Do you review?

‘Reviewing’ is such a subjective business. You might recall I wrote a glowing review of Linnea Sinclair’s Hope’s Folly recently. Out of interest I went back and read all the other reviews on the book’s Amazon page. Most are 4 or 5 stars, but a few – aren’t. One person thought the book was far too long. Another objected to all the time spent on ‘feelings’. Somebody else thought the pace was slow, another thought the romance moved too fast. Some were disappointed that previous characters didn’t appear. And, of course, none of those opinions are right or wrong. Obi-wan Kenobi’s comment to Luke on Dagobah comes to mind. “So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.”

All of this had me mulling on my own reviewing style. I always rate books at 4 or 5. Now, some people will think that’s – oh I’m not sure what. Something negative. Something suspicious. But it isn’t. You see, I don’t often finish a book. I think life’s too short (especially at my age) to waste time on reading something that doesn’t grab me. In that case, I don’t write a review. It wasn’t to my taste. Neither is liver, or tripe. So if I finish a book properly (as opposed to skim reading from where I lost interest to see if my judgement was correct – Dan Brown’s The da Vinci Code for instance) that’s an automatic 3 out of 5. If I was critiquing a story, I would list the points where I thought improvements might be made. If I know the author, I might do that anyway, via email. But I won’t write a review.

If I enjoyed the story with only a few reservations, the book will score a 4 and I will offer my opinion. If I loved it, the book scores 5.

Mind you, I’ve sometimes changed my perception. Jack McDevitt’s Slow Lightning comes to mind. I tried to read it a few times and gave up quickly. But then – and don’t ask me why – I persevered, and the novel has become a favourite. Here’s my review. Another example is Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. I LOVE Pratchett. But this book didn’t press my buttons the first time through (although I did finish it). When I read it again at another time, it was a better read than I remembered.

I guess I should add that by now I’ve acquired the necessary thick skin about my own writing. Somebody doesn’t like my work, that’s okay. No one can please everybody. Other people have a different philosophy about ‘reviewing’, and simply see it as a way of recording their reaction to however much they read. Loved it, great, okay, ordinary, diabolical. And that’s perfectly valid. If I followed that approach, I’d be writing a pile of reviews that said ‘failed to capture my interest, never got past chapter 3’. The sad thing is, I’d have to give it a score out of 5 – and that doesn’t work for me. Pity they don’t have DNF (did not finish) as a category. I wonder how many of those negative review on Fifty Shades of Grey were really DNFs?

What do you do about reviewing? I’d really like to know.



10 thoughts on “Do you review?

  1. pattyjansen

    I don’t review books I don’t finish.

    I don’t post reviews on Amazon, because I no longer have a valid Amazon buyer account. I don’t like leaving reviews on retail sites anyway. It seems your words are twisted no matter what.

    I reserve the right to say whatever I please on goodreads. One-star reviews are uncommon, because if I hate it that much, I don’t finish the book, but I will definitely give a meh book 3 stars and a book with major issues 2 stars. And I don’t give fig whose book it is. I try to write a review, but sometimes I don’t have time, or don’t remember that much if I read the book a while back (although most of the old books are on my goodreads shelves now).

    I just really, really don’t buy into the 4 or 5 stars only mentality. But, that said, I don’t review on Amazon, so my ratings don’t affect anyone.

  2. Paula Hrbacek

    I usually don’t write a review for a book under 3 stars unless I can find a way to use it as an example of what not to do, to help other writers do a better job. When I turn a book down, I give the author a critique. I not only base my opinion on how much I enjoyed it, but if it meets the standards that publishers and agents are looking for; structure, POV, research, etc.
    I once posted a one star review on B&N, and the author found it. She reported my screen name for spamming, and had my account frozen.

    1. Greta van der Rol

      Yes, I confess that’s one other reason I don’t write less than 4 star reviews. The knives come out. I’ve read a number of stories. But mainly it’s because I can’t be bothered reading the whole the book, or writing the review.

  3. Bill Kirton

    Seems like there’s a consensus here, Greta. I’m another of the 4/5 stars only reviewers. I share your ‘life’s too short to waste any of it on books you’re not enjoying’ philosophy. It’s great when you come across one that’s so good you feel you need to say exactly how it had the effect it did. Enjoying a read is great but then reviewing it and forcing yourself to analyse why it was great can actually enhance the experience.

  4. Paul Trembling

    I review most books I read as a personal exercise – trying to sum up for myself what was good or bad about this, what did I / didn’t I like, and so on. Hopefully, developing an analytical eye that I can also run over my own writing! A lot of those reviews go on my Shelfari page, but since I have nil followers on there, that’s pretty close to being a private list!

    I’ll also put reviews on Amazon – five stars if I loved it, four stars good but with some caveats. If I start seeing big problems, it might go down to three, but I’m hesitant about being too negative in public about someone’s work. As you say, it is subjective, and if I know the writer I’d rather contact them privately and offer my POV – or say nothing at all.

    I can’t remember if I’ve ever gone public with a two star. I know that might hurt someone. But on the other hand, sometimes you see some really obvious problems ruining what could be a good story, and it’s hard to know what to do. Speak up and risk upsetting them, or keep quiet and see the mistakes perpetuated? Especially when independent authors are so often criticised for poor quality work.

    Ultimately, as writers we need honest criticism, we need reviews that give us clarity on how our writing is received, we need feedback. It’s risky doing that, it can be painful receiving it, but we need some contact with readers. Preferably those who are insightful, honest, and gentle as well!

  5. juliabarrett

    I make it a point not to leave reviews. I will recommend a book if I like it. If I didn’t enjoy a book won’t say a word.

  6. pippajay

    If I didn’t like a book and can’t rate it three stars or more, I don’t review. I want to rave about the books I liked, not drag down the ones that might simply not be to my taste. However, I do have a DNF shelf on my Goodreads account for the ones I really couldn’t bring myself to finish.

Comments are closed.