Unhelpful Review Phrases

I’ve been thinking a lot about unhelpful reviews and why they are unhelpful.  I believe I have found some key phrases that appear in 1 & 2-star reviews that are completely pointless without explanation.  So have a Top 10.

10.  It was poorly written. – I need an explanation of this.  Was it the editing that was poorly done?  Or was there actually something about the writing, like it was in a foreign language?  We all understand “well written,” but I have yet to figure out what “poorly written” actually means.  Perhaps it just wasn’t your type of book?  I think romance novels are poorly written, but I don’t like romance, so it’s an opinion.

9.  I found it confusing. – With an explanation, this is fine… but as I read and review more novels, I’m finding this phrase as a stand-alone sentence.  What did you find confusing?  The plot?  The characters?  The subplots?  The language?  The genre?  Don’t tell me it’s confusing, explain why it’s confusing or I’m just going to wonder if you’re an idiot too thick to follow the breadcrumbs left by the author.

8.  I didn’t like this book. – Again, fine with an explanation, without it… I’m sorry you didn’t like this book, but why do I care?

7.  Not what I expected. – What did you expect?  Did you read the blurb?  Is the blurb wrong?  Am I buying a book that touts itself to be an action-packed, hard-core thriller when it is really a romance novel with two fight scenes and lots of talk about feelings and the characters touching each other?!?!  (I actually found this review for a book I recently read:  “This was not what I expected.  I read the book and didn’t like it.  Don’t buy it if you don’t want to be disappointed.”  Since I had just read the book, I reread the blurb and the blurb matched the book.  I found it completely useless as a review, however, it was an Amazon Verified Purchase… so, um, yeah.)

6. It seemed too realistic. – Huh?  Isn’t that part of the appeal of a book?  You must suspend some disbelief, but not all of it.  You don’t watch many movies or TV either, do you?

5.  I rarely give low reviews. – This is a two-part statement.  A) Why did you hate this particular book?  B)  If I go look at the rest of the reviews you’ve given, what will I find?  (Recently, I found this statement in a book by a friend of mine.  Just out of curiosity, I went and checked out all their other reviews.  The particular person had reviewed over 200 books, none of them had been given more than 3-stars and all of them said this exact same thing: I rarely give low star ratings to books, but I just didn’t like this one.)

4.  It was too unrealistic. – Which part?  And it is fiction… Much like #6, we must suspend some disbelief. It should have some realism, but it also requires us to ignore some of the more conventional notions we hold.  Men do fly in books… with wings… while eating chicken salad sandwiches… and wearing dresses with nothing under them.

3.  I don’t know why this book has so many good reviews.  – Because not everyone is you, that’s why.  Different people like different things.

2.  I think this book is too expensive.  – Huh?  Too expensive compared to what?  Are you trying to say it isn’t worth the money?  Or are you lamenting spending the $2.99 or whatever for it because it meant you had to eat a chicken salad sandwich for lunch instead of Chinese take-out?  Now, I’m confused.

1.  This was a waste of my time.  – Let me assure you, I hated Anna Karenina… like more than you can imagine, hated it.  I hated it so much that not only was I disappointed that Anna didn’t throw herself under the train in the first chapter, but I was crushed that when she did finally throw herself under the train, she didn’t take more of the cast with her; like Levin.  Levin could have gone.  However, it wasn’t a waste of my time.  No book has ever been a waste of time.  I have learned something from all of them.  For instance, I learned from Anna Karenina, that I actually hated Tolstoy and not just War & Peace.  I also learned that sometimes, it’s ok to cheer when a character dies.

Bonus:  As I waited to post this, I was sent a message about a review someone I knew had just gotten.  This is the review:  I have now read six books by this author and I have hated them all.  I do not recommend reading them.  – But you’ve bothered with 6 of them?  Really?  That’s dedicated dislike.  I only read 2 Tolstoy novels and realized that I never wanted to read another.  By the way, when they release their 7th book, will be pre-ordering it?

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  1. How about this review for Cry of the Needle, which to date has more than 70 mainly five star reviews. Fortunately a fan posted an appropriate response.

    Taught me about a rare disease. But oh did this book drag on. And I mean d-r-a-a-a-a-a-a-g-e-d. There were too many characters and sub-plots. Try to keep track of who’s who — when it seemed like half their names started with K’s — first and last. Then there was an endless story line about was a drug company going to be bought out. That had absolutely nothing to do with the story, and I don’t know if it was bought or not — either the author didn’t say or by then I was too bored to notice. I was dragged in by a very interesting beginning, but after that it was snoozeville all the way. There was a major character, Tring or Trang (I forgot) who added nothing to the story, kind of like you add bread crumbs to meat loaf just to give it some bulk. Also, Tring was constantly referred to as the “scientist” or the “professor,” once even in the same paragraph. What was the purpose of that, except to further confuse the reader?

    Really, would somebody who has read it tell me why Tring and Fiona were even in there? Or the Countess?

    Mr. Radford robbed me of several hours of my life that I want back.

    A fan’s response:

    ‘There are only four characters in the book with first name and/or surname beginning with a `K’: Kieran Kelly, the main protagonist, and his wife (naturally), and Kevin Kinloss and Abe Klein, the owners of the pharmaceutical company KleinKinloss (naturally). It seems this reviewer has a problem with alliteration (always a good literary device to aid memory for names). Tring is germane to the story in that he represents the altruistic side of the drug industry, as well as being a target of Kelly’s revenge. His girlfriend, Fiona, helps uncover corruption at the heart of drug companies (one of the motivations for Kelly’s desire for revenge). The Countess represents the force of reason versus violence. It seems this reviewer only enjoys one-dimensional stories with one-dimensional characters; indeed tales with only one character in the whole book. She is entitled to her opinion, but she has taken mendacity to new levels. If this thriller was so bad (as against more than 60 mainly five-star reviews), why did she find herself compelled to read it to the end?’

    Oh, and by the way, Ms Daft Critic, Prof Tring is a scientist, so when the author uses professor and scientist as an alternative to his name, you know it’s him. Heaven forbid the author should take your advice and write: Tring did this, Tring did that and Tring did the other. You would have undoubtedly criticised him for using too many Trings (together with the inordinate amount of Ks.you complain of). I think a lobotomy probably wouldn’t work for you, Ms Daft Critic (oh, dear, I mentioned Ms Daft Critic’s name twice. Tut, tut!..


    • Roger – I had a reviewer start with book 3 in my fantasy series and write a review saying she was completely lost and hated it. She elaborated nicely on why she hated it, which is why one of my UK fans noticed it and commented asking if she had read books 1 & 2 first.


  2. Maria D.

     /  December 1, 2013

    Lol….now I shall have to make sure i don’t do any of these in a review…lol…I do have to agree though – if you’ve tried one or two of an authors books and not liked them ….why continue to buy them or review them – just learn to say no!


    • They are fine if you have a good explanation behind them. As stand-alone phrases, they have no merit. That’s my problem with them. However, I wrote the post on Thursday and a friend who knew I was writing it, sent me the review about the 6 books, so it had to be included. Guess what? The reviewer bought book 7 and hated it too. 😀



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