that the review must, in my mind, be helpful, not destructive, both for reader of your blog and the author.

      Reply
  2. Marie Clausén

    “ego has no place in a review”

    Oh, I disagree – profoundly. :) Ego is what makes me read reviews. I delight in the flexing of rhetorical muscles, both my own and others’. Reviews should above all be entertaining. I don’t think they are meant to be dull and dry Weetabix-flavoured pieces or perfectly-balanced, won’t-offend-anyone bits or earnest declarations of content. Bring on the wit and the sarcasm, say I! If I go to the trouble of reading a review I expect to be either laughing or ranting by the end of it, not ‘ho-humming’ and moving on to something else half-way through because the reviewer is so overly conscious of not hurting anyone’s feelings, least of all the poor author’s, that they’d rather risk boring you to death with their PC even-handedness.

    I have noticed this trend among Canadian book reviewers generally, whether bloggers or reviewers for the major newspapers, e.g. It’s altogether different in other parts of the world. There reviewers may develop followings similar to that of other authors (authors of books) because of their particular style or opinions and people can’t wait for the next juicy piece by so-and-so.

    I don’t think a reviewer’s responsibility is to the author at all, but rather to his or her own audience. It is a two-fold responsibility: to give a truthful and entertaining/engaging account. But the author has to look elsewhere for career advice and writing tips: that is the job of her editor or publisher. If they have failed the author in this respect, they have as much egg on their faces as the author does, but it is not for the reviewer to step in to offer guidance. Once a book has passed sufficient muster to be published, it’s the prerogative of anyone who so wishes to critique it in any manner they see fit. Obviously a well-written, intelligent, humorous approach is to be desired, but not every reviewer may of course feel up to the task any more than every author does.
    However, we create our gods to tear them down and that is a natural part of the reviewer’s mandate. Often that is in fact also the most respectful approach: attacking someone head-on assuming they have the swordsmanship necessary to defend themselves if they feel like it. Offering well-meant advice instead can be seen as the most insufferably arrogant attitude on the part of the reviewer. I’d much rather face scathing criticism (but clever – obviously) than an attempt to “help me with my writing”.

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      I do understand what you’re saying. I don’t disagree with all of it. But I’m writing this also based on the author feedback I’ve had. Most of it is appreciative of the fact that I have pointed out things that didn’t work. I’m not saying here that I’m in the know and can offer writing tips, and I’m certainly not trying to be arrogant about it. I’m simply pointing out what didn’t work for me as a reader. I think that authors do look to negative reviews for constructive feedback. Absolutely they do. I’ve had much feedback on my reviews to this effect. I’m not trying to teach anyone anything; as if I know! But that’s actually what’s kept me honest, what’s kept me saying things that are negative, not the other way round.

      I think you’ve taken my post to the extreme of what I’m actually saying. Nowhere in my post did I say reviews must be bland or one must tip-toe around an author in order not to hurt their feelings. I believe wholeheartedly in honesty, in the entitlement everyone has to their feelings, but I believe in constructive honesty rather than cruelty or scathing criticism for the sake of being clever or wanting to joust.

      I disagree this a big intellectual game of wits. I don’t disagree, however, that a review should be engaging rather than dry or boring, but then that’s not what I said they should be.

      All I’m saying is that if you’re going to say something negative about a person’s work, make it thoughtful and back up what you feel. Telling me passionately that you hated a book does nothing for me. Telling me passionately that you hated a book because it was rife with grammatical errors, lacked a plot, and the characters were two-dimensional, on the other hand, gives me something with which to decide on whether or not I want to try the book.

      The point is, everyone deserves respect, no matter what you’re saying. I’m not saying don’t say something, and I’m certainly not saying we must be unemotional (though evoking ranting or laughing is a bit of a stretch; that only adds more pressure to our voices, and we’re not clowns, after all). I’m not even saying we should sugar-coat our comments so they go down better. What I’m saying is simply that we ought to say what we have to constructively. I just don’t see what good it does to be deconstructive in this sense, unless one’s only point is really to make themselves look better.

      Reply
      1. Steph Author

        Marie: thinking much on your comment about reviewers: “I don’t think a reviewer’s responsibility is to the author at all, but rather to his or her own audience. It is a two-fold responsibility: to give a truthful and entertaining/engaging account.”

        I don’t seem to be that kind of reviewer, but I think that’s on purpose. I really don’t much write with an audience in mind because when I focus on them, I either lose my voice or feel pressured. I mean, I do write thinking about the people who want to know if this is a book worth reading or not, but I think I write even more thinking about the people who worked on the book, the author and the publishers. Not to please them, understand, but rather to be fair. And not because they’ve often sent me the book. It’s just that I’m writing not only as a reader but as someone who is aware of the writing and publishing process.

        I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. I’m only saying that’s how I do it.

        Reply
  3. Great post, Steph! I agree with most of the things you say, and I love that John Updike list of guidelines for reviews.

    I started writing a loooong comment about how I disagree with the notion that negative reviews are meant to make the author better, but I think I’d end up nitpicking, as we pretty much agree on what makes a good review. Interesting that, from the comment thread, I find we have a very different approach to writing reviews — I do write with an audience in mind, my imagined audience being bookish people like you and me, so I guess I end up looking back at my own navel when I write, or however that saying goes. :)

    Do you agree completely with Stiefvater’s post? I found it too restrictive for the non-professional blogger. Yes, back your views with details, but please don’t write mini academic essays. I checked out some of the links that Shannon from Giraffe Days posted, and actually found those negative reviews helpful. They don’t present a balanced view, but they did present a detailed one, and to my mind, that’s what makes a review useful for a reader. Take for example the first link, a review of DON’T STOP NOW. This is a review that doesn’t take into account what the author intended, or what good points the book may have had. However, I learn about a kidnapping plot that this reviewer found utterly ludicrous. Helpful? Speaking as a reader, yes.

    Take as another example the fourth link, a Goodreads review of TEMPEST. The reviewer focuses on sample chapters and puts two passages she found extremely offensive. A valid point for review? Definitely not enough for a professional review in the NYT, but for Goodreads, or even for a blog? I’d say yes. I’d say that as a reader, I learned something that would help me decide whether or not I should pick up the book.

    So, after reading your post and all these other posts linked to the issue, the question I had is, what makes a review bad? I think we’d all agree that a review that says “I hated it” or “I loved it” without giving any reason is a weak review for a blog, because it gives us as readers of the review and potential readers of the book nothing to work with. But what about these posts that, according to Giraffe Days, began the whole debate in the first place? I’d guess some would then point to these as bad reviews, and perhaps they don’t fit Stiefvater’s idea of the review as a mini essay. Do reviews have to present a balanced view to be considered a quality review? Or is it the inclusion of reasons/details enough?

    And, in a completely meta moment, perhaps we should start reviewing book reviews? ;) (I think someone already wrote about that, actually…)

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      Hey Jackie,

      I think what I was trying to say in my above comment is that there are different kinds of reviewers, and I personally don’t want to be the kind that’s sarcastic and cutting to prove a point. It’s a bit of a surprise to me, but I’m not actually trying to brand myself here; I just want to share my thoughts on the books I read.

      I did say I do think of my readers, as you do. I write thinking they need to get something out of this or there’s no point. But I don’t write to entertain them, though hopefully the reviews are well enough written they don’t bore people. I guess if I were to say I’m trying to make a name for myself, it would be as a thoughtful reviewer.

      Much of this then becomes about personal taste. I’m not saying we should write mini reviews (I thought I was pretty clear that that’s one type of review and that’s not the only thing that necessarily constitutes a good review—so you know I don’t agree completely with Stiefvater or with Baxter). What my point was, was that a good review, no matter who writes it, should have substance and be fair, by which I don’t mean polite or dishonest but rather including treatment of the book, consideration, and not simply one’s emotions. That’s really all I’m saying.

      All throughout my post I said that negative reviews are good. They’re no doubt helpful—if done with some thought. I’m really not saying we have coddle authors. Those examples of negative reviews you gave treated the book fairly by providing reasons why they didn’t like the book or of what they didn’t like. That’s a good thing! That’s what I mean. For me, though, tone matters. I’m not saying don’t be honest. Just not cruel.

      However, you ask a great question about reviews having to be balanced to be good. If one has nothing positive to say about a book, I don’t think that necessarily means their review is going to be a badly written one.

      The trouble I have answering that, though, is that my own goal here on this blog is to recommend books worth someone’s time. That’s not to say I don’t include negative things, but in general, I don’t post wholly negative reviews. My own reviews treat both positive and negative. A wholly negative review might help you decide not to pick up a book, sure, so long as it’s not based solely on the fact that someone hated it—I don’t decide to read or not read something based on someone’s taste but rather on proof—but I simply can’t write those reviews because if a book isn’t good for me, if I find no positive things to say, I don’t finish it.

      PS. No way am I going to start reviewing reviews!! :) Enough trouble articulating my post above, obviously!

      Reply
  4. I really love this idea that reviews should be little academic papers, if only because it totally bolsters the way I write much of the time. EGO. :)

    In the original post you link to, wasn’t the author saying that the “I hate this book it was boring” reviews were ones she read on Goodreads? Personally, I think that’s totally fine for that forum, where you’re mostly just talking to your friends. I definitely appreciate when people take more time, and some people write tiny reviews that are just as academic as any paper. However, to me it’s really more of a casual, social-networky kind of place, and I’m more interested in someone’s reaction to a book I’ve already read, so we can start a conversation.

    This all makes me wonder if I take my blog SRSLY enough. The only reason I write, in the end, is that something has struck me to some degree or other, and I need to get all these thoughts out onto the (web)page. (It’s likely the same impulse that some authors have.) Though I also know that these posts represent me, and I want to put a good, smart, thoughtful face out there. … Or try.

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      Panic,

      (I always smile typing that.)

      I don’t think it’s egotistical to write mini-essay reviews. I think the egotistical part comes when there’s arrogance, i.e., in destructive criticism. By the way, I meant destructive, not deconstructive, earlier in my post. Thanks, Steven, for pointing that out. Duh.

      Anyway, I too appreciate when people take more time with reviews, and I guess that’s what my point is, too: just make them thoughtful. I like your distinction between casual social places and more formal mediums. Another factor.

      And then I think I might be taking my blog too seriously. Because I feel discouraged today, if I’m completely honest. In trying to articulate my reaction to some things, I ended up not articulating at all well, it seems, and now I wonder if I should just nix opinion pieces and just review the way I want to do it instead of talking about it. I mean, it’s not that people have a different view than I do and that’s upsetting. It’s more that I feel a bit like what I said is misunderstood. I certainly did not mean to come across as arrogant myself either in my sharing my opinion, which I know is not the be-all, or in saying that my negative points are meant to teach authors. As I said on Twitter, I just say what doesn’t work for me, and authors often take that as a tip. No way am I trying to say I’m better.

      Your last paragraph describes pretty much all I want to do, too.

      And I think you succeed just fine.

      Reply
      1. “I don’t think it’s egotistical to write mini-essay reviews.” No no, I meant my ego was involved in approving a view point that already aligns with my own. ;)

        But don’t be discouraged. I think the conversation is great, even if it’s not exactly what you meant. It starts something, and I always think that’s great. You’re a catalyst! Again!

        But here’s the thing about blogs as opposed to published reviews: you get to do whatever the f*** you want. If you decide tomorrow you want to talk about pure-breed Siamese for a post, that’s your call. Because I think we want to know our bloggers in a way we don’t with Michiko Kakutani (ew).

        I’m also super tired today, so if I’m not making any sense, blame beer #2.

        Reply
        1. Don’t stop writing your opinion posts, Steph, please! I mean, write them when you feel moved to, like you usually do. I understand the feeling, though. I rarely write them, I have enough trouble feeling discouraged about my actual reviews as it is! I know I look up to your reviews and your blog – high aspirations!

          And I totally agree with Panic, the beauty of having our own blogs is that we get to do what we want with them – that’s the point isn’t it?

          Reply
          1. Steph Author

            Yep, exactly the point. But I think I need to develop a tougher skin!!

            Thank you for your vote of confidence, Shannon. I enjoy your reviews and opinion pieces, too. You put a lot of thought into them.

  5. Love your second-last paragraph in particular, Steph! You said that so eloquently. :)

    After reading the comments, too, I guess what we can all take away from this is that there are different kinds of reviews, different kinds of reviewers with different goals in mind, and the internet can handle them all – and so can readers. I love a good snarky review of a crappy book, it’s my guilty indulgence, but a small part of my brain is poking its finger at me going “snob, snob, snob!”

    To Panic’s comment above regarding where I find those unhelpful reviews, I’ll clarify that, yes, most of them are on Goodreads but I also find them on blogs (not that short, but still, there aren’t any quotes I could pull from them to add to the lists at the end of my reviews, because they haven’t really said anything). The other point is that a lot of people take the “reviews” on Goodreads seriously, and like the person who left that critical comment on one of my reviews, that I quoted in the post, there are plenty of people, if not all of them, who go to Goodreads expecting reviews.

    But a great many people treat it as just another social media site, so when an author gets up in arms, no one really gets it – almost like an author going to your Facebook page just to take umbrage at one of your personal updates. They’re not taking any responsibility for what they write on the internet. Which is why I think the problem lies with all of us, that we’re still new to the internet and the way it’s changed things and we all need to learn about internet manners. Another facet of the privacy issue, I guess.

    Reply
    1. Oh man. I just joined Goodreads, and I thought it would be the place I could throw out a general impression of something, without having to do the work (and it is work) of a blog post. I didn’t realise, honestly, that people took it very seriously. Hrmmm. :\

      Reply
      1. Lots of people use it that way, Panic, and that’s perfectly fine. But there are a lot of idiots on there – or on the internet in general – who wouldn’t yell something rude or mean to a stranger on the street but feel perfectly safe and in the right to do it so someone on the internet, and Goodreads seems to get more than its fair share. You can’t do much about it, sadly, except ignore them.

        Reply
        1. “But there are a lot of idiots on there – or on the internet in general” Bingo. “Never read the comments section” right? I have to get pretty insular about the internet, otherwise the noise of stupidity and vile behaviour will make me go off the grid. I haven’t seen anything really bad on Goodreads, but probably because I have this policy already of not going too far afield. I will trust your call on this one!

          Reply
      2. Steph Author

        To be honest, I don’t read reviews on Goodreads or Amazon or whatever. I’m sure there are good ones, but I generally stick to blogs and some newspapers. But I did get the impression, particularly from those quotes in Shannon’s post, that people do indeed spend lots of time there and take the reviews seriously.

        But maybe you can apply what you just said to me about the great thing about being a blogger and being able to do whatever the fuck we want. It’s your profile on Goodreads. Do what you want. I’ll read (though I’ll read your blog more). I already trust your posts.

        Reply
    2. Steph Author

      Shannon,

      Yes, different strokes for different folks, as they say.

      I think I’m too sensitive to be able to enjoy a snarky review! It’s pathetic, maybe, but I do feel sorry for the person on the receiving end. I just think it’s possible to point out negatives without low blows.

      Reply
      1. Steph Author

        And I have to say that even when someone writes utter crap, I feel that way.

        I’m starting to wonder if my opinion has much to do with my being a copyeditor whose job it is to help make the work better. I really hope this isn’t arrogance. I don’t mean it to be—at all.

        Reply
      1. Steph Author

        Whoa! Interesting. Hmmm. What do you think about that?

        What all this seems to point to, in the end, is those who can’t engage, both reviewer or author, using “proper Internet etiquette” or something like that. I don’t know, but it seems to ruin things for everyone. Bloggers get called shoddy reviewers and authors are being warned against engaging in conversation over their work, or having their accounts suspended altogether. It’s a shame, because I’ve had great conversations with authors online about the negative points about their work.

        Is all this, the put-downs and name calling and strike backs, because certain authors are too sensitive or because reviewers are being bullies—or both?

        Reply
        1. From what I’ve seen of this issue, I’d say it’s more that certain authors are too sensitive. I understand that for authors (and artists in general), their work is their baby, and they feel an attachment to it. However, I also firmly believe that once the work is published, authors have to be prepared to have that work liked/loved AND disliked/hated, and see it as a commentary on the work rather than on themselves personally.

          My opinion — a reviewer steps over the line when he/she attacks the author personally (i.e. “You’re a stupid doo doo head” or, worse, “Your kids/spouse/parent/teacher should be ashamed to have such an untalented mother/spouse/etc.”) Insulting, or calling into question, the author’s character is way over the line, and would constitute bullying. In that situation, I’d be completely on the side of the author who decides to fight back.

          However, would a statement strictly about the work be considered bullying? I’d say no. I’d say a reviewer has every right, as does a reader, to say anything from “This is the best book EVER!” to “I wouldn’t read this book to my WORST enemy!” Do they have a responsibility to back up those assertions with details? I prefer reviews that do, but I would argue for the right of any non-professional reviewer to leave it at that. Some reviews are indeed mean-spirited (as you said, they end with a note of triumph at having bested the author in a battle of words). “Bully” is a fairly loaded word, and perhaps these reviewers can be considered bullies by some authors. Personally, I’d say the best way for the author to respond is to be even more professional — either ignore the review, or acknowledge it politely and move on. The author is the professional in this case (professional in the sense that this is the author’s career/business/income generator) and therefore has a lot more at stake than the reviewer. From what I remember of how this issue began, it’s because some authors took a some negative reviews personally. The negative reviews I remember that sparked this whole debate attacked the grammar and writing style of one book, and the plausibility of another. So definitely, I’d say that the primary cause of this issue, and this debate over netiquette, is a few authors being too sensitive.

          My concern is that it is usually the author who then takes the fight personal. I remember one author who was really angry at a negative review, and began calling the blogger stupid for not “getting” her book. In one of the links from Giraffe Days, an Anonymous commenter demands of the blogger, “Are you an Author?” presumably to argue that since the blogger is NOT a published author, she doesn’t have the credentials to write a negative review of the book. Bullying? Yes, and it’s the bloggers/reviewers who are being bullied.

          I’ve been really lucky in that all the authors I’ve dealt with are professional, and we have authors like Stiefvater who write blog posts that, while I may not agree with it completely, at least keep the conversation on a professional level. Unfortunately, I think that just as some reviewers take pleasure in being cleverly snarky, there are also authors who feel they have received a personal attack and who therefore now have the right to attack the reviewer in kind.

          Granted, I am a blogger, and I do consider really snarky, mean-spirited, highly entertaining reviews to be guilty pleasures. So I may have a bit of a bias. :) Ask me again after I have a book published and random bloggers I’ve never met tear it to shreds. ;)

          Reply
          1. Steph Author

            Jackie,

            I agree with everything you’ve pointed out in your comment here!

            Having worked one-on-one with authors as well, I’ve seen that sensitivity, and while I get it, what I don’t love is when the response is as you mentioned. You’re right, and Marie mentioned this too, that once a work is published, it’s open to criticism. The best way to respond is professionally. Of course, what usually helps elicit that response is an equally professional review. :)

            Anyway, I hear you and agree.

  6. Steph, I am way late to this post, but I really, really enjoyed it. I think you(and John Irving!) are 100% right about the need to judge a book based on what it is intended to be; this is something I struggle with myself when reviewing books that have been assigned to me that are outside my general realm of favorite genres. The books themselves are not bad — in fact, they are often quite good — despite the fact that I may not have enjoyed them. But I reflect this in my review, setting up what the book is and whether or not it succeeds in that.

    All in all, it’s really about respect, care, and thoughtfulness; a book can be given bad review as long as it is explained why and done nicely; snark can be fun, but also dangerous.

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      Better late than never! Thanks for reading it. I’m glad you liked it, too.

      And I’ve noticed that about your reviews; that’s why I follow you. I always get intelligent, informed feedback that’s thoughtful and fair. :)

      Reply

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