Santa comes early – but Scrooge isn’t far behind! (A cautionary tale for writers)

Santa came early this week when I learned that  had selected Telling Stories, my first novel, as one of their e-thrillers of the month and given it a glowing review. (I’ll get to the Scrooge later, or maybe it’s a Grinch – anyway, stick with the Santa thing for now.)

Reviews, eh? They’re a funny thing. You send you’re little book, the one you’ve cuddled and crafted over many years, out into the bleak mid-winter world. You tuck it up in a warm scarf and gloves with a little note in its pocket saying, take a look at me, tell me what you think.

You hope a nice man or lady or will be kind to it, or at least not openly cruel. Like that first day at school, you know some people will be friendly, some people will be mean about it behind its back and others will just knock it down and kick dirt in its face.

But them’s the breaks! You can’t control it.

Basically, Telling Stories is set in Cardiff and is about a young journalist who is sent to cover a story about a girl whose body has been found in the city’s river. Soon she realises she has met the girl before and her suspicions turn to a group of her old University friends who are harbouring secrets and jealousies of their own.

So far readers have been jolly nice about Telling Stories. Not all of them, of course, one woman on Goodreads actually called it ‘drivel’. Fair enough – everyone’s entitled to their opinion!

But it was nice to get the email from e-thriller saying they’d enjoyed it and selected it as a book of the month.

Hurrah! A big glass of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, or egg-nogg, or whatever, for me!

 The full review is here  but here’s a stocking-filler sized taster of what Ms Helen Hayes had to say.

She begins:

“This is just the sort of intriguing storytelling peppered with characters that hook you in that I love in a thriller.”

Ooh, good start…


“Jones has really defined the characters, all are intriguing, and you want to know more about their relationships.”



“ This is….not the chick-lit type of story you might expect; it’s not as formulaic, nor is it a standard thriller. This is more of an unsettling tale, one that makes you question the complexities of friendship and love.  At its heart is a good old fashioned murder mystery – with a contemporary twist.

A compelling story with deftly drawn characters that will keep you turning the pages’

Ho, Ho, Ho! I thought to myself. Merry Xmas!

Ah, but wait! Just 48 hours later, here comes that ‘Scroogey’ and ‘Grinchey’ bit, in the form of a review in Buzz magazine  (Bah! Humbug! etc)

The mercifully short review starts:

‘Fancy spending some more time with all those self proclaimed ‘crazies’ who bored you at Uni?’

…er that’s not so good…

‘Fancy hearing them going over their own unremarkable experiences mythologising every fag packet and dildo?’

Huh?…Oh dear! That’s definitely not good! 

It then goes on to call the dialogue ‘so lacking in character you’ll be re-reading every sentence to find out who’s speaking’. It even suggests you might ‘doze off’. The only vaguely generous thing it manages to say is that;

‘On the plus side one of the annoying berks gets killed!’

Basically it’s the equivalent of a six sentence dirt-kick in the face. (Yes, just six, though it feels like more!) Better make that glass of Harvey’s a bottle, then!

No doubt, like me, other writers spend a lot time wondering how the same book can generate such dramatically different reviews. Maybe they just didn’t get it, you muse to yourself, they misunderstood it, it’s not their thing!

Who knows? The fact is they just didn’t like it and they’re entitled to say so! Them’s the breaks!  A timely yuletide reminder that as a writer, there’s nowt you can do about it except grow a fat Santa-like skin around your soft and tender ‘creative’ bits!

In conclusion? Reviewers, eh? God bless ’em, every one!

(Though some might want to bear in mind that, as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol reminds us, like Jacob Marley, we will ‘wear the chains we forged in life’…just a thought…)


E thriller’s other featured books for December are:

Sedition by Tom Abrahams
Nightshade by Jonelle Patrick, published by Penguin/Intermix
Death in Bordeaux by Allan Massie, published by Quartet Books
The Hiding Place by David Bell, published by NAL (Penguin)

* You too can send your little e-baby to e-thriller. They’re always looking for submissions for Thriller of the Month. You never know, you might get a nice New Year present!



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8 responses to “Santa comes early – but Scrooge isn’t far behind! (A cautionary tale for writers)

  1. This is why I came up with my foolproof plan of having somebody else read any reviews I (might) get and then signalling with a quick thumbs up or down to let me know what’s in there. Then I’ll leave them until I feel calm enough to read – ten, maybe twelve years down the road? That’ll work, right?
    Great post!

  2. clementine

    Don’t worry, the review in Buzz Magazine was written oviously by someone who has no idea of how much sweat, tears and toil it takes to produce a novel.
    Probably sometime in the past they have undergone an empathy bypass and as a returning comment to this reviewer we should say, pity, there, there

  3. Congrats on the great review! And sorry about the negative one. The former keeps us writing and the latter keeps us humble. I look forward to reading Telling Stories!

  4. I don’t see why people would want to write a scathing review of any book. If you didn’t like it, ok. Your choice. So just say – this wasn’t my cup of whatever because I like……Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and, like Clementine, I’m aware how HARD it is to write a book. Even If I haven’t enjoyed one, and I review as well as write, I will try to see something positive and worthwhile in every book I review. Because there always is. It’s like kids – some only a mother could love, but dig down and you’ll always find something endearing (there speaks someone who deals with stroppy teenagers every day of her working life!)

  5. I can think of several words to describe people who would write this kind of totally negative review but I won’t put them on here because I am a laydee ! 🙂

  6. I don’t understand people leaving negative reviews. They do so just to be mean or nasty. Plenty of people seem to be out to do this and I would try to take heart in the good rather than focus on the bad.

    Janet’s idea is a cracker. Must try that one!

    Good luck with your book.

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