How to write a review

Yes, yes, I know Cedar Sanderson and I did a bit about this on Mad Genius Club Sunday but something came up this morning that drove the point home again. So, I’m going to point everyone back to the original post on MGC and the expound some more.

For those who don’t know Cedar, she is a wonderful newish author and one of my co-bloggers at MGC. She just released the second book, Trickster Noir, in her Pixie for Hire series. It is a mix of fantasy, noir and mystery and a fun read. Better yet, she has a new twist on some of the fantasy tropes that I found refreshing. But I will leave it at that and urge you to go try it for yourself.

I mention Trickster Noir because it was one of the reviews for it that had me shaking my head and wondering just what the reviewer was thinking when writing the review. Even though giving TN a five star review, the reviewer went on to criticize the fact that Cedar kept mentioning the two lead characters weren’t sleeping together — and why, which is due to a combination of factors the characters have to deal with before being able to have time to sleep together — and then, as if that wasn’t enough, the reviewer then tries to tie it into the Hugo and related brouhaha that is currently going on.

Look, if you don’t want to give spoilers in a review, then don’t talk about a major plot point. If you don’t like the fact the main characters actually think and talk about why they aren’t sleeping together and then want to show your own, well, what folks could call sexism by saying you leave the wedding preparations to the ladies so you don’t particularly want to read about the details, fine. But don’t go on ad nauseum about it in a review, especially when those are not major plot points or issues in the book.

Most of all, don’t try to tie into what is, hopefully, a passing upheaval in the SF/F world, especially since more readers aren’t even aware of it happening. By preaching about preaching that is or is not happening in the book, you are doing the author a disservice.

But that’s just my two cents’ worth. When I look at reviews, I want a short, concise note about whether or not the story is good, if it kept the reviewers attention and if there were any glaring formatting, etc., errors.

And, again, that’s just my two cents’ worth.

About the author

Writer, proud military mom and possessed by two crazy cats and one put-upon dog. Writes under the names of Amanda S. Green, Sam Schall and Ellie Ferguson.


  1. In general, I don’t review books I strongly dislike.

    First, because for the most part, I’m a believer in YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). Unlike some, I’m aware that a “Good Read” is a matter of taste and tastes vary.

    Second, if a book has reached the point that I can’t believe anybody could enjoy it, then I don’t like to dwell on it and I feel that reviewing it would just raise my blood pressure more.

    As for reviewing books I enjoy, I find it hard to say why I enjoy it. I’m inclined to just say “Good Read” which because of “YMMV” doesn’t really help people reading reviews to decide if they want to purchase the book.

    On the other hand, I do read reviews myself to see if a book is worth purchasing. Many reviews say more about the person reviewing the book than they say about the book itself. [Sad Smile]

    1. I’ll leave a review for a book I read and didn’t like, or even one that I didn’t finish because I didn’t like it. But, I’ll explain what it is that I don’t like about it (pacing, character development, unrealistic events, etc.). I think it is a disservice to the author and other readers to have nothing but one-sided reviews. Quite often I get better information about a book I’m looking at reading from an honest negative review than the positive ones.

  2. I have mentioned writing mechanics before, and probably will again. And I have written negative reviews, though every time I write one, I try to point out _something_ positive (or a story I felt this particular writer did a better job with, something I enjoyed). My most famous example thus far in that regard is probably the review I wrote at Shiny Book Review for Debbie Macomber’s HANNAH’S LIST. That book is about a widower who receives one, final letter from his deceased wife a year after her passing, and she tells him that there are three women she wants him to date and to pick one of them to marry. Because he should have children, because he’s a wonderful candidate to be a father . . . and of course, Hannah was not able to have any with him.

    As a widow, I found a great deal wrong with this book. And I said so. Loudly. But I also said that Ms. Macomber had written many other books, and that I especially like her books with angels Shirley, Goodness and Mercy such as THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS.

    Mind you, I have criticized writing mechanics in “mainstream” publications and the Big Five NY publishers (it is still the Big Five, right?) as well as in a few indie publications. I think fair is fair; if you’re going to mention it, it should be consistent. (Don’t just hit indie or small press authors with it, because that definitely isn’t fair or just.)

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