Writing Good Book Reviews vs. Writing Bad Book Reviews


Yesterday I noticed something.  When I wrote my book review for “Slim To None” it was not difficult for me.  I felt rather easy to express how much I wasn’t a fan of the book.  In some ways it was like a release for me – a release for reading that book.  After I posted the interview, I felt bad about my opinions and thoughts, but I was honest.  That’s what (Chick Lit) Goddesses do, right?

Later that day I was working on my book review for “Tales From The Crib,” a book I loved, and will post later today, I found it difficult to write.  I wanted what I said to be good enough and give the author and the book the hype that it deserves, and I wanted to give as much praise as possible because I admire the author because I’m an unpublished author.  I admire all published authors, especially Chick Lit authors.

Here are some questions for you:

  • How do you write your good and bad reviews?
  • Do you have any tips for still being honest, but kind at the same time?
  • Do you have any help for relieve the pressure of writing a good book review?
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10 thoughts on “Writing Good Book Reviews vs. Writing Bad Book Reviews

  1. I review books for myself, to remind myself of what I liked and didn’t about the book. I don’t put them on my blog like you do, just my little book club. 🙂 So I doubt any authors read my reviews of their books. I just try to write what my impression was of the book, what I liked and didn’t, if I’d recommend it and who I’d recommend it for. I don’t like writing negative reviews, but I do like to be honest. If I do have to say something negative, I try to sandwich it between positive remarks, and keep it focused on the story itself. When it comes to my own writing–and I don’t write books, I write magazine articles–I can always take criticism, as long as it’s directed toward the actual article, rather than towards me as a person or writer. I guess it’s different for book reviews, because the editing process is done. The book is done. I don’t usually get a lot of feedback after the article was written, and if I do it’s usually just a comment. I also want to mention that I’m in awe of anyone that has written a book–published or otherwise–so I kind of feel like an armchair quarterback criticizing a book. But… just like movie reviews, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, right? Hope my rambling helped. 🙂

  2. I have a hard time leaving a bad review, but I try to be diplomatic and point out what I did like about the book. Recently I did a review of a book that I couldn’t even finish because it was just not flowing for me, but I wrote enough pro’s that the author took it as a great review and emailed me to thank me for the kind words. I guess it is in your tone. (On the other hand, I also received feedback once telling me the author knew I didn’t like the book and too bad, she felt it was brilliant.)

    I do find positive reviews more difficult to write because I want to express all the love I had for the book and the author’s voice, but not be all “woo hoo” cheerleader mode obnoxious about it.

  3. Great advice. I rarely do reviews. I think it’s such a fine line as an author to do. When my author friends ask me to read their book, I do let them know I can’t guarantee a review. It’s so sticky.

  4. I agree with Tonya that it’s a fine line. Honestly, when I read a bad review written by another author I cringe. My reaction to your review of Slim to None was that perhaps you had a little bit too much fun writing it. I think you could have left out the snarky comments about it taking you 7 days to read it, and what a “release” it was to write the review, and how easy it was to criticize the book. Regarding the spelling of the protagonist’s name, you could simply have said “Abby (sometimes spelled Abbie) . . .” (if you found it necessary to even mention this – we all know horror stories about ePub formats and text errors) instead of referring to her every time throughout the review as “Abby(ie).” My advice to anyone who wants to write a “bad review” is to stick to the valid points you are making about the book and don’t digress into petty meanness – sorry, but I think that’s what you did here. I actually have read Slim to None and enjoyed the book very much. That’s fine — opinions can certainly differ, and you are of course entitled to not like it and to say why. Your review raised some interesting points about why the story didn’t work for you. But you lost me when you slipped into what appeared to be gleeful derision.

  5. Hi Isabella, thank you for coming and adding your thoughts on our recent limebird discussion on whether we should write bad reviews. I come at reviews from a different angle to you because I’m more about documenting my thoughts on a particular book and as you saw in my recent post, I’m far too scared about hurting someone’s feelings to give bad reviews!

    I do think reviews should be constructive and offer a critique that explains the reasons behind comments, as one person’s reason for disliking a book, could be someone else’s reason for liking it. As a writer, I am very conscious of the writer being a human being who could be really hurt by these comments. However, if somebody genuinely feels a book is so bad and they’re angry enough to write a strong (even ranting) review, even though I wouldn’t do that myself, I can empathise with it because I have read books that really weren’t in a state to be published, which has a very negative effect on the industry as a whole.

    I kind of agree with Phyllis’ comments above on how you approached your review, but essentially you were injecting your review with your own personality, which made your review overtly subjective. This is your blog and you have the right to do that! All reviews are subjective, whether they’re written in detached, balanced tones or not, and importantly you gave very clear reasons for your critique.

    Your review is the kind of thing I might turn and say to my husband (probably using much stronger terms!), but I’m far to scared about hurting someone’s feelings to actually publish. But I think it’s important to have people out there who will give their honest views without feeling as if they need to censor them, because we need that balance!

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