stick and stones

Sticks and Stone Reviews

Ann H Gabhart One Writer's Journal 7 Comments


stick and stones“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.”

That’s an old adage that I’m sure you’ve heard many times. You may had said it yourself or told your kids to say it when you were trying to get them past some hurtful words aimed at them at school or on the playground. I doubt it’s actually true. Oh, it’s true that sticks and stones might break our bones, but words can hurt us. Words that wound can stay with us for years, long after our broken bones from those stones would heal.

And of course, we’ve all been the victims of harsh words, thoughtless words, untrue words. Unfortunately, we may even have released some of those words into the world. Nowadays with communication so easy and so fast, sometimes words get away from us too quickly. Words we sometimes wish back. But there are also other kinds of words in this day of internet that can encourage, help, or hurt. Reviews. You can find reviews of almost anything and everything on the internet. Sellers beg you for reviews of any product you buy. Did you like it? Did it meet expectation? Would you recommend it to others?

While all sorts of products have internet reviews, books reviews have been around forever. The reviews used to only be in magazines and newspapers, but now readers review books on blogs, online review magazines and on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and more. Anywhere the book is for sale, you, as a reader, can probably post a review. Some authors never read reviews. It can be a painful experience. Especially if you’re not a seasoned or hardened writer who has been around the block a time or two.

I’ve gotten more than my share of great reviews and I appreciate every one. Actually, I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read one of my books. I admire people who can write reviews without giving spoilers. I even try to appreciate those who read my books but obviously just do not like them. I admit that’s not always easy. But a person has the right to express his or her opinion, like this reviewer who gave Angel Sister a one-star review on Amazon. “I was disappointed in the fact that it was published at all. I could see this as a rough draft but not a final draft.” Ouch! Those are only words, but that can bruise a writer’s psyche a bit.

But then those unfavorable reviews are nicely balanced by the good one like this five-star one of Angel Sister from Anne. “When I start reading a good story, I get drawn in and just want to know how it ends. Last night, I finished reading a new book and when I was done, I just smiled.” Smiles are good.

And you have to have two good ones, at least, to balance out the bad of that first one. 🙂 “I have never read anything by Ms. Gabhart but this book makes me want to read everything she has ever written. She pulls you into her characters lives, by weaving a story so real that I had to remind myself I was actually reading fiction.This was one of those stories where you hate to see it end.” (excerpt from a 5-star Amazon review of Angel Sister by Brenda C.)

So I’ve gotten all sorts of reviews, but I’m thankful I’ve never gotten one quite as bad as this one written by Philip Hensher on the Observer about The Book of Kings by James Thackara. I’ve not read the book. I don’t plan to read the book, but I did read portions of the review. It’s harsh. Worse than harsh. Words that definitely had sharp points that had to wound. (The complete review is here if you’re curious.

“Reviewing someone’s first novel, it is customary to be polite about it, to find things to praise in it. So let me say straight away that James Thackara’s The Book Of Kings is printed on very nice paper; the typeface is clear and readable, and Samantha Nundy’s photograph of the author is in focus. And, given that it’s 773 pages long, the author has shown a commendable degree of application and spent a great deal of time on the project. … And it’s terrible. Startlingly badly written, with no apparent understanding of what drives people or how people relate or talk to each other, it is a book of gigantic, hopeless awfulness.”

There is more. Much more. Criticism so harsh it made me feel bad reading it and I don’t know anything about the book or the writer. And yet, if you go to the Amazon link for this book, there are five star reviews there that say the book is amazing.

That’s the way of reviews and reviewers. The way of life. We don’t all like the same things. We don’t all like the same sort of books. And some people let the world know what they like and don’t like.

Do you write or read reviews? Do reviews influence what you buy or don’t buy? If you are a writer, are you bothered by those words in a bad review?

Comments 7

  1. Bonnie Roof

    Hi, Ann!!

    I look at book reviews, however, the bad ones probably have little to do with my not buying the book – unless they are excessive – I realize that not every one likes the same genre or story line in books as me. I pay more attention to whether the story line is one I would enjoy or would speak to me, and who the author is. If I enjoy an author’s work, I tend to buy everything she/he writes – regardless of reviews.

    I read only Christian books, but have truly found very few who aren’t worthy of good ratings, as Diana said – I don’t finish reading, or review, those books. As with you and Diana, I give a lot of 5 stars – there are so many gifted authors, and more wonderful Christian books than I will ever have the time to read.

    Being on several author street teams, many of the books I read/review are pre-selected for me – those reviews must take preference over others I write. I never read comments on the reviews I do, other than the ones I do on Overcoming With God – and probably won’t. My reviews aren’t the caliber of my co-hort Diana’s, she’s been at it longer than I have – my only purpose in writing them is to promote the author and her/his books, I pray that I always do justice to the writing. Christian books have been such a blessing to me, if written for the right purpose – each book is worthy of being noticed and promoted (to say nothing of the amount of work and time involved in the writing). Each word/scene should be inspired by God, if so – I feel those words are meant to reach specific people, hence, the main reason for their promotion.

    I spend a huge amount of my time reading/reviewing books, and in promotion of the authors/books – both online and off (probably more than I spent at my previous paid positions). I do it because I am led by God to do so, l only wish I had time to read/review even more books than I do. I’ve written few reviews for items other than books – unless the company writes and requests that I do – no reason other than I just don’t have the time.

    1. Post
      Ann H Gabhart

      Bonnie, you are a blessing to so many Christian authors. I see your encouraging remarks on other writers’ Facebook pages and your shared posts. And I do so appreciate you sharing my news and posts when you feel your friends might like to read what I’m sharing. I have been so impressed by readers like you who go the extra mile to promote Christian fiction.

  2. Diana Flowers

    I have written 185 reviews on Amazon (ok-two were about blingy flip-flops 😛 ) and I have never written a cruel one star review on any book I have ever read. If a book is that bad I put it down and read something else. I can’t very well write a review on a book I haven’t read, can I? 😉 I know what it is like to receive criticism on a review and it is hurtful, but one has to consider the source. Two young women called me a tortoise who had no intelligence (I wish they could have seen the scores on my college entrance exams!), and called me one of THOSE Christians… So then I knew why the criticism. I do look at reviews before I buy a book and if they are mostly 4-5 star reviews and a couple of I-2 star, I would still buy the book. I can’t imagine ANYONE writing a bad review on one of your books, Ann, but again you have to consider the source. If the book has a strong spiritual thread, you may get an ugly review like the one you got above, and although hurtful you have to shrug it off. Sometimes it is persecution; other times it’s just someone who is mean spirited. There can be some very well thought out low rated reviews, but kindness is still key. <3

    1. Post
      Ann H Gabhart

      Thanks for your comment, Diana. I’ve read many of your reviews and they are always well thought out and a good view of the story. I don’t really worry about bad reviews. The positive ones have so out numbered the less than positive ones that I can easily shrug it off and continue to feel blessed to have people reading my stories. I’m on Goodreads and I am a very poor reviewer there. I just put 5 stars on everything because I’m feeling empathy with the author who might note my rating. LOL. I don’t really think many of my bad reviews have been by people who didn’t like the Christian content. A very few might have complained about that. Some have not liked the Shaker background and I can understand that too. Different strokes for different folks.

      I do agree that reviews can be negative without being mean-spirited. I really thought the one I quoted for the other book, The Book of Kings, was too harsh. And I have been stung by a few hard remarks in reviews of my books too and feel bad that the reader didn’t care for my story. But I do, as you say, shrug them off and keep writing.

      Thanks for your comment. It was good to hear from someone who has reviewed so many books.

      1. Diana Flowers

        Thank you for your kind words, Ann. I also got helpful votes on my review with the ugly comments so I was able to shrug that off, too, but it took a day or two. I know I’m not a dumb Christian tortoise so that’s not worth my time of day. 😛 Like you, I give a lot of 5 stars, because I love all my Christian fiction authors’ books!

        1. Post
          Ann H Gabhart

          The bad thing, Diana, is that even when we shrug off those bad remarks or laugh about them, we have a hard time completely forgetting them. I don’t remember the exact words of good reviews I’ve gotten even when I am blessed by what the reviewer wrote. However, several of those negative comments have buried themselves in my head the same as you’re not likely to forget about the tortoise remark even though you have brushed it aside. If only the positive stuck as well as the negative.

          1. Diana Flowers

            If only is right, Ann. It’s kind of along the same vein as bad news travels faster than good, and remembering all the negative criticism that occurred when we were in school – more so than the positive. I still remember some bad things kids said! 😮 One never forgets but we just have to keep doing what we’re doing…can’t dwell on the tortoise remark. I did for a couple of days, though. 😛

            I totally agree with you, Ann, about my cohort, Bonnie. She is indeed a blessing and an encouragement to everyone! Not to mention her reviews are beautifully written. I have only been writing them 3 or 4 years and envy those who got started way earlier and seem to have a way with words that I don’t. I think we are our own worse critics. So I know where Bonnie is coming from. Sometimes I want to just write one liners and fill in the stars. 😀 However, as you can see by this reply, one liners aren’t my thing. Lol God gave some 10 talents and others less, but we still have to use what we have been given. But, oh, to be able to write reviews like Kav. sigh… She gets tickled at me when I say that, but I’m not kidding! Lol

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