Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Critiquing or reviewing?

This is a post that I felt like I should write, but I didn't really want to. I've already put it off by posting late and now I'm using more delay tactics, like posting some of my favorite bookish images first:

Okay, now I have to admit this post has nothing to do with those pictures. I just wanted to start out with something positive and happy, because this post is about lessons learned: not so positive and happy... but worthwhile, I think. 

 Last week on Kristen Lamb's blog she had this post: The Three Nevers of Social Media  (I guess blogging counts as social media; I have very little presence on Twitter or Facebook). Her excellent advice: Never leave nasty blog comments, Never be nasty on Twitter, and Never leave bad book reviews. 

At first I just skimmed over this post, patting myself on the back for not violating any of these rules.  Sure, my book reviews point out things that didn't ring true to me or I felt could have been developed better, but I always point out the positives, too. No one could call my book reviews "bad." Um, I think? 

Then the next day Kristen posted Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews, in response to all the comments she got about the day before (141 comments, I just checked).  The second post has 163 comments currently.  Hmmm, this is a bit controversial! 

Then ANOTHER post showed up the next day, Is it fair for authors to review other authors? Do we ruin the magic? (131 comments). 

I wish I could sum all of this up in a couple sentences. It certainly made me look at reviewing books in a new way. I am guilty of critiquing books rather than reviewing them. See, writers critique. That's how we learn to write better, by getting and giving critiques. So naturally when I read a published book, I critique that book, too. I learn so much from analyzing it - finding its strengths, and flaws. But is that a valid book review?  As a writer and aspiring author, can I also be a book reviewer or is it too potentially controversial?  

Though there are some dissenters with good points, the majority of commenters agree: writers and authors, don't share your reviews unless they are positive.  And don't analyze or critique a book and call it a review. 

I will continue to share the things that I learn from books: but only the positive things, the characters and settings and dialogue and voice that made me sit up and take notice and nod my head, yes!  About the flaws, I will still learn from them - but I don't need to share them publicly anymore. 


  1. I've never seen the sense or the need for snarky reviews, although I know of those who've made name for themselves doing just that.

    If I want to rant a bit about a book I've read I don't mention the author, identifying storyline or the name of the book. I will talk about issues because I'm speaking from a writer's viewpoint.

    When I asked to review I tend to address pacing, tension, pov in laymen terms and in positive light--if I mention them at all. If I love the characters I say why. If they do something quirky and fun I mention it. Mostly its what was good about the book and why I enjoyed it.

    When I read, I want to be entertained and then tell someone else why it was entertaining--not pick apart the book and highlight issues the average reader isn't even going to notice, much less care about.

  2. Honesty with kindness is always the best policy. Positive motives are important when considering leaving a comment on a blog or writing a book review.

  3. This is an area with a lot of ambiguity and a lot of differing opinions. I haven't read the posts you linked to (I'll head over later) but one thing that writers also need to consider is how do your reviews affect your readers? Do they expect a writer to review a certain style or genre of books? Will they be disappointed if a writer likes a book that they don't, or one that they have moral issues with?

    The publishing world is changing so much right now, and there are so many things we just don't know all the implications of. I say, be cautious. I've ceased rating books on goodreads for this reason. If I change my mind I can always go back and leave reviews, but if I leave the review I can't change my mind and make everyone un-read it.

  4. It is a very touchy area. I only write about books I really connect with and am dying to share. I have to say though, I have appreciated learning about some titles that were better left unread.

  5. Yeah, I usually only leave reviews on books I adore. I mean, I should leave more reviews, I think, but unless I have the urge to flaunt the book in front of the entire world's face, I think it's best to keep my big mouth shut. I could get on and leave a positive review for every book I read, but lets face it, I'd be writing reviews all day long. Who has the time?!?

  6. I think what resonates with me on this subject is that, as writers, we have to learn to see what is good about a book, what did an editor and agent see that made them fall in love? What do readers see that makes them write good reviews. Maybe privately we critique and learn from what they did wrong, but publicly (and privately) we also have to note and applaud what they did right. We learn more from that, I think. And at the same time, we pay it forward a bit. But yes, it's a fine line for us to walk.

  7. I guess this is why I never call my "writing about books" on my blog reviews. To me they don't feel like reviews, I'm just talking about books. About what I connected with or what I'd like to learn or what it made me think about. I have left a few "reviews" on Amazon and Goodreads. I only leave positive reviews and only when I feel like something about the book made me say "Wow!"

  8. How good this article is! I like it. I will share with my
    friends. I hope that many people also have hobby the same as me.



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