Wednesday, July 3, 2019

When an Author Writes a Review

I was recently given several books to read/review, and was especially excited that these "random" books fell in my wheelhouse of favorite genres. I read the first book and was very excited for the opportunity, giving it high marks.

Then I read the second one. And another one. And another one. And my enthusiasm waned.

As an author, I want to get lost in the story. I don't want to get pulled out by odd phrasing or typos or "let's stop and describe everything I see before we jump into the action." Stopping to describe something does exactly that. It stops me from reading. Authors need to sneak that stuff in unobtrusively. Also, as an author, I tend to see things your average reader might not.

Hand in front of face, eyes closed, deep breath. Forget everything I know and enjoy the story. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

I recently read a period piece, something set in a foreign country where the characters use a ton of dialect, and I found it very distracting. You know who did that well? Diana Gabaldon. We heard Jaime's Scots dialect, but not everything he said was mired in Gaelic accent. I, myself, struggled with writing that very thing in my first book, Touched By The Sun, set it in Italy. As I go back to read it now, 20 years later, I roll my eyes at the goofy dialect, too (and I did try to correct some of that when I re-released it on its tenth birthday).

When asked to write a review, I try to focus on what an author does well and turn off my inner editor. I go back to check other reviews of the book to see what I missed or if I'm in the minority. As an example, I read a book several years ago about a woman's journey after she discovers her husband is cheating on her and her return to independence after being a wife and mother for twenty years. I thought the book was awful, unrealistic, overdetailed, lots of "bad" things. In short, I hated it pretty much from cover to cover. Aside from that, she used exclamation points so often you had the impression everything in the book was meant to make you gasp. I went back to read the reviews, and there were people who absolutely loved it. Lots of them. On the flip side, many readers saw the same flaws I did.

At the end of the day, reading is subjective, whether your eye is overly critical, as mine can be as an author, or if I am reading it without my inner editor. I've read some very successful novels that didn't resonate with me, and in those instances I will only review the parts I liked, or not review the book at all. Where there are clear points I can make that might help the author, I will add those, because we all grow and learn from our mistakes, but where it might just be me... I'm a minority of one. I can keep my "I didn't like this book" opinion to myself.


  1. I simply avoid leaving reviews most of the time, because I'd be too "authorly honest" and I have this other problem with "if people only leave positive reviews for books they've liked, won't that mislead readers hunting for good books?" Granted, those books might have fewer reviews, but many people only glance at the star average at the top.
    (Or maybe I'm just lazy.)

    1. I actually read reviews - if I didn't like it I'll purposely sort on the bad reviews to see if they are in line with my thinking. If I did like it (or I'm considering buying it) I'll read them as they are posted, generally not going past the first page of reviews (assuming there are several).