To follow up on yesterday’s blog entry about critiquing a piece versus ripping it apart like a two-year old throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, I’d like to address starred reviews.
(Stars, hearts, fangs, cream-puffs, what-fucking-ever type of measurement you see on a review blog. Typically, it’s on a scale of one-to-five and followed by a review of the book to explain the number assigned.)
When I first started sharing my writing and I used Writing.com as my showcase, I loved the stars. My heart, and my Muse, would soar with ever four or five star review I received. Then, I started to realize that most of the stars were utterly useless. It was the words – the review itself – that I needed to see.
I had five-star reviews that said nothing. I had four-stars that raved about the story, without explaining how it missed that coveted fifth star. I had good reviews that tore the stories apart (in helpful ways) and bad reviews that snarked at the piece for stupid reasons. I even earned one one-star review from a moderator who totally missed the point of the piece and declared it one-star because (I discovered later, she didn’t read the intro).
I learned from each of them, but despite that, I now hate seeing stars in book review blogs.
Why I hate them is simple. People seem to (and yes, this is generalize, not everyone, so don’t stake me for saying it) shy away from giving an honest one-star review. We are (generally) nice people and we don’t want to slam someone for utter and complete suckage. The average stars for most active reviewers on that site was over 4. Shouldn’t average be 3.0?
Ok, sure, many of us wouldn’t continue to read a book that was a one-star, and not finishing it, I know I wouldn’t feel right reviewing it. If I had to rate the books I’ve read this year, there would be a couple of two-stars, but the average would likely be at or above four. Though on the other hand, I’m not a book reviewer; I’m a reader only.
I do like to read one and two-star reviews. I like to see, not only what the reviewer didn’t like about the book, but also how he or she handled it. Does she mock the author and trash the characters like a jealous ex, or does she offer fair and reasonable explanations as to why the writing needs drastic improvements before she’ll read another by that author? If he or she is willing to give a one-star at all, that makes the five-star reviews that much more important. She’s not afraid to pull punches on the bad, so the good shouldn’t be candy-coated either.
How many one-star reviews have you seen lately? How many of them gave honest and unsnarky feedback about the book? It’s been a while since I’ve seen one myself – quality or not. The three mentioned yesterday were not book reviewers; they were writers hacking at successful authors. There is a world of difference.