Good, Bad, and Ugly Reviews

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My husband recently downloaded a book based upon the reviews.  The 5 star ratings made it seem like this was one of the most well written books in history.  It was the right genre–starting life over in a post-apocalyptic world–KABOOM!  Good MAN stuff.  How could he go wrong?

Well, when a review is vague or outright lies, you can go very wrong.  My husband finished the book, but he complained the whole time about what a cheesy, terrible, boring plot it was…and wondered why it was called The Mission.  He was done and didn’t know what mission those bozo characters had done.  And there were mutant mind-reading goats in the story–in fact, they were a central part of it…but nowhere in the reviews were they mentioned.

My husband went back to Amazon and reread the reviews, wondering what he was missing.

I told him there was nothing wrong with him.  In fact, I’ve learned from reading other blogs that sometimes authors are a little tricky and have friends and family write up glowing reviews to help them sell more books.  I don’t know if that is what Benton did on his terrible book, or if some people like poorly written books about mutant mind-reading goats that save humanity.

Whatever the case, both my husband and I realized the value of a good, truthful book review.  He wrote up his first, and titled it Mutant Goats (since no one else had fessed up to that weirdness).  Here it is; I thought it was quite tactful considering he hated it so much.

This book started out interesting, drawing me in with the concept of a group of people restarting civilization after a nuclear war.  However, it slowed dramatically as the characters emerged from their bio cave into the empty world. You would expect trials and conflicts to be resolved as they struggle with little technology and help, but nothing really happened to make me want to continue reading.  Instead it is mostly a story about humans and their relationship with giant mutant goats.  The story ended without really drawing it to a close, but there wasn’t much to wrap up since little was happening in the story anyway.

goat herd

goats (Photo credit: Malingering)

Here is a picture of mind-reading goats (not really).  The funny thing was, once my husband uploaded his 2 star review (I felt he was being way too generous, but he figured since he read the whole thing, it deserved at least that), that within a week several 1 star reviews popped up by even more truthful readers.  They ranted about how awful it was and said they couldn’t finish it and wanted their money back.  My husband felt vindicated.

I will soon have my first book out on Amazon to buy, and I am scared to death to see the reviews.  I know logically that not everyone will like my book.  There is not any book that someone doesn’t hate–even by the best authors.  But I hope people will write truthful reviews after they read it–about what they liked or didn’t like, whether the plot was any good, and stuff like that.

Another post I read this week by author Matthew Iden talked about what makes a review good or bad.  You can give a GOOD 2-star review…and a BAD 5-star review.  Be truthful, smart, and helpful when you review a book.  Whether you love or hate it, give specific reasons so that others can be guided to know whether a book is a good fit for them or not.

And now I will make a confession.  Before I started blogging, I never reviewed a book (except on, and I have read TONS.  I never saw the point.  Now that I am close to putting my own book out there, I feel ashamed of my past neglect.  Authors need those reviews to help them know how the public perceives their writing.  Readers need those reviews to help them make good decisions.  So when you really like a book, give the author a pat on the back with a good review.  If you hate a book, give other readers a heads-up, so they can avoid it like the plague.

And now, I must go and feed my herd of mutant mind-reading, ninja goats in the backyard.  They are telling me they want filet mignon–they can plant thoughts in my head as well as read my thoughts.  It comes in handy.  Fire up the grill, honey!


22 thoughts on “Good, Bad, and Ugly Reviews

  1. Given reviews are so important for authors, if I can’t say anything good about a book, I won’t review it. I don’t want to leave a one-star review, because, I realize, everyone has different tastes, and I now understand, based on what I’ve read on authors’ blogs and their tweets, how devastating a one-star review can be. That being said, I don’t think one should lie in a book review. My “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all” approach is a bit of a cop-out, I know, but I guess it’s just how I’ve always rolled. I’m a conflict avoider. 🙂

    As for that day when my book is released? Am nervous beyond belief about the reviews!

    • Yeah, I don’t think I would leave bad reviews either, except in the case when the book is just plain written bad like the one my husband just finished. No sense letting others waste their money on terrible stories.

  2. I don’t use Goodreads I use Shelfari but the concept is generally the same and I wholeheartedly agree with you on the importance of a good review. It irks me terribly to see one or two star reviews with no explanation as to the reader’s thought process when he/she chose such a low rating. It’s important to me as an avid reader to remember why I loved or hated this or that book, and so I write well rounded reviews as much for myself as the author and other potential readers.

    Filet mignon… now I’m hungry! 😛

    • Yeah, I get annoyed too with ratings on books that leave no explanation. We’re having steak tonight (if we can keep the goats away from it) because I forgot to freeze the meat and now must eat it before it goes bad (woe is me….not!).

  3. I’ve avoided doing reviews, too, on the blog. Partly because so many bloggers do them, I wonder if I could add anything meaningful or new. But like Carrie, I also don’t like to say negative things about something I’ve read. I try to avoid conflict, too. I hope I would leave informative ones if the time comes that I need to do them. I don’t think “Great book!” is any more helpful than “I hated it!” even if the book is really good.

    I will be asking for an e-reader of some kind for my birthday later this year—there are all these fellow bloggers’ books that I can’t yet read!

    • Yeah, I never really thought about reviewing a book until this bad book of my husbands (watching him review one) and then getting a free book from a contest and the publisher asking that I please review the book on Amazon after I finished reading it. I guess that’s the least I could do, huh?

  4. Pingback: Authors Wanted! | Books in the Burbs

  5. Good on your husband for writing up an honest, yet tactful review. I don’t think we’re doing ourselves any favors by masking the truth. I feel like the biggest reason I have avoided reading anything based on a “review” is because I have yet to find real reviews that are written by someone other than the author’s friends and family.

    Now, I don’t have a Kindle or anything like it. I’m still reading the old-fashioned way. I go by recommendations by MY friends & family–people whose tastes and opinions I trust, and then go to the old-fashioned library or bookstore and get a copy.

    I have not reviewed any books on my blog, mainly because I’m so behind on my reading. I’m like the person whose fashion sense is about 5 years behind the trend, except with books. But I generally read books that were once hot–for instance, right now I’m reading The Time Traveller’s Wife, lol. A great book, trendy in its heyday, but I certainly couldn’t write a review on my blog about it now!

    • I don’t think it’s bad to do reviews on old books. When a book is new, EVERYONE seems to review it and it gets old. I review old books occasionally and have fun doing it. If people have already read it, then they don’t have to read it. If they haven’t, now they can (without being in line after 84 other people at the library).

      • You have a really good point. I never thought of it that way. I always get so embarrassed at being “behind the times” that I try to avoid bringing more attention to myself in that regard. 🙂

        However, now you’ve got me thinking that it’s another way to post something on the blog when I run out of “writerly” things to say!

        *mind is churning, churning*

  6. I think book reviews are very subjective and I’d have to see a lot of bad reviews not to read a book I considered. However I can’t say the same for electronics, kid toys and other products. Even if it has some great reviews, a few terrible reviews will make me not buy it.

    • HOW a review is worded makes a big difference to me. Some people are just always mean and critical (ranting and raving), and I discount those. When logical, clear reasons are listed why they don’t like something, then I pause and consider it.

    • Thanks. It is nerve-wracking. I might have to force myself never to look (like how I watch horror flicks–with my eyes clenched shut and my fingers in my ears to block out sound)

  7. That’s a good review your husband wrote – fair & just. i have only written a couple of book reviews for kids books we bought for our little guy…
    Do let us know when your book comes out & good luck with the launch of your book!

  8. Would you share your self-publishing journey? It would be wonderful to hear it & get some tips at the same time… i’m thinking about that – but maybe in a year’s time or so…

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