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    Marisa Reviews Reviewers and says STOP WHINING!
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  • Published: Apr 27th, 2009

There has been lots of talk around the net lately on how reviewers review books.  I’m at turns fascinated and horrified.  In the past two weeks I’ve heard of authors and publisher being upset by bad reviews. I’ve also heard of reviewers who are upset when their reviews are criticized for being too harsh.  I say to those reviewers – what up with that? “You can dish it out but you can’t take it?”

Enough with reviewers who use public forums to slash and burn a book AND then use that same forum to complain about an author who says they were hurt by the review. Don’t they get it? Criticism is not a one way street. When you write a review be prepared to listen to someone who doesn’t like your opinion.

I think I was in kindergarten when I learned that you can’t please everybody. And between finger painting class and learning to tie my shoes, I also learned that not everyone has the same aesthetic.  Let me give you an example. A while ago I read a book (which will forever remain nameless) that I absolutely hated. I hated the concept, the characters and the writing.  The book was not for me and I did not review it. Later that month I happened to troll the internet and found that the very same book was on Dear Author as one of their top picks for the month. Go figure, but it absolutely proves my point. What I may hate someone else may love.

As a reviewer I believe your audience should be your readers. You obligation is to let them know about the content, style and merit of the book. You need to back up why you liked, loved, hated or did not finish a book.  You are obligated to be honest in your review and then let the reader decide if they wish to read it.  If you don’t like a book, don’t be heinous about it. I don’t believe it is necessary to tear down the book until it’s in bits and shreds. I repeat, it’s really not necessary. State your case cleanly, simply and back it up.

If, as a reviewer you choose to write a review of a book you did not like by using biting and snarky comments, then I say, suck it up and own it. Don’t put the onus back on the author if they then turn around and say, wow, did you have to be that brutal?  It really becomes the insult to injury tour after a while. The reviewer slashes and burns a book, and then to the glee of a blood thirsty crowd, they reveal and revel in the fact that the author said it made them feel bad. Enough!

First and foremost my commitment is to the viewers here at RNTV.  One of my primary goals is to introduce you to books and authors that you’ve yet to discover. Know this, I will always be honest in my opinion about a book.  You are free to read my reviews, not read my reviews, buy the book, don’t buy the book, but I promise you I won’t ever write a review just to let you know how smart, witty or amusing I can be. After all as a reviewer, my job is to let you know about THE BOOK.

34 Responses to “Marisa Reviews Reviewers and says STOP WHINING!”

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  1. pambook
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 3:27 am

    Very well said, Marisa, all your points. Everyone has a side to this, yet all sides seem to get offended eventually, but like you said, if you can dish it out, you have to take it back. Everone has the right to say or do what they want on their own site/blog, and snark just seems to be so in so many places and gets the attention. Even with that, there can be a better way to use it. In the end, it’s all one person’s opinion, so everyone, wheter reviewer, author or readers watching, should just take it all in stride and not so personally. No matter who says what or how they say it, I make up my own mind regardless.


  2. Stacy ~
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 6:23 am

    Interesting point, Marisa. It’s just just the author of a book that needs to be prepared for the varied opinions, but also the “author” of the reviews that might get some backlash. Hey, I’ve gotten flak for positive reviews at my blog, so really, nothing’s sacred. But I believe you have to stand behind how you feel. No not everyone’s going to agree, but so what? It’s not a popularity contest. At least it shouldn’t be. I’ve had negative reviews at my blog, and I stand behind those ratings. If other people enjoyed those books, well, more power to ’em.

    I review here and at my blog because I enjoy it, and it more often than not supports my love of reading. If I find a book I loved, I want others to know about it. Same goes with a book I didn’t like, but I hope I give valid reasons for both. I’m not about the snark, but you know, I admit to reading blogs that major in it and sometimes get a good laugh or a refreshing POV. Because that’s why I read reviews myself, all kinds of reviews – I want to know why someone liked it or didn’t like it. But please, back it up. And be ready because when others don’t agree, they can be very vocal about it *g*


  3. Stacy ~
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 6:33 am

    Oy. I stand corrected: it’s “not” just the author of a book, NOT just just. Oy again.


  4. PJ
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 7:31 am

    Well said, Marisa! My opinion? Any person who shares his/her written words, whether they be a book, review, newspaper article or whatever, needs to be prepared for criticism. I enjoy sharing my love of books through my reviews. I’ve received compliments from readers that warm my heart. I’ve read snarky comments about my reviews that hurt my feelings…but not for long. I knew when I agreed to review books that I’d get both kinds of responses. It goes with the territory and I’ve learned to let the snarky stuff roll off my back.

    What it boils down to is this. I have the right to state my opinions. Others have the right to comment (good or bad) on those opinions. There will always be people out there who won’t be able to resist criticizing the author rather than the author’s words. Some of those same people do not possess the maturity to accept criticism of their words. If I can’t take the criticism without acting like a spoiled 5 year-old then I have no business putting my opinions out there in the first place. It’s a shame that others have yet to learn this lesson.


  5. Buffie
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 8:22 am

    All I have to say is . . . AMEN!


  6. Gannon
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 8:40 am

    Say it, sistuhs! I enjoy reviewing, but I know that not everyone is going to share the same opinion I have about some books. And that’s okay. While I may not completely love every book, I don’t bash the author. Not my style!


  7. Kati
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 9:11 am

    Thank goodness! When I saw this title, I thought Marisa was going to be reviewing the reviewers here at RNTV!!! LOL! Like a performance review. Phew!

    I learned a very, very tough lesson when I was in a college sorority. That rule is “Don’t say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face.” I approach reviewing the same way. There are plenty of books that don’t work for me. Usually I’m able to give a good and valid reason why it is the book doesn’t work for me. And generally, if I have something that makes me roll my eyes or think twice, I review it on my blog (which gets about 50 hits a day). I would never, ever slam an author in an internet forum. I might be relatively snarky about why something isn’t working in a scene (i.e.: shapeshifter sex where one is in were form, one in human form), but I hope I’m not completely disrespectful.

    I’m not an author, but I know enough to know that writing books is damn hard work. Plus, it takes guts to put a piece of yourself out there for public consumption. I don’t have the conjones to do it, so I’m certainly not going to denigrate someone else for it. If that makes me a Pollyanna, I’m OK with it.


  8. Laura
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 9:26 am

    I have to put my two-cents in on this conversation. I am not a reviewer, but I read all of your reviews regularly. I think that everybook has a home. What might not be good for one will probably be great for another. So I don’t think that the word bad should be used to describe any book. Authors are very creative, sensitive, feeling people, and we should remember that. It is very brave to put your heart out there for people to read it. That being said, as a reader, it is my job to realize what reviewer is closest to my likes and dislikes in books. PJ seems to be the closest to mine, therefore, I know that probably 90% of the time if she likes or dislikes it I am going to feel the same way. I hope you all have a great day. And to kiss a little tush, I think you all do a great job with your reviews. I have been coming to the site for about a year now and have not read any review where the opinion was not explained.


  9. Donna
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 10:48 am

    Marissa , I agree…I just got the new Roamtic Times and there were at least 5 books that I already read that were reviewed and I thought the reviews were so wrong…I liked all the books and wanted to ask them if they missed something while reading the books ..maybe they were rushed reading the books… I read to enjoy and don’t really let the reviews sway me that much if its an author I like…. If I dont’ like the book I just dont’ but when I do I tell everyone about it…

    Donna


  10. azteclady
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 11:45 am

    AMEN!!!!

    Laura, I agree with you; “every book has a home” indeed. If and when the book is not for me, I try to make clear why it’s not, because what turns me off a story may be exactly what someone else is looking for, and that is exactly what a good review should give its readers: the elements to decide whether *they* would enjoy the book regardless of whether the reviewer did or did not.

    Marissa, on this bit, “You can dish it out but you can’t take it?” I would like to say this: authors already are in a difficult position. More than any period before, the internet has made each author part and parcel to her product(book) in the minds of her readers. Authors are expected to interact online in one fashion or another (keep a blog, comment on other author’s blog, do blog tours, any and all, mix and match to taste) and always keep their cool and behave professionally (i.e. respectful of readers’ opinions).

    It’s only fair that if you expect that, you give it back, isn’t it?

    But if what you want to do is be entertaining (i.e., it’s about YOU) then take it like an adult when it does become about YOU and all your warts.


  11. Kim
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 12:02 pm

    Marisa – In your opinion, do reviewers read the entire book if reviewing or do they sometimes skim it? In the current RT issue, the reviewer got a major plot point wrong. I have to wonder if she made a simple mistake or did she skim the book?


  12. Marisa
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 12:29 pm

    I’m not an author, but I know enough to know that writing books is damn hard work. Plus, it takes guts to put a piece of yourself out there for public consumption. I don’t have the conjones to do it, so I’m certainly not going to denigrate someone else for it. If that makes me a Pollyanna, I’m OK with it. Say it again Kati – totally agree with you. I find myself agonizing when I write an email. Writing reviews is always hard for me. I can’t imagine writing a book.


  13. Marisa
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 12:34 pm

    Laura, I totally agree with you. There’s always a book waiting to be read and there’s more than likely a home for every book.

    Donna, so true. Like I’ve said we all have different tastes. Between Maria, myself, Stacy, Stacey, Gannon, Buffie, Andrea, Kati, Kate and PJ – we have such different tastes. The great thing is that these women have certainly turned me on to some great authors and books I would not have necessarily read.


  14. Marisa
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 12:41 pm

    azteclady said: Marissa, on this bit, “You can dish it out but you can’t take it?” I would like to say this: authors already are in a difficult position. More than any period before, the internet has made each author part and parcel to her product(book) in the minds of her readers. Authors are expected to interact online in one fashion or another (keep a blog, comment on other author’s blog, do blog tours, any and all, mix and match to taste) and always keep their cool and behave professionally (i.e. respectful of readers’ opinions).

    It’s only fair that if you expect that, you give it back, isn’t it?

    I’m not sure what you mean here. As far as dishing it out – I was referring to the reviewers.

    You make a very valid and important point, and I couldn’t have said it better- authors today are in an extremely difficult position. The internet has made reading a whole other experience. As readers today we know more about the people who are writing books than ever before. Authors have to interact with readers on a regular basis and sad but true we are not always kind. And yet we definitely expect authors to be professional at all times.


  15. Marisa
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 12:46 pm

    Hi Kim

    I really can’t speak for any reviewer but myself.

    My processes is simple. I read every last word of a book I’m reviewing. I do not read reviews of any books that I’m going to review until after I’ve finished reading it. I try to keep an open mind when ever I start a book and read it cover to cover. I also takes notes and many times I’ve read a book twice before reviewing it. Each book comes to me as it’s own separate entity. I try very hard to give each one it’s due, to give it the respect it deserves before I read it. And that means, when I’m reading a book for review – that’s all I’m doing – reading the book. No music, noise, phone. I set aside time and try to give that book the attention it deserves so that when I do write about I know I’ve given it the proper consideration.


  16. Matty
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 12:52 pm

    You know, I was actually thinking the same thing. There are certain blogs, which shall remain nameless, that I refuse to visit because they seem to write reviews for the purpose of amusing themselves with their mean spirited commentary. Reviewers do not have to swear and insult in every single sentence to get a point across.


  17. Kati
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 1:15 pm

    Hi Kim – I’m not Marisa, but I do review for RNTV. When I review, I read every word, generally notating the book as I go w/sticky notes. If I get into reading a book and I can tell that either, the book is completely not going to work for me, or I’m going to be unable to write an objective review, I get a hold of the M’s and ask for advice. Generally, they still want the review, even if it’s a more negative one.

    But I absolutely read every word of every book I review for RNTV. If I have an DNF book, I’ll talk about why over on my personal blog, which gets much less traffic than RNTV.

    And as I said before, even when a book doesn’t work for me, I try hard to state why without being insulting. Not sure it always works, but I do try.


  18. Gannon
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 1:52 pm

    Hi, Kim. I’ll chime in with Marisa and Kati and say that when I read a book for review, I read it cover to cover (sometimes twice). I want to give each book my complete attention so that I can write the best review possible.

    I know what you mean about some reviews, though. I have read some where they had some major information wrong. Makes you wonder.


  19. gg'smom
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 2:08 pm

    I love reading reviews at this site because they are snark free. I really admire the reviewers here for keeping it kind even when the book does not work for them.


  20. Maria Lokken
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 2:34 pm

    Writing a review without having read the book – now that’s just plain wrong.


  21. Andrea
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 5:13 pm

    Great topic! All I can say is “Amen” and “ditto” what everyone else said. I used to visit snarky sites, but stopped a long time ago. It just wasn’t worth my time and I usually always read something that irritated me. Life’s too short.

    As for the other, I’ll add my .02 and say that I also read every page of every book I review. And like Kati, I use those little post-its to mark pertinent information. I really can’t see how anyone could even attempt to write a review if they haven’t read every page. *shakes head*


  22. Jessa Slade
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 5:49 pm

    As a writer, reader, critique partner, writing contest judge, and sometimes reviewer, I say YES! Thank you, Marisa. Opinion and analysis are wonderful even when — ESPECIALLY when — the conversation is impassioned; Wild Kingdom with all the goriest parts spliced together just starts to seem a little… troubled.

    I know my writer self is supposed to have a thick skin, and I’m working on it, I swear. But my reviewer self only reports on the 5-star books I read. Because life’s just too short to finish bad books!


  23. azteclady
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 5:50 pm

    Kim, speaking for myself, I read every word, and more than once these are books I’ve re-read for the reviews. IMO, it’s fairly easy to spot reviewers who have read the book cover to cover; their reviews tend to touch on specific point (from characterization to plot to language), when expressing their opinion of the book.

    In contrast, reviews which resemble the back cover blurb (plot summary with hookline) plus a little squee (best evah!) or pan (suckage!) are pretty useless to me–regardless of whether the reviewer read every word and noted every comma and period within.

    ==================
    To Marissa: I said earlier that

    Authors are expected to interact online in one fashion or another (keep a blog, comment on other author’s blog, do blog tours, any and all, mix and match to taste) and always keep their cool and behave professionally (i.e. respectful of readers’ opinions).

    It’s only fair that if you expect that, you give it back, isn’t it?

    I meant exactly what you said here:

    As readers today we know more about the people who are writing books than ever before. Authors have to interact with readers on a regular basis and sad but true we are not always kind. And yet we definitely expect authors to be professional at all times.

    To elaborate further, we readers expect authors to always behave professionally, to keep their cool in the face of (sometimes quite harsh) criticism of their work. But if we do not give authors respect as well, how on earth can we demand it, or even expect it?


  24. azteclady
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 5:52 pm

    ack, and apologies galore–I keep adding a second “s” to your name *scurries off to hide under rock in shame*


  25. PJ
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 6:15 pm

    Wow, it’s been lively around here today! 🙂 Great discussion!

    Kim, I also read the books I review from cover to cover and sometimes twice. Like you, I’ve read reviews (not here) where character names, major plot points, etc. aren’t even close to being accurate. I wonder if those reviewers are trying to review too many books and finding themselves too short of time to read the entire book. Once I see a reviewer do that more than a couple times I just stop reading their reviews. Like Marisa, I also do not read any other reviews of a book I am reviewing until mine is written and turned in.


  26. pambook
    on Apr 28th, 2009
    @ 12:25 am

    “To elaborate further, we readers expect authors to always behave professionally, to keep their cool in the face of (sometimes quite harsh) criticism of their work. But if we do not give authors respect as well, how on earth can we demand it, or even expect it?”

    Exactly, azteclady.


  27. Stacy ~
    on Apr 28th, 2009
    @ 6:07 am

    I’ll also state that I always read a book cover to cover for review, and make any special notes I might want to include in my review. I take them seriously, so no, I’m not going to skim the book or write an extended version of the backcover blurb. And I still make sure it something I enjoy. I tend to be wordy, so I need to learn to edit myself. Bottom line is, I want to give the author a fair chance, so definitely I’m going to give them respect by reading their story.


  28. Stephanie (BKLYN)
    on Apr 28th, 2009
    @ 11:54 am

    Hi Marisa,
    Truer words…
    Thank you so much for your post. I am not a big fan of reviews and depend on my interests, favorite authors, and the referrals of friends. At the same time I’m sure that reviews are useful and helpful to folks and also spur interest in an author’s work. But here’s another thing I’ve noticed, the anonymous nature of the Internet allows unlimited access for anyone to automatically become an “authority” on a subject. I sometimes get the feeling when surfing and seeing all that’s out there that I’m seeing that person in grammar school raising his/her hands furiously saying “pick me!, pick me!” Where the review is more about power and meanness than the book. No sorry, it really isn’t about you. 🙂

    Being a reviewer is about stating your opinion — (note the word opinion) I may read it and not agree and therefore I can choose to buy a book anyway. What I do not agree with and what I find foul is the “tall poppy syndrome” that is pervasive these days — tearing down authors; and conversations on the Internet devolving into illustrations of bad manners and behavior. I’ve seen it more and more especially as an author becomes more popular and readers begin to demand how they feel (again opinion) a book should be written. What’s that about?
    I have much respect for authors, and if someone doesn’t like an author that I like I don’t consider a national emergency, but a difference of opinion and yes, we can still be friends. One thing I’m not going to do is troll the Internet like a mob to spread the “I don’t like your book or you!” (insert a raspberry here!) germ. Authors do something I have no interest in doing but gives me great pleasure to read. That being said I think everyone deserves respect for their contribution to the writing and the reviewing side of things. Thank you again for such a great post.
    Best wishes,
    Stephanie


  29. Kim
    on Apr 28th, 2009
    @ 12:45 pm

    Thanks to all the reviewers who took the time to post. It’s nice to know that you’re going for quality reviews and not quantity.
    Azteclady is also correct in saying that some reviews read like the blurb on the back of a book and this may indicate that someone is merely skimming it. There is one popular magazine/website tht use to give detailed romance reviews, but due to the number of reviews, they now only give a short synopsis. Finally, while snarky reviews can be amusing, after awhile, they contribute very little to the purchasing decision. Some reviews make use of perjoratives that shock the reader, but give very little constructive criticism. A reviewer should be truthful, without being unnecessarily nasty.


  30. Buffie
    on Apr 28th, 2009
    @ 1:49 pm

    Another RNTV reviewer here and I must also say that I read every word in the book. I use sticky notes in the books, plus I have a notebook that I write down key points and facts. It is just easier for me to bring everything together for a review if I have all my notes. I too have read reviews (mostly online) where I think “Did this reviewer even read the same book I read?” I think it is totally crazy!! If you don’t have the time to read the book, you really should not be reviewing the book.


  31. KS Augustin
    on Apr 28th, 2009
    @ 8:40 pm

    You learnt to tie your shoelaces in kindergarten? Wow. I think I was eleven before I learnt that skill. Way to go, Marisa! And thanks for the post on reviews. Very nicely put.


  32. Heidenkind's Hideaway
    on Apr 29th, 2009
    @ 2:40 am

    Scary Books…


  33. Kathy Savas
    on Apr 29th, 2009
    @ 12:17 pm

    Hey Maris,
    Great posting. I’m generally easily entertained and can get right into a book I’m reading. There are some that are so interesting (to me) that I can’t even sleep until they’re done. Some are good to read a bit, set down for a day or two and pick up again. Some are a great easy read for a 2 hour flight. And rarely, very rarely, there will be one that just doesn’t cut it. But keep in mind that it is still somebody’s artistic creation…one that was conceived and nurtured and then shared. I feel I can dislike a book without having to trash the artist that created it. Hey, I don’t like all of Picasso’s stuff, do you?


  34. orannia
    on Apr 29th, 2009
    @ 4:32 pm

    Thank you Marisa for a very thought-provoking post and to everyone for all the thought-provoking comments 🙂

    Kati said: Usually I’m able to give a good and valid reason why it is the book doesn’t work for me.

    That, for me, is the hallmark of a good review. A good and valid reason why a book does or doesn’t work for the reviewer.

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