My Blog


            I view constructive reviews of one of my books like a mini-critique, a chance to learn. A well-written review, good or bad, is an insight into a reviewer’s experience and knowledge. It might help me improve my skills by highlighting good or bad points in my writing, so why not listen and learn?

            By considering reviews in this manner, I try to not take them personally. A constructive review means that the reviewer not only took the time to read one of my books, but carefully, and honestly, expressed their insights. I ignore simple, unconstructive reviews like: “It’s a real page turner,” or “It stinks.” These are simple likes or dislikes with no apparent reason why. They don’t help me or future readers.

            By the same token, my book reviews will always be constructive and honest, whether the author is a social-media friend or an unknown. I will always provide a standard list of likes and dislikes, and more importantly, the whys. My reviews won’t include meaningless phrases like: “It’s the best book I ever read,” or “It kept me up late.” I don’t know what others have read, and I stay up late anyway. I only ask that the author not take my review personally. Good or bad, it’s only my opinion of a particular story.

            Here’s the standard list I use to review every book. Note that I might add some additional point when I find something particular about a book. The title might be great, or the book cover might be poor.

1.      Premise: The storyline has to be intriguing to me. Great writing will keep me interested in anything for a while, but the premise must be original and imaginative to keep me captivated. The storyline must be realistic. A story can get away with any possibility if it’s a fantasy. Almost anything is possible with science fiction, as long as the story can backup or explain the science. But historical fiction has to stick to the facts of history. Murder/mysteries have to provide realistic characters and circumstances. I don’t believe in old women ignoring danger and the authorities to solve terrible crimes. An unrealistic premise, given the genre, kills a story for me.

2.      Grammar: Nothing hurts a good story more than poor grammar and punctuation. A missing comma, wrong word, or an occasional repeated word, is understandable. I see them in bestsellers by notable authors. It’s the constant mistakes, the confusing sentences, which I find irritating. That tells me the author isn’t professional enough to have their work edited and proofread before publishing it. If they don’t care about their writing, why should I care for their book?

3.      Flow and Organization: A good story flows naturally from a relevant chain of events. It’s organized in a logical, understandable order. It doesn’t push forward in one direction, and then backtrack to explain something that happened. That’s confusing and distracting. The same goes for the writing itself. Sentences must flow together. They should make the reader forget they’re reading, make them feel they’re in the story. Switching POV in mid-paragraph is a good example of confusing the reader and the flow of the story.

4.      Character Development and Descriptions: I like to get to know the characters, their motivation for acting. This includes what they look like. A character’s description and motivations should be implanted on my brain by the end of the story. That means a character has to stay in character no matter what the circumstances. They can’t be terrified in one chilling scene, and then cool and collected in another just because it serves the story. Descriptions of the scene itself are also vital to a story. The reader should see what the character is seeing, feel the environment the character is feeling. If the author doesn’t, or can’t, describe the world of the story, how do they expect the reader to see and feel it, get engrossed in it?

5.      Five-Star Reviews: I ask myself one final question when doing a review: Will this book become a classic for me? Will I read it again in the future? Classics for me are books like: Stephen King, “IT,” JRR Tolkien, “Lord of the Rings,” Dale Brown, “The Da Vinci Code.” If a book doesn’t measure up to these classics, then I don’t give it five stars. Why? Because there has to be some differentiation between good books and the really great ones. If an author wants to play with the big boys, then they’ll have to learn to write like them. If I give every book five stars, the ranking is useless and untrustworthy. I don’t feel equally about every book I read, and if I’m going to put my name on a review, it’s going to be honest.

        Some may not agree with my review methods, that I’m too harsh. Some seem to think all books deserve a five-star rating just because the writer finished a book. Writing is a profession, and authors should treat it as such. It’s not something a “writer” should do to impress others, or to check “writing a book” off their bucket list. People spend good money to buy books. More importantly, they spend their valuable time reading those books. I write my reviews for these readers, not the book author. That’s why my reviews will always be consistent, constructive, and honest.