Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunday Salon: Getting On My Soapbox

I am looking forward to settling in with my book today and stepping outside of my own world for a short while. Author Karen E. Olson recommended Craig Johnson's Sheriff Walt Longmire series to me quite a while ago. It did not take long for a little bubble of excitement to well up inside me as I began reading the first book in the series. A promising start to be sure!

I try and avoid getting onto a soapbox here on my blog, but I could not resist jumping on it today. I am not always good at expressing my thoughts, but I'll give it a try.

I recently came across a story about an author who let her ego get in the way. A reviewer on Amazon actually liked the author's book, however, took issue with a few things. The response she received back from the author was a nasty personal attack. In another forum, the author stated that she had used a private investigator to get personal information on the reviewer, an implied threat. Whether the author is full of hot air or actually did this, I cannot say. I would hope it is not true. It also has come to light that this particular author has engaged in questionable behavior for quite some time, striking out at anyone who writes what she deems as a negative review against her work and encourages others to do so as well, with the intention of having the reviews removed from Amazon. There is much more to the story, but I will not go into it here. Suffice it to say, as a reader and reviewer, I am appalled.

I have heard about and even witnessed authors lashing out at readers/reviewers who did not like their work. By lashing out I am referring to being mean spirited and cruel. I will not name names, but I imagine their reputations proceed them. On the flip side, I can think of a couple of authors who have recently commented on the blogs of friends, both of whom were gracious in disagreeing with the reviewer on minor points, and it lead to interesting discussions. As a reader, I appreciate the added insight into a novel. Perhaps I did miss something or will find new understanding with clarification. One of the things I enjoy most about being a part of book discussion groups is the fact that members not only discuss books, but offer differing perspectives and ideas. It is especially exciting when an author can join in on the discussion as well.

Readers/reviewers can be cruel too, of course. I despise author bashing. It really does not serve a purpose, and it says more about the reader than it does about the author. I can say the same for readers who vehemently lash out at other readers who disagree with an opinion on any given book. It is one thing to criticize or disagree in a respectful manner and a completely other thing to resort to insults and name calling.

Anytime you put something out there, it is open to interpretation by the person receiving the information. An author can hope that the reader will fully comprehend and take away from his or her book what the author intended, but so many variables come into play that could make that impossible. Every time I sit down to read a book, I bring with me my life's experiences, my knowledge, my expectations, and, yes, even the mood I am in at the time. This alone is enough to color my impressions of a book. How I perceive something could be entirely different than how you might perceive it. And then there's a matter of taste itself. What appeals to me will not appeal to everyone. There is nothing right or wrong about it. It just is.

When I write a review of a book, I am merely sharing my impressions, putting forth my own opinion about how the book affected me. Reading is a communion between the author and the reader. For a short while, we are bound together in a relationship of sorts. And like in real life, relationships are complex. We put our trust in each other, the author in writing the book and sharing it with the world, and the reader in selecting that book to read. Reading is a very intimate and personal experience.

I can understand how an author might not appreciate a negative review. Not many people like to hear such criticism. An author puts a lot of sweat and time into a book. The book is a part of that author--who he or she is. Some authors handle criticism better than others. Some are able to flick it off their shoulders like it is nothing. Others feel a pang of pain with each negative review, however small. No one likes to be rejected, after all, even in the slightest of ways. Fortunately, most authors do not act out their frustrations of a negative review on the reader/reviewer. They do not turn it into a personal attack. They may blog about it in general terms, but there's nothing at all wrong with that. Authors deserve a forum to talk about us crazy fans and commiserate about the wild things reviewers say. Not to mention it's quite entertaining to blog readers, writers and non-writers alike.

At the same time, I do not think that readers/reviewers should avoid writing well thought out negative reviews. It is never my intention to hurt anyone's feelings, but I value honesty and have to be true not only to myself but also to those who may happen upon my thoughts about any given book. To do otherwise would put into question my credibility as well as my self-respect.

I think that authors who lash out like the one mentioned in the beginning of my rant are very rare. They stand out like a sore thumb as a result. The few authors who have left comments for me so far have always been gracious and kind. I get a thrill when authors take the time to comment on my blog. It is a validation to me as a reader, and, well, it is just plain awesome.



I had a windfall in free books this week, some coming as a complete surprise. Others were being sold at bargain prices that I just could not resist. It was a rough week, what can I say? Book retail therapy was in order.

Recent Book Acquisitions:
Moving Forward: Taking the Lead in Your Life by Dave Pelzer
The House of Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse
Tigerheart by Peter David
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien
The Gathering by Anne Enright
The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos
Silver of Truth by Lisa Unger
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
The Courage Consort by Michel Faber

44 comments:

  1. I found your soapbox very interesting! I've never had any personal reactions from authors, but I have had a pang of guilt on a couple of occasions when I've given a book either a bad or a lukewarm review. I would hate to be an author and come across a book review in which the blogger says (as I have on more than one occasion), "This might be a good beach read but the characters are flat and stereotypical..." But, as you said: "We put our trust in each other, the author in writing the book and sharing it with the world, and the reader in selecting that book to read." I was thinking when I wrote a review of To Kill a Mockingbird yesterday that I should figure out how to write to Harper Lee and send her my review. Of course, she's probably read a million reviews of her book (or, being Harper Lee, maybe not).
    SmallWorld

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  2. Somebody commented to me about reviewers being removed from Amazon just the other day. Must be the happenin' thing at the moment.

    Your post is well-said and I agree wholeheartedly.

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  3. Nicely written. I believe that if people are just honest, compassionately honest, most people can "take it."
    As a writer and a budding blog reviewer, I try to honor everyone I'm writing about or for - the author and my readers. I owe it to the author to be fair and to recognize the work that has gone into that writing, but I also owe it to my readers to guide them a bit - if they give me their trust - to things that they will enjoy or learn from.
    Thanks for this.

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  4. I enjoyed reading your soap box - it's very nicely written. I haven't heard about these instances of authors lashing out against negative reviews. I don't think I've ever been outright negative about a book I've read - heck if I've finished it it must have had at least one redeeming feature! Sometimes books just aren't to my taste - but I always point out that others may like them - we're not all fans of the same genres after all.

    I think andi makes a great point - we owe it to the author to be fair and constructive -and to our readers to guide them.

    It's definitely food for thought though.

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  5. I really did enjoy your soapbox. Lots of food for thought there. I will admit that I do not write many negative things about books because, well, because if I don't like the book, I stop reading it. However, I know that is not the case for everyone and is of course not the case when a review has been promised because of an advance copy being sent or somesuch. I do appreciate honesty in reviews, but also understand how authors could be dismayed by negative or lukewarm reactions.

    On another note, I have also heard great things about the Craig Johnson mysteries. I have a friend who lives in Wyoming and she loves them and has recommended them highly. They are on that endless list of mine and I think I have the first one around here somewhere. I'll look forward to hearing your reaction to them, but I think you will probably like them very much.

    Have a good Sunday!!

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  6. I have a bizarre urge to applaud just now. *claps* Well said.

    I don't write negative reviews very frequently, and I certainly never bash an author, but I do reserve my right to write those negative reviews. I try to see things from both sides of the fence, but I do try to mention whether I personally did or did not like a book. I feel like if I say I really like/love every book I read that sort of discredits me when I *actually* love a book. I've come pretty far in knowing my own reading tastes, but nobody likes *every* book that they pick up, do they? But when I'm reviewing those books I didn't love, I always try to point out something good about them as well so other readers can decide for themselves. And I should hope that if people or even the author him or herself wanted to disagree with me on any points in my reviews that we could have a mature conversation about it rather than anger and threats. Acting like a jerk doesn't seem like any way to get people to read your books!

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  7. Like your other commenters I really appreciated your soapbox. I've only ever had grateful comments from authors for reviews I've done. but do know of one writer whose works I wouldn't touch simply because of the vitriol that has been let lose on other bloggers. Eventually this has to be counter productive. As I've said I don't read the writer in question, soon others who know the story will surely follow suit.

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  8. Just to add to the voices above, I enjoyed reading your soapbox. I'm appalled at the author you mentioned who couldn't take a bit of negatively. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on a subject...and as such all reviews that a person reads should always be taken with a grain of salt. As everyone approaches a book differently. I've had a few interactions with authors and so far those interactions have all be positive. Although I've heard stories of authors who weren't the most kind. I hope to never have such an interaction myself, but no that I am always open to it with every review/opinion that I right.

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  9. Very disturbing. Since this was the author's debut, maybe she just didn't know any better and hopefully smarten up in the future. It can't be good for business to behave like that and I'll avoid that author like the plague now. I hope her publishers or agent give her a good talking to. I have heard of threats of this kind on another review site that got so out of hand the reviewers had to post anonymously.

    This bothers me as a Reader. I have my own opinions and voice as nicely as I can. But that is MY opinion and it's just an opinion. I agree that we get out of reading what we put into it, our experiences, beliefs, etc. And we can't like everything we read!

    Great post!

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  10. Oops! Why did I think this was a debut?! I have to read slower. Shame on her. She should know better.

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  11. I enjoyed reading this too - very interesting and well said. I've only had favourable comments from authors and I was amazed they'd actually read my posts and took the time to thank me. I find it difficult to write a negative review, but like other people I rarely do because I don't finish books I don't like - what's the point. But I do think we should be honest in what we write - we can't all like the same things anyway - and it's hardly credible that we like everything we read.

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  12. Hockey Pucks! You are very good at expressing your views. Actually you’re great. Anyway, I think it is soooooo wild you’d mention this today. Yesterday I read a response on Amazon where the author rated his own book and in the review (of his own book) he criticized the one and only review posted. He was so harsh that it totally blew me away!

    I’ve had a couple of authors contact me in a panic that a reviewer gave them a bad rating. This is immature on the side of the writer. Do they live in a cave? Didn’t they see this coming? I don’t say that, but think it.

    On the flipside, I am with you about author bashing. I have seen reviewers go out of their way to be mean. This is why I came up with a rating system of sorts. If I didn’t, I’d be a victim to my moods and rate them accordingly. I’d feel bad about myself if that happened.

    I am so glad you brought this up!

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  13. There is a big difference between objectively reviewing an author's work and attacking the author personally. If a review is about the work itself, then the author doesn't have a leg to stand on in attacking the reviewer.

    However, I have seen many reviewers who see a book they didn't like as an opportunity to bash an author's character, personality, or every other book they've ever written. That isn't a book review, in my opinion. I still think that it is much classier on the author's part to ignore these sort of attacks, though.

    On a different topic, I also received The House at Midnight and Tigerheart this week - they look great! I can't wait to (finally) finish Anna Karenina so I can dive into some lighter reading.

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  14. Wow, what a great post. I've only had authors show up on my blog two times, one for a glowing review, the other for what I intended to be a negative but good-natured review. However, both shocked me because it had never occurred to me that an "actual author" would find my blog.

    I must say, I'm more inclined to trust reviewers who post the occasional negative review, especially if their complaints are about things that would bug me too. A thoughtful negative review can often generate more interesting discussion than a positive one.

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  15. That is quite a story! I wonder if that kind of thing happens to movie reviewers, they seem so much meaner than a book reviewer.

    I was verbally attacked by an author once but I shrugged it off. I have a pretty thick skin and didn't bash his work. As you said, I just gave my impressions of what I read and was very careful and respectful when I didn't like it.

    Taking criticism is a big part when putting your work in the public eye.

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  16. There is a saying that states that at any given time only 50% of people in this world will like, you, agree with you etc...not bad all things said. It is most likely true.

    Every book published is not going to be to everyone's taste and that is ok. I am sure this author receives positive reviews but lets the negative ones influence her. This right there is not good. You have to take the good that is handed to you in life and walk away from the bad if possible.
    This woman has issues and I wonder if she can write a good book with all those issues???Probably not.

    Ok here is my input, I agree with you Wendy, i hope i expressed myself correctly.

    By the way I love this French book "In those Arms" I am reading, I will have to post about it when finished, it is human, "intellectual" (what did those reviewers think on amazon...it is a french book :p and if they are looking for this HOT FRENCH SEX...I am 3/4 done and have to run into a sex scene yet, this book is an intellectual study of relationships between man and women and I've seen it right here in the USA ;)no kidding, love is alive here in the good old USA ;)))

    I still have to put up my Sunday Salon, first I am going to eat lunch. Looks like I put it up on your post :P

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  17. Bravo!!!
    I am so happy you wrote this post today and totally agree with you.
    Forget about the soapbox, sometimes it is needed and I for one am happy you were on it.
    When we read our schema is a part of that text as the brain forms connections. We all have our own opinions and form different preferences based on so many factors. Yuck!!! I hate science fiction, but I wouldn't condemn others for their opinion. My sister and I have this argument all the time. She can never understand why I "bother" to read historical fiction. Of course, she is not exactly an avid reader as all of you are.
    Thank you for your honest words of encouragement and support to anyone who may be a little shy about offering their valuable opinion in a review.
    I would never slam or bash another reviewer or author. It just is BAD practice!!!

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  18. I hadn't heard about this incident, so I appreciate your writing about it.

    I think many of us who review books on our blogs don't come with experience and education in literary criticism; we just like to read, and to share our opinions and perspectives on what we've read. I've had very few times when an author has actually read and commented on a post of mine reviewing one of her books, but I'll admit that the possibility of its happening probably does encourage me to keep my reviews a bit more positive. Even if I don't particularly like a book, I won't bash it or the author; I'll just say it really wasn't my thing.

    Your "soapboxing" was very well articulated, Wendy (as always). And thanks for sharing your retail book therapy - I find that it's often necessary too! :-)

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  19. I too, loved the soapbox. Very nicely written, and it strikes me (as a psychotherapist) that you've written about something so much larger than book reviews, non?? :) There are probably times for all of us when we are both the "criticizer" or we are the "criticizee". It helps to remember that clearly stating reasons without attacking is always a useful skill. Thanks so much for the reminder.

    I, too, feel it's very important to be able to say I didn't like a book. After all, my reviews would mean little to people if I just loved them all, without categorizing them in any way. Still, most of the books I don't like are because of certain details that others might enjoy...and I ALWAYS remember how important this work is to the one who wrote it.

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  20. SmallWorld - I sometimes feel guilty too when it comes to writing reviews that aren't glowing. I hate to disappoint the author, but I also don't want to pretend I liked something I didn't care for.

    Joy - Thank you. There always seems to be something when it comes to Amazon, doesn't there?

    Thanks, Andi. I try and take the author and the readers into consideration when writing a review as well. I have so much respect for writers when it comes right down to it. I hope to get that across in my reviews, while at the same time being honest with my readers.

    Mrs. S - Thank you. Over the years I've heard of a few instances although this latest one seems to be the worst I've come across. I tend to write more positive reviews too, with an occasional criticism here and there. If the book is just awful, I don't finish it. Nor do I review it.

    Kay - I am so glad you didn't mind my little rant. I tend to be the kind of person who prefers to focus on the positive and, for the most part, I think my reviews reflect that.

    I'm hoping to get to my book shortly. I am glad your friend likes Craig Johnson's books so much. Definitely a positive sign!

    Megan - Thank you so much! I think you said it much more succinctly than I did. I try to write a balanced review too, especially when there's something about a book I don't like. I don't like to focus on the negative and so often will make short mention of it and move on quickly.

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  21. Ann - Thanks. I have only had positive feedback from authors as well fortunately. I understand the desire to defend one's work, but there is an appropriate way to go about it. It's a shame not everyone is mature enough to realize this.

    Irish - Thank you. It is appalling. You put it very well--we all have our own opinions and the right to them. I hope you never have a negative experience with an author, but as you said, we are open to it just by the public nature of our blogs.

    Chris - Like you, I hope the publishers or he agent will do something about her behavior. She's hurting her own career more than any negative review ever could.

    Margaret - Thank you. Isn't that the truth? I am always amazed and tickled pink when an author comments on my blog and thanks me for a review or even just stops by at all.

    I don't usually finish books I do not like either. I read quite a few books I consider good, and yet there are little things that may have bothered me. I like having the freedom to express my opinion.

    J. Kaye - Thank you very much! That's kind of you to say.

    I heard about that too! Authors reviewing their own books on Amazon. I shake my head in wonder at the levels people will stoop to.

    I really don't understand why some reviewers sometimes feel the need to be so vicious in attacking authors. I agree with Carrie K in that reviews cease to be reviews at that point. I understand feeling passionate about a book, but there's a definite difference between expressing oneself in a professional and balanced manner and lashing out in a cruel and mean way.

    Carrie K - So very true! Very well said.

    How are you finding Anna Karenina? I am drowning in books right now. I need to stop collecting ARE's, but I don't think that is going to happen.

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  22. I enjoyed reading your soapbox. Thanks for the comments. I look forward to readign your blog! Erin

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  23. I hope you enjoy THE COLD DISH. I haven't gotten to his other books yet, but they're in that TBR pile that never seems to get any shorter...

    About authors reacting to negative reviews: I've gotten negative reviews and pretty much just brush them off after an initial "oh, why didn't he/she like the book better??" I did get one reader review that was actually rather scathing, so much so I wondered if I'd met the person at some point and I'd said something that pissed her off :)

    I have received emails from people who object to the language in my books, but I always wonder why they actually finish reading them if they're so offended they feel compelled to write me an email scolding me. I usually just respond with a generic, "but it's not gratuitous, reporters really do talk like that" and leave it at that.

    It's not worth my time to respond to negative reviews. I know not everyone is going to love my work, books are very subjective. I don't love every book I read, either. I just hope that enough people like my books so I can keep writing them!

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  24. Thanks to everyone here for a very interesting discussion.

    I've rarely given less than three our of five stars on my blog, because like most people here I only finish books I'm enjoying and I only review books I finish.

    I did give a very negative review recently to a book I read as a favor for my school librarian. It was just so bad it really made me angry. I checked out the other online reviews first, and found that everyone else had nothing but high praise for the book, much to my suprise.

    I think authors, like all artists, need to develop a fairly thick skin. If a negative review really upsets you, you're probably not in the right business. Everyone gets bad reviews now and then.

    All that said, It negative reviews can be kind of fun. See Roger Ebert's book I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie.

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  25. Julie - Thank you. I like that some authors take the time to comment on readers blogs. I don't think I'll ever get over the surprise of it.

    I agree with you that a thoughtful negative review can open up a good discussion. That or differing views on a book.

    Jaimie - That's a good question. I imagine it could happen in any type of forum.

    I"m sorry you had to endure an upset author, but it sounds like you handled the situation very well.

    Sylvie - I tend to believe it is true. There's always going to someone out there who does not agree with us. The question then becomes how we handle the situation. Hopefully not the way the author in this particular case did.

    Thanks for the update on "In Those Arms." It sounds like something I would like to read. I hope you had a good lunch!

    Love2b - Thanks! You said it so much better than I did.

    Florinda - I came across the story in a round about way and it got under my skin. Probably because it's a subject that hubby and I sometimes discuss over dinner.

    When looking through my book journal over the years, I've noticed that I'm kinder in my reviews since starting my blog than I was when my reviews were kept private. I think knowing an author could come across them has impacted how I express myself a bit.

    Retail book therapy is my favorite kind of therapy. :-)


    Lisa - Thank you. And yes, you are right. It is a much larger issue than book reviews. Communication is key in expression ourselves and gentle honesty and respect go a lot farther than hurtling insults and resorting to name calling and threats.

    I appreciate reading a negative or lukewarm review of a book I am considering reading. I don't necessarily let them deter me from a book I want to read, but they can be helpful. I can usually tell too when I might like a book that someone else didn't based on his or her comments. As you said, just because you might not have liked something about the book doesn't mean someone else won't either.

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  26. Erin - Thank you for you kind words and for stopping by!

    Karen - I really am enjoying Craig Johnson's book. I was able to snag his other two to review for another website and so will be reading them sooner than later, I imagine.

    I am so glad you stopped in, Karen, because I was hoping for an author's take on the subject.

    I remember reading a blog post at First Offenders about the types of letters authors sometimes receive from readers. Some of them amaze me. They can be quite funny, actually, although I'm sure they are written in all seriousness by the reader. Readers can be very finicky sometimes.

    C.B. - I am much the same way. My rating scale tends to be top heavy as a result.

    And you are right, sometimes negative reviews can be kind of fun, especially when the reviewer adds humor to the review. I will be sure and check out Roger Ebert's book. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  27. You expressed your thoughts perfectly, and I completely agree with what you had to say.

    Reading all the comments was fascinating too. What a great discussion.

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  28. I am enjoying Anna Karenina - but it is so very long! And, Tolstoy has a habit of expounding for pages on the politics and economics of Russia during the time period, which I am not incredibly interested in. But the writing is beautiful - I wish I could write description like he did.

    When it's over, though, I will definitely be in the mood for a rip-roaring fast read.

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  29. I think you said your views rather well. I understand that authors put a lot of blood and sweat into their books - but they are also putting them out there for the public to read. Everyone takes something different from books they read. If you put your work out there - then you have to be willing to take all kinds of public opinion.

    I do agree however, that those opinions should not attack the author personally.

    I couldn't agree more with everything you've written!!!

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  30. Well, you certainly have hit upon a topic interesting to your readers, Wendy!

    Thank you for a well informed, beautifully written piece which I completely agree with...it is a little disconcerting to think that an author would go so far as to hire a PI to investigate the private life of a reviewer...sounds a little psycho to me.

    That said, I have had only one negative response from an author who emailed me privately to rant about my review. I didn't respond to him.

    I always struggle when having to give a less than glowing review to a book. I try my hardest to keep it objective - listing the reasons why it failed for me and always trying to pick out parts that worked, or why another reader might enjoy it. As a writer myself, I understand how our stories become our "babies" and we don't like to hear them criticized. On the other hand, being criticized and rejected is part of being a writer - and what doesn't kill you, WILL make you a better writer (if you can listen and learn from what the readers are saying).

    Now I'll get off MY soapbox!

    Have a great week, Wendy!

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  31. I really enjoyed reading this post, Wendy, and you have said it well.

    It's sad to hear some authors do not take negative reviews/critisms well, after all I think the readers have their rights in expressing their honest views, but I'm against any author bashing because it reflects nothing but on the reader's character that's all.

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  32. I thought you expressed yourself very well. I had trouble with this yesterday while I was writing up my thoughts on A Million Little Pieces. My opinions are heated ones and I did not want to criticize the author or his experience or his writing, but I had a tough time separating all of that out of my basic thoughts on the book. *sigh* I guess sometimes we forget that authors are real people with real feelings? Anyway, really interesting thoughts in your post.

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  33. Nymeth - Thanks! I hadn't expected the discussion to take off like it has. I appreciate everyone's input!

    Carrie K - Definitely something fast paced is in order after Tolstoy's novel. :-) I temporarily gave up on my goal to read War and Peace this year. I still want to read it, but I'm not ready for it yet, I'm afraid.

    Kara - Thank you. I agree with you that an author and even the reviewer open ourselves up to criticism by putting ourselves out there. We take a chance by doing so.

    Wendy - Thank you for your kind words. I think you capture it quite well with your comment as well.

    I really hope she didn't go so far as to hire a PI. That is definitely a step over the edge. Anger and frustration I can understand, even if I don't think she should have attacked the reviewer like she did, but to seek out information and imply a threat . . .That's very scary.

    Melody - Thanks! I think it is sad too. I understand being upset about a negative review, but I do think that there was a better way of handling the situation. And as you said, author bashing really only reflects on the reader. If anything, I tend to sympathize more with the author in cases like that and want to shun the reader.

    Trish - I'm all for being gentle with criticism, however, when you feel so strongly about something I don't think you should necessarily stifle your opinions. I thought your review of A Million Little Pieces was just fine. You offered your opinion, gave reasons for not liking the book, and owned your review. The author might not appreciate it, but that isn't the point, is it? I appreciate it as one of your readers. :-)

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  34. Everything you say is completely sensible, of course. I have only had one extremely mild disappointed reaction from an author whose book I liked in many ways but criticized in one small way. Most authors just thank me for the review. It seems to me that a gracious comment from an author on a snarky review would make a clear statement to readers, so if I were an author, I would try for the gracious comment every time.

    I have, though, had lots of negative reactions, usually from kids googling in, about books that they adore and I criticized. I can understand that they're young and passionate about these books and perhaps not quite eloquent in the ways they disagree. People who seem to be adults and get insulting, that's completely different, uncalled for. I think it's telling that these people rarely leave links or valid emails when they comment.

    But what bothers me most when I make any criticism about a book is that it doesn't seem to matter how much I really enjoyed the book, people will leave comments that they're sorry I hated it or that they can't agree with my dislike of the book, etc. I can say twenty positive things about a book and make one small criticism, and people will automatically assume I didn't like it. I don't understand why that happens so often, if maybe people don't understand that it's rare (for me at least) to have unmixed, entirely positive feelings about a book. No book is perfect, right?

    I'm sorry if I've said anything others have already said, because I didn't read all the comments. :)

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  35. I would think that authors would like to know why someone in their audience didn't care for their story. Wouldn't you? It's just an opinion and as long as it's not "bashing" then I don't see how it hurts them. Especially not enough to go to the links that that nut did. I had an author I really liked that I wrote to because I wasn't as fond of her latest work as the previous ones (and I expressed it exactly that way) and she jumped down my throat about it. Needless to say I've refused to read anything else by her and it's probably one of the reasons I stopped writing to authors.

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  36. Dewey - You make a very good point about comments from kids versus comments from adults.

    I know exactly what you mean about people grasping onto the tiny negative comment about a book in an otherwise positive review. I've noticed that too and it sometimes makes me wonder how carefully someone read my review, or perhaps they just focus more on the negative because it sticks out.

    Jen - A lot depends, I suppose, too on exactly what it is the reader did not like about a particular book. Some aspects of criticism might be helpful to an author while others are simply a matter of taste or preference and wouldn't make a difference.

    I'm sorry you had a bad experience with an author.

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  37. Silly me clicked on the link to the story, which led to another link... - there goes an hour I'll never get back :) I must say I never read reviews (except yours, of course!) and rely on the back cover blurb and the first page. Or word of mouth from friends and customers.
    However, the shenanigans outlined in the story amazed me, particularly when I realised that the author in question writes penny dreadfuls. I have literally thousands of those books here in the shop. I have yet to find a customer who reads them for any literary merit, they're merely fillers for when they have a few minutes to spare. Maybe I'm being a snob here, but I can't imagine taking the time to review any of them. For such a fuss to be made over such a book is beyond my comprehension. Utterly beyond it. All said and done though, if someone wants to review a book and then doesn't like it, then that person has every right to say so, constructively, without being attacked for having an opinion. Methinks the author should spend less time attacking reviewers and more time on writing a decent book. Oh dear, I think I am a snob.

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  38. I completely agree with you and with most of the comments here. That kind of behavior is uncalled for. If an artist can't handle negative along with positive then they shouldn't sell their work. Especially if they know they can't handle it.

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  39. I hadn't heard about this particular author and it's just plain sad. You expressed yourself beautifully and I completely agree with you. I've only had one experience in a B&N group discussing a novel with the author where the author insisted on a certain way of interpreting events or characters and literally told the readers who thought differently that they got it wrong. That was hardly on this scale but even that left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Sigh. Why is that people focus on the negative so much?
    Anyway, nice pile of books you got this week. Yay for book retail therapy! I saw a performance of 'The Vagina Monologues' when we lived in London and it was fabulous.

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  40. I have really got to reread Anna Karenina one of these days. If the other Carrie K is reading it now......well darn. I'm reading fun stuff. Not to imply that Tolstoy isn't fun....

    Very nicely put, Wendy! I have to agree with your soapbox oration, in more than just book reviewing. A little thick skin goes a long way and agreeing to disagree wouldn't hurt either. Nothing is universally beloved.

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  41. Wonderful post! I have to say that I will give out a less than glowing review of a book but I never stoop to author bashing. I sort of can't imagine that!
    This is the first time I've been to your site and it's wonderful!

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  42. What a wonderful post! I couldn't agree with you more. I had one author post on my blog after I said I didn't like the book but my review offered up the good and the not so good and she was very gracious. I appreciated that a lot.

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  43. You brought up a very interesting 'soapbox' topic! I find that constructive criticism can often stimulate the most interesting discussions. It's just too bad that some people aren't open to criticism of any kind, and others can be unneccesarily harsh and mean-spirited in a negative review.

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  44. Interesting post. I had a somewhat similar experience not long ago (blogged about at http://shereadsbooks.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/my-dear-inflated-sir/).An author responded to something I wrote with a very personal attack.

    Fortunately, he's been the only one to do so -- in fact, all of the other authors with whom I've had contact have been exceedingly nice, and gracious, and I've greatly enjoyed discussing their books with them.

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