Writing Exercise: Review of Book Reviews

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Review of my book reviews.

I average over 100 book read a year for the last few years, since I made a requirement to do a book review every time I read a book I’ve actually been able to keep track through my Goodreads count. I passed the magic 100 books in November 2017, which is when I am writing this post in preparation for tax season during my NaNoWritMo craziness.

I’m going to be way less than previous years (182 in 2015 and 128 in 2016). Each year I get a little less because I (1) don’t count books I edit and (2) don’t count books I slush read. As my editing and slush reading increases, the pleasure reading decreases.

With the magic 100 book level, I thought I would see if I raved or depraved too much. As an editor and author myself, I sometimes feel like I need to take it easy on other writers at which point I pull myself up by the shorts and remind me I am writing the book reviews to become a better editor and writer. If I don’t be honest about what I read, I can’t learn from it.

The review levels between Goodreads and Amazon allow me to give higher marks on Amazon reviews.

one star Goodreads “I did not like” / Amazon “I hate”
two star Goodreads “It was ok” / Amazon “I did not like”
three star Goodreads “I liked” / Amazon “It’s okay”
four star Goodreads “I really liked”/Amazon “I liked”
Five star Goodreads “It was amazing”/Amazon “I loved”

If you notice, a four on Amazon is equal to a three on Goodreads. So if someone gets a four star on Goodreads, I usually give them a five on Amazon because of the difference in the grading scale. This helps soothe my writer’s heart, supporting friends and co-workers. The write-up portion of the review is cut and pasted between the two review sites, therefore same review shows up on both, just star level are different. Oh, and Goodreads allows spoilers to be hid but Amazon does not – I sometimes need to work around that.

The Goodread scale for me is as follows:

One Star – Total fail, should not exist. Hated it, usually unable to finish. (One or more of these reasons.)
Two Star – Serious structural problems to the story. A “trunk” story where the author is learning how to write, but should have never been published in its present form. Did not like book. Able to finish reading the book, but frequently thought about quitting.

(Stars One and Two often inspire Editing Rants and Writing Exercises.)

Three Star – Readable. Some flaws. Bland. Nothing stands out. Liked book.
Four Star – Good book. Solid. Really liked it.
Five Star – Loved story – which I have discovered means incredible worldbuilding is involved.

(Stars Four and Five often end up in Author Spotlights and Book Review posts the following year.)

How did my 2017 reading split up?

Five Star – 11
Four Star – 42
Three Star – 28
Two Star – 12
One Star – 7

The disbursement may seem top-heavy, but remember many of these books are edited by publishing companies and many self-published people use editors as well which will reduce the pure clunkers. People want to publish books to make money, therefore most books overall will be better than mediocre.

I think the split between stars is a good disbursement. I’m not afraid to call a spade a spade.

WRITING EXERCISE: Go to your recently finished reading pile and pull out three books. Write a review for each of them figuring out what you liked about them and what you didn’t and post them to an appropriate review site. Of the three books, which book stood out the most and for what particular reason. What book received the lowest score and why? Looking at your present work-in-progress, can you apply any of the lessons you learned from these review-critiques to your own story?


The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (published by Tor) – 5 Stars – Why I loved it the most: Worldbuilding. New thing learned: working with a multiple person POV allows unlikable as well as likable main characters, adding interest to the story.

Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler (published by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy) – 4 Stars – Nothing stood out.

Villains Rule by M.K. Gibson (published by Amber Cove Publishing) – 2 Stars – This humorous satire is exactly what I expect from humorous satire. Unfortunately going for the easy joke can be very misogynistic (The Pop Culture Detective Agency covers this well in “The Adorkable Misogyny of the Big Bang Theory”.) New thing learned: This story is very Meta about breaking down the Fantasy tropes and helped me be aware of a few.

Taking the thing I learned: I write likable characters. Maybe I should try for some unlikable ones. All three of these books have at least one of the point of view characters be a unrepentant villain. Something to think about.

If you would like to see all my book reviews on Goodreads, you can follow the book review links above and follow me there.