To review? Or not to review? (when you don’t love the book you’re reading.)
My vision for my website was always to talk about all things book related – not just my own work. This naturally included reviewing the books I was reading from other authors. However, it also leads to a dilemma that probably every reviewer faces sooner or later.
What do you do when you don’t love the book you’re reviewing? To review, or not to review? That is the question.
The start of the problem.
Usually I only review books I’ve chosen myself and love, but recently I was asked to review a book by an author I’d been chatting to online. The book sounded unusual and interesting so I agreed. I’d not finished the first chapter before I realized I’d made a huge mistake.
Firstly, the names of the characters and places were so difficult they spoiled the flow of the prose.
Now I live in Wales. I’m used to words that are hard to pronounce. We have a town with the longest place name in Europe and the second longest official one-word place name in the world. I can reduce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch to Go-go-goch and move on without batting an eye but the names in this book were stupidly similar.
The hero (let’s call him X’xfdi) couldn’t be simply X because his sidekick was X’icidh and his love interest was X’ydlth. Already my brain couldn’t sort out who was who and, worse than that, as the majority of the first pages consisted of a detailed description of a desert landscape, I really didn’t care.
Sadly, the book didn’t improve.
Now, I am a love-em or leave-em type of reader. If a book doesn’t keep me interested in turning the pages, I have no problem dumping it. I have more half-read books on my Kindle than any person should have. The fact that I haven’t finished these books means I’m not going to give them 5 or even 4 stars on Amazon.
I didn’t want to give my friend’s book 4 stars either. 😲 What’s a girl to do?
Amazon’s rules make it difficult.
Amazon considers anything under a 4 star review to be the sign of a bad book. So, we have three levels of bad but only two levels of good. This makes my review criteria something like:
⭐️ Terrible book. My three year old grandson could invent a better plot. Almost unreadable editing. Boring as hell.
⭐️⭐️ Couldn’t finish reading as got distracted by emergency fingernail painting. Already can’t remember what the plot was about.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Had some promise and would have been OK as a first draft but should never have been published in present form.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Covers everything from:
- the book was OK but I probably won’t want to read it again and in my author/editor head I found plot holes and spotted problems with the grammar
- I enjoyed the book but it wasn’t the best I’ve ever read.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Loved it ❤ and would recommend to anyone.
Really, I’d like to spread my ‘Four stars’ criteria into the lower categories but Amazon sees this as a black mark …
… and I didn’t want to give the author a black mark.
- Tell the truth – Give it 2 stars and risk upsetting my friend.
- Lie – Give it 4 stars and risk losing the trust of my readers who might buy it on the strength of my review and find out how dreadful it is for themselves.
- Review privately – Send my review to the author and ask if they’d like it posting online. (Also involves risk of upsetting friend.)
- Do nothing – Don’t post a review at all. This option is OK until the friend keeps on asking what I thought, at which point I have to block them and never speak of the matter again.
There has to be a right way but I’m not sure what it is.
What should I do? How do you handle less than favourable reviews?
Let me know in the comments below.