With the recent event of M. Leighton pulling her book, Until I Break, from publication due to negative reader feedback, readers and authors alike are coming out of the woodwork to voice their opinions on reader and/or reviewer etiquette. Hence, this blog post. I just feel like it’s necessary to state my feelings on this constant battle of “how far is too far” in a review. Please keep in mind that this is STRICTLY my opinion.
I started Ashley’s Book Nook in April 2012 for a couple reasons – I read a lot, and I wanted to share my thoughts on various books with whoever wants to listen. My parents encouraged me to read at a very early age, and luckily, my love of books never faded throughout the years. I’ve always been the girl that constantly has a book in her purse. Well…now it’s an iPad and/or a book, but you get the point. Reading is something that I love. I love coming home and seeing a box from Amazon sitting on my front porch, knowing that it holds numerous books. I love going to Barnes and Noble and browsing for hours, then leaving with far more books than I intended to. I have such a passion for books and I want to share my thoughts on the stories and characters that I welcome into my life day after day.
Now, with that being said – when I started posting reviews on my blog and Goodreads, I said to myself, “I am always going to be 100% honest in my reviews. No sugarcoating.” It’s been over a year since I became a review blogger, and I’m happy to say, I kept my promise. This brings us to the hot button issue of “how far is too far” in a review. Here’s the thing: book review bloggers do this in their spare time. We don’t get paid to post positive reviews for authors. Granted, we do get free books sometimes (which to me is as good as money) but that’s not a guarantee. We take time out of our lives…whether that be time away from kids, a husband/wife, or just time to go out drinking with friends…to give our truthful opinion on the stories we read. We want to get the word out about those wonderful stories that stay with us for days, weeks, months, years; we want to share those amazing moments in a fantastic book with other readers. However, we also want to voice our dislike when a book falls short of expectations.
I have seen many negative reviews about various books that are downright hateful. Those type of negative reviews, I don’t agree with. I will never personally attack an author in my review for their story. There have been a couple instances where I have just absolutely hated the book – hated the characters, hated the plot – but never once did I attack the author. I was damn honest in my review and made it very clear that I absolutely despised the book, but you know what? That’s the point of having a book review blog. I give my opinion of your book. There is a little saying that has been floating around the internet and I’m not sure where it came from, but it goes “You get my money, you get my opinion.” I stand by this statement. Now granted, I’ve received numerous ARCs and free books from authors, but the majority of my books, I buy with my own money. I’m spending my hard earned…well, earned…money on your book. I’m spending said money on your book because it sounds interesting. If it falls short of my expectations, I have every right to say just that…and then explain why I feel that way.
The sad thing is, I have found that certain authors (who I will not name because I’m not that type of person) think it’s acceptable to critique negative reviews of their book(s). They try to tell the reader that their opinion is wrong, that they didn’t understand the premise, that they didn’t “get” the character. This pisses me off, plain and simple. I understand that you love your characters and you love your book, but just because you are the author that does not give you the right to send me a rude email regarding my review. It also doesn’t give you the right to get into arguments on Goodreads over your novel while you try and change people’s opinion. The whole point of a review is to give your honest opinion. If someone doesn’t like your book, don’t read the review. Focus on the positive, not the negative. Now, I know that’s easier said than done. I’ve been “writing” a book for six months but every time I start writing I get nervous that people will hate it, so I shelf it. I think you have to have incredibly thick skin to be an author – you’re putting your work out there to be picked apart by hundreds, thousands, millions of readers. That would scare the shit out of me! If I do ever finish my book and decide to self-publish, I will probably have several anxiety attacks leading up to, and on the release date. And clearly, I’m not ready for that pressure.
I know that some readers can be incredibly harsh, and I’m not trying to condone their behavior. I would never bully an author. I would never personally attack them. I simply give my honest opinion of their work – sometimes it’s singing praises, and other times it’s voicing sheer disappointment. But guess what? That’s why I have a book review blog. I’m entitled to my opinion and if you don’t agree with it, that’s perfectly fine. I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise, and I expect the same courtesy. If I say "I fucking hated this book and the characters in it", I'm entitled to that! If I say, "I hate the author, Johnny Writesalot, because of this shitty so-called-book he wrote", that's entirely different and entirely unacceptable.
No one is going to write a book that everyone loves, and if you’re brave enough to put your work out there for the world to read, please know that any negative reviews aren’t a personal attack. Well, at least they aren’t from me. I’m not judging M. Leighton AT ALL for pulling her book because I don’t know what readers said to her about it. If she felt this was the necessary action, then I support her decision. It’s sad…but I support it nonetheless.
I’m going to step down my pedestal now. I hope this post doesn’t piss anyone off or offend anyone, because that wasn’t my intention. I just wish readers would make an honest effort not to personally attack the author in their reviews, and that the authors would be a little more understanding of the right a reviewer has to give their honest opinion.
Now let’s all get back to reading or writing or drinking or whatever it was you were doing and just be fucking happy that so many people in this world still appreciate a good book!