Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Silly Reviews

I read a lot of book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It's an obsessive practice I have that inspires me to write. (novels, not reviews) But some of them puzzle me, leading me to ask the following questions of certain reviewers of silly reviews:

Why read a memoir if you only like happy books? No one writes a memoir about their joyful, pain-free life. No story in that. When I see a comment like "This was a depressing book" I think, And what did you expect?

If you disliked the first in the series, why did you read the sequel? Seriously, a reviewer who gives a low rating to ALL the books in a series?

Why be mean? Are you not clever enough to write a review about a book you didn't like without resorting to catty, snide, sarcastic and just plain hurtful statements? (Meanness annoys me so much it gets two questions.)

Who paid you to say that? And on the other hand, there's no need to gush. When I see, "This is the best book I ever read!" I think you are either lying or being sarcastic. Either way, it has no impact and doesn't make me want to read the book.

Why use your review on one book to tell us another book is better? Of course there are better books! There are zillions of better books than the one you just read. That's not the point. "I didn't like this book, such and such was better." That's the dumbest thing ever to say in a review.

Did you really think that just because Oprah recommended it you should shell out $10? Don't blame the author for that one, sucka.


37 comments:

  1. Some people write stupid reviews because, well, they're a bit stupid I suspect. Hopefully they get averaged out by all the more considered reviews.

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  2. I wonder about some of those things too. It's like people don't read the description of the book before they buy it and then blame the author for that. A good example was when I looked up "Room" by Emma Donoghue and someone gave it one star because they don't like scary books. Then why did you read it in the first place? Some people I guess just look at the cover or something and then punish the author for their stupidity.

    But as for writing mean reviews, sometimes I can't help myself. Sometimes a book sucks so much that I just need to vent my rage.

    I don't see a problem recommending another book. Even if I like another book I might recommend something. I think that's just helpful. I mean you as the reader might want to know what else you could read that's similar. The thing is though to compare apples and apples. I mean if I read the latest John Grisham legal thriller and say, "This is crap. You should read 'War and Peace'." that wouldn't make sense because the two books are completely different.

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  3. I am in complete agreement, Karen

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  4. If I don't like a book, I own my opinion. Just because I don't like it doesn't make it a bad book. We know what goes into crafting a book, even one we don't like, so I have to respect the effort!

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  5. Or my favorites: "I haven't read it yet, but I read the last one and it was terrible." or "I haven't tried this product but my friend says it's terrible." or "This book is offensive and I won't read it."

    You can't review something you haven't read or tried. That's an opinion, not a review. Sheesh. Really glad you posted this, I needed to let off some steam and it made me smile.

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  6. I don't let "like" "dislike" enter into a review. A review, IMO, should focus on the quality of the book -- how well the characters are developed, the story line (is it interesting), etc. With the advent of Amazon, today everyone is a reviewer! Not like the "old" days of publishing (sigh). What it amounts to is that everyone has an OPINION.

    Right on, Karen!

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  7. A book that you couldn’t relate to is not one to review unless you are a professional reviewer assigned by your editor to review it. The reviews that start with “I couldn’t relate at all” –really? And you have to tell us about it? I am baffled by two-three star reviews. Those are the no-need to say anything ones. At least the one-star have passion and something awful stuck in their mouth…
    Your comment about reading the whole series brought about the Woody Allen joke about those two ladies at the Catskills resort- “The food here is so awful, and such small portions!”
    For us unpaid, hence amateur, reviewers- just tell why you liked it and why you think I might. Don’t worry- your succinct description will let me know if it’s not for me. If there’s something very wrong going on, chime in if you feel compelled and make your case.
    Actually, don’t listen to me. Everyone is free to do as they see fit. But these^ are my guidelines for self.

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  8. No, those are excellent, Karen! Totally agree. The 'this sucks' reviews are useless. And why does anyone keep reading a book they hate, let alone the whole series? Agree with EJ - you can't review a book you haven't completely read.
    Some people just have to criticize everything. Pity on them.

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  9. Hmm, your post must have really touched someone's conscience because my only one star review was removed today. The reviewer read my crime fiction novel and complained about the profanity (which there wasn't much of compared with most books in the genre--I never used the F-word once).

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  10. Reviews like those make you wonder.

    I think authors who hand out bad reviews like those are venturing into dangerous territory. No one will trust that person to review his or her book, the reviewer sends bad vibes to all authors, and when his or her book is released it opens the door for paybacks from fans and authors. I call it author suicide.

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  11. I think the worst and most stupidest review I read on amazon was something like "don't buy this book!". Happily, many ignored this person and went right ahead and made it a best-seller! LOL!! Take care
    x

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    1. Old Kitty, Ha! There's one I've seen a lot, too. "Don't buy this book." That's a review?

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  12. Recently I read a couple of reviews that could not have been written in response to the book, as the title was sarcasm and was actually the opposite of what the author was saying, but the "reader" so obviously criticized it based on the title. (they actually would have agreed with the author's opinion if they'd read it!) Again, it was an opinion instead of a helpful review. And one has no business reviewing something they have not read!

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  13. The mean reviews are by people I call "Trolls". They say mean stuff just to try and get a reaction so they can attempt to prove their greater intelligence to the masses.
    I try really hard to write good reviews about books. If I don't like it, I state why, but not in a mean way and then just tell people that its my opinion. They should form their own. But yes, I have seen some pretty silly reviews these days as well.

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  14. Oh GoodReads. I feel the same way about reviews, my own and other people's. Even though I hate getting bad reviews, I'll admit, before I pick up a book I read all the bad reviews to see why someone didn't like it and if that would stop me from actually picking it up.

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    1. Me too, Magan! Which is why I think they do so much damage to book sales, like if there aren't many reviews and 1 or 2 is really negative. I read the reviews for I Feel Bad about My Neck my Nora Ephron, of which there were tons of bad ones as well as good. If I hadn't already read the book several years ago, those reviews would have stopped me from reading it now. Not that it hurts Nora, since she has plenty of money and fame anyway. (I meant to say that in past tense)

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    2. Yeah, I glance at the bad review too. But I rarely buy a book unless I can read a sample. That doesn't always let you know how good the book is, the sample might be the best part of the book, but.... Also, if there ARE a lot of strong reviews, I don't let the bad ones sway me if I really want to read it (if it's not priced to high LOL).

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  15. I usually prefer to make my own decision as to whether or not a book is a good read. I think that many reviewers, including almost all professionals, go way too far when they don't like something. It's like they need to make other people feel bad, in order to feel better about themselves. Like they are somehow superior to the author. Literary bullies is what they are...

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  16. Those are all excellent questions. You do have to wonder what's behind some reviews!

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  17. Nice post. I agree with you Karen. I think the purpose of a book review is to share personal views in a thought-provoking way without demeaning it. When I read a boo review I want to know if others share my own thoughts or ideas about it. I always find new perspectives, or I get to connect with the reader through similar interpretations. Fascinating.

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  18. Good post, Karen. Have to admit, I'm rather terrified at the prospect of reading the Amazon reviews of my upcoming book. But I'm steeling myself for the worst. (Also, stocking up on chocolate. It might not fix a bad review, but it can't hurt... *grin*)

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    1. Linda, I got it over quickly like ripping off a band-aid. The first Amazon review on Uncut Diamonds was a one-star slam, and it was the only one for a really loooooooooong time.

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  19. I'm not much a reader of book reviews. If the partial read I make encourages me to read a whole book, I'll do my own, personal book review.

    That said, I can't really understand the review you have noted. Do people not know how to review books?

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  20. Oh Karen...the Oprah comment was the best! Sometimes I'll pick up a book, start reading it THEN see it was an Oprah choice and it's all I can do not to throw it against the wall. But thats not fair to the author. So I read more and make my own decision. Sadly, I still don't like many books she likes.

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  21. I don't often read book reviews. Before I lay any more good money down on ebooks (I've been extremely disappointed in some) I download a sample and read it. This tells me if the book is well written, or if yhe author is a good story teller, or not.
    I never review a book I would give less than 4 stars to, if I'm unlucky enough to have read it for some reason. Because writing a book of any quality, getting a cover and formatting it for publishing is a hell of a lot of work.
    Although I don't pay much attention to reviews of other peoples' work, I'm sure that will change when I have a book of my own out there.
    So I can understand the anxiety.
    Great blog. I agree about the review trolls. People who have to put others down to feel better about themselves. Embarassing.

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  22. I suppose writing a book review is all about being constructive yet readable. I try to avoid doing it myself, especially if it's a book I didn't like. That's a toughie and I'm very hard to please.

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  23. oh, no! Did somebody really blame Oprah??? LOL! I love reading those Amazon reviews, too. But I usually do it for books I'm considering buying... Or "hype" books. Some of the 50 Shades reviews are HILARIOUS! :D <3

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  24. I did say on amazon, only once obviously, that a book was the best book I had ever read. I said it because it is true to me, it came from my heart. I who have read constantly since the day I learned to read, have never, ever, read a book quite as good as that one. I hope I didn't say it was the best book ever written. Just the best book I had ever read.

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  25. I agree. The most helpful reviews are the ones that give an honest opinion without bashing, insulting or belittling.

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  26. You make such great points. I really love the one about Oprah's book club.

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  27. My own philosophy concerning writing a review -- if I find there's nothing good, I say nothing at all.
    The Great Ms. O -- safe to say we do not seem to share the same taste in reading. If she raves about it I generally skip it.

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  28. On Amazon I usually read the worst reviews because they often are absurd. Many times they are more reviews of Amazon and nothing to do with the book and that is absolute nonsense. I don't think I've ever been influenced not to buy a book because of one star reviews. In fact in a few instances the one star reviews have made me more curious.

    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

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  29. I think that the mean comments often come from jealous people, particularly people who have never been published but desperately want to be or the people who have been published but aren't as successful as they thought they would be. So they attack the successful writers because they're jealous of what they have.

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    1. I think you have a real point there. I've often wondered that myself.

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  30. It's the series reviewers that get to me. I know of a reviewer who hates my books - hates them - and has read the first 3 in the series so far. I just know she's going to read #4. :) Why? They're free to reviewers from Netgalley but even so, why read a book you know you're going to hate? Crazy!

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    1. That's insane, Shirley! That reviewer needs to get a life.

      And Karen, Amen. I can't add to the list.

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    2. Shirley, Unbelievable! That makes me want to read your series just to show them. What's your first one, I'll start with that. Never mind, I can find out on your website, right?

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