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Rules for Review

A friend, who is probably one of the seventeen kindest people currently in existence, pointed out that my reviews can be just the tiniest bit harsh. She would have clutched her non-existent pearls had she ever read the review I wrote after finishing Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. That review involved the mention of sinks, fire, and ransom demands. It's summer so I pondered the point and decided that I needed to consider what might be my rules for reviewing books. Then I stopped because I already have rules for reviewing books. They are the same rules I developed with my students for when they critique their independent reads or the movie version that inevitably and predictably ruined their favorite book forever. I'm going to share my rules for review and while you may still think I'm harsh after reading them you'll at least know I'm not without some semblance of a heart and moral compass.


1. Never ever insult the author! As a reader you need to respect the work, the time, and the bravery it took an author to write something and then release it to the world. They are a special and powerful group of people.

2. Always be honest and true about your feelings. Sometimes this means you say a particular plot point is worth every eye roll the world has ever and will ever hold. Sometimes this means saying you really really want a character to die (This means you Lydia). Reviews shouldn't be written to court favor with publishers or author or agents. Free books are great, but your truth is even better. If I hate something I'm going to say I hate it in the way that feels right in the moment. If I love something I'm going to say that I love it in the way that feels right in the moment. If I'm indifferent I probably won't bother writing a review because how do I expand on Meh? The key to Rule #2 is to always be authentic because the only other option is being fake.

3. There is always something positive to say, so say it. Most books aren't completely without merit, so dig deep and unearth the positive. It might be a superficial thumbs up, like: Well, at least everything was spelled correctly in that unworthy and misogynistic tweet. Something like that, but better than that because few novels are as unworthy as some people's tweets.

4. There are no other rules. I operate under the first three rules and that works for me.

It's true that there are days when I might be a bit rough with my words, but there are also days when my reviews will tenderly caress. What matters to me is that all of those reviews are authentically me. However, if you think or feel I've crossed that imaginary and ever-moving line then leave me a comment. I'm always up for a little illumination.

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