Book reviews matter

I’ve written about book reviews before. Frankly I wish they’d all go away. But since I’m an author I have to live with them. I also know that reviews matter. Good ones help sales. Bad ones hurt author’s egos.

I reblogged a post about reviews from Kristen Lamb last June. She and I are on the same page about writing bad reviews. We just won’t. We know how much they hurt, and why hurt our author friends and colleagues?

And, I’ve had some reviews of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On that were pretty ego-hurting. However, I’m fortunate that most been very positive. Like the one posted on Amazon yesterday. It is so in tune with my sentiments and what I wanted to get across in my book, I have to share it here. My only connection to the reviewer is she contacted me about how to get permission to use a Paul Simon song quote in her own book, and I gave her the information. When she told me she read my book, I asked if she’d write a review. Yesterday she contacted me again to tell me she had just posted it. I’m so thankful she did.Microsoft PowerPoint - LTHLO cover concept 0913.pptx

Here’s my latest 5-star review:

A brutally honest memoir

Part of the reason I read this book is that I was shocked by the insensitive one-star reviews it received and I wanted to know how it is possible to grieve in the wrong way. How we cope with such an unthinkable situation is as unique as each individual and there is no incorrect way to do it. This wasn’t meant as a textbook for recovery; it was a way for the author to untangle and sort out her feelings. Unfortunately, when we have a close family member with extreme mental illness it can generate anger, not only because of the chaos it creates, but also because there is always the question of how much of the behavior is voluntary and how much is truly the illness. I thought Madeline was courageous and brutally honest in her admission of ambivalent feelings. In regard to suicide being selfish, I know from experience that sometimes one can be in so much psychic pain that the need to make it stop is a drive that obliterates every other thought, including the pain it will cause others. Best wishes on your healing journey, Madeline.

Thank you, Mary. Your words are very important to me and my book. I hope that other folks who say they’ll write one some even offer   will follow through as you did.

gold star


  1. Congratulations Madeline, on that encouraging review supporting the one I wrote early in the book’s history. As I read your post, a strange thought struck me. A couple of reviews in the mix that are lower than five stars can be seen as a good thing. An unbroken string of 43 five-star reviews would give me pause. A string of 39 five-star reviews with a couple of fours, a three and two ones lends strength to the fives. They seem more authentic. Especially in your case, those scathing ones, well, any discerning reader will see them for what they are, but they do make people think, and probably serve a positive purpose.

    So fret now, and rejoice in the authenticity of your collective reviews.

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Thank you, Sharon. You are absolutely right. A string of five-star reviews looks like authors just got all their best friends to chime in. Seth Godin writes an interesting blog post on this same subject today. You and he definitely help me thicken my skin and take the bad with the good.

      You are very wise, my friend. I do rejoice that 161 people cared enough to write a review. Thanks for stopping by. Your support is so much appreciated. xo

  2. Madeline, I consider memoir writers to be the bravest people on the planet. I write mostly fiction, so when I get a negative review, I can tell myself that my story was just not what the reviewer is interested in. But you truly leave a piece of your heart on each page, so someone criticizing your book has got to be tough to take. Sharon is right, that people tend to be suspicious of nothing but great reviews. Still, I wish you great strength and patience (and perhaps blinders) when dealing with the negative reviewers. They may have lived through a similar event, but they’ve never seen it through your eyes, and they can’t do what you’ve done, which is find a way to share your experience with others.

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Dear Gayle,
      I so much appreciate your supportive and kind words. I will definitely take blinders into consideration. What a great idea. And I hope we get a chance to work on a panel together again. Happy New Year.

  3. Madeline, as I read your post and the lovely review of your book, I thought about the grieving process we’ve been going through. Not that it is similar to yours — grief is a singular journey and affects each person differently. We learned this when our sister-in-law, who had been married to Bob’s brother for 57 years, announced she was marrying on Oct. 19th, a month shy of the first -year anniversary of Jim’s death. Her expectation was that we’d be overjoyed and excited. However, Bob’s grief journey and therefore, mine, were not over yet and it hurt to see that she was so anxious to “leave Jim behind.” I think those 1’s and 2’s and maybe even the 3’s you received are a sign of people thinking you didn’t grieve the way they thought you should or that they would in similar circumstances. Someone told us that we were OK despite the fact that someone else thought we should be well beyond Jim’s passing. For Bob and therefore, for me, that was a relief to know that we need not measure up. And I think some may have read your book with that thought in mind — we know what she should do — why can’t she just move on. And moving on wasn’t easy and still isn’t, is it?

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Dear Sherrey,
      Thank you for your insight on this. That’s exactly the conclusion I’ve come to.
      A friend wrote me a few days ago upon hearing that another one of her friends had also lost a son to suicide. My friend asked me if I would be willing to help. Of course I would. I immediately asked my friend to relate my thoughts about grief: “that she should free herself to grieve in any way and however how long she needs. She shouldn’t let anyone tell her otherwise. We are all different. We all grieve in our own way.”
      I certainly can relate to how you and Bob felt about the quickness of your sister-in-law’s remarriage. Grief is a very personal journey.


  1. […] forever asking my readers to please post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Here’s the link to the post I wrote about reviews last […]

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