If you haven’t got anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. (Thumper’s mummy, Bambi)
This old saying is tattooed across my brain, but when it comes to book reviews things get tricky, I want to tell the truth but I don’t really want to harshly criticise someone’s hard work. If you read a lot of reviews its clear that most people only write reviews about books they feel passionate about (not a bad thing), they either loved them and want to shout it from the roof tops or they hated them and want to thoroughly chastise the author, the publisher or anyone remotely involved with said novels production, even the cat that may have strolled across the laptop at some point is not spared castigation (true story, I read that in a review somewhere). I just can’t do that, no matter what, the author spent hours months probably even years writing that book, and for that alone they should be applauded.
Try not to tread on toes today that may be connected to the ass you may have to kiss tomorrow (Mr Wood-ism).
On top of this moral pressure only to say nice things, is the concern that as an aspiring author I don’t really want to upset anyone who may otherwise have been there to help me in the future. People are ultimately going to find it hard to be objective about your work if you reviewed theirs and said they had the literary talent of a woodlouse, however true that may be. Ah, but shouldn’t people know if they have less talent than a light shy invertebrate, well yes, maybe, but as most of these people have been picked up by an agent had their book sold to a publisher, reviewed in multiple edit runs, beta readers, so on and so forth perhaps discretion is the better part of valour!
So what’s prompted this moral examination of book reviews, well I read a book, unsurprisingly enough, and I liked it. So? I hear you cry, I liked the book it was okay but I LOVED the premise, I even liked the story but for me the execution wasn’t there, it just fell a little flat. The characters didn’t behave as you’d expect, the writing was a little stagnant holding me back from the story and stopping me from really getting on board with the characters. The whole thing was unique but it just didn’t deliver and it made me cross, frustrated that this book wasn’t as good as I’d wanted it to be, fur coat and no knickers spring to mind, all bark and no bite, you get the idea. I wanted to rant and rave and give it a miserable review, but I will read what she writes next, I want other people to read it as well, I want to read her stories, I just want them to be better. So what do I put in a review, after some reflection I decided I needed to wander into that relatively barren land of the three stars, the must try harder zone. So I am firmly pitching my tent in the middle ground, I am going to make the effort to write more reviews of the books I didn’t love or hate, hurrah for the three stars!