Friday, September 25, 2015

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Book Reviews - #septemberchallenge, #NaBloPoMo

September 2015  Everyday Gyaan

Friday, September 25, 2015

If you could be paid to teach a special course, what would be the subject matter and how long would the course run?


I would like to teach a course on how to write a good book review.

Back at the end of 2013, I discovered reading challenges online.  I hadn't read for myself (non children or academic books) for a number of years and, well, the reading challenges were a sign of big changes to come into my life!

Then I 'discovered' writing reviews for books.

Favorable reviews can help books sales.  Unfavorable reviews can put a damper on sales.

Reviews I don't like to see:

+ where the reviewer as not even read the book, and (rather foolishly I believe) admits that they have not read the book.  If the reviewer is neutral or favorable towards the author, they do the author and themselves disfavor by writing a review for something they have not read.  If the reviewer dislikes the author and writes a trashy review because of it - STOP IT!  Such spite has no place in book reviews, and reflects at least as badly, if not more so, on the supposed reviewer.

(As an example, there is a series of books out by a writer - and to even use that word in relation to this piece of trash makes me want to vomit - where he travels around the world and writes about the best ways to 'pick up' women in various countries.  The books are titled "Bang X" where X is whatever the country du jour is.)  He advocates that rape be decriminalized if the attack (my word) occurs on private property.  Yeah, I know.  And it gets more repulsive from there.  But I will not go in and manufacture a "1 star" review of a book I have no intention of reading.  I will, however, feel free to express my opinion to any online sites (hello, AMAZON, are you listening?) that carry these complete waste of trees or disc space.

(It's all right, really.  I'm stepping off my soapbox now.  Maybe I'll get a cup of tea and meditate for a while ... until my mouth stops foaming.)

+ where the reviewer writes, "I really liked this book," and that's it.  What did you like about it?  Could you see the main character as a friend?  Was the story well paced?  Was the book outside your usual genre but you found you quite liked it anyway?  If you're getting the ARC for free in exchange for a review, it would be nice to give the author a little bit more than, "I really liked this book."

+ where the reviewer trashes the book unmercifully.  Yeah, maybe all the "t"s are not crossed and the "i"s are not dotted.  Maybe the grammar could use a little tightening - or a lot.  I was on a writing bulletin board a while back where someone asked for a critique of something she had written.  The grammar and spelling was pretty bad.  Other boardies were fairly cruel in their assessments of her writing ability.  I found something I liked about what she had written, elaborated on that a little and did bring up that maybe she needed to take another look at the structure issues.  But then I've never been a big fan of (academic) elitists who assume everyone not meeting their list of desirable qualities is beneath them.

Wow (looking back over the post), there's a lot of yuck up there, am I right?  Let's turn things around.

Reviews I DO like to see:

+where the reviewer lets a little of her or his personality show through.  Maria at Queen of the Night Reviews.  She does cover a number of books with adult themes, but her blog comes with a warning of that before you even get to the homepage.  Extra points for that.

+reviews that give potential readers more than "It was a good book," or a rehash of the synopsis.  Lori Caswell at Escape With DollyCas blog is a good example of this phenomenon and she organizes book tours too!

I'm sure there's more examples of reviews that I do like to see, but it is just before 7:am where I am and my coffee cup is empty.  Peace out, y'all.


  1. great post LuAnn.. I review books in my blog, so it is good to know what people want to see in a review. I completely agree that saying 'it's a good book' is waste and readers expect something about characters, plot, narration etc., Thanks for the links of good book review blogs, many things to learn for me from this post :-)

  2. LuAnn - a while ago we had someone do a three part series on Write Tribe on this very subject. I wish more people had read the post.
    I'm smiling at your comments about the kind of trashy reviews out there, but the trashy books don't make me smile. Isn't there some authority we can report them too?

  3. I think you have a very good grip on what makes good or bad reviews. I don't mind DNF ones where they haven't finished the book - as long as they give the reasons why the haven't done so, and why the book might be acceptable for other people to read. It's incredibly rare that I DNF, but when I do I want to show that other people might like the book as well.