I Hated Your Book!

Negative reviews for books: it’s a touchier subject than ever these days. Hardly a day goes by when you don’t read some online flame war between a cyber-bully and a writer in tears, or a beleaguered blogger attacked by a writer with thin skin. I have five books out and they’ve all gotten some bad reviews, and while I don’t love that part of my job, no book is going to please 100% of its readers. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I try to learn from my negative reviews–or at least, I try to laugh. And sometimes all you can do is laugh, because some of the reviews and emails-from-the reader that cross my computer screen are downright wacky.

I think a little more laughter–a little more humor–is something we could all use, in this never-ending debate about book reviews. So here it is, my semi-annual “I hated your book!” blog post: the top ten oddball reviews or nutty emails I’ve received this year, along with the responses I make in my head. As always, details have been changed to keep the reviewer/commenter anonymous, but all remain true in essence.

1. “Interesting book about Julius Caesar, his lovers, and his enemies.”
But–but–none of my books are about Julius Caesar, his lovers, OR his enemies.

2. “Everybody loves Emperor Trojan in this book, and I don’t get it. Trojan crushed other cultures without mercy.”
Ok, maybe you didn’t agree with his expansionist policies, but do the man the courtesy of getting his name right. He’s an emperor, not a condom.

3. “The Borgia’s might be an interesting clan, but this book about the Borgia’s put me to sleep.”
And your misuse of the apostrophe is driving me mad, so I’d say you got the better end of the deal.

4. “The historical inaccuracies made me wince. I mean, the heroine was cooking strawberries in the winter!”
This book has a mummified saint’s hand that moves around under its own power, and it’s strawberries in winter that snaps your suspension of disbelief?

5. This book seemed good, but it had a depiction of adultery and I’m sorry, but I will not read anything with a depiction of adultery.
That depresses me. Not so much that you’re missing out on my book, but that you’re missing out on Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, and Anya Seton’s Katherine.

6. Would have given this book four stars except for the fact that the hero and the heroine didn’t end up together. Why couldn’t they have a happily ever after?
Um . . . because history says they didn’t get one?

7. “I liked this book about the Borgias, but in the end I’m looking for something more serious, like the Showtime series.”
Howls with laughter.

8. “Can’t believe Margaret George said this was `literary.’ Then again, considering what Margaret George writes–”
Now wait just a minute. Call my books whatever you want, but if you start running down my idol Margaret George, you and I are going to have WORDS.

9. “A bunch of stuff in here is wrong, like the pimp.”
I assume you are objecting to the slang term pimp and not the concept as a historical job occupation? Because I assure you that while the Romans might have had their own Latin terms for a procurer, the career of exploiting women in the sex trade was a lucrative and time-honored lifestyle choice in A.D. 100.

10. “Crappy story about Julius Caesar.”
Oh, for f*ck’s sake.