Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?Interesting topic this week. Well, first of all – I think if you’re doing book reviews (or reviews of any kind of product) and putting them out there in cyberspace for the public to read, you really should be honest. So if you think a book is not worth reading, you should say that. You owe that to the people taking time to read your writing.
On the other hand, I don’t think you have to be nasty or derisive or so brutally blunt that you hurt feelings or inspire wrath. It’s perfectly possible to say that you didn’t particularly like a book without unnecessary sarcasm or ranting. Most writers (not all, I realize – but most) are willing to hear a little criticism of their work as long as it’s of the “constructive” variety, and as long as they think the critic has taken the work seriously and is really expressing a honest opinion.
Of course, I haven’t had that much experience of author reactions to my blog reviews. I’ve only heard from one author about the review I did of his work, and that was a very nice, courteous little note thanking me for my “candid” review (I had written that overall I liked the book, but there were a few things that bothered me and I said so). I’ve heard tales of authors attacking book reviewers (in print – not physically – so far, anyway) who write negative reviews, but fortunately haven’t had to deal with that myself yet. And I’m not sure what sort of “disclaimer” you could use to keep a really disgruntled author from striking back. I suppose if it happened to me, I’d just ignore it unless it got really ugly.
Personally, I rarely finish a book that I really hate. If I’m having to force myself to read a book by the halfway point, it usually gets abandoned. That’s one of the reasons I’ve cut way back on requesting or accepting ARCs. I love getting those free books, but basically I just want to read for pleasure. And that means I’m pretty selective in the titles I choose. And I suppose it also means I’m not likely to be posting any totally negative reviews. But don’t you think life is just too short to waste a lot of time reading books you don’t like? After all, there are an awful lot of really good books out there, calling my name.
But I’m going to be very interested to read what others have to say about this topic. Have you ever tangled with an author over a review you’ve written? And how did you handle it? And are you willing to name names? And if you're an author, how do you handle the frustration of reading those negative reviews? As I said - a really interesting topic.