Thinking about it, the title of the post may appear worrying. If anybody from social services is reading this, please don't call round until you've read to the end!
following this link instead, to see a batch of photos of babies dressed up as famous book characters. It's much nicer than book reviews. I particularly like Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh.
If you've decided to stick with the book review option, you may like to know that there is an annual award in the UK for 'Hatchet Job of the Year', which was announced last week. This is a "celebration" of the nastiest and funniest book review of the previous year - supposedly drawing attention to the hard work critics do. While the writing in the review has to be funny and insightful, it essentially also has to be very, very scathing. This year, it was won by AA Gill for his review of Autobiography by Morrissey.
What drew this to my attention was this article on The Guardian website, hatcheting the hatcheter (I may well have made both of those words up). Alex Clark is convinced that AA Gill's review was "Less daring and less worthy than it thinks". And perhaps he's right. I wouldn't know, because I don't read book reviews.
Occasionally, I'll look up a book after I've read it, if I think I've misunderstood something - to see if it's the way the book is written or just me - but I never read reviews before reading a book. Do you? I also don't write reviews. I keep a reading diary where I say what I think of each book as I finish it, but I don't show it to anyone and, despite this, still feel bad if I thought the book was no good. I always try to find something positive to say. It was the same when I use to write theatre reviews for an online magazine - I found it impossible to be nasty. I always tried to sugar-coat the criticism.
Do you write book reviews on Amazon, or for something more formal? What do you do if you really don't like a book? I've heard it's etiquette in newspapers etc. not to completely destroy a debut novel. If you don't like it, you don't lie but you aren't scathing about it, as you could well destroy a new author's career before giving it a proper chance. With my first novel coming out this year, I'm really hoping this is true. I'm also painfully aware that whether my book sells could be hugely dependent on whether the first few people to review in on Amazon are nice or nasty. I don't suppose people who buy The Art of Letting Go online are going to have any such qualms about not doing a hatchet job on me. I find the thought of people reviewing my book quite terrifying. If you are published how do you deal with negative reviews?
So which did you pick - hatchets or babies? Please don't combine the two. Or at least, don't tell anybody you got the idea here first...