A Lesson Learned

A few weeks ago I posted a book review for ‘The Night Circus’. While I stand by what I said in my review, I learned from that experience that I don’t like reviewing books.

Every comment that said they wouldn’t read the book based on my review I replied with, No! Read it and see what you think!

What? How lame was that? If I’m going to write a review and say I wasn’t crazy about a book, then I should expect that others would be grateful I spared them the wasted time.

That’s what I achieved, but not what I felt comfortable doing.

Then Debra Kristi wrote a blog about the new Twilight movie and this comment from August McLaughlin got me thinking:

I’m not a fan of the Twilight saga. (*dodging tomatoes*) I do love what the books have done for literacy in youth, however. More kids are reading because of the series than ever before (…also thanks to Harry Potter). And I respect Meyer as an author with her own voice and points she wishes to make. We should celebrate most authors’ success.

OMG! She’s so right. I’m a writer and I work hard to support my fellow writers. I wasn’t comfortable with my review because I felt dirty. Like I was turning on my own kind and cannibalizing them.

Then along comes Lissa Clouser at A Quid for the Quill and her post on being thankful for books. The clouds parted and a light shone down on me. I’m pretty sure I heard Angels singing, too.

To further my journey to enlightenment, Lesann Berry wrote a lovely blog post on not getting sucked into the negativity of others. If you don’t like a writer, don’t read them!

Talk about hitting me upside the head with a thick book.

Yay! I got the message loud and clear. I don’t want to add negative energy into the world. There are enough people with vitriol and rubbish to spout, that’s not my style. It was a tough lesson to learn, but one that allowed growth in myself as a writer and a reader.

In addition to Lissa and Lesann, these bloggers are fabulous role models! Angela Wallace does a great job of spotlighting books for her Book Club Saturday posts and Steena Holmes just had a whole week of spotlighting fellow writers on her blog. As if her fabulous quote up there wasn’t enough, August McLaughlin further inspired me with her post on books she’s crazy grateful for.

Last week I interviewed Sheri Fink and that was so much more fun than reviewing a book. It gave me a chance to focus on another writer’s success and to celebrate with her a really good cause.

You know, that made me feel much better than tearing a book down.

What was a difficult lesson you learned? This one was tiny on the surface, but made a huge impact on how I looked at myself. Have you ever had that experience? How did it feel once you fully accepted the truth of the lesson?

I’d love to hear your story!

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43 thoughts on “A Lesson Learned

  1. Ain’t it the truth? We can’t all like everything but that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize the talent that went into whatever the work of art happens to be. I loved the part where you thought you were pretty sure you heard Angels singing too. You have the BEST way of expressing yourself! I agree with you about doing interviews rather than book reviews because hearing the writer’s story is so much more interesting and really, it’s all about the journey isn’t it?

    • Me too and in writing that review, I realized we all read differently and look at books with our own ideas and perceptions, that it was kind of pointless to say whether I recommend it or not. Pick it up, read it, see if you like it, but don’t read it or not just based on what I think. Because, you know, sometimes my thinking sucks. ; )

      Thanks for commenting, Jeyna. Love that name, by the way!

      • It’s like movie reviews. I rarely agree with a reviewer. In fact, I often look for movies that got bad reviews because, most of the time, those are the ones I enjoy. Strange, but true.

  2. You made me giggle this morning. My last name is Clouser, not Coulter. *grins big*

    But I love this post! (And I’m so happy I inspired you.) I’ve thought many times before about doing book reviews…but it drives me crazy to do them. I do them on my goodreads account, but I look at that as more of a review type site anyway. It’s not like blogging where it can be anything you can imagine it to be. There’s no point in blogging (or really doing anything…a few exceptions of mundane existence aside) if you don’t have at least some enjoyment in doing it. I love reading your blog, but I want it to stay fun for YOU. It shines through your posts. =) HAPPY MONDAY!

    • Oh no I didn’t! Did I? What a moron I am. I know what your last name it, so what was I thinking when I typed that? Well, it’s fixed now so you can be your super famous fabulous self on my blog once more.

      Yeah, I think Goodreads is different because people are going there for a specific reason. Thank you so much for being supportive. You’re awesome and I just loves you.

      Happy Monday!!

  3. The timing of your post is perfect, Tameri. I’ve been going through a crisis of faith concerning my book reviews. I love writing them and I love talking about books, but I’ve read a handful of books recently that I didn’t love, and I no longer feel comfortable saying that. I’m having to take a look at myself and figure out what it is I want to do with my book reviews. I don’t think I’ll scrap them because several people seem to love them. It used to be about posting every single book I read, but I think now I’ll only post about books I can say positive things about.

    • Your book reviews are always more of a ‘I read this book and this is what I like about it’ type of review. I’ve never gotten a negative vibe from your posts. I think that’s how I’ll approach a review in the future, not so much a review, but what I like about it. I always enjoy your reviews, so I hope you do keep them!

  4. I’m with you completely. To me, writing a book review is too much like writing a book report. Books are my guilty pleasure, and if I have to sit down and analyze it to tell someone else something other than ‘I loved it!’, it takes the joy out of reading for me . . .

    If a book really makes me stop and think about life, then I might do a review on it. For the most part, though, I want to just have fun when I read!

    • Book reports! Oy, I think I just pulled a muscle in my brain. You are absolutely right! Books are a pleasure and who wants to pick them apart? I’ll leave that to the stuffy book reviewers, who I usually disagree with anyway!

      I love the way you think!

  5. I totally get where you’re coming from. I love doing my movie reviews and seeing movies, but when I have to give a bad review I feel SO BAD!! And I always check reviews before I see a movie too, but I take them with a grain of salt. Like just because I think some raunchy comedy is hilarious, doesn’t mean that everyone will love it. Especially if you’re not a fan of those types of movies!
    I do think once you start writing and getting an occasional bad review yourself, you tend to be a little gentler with your criticisms. But you learn that everyone has an opinion and that you aren’t going to appeal to everyone.

    • Yeah, but your bad reviews are always so much fun to read. And your rating system is the best. I don’t think I’d have such a hard time giving a bad review to a movie because I’m not a film maker and there are so many people involved with a movie, so it’s not just one person you are saying is bad. With books, there’s just the author and their words.

      I totally agree that once you’ve been the recipient of a bad review it makes you reconsider how you view the others in your profession. That’s why I felt bad about saying I wasn’t crazy about the book. I know how hard it is to write one!

  6. Tameri, I’m so touched that my comment and post helped you out in some way. I’m *continually* inspired by your posts and the support you give to others. Your thoughtfulness is particularly evident in this post. 🙂

    Whenever I read a book I don’t like, I work hard to see it from other angles. One of the most beautiful parts about this business is the fact that there’s an audience for everything. That said, I find it difficult to share negative feedback. I recently started, but couldn’t bare to finish, a book by a friend of a friend. The author knows I planned to read it and is awaiting feedback. Argh. I’m still contemplating the appropriate response… I hate lying, so I’m leaning toward telling him it’s “not for me,” and pointing out the strengths I see. If he wants specific criticism, I’m prepared to give it…and will do so with heavily sweating armpits. This experience taught me that reading a book before telling the author I’m reading it is generally my preferred route.

    You’re such a talented writer, Tameri. Thanks for another honest, insightful post!

    • Thank you so much! I’m humbled by your kind words. Yikes, what a difficult situation you’re in. Giving feedback, when not in a critique group, is so tricky, but I’m sure you will handle it with grace and now you are prepared for any future situations involving reading a friend of a friend’s book! Thanks for stopping by to comment.

  7. Whether or not to post negative reviews is a topic that’s garnered much discussion over time. Some reviewers feel that negative reviews serve a purpose, others disagree. When I wrote book reviews for a newspaper, my editor told me: “Too many books, too little space. If you’re not recommending the book, we won’t publish the review.” On the other hand, some print reviewers believe they’re doing a public service when they print a negative review because people will then know not to buy it. But here’ s the counter-intuitive, interesting thing: some negative reviews sell more books than positive reviews do. For example, the books that garner the highest sales on Amazon are those that get 5 star reviews (sure) and — wait for it — those that get 1 star reviews. The worst selling books are the 2 and 3 starred ones. Sounds crazy, but the reason is that when a reviewer tells us what they don’t like, some readers think, “Hey! That sounds right up my alley!”

    • I’ve never thought about it, but I always read the 1’s and 5’s for reviews. I skip the middle because I just figure it will be wishy-washy. I want to know what people loved and hated about a product. Sometimes the 1 stars sway me to buy the product. It’s very counter-intuitive, but there you go.

      I think if I wasn’t a writer I’d feel more comfortable writing reviews, but I just can’t write something negative about someone else’s work knowing what went into it.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Diane. I’m very curious now if you still do reviews.

  8. I love how you are choosing to be positive. In all fairness I’ve only done a couple of book reviews. The experience for me was I only review books that I am enthusiastic about. Chances are, if I am enthusiastic, perhaps it will show to readers and they will want to read it too.

    I do agree that it’s best to remain positive. Nice to meet you Tameri 🙂

    • Thanks, Christy! Super nice to meet you, too. And yep, that’s what I’m going to do from now on. If there is a book I love, then I’ll write about it, but not do a review. More of a ‘hey, here’s a book I think is great!’ type post.

  9. I think this is a fahhhbulous post. Your book review post helped you get an even better sense about what you want for your own blog voice. That’s awesome…that you not only recognized it but are going to honor it! I love it!
    In life, I try to do the same by being aware of who I am, how it makes me feel, and tweaking as I go. For example, I realized that a lot of the times when I’d gossip about someone (without malicious intent), I’d feel HORRIBLE about it afterwards. Not that I said anything terrible but I hated the thought that I spilled someone else’s good news or shared something that maybe unbeknowst to me, they’d have rather I didn’t. Knowing how badly I always ended up feeling, I’ve tried really hard to listen to that and honor it by gossiping substantially less!
    I am with you – the more positivity…the better!

    • Isn’t it crazy how that happens? I write a little review and the next thing you know, I’m learning something about myself. Darn it all. ; )

      Oh, gossip. That’s a whole other post. I used to be BAD at gossiping and finally saw the destruction it can cause. Even when the gossip was positive. LIke you said, it might’ve been something they weren’t ready to share. Now I try to just chat with folks and not get into their dirty secrets. It’s so hard, though. I always want to know the behind the scenes stuff!

  10. Funny, I was just discussing this very topic with my crit group over the weekend. Book reviews are a funny thing in that they are so subjective. I mean, if you take out the ‘fringe’ books which are so extraordinary no one can touch their greatness and the books that are so deplorable that reading them is time wasted, never to be retrieved, out of your life. What you have remaining is left to personal taste. Even in my own book club, someone will rave about a book and I will have suffered through it. Or the very opposite.

    When I read reviews, I look for buzz words for things I really like or don’t like. For instance, say a reviewer goes on and on about how a book is steeped in amazing description and detail, and how the rich and emotive layers ooze and fill your senses. Some people LOVE this and others would rather get to the action and dialogue. That review will be very ‘telling’. 🙂

    And another thing, because I appear to be chatty tonight, there have been many books which have been blasted because they were so ‘poorly written’ but they were HUGE sensations and have sold millions and became the talk and buzz over book clubs throughout the country. What constitutes a ‘good book’? I say, it’s a good story! A fab story ‘imperfectly’ written is still fun and can create a buzz. A expertly written book which really is a lame story, is still lame in pretty wrappings.

    Time to check the meatloaf! Great post!!!

    • How was the meatloaf? I loooooooove meatloaf!

      You’ve got an excellent point. We’re reading Sweet Potato Queens for our book club this month and so far the reviews are mixed. I think it’s hilarious and my friend hated it. You just can’t please everyone!

      I love you when you’re chatty! So many good points, but my favorite is this one:

      ‘A expertly written book which really is a lame story, is still lame in pretty wrappings’

      So sad, but so true. Thanks for stopping in! Next time you have meatloaf, I’m coming over!

  11. This is why I don’t do book reviews usually. I think not doing a review if you hate the book is the best way out. And like August said, read first and then, if you liked it, tell the author how you felt.
    I also don’t do them because i don’t think I can do them justice…like Rebekkah said, it’s like a book report for school. I love reading them though, so I’ll be here for your next one!
    Kudos to you for learning something about what you offer on your blog and about you as a person. You’re a supportive and postive person…don’t do what feels uncomfortable.

    • Yep, yep, yep. That’s exactly what I think I’ll do ~ review only if I loved it. Thanks for all your support and guidance, Marcia. I look to your blog as a go-to of how to mix up the posts and keep everything fresh. I’m blushing a little at your compliments. Thanks!!

  12. One of the things I had to do when I was getting my start as a fulltime freelancer was write book reviews for a newspaper. I hated it. When I was allowed to print a bad review (which wasn’t often), I felt like I’d single-handedly tanked another writer’s career. When I was required to put a positive spin on a book I didn’t feel was up to snuff, I felt dishonest and icky.

    While I knew I could do book reviews on my blog, like you, I decided not to. I decided to do a behind the scenes type feature instead because it lets me only highlight books that I really enjoyed. I figure that way I’m still helping people find good reading material, but I’m also doing it in a way that supports other writers and doesn’t leave me feeling like a slime ball.

    • Hey Marcy, great to see you here!

      You’re the second one to say you couldn’t print a bad review. I think that’s weird of the editors, but I get it.

      I totally know what you mean about tanking a writer’s career. That’s how I felt! It wasn’t fun. Thanks for your insight ~ you have a great way of spotlighting a book and still feel good about yourself. Something we all can learn from!

  13. This is such an interesting post. I don’t like writing book reviews and write very few. And I can only write a review about a book that I really enjoyed. If I didn’t love it, I don’t write a review on it. Like you, I don’t want to tear other authors down. No, I would just feel terrible doing that. And like you said, just because we don’t like a certain book doesn’t mean that others will feel that we. We all have different tastes. So I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t skip writing reviews about books you don’t care for and continue writing them for the books you enjoy, especially since your readers like your reviews!

    • Thank you Lynn! That’s pretty much the course I’m going to take. More positive. Gives me good goosebumps to do that, not icky ones for tearing others down. Thanks for swinging on over here to comment!

  14. This is why I had decided not to do book reviews on my blog. I don’t even write them in good reads. I’m bad, I know. But I don’t want to influence another because I may feel completely different than them about an author’s voice. I recently read a book everyone had been raving about and I hated it. Lord help me if I had to report on it. I haven’t even stared it yet in GR. But you have made some wonderful points that will help me look at it from a different perspective.

    • Oooh, now I’m curious what that book is! I’ve had books recommended to me that “I just had to read!” and I didn’t enjoy them. Sometimes I think the hype surrounding a book gets people all revved up and skews their opinion. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a freak when it comes to what I like in a book. ; )

  15. What a great post. It made me re-think how I do reviews. I’ve been agonizing over an ebook I recently received for review. There were a lot of problems in it and I discovered their 5-star reviews were padded. I didn’t know what to do. I think now I’ll stick to reviewing only those I enjoy. Spread the love, as they say, because, you’re right, there’s already enough negativity out there. I don’t need to add to it.

    • Thanks, Virginia! I always enjoy the book posts you have on your blog. They are informative and not so much a ‘review’ as just, I liked this book and that’s where I want to be. Definitely spread the love!

  16. I’m with you, Tameri. I’ve used to review books and I’ve always tried to be very gracious about it. I’ve been approached by a couple of book publishers and many authors, asking me for reviews.

    But when an author or a publisher asked me to evaluate a book, I always felt like I owed them a really positive review. Sometimes I didn’t like a particular book but, because I was asked to write about it, I tried to concentrate mostly on the good aspects of a book.

    I’ve examined books for my own sake, of course, and those reviews were more constructive. I am very particular about my review process and I usually make notes while reading, that I use later in a review. But after a while I realized that I simply want to keep my opinions to myself. After all there are many (I mean, MANY) book reviewers out there, and if someone wants to find out what the others think about a certain book, there is plenty to peruse through.

    • That’s such a tough place to be ~ when someone asks you for a review and you feel obligated to put a positive spin on it. I think too, if you are reading a book specifically for a review, you read it differently than if you are reading for pleasure and that seems to me that it would take a lot of the pleasure out of reading. I like that you realized you want to read for you and let the other reviewers have their opinions pubic. Well done, my friend!

  17. I’m so with you…I made a comment on someone’s blog about how I didn’t like the book being reviewed. I think I deleted it later. It made me feel bad to even put that negativity out there. From now on, I’m taking advice from Thumper in Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all” lol.

    • That’s exactly how I felt. Like I insulted all writers by putting my negative opinion out in the ether.

      I love that, be like Thumper! I’ll have to keep Thumper in the back of my mind from now on, it’s so much more positive that way.

  18. I don’t like writing book reviews either… for all the reasons you’ve stated. I once had a gig reviewing toys for a kids store (I know, not the same… but it was a writing gig) and made the unfortunate mistake of being honest about one of the annoying toys they gave me to review. Ooops. Didn’t go down to well. It made me really think about using my writing ‘for good’ instead of being negative. Back to your post – yes, with book reviews it’s about supporting other writers. Seeing the positive in their art. I totally understand. Thanks for sharing your learning process! – Deb (previously Wild Hope from a few moons ago.. been meaning to tell you about my new blog name and address!… sorry it’s taken me so long to come back and say hi. Life has been rather insane!)

    • Yay! It’s good to hear from you again and to know your new blog address. I’ll be right over to check it out.

      Now I’m so curious what happened after your negative toy review. Did the manufacturer call you up and complain? Inquiring minds want to know!

      Life is always insane. So glad you could stop in for a bit of respite. ; )

      • Thanks Tameri! Well the toy shop didn’t publish my review… awkward silence for weeks.. then I felt bad and tried to think of a way of putting a positive spin on it & sent a revised ‘review’. (In fact, here’s what was published – my slightly more positive review Take 2 – http://www.bebeonline.com.au/blog/road-tests/road-testing-the-plan-toys-clatter-get-ready-to-make-some-noise/ ). I wasn’t sent anymore toys to
        review after that though! – so I think I blew my gig! 😉

      • Well now, I read that review and was looking for the negative, but couldn’t find any. You were honest about the sound (something I, as a mother with very sensitive ears would appreciate) and you even recommended that it would work well in a group setting (which could mean more sales for the store), so I don’t see where the toy store wouldn’t like it.

        If they wanted a gushing review, then they shouldn’t have a ‘reviewer’! Duh.

        Sorry you lost that gig, but hey, there are always bigger and brighter things in our future.

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