Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair – Guest Post – Kevin Cooper – Tripartite On Reviews

Delighted to welcome author and book reviewer Kevin Cooper as a guest to talk about book reviews and I am sure you will find it very helpful as I did.

Part One – The Five-Star Review

The five-star review is probably one of the easiest reviews to write no matter what genre(s) you’re into. You love the work, there are no issues surrounding grammar and sentence structure, the plot is excellent, and the story entices you to keep reading. You probably love the work in as much you want a sequel or wait eagerly in anticipation for the author’s next work to come out. You will, without doubt want to read it again sometime…

It has the Wow Factor. Everything you say in your review screams out, “Guys, you gotta read this book!” This is usually followed by great praise for the author and whether you write long detailed reviews or short summary reviews, your audience will know that this book ticks all the boxes for you. If all the above is true, you have written a five-star review for all the right reasons. If all of the above is not true, please, do not fall into the traps listed below:

Wrong reasons for writing a five-star review

  • You know/like the author.
  • You don’t want to offend the author.
  • The author gave you a five-five star review and you feel obligated to return the favour.
  • You don’t like being negative.
  • You’re afraid that if you criticise, the author may retaliate.
  • You only write five-star reviews.

The traps can be endless, but either way, you look at it, it’s dishonest to other readers, and you are deceiving yourself if you think you are doing the author, yourself or other readers any favours.

What if a reader buys a book based on your review and it does not live up to the expectations that you have influenced? Not only could they take it out on the said author by leaving a very negative review, but they may never trust one of your reviews again. In other words, you lose all the credibility of being a good reviewer. So in the long term, you may cause more harm than good by writing a five-star review simply because you felt obligated to or some similar reason.

However, I don’t want you to be deterred from writing five-star reviews and not everyone is going to agree with you on the star rating you give. As long as you have been honest. You have nothing to worry about. Whether you know the author, have received a five-star review from that author, don’t want to offend, be negative and so on, remember, There is nothing wrong with writing a four-star, three-star, or if necessary even two or one-star reviews. Simply be honest, be constructive, and if it helps, let folks know why you chose to give any particular star rating.

Part Two – The Four-Star Review

I love four-star reviews. For me receiving a four-star review is every bit as rewarding as receiving a five-star review… and some. Why the ‘and some’? Because in some cases, four-star reviews can be more rewarding. I have actually written more four-star reviews than other ratings, especially as my own approach to reviews has changed over the years. Yes, I fell into the above traps at first… Guilty As Charged! Most of those reviews have since been removed by myself. I left only the ones that were sincere.

A four-star review gives more of a sense of sincerity. It tells the reader you loved their work, you highly recommend it to others. It is an excellent work and once again, ticks all the boxes or just about all of them. (Realistically, one cannot expect every book to tick all the boxes.)

Your readers can hear you shouting about this work and may even include some high praise for author. It’s most certainly a memorable work for all the right reasons and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have a four-star review.

How I approach writing a four-star review…

Firstly, for all types of reviews, I always leave a margin for errors for the sake of human error, even for my five-star reviews. However, the wider that margin grows, the lower my star rating goes. The four-star review margin is quite narrow… meaning there’s not much more in it from the five-star. How I judge it is by how the work affects me…

I loved the work. I may even be tempted read it again. I most certainly would have no problem with highly recommending it, but somewhere it just didn’t quite match up to others which I have given five stars for. It’s not quite there for some reason. This doubt could be caused by anything from a slow start getting into the work to one or two more errors than what you feel comfortable with or simply the feeling that it could have been a bit better overall. In some of my four-star reviews, I tend to say something to the effect of, ‘…had it not been for…. This would have been a five-star review for me.’ It’s as simple as that.

Part Three – The Three-Star Review and lower star ratings

Three-star reviews are probably the trickiest of all reviews. Few people like to write them, and even fewer like to receive them. Personally, I don’t mind receiving a three-star review as long as it’s honest and has something to say which I can learn from, albeit, like all authors, I do prefer five-star and four-star reviews. However, I have to admit. I still don’t like writing three-star reviews.

First and foremost as with all reviews, when writing the three-star review, one should be perfectly honest without being offensive. One way we can achieve this is by looking at reviews in the same manner as one’s perspective of the school/university rating systems. E.g.: A five-star review would be equivalent to an A… for excellent work; Four-star reviews are equivalent to receiving a B… for very good work. This brings us to the three-star review… (You’ve guessed it!) C.

So what’s wrong with a C or a three-star review? It actually means that the work is equally as good as most everybody else’s!

It’s a funny old world we live in. We love democracy because it provides everyone with a voice. We fight for equality and a fairer society. But, nobody likes being average.

The key to writing a good three-star review is the same as that of receiving one: Firstly, remember that three-stars, still means the work is deemed to be as good as most anyone else’s you have read or anyone’s else’s out there. Let the person know why it’s three-stars and what you would do or suggest to improve it. This could be any reason from a slow start, getting lost a bit due to holes in the story to structural or grammatical errors.

The same principle can be used for lower star reviews if you do decide to write them. I have written some lower star reviews in the past, but now I don’t really bother with writing these reviews. They take up too much time and energy. I simply put these works down and start reading something else instead of wasting my time with them. If I can’t finish a book, I don’t review it and these days I find it difficult enough to finish a three-star work without getting into the hassle of having to explain a lower-star review.

Thanks for reading, folks!

©Kevin Cooper 2019

About Kevin Cooper

Kevin Cooper is an eclectic author & songwriter. His works are multifarious. He has published fantasy, sci-fi, memoirs and drama in the form of novels, novellas, short stories, poetry and song.

Some of KC’s major influences in literature are JRR Tolkien, Philip Pullman, C.S Lewis, Terry Brooks, and J.K Rowling.

KC was born in Hull, England. At 21 years of age, he moved to the USA where he first attended Western Kentucky University, but transferred to Asbury College where he graduated with a BA in Psychology. He then attended Asbury Theological Seminary for a couple of years before moving to Arizona where he enrolled at the Grand Canyon University, obtained a research fellowship and graduated with a M.Ed. His career in education spanned from tutor to teacher, to college lecturer. He later changed careers and went into management working for The Hertz Corporation. After almost twenty years living and working in the USA, he returned to England where his worked in the NHS for several years before giving up work to care for his wife, and focus on his writing and music.

You can read Kevin’s insightful reviews for other authors: Author Kevin Cooper Book Reviews

Time to look at some of Kevin’s own books

About  Miedo “Afraid”

Miedo ‘Afraid’ contains both of the volumes of the Miedo story: Miedo: Living Beyond Childhood Fear & Miedo 2: A Reckoning With Fear.

Miedo: Living Beyond Childhood Fear is a memoir written as a British drama set in the historical city of hull in the mid-1960s-1980s. This is the true story of a boy who after losing his mother at a very young age, begins to experience a plethora of paranormal/supernatural incidents brought about through the circumstances of living within a dysfunctional family and resulting in a childhood filled with fear.

Miedo’s story continues in this chilling sequel to Meido: Living Beyond Childhood Fear. As Miedo comes into young adulthood, he is confronted with new demons while he searches for answers to his past through Spiritualism. But, rather than finding answers, he is left with more questions as a plethora of paranormal experiences occur in his life once again…

A review for the book

“All good things must come to an end”

The book tells a true story of a painful past that emerges from the depths of time, which continues to prick the memory of the man who recounts his childhood.

A novel that touches the heartstrings, rattling arcane emotions, in pure and naked sincerity dictated by the need to rework trauma and patterns that have influenced dramatically a life.
The author rewinds the time as if it were a ball of wool defeat from an old sweater. There are knots, ends tied after the thread is broken… wounded in the most intimate. Other times, the thread appears thin, slim and fragile, almost a metaphor of the moments where the mere fact of “being alive” appears as a condition of punishment.

The author takes us by the hand, accompanying us to meet the places of his childhood tormented by dark and devastating presences.

In the garden of the grandparents, the particularity of a sour apple fall from the tree prematurely, and sugar bowl given to him by his grandmother for dipping the fruit and make it sweeter. On the other hand, the memories of the taste of a chocolate mint “After Eight”, carefully removed from the tin bottle-green colour.

The feeling of an insect that walks on his arm, the sadness of knowing that if a bumblebee stings you then he dies… Many small detailed descriptions that enrich the reader with sensations simple and so purest to make you reconnect with your own childhood.

Yet, the fish & chips, meatballs, and sausage sprinkled with vinegar, taken from the store where worked his grandmother.

The deep affection of the child towards his grandparents, to mitigate his great fear of the present and of the apparitions that at night arise in front of his bed. Then there are the plots and family intrigues, pettiness of both sisters Liz and Chloe… other characters that come and go from the story, distant sounds of panaceas to the suffering that was always lurking.

Then a new change, the author is separated by his grandparents and is living in a new environment, a cold and lifeless house, everything he loved had been taken away… without notice… without asking him what he wanted. “All good things must come to an end.”
Then the presence of true friends, and those supposed, met at school or at work, or the meeting with deep Faith, will lead the author to new and radical changes.

“Suffering is mostly caused by fear, not by the circumstances themselves, but by my response to them” (Jan Frasier)

But I will not reveal more of the 440 pages that certainly will be anchoring you, making you a participant in the most intimate, making you even cry tears of bitterness.

A very good novel, honest and unfussy, which will certainly make the reader ponder!
Claudine Giovannoni.

A selection of other books by Kevin Cooper

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK

And: Amazon US

More reviews and follow Kevin: Goodreads

You can connect to Kevin 

Kevin’s Music
Facebook Author Page

My thanks to Kevin for his interesting and useful perspective on writing book reviews and I know he would be delighted to respond to your questions.

83 thoughts on “Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair – Guest Post – Kevin Cooper – Tripartite On Reviews

  1. Kevin’s words are so true and realistically only a few novels at the top of the pyramid should have five stars. A writer friend in real life did give one of my collections three stars! Some people suggest it’s kinder not to post reviews of 2 or 1 stars and I have chickened out of writing about novels that are rather dire. How about if there were no stars? just write what drew you to the book in the first place and what was interesting, exciting or amusing.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you for the great feedback. I guess stars provide some kind of rating as a guideline for people. People like ratings be it stars, points out of ten, percentages and so on. However, I strongly feel they should be used as guidelines and not as gospel, so to speak. They are after all, subjective.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful article, Kevin and Sally. I have noticed that people don’t like three star reviews, but average means that you achieved all the core competencies. It is nice to have excelled but most people don’t achieve excellence all the time or in the eyes of all people.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I’ve been guilty of the five star review to fellow authors, as well. It’s hard not to! But, generally I only give five stars to books I would keep on my re-read shelf and save the four stars for everything else.
    I like the idea of no stars, as suggested above. It’s kinder and all that’s really needed.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Well done, Kev! I think it makes sense, but I also believe firmly that reviewing someone you like could and would be taboo. I am not one to review a book, but if asked will give my short opinion. Thank you for the great advice. Best of luck, brother!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Every word you’ve written is true. I have been asked to write five star reviews by writers I respect but whose work really could stand a bit of work. I try to focus on what I liked and the direction I would like to see the author go in the future. After all, there have been books I haven’t liked that have gone onto win big time awards so what do I really know.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You know more than you think you do, JT. I hear what you’re saying. You may have noticed celebs end up with best sellers… Most I imagine use ghostwriters. and Money talks. Don’t believe everything you read about a book. Some of the ‘big time’ is over-rated or untrue at best. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I know that part of the issue that I have with some books is the fact they written in a genre that I don’t particularly enjoy. And someone else will love it. But the fundamentals of plot, characters, flow and engagement have to be there… And some critics choices many times do not seem to be as impartial as they should be.. a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. An excellent guide to reviewing from Kevin . I concur with all that Kevin wrote. If a book checked all the boxes and was a pleasure to read, it’s getting 5 stars from me. Also, like Kevin, anything less than 3 stars, I refuse to write a review for – most likely I didn’t finish it. And it’s important to point out in a constructive way, what we found questionable about a book. And above all, beside using fairness for reviewing, it’s important that readers scanning reviews understand that our review is our opinion – it doesn’t make the review right or wrong. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I enjoyed Kevin’s thought-provoking discussion of his star rating approach to book reviews. I enjoy writing reviews of my reading experience, as I try to approach each book on its own terms. If I had my ‘druthers, I’d do away with the star ratings altogether.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A thoughtful post from Kevin. There are many tricky areas when writing a review. This reminds me of the discussions we used to have as teachers about grades. If it’s only about the grade, the teacher’s review or writer’s review becomes hollow.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s so great to see Kevin back and reviewing again. And I enjoyed the thoughtful reflection and guidance on reviewing. I agreed with everything Kev has to say about rating books, and like him, I rarely review a book that I don’t enjoy on some level, (assuming I finish it). Wonderful guest post, Sally. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great comments about reviewing,Kevin and I agree on all your points! A couple of times I was questioned in comments why I ‘only’ gave a book four stars in my review … a point I’d already explained in the review anyway! Being honest and constructive is the key,I agree!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Great post, Kevin! I admit to having struggles of my own when it came to giving out three star reviews. It’s a delicate process and it is not always easy to be honest. I’ve also had my share of good (and not so good reviews) they sting a bit. However, as you mentioned, that means your work is as good as everyone else’s. I appreciate that comment and it has changed my perspective.

    Thank you, Sally, for hosting Kevin on your wonderful blog!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. What a fabulously insightful and helpful article. It should be printed out and placed in front of many reviewers to guide their choices and explanations.
    I always appreciate Kevin’s reviews: clear, concise and insightful and one senses the reviewer truly loves books and appreciates the hard work required to produce them.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up- 18th – 24th November – Storms, Malta, Thanksgiving Menu and Tributes, and Christmas Book Fair. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  14. A good read which mirrored my thoughts, ones which I have often hesitated to write…. Robbies thoughts also raised a valid point… It is also why I hesitate over writing reviews… A good post which made a lot of sense.. Thank you both for sharing 🙏… Hugs x

    Liked by 1 person

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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