Reading is something I've always done. I always have a book on the go, I panic if I don't have books lined up for after I finish, and I would truly hate to see the figure for the amount I spend on books in an average year. It might be so high that I get truly upset. And then I may have to console myself...by reading yet another book.
Now, I've just finished a book that I thought was truly awful. I'm not going to name the book or the author, because this isn't the place to do that. But it was bad. The characters were unbelievable, the dialogue unrealistic and the same 'jokes' were repeated a number of times so that, despite being from a respectable publisher, I suspect the book wasn't properly edited.
I went to the Amazon page for the author (this seems very involved for a book I don't like, right? But in my defence I was desperately trying to avoid doing some actual work) and noticed that there were only a handful of reviews for the book. Even worse, they were all five star reviews, which I suspect means that these people were friends of the writer. Not that this is generally a bad thing, but good friend reviews are usually diluted somewhat by those from regular readers.
I was going to give a review giving my opinion on the book. Not a 'This book sux!!!!!' review, but a constructive layout of why I didn't like the book, phrased as nicely as possible. Why? So readers wouldn't see an unqualified high review, a different opinion. The idea of having a customer review function is, after all, to find out what customers think.
But, I stopped. While there was a part of me that was saying that I had a duty to my fellow readers to help them by giving an honest opinion, I also felt I had a duty to the writer. My desire to give a negative review was not motivated by spite or jealousy. I am not so self-important as to think that my opinion is the definitive opinion on anything, there may be something about this book that I didn't get. I'm not saying this author doesn't deserve her publishing deal, because she does. She isn't a debut author, so I'm sure my review would not be the first negative review that she received. I just wanted to give my opinion to other readers, because I like to read customer reviews myself, and because I thought it might be good to give something back to the reading community.
But as a writer (albeit an unpublished one) I couldn't do it. I know how hard it is to write a book, even a bad one. I wouldn't lie and give the book a positive review, but I couldn't give it a bad review. I don't know this woman. When I read The Hating Game by Talli Roland, I decided that if I liked it I would review it, if I didn't I wouldn't. Because I know her online, I'd feel awful saying something bad about her book. But I would feel awful lying with a fake review. Luckily, it was a great book, so there was no conflict there. But with a writer I didn't know, what was the problem?
What about all of you? Do you review books, and do you find that being a writer affects your reviews? Which is more important, solidarity to the reading community or the writing community? And is it possible for writers to be full members of both?