Monday, April 9, 2012

Don't Let Bad Reviews Get You Down

Don't Feel Bad About Bad Reviews
Elizabeth Black

I remember my first bad review. I was devastated. The person leaving the review wasn't very kind. She bitched and moaned about the book in such a way I could tell she was angry. I had no idea why should would be so angry over a book. I guess that was a couple of hours of her life she would never get back.

That review stopped me dead in my tracks for a couple of weeks. I couldn't write anything. Even the good reviews I received couldn't counteract the horrible feelings I had over this one lousy stinking review. Once I had a few more good reviews under my belt I felt better enough to write again.

I even had a bad review from someone who read only about two pages of the book. How can you write a review when you haven't read the !@#$% book?!?

I've since learned about drive-by-reviews, sock puppets, and people who give one star reviews to books they've never read in genres they don't like merely because they want to blow an artery. Lots of people give erotica and erotic romance books one star reviews because they get a hair up their butts over the genres and the racy content. Those reviews are bogus. So now I don't take the bad reviews so seriously anymore. I learn from the valid ones and if I'm able to I improve the book or short story as much as I can.

All that aside, every writer gets sucky reviews. It's a part of a writer's life. I thought it would be amusing to look at one star reviews of classic novels. Some are quite astounding. It's clear the people in question don't read much. Or in the case of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's “The Women's Bible”, they don't know their history. The most amusing one is the one below left about Jane Austen's “Emma”. Just because someone doesn't like your book doesn't mean the book is bad. Much of it is a matter of taste. I for instance don't like J. R. R. Tolkein, much to the utter chagrin of my husband who is a huge fan.

So read these one star reviews of classics and feel better about your own writing. All misspellings and poor grammar are in the original reviews.

To read excerpts, blurbs, and see buy links of my books, please go to my web site.

Elizabeth Black – Web Site And Blog

Emma by Jane Austen
[I seriously believe this review is a Poe, as in we're being trolled. I'm mean, come on. The critic can't spell the word “stole” but she correctly spells “coincidences”? LOL]]

Best I can figure this Jane Auston woman stoll the plot of Clueless and rote a book. Too many coincidences to make me believe anything else. Why Alecia Sivlerstone doesn't sue Jane Austin is beyond me!

Seriously, this book is just convoluted and boring. I can't believe this is called a classic. Its terrible and the educators at certain high schools should not force this book upon kids--it lowers their grades and intelligence.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

It's truly mind boggling how this book got the reputation it now has. I finally read it after being encouraged by so many of my friends who considered it genius. Simply put, the writing is immature and pointless, full of "craziness for its own sake" with a few lame attempts at cultural criticism thrown in to try to give it some legitimacy. The only thing I can say for this book is that perhaps it was somewhat original when it was written, but that hardly qualifies it as great literature, or even as literature. If it weren't so horrendously overrated and made no further pretentions than to be a mildy amusing story, it might have found a semi-respectable place in some obscure niche as comedy writing, but as it has been trumped all around as some groundbreaking example of an insightful cross-breed of journalism and literature, I can't bestow upon it any higher title than "Garbage." I suggest reading this only in that it is necessary to understand the infantile minds that cling fervidly to its pages. You will learn something about our culture, yes. What you will learn is how terribly the idea of literature has been degraded that such a book could be so praised by supposedly literate people.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

I bought this book because of all the "good" reviews it recieved. I am always interested when an author's work trancends it own era, there by being relevant at anytime in the future. However, this is not one of those. Aside from the obsurd and unbelievable situation Yosarrian is in, the book was, in a word....MONOTONOUS! It is not the amount of characters, nor the repetative back story of each character that Heller takes every opportunity tell us, but it is more the repetive, cliche' discussions that yossarian has with just about every character he come across. It goes like this, "Your crazy. No I am not. Maybe I am. Maybe you are too becuase you are here and you think I am crazy. Oh yeah, maybe I am crazy too, blah blah blah." I really wish I would have spent the money on cookbook instead, or really anything other than this. If you can find this book at a garage sale, do not pay more than a quarter for it.
If you like unbelievable war stories, long drawn out repetative character back stories, shallow dialog, and no real point, then this book is for you!

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone By J. K. Rowling

I know that this is an enormously popular series, and I've tried quite hard to like it (I have read all the books), but I can't get past the copious shortcomings of Harry Potter. For one thing, it's terribly overwraught; the supreme clumsiness and obviousness with which the writer tries to manipulate our emotions is totally laughable. In fact, I can't believe that even children fall for it. Not to mention the fact that there is no room for humanity is any of the "villains". None of them are shown to have any redeeming features at all; they are so one dimensional that they might as well be called "bad guy one", "bad guy two" and so on. Nor is there ever any opportunity for them to be forgiven or to be allowed to make amends. The story very much promotes an "us and them" attitude among the heroes. Even when one of the bad guys offers to make up he is rejected by Harry. Also, it promotes kids lying and stealing to get what they want (the end oh-so justifies the means); it encourages cliquiness and a ruthlessness towards opponents (win at all costs!). This is certainly nothing new, and neither is the advocation of disrespect and disobedience towards authority, but it grates just the same.
The writing and plot themselves are terribly derivative. There are many far more intelligent and original books out there for children.
All in all, I'd not recommend this book to anyone.

The Lord Of The Rings By J. R. R. Tolkien
[Author's note: I hated this book. I simply can't get into it.]

I hope the movie is better than the book. The book is not readable because of the overuse of adverbs. It just isn't well written. Quickly and quietly..., swiftly and quietly, etc.

[Review was entitled “Aweful”. LOL]
This series is horrible beyond all conception. Tolkien overbloats EVERYTHING to the point where it's absolutely ridiculous, and I loose tract of the plot amidst unimportant details. Quite frankly my only thought is I DON'T CARE WHO EVERYONE'S FATHER IS, IF YOU WANT ME TO KNOW THEN WRITE A PREQUEL, JUST TELL THE STORY IT IDIOTIC BRIT! I don't know how someone who wrote something as good as "The Hobbit" could produce this junk. I think what happened was he had a bunch of notes left over, and wanted to cash in by writing a sequel, so he threw all the details he had onto a shallow plot, but sense it was to complicated to be called "dumbed-down" like most money-making sequels noone could attack it. And it was so complicated people have been trying to convince others for decades that they're intellegent because they can understand this book, but since noone understands it, noone can test them to see if they really do or not. Anyway, if you want a complicated plot you can understand, read "Dune" by Frank Herbert.

American Gods By Neil Gaiman
[Even Neil Gaiman isn't immune to bad reviews.]

Huge build up about a war amongst Gods...
Incessant and irrelevant descriptions...
No real demonstrations of Godly Power (or any action for that matter)...
Pointless acid-trip dream sequences...
The War itself... less than 2 pages.
Gaiman managed to make a war uneventful.

A concept that should have been action packed and epic...
Gives a novella's worth of substance.
-Couldve been told in 30 pages

The Women's Bible by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
[One of numerous reviews by Christian women miffed that this wasn't the kind of Bible they expected Also, some had obviously never heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Did they fall asleep during that portion of history class? They also didn't seem to understand the book is over 100 years old and a first wave feminist classic.]

I was completely surprised and repulsed by its feminist stance. I couldn't bear to read much of it as I believe the Bible is the unerring Word of God. Women's stature in organized church has grown significantly and I would not want my daughter's and granddaughter's minds poisoned by these ideas. I have several women friends who have gone into the ministry and have been very successful. I know this is an old writing but it came off my Kindle the minute I saw the problems Stantan had been trying to express. She must have been a terribly abused girl to have such bitterness.


And finally, a bad review I can get behind.

Twilight By Stephenie Meyer

I started this book two days ago. I'm currently more than 200 pages in, and I can't finish this, man. I just don't think I have the strength.

Seriously? This is what everyone is freaking out over? I've read better fan fiction on Livejournal. Really, truly, waaaaaay better. Like, with sparkling, funny, romantic dialogue, great characters, the whole shebang. This book is..well, crap. Sorry, I tried to like it, but...yeah. No go.

The major problem I have is that I just don't care about any of the characters. Meyer's character development isn't just's absent. I don't know these people, and therefore I don't care about them. Describing their appearance (barely) isn't an adequate substitute for developing their personalities. Also, they make no sense. Is Bella a hottie? A plane Jane? Who the heck can tell? Boys at her old school don't know she's alive, but the second she gets to Forks she's Miss America. Boys in Phoenix are blind, maybe? There's a toxic waste dump in Forks that makes all the native residents fugly, and Bella is hawt by comparison? What is it, Stephenie? Come on now. How can I like this protagonist? Bella is boring. She's not funny, she's not even mildly amusing. All she does is fawn over Edward. I know that teenage girls always have and always will fawn over boys, but really, this is ridiculous. That's the only freaking thing she does. Everyone else has said this, but she's really only just a sounding board for wonderful, perfect, muscular, adonis-like, perfect faced Edward. She could have had one aspiration at least, yeah? Some Mary-Sues have aspirations, right? Right?

Note to Stephenie Meyer: Use a thesaurus and come up with some new words, please. She said clumsily. While glaring. And blushing.


  1. Wow, there were some doozies in there. I particularly laughed over the one of Emma. Alicia Silverstone should sue Jane Austen? B*@$%, please! There are so many things to say that there's no point. As for the one for Lord of the Rings? I genuinely undertood that when I read it when I was 14. What's not to understand? yeah, Tolkien has a different way of writing but seriously?
    Some of these people are really pathetic... *shakes head*
    Thanks for writing this, Elizabeth. I dread my first bad review when my books come out but with this in mind, it does help to know that some people don't bother reading, they just do bad review for the hell of it.
    (By the way, LOVED that review of Twilight hahaha)

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  3. Thank you Elizabeth for this insight into reviews. I too am totally astounded by the negative remarks about Jane Austens 'Emma.'It's quite rightly studied at A level in England! My first bad review was very unhelpful. It was childish and hurtful, like you it took me a couple of weeks to pick myself up. A good review will look at the good as well as the bits they aren't happy with. But you're right, a review can be just a matter of taste and nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Personally l can't stand James Pattersons books, but the man is a millionaire so l must be in the minority!

  4. I'm convinced the Emma review was a troll making fun of bad reviews but it was so funny I had to post it. Phoenix, don't fret over your first bad review. Everyone gets them, even well-known writers as you've seen from my post. And yes, that Twilight review was special. ;)

  5. It does make you feel better that classics get such horrid reviews, doesn't it, Gemma? I figure reviews are matters of taste, like you said, and just because a book gets a bad review doesn't mean it isn't a worthwhile book. Some of my favorite books have received terrible reviews, and some books everyone loves I absolutely despise. BTW, making fun of James Patterson is a bit of a hobby for a lot of people. Same as making fun of Twilight and The DaVinci Code.

  6. Funny thing is I agree with the Potter review LOL! But that just goes to show we're all different with different tastes! I haven't had a 'bad' review as yet, but that's not to say I'm not terrified at the prospect... Not only do I expect it to hurt me deeply, but what worries me the most is the effect such nasties have in putting others off hearing my voice. Good stuff Elizabeth, I'm holding on to your words I have no doubt I will need the strength of them!

  7. Yes, to each their own, Tessa. Everyone's different. I've received bad reviews and manuscript rejections I've learned from. Those negative comments sometimes helped me improve my writing. As long as the critic has issues with the story and does not personally attack the author. Good luck with your future writing, Tessa!