Tuesdays with Ana: An introduction to reading and writing book reviews, Part One

Most of us have experienced book reviews, whether it’s reading or writing them. If we are looking for a good book, we might scan other readers’ reviews to decide if the book is worth buying. If we write reviews, we might worry about offending the author or experience negative responses for writing a critical review. If we are an author, we might feel frustrated when a reviewer posts comments that are harsh or unfair. If we are a new or aspiring author, we might feel confused trying to decide which criticism to take and which to ignore.

It’s complicated! Let’s talk about a few of these items, starting with the types of reviews and their purposes. I’ll share two examples of reviews, one positive and one negative. Later, I’ll share some responses from quite a few reviewers I’ve interviewed. I’ll also open discussion for questions and advice about reading and writing book reviews. Let’s get started! I’ll post some introductory thoughts today, and later I’ll post interviews with eight reviewers.

First, let’s begin with who I am: I am an author, and for that reason writing book reviews often means writing about my colleagues. Awkward, you say? Sometimes. 🙂 Writing reviews for other authors is a great service, but it can become problematic unless I write glowing comments. I write very few reviews, but that’s because I come from a different tradition of writing reviews. I believe that a detailed, intelligent critique is a compliment to the author. I also recognize that many authors want glowing reviews to help sell their books. Let’s be honest: I love getting glowing reviews that will help sell my books. Who doesn’t? 🙂 I’ll talk more about the different kinds of reviews and critiques later, but for now let me point out that different kinds of people write reviews for different purposes.

Here is an example of a review I wrote for Spanking Romance Reviews:

By Anastasia Vitsky

The first time I read Switch (The Trainer)Kate Richard’s newest book, I was incensed. The plot developments were unfair to the main character! How could he… how could she… it was an injustice!  Then I stepped back to evaluate my reaction. Emotional investment in characters is a sign of good writing, and this book made me care about its characters. For that accomplishment alone, Richards is to be commended. Switch brings readers into a world of sympathetic characters, believable conflict, and satisfying resolution. Along the way, we also enjoy some delightful spankings and sizzling sexual action.

The premise for Switch will resonate with many practitioners of DD (domestic discipline). The marriage flounders, communication fails, and both partners have become trapped by inflexible relationship patterns. In this case, Rick’s irresponsibility fuels Esme’s disappointment and lack of trust. They seek help from a character known as the “Trainer,” a DD consultant. As the Trainer teaches Rick how to spank Esme, the couple re-discovers the foundation of their marriage: love, a commitment to each other, and a scorching sexual chemistry.

Yet, rebuilding their marriage is not as easy as applying a chosen implement to the correct portion of Esme’s body. Rick and Esme rush into DD without considering its limitations. Their conflict and struggles are both poignant and real, recognizable to nearly every new practitioner of DD. Herein lies the secret strength of Switch: Richards helps us understand our own real-life relationships in a better way, and she packages everything in a shiny happily-ever-after. Life lessons with a finishing touch of sweetness.

Professional book reviews are often short, as in 250 words or shorter. (This review is 260 words.) A typical professional review contains a few main elements:

  • Introduction to the book’s context. Is the book paranormal, a romance, young adult fiction, or a thriller?
    From this review of Switch, the reader learns that the book is a romance, contains sexual content, has a happily-ever-after ending, and is about domestic discipline.
  • Introduction to the major characters and conflict of the book.
    Rick and Esme are a couple struggling with their marriage, and they use domestic discipline to try to solve it.
  • A personal response to the book.
    This book made me furious! However, I still recommend the book because it contains good writing and makes me care about the characters.
  • A take-away message for the reader, or the “So what?” element. Why should we care about the book? (Unless the review pans the book, and in that case we should see still see a take-away message.)
    We should care about this book because it helps us understand our own relationships.

A good review makes a claim about a book, and then the reviewer gives reasons to support that claim.

What if a reviewer hates the book? He or she still needs to support the claim, and in fact has a greater obligation to do so. Take this example written by Jade Cary:

Sir Thomas Aldley, the Queen’s ambassador to Portugal, believes such a savage place is not fit for his budding 17-yr old daughter, Lady Catherine. God help us if she happens to fall in love with a rakish Spaniard, or something. Well, Lady C would have been better off, and the ol’ man should have left well enough alone. He sets her to sail for his sister’s place in England so she can enjoy the season and marry well. The sailing vessel is apparently ripe to be plucked for its rich booty by cutthroat pirates, and it is indeed taken over by Captain Jonathan Hale and his band of merry men. He releases the hostages, except for Cathy, whom he berates, spanks and then rapes, not once but over and over again. Despite all of that, Cathy seems…smitten.

Eye-roll and Sigh.

The alleged hero, Jon Hale, is absolutely horrible–probably the vilest ‘hero’ I have ever seen in romantic fiction. The whole kidnap-rape-Stockholm Syndrome thing has been done over and over again in modern fiction, so I was surprised to see this theme in what can only be described as a bodice ripper that should have us all swooning. Instead, this character has not one redeemable feature, and the author doesn’t see the need to scrounge one up for him. Through most of the book he’s busy in a rage, calling her slut/whore/trollop, and then treating her like one, all the while justifying his actions. My favorite moments in the book were the many times he said to her, ‘Have I beat you, or hurt you in any way?’

No, sweetie. You were great.

By the middle of the book I started hating Cathy, too. She luuuurves him. Jeepers, really? REALLY? He seems to blame her for something or other and won’t listen to reason. The man spends so much time sulking, calling her names and raping her that he comes across like a spoiled, horny teenager whose frontal lobe hasn’t fully reformed. We are told, ad nauseum, via the author, via Cathy, how masculine, how ‘all man’ he is. Not so much–more like a malformed brat. And as far as getting to the point of his ‘rage’ (rage isn’t all that sexy), not much happens to get him to the Ah Ha! moment, so when we get there, it’s like, duuuuh. You can see the light bulb go on over his head (I imagined such things so I didn’t start screaming at my poor Kindle Paperwhite) Anticlimactic just doesn’t describe it.

When, toward the end of the book, Jon tears off her clothes, verbally humiliates, and then rapes Cathy (Really? Again??)–now his wife and mother to his newborn son–in the back of a carriage, and then declares them ‘even’ after she slaps his face, I almost threw Professor Paperwhite across the room. I am at a loss as to how, and why, the author thought this man was sexy, how she thought this horror show of a man would bring tingles to female readers, and how she could have written such a weak character as the dim-witted Cathy. Instead of swatting him over the noggin with her favorite cast iron pan, she continues to pine after this a-hole, and in the end they get their HEA. Sadly, I didn’t buy it. Even for the time period in which the book was written, and the year in which the author wrote it, this dude is over-the-top horrid. We all adore the lovable cad who has his odd moments (and a tiny bit of rage, which IS sexy), yet his love for our heroine is clearly at the forefront, and we can find forgiveness for him in the end. That’s how it’s done. Robards missed this one by a sea mile. What was she thinking?

Really. Bad.

Is anyone uncertain whether Jade liked the book? LOL! Jade’s style is different from mine, and she uses more personal phrasing than I did. However, Jade still follows the same basic principles of a book review.

  • Introduction to the book’s context. Is the book paranormal, a romance, young adult fiction, or a thriller?
    This is a historical romance that contains pirates, action, and adult themes. It is not suitable for younger readers.
  • Introduction to the major characters and conflict of the book.
    Cathy loves Jon, and the kidnapping and rape make her fall in love with him.
  • A personal response to the book.
    This book made Jade furious, but not in a good way. She objects to a weak female character and feels the rapes are not a believable form of courtship.
  • A take-away message for the reader, or the “So what?” element. Why should we care about the book? (Unless the review pans the book, and in that case we should see still see a take-away message.)
    This could have been a great book, but it failed.

Readers, that is ordinary readers who are not also authors or who write for review sites, write “customer service” types of reviews. “This is what I liked and what I didn’t like. I’d recommend it or not recommend it to others because…” These are often the most persuasive kinds of reviews because readers have no personal investment in the product (the book). If I want to buy a new computer, I’m more likely to listen to personal stories of people who bought a computer and liked it. Readers purchase the book on their own, or they may receive the book as a gift or a prize. Reader reviews can range from “It sucked!” to a more thought-out review such as Roz’s wonderful review of Editorial Board.

Reviewers, that is people who write a review for a reviewing site (whether their own blog or someone else’s site), usually receive a complimentary copy (an advance review copy, shortened as an “ARC”) to write a review. They may receive these books individually if their book review site is their own. Review sites with more than one reviewer will typically ask for a book blurb, buy link, and basic information about the author. This information is passed on to the site’s reviewers. If someone wants to review, the site owner will obtain an ARC and pass it on to the reviewer. These types of reviews, while still a personal response, tend to be more formal. Some review sites have a policy of only publishing positive reviews. Other sites want a balance of positive and negative reviews. These kinds of review sites often specialize in certain types of fiction. Lipstick Lesbian Reviews, for example, only accepts books that contain (surprise!) F/F themes. The review policy reads:

Lipstick Lesbian Reviews focuses on the underrepresented genres of lesbian, F/F, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) literature and fiction. I am interested in reading and reviewing:

  • Contemporary and Realistic fiction
  • Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy
  • Erotica and Dark Romance
  • Young Adult and/or New Adult

Books do not necessarily need to have lesbian characters but it is preferred to have some aspect of female lovin’.

If you are interested in submitting your book for an honest review please send an email to lipsticklesreviews@gmail.com
Please include in the email:

  • Title and Author
  • Sub-genre
  • Blurb
  • Desired time frame

While I may not be able to review EVERY book I will do my best 🙂

Other sites may only accept M/F stories, or only YA, or refuse to accept books with certain themes. Reviewers are not aligned with certain authors (although they may be authors themselves), do not receive financial compensation for their reviews (other than receiving the book free), and work hard to give honest reviews that will help readers choose a book to read.

Author reviews are often given as a form of mutual support. (Bless you and thank you to all of my fellow authors who have done so!) These typically focus on the positive elements and serve as an endorsement of the book.

Where are book reviews posted? Amazon, Goodreads, the publisher’s website, if they take reviews (my publishers, Blushing and LazyDay, both take reviews on their sites), and your blog are all great options. You can also post links to your review on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media sites.

What a book review (of any type) should never do:

  • Insult the author personally or speak disrespectfully about the book.
    Example: “I wanted to bash this person’s head in.” (True story. No kidding.)
    Better: I don’t like these kinds of characters because…
  • Give away major plot points of the story (aka “spoilers”)
    Example: What a stupid book. In the end (major character) (major plot point spoiler).
    Better: I objected to the ending of this book. Without giving away any spoilers, let me say that the author did not set up the ending, and the plot twist came across as gimmicky rather than realistic.
  • Criticize the book without taking into account its genre and context.
    Example: Mira’s Miracle sucked because it was all F/F action. There should have been a hot guy. Also, spanking is abuse. (Um…read the blurb, shall we?)
    Better: The male characters in Mira’s Miracle did not get enough attention. I liked the strong female characters, but I would have liked to see Mira interact positively with a male disciplinarian figure.

Here’s a real-life example of an appropriate criticism:

Unfortunately this one almost became a DNF to me because I struggled with the age play content.  This is the first time I have encountered age play in a novel and it personally makes me uncomfortable.  However, reading is an experience and now from experience  I know that this type of content is now a hard limit for me.  Regardless, I enjoyed the core of the story and will pick up the next in the series.(Read the full review of Becoming Clissine here)

It’s a fair criticism. Becoming Clissine is advertised as a sci-fi/fantasy socio-political spanking story, not an ageplay. There are no warnings about ageplay, although the blurb does describe Clissa’s re-education being treated as a child.

Phew, this is the longest Tuesdays with Ana to date! And yet we’ve barely scratched the surface. Good thing this is only Part One, and good thing eight talented reviewers have agreed to post interviews about their thoughts as reviewers.

Would you like to try writing your first book review, but you don’t know how to get started? Ask Roz! She’s the newest pro. 🙂 Do you write book reviews for a site and feel frustrated by inappropriate author behavior? Are you an author and frustrated by inappropriate conduct by reviewers?
Do you have advice for new book reviewers, new authors, or any aspects of book reviews?

Oh, and if you leave a book review for Mira’s Miracle on Amazon, Blushing, and/or Goodreads, I will bless your name forever. 🙂

Come back tomorrow for a very exciting announcement! Something amazing will happen in the world of F/F fiction, instigated by yours truly!!

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40 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Ana: An introduction to reading and writing book reviews, Part One

  1. hollawrites says:

    I loved this post, Ana. You explain reviews so well. For myself, I never write reviews. If I like a book I’ll look for more by that author. Depending on the reason, when I don’t care for a book I may avoid that writer all together. I just finished a book that is over 300 pages long and I loved the story line. But it was such a chore to get through. As I swiped from screen to screen on my Kindle, each page had at least two errors and sometimes as many as five or six. This particular book was the first in a trilogy and while I want to read more, I simply can’t make myself go through that again. So sadly, this author will miss out on two more sales and I won’t ever know what happens with these characters.

    For the first time, I considered leaving a review or even emailing the author and telling her to edit her book. But then I decided not to. She must know about the errors, at least some of them, and chooses not to correct them. Her sales will eventually tell her she needs to edit.

    As an author, I do read my reviews. I know I’m not perfect, my books surely have errors and I fix them instantly when I find them or someone makes me aware of them. But I know I can’t please everyone and each review is just that person’s opinion. I read them mostly to see if I or my editor screwed up and missed something. Once read, I try to put them out of my mind and save myself the emotional roller coaster that unfavorable reviews can put an author through. Of course, being only human, the good reviews do tend to stick in my mind for a while.

    I’m looking forward to your next posts on reviews.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      You make some wonderful points. Do authors want feedback, especially about a book that’s already published? Some would say yes; some would say no.

      I’ll admit that I get frustrated by negative and unfair reviews, but as a F/F author reviews are hard to get. So I try to learn what I can and ignore the rest. Emotional roller coaster is exactly what it can become!

      I hope you like this series. 🙂

      Like

  2. abby says:

    I am looking forward to this series. Reviewing a book intimidates me….I am not a professional writer. Thanks for thinking of…and for writing….on this topic.
    hugs abby

    Like

  3. Chloe Thurlow says:

    Too many reviews I see on Amazon simply tell readers what the book is about and how much they liked or disliked the it. Few reviewers are able too give context, comparisons, and to judge the literary qualities of the work, it’s pace, structure and character development. As fewer writers are able to show not tell, so too are fewer reviewers able to capture the essence of a book without spoilers or redundant superlatives. Good reviewers are objects of beauty and good books are brain food –

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Welcome to Governing Ana! You’re absolutely right. To be fair, book reviews (and product reviews) are a personal opinion rather than something edited and published by an outside company.

      I’ve read comments by reviewers who say that authors expect five stars for everything. I think it’s similar to the grade inflation phenomenon.

      Like

  4. Irishey says:

    Very informative, insightful and truly helpful advice for writing book reviews that are beneficial to both the author and other potential readers. Thank you for posting this, Ana.

    A link to this post, or something similar, would be good for every author to have listed on their blogs/sites as a feature post or menu item. I’ve seen several examples of this on other sites maintained by reviewers, authors and publishers.

    I can only imagine what you are instigating now. I suppose we must wait for tomorrow to be enlightened… or something. 😉

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      There’s some disagreement whether writing reviews benefits authors or readers more, and of course it depends on context. We’ve got some GREAT interviews coming up, and the breadth of responses gives insight to what reviewers might want.

      Instigating…instigating. And that’s not even considering the bubble gum!

      Like

  5. Regan Nicole says:

    When I read ” Mira’s Miracle sucked because it was all F/F action. There should have been a hot guy. ” my mouth dropped like What did s/he say?! I hope this person doesn’t have any LGBT friends with that kind of attitude!

    I enjoyed reading your day one post! I am also happy to be apart of your interviews 🙂

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      LOL. That was a hypothetical example, exaggerated to show a point. 😀 But in all seriousness, I’ve read some similar comments about M/F readers’ reasons for not reading F/F. Call it artistic license. 😀

      Like

  6. His First Mate says:

    I like Jade’s style. I recently read a book that incensed me soo badly I wrote a similar review, but I was too chicken to post it!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It’s a tough decision. As a reader (not an author), I think we need to decide for ourselves. If it’s a genuine response and not an attack, and if it’s well-supported, there is a place for critique. However, as an author there may be fallout.

      Like

  7. Michael says:

    Ana, very comprehensive analysis of creating book reviews. I review books and many of your points I already do, but it is great to have it laid in a template like you have done. Excellent work.

    Like

  8. constance masters says:

    Great post Ana. When I first started out I used to take reviews badly. I really used to take any critisism to heart. Now I try to keep a more open mind. I either take on board what has been said and try and work on it or, if it’s just rubbish (spanking is abuse blah, blah, blah) I ignore. What irritates me is the star thing. Someone can take your five star average and knock it down to three and a half in one foul swoop by giving them a one star. That’s what the ‘spanking is abuse’ people do. Mean..

    Good luck with Mira’s Miracle Ana 🙂

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It’s hard not to take reviews badly, especially when they are unfair or frivolous.

      I’m not so sure about the averages, though. I’m not sure if it’s as helpful as people think it is, although of course a 1-star average is not good. I generally read through reviews to see why a product was marked down. Sometimes the 1-star and 5-star reviews are equally ridiculous. 🙂

      And thank you!

      Like

  9. angel says:

    I am so glad you are talking about this It is sad when someone bashes a book because they don’t like something in the story (spanking sexual content ect) Also it is hard to buy a great book when someone has told the ending in there review. I wish Authors could remove reviews that are spoilers or bashing the writter because it takes away sales and after someone has worked so hard to write the book they should not be punished because of someone else being close minded or just plain mean

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It would be GREAT if we could remove spoilers from reviews. I wish we could! There are some reviewers who will say a spoiler, but they mark it and put a big warning first. That’s okay. 🙂 It’s just common courtesy, really. As an author I work hard to create a good story, and not everyone is willing to buy a book after already knowing the ending. Then again, there are always the wonderful ones. 🙂

      Like

  10. Dinah McLeod says:

    This was the review that made me not take reviews seriously any more:

    First let me say that I enjoy reading DD stories, and I am particularly interested in what warrants a “good spanking”. I can understand the “over budget” issue, (I am a Kate Spade shopper myself) but when her husband started spanking her with her newly purchased shoe, I almost stopped reading. A hand spanking is my favorite, a paddle is understandable – I can even deal with a hairbrush (the straps and belts are over the top in my book) but a designer shoe? And this was written by a woman? Not acceptable!!

    Until I read this, I actually was dismayed when I read a bad review. This one made me laugh out loud and just take it with a grain of salt. One of the things about our country is that people feel free to say whatever they like, whether it is intelligent or relevant. It’s their “right” so unfortunately terrible reviews will continue, and the one I posted was quite tame to what some of my author friends have had to endure. Thanks for the post, Ana!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Dinah, I think I remember you posting about it. It’s funny the different things people will critique. 🙂 I also think kinksters tend to be fairly inflexible about what they find appropriate or not.

      Off-topic, I’m a woman and I couldn’t care less about shoes. 😀

      Laughing is a good way to handle it. Everyone does have an opinion, and in many cases the bottom line is that someone still paid money for the book.

      Like

  11. SH says:

    Great post Ana! As some of you know I do write quite a few reviews, ahem 🙂 I read a ton of books and I honestly try to review them all. Just to give you an idea….BB offers a $1.00 credit for any books that are reviewed on their site and my Gift Cert. total balance is about $900.00, that’s total not what is available 🙂

    I also review for Stormy Night Publications as I was personally asked to do so by Korey. She sends me copies of the books that they publish and then I read them and give my honest opinion in my review. I have never been asked by SNP to review a certain way or only give good reviews. Just FYI.

    I try really hard to never give away anything because I hate reviews that do so. I write what I feel at the end of each book I read, sometimes I like them and sometimes I don’t. I always try to explain myself and I never make personal attacks. Period.

    I, for one, when looking for a book to purchase do not want to read a review that summarizes the entire book, I find it so boring. I can read the book synopsis myself, thank you very much. I really want to know if the reviewer enjoyed their time reading the book or if they had to force themselves to keep turning the pages and why.

    That’s just my two cents 🙂

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      SH, I think every single spanking fiction author has read and loved your reviews. What a lot of work you do for us! Wow, 900 reviews? That’s amazing. Thank you!!

      I agree that all of the summaries for a book review can get dull. It’s nice to add a bit more of a personal touch, especially whether the reviewer found the book interesting and why.

      Like

  12. nancygoldberglevine says:

    Thanks for all the info., Ana. I enjoy writing reviews and I don’t like to give bad ones. It has to be really bad for me to give ia book less than three stars. I always try to find something positive to say because that’s what want in reviews of my stuff. Did that make any sense? Because really I want all five star reviews of my stuff (LOL!).

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      As an author, it absolutely makes sense to give positive reviews. After all, these may be books written by our friends or at least by people we know.

      We all love the 5-star reviews, but sometimes the thoughtful ones are great, too.

      Like

  13. Roz says:

    HI Ana, this is such a wonderful and informative and helpful post Ana. You explained it so well, especially different types of reviews and the purpose behind them. Some great points raised in the comments too.

    Thank you so much for your very kind comments regarding my review of Editorial Board. I am truly honoured and humbled by your words … especially given your experience in this area and the fact that I am such a novice 🙂

    Hugs,
    Roz

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      You nailed it, Roz! I never would have believed it was your first review. You did a wonderful job. 🙂 So did Quiet Sara. We have some amazing reviewers in our midst. 🙂

      Plus, I really am excited about a sequel now. You’ve gotten me thinking. 😀

      Like

  14. Tracey Horton says:

    In the past year I went from one or two reviews to 3-5 a month. I get more comfortable with it the more I do them. I love this and am going to transfer it to a word document to help me on future reviews. Very helpful.

    Overall I have gotten positive responses from authors about my reviews and have had customers who thought they were helpful.

    On the flip side of this though. I have had an experience that was really awful with an author. I did not like the book and gave it 3 stars and explained why I thought it should be 3 stars. He wrote me a really, really nasty remark. And just about every week I got another nasty remark added by either him or one of his minions. I never responded–wanted to– but did not want to engage in something this elementary and unprofessional. I finally deleted the review completely. It made me a little gun shy for a while I have to say. Very unpleasant.

    Again, really enjoyed this post. Looking forward to more. Thank you for taking the time to educate us. Truly I think most people who leave reviews want others to see how much we enjoyed a book and want the author to know how much we appreciate their work. The other 10%-ers will always be there. They are the ones who ruin your posts on Facebook, who complain at PTA meetings, etc. they are always there. The rest of us want to compliment and please!!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      That’s terrible, Tracey! You never should feel bullied into taking a review down. You were right not to respond, but it’s still terrible that it happened.

      It’s great to see readers who want to support authors, and we appreciate you VERY much. Thank you for taking the time to review!

      Like

  15. JC says:

    Oh Ana! this was great.
    I have to say that for me (a reviewer myself) the main hings about reviewing are being honest and respectful. I might like or not a book or a part of one, and opinions are important, and so is the freedom to expres them, but I’ve read reviews that are actually disrespectful, and that should not happen.
    What I mean by all this is that as long as the review is honest and respectful it doesn’t matter how it’s written. As it doesn’t matter how a book is written either. Someone might like it and someone might hate it, but no one should take it personal, even if it is personal to the author. No reviewer should disrespect an author or a book, and vice versa.

    Either way, amazing advice and tips for new reviewers 🙂

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Yup, you got it. Respect. That’s a neat summary. 🙂

      Honesty is also important in that a reviewer should be transparent. Did the reviewer receive any compensation? Does the reviewer hate all F/F or all stories that use 1st POV? These are good things to clarify in a review.

      As we saw above, respect does go both ways. When I put up the reviewer interviews, we can see suggestions for how to make sure that happens.

      Thanks!

      Like

  16. Barbara McCormick says:

    Thank you for this post, Ana! I have written a number of reviews and I hope I lived up to the standard you set here. Actually, I know that I generally do. I will say that, no matter how much I like a story or the characters, I do make mention of proofreading errors and poor editing. As a reader, I find that grammatical errors yank me right out of a story.

    I also want to say the Barnes & Noble allows customers to report reviews that are inappropriate. I always report those that read “apfodfpaiof;” or something similar. Frequently, the so-called reviewer gives the book one star. I hate spammers!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Barbara, that’s an important omission! Thank you for bringing it up. It’s always appropriate for a reviewer (any kind) to mention format, although this typically is seen more in the reader reviews. If a book is not showing up properly in one version, or if the text is full of errors, those are fair game for critique. Another type of error that is often important is factual accuracy. If I’m reading a story set in a certain culture or time period but it contains huge errors, it may be important to mention that in a review.

      Great additions!

      Like

  17. terpsichore says:

    While not an author or a reviewer of books I can see the challenge of both writing a well-constructed review and the nerve wrecking excitement of receiving one. I, as reader, would agonize over the process, wanting to be sensitive to the author and his/her characters while also wanting to give an honest and intelligent critique. Whether positive or negative, I would worry about my own writing skills being able to convey my thoughts in a proper manner. I, as writer, would feel very vulnerable to the opinions of others, one reason while the novel I wrote is termed “fun” for me because I do not know if it is worthy of trying to get published nor do I know if I am ready to handle harsh criticisms. While I can take constructive criticism I would be very sensitive to words written in a very negative light, and would have difficulty separating my own worth from that of my characters and story. So a book reviewer or author I may never be, but I will also never say never. 🙂 With regards to any book review the only real life experience I can liken it to in terms of writing is as a teacher when I needed to write a progress report for my preschool students – always began with a positive, then shared the content of the child’s progress, achievements, goals, and things that needed more work, and then ended again with a positive. If there were any issues that needed to be addressed there was always something positive to share to cushion the parts that may be more difficult to hear. Thanks for the discussion. Best wishes, Terpsichore 🙂 Hugs

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  18. octoberwoman says:

    What a great post Ana! I started my own blog quite some time ago to write reviews, or rather my thoughts, for my own amusement. I’ve never really done anything to promote my blog or get people to read it, so very few people saw my reviews, but I did eventually start cross posting some on Goodreads and Amazon. I try really hard to not include spoilers, though what one person considers a spoiler someone else might not. But I always add a spoiler warning first. I don’t use a rating system, I think those are sometimes too subjective, but on Goodreads and Amazon you have to give a certain number of stars.

    My reviews don’t contain real literary criticism or insight. I try not to be negative, while at the same time being honest. But sometimes when I don’t like a book, I realize it may have as much to do with the subject or the writing style just not appealing to me on a personal level, and I know other people may love that book. I definitely write a lot more positive reviews than negative ones. I love to read, and I enjoy most of what I read. And sometimes when I read a really negative review, it makes me want to read the book, just to see for myself if it can really be that bad!

    I will admit that I sometimes take authors’ glowing reviews or blurbs of other authors’ books with a grain a salt. I sometimes wonder if the reviewer/blurber (I think that’s not actually a word but I’m using it anyway) really mean their glowing review/blurb, or are just doing an author friend a solid.

    I’m rambling here, I know. Anyway, I look forward to the rest of your posts on this subject!

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  19. Jade Cary says:

    Another thing to add: it isn’t easy writing a less than stellar review. You’re criticizing a person’s baby, their livelihood, their heart. I get it, believe me. I’ve received my share of horrid reviews, and it hurts. Having said that, I’m hoping…HOPING that the few negs I’ve written have helped, or at least given the author pause–especially if the book has been poorly written, poorly edited, or contains lots of typos (my pet peeve). The above review, while not flattering, was for an old book that, frankly, has not stood the test of time and should probably be pulled and reissued (my opinion). Others have read it several times and loved it. What can you say? The author happens to be quite successful and she’s been around forever, so my review is not going to change things for her, but it might cause a reader to save themselves the agony of reading a book where the hero rapes the heroine. For THIS review, that was my motive.

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  20. sassytwatter says:

    Educational post. I loved reading the sample reviews. I rarely do reviews unless I really like the book. Ive been conflicted I recently read a favorite authors’s new book & was so disappointing- pretty much a copy of another book she wrote just changed characters gender that it made me want to leave a negative review but feel guilty doing so. I will say love Ms. Carry’s review I could distinctly feel her dislike for the book. That being said your review sold me on the Switch one I’ve been eyeing but wasn’t sure. As always beautiful writing Ana. Thank you.

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