Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC – How To Write A Review For A Book That You Didn’t Like

Alison joins us today to talk about reviewing a book that you didn’t enjoy.

As part of Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC, we continue our week of advice posts. See the link at the bottom of the page for details of the challenge and where you can sign up for a free book in exchange for a review.

Honest but fair – how to review a book you didn’t like

If you read books and write reviews, the chances are that you’re going to eventually be faced with writing a review for a book that you didn’t like. So what do you do?

Before you write and post that review, consider the following:

What didn’t you like? Be specific – was it the story itself? The characterisation? The plot? The pace?

Once you’ve nailed that down, ask yourself why you didn’t like that particular aspect or aspects. Was the plot too complicated? Were there plot holes? Were the characters not believable enough? Did they act without a reasonable motivation?

Now you have a clear idea of what you didn’t like, be honest with yourself. Was your dislike because there was an actual issue with the book itself or was it more to do with personal preference?

If it’s the former, then you need to decide if you’re going to review or not. Some readers and reviewers don’t like to leave a review if they can’t give a certain number of stars, for example, or can’t think of anything nice to say at all. You are under no obligation to review and you are not an author’s editor, beta reader, or critique partner. If you have been gifted a book in exchange for a review, then make clear before you even agree to take on a book that your review will be honest or that you will not review if you can’t award more than a certain star rating.

My personal opinion is that if someone has written a book, published it, and expects people to pay money for it, and there are fundamental issues, such as bad writing, grammatical mistakes, typos etc. then there is nothing wrong with leaving a negative review. If you decide to do this, then make sure that you aren’t rude or insulting, just say exactly what was wrong. For example:

‘The characters didn’t behave in a consistent way.’

‘The plot didn’t make sense.’

‘The novel needs a thorough proofread.’

Give examples if you can – they don’t need to be long or incredibly detailed, just give a flavour of what the issue is.

And if there was anything at all that you did like, however small, do try to mention this. So you could say that the main character was relatable, but unfortunately, they didn’t always behave in a consistent way. Or that while the settings were beautifully described, this description sometimes got in the way of the story. Or you loved the storyline, but that there were a few too many typos.

If there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the book, but you just didn’t like the content, then you need to handle this in a different way, in order to be fair to the author. If the characters swear, for example, and you don’t like swearing, then that isn’t a reason to review negatively – it just means that the book wasn’t for you. If there’s lots of sex, and you like ‘clean’ romance, then again, it just means the book isn’t for you. The same applies to violence, horror, the supernatural.

I would suggest that, in these circumstances, you either don’t review, or you try not to let those personal opinions cloud your judgement.

For example, when I finally read ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ by Hubert Selby Jr., I was faced with this dilemma. Reading it was, without doubt, uncomfortable, and unpleasant. I hated reading it, to be honest. But I can’t deny that it is absolutely a work of art. So despite the fact that I didn’t enjoy it, I can’t criticise it for the skill of the writing, or the talent that lies behind it. It deserves a fabulous review (okay, I did knock off half a star!).

So the key thing here is that you need to be objective. Yes, say that something made you uncomfortable, say there is a lot of sex, or swearing or violence, or whatever it was that you didn’t like, but also make it clear that this is a personal opinion and that even though the book wasn’t for you, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, or that someone else might not love it.

Remember how important reviews are for authors, but also remember that the review isn’t for the author, it is for any potential reader who wants to know what they’re going to get for their money, and if a book is worth that money or the reader’s time. So do be honest, but do be fair.

If you’d like to read more about Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC click here

Tomorrow John will be writing about why book reviews are so important to authors.

Book Review Challenge Series – The Importance Of Book Reviews By Terry Tyler

Day 3

Today our guest is fabulous author Terry Tyler. I’ve challenged Terry to talk about the importance of book reviews as an author. Plus we’ll look at Goodreads and should you write a Bad Book Review?


Over to you Terry.

1)      How important are book reviews for an author?

 Hugely, massively! The more the better. Doesn’t even matter if some aren’t that complimentary; they show potential readers that the book has provoked interest sufficient for people to want to write about it. It doesn’t matter if some of the reviews are only a couple of lines long, either.

 2) What are the top sites for book reviews?

I’m sorry, I don’t know! I only know about the few on which I’ve appeared regularly, which, apart from yours, are A Woman’s Wisdom, Once Upon A Book Blog, Jera’s Jamboree, Me My Books and I, Kerry’s Reviews Blog, A Lover Of Books, Murry Reviews and Interviews and Claire Loves To Read – and a few others…


3)      Many authors have their books and an author platform on Goodreads. Why do you think it’s a good place?

 Because for some book lovers it’s their main social networking site; some review only on Goodreads, not on Amazon. Whereas other social networking sites are populated by people with varied interests, you know that anyone on Goodreads who isn’t an author promoting is an avid reader! I’ve ‘met’ a few of my regular readers on there.

 4) What else does Goodreads provide for readers that you are part of? (ie Groups, Reading challenge, giveaways)

I know there are a lot of these sort of things but I don’t have time to get involved with them. I do always fill in my ‘currently reading’ bit, and review a book as soon as I’ve finished it, but I’m not as active on the site as I might be. I like to produce at least 2 titles a year, so my time for reading based activities is limited. I have heard it said, though, that the supposed author/reader groups are often just taken over by writers plugging their books, with no discussion.

5) With the KDP self-publishing platform on Amazon, plus its world-wide buying power, this makes it a top site for books. Do people still need to post book reviews on Amazon or will discounted prices keep books selling?

Amazon is the most important place for people to post them. I can’t underline too much how important they are, especially for the independently published author. Amazon is the place where most people buy books from; that’s where the reviews need to be seen, as well as on book blogs and Goodreads.


6) What would you like to see in a review of any book?

Reasons why the reviewer did or didn’t like it. It doesn’t have to be a clever literary critique, just their opinion, and in their own words, not using all the review clichés; ie, please don’t tell me that a book has ‘flawed characters’. If I’ve read that once….! Everyone has a flawed character! Most of all, a review should be honest. I’ve been caught in the past, buying books that sound from all the reviews that they’re going to be excellent, only to find them full of wooden dialogue and grammatical errors.

 7) Have you ever paid for book reviews? Are they considered “Professional” and important?

I wouldn’t dream of it. I don’t know how they’re considered by other people, but I’d say that if the only way you can get reviews is to pay for them, then maybe you ought to re-consider your book, or your approach to marketing. I believe there are sites when you can pay for 5* reviews. Awful! Recently, someone approached me on Facebook, saying that if I sent him review copies of my books he would write me 5* reviews for them. I asked him how he could say that, when he hadn’t even read them, and blocked him.

8) What’s the best way to deal with a review from someone who didn’t like your book?

Do nothing. People are entitled to their opinion, and also to express it.

9) Do you think anyone can write a review? Do they have to be a minimum number of words?

Amazon reviews have to be at least 20 words long – and yes, anyone can write a review. Just a couple of lines saying why you liked it is so much appreciated by the author. No-one should feel they can’t write articulately enough for a review. Just say what you think. If you stayed up all night reading it, tell us! If it reminded you of another author’s style, or another book, or a film, tell us that, too. It all helps the potential reader make up their mind.

For me, the ideal review is about two or three short paragraphs long, but shorter ones are just fine. I’ve even got a two word one on Goodreads: “Loved it!!!” That works for me!


10) Where can readers find out more about you and your books? 

My Amazon UK author page HERE and my page HERE

Thank you for asking me my opinion on this subject, Rosie, and I hope these answers have been of interest to you and your readers!

Thank you Terry, some of those questions were gruelling!

Not on Goodreads yet? What’s all the fuss about?

Lots of us talk about posting reviews on Goodreads, but what if you don’t know much about the site?

1) Goodreads is free to join. Its a huge community of people who like books.

2) It launched in 2007 and it aims to help people find and share books they love.

3) It boasts over 25 million members, has over 750 million books added to its shelves and has over 29 million book reviews. Just look at the difference in those last two figures.

4) You can make friends, follow authors, follow books you like, search book categories, join in book discussions, join groups and get book recommendations.

5) Each year they run a reading challenge and you can set a number of books you’d like to read each year.

6) If you have a blog there are widgets you can use linked directly to your Goodreads site.

7) As an author I have a personal page and an author page and my blog posts are linked to post on Goodreads.

8) Goodreads and Amazon now work together so if you are an author, it should be easier to get your books to show on Goodreads.

9) Good for readers. Many authors promote free giveaways of their books on Goodreads.

Over to you. tell us how you use Goodreads or ask a question about the site.

Book Review ChallengeNegative and Bad Reviews

I can guarantee this is going to cause a scene.

So what do you do if you really didn’t like a book? People who slam a book and its author publically are often called Book Trolls.

Firstly put yourself in the shoes of an author, someone who has toiled hard over their book, you don’t know the mountains they’ve climbed to get this far. Personal, physical, emotional mountains, how would you feel if this was your life’s work?

So you can still write a review, it will be challenging. Find points that you did like, perhaps the overall story, a strong character, a funny moment. You might have liked the first chapter, perhaps it was full of promise, even if it all went down hill from there, still say what you liked.

You can say things didn’t work for you like a fight scene or a love scene. Or you had trouble picturing the mystery building. Some fantasy and sci-fi books need to really make the reader understand new imaginary planets and realms. I once read a book which read like an arcade game with characters leaping from level to level in huge cavernous spaces, it felt 2-D and I longed for depth in the form of the descriptions and the senses, like smell and hearing.

My best advice for a book you don’t like, is LESS IS MORE. If I wrote my favourite character was the mother-in-law and she had a minor part in the book, then I’m hoping the author might pick up that the main characters hadn’t hit the mark. If I said I really like the first three chapters, then there is a hint that the rest of the book may not have lived up to my expectations. If you’ve struggled to write perhaps 10 lines then there probably wasn’t much that made you jump up and down, leave a shorter review.  However you still haven’t been rude about the book.

Ultimately the top LESS is MORE tip. If you can’t find anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. No review speaks volumes. If you’ve been asked to write a review, be polite and say the book wasn’t for you. If you bought the book and didn’t like it, move on there are billions more books out there. Anyone who has publically slammed a book SHAME ON YOU!

Lastly, if you are an author who has received a vicious negative or unfair review, DO NOT react. It will be upsetting but you won’t win any battle with the reviewer. Walk away, and be the better person.

(I’ll own all that I’ve said above, but it is just my humble opinion)

Tomorrow we’ll being meeting book reviewer Diane Coto who blogs at Fictionzeal, Shelfari and I’ll be going down deep into reviewing a book.

Saturday 28th June – Book Reviewing by Diane Coto from Fictionzeal + Shelfari + Going in deep, talking more about reviews.

Sunday 29th June – Book reviewing by Ionia Martin from Readfulthings + The importance of book reviews by author Adrienne Vaughan +Reviewing to Amazon + Gearing up to write that review.

Monday 30th June – The Importance of book reviews by Lizzie Lamb + Authors should walk to the book reviewers side of the fence.

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