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When Book Reviews Go Wrong

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Welcome to the Dear Book Nerd podcast, a biweekly show that answers YOUR questions about life, love, and literature! My guest co-host this week is the effervescent Cindy Pon, author of YA fantasy books Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix, with Serpentine coming out in 2015. Cindy and I answer listener-submitted questions that focus primarily on book reviews. We discuss topics such as: what happens if you win a book in a Goodreads giveaway, but you don’t like the book? What should you do when an author responds to a negative review you posted? Is reading reviews before reading a book a good idea, or will it influence your opinion? And much, much more. Thanks for joining me, Cindy!

This episode was sponsored by Random House Audio.


Reader Mail:

Dear Rita,

I submitted a question to your February 5th podcast [Episode #2: “How to Deal with the Book Buzz Blues” with Rebecca Schinsky], and you spent a lot of time answering what to do about reading burnout and book blahs. Thank you so much for your help — I’m reading again, and I’m enjoying it.

The most helpful bit of advice was to lower my expectations without lowering my standards. I did this in two ways: first by switching from reading fiction to reading non-fiction. When I expected to be informed rather than entertained, it was a lot easier for the books to hit the target, and often they entertained anyhow. Also, I read a few books I didn’t expect to like in order to participate in a discussion group, which helped get over the hump.

The library is home again, and books are once again a joy rather than a chore. Thank you for your help and insights. You were right — it was still waiting there for me.




Questions Discussed:

Dear Book Nerd,

First, I just want to say I love your podcast! I have caught up entirely and look forward to the next installment.

I use Goodreads and take advantage of their giveaway section. I have received several wonderful books and, as requested, I left reviews. However, I have been sent some books that I could not force myself to finish. Should I leave a review about what I have read or just leave it alone? I feel guilty for not finishing them (trust me, I try to soldier through them to give them the attention they deserve). Also, I don’t want to scare away a potential reader who may look at my review/low rating and pass up the book. I have tried to leave helpful criticisms and thoughtfully laid out why the book did not appeal to me but have been met with some backlash from defensive readers or even been questioned by the author. (Changed the star rating on one book after rereading it and within hours was met with an email demanding to know why my rating went down). I guess my thing is, should I leave a review despite not finishing the advanced copy or should I just leave it be?

Thank you!


Dear Book Nerd,

Do you check out the ratings on a book before deciding whether or not to read it? I used to see how others on GoodReads or rated a book before I read it and have found that doing that ruins the reading experience for me because I already have someone else’s opinion of the book in my head and can’t draw my own conclusions. I have since stopped checking out personal ratings, but I do look to see how many overall stars a book got. And I always rate and review the books I read too, although more for myself than for others. I also read the blurb about the story (but of course you can get that off the book cover). I occasionally check Kirkus or to see how the “professionals” rate a work. So do you think others’ ratings of books influence your overall reading experience?

I love the podcast and am looking forward to your answers.

Thanks so much!


Dear Book Nerd:

I love using Goodreads to track books and see which books other people are reading. Many of my friends/people-I’m-following post reviews onto Goodreads, which I initially thought would be helpful. However, I’ve realized that when I read a review before reading the actual book, I start looking for specific things the reviewer mentioned while I’m reading the book. Or, even worse, I don’t want to read a book that I would have previously liked because the review broke it down so much that I can’t appreciate it for itself. So, rather than being a source of information to reconsider the next book I want to read, reviews have become a thing I avoid like the plague, at least before reading. I find that after reading the book, it is interesting to read reviews and compare opinions. How do I get well-informed about a book before reading it without feeling disconnected to the grander story?

– Tamanna


Links Discussed:

How To Have a Successful Goodreads Giveaway (The Helpful Writer)

This is Sarah by Ally Malinenko

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