In 2011 I turned my hand to the task of writing book reviews. It is an interesting exercise which has raised questions for me about how honest one should be about a book's failings as well as its strengths. Two of the sites that I have written for are designed to offer support to novice writers but in slightly different ways. Book Country which is allied to the Penguin publishing group allows writers to submit up to 30,000 words of their novel for readers/fellow writers to comment on. In this case one is encouraged to offer advice on how the writing could be improved under specific headings and then give a rating. Lancashire Writing Hub offers the opportunity for writers to submit short extracts from their writing which members are encouraged to comment on and also has a conventional book review slot for completed works.
When offering feedback on a novice writer's work one should be encouraging and supportive, that goes without saying but too often serious faults in the writing are treated like the elephant in the room, pretend it isn't there and everyone will be happy. It doesn't work. How can writers improve if their faults are never pointed out? The biggest elephants are those which occupy the world of e-publishing. Unedited work which has not had the benefit of informed peer review or any form of critical attention is regularly published on digital platforms. Most of these books would never have been accepted by an agent, publishers would reject them out of hand as unreadable and quite rightly.
So how does a writer who loves books respond when asked to review a self-published book which has more holes in the plot than Rab C. Nesbitt's vest? Do you point out the glaringly obvious or do you turn a blind eye to the elephant stomping about destroying the living room? That is a matter for one's conscience and the publication's editorial policy but let's point out the rampaging pachyderm before someone gets hurt.
This blog is not intended to refer to a particular book review or book.
My latest review can be found on: http://www.lancashirewritinghub.co.uk/