quillIt has happened again. There are two books I recently picked up with the intention of reviewing them for The Brass Rag, but, a chapter or two in on both books I realized that I would not be able to give a good review. The result? To date, I have finished neither and have no review for today’s Take.

Now, once upon a time and/or in a different venue, this would not have been a problem. If we were situated at any point prior to the late 90’s, giving a bad review, so long as it was the reviewer’s honest opinion, wouldn’t be a problem. The practice does continue today. Despite the nearly universal injunction of mother’s everywhere that, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” big time reviewers pan things all the time: restaurants, movies, books, art exhibits, you name it, they slash it. (Or so we’re told. In looking up links for this Take, I didn’t find much in the way of less than positive vibes.)  But when the lowly blogger (that would be me) reads a book and, for whatever reason, cannot write a positive review, said lowly blogger is asked to follow her Mama’s advice.

Now, on the one hand, I can understand this request and even sympathize with it. Getting your book reviewed is supposed to drive sales and most readers won’t drive very far if they’re told that the car has lumpy upholstery and the paint job is flaking. Plus, bad reviews can be hell on the psyche. For most writers, criticism of their work is akin to insulting their child; it hurts and tends to make us defensive and even angry.

But I can’t ignore the other hand. That’s the hand that says we have a responsibility, to both the author and the reader, to be honest. For the author – if no one points out where we’ve slipped up, we don’t get better. Isn’t an author better served in honing their craft by the truth, rather than relentless positivity? For the reader, there is the question of trust and reliability. Many of us rely on reviews to point us in the direction of good reads for which we are willing to lay out our hard earned cash. Susie Sunshine certainly can brighten a room with her rampant positivity and adamant refusal to say anything negative about anyone, ever. But should we really trust her judgment?

The truth is, there are great books out there and there are horrible ones with many shades of grey in between. So folks, bottom line: to post, or not to post, that is my question. Tell me what you think and happy writing.

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2 thoughts on “Questionable Take

  1. I don’t have a hard time being honest (but kind) when I don’t know the author. When I do? I am so conflicted and finally write a short, non-committal review that hopefully won’t sway a potential reader one way or the other. I know, that’s wussy.I rely A LOT on reviews when downloading books and have found that the first dozen or more are friends or family in many cases. That’s why I have a “Duds” collection on my Kindle.

    Good post.

    1. That’s the problem in a nutshell. I don’t want to be mean, and I hope I never am, but I have to be honest. I think my future policy for authors I know personally is going to be, let me read the first chapter or two and THEN I’ll decide about doing a review. Like you, it’s much easier to be honest when you don’t know the person.

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