Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Do Rah Mean Reviews

I started reviewing books about twenty years ago, mainly because I wanted a steady supply of books to read since at that time we lived out in the toolieloops, about an hour from town, and with three kids in tow this involved a spirit of adventure and a rousing case of cabin fever to shake me into organizing a “going to town” outing.

A book reviewer I became.

One thing learned about book reviewing is the art of the “do rah” as in do be a cheerleader of sorts and Thumperize a book–find something nice to say. As a writer, I can’t imagine reading a review and having to bear any slicing and dicing of my creative endeavour.

Yet, there are those who skip the do rah and just go for mean. You know what I’m talking about. Those vitriolic reviewers that pen scorn and derision that practically blame the tree for providing the pulp that provided the paper for the book.


Not long ago I felt compelled to comment on such a review found on Goodreads addressing a book I recently finished. I mentioned the importance of setting aside 21st century expectations when reading historical fiction. Whoa! A personal tirade was my reply. I didn’t see that one coming. Fortunately, another reader rebuffed that reply saying the writer was out of line and should be warned. Are there Goodread police who hand out “play nice” tickets?

“Don’t be a meanie, be a do rah-er when reviewing books.”

That little episode provided the epiphany that mean reviews perhaps stem from mean-spirited people, and I try even harder to offer more positive than negative comments in my reviewing. After all, that some day of getting my cow joke book published might actually arrive and I wouldn’t want my bovine humor butchered unfairly by unfriendly reviewers.

What thoughts on mean reviews? Do they dissuade or persuade you to read the book?

Single Post Navigation

31 thoughts on “Do Rah Mean Reviews

  1. I ignore them and look for other reviews.

  2. They don’t dissuade me from reading books – they just make me think that the author has nothing better to do with their time than say mean things about someone else’s hard work. I generally look for reviews that state both the good and the bad about a book.
    I know I’m guilty of pointing out things I don’t like about a book, but I ALWAYS try my hardest to mention things that I do like about it. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean that everyone else won’t like it either and I feel like I should be honest about what I’m reading without tearing it to pieces.

  3. Some reviews can be downright vicious. It’s one thing to respectively point out what you didn’t care for in the book; it’s another to tear an author apart. As a reader, those types of negative reviews don’t sway me at all. Other than to wonder what hurt the reviewer has in his or her life to be so mean!

  4. I don’t like literacy hatchet jobs. There are books I have just not liked, but I wouldn’t maliciously put down the author’s hard work because of it.

  5. I always appreciate it when a reviewer says something along the lines of, “I didn’t like XYZ, but that might just be me.” Or, “This book wasn’t my cup of tea, but people who enjoy X would probably like it.” No one likes everything and I’m a bit suspicious of books with ONLY excellent reviews, but you’re right, too many one-star reivews are just meanness and that doesn’t help anyone!

  6. The internet does seem to be a haven for meanness. Except on blogs, that is. Bloggy people are the best people in the world (even if their cow jokes provoke weary groans)!

  7. I’ve struggled with this recently, as I got an ACR that really wasn’t great. I did try to balance my negative comments with some positive comments (and friendly suggestions for change). With that said, I think it’s important for people to write negative reviews (not the same as mean) and get the truth out about a less-than-excellent book.

  8. When looking at book reviews I always start with the worst ratings as a lot of them can just be dismissed as people who do not understand what hey are reading, or just trolls.

    Criticism is fine as long as it’s backed up with solid reasonings and is constructive when it can be. It is strange that people are obsessed with imprinting 21st century values on historical fiction, were it modernised it wouldn’t be accurate.

    All reviews should be there to invite comment and discussion on a civil basis at the very least, people that can’t understand that should be ignored.

  9. I am right there with you! It really makes me angry when I read mean-spirited reviews because clearly either the reviewer doesn’t know anything about the time period they were reading about or they just go with their Downton Abbey/F. Scott Fitzgerald expectations about everything (at least in the book I’ve read), which then makes my reviews snarky responses to THOSE reviews about why the book did capture the time period well (if it did, of course). My example of this would be “Girl Waits With Gun” and how some reviewers thought it was about the Jazz Age, when the book explicitly starts by stating what year it was (1914) and that the Archduke was murdered (the start of WWI) within the first paragraph.

    Similar to Ste J above, I tend to look at the negative reviews to see if they can back it up with anything besides they’re emotional nonsense about how they wanted to see the characters evolve or react in certain situations that wouldn’t have been expected for people of that time period. If they can’t, I disregard them and move on to the positive reviews then decide whether or not to pick up the book for myself.

  10. Oh, goodness. The ole book review conundrum! I do not leave bad book reviews for people, because I know just how much heart and soul goes into writing any book. I can just about always find something good or interesting in art, even if I don’t fully get into it. Art truly is subjective and half the time people will leave a crappy review, because they don’t get something or it wasn’t their thing. Often it has nothing to do with the work itself.

Comments, anyone?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: