Friday, August 3, 2012

Halfway Honest Book Reviews

Slate ran an article today on how all our connections in cyberspace and the Twittersphere and such make it difficult to give honest (read, critical) book reviews. After all, if you follow people and think they're darling and tag their Twitter handles whenever you mention them, how can you say something awful about their book? Everyone knows we are kinder to those we know than to those we don't, even if "knowing" someone in the cyber sense is only a pale reflection of an actual relationship.
Follow her on Twitter, but loved her book--honestly!

I'm totally guilty of avoiding bad book reviews. Not just of "friends," but of all writers. Why? A couple reasons:

1. With Google nowadays, you can't mention any writer without it getting back to him, and I've had that come back to bite me--even when I wasn't saying anything specifically critical about the book. Honestly, I'd prefer people not to hate me and hate on my books out of "revenge."

2. From reviews of my own books, I've come to realize that different reading tastes do not an awful book make. Yes, some books are genuinely poorly written (I've run across a few that make me laugh out loud in their awfulness), but most I dislike are just not to my taste. I still remember the person on Goodreads who read my Everliving and crapped on it because s/he didn't like ghost stories or romance. My recommendation: stay out of the paranormal romance genre in the future, or risk further frustration.

This one annoyed me, but, hey--he's dead.
So I've reached a compromise in my book reviewing. I only review it if I can give it 3 stars or more, unless the author is dead (and presumably infinitely beyond such things as piddly book reviews). Which is why, if you're a friend on Goodreads, you'll sometimes see me "Currently Reading" something, only to never hear about it again. If my cyber lips are sealed after I claimed to be reading it, that means I didn't like it. Rather than leave a negative review, I just delete it from my Goodreads profile. No harm, no foul.

Occasionally I receive advance copies to review, and I give the publishers the same allowance. Meaning, if I don't like the book, I tell them so privately, offering the option to still review it. Don't some people think there's no such thing as bad publicity? Apparently they do. So far not a one has written back, "No, please--do go ahead and trash the book!"

It's a compromise, yes. You don't know how many times I've thought of making up a phony profile, so that I could leave honest reviews on books I was not so crazy about. But I've decided the world--and the Internet in particular--already has enough negativity to go around. It doesn't need my two cents'.

If only criticizing weren't such fun! At least, with the NBC coverage of the Olympics, there are still plenty of things to find fault with besides books...


  1. This has definitely been a dilemma for me. I like your solution...
    unfortunately, some of the book tour cos. won't send you another book to review if you don't publish a review! and i'd rather not publish a negative review for the reasons you've already mentioned. each reader sees things differently and tastes change as well :)

  2. Ooh...that's a tough situation. That's when you whip out the lines like Mozart does in AMADEUS: "When you hear such music, what can you say but...Salieri!"