Why are reviews so important?

Blog post by Laura

A review serves two purposes. Firstly for the reader, many factors will attract a reader to a book, such as the cover, synopsis, author, price, the star rating and reviews. We combine all of these elements to decide whether this book will be an enjoyable read. That does not mean we will all think the same, far from it. Even the most highly acclaimed novels will receive one star reviews. What makes for a poor review for one reader, such as offensive language, graphic sexual content, or gruesome descriptions, can actually enhance the enjoyment of the book for the next reader. I am quite certain there will never be a book that will please everybody.

The second purpose of a review is for the author’s benefit, think on it as a performance review. Yes, for an author it is fantastic when they receive a glowing five star review and can bask in the undulating praise. The truth of the matter though is all books can be improved upon, writing skills honed and enhanced and the way to do that is through listening to feedback. However, in order to do this a review must be constructive. I hate nothing more than seeing a one star review that simply states ‘awful book’ what is the point in leaving such a review? How will this help a potential reader or an author's development?

In my opinion a good review should offer something to both potential readers and the author, covering elements such as writing style, pace and flow, whether you connected with the characters and whether you would like to read future books by this author. If there were elements of the book you didn’t enjoy, such as over description, slow paced plot or too many grammatical errors, these points also need to be highlighted.

The purpose for me writing this blog post is to emphasise why as bloggers we review books and what they mean to the author. I have seen on numerous other books blogs the negatives, the bitchiness and backstabbing, thankfully Books Chocolate and Wine has only ever been a positive blog, promoting authors, sharing reviews and having some fun in the process. I had never encountered any of this negativity, until today.

An author (who shall remain nameless) contacted an author who has become good friends with the reviewers at Books, Chocolate and Wine offering a review exchange. As this author couldn’t commit the time to reading a novel in exchange they contacted myself to see if I would be willing to review this book. The synopsis did appeal to me so an arrangement was made that I would review instead. The author of said book reviewed as promised leaving a glowing 5 star review, which was well deserved in my opinion and I was pleased to see.

However, the book I was to review was not of such a standard, this particular author had the writing skills and potential but missed the mark with their story. I typed up my review, and I did feel a pang of guilt in leaving a 3 star review in return however, the purpose of a review is to either help a reader make a decision on whether to read a book, or to give feedback to the author on the strengths and weaknesses of their novel. So I decided to stick to my original opinion which was honest, balanced and fair highlighting both the positives and the negatives within the book.

Today to my shock and horror, this author has gone and changed her original review from 5 stars to mirror the 3 star review I left. Now, had she thought this book was only worthy of 3 stars I would have no issues and would hope the author could take something positive from the review into their future writing, but this was not the case. This was a childish juvenile attack on another author because of a case of sour grapes that I had not rated their book as highly.

I now feel immense guilt that an author’s true rating has been pulled down as the result of a review I have left for a fellow author, but it would be wrong of me to change my review, that was my opinion and I had hoped a helpful review. Had this author only wanted a 5 star review in exchange then it almost defeats the purpose by reading the book. As a blog we pride ourselves in giving honest, fair and constructive reviews. If this is not what you are looking for then I’m afraid we are not the right blog for you.

On a more positive note, in one year of blogging and reviewing this is the first time I have come across such behaviour and I certainly hope it will be the last. Each and every other author we have dealt with has been lovely, gracious and thankful, even when the feedback has not always been what they had hoped to hear. I have made many friends through this site and I hope to continue to do so. As much as this has infuriated me, thankfully such pettiness is in the minority, and the book community in general is a fun friendly and positive place to be.

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