Let’s Talk About Book Reviews

I read and review a lot of books. I’m talking about around 150 reviews last year alone. If the review is positive, many are published Readers’ Favorite. Others, I do for friends and acquaintances. It is my way of giving back to the community, plus I would be reading anyway, so why not?

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of writers want to debate my findings. I’ve had others who wished I was a little harder on them. Most are just grateful they could find someone who would give them honest feedback. Lately, though, I’ve been soured on the process. Kind of like a bushel of apples, one or two bad ones have rotted the entire batch for me. I know that it shouldn’t, and I have been trying to push through, but right now, I would rather give a book no review than have one more ungrateful writer who thinks her book should be required reading for the entire planet tell me what I should have said.

While not the only incident, the latest came from a writer who was given a 4 out of 5 rating. For the purpose of the review, I found her book entertaining with good pacing and engaging characters, and since I did not find it perfect, I mentioned the book needed a good edit—by far its greatest flaw.

Issues such as no ending punctuation, weird line breaks, missing words, wrong words, missing quotation marks, dialogue from more than one character included in the same paragraph littered it. And the errors were thick enough to frustrate me that the author had such a decent story but had tied it up with a crapping boat load of limp ribbon. That said, the story itself was still entertaining enough to rate well. I pride myself for playing fair and realizing no one is perfect.

The author came back with a request that I reread the book and take into consideration that the main character is a teenager and what I was considering flaws were just her strong character coming through on the pages.

I call bullshit.

Since when does narrative punctuation errors and missing words, even in a first person story, reflect a character’s personality? I know teenagers who would take it as a slap in the face to be portrayed as that careless.

How many readers out there do you know who would be willing to reread a book to grasp this imagined ‘strong character’ flowing through flawed pages? Even if it were a great book, most will only read it once.

The Readers’ Favorite people decided to cut that bit out of the review citing I was not to mention grammar in a review even though it is part of the criteria I am to use in determining a rating. That is fine. It is their website. I was told to either not score another book highly if it contained grammar problems or to just mention it in the notes to the author. Fine. I can do that when I review for them.

Here is the kicker. Then the author wanted me to use my personal accounts to publish the altered review to another website. I refused and ended up in another discussion with the RF people. And I felt that took a lot of gall on the part of the author. She fought to have my words changed, then expected me to help her promote her book. Wow!

All of this hassle for a 250-word review that was overall quite positive.

Since when do authors feel they have the right to debate a review?

Another author was given a good review and did not like that I recommended her book based on the historical references rather than the entertainment value and wanted a rewrite.

Really? It was because of the historical references that I felt her work was elevated enough to give her a positive review.

The list goes on.

How can I ethically review any book if I am open to the author making special requests as to the content of that review?

I always understood an author should take whatever review they receive graciously and strive to do better with the next book. Am I mistaken or are some people so unrealistic or hungry for success that courtesy goes out the window?

How I dearly want to start a list of authors who have treated me as a reviewer that way. Yeah, I know that is a little vindictive, but at the moment, that is how I feel.

Has anyone else experienced this?


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