#3 Lessons Learned from a Messed-Up Book Review

In recent weeks, I published a post about joy.

Ironically, it was a sad day for me.

Within hours of posting, I received an email from an author, kindly asking me to remove a previous post in which I’d reviewed her book. It was a complex scenario in which I felt sadness from three different angles. I assure you there’s a redeemed ending, but bear with meif you wouldthrough the hard part, first.

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I felt regret. I realized that the author had received my review really hurtfully. Besides the fact that she’s a sister in Christ, she had poured her heart into her book. She had been vulnerable and pushed past the doubts and fears to achieve publication. I wonder if my words summoned back old doubts, whispering to convince her that maybe her book shouldn’t have been published after all or that she didn’t have anything worth saying. It was a sinking feeling to learn that I’d hurt someone like that.

I felt self-pity. My efforts seemed taken for granted. The author thanked me for taking the time to read and review her book. But a lingering doubt—perhaps a thought that I need to war against—caused me to wonder if she really understood. I don’t review books nonchalantly. I read back over my words again and again. I’m honest when something crosses my convictions, but I don’t say anything just to be mean.

I felt hopelessness. The situation was a lose-lose. No one (seemingly) had gained anything from the experience and we were both left feeling dejected. At first glance, it didn’t seem like any good had risen from the situation and there was no doing it over. I wondered if I would ever be able to review a book again in complete honesty about both the positive and negative aspects of my reading experience.

But where the Lord is, there is hope, after all. There is the potential for restoration if we seek Him. There is the potential for me to ask for forgiveness and to consider what I might do if I find myself back in the same situation. There are at least three lessons I’ve learned.

#1. Sensitivity to the author

I’m an author, too. When I review a book, I know I’m reviewing a personal piece of craft near to the writer’s heart. A review by a blogger feels to an author like hardcore scrutiny. The heart and soul behind the book were hand-crafted by the Creator, carved out with unique delights, sensitivities, and insecurities. I’d thought I was already aware of this. But perhaps there’s always room for growth. Perhaps I can always be more aware and never too aware.

In this scenario, the author’s book was on a blog tour. It was a big moment for her—one of the climax moments in the release of her book. Participating in her tour was my opportunity to acknowledge the ecstasy of a sister.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

-Romans 12:15 (read the context in your Bible or here)

#2. Sensitivity to the Occasion

Then there’s the question of convictions. There is such a thing as right and wrong. And there are times when the truth is harder for us to discern. I want always to stand by what I believe to be true and reject the path of flattery. I’m not talking about shooting down every minute discord until the author lies buried beneath stones. I’m talking about offering a fair and balanced survey which openly pleads subjectivity.

But to the authorespecially the new authorany negative element tends to jump out of the review while the affirmations fall limp and forgotten.

This is where, I believe, sensitivity to the occasion comes in. There would have been other chances for me to share my honest review. But during a blog tour… perhaps it would be wiser to choose another type of post. An author interview, for example, is more conducive to hearing an author’s heart, empathizing with them, and learning the nuances of the impact their book has had own their own life.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

-Ecclesiastes 3:1 (read the context in your Bible or here)

#3. With the Lord is renewed mercies

The point of the Gospel is that sinners can be forgiven. We can be washed clean of our mistakesby the grace of Godto walk in newness of life.

After hearing from the author about how I’d made her feel and receiving her request that I remove my review, I felt was convinced that I’d made a mistake and felt sorry for it. Praise the Lord that He can use something as uncomfortable as sorrow to bring about the potential for restoration.

The promises of forgiveness and restoration are frequent throughout the Bible, but let me share just two verses that speak of these miracles.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

-Psalm 130:3-4 (read the context in your Bible or here)

The messed-up book review experience was unpleasant. But it tells of how the Lord met me in my circumstances. He stretched me and shaped me according to His ways, and He can use unpleasant experiences to do the same for you. Like the Israelites’ numerous stone memorials, this blog post stands as a witness to the Lord’s redeeming work.

Unless someone asks me to take it down. 😉

Let’s connect

  • Have you ever gotten to meet an author and hear the nuances of how their book shaped their life? How did it influence the way you thought about them and their work?
  • Do you see any other lessons that both you and I could learn from my experience? What would you etch down as number four?
  • How has the Lord worked in your life recently? Add your comment as a memorial to His redeeming work!
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9 thoughts on “#3 Lessons Learned from a Messed-Up Book Review

  1. Well, God uses all kinds of situations to teach us things.
    Recently I’ve been reminded that this life, it’s all for Jesus. Of course I knew that but I’ve been seeing it more clearly now (especially since I started reading the book Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan, highly recommend). This life isn’t about me and my feelings. It’s not about me having a “spiritual high”, or about feeling good during worship at church. Everything is here to bring honor and glory to God. I just need to start living like it.
    Thanks for sharing this, Jordy! 🙂

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  2. Well, God uses all kinds of situations to teach us things.
    Recently I’ve been reminded that this life, it’s all for Jesus. Of course I knew that but I’ve been seeing it more clearly now (especially since I started reading the book Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan, highly recommend). This life isn’t about me and my feelings. It’s not about me having a “spiritual high”, or about feeling good during worship at church. Everything is here to bring honor and glory to God. I just need to start living like it.
    Thanks for sharing this, Jordy! 🙂

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  3. Well, Jordy, I’m gonna have to disagree with that author … he/she had no right to contact you and ask you to remove that review. If an author did that to me, it would be an instant sign to block him/her and never read his/her books again.

    You see, every book, no matter how close to your heart, is up to criticism once it goes into the world of readers! Us authors have to accept it and accept it fast or we’ll end up with broken hearts. No reader will – or should – reign in their opinion just because the author might get their feelings hurt. Books are subjective in many ways, and what may be a diamond to one may be a lump of coal to others.

    And even if the reviewer is 100% wrong, it is unprofessional of the author to contact the reviewer. It’s the #1 rule of authors: don’t respond to or comment on or contact the writers of negative reviews! It’s something every author should know and carry out.

    So … this frustrated me greatly, and I had to take some time before coming back and writing this review because I felt terrible that the author picked on you! He/she shouldn’t have done that.

    However, I guess I’d better focus on the good parts of this; that God was able to use this situation to reach you in a new way, etc. Still, I suppose I can’t help from feeling a little righteous indignation and annoyance at the author’s unprofessionalism. Even if he/she was quite polite, it doesn’t change the fact that that was the wrong thing to do. Suppressing negatives opinions about a book will not work for him/her in the long run … there will always be people who don’t care for your books, and you must accept it with grace and dignity and move on.

    (And yes, I totally took the wrong message from your blog post, but I just got really irritated and better to comment it here than bug others with it!)

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    1. Wow, Kell. Besides the fact that you said so in words, I can tell that the events of my story really frustrated you. I get the impression – through your posts and vlogs – that freedom of speech and opinion is important to you. You seem to be someone who likes to say what you think (and be exuberant in the process) and aren’t too fussed about those who disagree. How do you rate my personality assessment? 😉 Anyway, I’m glad you were able to get that off your chest. (And it’s nice of you to empathise!)

      I’ve had the time to take a step back from the situation emotionally; I’m no longer upset with the author. I do still think it was poor timing on my part, though. I don’t think the author would have asked me to remove my review if it wasn’t part of her blog tour. Of course, this is only speculation, but she seemed kind and I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. I’m not saying I did anything sinful (and neither do I believe the author did), but I could have esteemed her interests higher and given more thought to the experience she was living. Perhaps we both could have. In the end, I think it was a character-building experience and I hope that she was also receptive to what the Lord might have wanted to teach her through it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 10/10, Jordy – that’s absolutely me! 😛

        Yes, that’s good! I’m super glad it was able to work out for you. It probably would’ve driven me mad! And yes, I suppose I see that it would be disappointing to get a negative review on my blog tour …

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  4. What an experience you had! It sounds like it was a bit confusing too. I love the way you pull apart things to learn from them and apply the lessons to your life though. Being teachable is a great trait. 🙂

    Honestly though, this topic has bothered me before. I want to be honest and objective in my reviews, while still being sensitive of course. But when I stop to consider how much this piece of writing means to someone, I feel bad saying anything negative about it. Sometimes it’s easier to not review at all. 🙈 It’s another area to find balance in, I guess!

    If I have anything negative to say, I try to make sure it’s simply my perspective and experience, rather than a criticism of the author. We’re all different. But I feel like you do that very well, pointing out that it’s your opinion – unless it’s scripture we’re talking about of course – so I confess I don’t understand the author’s concerns.

    Hmm, I’m not sure how to finish this comment. But I’m inspired by your graceful response to this situation, and don’t be discouraged, friend. You did your best, and that’s everything we can do! xx

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement, friend. It is a tricky subject. I’ve considered in the past, too, but this experience made it feel all the more relevant.

      With time, I already feel much better about the whole situation, and I do believe the Lord has used it. As I said in response to another comment, I hope the author who contacted me was receptive to how the Lord might have wanted to speak to her through it, too. I hope it isn’t engrained in her mind forever as a purely bitter experience.

      Those are great insights that you mentioned about sticking to the side of sharing perspective and experience rather than criticising the author. I noticed that about the way you review well before you commented this. I wonder if I’ve ever read any “negative” reviews (say, 3 starts or less) that you’ve written. Even if the rating is on the lower end, none of them really stood out to me as being terribly negative. I think you’ve set an example to aspire to.

      Thank you for offering reassurance in your comment. It was an encouragement on a sunny Monday morning. I hope you have a wonderful day, Jess.

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