Breaking Down a Book Review

Book reviews are a wonder. They can range from an in-depth breakdown of the story with spoilers to the idiotic OMFG! This is awesome/suckage without further explanation.

How to draw the line between tasteful and tacky seems to be a sticking point for some, both reviewers and authors alike. How do we come to a common meeting ground? Reviewers obviously want to create something (I hope) memorable that a) shows they actually read the book and aren’t some trolling hatemonger and b) tells the author what worked for them and what didn’t. I mean, it’s already published so remarking that they missed a few Oxford commas isn’t really in the picture, is it? Gross misspellings, maybe. If it’s self-published you might see a spike in those but it doesn’t mean that publisher driven books aren’t absolved from errors either. Nothing is to say that just because it’s from a publishing house means that editing was even done. Trust me, I know. The best stoppage to the neck-tensing misspell is the author themselves but I’m drifting away from the topic at hand.

When someone from John/Jane Q. Publique does a review on Amazon or another book buying site, the best thing they could do to make themselves look like intelligent bipeds is to cast away the ‘OMFG this author is full of awesome sauce that I’d gladly slurp through a silly straw’ review. Really, what does that show other than there’s a good possibility that you’re a butt-licking friend who wouldn’t dare tell your BFF their shit stinks.

So, did the author draw you into their mind-numbing world so hard you forgot the fundamentals of the written word? Back off, take a cleansing breath while removing your fanboi hat, and calm down. Your star rating is going to tell them you liked it. The written review, more or less, is to gather more potential readers in akin to a campfire song to herald the sheer greatness that your eyes have just witnessed. You are the bard of the new age.

Now let’s dwell on that for a moment. How often do you read the reviews before buying something? Personally, I like sifting through reviews and I always start with the lowest ratings first. Here’s where a keen eye and a heavy bullshit meter come in handy. What did the reviewer tell us about the book? Was there something in there that the human body couldn’t do or something that defied natural laws? I mean, science fiction is great and an easy way to break the rules but did it go too far into the gap of credibility zone to fester? Was the dialogue believable or did it come across like two cardboard cutouts masturbating to their love of all things cheese-related? How about the overall tension of the book—Did it grip you and throttle you within an inch of your life or did you snicker ‘called it’ as the plot ploughed along in a cliché pace.

Emotion and clarity are two of my must haves in a book. Emotionally invest me in the written words with the trials the main character go through. Make it clear so that when I read those words an image is vivid in my mind of what is going on. If I have to re-read a passage, something’s not right. If you’re rehashing something on page 100 you showed on page 50 not only is it insulting, I find it nothing more than a word count++ maneuver.

Most of all, whether you want to bash the living hell out of the author or not, present the facts not the fiction you want to spew. If you read science fiction and really like westerns better, don’t compare the two genres. If you pick up something marked erotic romance, don’t expect closed doors sex. Know your genres. Period.

Be honest without being an ass. I know, that’s rich coming from me but I must say I try and tell why I didn’t care for it. In detail.

Now onto the authors side of it. We all get our share of bad reviews. They bring us to tears and we start down that dark path of questioning our skills. If you’re published with a publishing house, remember that they handed you a contract for a reason. If you self-published, well, maybe next time get an editor or join a writing site to get a little more experience under your belt. This, of course, in both instances applies to thorough reviews and not the ‘this sucked worse than a two dollar hooker” ones. Please learn to know the difference.

The best way to combat these bad reviews is to be the better person. Thank them for their time and purchase (if the site they reviewed on can show that they actually bought it). Scream and yell all you want AWAY from your computer and certainly don’t go on a social media site with a call to arms for people to attack this egregious reviewer. Again, be the better person.

When it comes down to it what makes a review a review is the human element and there’s no way we’re ever going to change a Cro-Magnon into a rocket scientist overnight. Learn to laugh a little and enjoy that ice cream your royalties bought you. I know I am.

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3 responses

  1. Pingback: Fishing For Reviews « The Eclectic Zaftig Chick

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