Reviews can make or break an author. I believe that everybody, who publishes their writing, dreads their readers’ silence. No doubt, one can discuss whether a bad review is worse than total silence. My position is that a bad review can spark interest in a book (think Fifty Shades) just as much as a good one. If a reviewer is honest about his or her objections and expresses them well, this can be a great help to the author. One can advocate sparing the author in question a bad public experience through sending negative comments privately. Nowadays most authors make such channels available.
The problem in this would be the outcome. Are we as authors and people so degenerate that we can’t take a critical voice? The problem is real and often mars any exchange on the social media. Trolls have become a real menace, and the difference from the mythical troll is that they don’t turn to stone in the sunshine. How do we learn to conduct a civilized debate? As long as we can’t respect other people for what they are and what they do this will remain challenging. It is easy to say grow up, but it seems as if many individuals take pleasure in acting as five-year-olds.
I may digress here, but these are important questions.
To return to the issue: whether good or bad, a review has a function. It gives feedback to the author, but it also tells a reader what to expect. And that may be the most important part of commenting on the books we read.
To illustrate my thoughts, I’ve added some examples of reviews. They are all positive though: I don’t think that this is the right forum for criticising any aspiring or established authors.
Susan Findlay, Bombs and Breadcrumbs
In Bombs and Breadcrumbs, Susan Findley takes a step away from her usual comfort zone. It is a daring and important step, and she delivers an insightful take on the past (Sudetenland before and during the Nazi occupation) and the present (America and Germany, seen through the eyes of the Sudeten Germans’ descendants). She takes up racism, tolerance, and intolerance, asking important questions of how to deal with a traumatic past.
Andy Gallagher, Odd Bent Coppers
Odd Bent Coppers is a kaleidoscopic read. The mixture of artwork and text is thought-provoking, but Andy Gallagher’s use of assorted points of view sometimes obscures his message. In my opinion that may confuse the reader, especially as it can seem as if Gallagher preaches to the converted. Odd Bent Croppers is abundant with strong words and passion. From start to finish, it is the poetry that captures my imagination.
Amanda Langdale, Dangerous Snacks
Amanda Langdale’s take on education and politics is satirical and witty, with clear-cut characters. Belly laughs lead to amused chuckles, as we follow the hapless protagonists on the merry-go-round of board meetings, trips (real or drug-induced), extramarital affairs, and fights. Read it: you won’t regret it.
Paula Lofting, Sons of the Wolf
With ‘Sons of the Wolf’, Paula Lofting weaves a tapestry of a forgotten world. The absolute main-character is Wulfhere, a flawed individual but an earnest father. Around him, his family, his liege lord, serfs and warriors play out an epic tale spanning from battles to love entanglements, and from everyday life to family feuds. Highly recommended.
Sheena McLeod, Reign of the Marionettes
Reign of the Marionettes is an interesting read. The writing is strong and paints a colourful picture. The characters stand out and the dialogue is convincing. Sheena McLeod’s Handling of the subject puts the reader right into the past. Highly recommended.
Angelica Rust, Little Red is coming Home
Angelica rust delights her readers with an interesting take on the mythology of Little Red Riding Hood. The various aspects of the fairy-tale span from gruesome to ridiculous, romantic to scary. Rust takes her readers on an enchanting journey through traditional wisdom and contemporary amusement. Highly recommended.
Sebnem Sanders, Ripples on the Pond
Sebnem e Sanders opens a world of poetry in Ripples on the Pond. The variety of flash-fiction stories spans wide and gives insight into different cultures and fates. The Mediterranean feel never leaves the reader. Sander induces the reader to wide seascapes, olive groves, and intriguing encounters with distinct characters. Highly recommended as an escape from everyday drabness.