Saturday, January 9, 2021

ROTTEN REVIEWS!

 RHYS BOWEN:  A writer friend had a minor rant the other day about a terrible review she had received. The reviewer said she had enjoyed the author’s series until now but this book was awful. Garbage. Not worth reading. That the writer had lost all her spark. So had the characters.

My friend found this devastating. Then the next day it happened to me. Not a review per se, but a letter telling me how disappointed the reader had become with the Royal Spyness series. She had hated the book in Africa and then hated the most recent book, set in Cornwall. No longer fun. The Africa book upsetting with an orgy in it.

I suppose this would have upset me more if I hadn’t had so many reviews saying this year’s book, THE LAST MRS SUMMERS,  was their favorite book in the series so far. Which just goes to show you can’t please all the people all of the time.  It is a fact of life that not every book is everybody’s cup of tea. I could tell you of many books that were highly regarded that I couldn’t even finish. But I suppose the difference is that I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing to the author and telling him or her how badly he had done this time.  As my children used to say to each other, “Who died and made you God?”

I also think that Covid is partly to blame. The underlying depression and worry must influence how we feel about books that are supposed to be light hearted. Perhaps the jokes go over our heads. Perhaps they feel repugnant when we want to be miserable.  Our own mood definitely influences how we see a book or movie or play.

But even if I tell myself this, a bad review always hurts. It’s like someone staring into the pram and saying “Golly, isn’t your baby ugly.”  I can tell myself that this is just one person’s opinion. That it can’t really damage me and I can read all the glowing reviews. But it still hurts.  And it makes me wonder why readers do it. What gives them the right to write to the author telling her she’s done a terrible job? Is it because the internet gives them power and anonymity so they can say things they could never say in person?  Do they really think that I’ll read the letter or review and say “I really messed up this time. I must write a better book.”

However I’m delighted to find that bad reviews are nothing new. In fact reviewers through the ages have been scathing in their criticism.

Susan Cohen on the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo: This is easily one of the worst books I’ve ever read and remember I’ve read….”

Lucius Beebe on Benito Mussolini’s the Cardinal’’s Mistress: “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

Mark Twain on Henry James: “Once you’ve put one of his books down, you simply can’t pick it up again.”

Oscar Wilde on George Meredith: “As a writer he has mastered everything except language, as a novelist he can do everything except tell a story, as an artist he is everything except articulate.”

The Boston Globe’s review of Herman Melville (It wasn’t you, was it, Hallie?)  “The amount of utter trash in the volume is almost infinite--trash of conception, execution, dialogue and sentiment.”

And one of the most famous. Samuel Johnson: “Your book is both good and original. Unfortunately the parts that are original are not good and the parts that are good are not original.”

And my favorite:  The New Yorker on Chesapeake by James Michener. “I have two recommendations. First, don’t buy this book. Second, if you buy this book, don’t drop it on your foot.”

These were, however, professional reviewers who were paid to be witty and cutting. If a whole lot of them panned my book I would acknowledge there was something wrong with it. Actually if I got several reviews telling me the same thing annoyed them about my book I’d take heed and see if they had a valid point. 

I’ve only ever had two reviews that made me really angry. The first was a Welsh newspaper about the first Constable Evans mystery. It said I knew nothing about the workings of the North Wales police.  The reality was that before I wrote the book I went to police headquarters in Colwyn Bay and met a detective there. I asked him the question “If you found a suspicious body lying on top of Mount Snowdon, what would the procedure be?”

He frowned for a while and then said, “Mt. Snowdon, eh? Well, that’s National Park. We’d let our boys in Caernarvon handle it.”

So we drove to Caernarvon police station. The detective there frowned. Paused. Then he said, “Colwyn Bay is bigger than we are. We’d let them handle it.”

So in reality that body would still be lying on top of Mt. Snowdon.

The other very bad review was equally infuriating. A one star on Amazon for IN FARLEIGH FIELD. The writer said I knew nothing about the British upper class or how they talked and acted and I’d probably never been to Britain. Since I was born and raised there, am married to a member of the British aristocracy and spend my summers in a manor house with John’s sister and a stately home nearby with a cousin called Sir Ferrers Vyvyan this was a trifle annoying (typical British upper class understatement).  John (whose family goes back to 800 with several royal connections ) was so furious he wanted to find out who the person was and hunt them down.  We both relaxed a little when the book got seven thousand five star reviews!

Who has endured a review that really hurt?

AND my advice to fellow writers: tell yourselves IT’S JUST ONE PERSON’S OPINION. EVERYONE IS ENTITLED NOT TO FIND A BOOK APPEALING. But just don’t bloody well write and tell me about it!

116 comments:

  1. RHYS and REDS: Ouch! Yes, not every book from a favourite author will satisfy even a devoted reader but I think there are better ways for readers to provide feedback than to post a 1-star review or to send a letter/email detailing their displeasure!

    One positive goal I have held since retiring in 2016 was to post reviews for most books that I read. I joined Facebook in 2016 (I know pretty late, right) and saw how important it was to post reviews to support authors, so I started doing so on both Goodreads and Amazon.

    I was surprised how many authors read these reviews, and post comments (or likes). And I know several authors who say they NEVER read online reviews.

    On Netgalley, I hope to get my 500 REVIEWS badge this year (I am at 427 books reviewed right now), and that would be a great accomplishment in 5 years.

    To be frank, I am a TOUGH reviewer.
    I usually only give 1 or 2 books/year a 5-star review and I have NEVER given a 1-star review!

    If I like a series, I am usually a pretty loyal reader. But I have stopped reading several long-running mystery series (no names) for several reasons.

    Too many books, too little time!

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    1. wow 500 reviews Grace, that's an accomplishment! I don't really mind a tough reviewer, as long as it's fair and not an attack on the writer. I do think there's a difference.

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    2. ROBERTA: Thanks, I have learned writing these reviews over the past 5 years. I am also on ARC review teams for some authors. I am sure they are expecting more than just "Yay, I loved it!" and want us to provide some constructive criticism. I do try to provide a fair and balanced assessment and certainly want to avoid hurting the feelings of the author.

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    3. GRACE: "Wow" to your almost-500 reviews. That's commitment, I'd say. And achievement.

      LUCY/ROBERTA: I think you've hit the nail on the head with your distinction between a review of the work and an attack on the writer. And, bottom line: a review should be constructive -- for both the writer and potential readers.

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    4. I agree with the "no personal attacks" rule. Also, I think it's a little late at the ARC or post-publication review, to offer the author "you need to fix this" criticism. The reviewer is not a critique partner. The author is not going to go back and rewrite a book that's already out there. Review what's there, with the reader in mind. Be fair. Be kind. Be realistic.

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    5. GIGI: I do agree that the ARC is pretty late in the process. It would be better to give that type of input suggesting significant changes when you are a beta reader, instead of an ARC reviewer. But I have been on a few author ARC teams in which they are still asking for that level of input, so I do as they request.

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    7. GRACE, congratulations on more than 400 reviews. I finally got to more than 100 reviews on NetGalley. Agreed about constructive criticism. Be fair. Be kind.

      Diana

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    8. DIANA: Well done on writing over 100 reviews on Netgalley. It is nice to get a "100 reviews" badge for that, as well as when you reached the "200 review" milestone. But it is a LONG gap/time before you get another badge (i.e. 500 review mark). I hope to get there by this summer. I already have over 70 ARCs downloaded, I just need to read and review them in the next few months.

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  2. Perhaps it’s the feeling of anonymity generated by the Internet, but not liking a book is one thing, sending the author a vitriolic diatribe criticizing a book is quite another. It never fails to amaze me how some people feel entitled to be mean . . . .

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    1. Agreed, Joan: the internet breeds meanness because of the anonymity and distance between the poster and the recipient. Bad behaviour!

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    2. Amanda and Joan, I was thinking exactly the same last night as I read the news. I mourn civility.

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    3. Ah, but Karen, I am really angry and do not feel any kindness towards the purposefully misinformed whom I encounter on FB. This is not about reviews.

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    4. JOAN, it never fails to surprise me how mean people can be. Perhaps I am too optimistic?

      KAREN IN OHIO, I mourn civility too. I know civility still exists and I wish it would make the news more often. Katie Couric's newsletters tries to include happy news too. And our Cindy Brown has a Plenty Nice newsletter too. She writes the Ivy Meadows cozy mysteries.

      Diana

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  3. Reviewing a book is challenging, because it's a service both to the author and to other readers. I, personally, look at both the positive and negative reviews of a book before committing to it, because the negative reviews often tip me off to the things that will be major turn-offs. So my approach when I review is to try to be balanced and fair, and to present both the positive and negative, while making it clear that this is one person's opinion - especially when my opinion runs counter to the mainstream.

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    1. KERRY, I use a similar approach when writing my reviews.

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    2. KERRY, I use a similar approach when writing my reviews too. I also read the negative and positive reviews before I decide to accept a book for review because it may have a subject that I do not want to read about. I cannot read graphic violent novels.

      Diana

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  4. I love Oscar Wilde's and Mark Twain's comments, so funny. Of course, the authors receiving such reviews would no doubt disagree with me.

    I don't do negative reviews. If I don't like a book, I don't review it. These days, if I"m not liking a book, I don't read it. But, I have an advantage in that I read so many authors whose writing I love that there is no need for a negative review. My reading schedule is filled with authors' series and stand-alones that never fail to give me a good or great read. On my blog, my purpose is to share books I've enjoyed and promote those books and authors, so don't expect to see a bad review on my blog. I know that not everyone adheres to only doing positive reviews, but I also know several of my fellow and favorite bloggers that do stick to only positive. I really can't understand why someone would write an author and criticize a book. I think some people just think everyone wants to hear what they have to say.

    Of course, there have been books I've read during my reading life of many years that have disappointed me and a few, like you, Rhys, that were widely touted by the masses. And, I'm sure that I will eventually run into another book that is popular that doesn't resonate with me, but I've had a spectacular streak of great reading the last few years, and 2021 looks to be another stellar year.

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    1. Kathy,
      I think there are ways to write constructively critical reviews even when you don't personally like the book.

      For example, I have been reading Lesa Holstine's blog for over 10 years.
      Lesa's reviews are generally positive but I have noticed that she has not liked several books recently but still posts reviews about the books because she feels that other readers might still want to read the book.

      Lesa also writes professional reviews for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal as well as for the Poisoned Pen Bookstore's blog. In her case, I guess she is expected to provide the book review for her job and has to do so, regardless of whether she likes the book or not.

      But I am agree that most book bloggers that I read on a regular basis (yours, Dru's Book Musings, Kristopher's BOLO Books) provide thoughtful and usually positive reviews.

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    2. Kathy, I don't write bad reviews either, not so much because I'm all that kind but because chances are I didn't even finish the book. I've been known to return a bad book for refund even.

      Since I don't have to ability even to write any kind of book, I don't criticize. I'm not sure what constructive criticism achieves either. I've been the recipient of this several times in my life and rarely found it helpful, just mostly irritating. Can you guess I don't take to criticism well!

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  5. OMG, Rhys. I had both extremes this very week. A fan of my Quaker Midwife mysteries wrote an email saying she loved my books and thanked me for writing them. She told me they were a vacation from these painful times and good companionship with the values they bring.

    Then I happened to look at the Amazon reviews for my latest Country Store mystery, #8 in the series. It includes a young man who has converted to Islam (I consulted with Julia's Youngest about her experience doing same). The dude is also biracial and is looking for his birth mother and half sister, who works in the restaurant. A racist anti-Islam man confronts him.

    I found about four one-star reviews that hated my bringing the real world into a cozy. They said they had loved the series but would never read it again. Well! Luckily nearly 300 others loved the story.

    A few books back a chef friend of my protag brings her girlfriend and a bottle of bubbly into the store to celebrate that they could finally marry in Indiana. A one-star review on Goodreads said, "If I'd known you were going to follow the homosexual agenda, I never would have bought the book."

    All righty then. I bring the real world into my books because it's out there. And when I write reviews, I'm like Kathy. If I don't like it, I don't read it, and I certainly wouldn't leave a bad review.

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    1. EDITH, sorry you received those 1-star reviews!

      Writing an objective book review takes some effort and skill.
      Obviously, the examples you gave indicate how some reader's narrow viewpoint or prejudice affects their opinion of a book.

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    2. Ouch, Edith. Everyone is offended by something and may find one thing or another distasteful. The things that disturb one may send warm fuzzy feelings through another. I love that you include real life situations in your books. I agree with Grace about reader's prejudice. There is no cure for that.

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    3. I've definitely had that experience as well Edith--particularly readers who read mostly or only cozies like to get away from the real world. We authors don't always comply!

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    4. Thanks, all. I should have said, 300 other Amazon reviewers for that book. This series is my paycheck, it's so popular.

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    5. Edith, ouch is right! If I found myself offended by a book, I would simply stop reading and donate it to the library for their book sale. I'd probably mention it to friends/family who are readers too, but why write to the author? "Author, your book offended me. From now on, don't write anything unless you ask my opinion first." ;-)

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    6. At least nobody called you an upstart crow.

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    7. Edith I got plenty of nasty letters when I introduced Sid and Gus into my Molly books

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    8. Rhys, I bet you did! I adore those two.

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    9. EDITH, these reviews are ludicrous! I know it is not funny but I started laughing when I read "if you are going to follow ...agenda..I will stop buying your books." So ridiculous!

      Diana

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    10. RHYS, I agree with Edith. I adore these two too.

      Diana

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  6. Thanks, Kathy. I too, only do reviews of books I have really enjoyed, and would never, ever do a 1 star. Ever.

    I am pretty new to this and have posted only a few reviews. My intention is to do more of them this year.

    Rhys, I love your Her Royal Spyness series so much, not only have I read all of them, I also am listening to them on Audible. The book which you set in Africa is original, surprising and different. I especially love the stories in which Darcy has a presence. And Belinda is also a character who sparkles in every scene she's in. I loved both of those books.

    Lastly, many books that the big newspaper reviewers tell us we must read, just don't do it for me. The same with movies. Now that I am in touch with several authors, I know how hurt one can get over a poor review. So, if I do write a review, it will only be a good one.

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    1. Judy, I agree with you about the Royal Spyness books. I have really loved the last two and I adore Belinda! But I got really tickled about the reviewer criticizing the orgy scene in Love and Death Among the Cheetahs--they have obviously not been watching anything on Netflix lately!!!

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    2. Belly laugh here, Debs! Honestly, I thought that orgy scene was hysterical.

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    3. Do tell, DEBS. (grabbing a notepad and pen)

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  7. I don't do full-fledge reviews, but rather short musings and I've always said I would not post a negative thought. I don't write musings for all the books I read, however, I will do a shout-out on social media.

    Sometimes I think those one-star reviews are frustrated writers or people who are down on the world. Not every book is meant for everyone and besides if you've finished the book and yet gave it a one-star, then there must have been something you like to continue reading it.

    And I know that people read cozies, especially to escape reality, but still reality is out there.

    Sorry you guys received one-stars.

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  8. Readers who submit negative, mean and destructive reviews have delusions of grandeur and influence that are unlikely to be based in even a scrap of reality. Their motivation has nothing to do with furthering good reading or writing; it has to do with giving voice to their own frustrations with the world which they lay at the feet of the unfortunate author. Sara Paretsky will sometimes share on her writer's FB page the outrageous "feedback" that readers send her; it would be laughable if it weren't so rude and gratuitous.

    I appreciate a considered and fair review, designed to help me as a potential reader of the book, determine if it's the kind of writing and story I want to invest my time in. Too many Amazon-amateurs miss the mark entirely by being mean and horrid, and that says way more about them than it does the author or the book.

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    1. AMANDA: I agree the Amazon 1-star reviewers are being unnecessarily mean. Unfortunately, it is also hard to sometimes believe the legitimacy of all the 5-star ratings on Amazon. Some of the FB book groups I belong to indicate that a 4-star review on Amazon can cause more harm than good because of how the Amazon product-ranking algorithm works. Not sure how true that is?

      And when Amazon started removing legitimate reviews since there was a personal connection/friendship to the author, the system is flawed in more ways than one.

      That is why I prefer to read ARCs and primarily post my reviews on Netgalley. The main recipient of the review is the publisher not the general public. It is a nice bonus when I get a positive email from the publisher for my efforts.

      Some publishers request that the Netgalley ARC review to be posted on Goodreads and Amazon, and I will do so.

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    2. GRACE: That's really interesting info about reviews on Amazon. I had no idea. Also, I don't know anything much about Netgalley, so will investigate that.

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    3. AMANDA: I do like using Netgalley. I consider it a privilege have been approved to read and review so many ARCs since I am a general reader. and not a professional reviewer or librarian.

      I forgot to mention that any other reviewer of the same ARC on Netgalley can also read your (and other) posted reviews for the same title. I generally don't look at other reviews.

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  9. Rhys, I love the quotes--especially Samuel Johnson and Lucius Beebe. Oh and if you haven't read Steve Barry's review of E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey, you might enjoy it. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.

    If an author disappoints me, it depends. If something about the book sticks with me, I may give the series (or author) another try. If it's an author I read regularly, I figure chances are it's me and not the quality of the book--and I certainly will pick up their next book.

    I like reviews of my work which are constructive. I once had a reviewer tell me that he liked my writing, the story was intriguing, but--. But, the main male character was the wimpiest guy he'd ever come across. And he was right. If I looked at that character from his perspective, I could see his point. So I rewrote the story and gave my character more, well, character!

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  10. Not sure if it helps to understand why people do and say the things that they do but I believe you are absolutely correct in thinking that the anonymity of the internet promotes such negativity. And other things in the past 4 years have led many to think that it's okay to be rude, disgusting, and hurtful in saying whatever we feel like. Perhaps it makes the complainer feel bigger. Bullying is what it is and I am sorry that it has affected my favorite authors who write such wonderful books.

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    1. It's not just the last four years, Judi. But it's gotten exponentially worse in that time.

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    2. JUDI AND KAREN: I agree this negative bullying behaviour has gotten much worse lately. That is why I had to take a social media detox and step away from FB and other on-line content for a few months last year.

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    3. GRACE: I noticed your absence here and wondered where you had gone. Now I know. So understandable!

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    4. AMANDA: Yes, too much toxic content online and I had to step away for my mental health!

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  11. So sorry about the one-star reviews. Having read all four books (Rhys's and Edith's) I can only wonder what they were thinking! When Amazon went though it's quirk of removing reviews written by authors I stopped reviewing. It may be time to get back to it now.

    I don't think I have ever left a one-star review. In fact, when I was reviewing, I never went below three stars. Reading preferences are subjective. What I hate, often others love - and I can point to NYT Bestseller banners to prove that. If a book is seriously flawed or distasteful, I won't have gotten far enough into it to do a fair review. Instead of exercising my pen, I exercise my dollar and simply do not buy another book by that author. Although I admit that I do allow second chances.

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  12. I review every book I read on Goodreads and Amazon, and I only mention the positives. If I give up on a book and throw it across the room, I don't review it. What's the point?

    Critiques on my debut have ranged from "I loved your MC and can't wait to read the finished book" to "you can't write, your MC is an idiot, why am I reading this?"

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  13. Rhys, I love your Royal Spyness Series, and Love and Death Among the Cheetahs is one of my favorites!

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    1. Some people are offended by the behavior of white settlers and demeaning Africans but I had to tell the truth!

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  14. Rhys and all the Reds, I have often thought of how much I admire all of you for putting yourselves and your work "out there". I have read some if not all of each of the Reds' books. Some are more to my liking than others but I would never presume to denigrate any of them. You all have good editors and good grammar which are criteria for me so if the subject matter or the protagonists are not to my liking, that's on me not the author. Having a platform can go to one's head sometimes. When I look at one star reviews, I always wonder who died and made them God.

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  15. Oh, don’t get me started. Three quick thoughts. One, I know One should never ever respond to a review, but I have done it twice. Once, before the publication of… I think it was the murder list, someone posted a review saying:
    I just read the paper back version of the murder list, and it was so full of typos and errors that I will never buy another Hank Phillippi Ryan book again. One star.
    So I actually put in the comments: I’m so sorry fhat the typos annoyed you, but there is no paper back of the murder list. I’m sure you know you are reading an advance reader copy, which says on the cover “uncorrected proof,” which means this has not even been to the copy editor or proofreader yet! As you know, those books are meant only for experienced reviewers , who understand the step state of publication that an advance copy is in. Be
    assured, when the real version comes out, the one that is meant for the general public, none of those typos will remain.
    She took the review down.

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    1. HANK: Yes, I would imagine it would have to be a pretty bad review for you to comment back. But good for you, and I am sure that was satisfying.

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    2. HANK, if I ever see typos in an advanced copy, I would try to contact the author / publisher in a private message.

      Diana

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  16. Number two: I also wrote an email to a person who wrote a review of The Murder List on his blog. I found out about it from a Google alert where the headline said something like: local author writes gripping thriller, but makes a mistake.
    I thought what what what? Mistake? So I read the review, which was generally hugely enthusiastic, and at the very bottom, in the middle of the second to last paragraph, he says there is an error in Boston geography. He says in the review, it’s a tiny little thing, but that it bothered him.
    This drove me crazy. Not just because of the unfair headline, but because… When I looked for the error in the manuscript, he was wrong. Wrong!
    So I wrote to him and said could you please tell me what the error is specifically, because when I go through my manuscript to find it, I cannot find what you are referring to. And I will happily change it in the e-book if you just show me where it is.
    Turns out, he was wrong.

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  18. And my third thing, and forgive me for going on. I can’t understand why someone would put up a bad review. What is the point of that? But fine, people do it. But please do not tag me on Twitter to tell me you have done this.
    How do you mean me to feel about that?
    Tagging the author is like saying ha ha, I am going to make you unhappy, because I can.
    I truly don’t understand this.
    Authors are real people with real emotions, and I can’t understand why someone would actively make someone unhappy.
    We are adults, and we understand peoples differing opinions, and welcome that.
    I understand if someone doesn’t like my book, I don’t like some books myself. But I would not tweet to them: ha ha I hated your book. I would never do that.
    Or even: I’m really sorry but I hated your book. The fact that you are sorry does not make it any better.

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    1. HANK: tagging you on Twitter, wow, that is just so wrong!
      XOXO

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    2. As Karen said earlier, etiquette is long gone from online communication. And I would add simple protocols of decency evaporate with the anonymity and speed of online posting. 'Twould be so different if the person had to write out their review/complaint on velum paper, with a fountain pen, and then find a stamp and envelope and the address of the person to send it to. Ha! Wouldn't happen.

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    3. And with a return address, Amanda!

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    4. HANK, tagging you on twitter - that's so WRONG!

      xoxo

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    5. Right, KAREN: a return address. Ha! That definitely would nix the enthusiasm, wouldn't it!?

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  19. Oops. I told you not to get me started :-)

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  20. OK, hold the phone...pardon me for harkening back to when I was a hormonal teenage boy but someone complained about a book with an orgy in it? FOR SHAME! :D LOL

    I've been writing online since 2005. In that time, I've written for a few different dotcoms like SimplyJD, Electricbasement, Rock Is Life and Pop-topia. Those sites are all gone now and currently I write for KNAC.COM, Limelight Magazine and of course the one that actually pays me: Mystery Scene magazine.

    In that time, I'd like to think my ability to review has gotten better along the way. I don't have any idea what the actual number of reviews of albums, TV episodes, movies, concerts, concert DVDs and books I've written but I figure it has to be around that 500 mark at least that Grace mentioned.

    I know that while I do write negative reviews if that's how I feel about something, I try to be constructive about it. There's no need to be an a**hole about things.

    I've received a number of positive feedbacks from the subjects of my reviews including one that led to a months long email correspondence with one artist (now sadly deceased) who once played with Ozzy Osbourne. And just recently, my 2020 book list had three different authors offering to add me to their ARC list over what I wrote about their most recent offerings.

    At times, I've passed on reviewing something because it was just so awful or boring that I either regretted finishing the thing or stopped before I stabbed my eyeballs out to end the horror I was inflicting upon them by continuing. I've passed on reviewing books and concerts in particular.

    Now for those who don't do negative reviews, this must be horrifying to read. But those who know me even a little know that I'm always honest, bluntly so if necessary. So if I like something, I'm not just shining someone on for effect or benefit. I will go out of my way to promote just how much I liked it. But in the same respect, I feel it only fair if I don't like something to say so, say why I feel that way and then move on with my day. And I certainly don't write to the creator of the content I don't like to rain on their parade.

    That said, I still have to say that the greatest feedback I've ever gotten on one of my reviews was when I wrote a middling review of a DVD put out by the band Pain of Salvation. I liked some stuff and said so. But there was some stuff I didn't like and said that too. The band leader saw the review and sent feedback that said I must be a stupid, unintelligent American to essentially not like everything about what his band had done for that DVD. And keep in mind, that was a middling review. HA!

    And now I'm off to go by the Rhys book with the orgy in it...JUST KIDDING, the property tax bill is due, so funds went to that this week. Maybe I should give that bill a one star review?

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    2. One small correction, I should say that I don't think I've ever purposely contacted someone I gave a less than glowing review. I know that I take great pains to not do that the last few years but I can't say when I was a rookie starting out that I didn't make that kind of boneheaded move. I hope I didn't but I'd hate to find out I did.

      Oh and I have never assumed that anyone really particularly cares about what I have to say in the first place so I don't get any kind of stroked ego over the fact I managed to accomplish the act of writing a review in the first place.

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    3. JAY: I love your brutal, honest frankness here and in your reviews. I do read Mystery Scene magazine.

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    4. JAY: Bluntness does not equate to meanness, in my books, anyway. Being clear and straightforward with an opinion, without stooping to being mean, is an art that not everyone is able to execute. I always enjoy your comments on this blog for their honesty.

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    5. Jay, you are in a very different class from me. You review hundreds of concerts, albums, books, etc. I have only reviewed a handful of books and there isn't anyone waiting for my pearls of wisdom. So, I do get to only review the books I love and no one is missing my opinion of the books I thought were just okay.

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    6. Grace, thanks for reading Mystery Scene! Get your friends to do the same so I can make sure to stay "employed", willya? :D

      Amanda, you are correct. Blunt doesn't, and shouldn't, mean being mean-spirited.

      Judy, I don't think of myself in a different class than anybody else. I have just done this longer than others is all.

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  21. My late husband, science fiction author Warren C. Norwood, was at a fan convention once when a reader harangued him for several minutes about how terrible his current book was. Warren finally stopped him and offered to refund the cover price. The reader looked shocked. "Oh, no! I loved the book! Could you autograph it for me, please?"

    Some people can't say a positive word if you pay them. Some people just want to rant. Some people think the whole world should stop being the whole world and conform to their narrow view of things. Some people think they could be you better than you can, and are consumed with jealousy that you get to go out and be yourself without consulting them. Those people need to get a life.

    I don't review often, and generally adhere to the "if you can't say something nice" rule. I have only given one one-star review and that was a special case. The book presented itself as a humorous small-town cozy, but included acts that would amount to felony-level abuse of a dog, then let the perpetrator get off without meaningful punishment. I knew some of my dog rescue friends would be traumatized if they read the book, so I gave it a one-star rating with a trigger warning.

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    1. Gigi, a couple of times I’ve answered a critical letter I’ve received a gushing apology!

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    2. I think that is SO important--because in that moment, the reviewer understood they were talking about a real person. That there was a human being on the other end. Which makes SUCH a difference.

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    3. It think it's important, too. Especially in this Internet age, people think their words go out and never hit a human target.

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    4. GIGI, your story reminded me a bit of what happened at ? Book Expo ? several years ago. An actor from Star Trek the Next Generation is married to an author. The author was harassed at the book conference by someone referring to her being married to a celebrity.

      Diana

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    5. Science Fiction readers can be super picky about all kinds of odd stuff but then, I suppose anyone can. I read a review of the new David Copperfield movie that rated it at one star simply because the actor who played Uriah Heep (Ben Wishaw) didn't have red hair. It takes all kinds.

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  22. I didn't write reviews before because I don't use them before choosing a book.
    I try to write more reviews since Julia wrote here how important it was for authors. I only write on the books I loved.
    When I don't like a book , I don't finish it. It wouldn't be right to review something I didn't read and I don't understand why people do it anyway.
    A relationship with a book is so personal and differs from someone else. How a book is perceived is not the author's fault.

    I personally would feel insulted on the behalf of a favourite author (like Rhys or Edith) reading so outrageous reviews as the ones mentioned above.

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    1. DANIELLE-MOMO, I prefer to write reviews of books that I loved too.

      Diana

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  23. I only write brief reviews on Goodreads, and I generally try to make them useful to others who might be considering reading the book. I have never given a one-star review because I can't imagine sticking around to finish a book I liked that little. I have given just 15 two-star ratings over many years of reading. (In general, those usually were books I felt were misrepresented.)

    I have sometimes wished there was a way to compare notes with reading friends on books I've disliked. I mean, I don't want to post negative reviews and poison the water for those who might like the book, but sometimes I'd love to be able to say, "I was so disappointed. I feel like this writer doesn't like the protagonist any more" (or has lost her voice, or has become preachy, or whatever is causing me discomfort) and seek the thoughts of others. But I don't know of a way to do this without publishing it in a way that has essentially the same impact as a one-star review.

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    1. SUSAN: One way I found to share/compare notes about the latest book is on member-only FB groups. For example, there are several FB groups for cozy mystery or thrillers, or a fan club for a specific author. They are private groups so only members can post and see these comments. There are plenty of lively discussions in a safe environment.

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  24. Chesapeake is, indeed, a weighty tome! That review cracked me up. I used to say that every Michener book has to begin at the first atom of the earth, for some reason.

    Rudeness and downright cruelty seem to be the order of the day, doesn't it? I blame Jerry Springer. He made it acceptable to say whatever comes to mind, no filter, and for others to cheer it on.

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    1. Speaking of Michener, how is it that I can't read the book Centennial but I can watch the TV miniseries they made for it all the time?

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    2. Probably because the actors playing all those same-named characters at least look different on the screen. Michener had a ridiculous habit of confusing the reader with his generational naming. Didn't you find that to be the case? Both Centennial and Alaska had that humongous flaw.

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    3. KAREN IN OHIO, I loved the Michener books. These books helped me navigate my history classes in high school.

      Diana

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  25. Writing is hard; it takes discipline and talent. I studied reviewing in Library School, and I am fairly sure the professor used the old saying "Opinions are like (censored part of anatomy) everyone has at least one of them. Your job is to be objective" with your opinions.

    I just looked at my reviewing statistics on Goodreads. In the last 2 years I reviewed a little under 300 books. Only two books got 2 stars, and no one got 1 star. I feel if a book is good enough to be published, it should earn at least one star. I think ARC reviewing is very important, and feel very honored when a publisher or an author trusts me with their new offering. In the last 2 years, I turned down one author. Like Gigi, I found some content that I found objectionable -- getting a woman drunk was used for a comedy scene. I try to be aware of my biases and mention them when reviewing.

    I like to snark occasionally, but try to save that side for my friends on a social network.
    When I do receive a review copy from someone I know, my first thought always is "What if I don't like this book?" The answer is simple. If the author is a best seller, the problem is me not them.
    I do get irritated with glaring errors, for example, yesterday I emailed someone to correct them saying "It is Winnie the Pooh, not Winnie the Poo. I think I was gentle.

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    1. Oh NOOOOOO ....that's an importaat correction. And a baffling mistake.

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    2. Unless they meant to be funny! Ack!

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    3. It was a self pub. I guess they didn't think they needed a copy editor.

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    4. Coinciding with the Winnie the Pooh, I tend to get my hackles raised when people talk about Spiderman when it is Spider-Man. (Hi, I'm Jay and I have issues. LOL)

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  26. If I cannot give a review of 3 or better (out of 5), I do not post a review. My theory is that it may well be me, and not the book.

    I had a book I was supposed to review and finally wrote to the publisher to explain that upon starting the story I realized I should not have agreed to review it because the basic storyline was something I am just not interested in, no matter how well it might be written.

    A friend wrote a really clever black Irish humor book (I'll tell you more if you are interested, but I won't use this as a promo space) and got a one star review where the person raged on about how terrible the book was. She "wouldn't read it to her dog." She also mentioned that she had not chosen the book, but had been given it. That is a person who should not have written a review and, perhaps, should have spoken to the friend instead.

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    1. LIBBY, I agree. Someone may love a novel that I do not like /love. There is always a book for everyone.

      Diana

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  27. I am baffled by mean spirited book reviews, from professionals and readers alike. Now I love an honest product review, warts and all, but then the product is supposed to do certain things and if the consumer finds them lacking or over the top wonderful I certainly want to hear about it if I'm thinking about buying said product. How one reacts to books is personal but I really don't give a hoot if a reviewer hates a book because it had a cat in it and she's allergic to cats. So what? Truly there are many interesting honest reviews out there but there are also a lot of reviews that are about the particular reader, not the book. I feel posting reviews like those is narcissistic and a waste of my time.
    I write some reviews on NetGalley, etc. but it is a chore for me. I think it is an honest exchange for getting to read a book pre-publication. It is rare that I cannot finish a book because I'm pretty picky about what I read. If I can't finish or my overall feeling upon finishing is "meh" I don't review. I hate rating books; that is so subjective. My reviewed books are usually 4 stars, sometimes 5 stars. I rarely give a 3 but I have, along with the reasons why I enjoyed it but dropped the star count. And my reason was the same as other reviewers so I didn't feel too bad. So this reviewing situation is a real quandary to me. I'd be so much happier if I could just read and enjoy it, but authors want or need reviews whether they read them or not.

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    1. PAT D, well said. This reviewing situation can be a real quandary for me, especially when it is the subject.

      A wise friend, who is also an author, said that she NEVER reads a book about children getting hurt because she used to work with vulnerable children. She was reading a new novel where that happened and she had to stop reading the book.

      Perhaps I could make it clear that I will NOT read violent or misogynistic books.

      Diana

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  28. Good morning! I made it before 10 a.m. California time.

    Agree with Libby Dodd. If I cannot give a review of 3 or better, it may be me, and not the book.

    Rhys, this is so well said. No one can please everyone. I was reminded of a conversation that I had with Gavin Newsom and Jen Siebel Newsom when GN was running for re-election as Mayor of SF. I said that It is not possible to please everyone. Just do the best you can.

    Rhys, I LOVE your novels. All of them, even the stand alone novels. The Constable Evsns novels reminded me of my visit to Wales. Her Royal Spyness is another favorite. Regarding that one star review on Amazon, I NEVER review on Amazon despite many authors asking me to please review on Amazon.

    How did your husband's family survive the 1066 conquest by William the Conqueror? 800 is before 1066, right? I am impressed.

    As a reviewer for NetGalley, which means that I get advanced DIGITAL copies, I read many wonderful novels. Once in a while, someone from a publisher will contact me asking me to review a book. I am sorry to say that there was one novel that I found to be too violent and I could not finish it. This was really hard for me because the author worked very hard to write this novel and I was trying to find something good to say about the novel. It was from a new to me author and this author has NEVER been a guest here on Jungle Reds.

    Again, I am so sorry about these rotten reviews. My philosophy is these rotten reviewers are always looking for something to nitpick on.

    My reaction, instead of writing rotten reviews, is to NOT finish the novel or if I finished the book is to TRY to find one good thing to say about the book Or NOT write a review at all.

    As a reader, I want to enjoy reading. Keep in mind that IF I do not like or love that book, there is ALWAYS someone else who would love the book.

    Please keep on writing your wonderful novels,

    Diana

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    1. Diana, I am sometimes asked to blurb books that turn me off because of violence. I send them back saying I couldn’t recommend something that would upset my followers

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    2. Rhys, thank you. I really appreciate that because I have discovered new novels by new to me authors when I read your blurbs.

      Diana

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  29. Rhys, those review quotes are a hoot! Thanks for starting our day with a good chuckle. I would never give a book a one-star review! I do think there is such license these days for ugliness and incivility on the Internet, and that people would never dare say those things to an author's face. At least I hope not!

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  30. I review every book I read, and only a handful of times have I not finished a book. (If I don't finish a book, I don't review it. There are times when a book improves, so I won't review something I can't fully judge.)

    That means I do write negative reviews. I certainly understand why others choose not to do that, but the purpose of reviews is to guide readers to good books. It isn't to help authors. Authors are the secondary audience.

    Having said that, when I started writing reviews at Amazon 20 years ago, I did it to help readers find the authors I love. That way, these authors will have long careers and I'll have lots of books by them to read. You see, it is all about me. :)

    Over the years, I have written some negative reviews I'm not proud of now. Fortunately, those are buried in the Amazon archives at this point. Now, I try to point out why something bothered me/why I didn't love it as much as I thought I would. And, if I don't enjoy an author, I don't continue reading them. Yes, sometimes the "problem" with a book is me. I get it. I try to judge if that is the case as I read the book and write my review. If that is the case, I try to be honest about that in the review.

    Writing a good negative review is hard - harder than writing a positive review. (Although I often feel like I'm saying the same thing over and over again when I write positive reviews.) Honestly, however, if a book has nothing but praise, I begin to question whether it is really as good as others say it is.

    Of course, many of the negative reviews on Amazon make me roll my eyes. And even if I had an issue with the same thing, I will often roll my eyes at how those reviews are written.

    One thing I don't do is tag authors when I write a negative review. I will tag them for 5 or 4 star reviews, but anything else I don't tag them on. I post versions everywhere, so I'm sure they see them eventually, but I don't like to rub it in their faces.

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    1. Mark, I'm with you on the notion that writing a good negative review is harder than writing a positive review. A couple of the ones I wrote for Mystery Scene didn't get used when they were negative. Not because of the bad review itself but they prefer to highlight the positives. But I've had a couple of negative reviews published as well.

      It's definitely a challenge to whatever skill a writer might have to make a worthwhile critical review of a book that just didn't work for them.

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    2. Mark, I respect that your reviews always are clear about which aspects of a book you don't like, if any, and do not attack the author. You declined to review one of my books because of your personal views, and I respect that, too.

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  31. I don't read reviews. I did in the beginning but then I thought why? It's not like I'm going to rewrite the book. Also, if you believe the five stars you have to believe the one stars and I'd rather not. LOL. Lastly, there are enough voices in my head at the moment, I simply can't let anymore in.

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    1. The classical conductor, Andrew Litton, says exactly the same thing, Jenn. If you believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones, too. He doesn't read any of them. Although, once, when he conducted the New York Philharmonic, the NYT reviewer just panned him. When friends brought him the reviews, he just shrugged if off saying, "He must have gone to a different concert, because the audience and I had a great time that night."

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  32. I love The Royal Spyness books and have recommended them to many friends. As with any series, I have my favorites, and not so favorites, but would never leave a negative review. I have left one star reviews... they usually are something like,” loved the story, characters,etc & book had a great ending. Please get a new editor...the spelling and grammar mistakes made the book difficult to read.” I think nowadays authors who self-publish perhaps don’t understand the role of an editor & copy editor. There are many books out there that have real potential, but I’ve stopped reading partway through because they are so badly edited, if they are edited at all. I also rarely contact authors, but will if I find a really obvious error in a book....one of my favorite authors recently said in her book that the wrong March sister was the eldest when discussing Little Women. Another author had a character putting mascara on her lips.... I’m not a writer, and will never be one, but hope these authors know I’m not criticizing, just pointing the errors out so maybe they can be corrected in later editions.

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  33. I only review books that I really loved. I know how it feels to get great reviews (wheee!) and I want to give that feeling to other authors.

    If several reviewers object to the same thing in one of my stories, I'll ponder it and consider avoiding whatever it was in the future -- just as I did back in the day when I was entering contests for unpublished writers. It was encouraging to get high scores, but often more helpful to find out where I had fallen short.

    Sometimes a mistaken review makes up for a one star -- such as when I got a five star review that was really meant for the shipper. Or for a book by another author. I hope that other author, whoever she was, got a five star review for mine. :)

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