At the risk of piquing ire, today’s topic is book reviewing—not as an author who receives reviews but as a reader who gives them. Specifically, informal reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.
If you were to scan the reviews I’ve given, you’d probably conclude I’m an easy grader.
Why I’m Easy
Part of my leniency stems from: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” But the bigger part is, I’m easily entertained. If that makes me a dullard, so be it.
A few misspelled words or passages of odd formatting don’t bother me. In fact, I found typos in three best-sellers I recently read:
– Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
– Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (though if anybody asks, I’ll deny I’ve read the series…)
– W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton
If typos plague bigwig authors with bigwig publishers, they can plague anyone.
Of course, I want the material to be well-written, but if the story captivates me, I corral my internal editor and overlook the occasional mistake.
Therefore, my reviews reflect my happy-to-be-entertained, dullard self. Four- and five-star reviews are my norm. Three stars appear from time to time. A two-star? I’ve only left one. As for one-star reviews? Never gonna happen.
Because if I think a book deserves one or two stars, I won’t finish it. Life is too short. My single two-star review was for a book-club selection I felt obligated to complete, even though its overabundance of childbirth and menstrual blood made me want to pluck out my eyeballs and barf. In the author’s defense, life as a woman circa 1700 B.C.E. probably included little but childbirth and menstrual blood.
Below, I’ve included the various star definitions of the three big sites. I tend to be a tougher grader on Goodreads. After all, not everything I read can be “amazing.”
* I hate it
* * I don’t like it
* * * It’s okay
* * * * I like it
* * * * * I love it
* Did not like it
* * It was ok
* * * I liked it
* * * * Really liked it
* * * * * It was amazing
* * Below average
* * * Good
* * * * Very good
* * * * * Exceptional
Indies Vs. Traditional
Do I grade independently published books more kindly than traditionally published novels? Probably. Many of these Indies were written by authors I follow on social media, and I won’t insult your intelligence by saying that doesn’t factor in. But another reason is this: getting reviews as an independent author is tough. Plus, they don’t have the editorial staff the bigwigs enjoy. Most of that painstaking editing was done on their own.
I don’t review every book I read. Some genres don’t capture me, or perhaps the subject matter is too uncomfortable (think sexual violence). But rather than leave the author with a bad review—a review that would reflect my aversion rather than the book’s quality—I feel silence is best.
I also won’t denigrate the author, not even the bigwigs. Whether they have thousands of reviews or not, there is still a human being behind that book.
Nor will I pen a writing critique as if I could somehow do better. One, I probably couldn’t, and two, such arrogance would make me Frasier Crane.
So yes, I’m an easy grader. Entertain me, and I’m happy.
What about you? Do you take no prisoners in your reviews or are you chill? As my kids say, “It’s all good, Bro.”
Addendum (11/18/13 12:11 pm):
I thought I should add that just because I don’t leave one- and two-star reviews doesn’t mean I don’t think anyone should. Negative reviews can be helpful to prospective book buyers, as long as they’re not purposefully cruel. I’m just not the sort who can leave them. Perhaps that makes me a wimp…