The Good, Bad and Ugly reviews

By Joe Moore

We’ve been talking quite a bit this week about online reviews, especially those on Amazon, B&N and other sites, and the fact that some authors have admitted to paying for glowing reviews in order to boost sales, so-called sock-puppet reviews. I think we all agree that this is a truly deceitful practice and should be condemned. Many well-know authors are speaking out on this. But I find it more that dishonest, it’s just plain sad. If a writer has so little faith in his or her work that a viable option is to purchase 5-star reviews, that’s sad. Our work should be accepted or rejected on its own merit—it should stand on its own.

No book has ever been declared great by everyone who read it. There will always be those who dislike a book for more reasons that we can count. As a matter of fact, it never ceases to amaze me the vast span of reactions to books including my own and those of my friends. Pick any bestseller and you’ll find someone who loves it and someone else who doesn’t. And often both are willing to say so, in the strongest of terms. There are more than enough good, bad and ugly reviews to go around.

So I thought that instead of talking about online reviews, I’d share some of mine with you. I’ve listed 5 of my thrillers (all co-written with Lynn Sholes) and a sample of the good, the bad and the ugly online reviews we’ve received over the years.

Disclaimer: I have no idea who wrote and posted these nor have I ever paid for a review. These samples were gathered from Amazon and Goodreads.


Phoenix-cover-final (Small)The Good: “I’ll read anything these two authors write. I have to be careful not to put a spoiler in this review, but there is one scene that knocked me off the sofa. I don’t often squeal during a movie scene when the bad guy comes out from around the dark corner, but there was a scene in this book that made me jump and I almost flung the book across the room. I won’t tell which one it was because I don’t want to ruin it for any other reader.”

The Bad: “I just couldn’t figure out if this book was for "young adult" reading or "teen reading" or adults or Christian reading or even anti-religion.”

The Ugly: “The writing is deplorable, the style so bland I had to read a page twice to make sure it was indeed that bad!”


tgcThe Good: “What I want to know is when is this going to come out as a movie? It has to be one of the most exciting thrillers I have ever read. I was hooked from the first page on when Cotten Stone (the main character) stumbles onto the dig site of the Crusader’s tomb.”

The Bad: “This started with interesting characters and action, but the quality of writing was fair and the story went downhill. Would not recommend even as a beach book.”

The Ugly: “The book was simply boring and poorly written. The characters had no depth. The plot took forever to go anywhere.”


tlsThe Good: “This was one of those books you cannot put down. Basically I was on the edge of my seat so to speak whilst reading it. Exciting, mysterious. Well written, keeps you guessing. Loved it… Would recommend as great reading!”

The Bad: “It takes more than an exotic location and some perceived struggle between good and evil to make a good story.”

The Ugly: “Religious hype … I was totally disappointed.”


thpThe Good: “Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore have given us an exciting, fast moving, and scary novel. The proverbial "page turner".

The Bad: “I had a hard time liking the main character, Cotten Stone. She was a bit too whiny for my taste.”

The Ugly: “A waste of my time.”


731The Good: “Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore do a masterful job of telling an engaging story that involves religious prophecy, global disaster, mass plague and an unbelievable revenge plot against the U.S. and its allies by a long-forgotten enemy.”

The Bad: “It was so predictable.”

The Ugly: “This book was a big ‘I don’t care what happens to you, no matter how sad it may be’ kinda story for me. The first time I read a Sholes & Moore book, and definitely the last time.”

So now that you’ve seen a few of my good, bad and ugly reviews, how about you guys? Got the guts to share the best and worst you’ve received? What about those of you that have posted online reviews? Without revealing the book title or author, want to share your good, bad and ugly comments?

19 thoughts on “The Good, Bad and Ugly reviews

  1. I completely agree, R.A. Out of 5 stars, the last rank I would want is a 3. I find it interesting that when I’ve received the lowly 1 star and an ugly review, most of the time they’ve read the whole book.

  2. But at least the 1 reviewer who didn’t like it still went back and re-read the page!

    But no author will please everyone. I can think of a perenially best-selling book on the CBA market that other people absolutely rave over, and when I read it was thinking, “Why all the hype?” Bleh.

    You can’t win ’em all.

  3. You’re right, no book or story will appeal to everyone. When I look at reviews I read a sampling- realizing that not everyone will like it and also realizing that there are a lot of jerks out there that seem to have nothing better to do than to write nasty reviews or try to deliberately drag things down.

    Checking the reviews is a minor thing for me – maybe 10% at best of my choice if I’m looking at an author I’ve never heard of myself or from friends that are interested in similar things. If the book looks cool – I download the sample and check it out and go by the writer’s style and how I like it. If it’s a favorite author – even if it’s out of their usual genre- I’ll give it a go, because I already like the author’s style – unless the subject matter is way to far off from what I like. The best recommendations come from my friends – we’ve swapped many a favorite author between us. Second is if I get a chance to look – a great cover and a good tag line will get me to read the cover or the intro- I’ve found many a good, fun author that way too. Gold star option – blogs like this – where I get to meet the authors, get a feel for them and then I try out their writing to see how it matches up – I’ve read stuff from all of the Kill Zone authors now and hooked friends and family on many of you too.

    Reviews are an untrusted person’s opinion. I will take a friends opinion or trust my own first. Reviews about a book- glowing or not rarely really figure into my book purchasing choices.

  4. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t had Amazon remove a one-star review that mortified me at the time. The reviewer didn’t criticize the writing–she railed against me as a person, saying something along the lines that “The author Kathryn Lilley obviously has an issue with heavy people, because she likes to make fun of them”. I had Amazon take it down because it was a personal attack on me rather than the book, but now I wish I’d left it there. It was a classic.

    Btw, I’ve also been accused of making fun of skinny women, Southerners, rich people, TV reporters, and more! Everyone gets the same treatment in my books. Yes, I seem to have a host of “issues,” lol.

  5. You are so right… the reviews should be actual reviews by people who read the book and have no connection with the author or publisher…well, Mom and/or Dad would be okay. Paying for reviews makes ALL reviews come into question.

    Another part of the reviewing process that has been bastardized is when people post 5 star reviews for their book and 1 star reviews for other, competing books in the same genre. This is being done to boost a bad book up in the ratings and toss a possibly great book down and away from the top ratings.

    There will always be some who cheat. That is the nature of human beings unfortunately. But it would sure be nice if all could be honest and make finding good books easier.

  6. Ok I may be in the wrong place for this but I am trying to plan a very small murder mystery party. I will have 7 people involved including myself as the host. I want to have a script or a murder for the guests to solve but I am having such a hard time. Any advice?

  7. Cee. there are places online where you can buy murder mystery scripts that you can use for your own productions–Google “murder mystery scripts” and you’ll come up with some links. My sister put on a mystery play production with her students using a script she bought, and I rewrote the ending of the play for her to give it a bit more humor.

  8. Thanks for all the 5-star comments. At the end of the day, we have to write the best story we can and aim to please the one most important person of all–ourselves.

    Chaco Kid, thanks for supporting TKZ authors. We appreciate it.

  9. Preston and Childs, who write the Pendergast series of thriller/horror novels, posted some reviews of their work and their responses to the reviews. If you want a few laughs, take a break and look them up. In one, a reader complained that they hadn’t got the science right. Their response was that they’d done extensive research on brain-eating monsters who lived in museum sub-basements and thought they’d done a good job. I hope I can have their attitude in the face of criticism.


  10. ROFLOL, Joe! Great post. We’ve all been there. Here’s my good and ugly.

    “THE KILLING SONG is a solid, fast-paced serial killer thriller. And it very well could be the best effort yet from Kris and Kelly. There’s just the right mix of backstory, chilling plot, environmental details, and strong character development to satisfy any mystery fan. Once started, don’t plan to stop reading.”

    “Since this book is written by two sisters, you would think one of them would have turned to the other in the planning stages and nixed this unbelievable, strained plot.”

    For the record, the first one was posted by Joe. The second one from some anonymous maroon who is probably a failed author. :))

  11. Kathy, there’s nothing like firsthand (and dangerous) research, especially when it comes to brain-eating monsters.

    Kris, I really enjoyed THE KILLING SONG and didn’t hesitate to say so. Especially comparing your treatment of the Paris Catacombs with ours.

  12. Joe, reading your negative reviews lifted my spirits. If you can get bad reviews, it’s not so terrible when I get them. What annoys me is when a reviewer obviously doesn’t get the genre, like the romance reviewer who said my scifi romance had too much action and not enough sex.

  13. Generally my reviews have been excellent. When they’re negative they seem to be of the double-bladed sort. I recall a Kirkus review that went something along the lines of “this would have been a really good story if the writer knew what he was doing.”

  14. Ah, Joe! This reminded me of a great article author Randy Ingermanson wrote for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. Took me a while to find it. It was published in the November 2009 issue (which means things haven’t changed much in 3 years). Have a read. It’s a hoot!

    Sam’s Plumbing and Honest Injun Reviews

    (Excerpt) “Tired of waiting months fer them pesky readers to write you a review of yer book on Amazon? Sick to death of amateur reviews? We know just how ya feel! We been there ourself, and we got the answer. We’ll write you a custom set of book reviews that’ll blow the socks off them readers. Choose from these basic options, all with six-year easy-pay plans that you can pay off using yer royalties when yer book goes nucular.”

  15. Mark, I’ve had a few like that one. Always brings you back to earth.

    Thanks for sharing the link, Daniel. You’re right. Not much has changed.

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