Book Reviews

on Monday, August 31, 2015
    Not too long ago, I wrote my first ever book review. I've never been afraid to post a rating, but actually writing a review is a different story. It's very intimidating to put into words what you did and didn't like about someone else's brain child. I know what my writing means to me, and to have to say anything bad about someone else's writing is scary. 
    I'm a hard person to please, and I don't expect anything I read to be perfect, which is why reviewing books is so hard. Everything I have to say is my own personal opinion and the chances are slim that someone else will have the same exact opinion as I do. I like the stories that I like and I don't expect everyone else in the universe to like those same stories. Everyone has different tastes. And that's what made my first book review so difficult. 

    I'm not going to mention which book I reviewed because I don't want to point fingers or name names. I knew the author of the book and this author had sent out an email asking for honest reviews of this book. So I wrote a review and posted it. I spent at least an hour pouring over the review and trying to be as nice, yet honest as possible. I wasn't captivated by the book. It wasn't written as well as I would have hoped, the romance was a little overdone, and it ended with me still asking a lot of questions. But as I said earlier, I don't expect everyone to agree with my opinion, so I made sure to include in this in the review- 
"Some people may really enjoy this book, but I was not one of them."
And later-
"the book's not for me."

    And that was my honest opinion. I can most certainly understand why some people would enjoy the book, but I didn't. I thought I made that point clear. But of course, shortly after I posted the review I was contacted by the author. This author had claimed that I hadn't actually read this book because I mentioned some things in my review that were untrue. Then I was asked to remove my review.
    I learned a few things from this incident-

  1. It's probably not the best idea to review books when you know the author personally. It causes too many problems. It pressures the reviewer to be nice rather than honest, and that hurts both the author and any future reader because they can't trust the reviews.
  2. If you're the author, don't contact the reviewer. You should be grateful that the reviewer has taken the time to not only read your book but give you feedback, whether good or bad. 
  3. If you're the reviewer and the author contacts you, ignore it. It will never end well. You already wrote down your honest opinion of the book in your review, so what the author has to say shouldn't change that. 
    I also learned a little bit more about what to actually include in reviews when writing them. Think about what you look for in book reviews- 
  1. The overall rating. Was the book good or bad? 
  2. Why was the book good or bad? This is probably even more important than the overall rating. This is when the reader finds out what the reviewer liked and disliked about the book, and it allows the reader to compare their personal book opinions to the reviewers to decide whether they might still like the book (ex. In my review I mentioned that I didn't like the book because it left me hanging and the romance was a little much for me, but other readers may like the romance and may like the anticipation for the next book).
  3. This book was funny, intense, intelligent, well-written, etc. The same goes for negative descriptors. These are tells for readers. I enjoy humor in books. I enjoy suspense. I don't enjoy romance and cliff hangers. I also look for pacing descriptors.
  4. Number of DNFs (Did Not Finish), and 4+ star reviews vs. 2- star reviews. I'll be completely honest, when I look at reviews of books to decide whether or not to read it, I don't look at 5 star reviews and I don't look at 1 star reviews. 5 star reviews typically praise the book without real explanation in the same way that 1 star reviews typically rip the book apart without explanation. Anything that is incredibly vague is useless to a reader. I look at 2, 3, and 4 star reviews because they are typically the most honest and the most descriptive. They also usually include reasons why the book is both good and bad.
  5. Comparisons to other books I enjoyed/disliked help me know what it's like without reading it.
    I also learned about things that are useless in book reviews-
  1. Anything vague. I know I already mentioned it, but to me it appears as if you never read the book, so I can't trust your vague opinion.
  2. Summaries or spoilers. What is the point of writing a review if you're only going to restate the premise instead of actually reviewing it? And spoilers are *okay* if tagged as a spoiler in the review, although I still believe that reviews can be written without them. Find a way to talk about what you liked/disliked without giving away the plot for those who haven't read it yet.
  3. "I don't like this genre so I don't like this book". Well, there's your problem. If you're already biased about the book before reading it, then your opinion is useless to me.
  4. Attacks against the author/genre/fans/other reviewers. Insulting someone's personality or intelligence is not an opinion, it's just rude and it has no place in a book review. While your book review doesn't have to praise the book, it doesn't have to destroy it. Be honest, but be polite.
  5. Anything that references characters/plot points/genres that have nothing to do with the book being reviewed.
    After I was contacted by that author to remove my book review, I went back through it one more time, and decided that I stood by what I said in my review. I felt I followed my own guidelines and that my review was fine. And sadly, I also felt that I was a little too nice in my first review and I changed it from 3 stars to 2 stars. To be fair, I also added in a few more details in my review to explain that I did like some things about it, just not everything. In the end, I stand by what I said, and I believe my review will help future readers decide whether or not to read that book.
    Remember, reviews are for those who haven't read the book yet. They aren't for the author, other reviewers, or even yourself. People review books to tell future readers why or why not to read the book. If you want to give your honest opinion to future readers, write a book review and write a strong one.
    ~Allie May


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