Bad Reviews

Amber Share
Sometimes I think about some of the bad reviews I’ve gotten on Amazon, and wonder why people picked up the book in the first place. My fave may always be “Well, it’s not Shakespeare” (when did I say, “Buy this book, it’s Elizabethan drama”?) but there will be a new you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me comment along at any moment. That’s why I love Amber Share’s bad-reviews-of-national-parks posters, all taken from actual reviews of parks and which all sound like something Trump would have said.

And it got me to thinking about the isolation/quarantine and the virus in general, wondering what would happen if people reviewed that. Or if they reviewed the campaigns and the election. (My fave election sticker of all time is “Cthulhu for President: Why vote for the lesser evil?” although the one still on my car that will be there until the end of time is “Choose Love: Dogs Against Romney.” I know how to hold a grudge.). Of course the classic bad review is “The food is awful and the portions are too small.”

But I think the artist, Amber Share, said the smartest thing about bad reviews: “If a national park—which is beautiful and incredible and inarguably amazing—is going to have one-star reviews, you also have no chance of pleasing everyone. It’s like—learning to laugh and have a lighthearted mindset about our critics, including the ones in our own heads, who are often the meanest.”

So . . .
Welcome to Temptation: “Would be better with a hunky Indian.”*
Faking It: “This book is irresponsible because she’s too old to have kids. Heroines should be younger.”*
Bet Me: “Where’s the dog?”*

What’s your favorite bad review (as in the review itself is bad)?

In other distractions, last night I went back and read all those Obama-Biden memes. That was a lovely time. Can we please have the Obamas back?

*All actual comments from letters I have received.

42 thoughts on “Bad Reviews

  1. Bet Me didn’t need a dog, there was Elvis. Also I love those Nat’l Park posters. Esp. since living near one for years means I’ve seen a steady stream of people utterly unprepared for the outdoors with no clue what they were in for.

  2. Charlene’s right. Bet Me didn’t need anything at all.

    I never thought of it as a favorite before, but one nice person said, “I don’t get the five star rating others gave it but if you like really dumb stories – go for it!” for Because of Joe. Took me forever to get over feeling wounded, so maybe I was dumber than the book. 🙂

  3. This is not about a badly written review. It is for a product that (no kidding) is “not currently available.” It’s low brow humor at its finest. On Amazon, read the reviews for Haribo Sugar Free Classic Gummi Bears, 1 lb. Absolutely hilarious.

        1. Oh, yes, I’d forgotten those. Because women like pink. Wonder if the guy who thought that one up is still working.

  4. Jenny, Thank You! The National Park posters made my day — and gave me something to send to friends and family.

    Not reviews, but I’ve collected non sequiturs since I was 14 and a woman in the beauty parlor came over to me, looked disappointed, and said, “From the back you look like a model.”

    Responses to my kids (when little) were equally lip twisting. One woman remarked about my daughter, “Your Daddy must have great bone structure.” Another woman clearly compared me to my daughter before remarking, “You must look just like your Daddy.” She then said to my son, “You must look just like YOUR Daddy.” Then she realized what she’d implied.

    The weirdest observation was when a woman learned that my daughter and her best friend shared birthdays (September 30th). She said, “I know what YOUR parents were doing on New Year’s Eve!”

  5. My favorite bad review is from my Helen Binney series (featuring a 40-something with lupus), which claimed the author didn’t know anything about being 40+, having a chronic illness, or working with nurses. I am, of course, over 40, have a chronic illness, and have all sorts of experience with nurses because of that chronic illness.

    That was the review that convinced me not to take them seriously.

  6. Here’s one of my favorites from my bad reviews: All I took away as that living a directionless life in a small town in Vermont has the benefit of great sex, but terrible driving conditions.

    This just makes me laugh – mostly because it’s true. Well, I’m not sure of the sex. I’m not sure there’s much great sex anywhere.

  7. Also, The number of one-star reviews from people who stated they never received the book was astounding. Do they not know how to contact Amazon to get their purchases?

  8. I first read “Faking It” when it was published in 2011, I think; it was a library copy. I enjoyed it so much, I bought my own copy, recommended & lent it to friends, one of whom never gave it back. I keep buying paperback versions so I can, when things are slow, I can enjoy it again. I keep lending this book to friends, who like it as well – and don’t always return it. “Faking It” is, IMO, funny, quirky & uplifting. Right after 2 of the late Laurie Colwin’s works, this book is one I always enjoy. Guess I need to get another to read soon. As to the negative Amazon people, screw ’em.

    1. I wish, like Amazon, there were an “edit” possibility here. I just saw a horribly written sentence that happened when the phone rang as I was typing. I swear I proofread, but guess not. Dang!

      1. Don’t worry, we’re VERY laidback here.
        Also, thank you for the kind words about Faking It!

    2. I keep buying Bet Me because I re-read it so often it keeps falling apart on me… 😂

  9. I think some negative reviewers don’t review what they actually read at all. They review what they wanted to read in that book but didn’t. Or they review how they would’ve written that book and the inconsistencies of the author’s published version vs. their own imaginary one.
    That’s why some comments of my own beta-readers baffle me so much. They talk about things that I never wrote or even thought about. Their version, you see.
    That’s the only way Jenny’s books could get bad reviews, imo. If those reviewers expected something else, like Shakespeare, but got a rem com, like Faking It (one of my favorites), sure they might complain.
    And “Heroines should be younger” is simply mean. Stupid too. You should sue that reviewer for discrimination against middle-aged women. Maybe even a class-action suit, because that reviewer discriminated against all of us.

    1. I’m in. Ha!

      Also, just so argh that the end result of a romance must be kids. ARGH. I know, it’s funny, but I’m so pissed off with idiots today. Tomorrow undoubtedly I’ll be the idiot, but today I’m enjoying the view from my high horse, thanks for asking.

    2. Oh, yes. One of my reviews for a different book had something nice to say amidst generally not liking the book. The reviewer really liked the gay couple in the book. Only problem — there was no overtly gay couple in the book. Not even a couple that might have been closeted. I’ve got gay characters in other books, but not that one! I’m not sure if they read something into some pairing in the book or, as I really suspect, they pasted the review for another book into my book’s review box. I wonder who got the review that was supposed to be for my book.

  10. I got a one-star review on goodreads from someone who wrote ‘This is a stupid app. You can’t even read the book on it.’ So presumably she was rating Goodreads rather than my book.

  11. I remember a YA fantasy someone complained about the heroine being so timid and helpless in the beginning (Story was about her growth and finding her courage)
    As the author said, if she’d been brave and capable right at the start, it would have been a really short story

  12. The worst review I ever got was for a play called Masquerade.
    Martin Gotfried said in The NY Times
    “If these actors were cooks I would never eat in a restaurant again. This play goes to show that the American actor is second in incompetence only to the American Politician.”
    That was in 1974 and none of us worked for a year afterward. Almost no one saw the play. But almost all casting people read the review.
    For the record we were all good actors. The play was truly awful and you can’t as an actor fix bad writing.

  13. I sell things online and once got a bad review because a maxi dress was too long… I have no control over the buyer’s height. Sigh.

    And the banana slicer reviews on Amazon are hilarious, closely followed by my personal favorite; bad reviews for erotica because there is too much sex 😉

  14. One time I ghostwrote a thing where the heroine was required to get pregnant and not tell the hero.

    My favorite review was someone pointing out it was dumb and wondering why it had to happen.

    And all I could think was “you and me both.”

  15. Here’s my favorite, for my first Baba Yaga book, Wickedly Dangerous (which did, in fact, have fracking as a Bad Thing):

    “Really!! Everything has to be political? I can’t just have a nice interesting story to read? Believe it or not the goal of a writer should not be having the reader end up furious at them. And per typical for a liberal she is ignorant about fracking. I hope the author doesn’t use natural gas, drive a car.”

    Believe it or not, my goal as a writer is not, in fact, having the reader end up furious with me. But I did my research and I’m not ignorant about fracking. So if this one was furious, it didn’t actually hurt my feelings. SIGH

    Of course, it would be challenging if that was an actual writer’s goal…how can I make my readers furious? Challenge accepted.

    1. I’ve had several like that. The one that still boggles my mind is the one that said it was unbelievable that the heroine roomed with a gay man. “What woman would want to share an apartment with a gay guy?” Uh, almost any woman in the world?

  16. I looked around for the book with the title, Melanie’s Marvelous Measles, which had some truly memorable reviews on Amazon, but apparently the book has been removed. Reviews on Goodreads are just blistering. Unsurprisingly, it was self-published.

    “Don’t overlook the lesser known Dr. Seuss books in this series – ‘Horton hears an air raid siren’, ‘Oh the places you’ll itch’, ‘How the Grinch caught Chlamydia’, ‘And to Think That I Contracted It on Mulberry Street’, ‘Skull Fracture Mayzie’, ‘Hop on your remaining foot’, ‘The 500 days in ICU of Bartholomew Cubbins’, and ‘If I Ran the Mortuary.’” –Nathaniel E. Parkinson II

    “Encephalitis is just your brain giving your skull a cuddle. This book is so short because soon after the main character succumbs to subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and dies.” –Rachel “Wednesday”

    “Finally! A children’s book with an agenda I can get behind! I always thought I loved kids until I actually had one of my own and boy was I wrong! I researched anything and everything I could possibly do to get rid of the little brat, but I didn’t want to be arrested for murder and childhood cancer is just too darn unpredictable. Fortunately, I stumbled upon ‘Melanie’s Marvelous Measles’, and learned that there is a huge community of people who hate children as much as me! Thanks to Melanie, I was able to ignore my pediatrician’s recommendations to vaccinate my daughter before our trip to Disney World, all while acting like I want what is ‘best’ for my child.”

      1. Oh, yes. And a couple of my grandparents were doctors — in fact, I had the Salk polio vaccine when it was brand new in 1953, so I think I can safely say that the family are seriously pro-vaccination and anti-diseases.

  17. Never published anything so no bad reviews; but I live in Minnesota and have backhanded compliments galore. A Minnesota insult, “That’s interesting.” Or That’s different.”. I think they is a place for passive aggressiveness and I’m glad I found it. Oh…you got your haircut…. Is that a family name….?

  18. The worst review I recall (it’s online. I can look it up.)

    {ASSM} Chocolate Knights {Gary Jordan} [VBC] (MF nosex)
    By Gary Jordan
    Part 1
    Part 2

    Gary Jordan wrote two very short stories for the Virago Blue Challenge, which I’m combining for the purpose of this review. And even combining them will leave me very little to comment on.

    One story is about a couple going to a costume party with a “Nights in Armor” theme. The other is about a woman taking a bath when a big earthquake hits.

    There is a little nudity but not much sex. What they lack in sex, though, they make up for with some outrageous puns. If you can finish them without groaning, you’re a better lime than I.

    Rating: 3 – Good
    I own up to the horrible puns. They’re in the blood. You can’t tell a reviewer “These stories are unrelated. You must review the separately.” So, 3 of 5.

  19. Once someone told me that I looked so good while I was pregnant. When I told that at the family dinner table, my mother-in-law said: “Oh, then you should have many more children.” I suppose she didn’t mean it like I heard it but …

  20. Just hung out with someone that people think is my frenemy because we do not click well and sometimes drive each other up a wall but we kinda feel like family so we make it work. But we were due for A Talk and at the beginning she said, “You’re so much better than you used to be…”

    About what? Who knows! But this is 100% her and we will all be laughing about it for a long time.

  21. When my first books appeared in print, nearly (yikes!) 40 years ago, I was quickly disillusioned by reviewers when I realized that even some pros clearly hadn’t read the book at all but had concocted reviews out of a thumbnail synopsis. This was particularly obvious regarding my first Regency, which involved a girl being forced to marry her late fiancé‘s father. The giveaway was when they referred to the hero as “elderly,” when in fact he was 35 and, of course, this being the 80s, the hottest man in London. (Actually the age difference was exactly the same as between Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon.)

  22. Was planning a trip to Paris in a few months. Possibly it will end up postponed until fall, given current global circumstances. At least, I HOPE the worst is over by fall. If not, I’ll have bigger concerns than not getting to Paris this year.

    While in the planning stages I kept coming across negative hotel ratings – in Paris, the one in France where, you know, they speak FRENCH – about the lack of English language tv channels. I’m thinking those people should just stay home anyway, and hoping that the hotels don’t take that particular criticism too seriously because then, hey, it’s more room choices for me, as I don’t even turn on the tv when I’m on vacation. Assuming I get there.

  23. My favourite bad review that I received, which still makes me laugh, was a very backhanded compliment. I don’t wear makeup all that often and I had someone say to me one day when I was wearing it
    “You look great. You should wear makeup more often, on some women it makes no difference, but for you it makes such a big difference.”

    1. I don’t write books so I don’t get reviews but I will say my absolute favorite political bumper sticker ever was for Eddy Edwards for governor of Louisiana after he served time for corruption and was running against David Duke the neo’Nazi and they were understandably afraid everyone would stay home in disgust. So an outside group make bumper stickers saying -Vote for the crook it’s important.
      Edwards won.

  24. The first and memorable really bad review I got was where this man rambled for many many paragraphs, which ultimately boiled down to the fact that he not only hated Bobbie Faye, he hated me, my momma, and my dog.

    I don’t know what my poor dog did to him. That was a brick too far.

    I felt bad for him, being forced to read a book about a woman who could do things like think and walk and talk all at the same time. I will admit to taking some joy in having caused him pain. 😉

    1. Hi Toni,
      I am so glad you posted, I have been thinking about Bobbie Sues really etc. But couldn’t find it. Know I know why….it’s Bobbie Faye!! I should be looking for. I enjoyed that series very very much

      P.s. my librarian recommended it to me.

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