What does Rapunzel have in common with reviews?
Try letting it all hang down.
Rapunzel lets down her hair - as a big hairy dump or a sensual unrolling of locks.
Reviews...well they can take an author's hopes and either slam them down to the ground or have those same hopes sensitively addressed by a gentle waterfall of words that won't harm but inform.
What am I really referring to? Lower rated reviews of the 2-3 level and the words used to address and explain what put them there in the first place.
First let me say that for LASR/WC, a three rating isn't that bad of a rating. I have no idea why or how it got the bad rap in the first place. Books with a three rating have always been enjoyable and entertaining, they just don't make me dream about them at night, nor do they make me want to rush out and buy every and all books in an author's backlist. What a three rating has always done for me is to pass the time in an enjoyable and welcome manner. When glitches are found, and they always are, the story and/or characters were done well enough that it didn't matter, I still found merit in the story. I still am glad I read it. And I'm happy to say so.
A three rating also means that as a reviewer I have the responsibilty to explain what I felt held the story back. The most important component of meeting that responsibility is to respect the author and her/his work and be as factual, professional and courteous as you can be. There should not be any attacks on the author by making personal references that try to connect the faults in the story with perceived faults in the person. That's ludicrous and unacceptable behavior.
Please bear in mind that I refer to reviews on professional sites and not personal blogs. People's personal blog space can be anything they want it to be and that means anything goes - free speech.
That being said, I ask, "What do you think drags down a story?"
My first thought is editing. If it's a self-published book then it's the author's complete burden. If it's published with a big house or even a smaller e-pub that has editors, then the editors let the author down. But some editing is so bad that it sinks the story. If a reader feels disconnected more than involved because of the constant interruption, that would prevent a higher mark.
What are some specific things that would drag a story down? Depending on degree, there are:
* Too Stupid To Live (TSTL) Hero or Heroine
* Plot holes - makes no sense
* Too many coincidences - how convenient and pat
* Bad or lazy research - American Slang used by a British character that's never been to America and the book takes place in England
* Telling instead of showing
* Head hopping - too many (POV) point of view shifts in too short a space
* Narrative or passive story telling
Those are just a few. The trick to mentioning these types of things in a review is to couch them with positives especially if it's a three rating. Threes should have plenty of good things to say.
Like I mentioned - Showing is tons better than telling.
So, check out these links that are of reviews with "three" ratings. I believe these to be straightforward, succinct and address the issues of the story itself without going off on unprofessional tangents.
The Boy Next Door
Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil
Act Like We're In Love
Hot Spanish Nights
Although the last one is a four rating, the review showcased again how issues prevent a good book from being even better. So, as you can see, there are various ways to express things that didn't work for a reviewer. Always remember to surround the negatives with positives and the review should always end on a upbeat note.