The chicken and the reviewer

Since I decided to read and review 100 books this year (I am so NOT meeting that goal) I’ve worried a little about how the reviews would stack up. Already I’ve read one book that I did not like, and decided to go with the “sugar” rather than “vinegar” approach by sticking with the things I did like rather than harping on the stuff I didn’t. I was advised to be honest because it might have been helpful to the author, but ultimately I decided to… well… chicken out mainly because I hate to hurt anyone’s feelings and because I know how much work goes into writing a book. And while I regret not being more ballsy, I’m kind of glad I did because some authors are CRAZY. Like, straight-jacket-wearing, meds-swallowing, foaming-at-the-mouth crazy.

On his blog today, Nathan Bransford posted about the virtual witch hunt of author Jacqueline Howett after she went a little nutso on a reviewer, who actually didn’t give her such a bad review. Since her bad reaction to his post, she has been trashed online by a mob of readers who have posted negative, or mock reviews of her work on Amazon and B&N.

Bransford also linked to Emily St. John Mandel’s essay on bad reviews for The Millions, in which she expressed exasperation about her own  negative reviews, but in a thoughtful way. And of course, there’s the famous 2009 Twitter meltdown by Alice Hoffman which was just painful to watch.

So is it really chicken to stick with the good stuff in the books that I’ve read, or have I done the writers and the readers of my reviews a disservice by not being completely honest, even at the cost of an author’s feelings? I suspect I know what you will think, but I’m still asking…

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8 thoughts on “The chicken and the reviewer

  1. Mutterschwester says:

    I think you should take the risk. There are ways to get your point across without being nasty, and if you’re already editing yourself to be more on the “sugar” side, then that’s probably your style anyway.

    Not only that, but in reviews, often, even negative reviews help get the word out!

  2. Tracey says:

    The crazy thing about the reviewers I mentioned is that none of them wrote nasty reviews. They were quite well-balanced, and still the authors went a little crazy. However, I think you’re right that it’s better to be honest than sugar coat things despite feeling badly for the author.

  3. The Graceful Skinny says:

    I have always been taught to give the whole truth. If you see something there that the author needs to work on then by golly point it out. Especially when said author has directly asked for your opinion. That however does not mean that you have to be cruel about it. I always try to be sure and balance out the negative with at least twice the positive. Start and end with the happy stuff and then things shouldn’t look so bad.

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