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!

43 thoughts on “A Lesson Learned”

  1. patriciasandspatriciasands

    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?

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  2. Jeyna GraceJeyna Grace

    Though reviews do help in making my book reading decisions, sometimes i still choose to read or not to read a book based on my own gut feeling.

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  3. Lissa ClouserLissa Clouser

    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!

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  4. Angela WallaceAngela Wallace

    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.

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  5. Rebekah LoperRebekah Loper

    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!

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  6. Jillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect ChaosJillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect Chaos

    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.

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  7. August McLaughlinAugust McLaughlin

    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!

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  8. Diane CapriDiane Capri

    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!”

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  9. Christy FarmerChristy Farmer

    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 🙂

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  10. Natalie HartfordNatalie Hartford

    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!

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  11. gingercalemgingercalem

    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!!!

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  12. MarciaMarcia

    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.

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  13. Marcy KennedyMarcy Kennedy

    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.

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  14. lynnkelleyauthorlynnkelleyauthor

    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!

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  15. Debra KristiDebra Kristi

    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.

    Reply
    November 28, 2011
  16. Virginia RippleVirginia Ripple

    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.

    Reply
    November 29, 2011
  17. Marion SpicherMarion Spicher

    My reviews are rare, but I avoid negative ones. Great post Tameri … Thanks.

    Reply
    November 29, 2011
  18. Angela Orlowski-PeartAngela Orlowski-Peart

    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.

    Reply
    November 29, 2011
  19. jessicatherrienjessicatherrien

    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.

  20. Deb @ Bright and PreciousDeb @ Bright and Precious

    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!)

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