Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Crayons + Negative Review Advice

New Crayons is a meme hosted by susan at Color Online. It's when I discuss what new books I got this weeks, crayons is a good way to describe multicultural lit!

Before we get to book business, I have a question. I recently did a negative review and the author is unhappy with it. I don't personally attack the author in the review, I just give my honest opinion of the book. The author wants me to take down the review, while I realize you want positive publicity for a book, you should also want a honest review of a book. I thought it would be obvious that I review books honest and I blog with integrity, since it's apparently not clear, I changed my review policy to reflect the fact that I will give my honest opinion of a book and I don't write only positive reviews or only negative reviews. I'm curious how do my fellow bloggers handle writing negative reviews? Authors, do you prefer negative reviews to no reviews?

Back to cooler things like books!

From the library (so much for not going in January, in my defense I needed a book for school and the GLBT challenge!)

Orphea Proud by Sharon Dennis Wyeth


Taboo to the touch

A fire in the cold

That was us

Welcome to a stage, where a soaring painting takes shape before your eyes, a big-booty poet stands at the mike, and there’s a seat right in front, just for you.

This is a place where wise old ladies live and boys act like horses.

This is a vision of love that was crushed and brought back to life.

And this is my story. I’m Orphea Proud. Welcome to the show.

As Orphea, who discovers her sexuality as a lesbian, shares her story, powerful questions of family, prejudice, and identity are explored

-I'm so eager to read this book thanks Sarah for the recommendation. (ETA: Not Lizzy, sorry for the mix up. Still luv you Lixxy!) I really like the cover too and it sounds awesome so yay!


Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham

Ludelphia Bennett may be blind in one eye, but she can still put in a good stitch. Ludelphia sews all the time, especially when things go wrong.

But when Mama goes into labor early and gets deathly ill, it seems like even quilting won’t help. That’s when Ludelphia decides to do something drastic—leave Gee’s Bend for the very first time. Mama needs medicine that can only be found miles away in Camden. But that doesn’t stop Ludelphia. She just puts one foot in front of the other.

What ensues is a wonderful, riveting and sometimes dangerous adventure. Ludelphia weathers each challenge in a way that would make her mother proud, and ends up saving the day for her entire town.

Set in 1932 and inspired by the rich quilting history of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, Leaving Gee’s Bend is a delightful, satisfying story of a young girl facing a brave new world.

-I don't know anything about the quilting history of Gee's Bend and it counts for the 2010 YA/MG Debut Author challenge. Also, I've read mixed reviews of the novel so I'm eager to form my own opinion on it :) Thank you Putnam and Sons


Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Meet Maybelline Mary Katherine Mary Ann Chestnut, named for two Miss Americas and her mother Chessy's favorite brand of mascara. Chessy teaches the students in her charm school her Seven Select Rules for Young Ladies, but she won't tell Maybe who her real father is -- or protect her from her latest scuzzball boyfriend. So Maybe hitches a ride to California with her friends Hollywood and Thammasat Tantipinichwong Schneider (aka Ted) -- and what she finds there is funny, sad, true, and inspiring . . . vintage Lisa Yee.
-It sounds like a secondary character is a POC. Does anyone know if the main character is a POC (I know the author is)? Anyway, this book sounds good. Thanks Lizzy!

Cool New Link: Diversify Your Reading

ETA 1/25/10: Thank you everyone for the honest and helpful advice! I think I will do negative reviews but I work on not being so harsh and remembering that author's have feelings too (I think I do a good job of that but I can always do better) and their books are very personal. I'd rather do a negative reivew than no review.


  1. You didn't do anything wrong. Bad reviews are part of the writerly life. I get bad reviews all the time and I don't go around kvetching about it. xD Some writers have this idea that reviews are written for and about them, but that's not true. Reviews are written for readers. I think whoever this writer is just needs a gentle reminder that once the book is out in the world, she/he no longer has any control over what happens or gets said about it. Sad, but true.

  2. Orphea Proud does look good.

    I usually don't write reviews of books I don't like because I am always worried I won't give a good critical response and I will simply go off on how bad it was.

    I've read those kind of bad reviews and I don't want to be that person.

    Ari - I've always been impressed with your bad reviews, not everyone can write them. They're harder to write than good reviews.

    And if Dia last name is Reeves as in debut author Dia Reeves - I just finished Bleeding Violet, and really enjoyed it.

  3. Don't let anyone bully you into taking down reviews. That's ridiculous. I can't believe an adult published author is being so crazy. They should know better. And it's especially bad that they're harrassing a teenager. Grrr.

    Sure we authors want everyone in the entire world to love our books but that's never gonna happen. We need to grow up and deal. And listen to the sane bad reviews, maybe we'll learn something.

    I think your reviews are balanced and fair, Ari. You've led me to many wonderful books.

    Justine Larbalestier

  4. I read your grade system the first time I visited your blog, and I found it pretty clear.

  5. I'm sorry to hear about your experience with this author. Personally, I wouldn't let an author dictate my blog content.

    I read Leaving Gee's Bend this weekend and I enjoyed it. I look forward to hearing what you think.

  6. Ari, sorry to hear your dilemma with this author. However, it is standard practice, in most cases, that authors are allowed to accept or reject a bad review before it gets posted or printed. I believe Kirkus does that, as well as, other Review Services. But, how would you know that being so young. Keep up the great work.

  7. It's a book review, not a book advertisment. You have no obligation to say nice things or to take down your post. You're giving an honest opinion. You have a right to express your thoughts.

    Some bloggers I know will only review books they like so they don't have to face this dilemma. But if everyone did that, some books would never get any reviewed. Book reviews are a service to readers. Don't let anyone make you be afraid to say what you think.

  8. I think it's pretty clear from your rating system that you're not going to sugar-coat your reviews. And as a writer, I prefer any type of feedback to none.

    On the note of your new books, you said I recommended Orphea Proud to you. I admit that I've been a little out of it lately, but I really can't remember recommending any books. Not that I mind the mention in your blog, but you must have got me confused with another Lizzy. I've never even heard of that book. lol.


  9. The main character of Absolutely Maybe is not a POC, but her best friend is Thai.

  10. A bad review says more about the author than it does about you. Keep honest! Justine is right; that author needs to grow up!

  11. I think this is a problem that comes with accepting ARCs, some authors feel (assume) their free book entitles them to if not a positive review then at least a review where the negative is not mentioned. Kind of sucks and your policy would be pretty clear to anyone who checked out your blog before sending out a review request, but maybe to be extra sure reply to all emails you recive offering free books with a clarification that free book does not equal an automatically positive review. Just good to cover all bases.

    And can I say well done for your class repsonding to the comments on that review, some rather condescending and confused people seemed to turn up.

  12. Hi Ari, I thought it was time I stopped just reading you through my Google Reader and said "hello". :)

    Justine is absolutely right - the reviews you write are always fair and balanced. I've not seen you say something negative just for the sake of being negative or snarky. You are generally very positive, but just because a book didn't quite work for you doesn't mean an author should try to bully you into taking down that review! That's terrible. And wrong.

    My debut novel comes out one year from now and, even though I know you don't review so many books without a POC as the main charcter, when I *do* eventually get ARCs (probably 9 months or so! aaages!) I'd love to send you one. Just to read, no pressure to review. And certainly no pressure to give a certain *kind* of review. I'm not a POC and neither is my protag, but her best friend Navin is (he's Indian) and I love him to bits! Is it wrong to love my own character? ;)

    Anyway, your site is fantastic. I'm so glad I found it thanks to Justine's blog - I hope you keep blogging and continue to follow your heart and write whatever is in there.

    Karen Mahoney

  13. I'd have to say it's bad form on the author's part to come complaining to you about a bad review. You have no obligation to say nice things about a book, so long as you aren't libelous about the author or anything.

    @Anonymous - I don't think that model is practical at all for bloggers. There are way more bloggers than there are traditional review services - authors would end up spending all of their time reading blog reviews rather than working on the next book!

    As for the more exciting books: I'm anxiously waiting to get Leaving Gee's Bend from the library! My mom used to quilt all the time, and I still have quilts she made me when I was little (and someday I'll inherit quilts that were made for her by my great-grandmother), so I'm excited to see a novel featuring quilts!

  14. Every author ought to understand that once you send your book out into the world, the reception it gets is beyond your control. If you don't have the courage to hear your book critiqued, don't publish! It was a totally inappropriate reaction on the part of the author, but as usual, you handled it really well. If she wants a better review she should write a better book...

  15. I spoke on this in your original review about the book in question, but I'll say this...if you started reviewing books in a way that pleased every author that dropped you a line, it would discredit you. I've only followed your blog for the last few months, but I find your style to be fair and upbeat (even in neg reviews). I'd probably stop reading if you started watering down reviews to appease (temperamental and juvenile) authors. Keep doing what you do...your voice is an important one and should be nurtured, not constrained.

  16. I don't know about it being standard practice for authors to accept or reject reviews. I was reviewed by Kirkus and they never asked for my permission to post anything. Kirkus actually has a reputation for posting bad reviews that I'm sure, if given the choice, many authors would have loved to reject. xD

    And Doret: yes I'm that Dia. :) Thanks!

  17. I prefer the term "critical review" to bad or negative review. First, because it can make the review seem bad! And second, it's not negative to either objectively say "here is what didn't work" or to personally say "not my cup of tea."

    Anon 12:18 is wrong and don't let Anon change how you or other bloggers blog. I have never, ever, ever heard of a professional review journal giving an author veto power over a review. A review SERVICE is an entirely different thing. I see most bloggers as more akin to professional reviewers (like NYT, SLJ, etc.) than to a "service" that is bought and paid for by an author. As for KIRKUS, given a negative review could kill a book's chances before it even came out, I doubt that authors had any right to read a review. KIRKUS DISCOVERIES is different from KIRKUS and is more a review service (where the author paid for the service) so yes, in that situation, an author sees what they paid for and determines what to do with it.

    I just sent the inquiry out via Twitter, also.

  18. I can't believe that any professional journal/magazine/newspaper would cede editorial control to an author! As long as your review is based on your honest opinion of the work and doesn't constitue an ad hominum attack on the author then you're doing well.

    And if an author is bothered that you don't like their creation, well, that's too bad. No one has a lifetime guarantee of "gee, you and everything you do is wonderful"

  19. I can see both sides of the story. I'm married to an author and I see how badly negative reviews get him down, but he also understands it's part of the business and not everyone's going to like what he writes. I'd rather read honest, objective reviews than sugar-coated praise that may not be honest. You're not attacking the author, you're stating an opinion.

    I'm a writer too, and I know how hard it is to have someone dislike your work. Writing is intensely personal. But if the work's going to be out there, the expectation is that it's pretty much fair game at that point.

  20. I wish some authors tried to get me to take my reviews down. It would be amusing.

  21. Ari, one reason I especially enjoy your site is your honesty; I don't do many critical reviews myself, am more likely to mention something I didn't like in the context of a "good" review. It's scary! If the author is someone I know at all, I sometimes send a private message mentioning the issue ahead of time.

  22. Hi Ari, you asked about authors' preferences. As My personal preference is no review to a bad review.

    But regarding your own review policies, you have the right to set them as you wish and you don't owe anyone an explanation for why your policies are what they are. If you write both positive and negative reviews, and have made that clear upfront, an author has no reason to expect anything other than that. -LaVora

  23. I think a bad review is better than none. The author can take in all of the comments and learn from them in preparation for the next book. Not everyone likes every book out there. If you are commenting on the story and not the author what's the big deal?

  24. Chiming in to say that, as hard as it can be, you should stand up to authors who don't like the review you've written. Anon above was wrong - no professional reviewer would allow an author to veto their review.

    The quilts from Gee's Bend are amazing. When you read the book, be sure to look up some of the quilts. Gorgeous.

  25. Don't let the Author make you feel bad or pressured to take down the review! Your reviews are pretty fair. I've gotten an author angry before and my advice is this: while I didn't like the book, I still talked about the readers who WOULD be interested in it. I still would have recommended the book to them, even though I didn't like it. But the moment the author came and insulted me (I never insulted them, I was critical of their book) was the moment I decided, "No. I'm not recommending your book at all now."

    I've even gotten fans of a different book angry because I didn't like this one particular first in a series. But really, you can't let those people bully you into doing anything. People come here to read your opinion--what would happen if you suddenly started changing it to please authors? It would be disengenuous! Stick to your guns, you're doing great. :)

  26. Your policies are clear; you have a right to express your opinion. You write and review with integrity. Sure, negative reviews hurt my feelings. Sometimes a lot. But I've got to have my sulks, suck it up and move on, and maybe learn from it. Every author should understand that that's the risk you take when you publish a book. Ultimately, this is your space; what we authors prefer shouldn't have to be your primary concern! Or secondary... :)

  27. Take heart! Some authors are able to get over themselves :) (links via Fuse #8)

  28. Thanks for all the advice everyone! I don't like publishing negative reviews, after all a book is like an author's baby, it's very personal for them so I hate to be negative but I also think that''s better than saying nothing at all.

    @dia-Exactly! Reviews are for readers. Sure I'm happy when a review I did comes to an author's attention and they email me about it (when it's positive) but I'm even happier when I hear that people got a book based off my rec and liked it! I'm not sure about the whole standard reviews can be rejected thing.

    @Lizzy-Ooops! I'll go back and see who it was then. Also, I edited my review policy because it did not previously say I would always be honest and not always positve or negative. I thought that was a given but apparentely it's not so I edited it.

    @Doret-Thank you, it's hard and I rarely do it! I've been pretty lucky in my book selections :)

    @Lenore-Ok thank you!

  29. I think it lies with *why* does the author want it taken down? If she/he actually feels defamed and attacked, fine. Whatever. Just because they don't like it? No, sorry. It comes with the territory. Deal with it. She/he won't be able to hide all the negative reviews they receive on a book. They're not going to please everyone. Just take it and move on. Asking for it to be taken down just because it wasn't as positive as they wanted it to be is not the right course of action for the author.

  30. @Justine-Thank you! I LOVE hearing that I've led people to good books, it makes it all worth it (along with the fact that I get awesome book recommendations from other bloggers and I get to talk about my love of books without being seen as geeky).

    @Natasha-I'm excited to read Gee's Bend because I did read your review and it made me curious. I agree, my blog is my own and I shouldn't let anyone dictate what is on it.

    @Nathalie-Thank you although after this experience I did have to edit it.

    @rhapsody-Thank you :D

  31. While a negative review stings, I feel honesty is the best policy. On my blog, I have a system where I review lesser known books, and so every book I review, I recommend. However, that doesn't stop me from noting what I felt was lacking/underdeveloped/etc. in those books.

    I am sure my books (when published) will not strike a chord with everyone who reads them, but I would rather have an honest review (obviously not one just intended to be mean. There must be a point to the criticism) than a glossed-over or even lying review. And if no one reviews a book, how is the word supposed to spread? :)

  32. Just to reiterate, because it horrifies me that anyone could believe it, but authors DO NOT get to vett professional reviews nor should they. It would render reviews utterly meaningless and pointless. Anon above is dead wrong.

    Justine Larbalestier

  33. Having spent time in an MFA program, I can definitely attest to the fact that writers can be a sensitive bunch. But part of being a professional writer is accepting reviews as they are, both positive and negative. I feel that it's important to your integrity as a reviewer to post honest reviews, and IMO I always take reviewers more seriously if they don't love (or hate) everything they read.

    I also hope my library has Leaving Gee's Bend. I adore the quilts and the book looks like an interesting read.

  34. Late, as usual, but I agree with the overall sentiment, Ari. LEAVE THAT BABY UP. Some people...honestly. *shakes head* I had a couple of rather scathing reviews for SHINE and there's nothing you can do except shrug. You're right that books are like our babies -- but even parents know that not EVERYONE is going to love their children. It's a fact: you can't go around thumping people over the head for saying mean things to your kids, and you can't ask reviewers to take down critical reviews.

  35. >not EVERYONE is going to love their children.


  36. Anon, Dia, Justine: About the "Kirkus" reviews that authors pay for and are allowed to accept or reject. That is, as Liz B points out, the "Kirkus Discoveries" program, not the regular Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus Discoveries are designed for self-published authors who generally cannot get reviewed in major trade publications, and the reviews are posted online only. Authors can ask that a negative Kirkus Discoveries review not be posted online. For self-pubbed authors, Discoveries reviews are useful in showing what kind of review the book would have gotten had it been traditionally published, and it might give an indication of how the book might have fallen short. Authors don't get any of that if a self-pubbed (or any other book) never gets a review.

    Doret, I know you don't like to give negative reviews, but in the cases when you do, you have important reasons for doing so. I'm thinking of a book you reviewed recently with a character from a "village in Africa" as if Africa is a country rather than a continent with many countries, all with their own cultures, histories, and current situations. Especially for books that depict POC characters, negative reviews are essential when the author gets it all wrong.

    And Neesha, this time I'm even later than you are.

  37. I am more likely to post a positive review because I'm more likely to post about books I like (I like my blog to be a happy space!). That said, I'm not afraid to post a negative review if the situation calls for it. If I hate a book, I'm most likely not to post about it at all. Or if I feel like I should post something, I'll try to present it in such a way that readers who might like it can find it. (Like, "I didn't like this book because xyz, but if you like Books A, B, or C then you might like this one!")

    Anyway, that's absolutely ridiculous and unprofessional that someone's making a stink about a negative review!

  38. I'm coming in on this late (sorry!) but I agree with the authors above who say that an honest review, even if negative, is better than no review. My books have gotten bad reviews, and yes, it hurts. That's the nature of rejection and it's part of publishing. We learn how to deal with it.

    I greatly respect review sites--like yours--that are honest. A well-done review is terrifically difficult to write, and you write some of the most thoughtful, thorough reviews in the YA blogosphere.

  39. Hey, Ari!

    I'm so proud of you for sticking to your guns and telling the truth. That is so, so important.

    Everyone else (except the anon with the false information about reviewing practices) said what I would say, so I'll just add that I'm sorry I haven't been around much the past few months but plan to change that. I needed a break from the Internet in general, but I'm so very glad you have kept up your fantastic work. You're making a huge difference, and I am just so impressed.

    Do come see me on my LJ sometimes! I love your comments. :)




I love to hear from you!! Thank you for sharing :) And don't be Anon, I try to always reply back and I like to know who I'm replying to ;)