Writing reviews: I’m changing my review…again! #BookReviews #Memoirs

On Saturday morning I was enjoying some time on YouTube and came across a video of an author speaking about his recent memoir. One of the topics that came up was how much of his own writing actually went into the memoir. He proceeded to talk about what a struggle this memoir was to write because he’s never been a writer and didn’t have any interest in being one. He’d basically forced himself to write and didn’t feel very good about it. The whole deal made him feel overwhelmed, and what was promised didn’t really come through for him. It turned out to be a negative experience overall.

This brought back memories to a memoir I reviewed over a year ago by one of my favorite musicians, and I started to think about some of the things I stated in my review.

I cringed…

So many thoughts spun around my head:

  • Who are you to say that?
  • This is his memoir, not mine.
  • Oh, God…what if he’s actually read my review?
  • Did I really write that?
  • Well, that’s just great. He’s going to think I’m a horrible person!
  • How could I have said that the book lacked something that I wanted? What do I really know about this person’s life anyway?

I used words such as ‘lacking’ and ‘dragged’ when talking about the things I didn’t like so much about the memoir. Needless to say, I went and changed some of the negative words and phrases I used to sound less harsh. After updating my review I literally sat back in my chair with both hands on my face and just let out a deep breath. Now, I’ll be truthful and say that the book was enjoyed immensely, and I rated it five-stars straightaway, but some of the things I was looking for simply weren’t there. Something expected was a more in-depth look at some of the relationships he was involved in.

I’ve talked about writing negative reviews before and how it’s the reader’s right to review the book truthfully. Now I’m thinking about how I don’t want to be over critical on memoirs, but I also don’t want to be over critical of my actual reviews of books either.

It’s days like this when I’m ready to just throw in the towel. What is it that makes me so critical of what I say about books anyway? I believe it’s because I’ve grown up knowing that opinions hurt, and I’ve been hurt in life by the things that other people have said. It irritates me when people don’t think before they speak, and they just rattle off whatever’s on their mind without thinking about how it will affect others. I want to treat people how I’d like to be treated. So, even though this was a positive review for a book, I’m starting to understand why some people choose to refrain from stating anything negative at all on their book reviews.

Should we as reviewers be more forgiving when reviewing memoirs? Do you ever second guess the thoughts you’ve shared on books in general? Are you a person who frequently changes your reviews? Do you ever worry about hurting an author’s feelings? Do you only share positive reviews?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about your book reviewing experiences. Thanks for reading.

Mischenko

44 thoughts on “Writing reviews: I’m changing my review…again! #BookReviews #Memoirs

  1. Aw, I love this post, Jen. I love it because it is so reflective and empathetic which are two behaviors/qualities I think we could use more of today. It seems like society promotes a more reactive response to everything…and quick reactions at that, without thought to walking in another’s shoes. (Social media may be partly responsible as it is easy to be reactive when we don’t actually “see” the object of our reaction.)

    So having the courage to share your reflections is something that really means a lot to me!

    I think reviews should find that balance between being authentic and respectful. I am certainly no expert on writing reviews, but for me, when I write something negative, I try to qualify the comments that this was my experience versus “a truth.” I personally think you do a fantastic job of that, Jen (for memoires or any book)! You are one of my favorite reviewers for this reason 🙂 !

    About changing reviews….yes. One time, I thought back to a comment I wrote about a book and I did edit it out. I had written something like…”If only the author had done this, it would’ve worked.” I thought…wow, that’s arrogant of me. Saying “it didn’t work for me” is okay. Thinking I could’ve done a better job is not!

    I recently received a one-star review on my debut novel The One and Only. This is an example of a cruel reviewer: “Most of the 5 star reviews seem canned or over the top; perhaps they are from friends or colleagues of the author? I almost stopped reading this book about a dozen times but somehow forced myself to push through. Hopefully this review will spare someone else the waste of time and money.”

    This reviewer has no clue the pain his/her words inflict for a project that I really poured my soul into. And it’s mean, not helpful.

    I don’t think you have a cruel bone in your body, Jen! And still, you’re reflecting to continually improve. I have SUCH RESPECT for you!!!!

    Oh, I also don’t give below a three star. I just won’t post. Why? Because there is enough info out there on books to determine if a book is a match for me. If it falls that short for me, I take some responsibility for not choosing the right book. That’s just my approach.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I always appreciate your positive thoughts, Julia. That is exactly what I’m trying to do: be respectful. Sometimes as thoughts pour out though, it doesn’t come out as planned, and it’s always a struggle.

      “Saying “it didn’t work for me” is okay. Thinking I could’ve done a better job is not!” 👈 My sentiments exactly! We are supposed to review the book for how it’s written and not how we think it should’ve been written. You of all people know the work that goes into writing a book with all that you’ve done, and you still stop yourself from reviewing a book that way. Amazing. ❤️

      I can’t believe someone would say that about one of your books, but we know there many trolls out there. If it’s any consolation, I wouldn’t even believe a review that’s written that way.

      I’m getting to the point where reviewing a book less than three stars isn’t going to happen. I’m simply going to state that the book isn’t for me. I’ve always tried to include in my reviews that readers shouldn’t take my word for it, and they should read the book themselves, but what’s really the point in picking apart a book anyway? No good can come from it. I may still mention if something is awfully offensive, but I won’t ever bash a book. When it comes to memoirs, I may mention what I would’ve liked to learn more about, but I’ll never use the word ‘lacking’ or other negative words about the content.

      Much love, Julia. ❤️ Thank you for always sharing your honest thoughts.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s funny how when we’re passionate about something, the words pour out. That’s how I am anyhow. Most times my worst experiences or best when reading books are the longest reviews. Thanks for sharing. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know people think my ratings are generous but I feel the same way as you. I will say what we liked and or didn’t like, but I don’t think I am overly critical. If I didn’t finish a book or it was really bad in my eyes, I often don’t post a review at all. I want to share book love! Memoirs are tough ones. I just posted those two reviews on The Rock, now they weren’t memoirs, but based on his life. The one didn’t work for me and I gave my reason why. It wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t what I was expecting, but I know others will love it. I can’t be negative about the content, but I feel comfortable asking for more. My two cents worth.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I love that, Carla. ❤️ In all honesty, I used to wonder about people that only posted positive reviews, but now I’m understanding more. It’s one thing to say you didn’t like the way a book was written, but to negatively review a memoir’s content doesn’t seem fair at all. There are ways we can review respectfully by sharing our opinions in a more positive way. Thank you! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. David R. Dowdy

    It’s hard to imagine how much goes into writing a book…until you’ve written one. Before, I found all of the grammatical errors, typos, and stupid phrases. Now, those things don’t mean much to me because I know they began with a heartbeat. There are some cringing books out there and Lord knows the author tried so hard and somehow missed the tender criticisms before they published. If I can’t find something revealing, I won’t review, but it doesn’t make me any less want to take them by the hand.

    Thanks for bravely apologizing, Jen. We don’t always get things right the first time though I know you always try. Still, an author puts their book in public and should thank reviewers who are honest and not caustic. Let no one have any hard feelings for your reviews.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. People do seem to be critical about typos, and it surprises me. I’ve mentioned it in my reviews, but I’m willing to overlook it in books when it’s just a few here and there. It’s weird because my brain is amazing at fixing those errors during reading anyway. Some people detest them.

      As an author who’s written a handful of books yourself, your perspective on these issues is always appreciated, David. Thanks for your positive words as well. Thanks! 😃

      Liked by 1 person

  4. starjustin

    GP always said ‘if you can’t say something nice, then, don’t say anything at all.’
    I think there is always a positive way to express negative thoughts as not to hurt feelings but still get the point across.
    I think that writing a book is the same adage as an artist painting a picture. A very personal sharing experience for the creator.
    Thx for sharing this Jen! Good to come to terms with things sometimes. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Funny, because I don’t think there’s a day that goes by without that quote popping up in my head. I can still hear his voice. ❤️

      That’s exactly what I’m thinking too. It is a very personal sharing experience. I’m thinking twice about how I express my opinions going forward.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts too. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for a heartfelt and insightful post, Mischenko💜

    I’m a firm believer in being honest in my reviews, that includes those books where I was underwhelmed. I also believe in being respectful and know that it’s possible to provide critical feedback without being hurtful. I work hard at it and take care to emphasize what worked and be explicit about what didn’t work…for me.

    I don’t think you should back off of providing critical feedback, which I don’t consider to be negative. If it comes across as negative to you, work on the phrasing. You’re great at expressing yourself. With respect to memoirs, my only objective is to emerge knowing more about the subject than I did going in. I’ll use superlatives if warranted but, like you, who am I to be critical of someone’s life and how they shared it? That genre is a whole different animal.

    Very thoughtful post. Give yourself a break, however💜

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Jonetta! I too have always believed that honesty is key, but I’m thinking twice about what words and phrases I use in the future. I’ve always considered myself cautious with my wording, but watching this author speak about his memoir really opened my eyes. Memoirs are definitely different when it comes to reviewing!

      Thank you for sharing some information on your review writing and for your positive comments. 😉 ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Well said, Jenn. It doesn’t surprise me that a post like this came from you. It takes courage to look inward.
    Standing on both sides of the aisle I have to mirror some of Julia’s thoughts on this. I usually don’t review books if I can’t say anything good about them. Occasionally I’ll say that it wasn’t for me and give and explanation, and those I normally don’t give a star rating. As a writer, I think honest feedback is important, but sometimes people can be hurtful, and for no apparent reason other than to be hurtful.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I tend not to review anything that I’d give 3 stars or less less, and if asked why I just say the book wasn’t for me. Having said that, I think you have to be true to your feelings without being overly critical. I think in the main writers appreciate honest feedback and constructive criticism. Excellent post 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s interesting, Cathy. It seems that many people use the 3-star rating as a threshold when deciding on whether or not to review. I rarely rate books less than three stars anyway; in fact, it’s almost never. I agree with you on honest feedback as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s exactly the reason I don’t read or review nonfiction books because you can’t exactly judge or have opinion on someone’s life or research. As a third person, we as a reader, might not exactly know what that person might have gone through in life or while writing the book, even though author have explained in book, it’s impossible to relate to if you haven’t gone through the same phase. We can’t exactly say ‘I didn’t like the book’ even though we didn’t enjoy it because it automatically make us feel bad and think how can I say that.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. With all my reviews, I focus on what I liked about the book. The critiques I mention after and I tend to keep that section brief. All of the books I review all well-written and well-edited, so I just try to give people the information they would need to decide whether to read it or not. That’s what works for me anyway ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Very thoughtful. Having written a book myself I now see how hugely difficult a task it is! I try not to be negative about a book – if I don’t like it, I just say it wasn’t for me. And if I REALLY don’t like it I don’t bother writing a review. I think a lot of the really negative and sarcastic reviews you read in the media are as much about the ego of the reviewer as they are about the book they are reviewing.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I think less enthusiastic reviews can be very helpful and they don’t necessarily prevent me from reading the book. Sometimes quite the opposite! The important thing is to explain what didn’t work for you in a respectful way without any bashing. Ok, sometimes I do a bit of sarcastic bashing with some of the great classics or modern best-sellers, if I don’t get on with them. After all, they already sold a gazillion copies and I doubt anyone cares… 😉 However, I respect reviewers who don’t like to write negative reviews, we are all different and should do what feels right for us.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I love this post and your honest comments! I feel the same way sometimes. I really don’t like writing negative reviews but when I do I try not to be too harsh. I think how we word things can make all the difference. I also try not to say things like “Don’t read this” etc. Just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean others won’t like it. My opinion is just that…mine. I do think I’ve changed over time too. There are some reviews I’ve thought about re-wording too. Terrific post!!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I wrote a post about writing negative reviews a while ago. I think because I know how much work goes into writing, I try to be respectful when writing negative reviews. I don’t always succeed but I make the effort. When we started writing book reviews, our original plan was to post reviews about books we loved but we started getting review requests so that was no longer possible.
    I think as long as one tries to be balanced when reviewing, it is fine to share your honest opinion, good or bad. However, you should do what you are comfortable with. While I like reading snarky reviews, I don’t write them myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think we’ve all covered this subject so much. It’s something we deal with almost on a daily basis. For me this time around it was mainly about memoirs and coming to the realization that I needed to be less opinionated on those.

      You make excellent points as well. Taking review requests is something I’ve stopped doing for now, but I know I’m missing out on some great discoveries. I agree with you that we should do what’s most comfortable for us though.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Beautiful post and a very thought-provoking conversation is going on there, Jenn!
    Although I don’t normally read memoirs, if I were to review a memoir, I’d probably approach it from the viewpoint of its delivery, not the content. As Yesha put it, who am I – or are we – to judge someone else’s life, to begin with? I don’t think I would feel I have any say to pick apart the content itself. Being critical about the delivery is a totally different story as far as I am concerned, and I will be honest if I feel the delivery either awkward, abrupt, or overdone.
    That said though, it wouldn’t allow us to be super brutally honest. I think we should be respectful even when we don’t like a book and try as much as possible to balance negatives with positives. If we just enumerated negatives or things didn’t work out for us without mentioning the positives, it’d be just a rant. Nothing productive comes out of it in my humble opinion.

    In my eyes, being critical is not really a bad thing or something that should be eschewed. I don’t feel comfortable about giving out liberal ratings to books that I don’t really enjoy just to be nice or for the sake of being kind. I may be viewed as arrogant and harsh, but I don’t want to have my integrity as a reader called into question. For that reason, unless I dislike a book to the core, I will keep posting reviews with negative feedback.

    Then again, as I mentioned earlier, I will always strive to be fair and objective, not too aggressive or spiteful. I reckon we should be honest and have the courage to state our opinion but we also should pay close attention to our phrasing.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Memoirs are too personal. I hate reviewing them just like poetry. It is their life and their feeling. Who am I to say how much he or she ought to reveal. The rest of fiction, I am cool with criticizing as based on some not so truthful reviews or sugar coated reviews I bought books which were terrible. And with times being difficult I could have used that money on grocery and most importantly medicines. We don’t get any kind of help from our government, we have to buy them. So I take all positive reviews with a pinch of salt and appreciate all negative/critical ones. I speak of course as a reader not from your end of globe who is going through a bad time both emotionally and financially

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Shalini. I have to agree with you and appreciate your thoughts on this matter. I didn’t know you had to buy all your books! Do you not have libraries to use? I can’t imagine having to always take chances on books you then have to own.

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re having a rough time, Shalini. I want you to know I think of you often and will keep you in my prayers. ❤️

      Like

  16. Milena Alien

    I only once reviewed the book that a friend of mine wrote, it was a memoir… I didn’t do it formally, I only shared my opinion with my partner, because it was his friend primarily, so yeah, I said the book is crap and it will never go anywhere… sorry, this is what I said. And months later the friend found an expert in the field and paid him for the criticism, and the expert gave the same feedback, well … it made the author re-write the basic plot at least three more times but it never made a difference I guess. I didn’t attempt to read it any more. But yeah, I am glad I never made my opinion known, the best strategy is to wait until someone else says it out loud. LOL

    Like

  17. Pingback: Late March/April Wrap-Up #Books #BookReviews #Music #ReadingChallenge – ReadRantRock&Roll

  18. i glanced through this post as i was rushing through and know it will deserve a careful read, so with much of what you review and share, so i’m just quickly hitting the follow button and wanted to let you know that you’re doing a fabulous job by the looks of it. stay connected and stay in it. blessings.

    Like

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