Monday, March 12, 2012

I’ve Got a Bone to Pick: Handling a Bad (Sort of Bad) Review

Bad Reviews. We’ve all had them. Well, maybe you haven’t, but work with me here.
I received a bad review over the weekend, but I’m not sure what to make of it. The reviewer starts with this statement:

Okay, so I'm suffering through a major bronchial infection, doped up on five different meds including a narcotic cough suppressant. My world is a pretty hazy place right now.

STOP. So what are you thinking right now? Yeah. I agree. Maybe she should have taken a week off work. Reviewers and critics can ruin people’s careers and businesses, but what do I know. The review continued:

Could this be the reason that I found Caskets and Corruption inoffensive, and maybe even somewhat appealing?

What? So what’s your assessment of that last line? Inoffensive means not objectionable. Somewhat appealing means she might not have loved it but may have liked it.
Then this line:

What a strange book.

Well, not looking too good. Everybody is entitled to their opinion and this is not my first negative critique. I write sweet romance with comedy, suspense…and dogs! That’s what makes my books different, unusual…strange?  Every contest I’ve entered under the category of romantic suspense has rejected my books as inappropriate. Romantic suspense is supposed to be serious—special ops, CSI, police, murder, crime. Yeah, you need to have some of that in order to have intrigue, but that’s not what I like to focus on.  I like to focus on character and relationship development. The reviewer continued with a plot summation and then this:

There are a lot of amusing moments like these throughout the book, and I appreciated the author's zany sense of humor.
There were unfortunately a number of things I didn't like about the book. Number one on the list of things that made me crazy was - why didn't Phillip just call the MPs and tell them to come get the body and the drugs? They could have even gone to the civilian police. Instead Phillip planned to take Lizzie with him to a convention of funeral directors in another city, to get help there. Why? Why? Why? Maybe I was too high to get it.

Well, I did explain that in the book. The bad guy had a gun, he wouldn’t let Phillip out of his site, Lizzie wanted to preserve the evidence before the bad guy took it away, and so they ran. Phillip didn’t plan on taking Lizzie with him to the convention. They needed away to get the evidence to Dover Air Force Base and that was near where the convention was held. Phillip didn’t want Lizzie in danger and left her in Denver. They had a major drug cartel after them and they couldn’t use credit cards, cell phones or anything else traceable. They also had the civilian police after them because they’d stolen a vehicle and attacked an officer. I’d hoped that I’d explained all of that well, but sometimes it just doesn’t get through.

I guess her other objection to the book bothered me the most. Here it is: 

Another item on the negative list is Phillip's choice of attire. He wears turtlenecks all the time, due to scarring. Understandable - unless it's hot and he wears a short sleeve knit turtleneck. Visions of dickies running through my head didn't make Phillip a very attractive hero.

I thought this was the most touching thing in the book. Phillip was injured in a fire trying to save his father and his dog. This is the scene where Lizzie finds out why Phillip has closed himself off from love. She is pretending to be a massage therapist to avoid capture by the drug cartel:

Lizzie worked her way up to his neck. Her hand touched his scar and gently brushed over it. Without thinking, he rolled to his side and fearfully grasped her wrist to stop her. Her gaze roved over his scarred, burned torso and shoulder. He looked away. He couldn’t stand to see the disgust or pity which would surface at any moment.
He reached for the blanket, but she pushed him to his back and tenderly began to massage his chest and shoulders.
“This?” she asked.
“This what?”
A soft chuckle escaped her. “This is what turned you as cold as a corpse against life and being happy? Made you alienate yourself from those who care about you?”
A laugh? Sheer shock stunned him. He’d never suspected a chuckle from the first woman, or any woman, who saw his hideous flesh. He’d guarded himself so carefully so as not to be hurt. He’d always thought the burns would repulse any woman he met. How could this be? He’d pictured this moment in his mind a million times. He’d been guarding himself against the pain and rejection for two years.
He turned and found tenderness softening her expression.
“Phillip, did this happen the day your father died?”
He couldn’t respond. Her words and touch rendered him speechless.
“You tried to save him, didn’t you? Don’t you see? This is a badge of honor, like a medal pinned on your chest. You should be proud. You shouldn’t hide yourself away and stop people from getting close to you. It’s so admirable, what you did.” She leaned down and kissed the burn across his chest.

What are you thinking?  Was this scene touching to you?  At the end of the book, Phillip isn’t wearing the turtlenecks anymore. I thought it was rather revealing of his character.
Anyway, the reviewer ends with this statement:

I find I can't recommend the book…

Well, chew on that for a while and then tell me what you thought of this review. Was it good? Was it bad? Should it destroy my career? Should I send her another one of my books to review? Should I take up golf? Let me hear from you. I'm still here in the meantime. 

Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Comedy, Suspense...and dogs!
Fly into a good book today at:

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos


  1. Cindy, hugs. Perhaps we could put up a Surgeon General's warning that reviewers on medication not recommended. You know what to do. Move on. And smile.

  2. Hey Cindy,

    There just isn't a good category for books like yours (and mine). I write humorous mystery and, yeah, some people don't get it.

    Let it go. One review isn't going to make or break you. If the review is somewhere like a blog where you can leave a comment then I suggest leaving a kind word hoping she/he feels better, and gently pointing out that maybe she was expecting a different kind of book. But only if you can sincerely be interested and kind to her. Otherwise Donnell is right. Move on. And smile.

  3. Thanks, Donnell. I needed that laugh! And, yes, I'll try to move on. :)

  4. Thanks, Kate.
    How do you promote your humorous mysteries to avoid such conflict?
    I did send a message to the reviewer thanking her for taking the time to review and to wish her well. There's no ill feelings. I hope that the fact that she did post her drug-induced state will help readers make the choice to decide for themselves.

  5. Readers trash books all the time. And do it in a nasty way. One review will not destroy your writing career. If you think you can get something out of what she said for your next book, then do so. It's so hard to move on when a bad review hits. I take a day to lick my wounds, then keep going. I never respond to a bad review. Hang in there.

  6. Believe me, I've been there. On my VERY FIRST book, I received a review from someone who upfront stated, "This is NOT the kind of book I read, not to my taste at all, but...."

    You can imagine what happened after that "but"!

    It's hard to accept, but not everything we write appeals to everyone. All you can do is shrug it off, check the reviewer off your list for any FUTURE books, then grab that keyboard and keep writin'!

  7. Like you said, maybe she should have taken the week OFF!

    As I read her comments, I got the feeling she was "into" herself.

    My advice...think about all of us who love clean, fun and entertaining romances. You write for us! Thanks you! :)

  8. Jean,
    Love that line "lick my wounds." How appropriate for my dog posts. (laughing)
    I know this is a rush-rush world. I just wish she'd taken the time to really "get" what I'd written. Sometimes you feel like no one takes the time to really hear you and that you are alone out there in cyberspace.
    Thanks for commenting.

  9. Thanks, Miss Mae. I needed to hear those words - "keep writin'."

    I don't think someone should review your book if it's not their type of book. Why can't they decline or pass it on to another reviewer? Why give it a bad review?

    In judging contests, I never rate a book on what I like but on the writing itself.

    Thanks again, Miss Mae.

  10. Darcy,
    Thanks for those words. I know there are people who really enjoy my books, and I know that some aren't going to like them whether it's because they aren't gritty enough, erotic enough, serious enough or written in a style they like. And that's okay.

    But shouldn't there be a difference between a reader and a professional reviewer? Shouldn't they be more responsible than to post "Maybe I was just too high to get it"?

    Maybe I'm giving reviewers too much credibility...but after all, this is important to us.

    Thanks so much for your support, Darcy.

  11. I agree, move on. I'll never understand why people put harsh words out on the internet for eveyone to see their true personality. Those words reflect more on her condition (and we'll blame her words on her illness) than on your writing.

    As my Southern grandpappy would say, "Pull yourself up by the boot straps and move on!"

    All this is easy for me to say because I've not received a review of any sort. But no doubt they're coming as soon as the book's published!

  12. Hey Cindy,

    From the buildup of the reviewer, on most of her comments, I was expecting her to rate it better. It seems like her remark about not recommending your book didn't fit with the rest of the review.

    I loved the touching excerpt. You are an awesome writer, Cindy. Don't let this keep you down.

    On another note: My e-book "Jonquils In The Snow" received several great reviews, but a couple of bad ones, and it hurt. I sulked for a couple of days and then pulled myself up and emailed the reviewers. I REALLY wanted to know the reasons behind the 3-star ratings. How else could I improve my technique?

    One even said, "I should have given this a 2-star due tothe errors, but since the story was good..."

    This reviewer told me she'd found several typos. I wrote the story in 5 days and submitted it without letting it cool. My fault! Arrghh!

    The second reviewer said she would have liked to have seen more from the heroes POV. How he fought to get past his struggles and came to a decision to let love reign in his heart.

    After I got over my hurt I reread the story and realized both reviewers were right. I'm surprised I didn't get a 2 star. LOL.

    Since, I've corrected the errors and added another 1,000 words to give the heroes POV.

    All this to say: A reviewer can devastate an author with his/her review. They have no idea. But we can also learn from them, too.

    But, in your case, Cindy, I think it was all the meds the reviewer was on. Her cogs were stuck. LOL Don't let her keep you down. What you need is a good review on this book to get you in the swing again.

  13. Jerrie,
    It would really help if I had thick skin, but then I don't think I'd be as good of writer. (Double-edged sword thing.)
    I'll take your Grandpappy's advice.

    Good luck with your release!

  14. She sounds to me like she was in another realm and couldn't make up her mind about the book...My sister had bypass surgery a few years ago, and to this day, she will not wear a low cut blouse. She's ashamed of the scar more than anything. She sees it as a flaw. Me, I'm just the opposite, I wouldn't care who saw it. Chalk up the review as good experience and move on. She won't break your career...Tabs

  15. Laurean,
    I agree with you. You really never get a bad review. You can always take something away from it.
    On this review, I did feel like there was mixed messages. I also felt like she missed a lot of what happened.
    It's okay. I'm glad she admitted her state of mind at the time. None of us are perfect. My health colors my world everyday. I try not to let it, but it's not easy.
    Thanks for the compliment. I needed that! :)

  16. Thanks, Tabs!
    So true. Our own filters affect how we view the world.
    It's a plain darn fact that if you don't like turtlenecks, you don't like a hero in one. :)

  17. After reading this review, I can only say to the reviewer: You admit you're high on drugs? Really????

    Cindy, this is one person's opinion only. Put this review in the round file where it rightfully belongs, laugh and dismiss it. You're a better author than this reviewer will ever know or understand.

  18. Thanks, Jan. I don't think I'd be very good at golf. :)

  19. Reviews like this one you picked apart can be incredibly painful. Without going into details, I've also suffered from unfair reviews clearly written by idiots or wanna-bees, and the best advice I can give is: ignore it. One disgruntled reader won't break your career and shouldn't break you...cheer up!

  20. Hi Cindy. Hugs and chocolate. It sucks that you received a review which was not given a chance. By the reviewer's own words she was under the influence and had no business writing a review until she had a clear head. Doped up on a narcotic laced cough suppressant does not make for a clear head. The reviewer was wrong, if you haven't guessed my stance already and that she penned this and put it in cyberspace really annoys me.

    The scene with Phillip was very touching and really endeared me to him. The fact that by the end of the book he was wearing regular shirts shows his growth.

    I wouldn't send her anymore books to review, she's lost that privilege.

    Keep writing about "normal" characters. One of the reasons I stopped reading certain books was because I couldn't relate to the characters' profession and I enjoy a good romantic suspense with comedy, Laughter makes one young.

    Sorry, I think I've stood on my soapbox long enough, it really annoys me when I see good writers get reviews like this because a review didn't practice good judgment.

  21. Thank you so much, Lynn. Your post put me in tears. It's so wonderful when someone else understands your thoughts and emotions. Bless you and much success in all you do.

  22. She said her world was a 'pretty hazy place' and then also said 'maybe I was too high to get it'

    Sounds to me like this needs to be filed under 'this person is not an editor, not a publisher' and then sub-filed under 'no ability to write me a check'.

    There are ALWAYS going to be reviews that bite. I just wonder how many reviewers have ever actually written a short story much less a manuscript?

  23. Some reviews are better left alone. It's only worth while if comments keep repeating the same issue. This was in no way useful.

    Put down this review and step away.
    If you're selling, who cares.

    Hugs to you.


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