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The Craft of Book Reviewing

April 13, 2012 by Kiersi

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up to review a new book as part of a blog tour. I did it for two reasons: 1) I love free books, and ARCs count (even if the ARC is distributed digitally), and 2) I’m always up for helping and promoting new and indie authors. There are some real gems out there and I’d like to help them get noticed.

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll probably notice I’m not a pushover when it comes to giving my honest opinion about a book, especially one that’s been mass-marketed or published by one of the Big Six. I don’t derive any gratification from giving a negative review to a popular book, and it certainly doesn’t endear me to my audience, as someone recently pointed out on Twitter. And yet, I gave Lisa McMann’s The Unwanteds a one-star review because it just really rubbed me the wrong way. I simply can’t help myself–when I don’t like a book, I really don’t like it. When I love it?

I’ll be the best cheerleader an author could ask for.

I’d like to think I have a fairly moderate track record. I’m not the type of reviewer to love everything, but neither do I write a negative review for shock value or street cred. Take a look at some of my more recent book reviews:

The Hunger Games (movie) – 3 out of 5

Nightworld – 4 out of 5

The First Time (anthology) – 5 out of 5

Voices of Angels – 4 out of 5

Night Sky – 2 out of 5

Glow – 3 out of 5

Divergent – 5 out of 5

And the list goes on.

I realize that a fine line exists between being a good critic and being a jackass. I try hard to walk on the “good critic” side, even when I feel like the book I just read has no purpose for existing. My goal in writing a book review is to help other readers find diamonds hidden in the rough, and avoid colossal Big Six disasters.

And yet, when I reached out to my Twitter followers for advice on reviewing a small, independent publication–almost all of them suggested that the author was my primary audience.

Safe to say, I was baffled. I hadn’t considered the idea that a book review for a blog tour might also serve as a critique platform. For a small-release e-book, perhaps these tweeps of mine are right. Unlike one of those six-figure, mainstream book releases, in this universe of tiny, independent publishing outfits, the author will likely be reading my review personally. Is it my duty to reach out to her in my review and offer some constructive criticism to accompany my rather unfavorable critique?

I’d like to hear your thoughts, readers and writers. As a reader, would you be off-put by a review that spoke to the author? As a writer, would you find a review like that helpful?


  1. I’m going to attempt to be the author who doesn’t read reviews of my own books so I’m not sure how to answer this. I think as long as you review the book respectfully and back up any opinion, whether positive or negative, then you are fine. Not every book is for every person. That’s a given.

  2. Jon says:

    The rule of thumb is that reviews are for readers, but writers tend to read them (even against their will, or sometimes the reviewer will send/tweet it to them, even if it’s awful). It would be nice if authors had thicker skin, but they generally don’t. However, I think most even keeled authors just want a critical objective review, but forgetting that all reviews are subjective. So…. I for one love your non-pushoverness about it!

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