Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Writing Book Reviews? Good or Bad?

I've seen some recent blogs on the subject of book reviews and why you should never criticise a book. I disagree.

There is a big difference between 'just being honest' and 'being objective'. Those who hide behind their 'honesty' are usually doing little more than parading their vitriolic nature. Why they do this I don't know, but my best guess is that it's either for kudos amongst their peers, or to get noticed by newspapers/magazines who might want to hire them.

When you're being objective about a book, it's not a sin to be negative. The only sin is if you leave out what is positive.

I've been reviewing books for Hub for over a year now, and have yet to come across anything that doesn't have some good points. One thing I never forget, is that every book has been through an editorial process and someone is willing to put their reputation on the line for it. Another thing I remember, is that I am not going to like everything I read, but it doesn't mean that someone else won't like it.

One book that I've recently reviewed was 'The Good Fairies of New York'. The two main characters did nothing for me, a point that I made in the review without dwelling on it. I then focused on the three human characters who were far better from my point of view and the story which was engaging. AS it was a comedy I also pointed out how much some parts made me laugh.

In short I tried to be objective, accentuated the positive without eliminating the negative.

I don't believe that you should slate a book or author for any reason, but I do believe that you should point out what you, as a reader, don't like. Why? All of us want a critique of our work that is honest and helpful. Other writers and our circle of trusted friends and critquers can help a lot, but an independent reader who knows nothing of us, is possibly the best of all.

An objective review, like any critique, is not one that ignores the negative, it is one that doesn't dwell on it.

3 comments:

Tana Adams said...

I agree all reviews should be honest. I think I should have pen name on Amazon so I can write reviews the old fashion way, with honesty!

Victoria Snelling said...

I think the function of a book review is to help someone else decide whether or not to read that book. It's perfectly valid to say that you didn't like it - and helpful to say why so the reader can see whether that's something they would be bothered by.

I think it's good to be balanced. I also wonder how you distinguish the really great books if you're positive about everything indiscriminately.

There's no need to be mean, or personal, or go for cheap laughs at the author's expense. Criticism can be done without those things.

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