In which I summarize my views on writers who write only positive reviews (I’m reconciled) and those who review works they haven’t read (burn the frauds!)


I am resigned to the fact that book reviews are now a means of promotion rather than an attempt to guide readers to books they will enjoy. And after a lot of soul searching, I’ve even come to understand why so many writers feel it is unethical to write a critical review. It’s tough to find fault with the, ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’ philosophy with which many of us were raised.

Guerilla Book Review: Skooksie/Flickrcc

Guerilla Book Review: Skooksie/Flickrcc

My personal choice has been to say nothing, in other words to stop writing reviews, an approach condemned by many writers. As a methodologist—yeah, I voluntarily went to school for that—I have great respect for the normal distribution and what we can learn from its resulting curve. When data is selective or massaged—e.g. writing only non-critical reviews—the curve is artificially skewed and we learn nothing. Put simply, the five star review is meaningless when all reviews are five star.

I can’t help but rebel against anything that intentionally suppresses truth and promotes ignorance. History has proven over and over again what we don’t know CAN hurt us, and while I don’t condemn writers who choose to write only positive reviews, I can’t endorse the practice.

As you can see from the image below, negative reviews didn’t hurt the popularity of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.

The Story Lady/flickrccThe Story Lady/flickrcc

Okay, enough of that. Onto the meat of this of this post.


Recently I’ve noticed an uptick in what I’ve always considered a disreputable practice: writers reviewing and/or blurbing works after reading only the first chapter or two. These writers announce (with no small amount of hubris) that this is how they are able to “read,” review, and therefore support so many of their fellow authors.

The presumption? If the first chapters are strong, the rest of the book will follow suit. These reviewers read a chapter, slap five stars on the book, write the minimum number of words allowed by Amazon—never revealing they did no more than sample the text—and it’s on to the next tome.

There is so much wrong here, I’m not sure where to begin.

First, if the initial pages didn’t compel the reviewer to continue past chapter one, how can the book be deserving of five stars?

Second, the assumption that a strong beginning means a great book is spurious at best. I can’t believe there’s a writer on the face of the planet who isn’t aware of this.

Third, it is unethical veering on fraudulent to review a book after reading only a chapter or two, unless the reviewer states this upfront.

Forth, many of these same writer-reviewers denounce reviews of their own work when a low rating is coupled with a claim the critic didn’t/couldn’t finish the novel.

Why is it okay for a writer to give a five star review after reading a single chapter but not okay for a reader to give a two star review after reading half a book? Double standard, my friends, and it reeks of hypocrisy.


Should writers get a pass for reviewing books they haven’t finished?

Are they being supportive or dishonest?

Do these same writers have the right to complain when they are negatively reviewed based on an unfinished read?


Hope to see you all on Wednesday for IWSG!