Goodreads Top Reviewer Khanh On How to Honestly Review Books


I’m a lifelong reader, I started reading at age four, and I never stopped (except for those pesky few years in which World of Warcraft took over my life.)

I read very fast. I judge books very critically, but always fairly. I will always back up my opinion (good or bad) using examples from the book. I judge a book based on writing, characters, settings.

I dislike love triangles (but will support one if it’s well-written). I love dystopian and paranormal fiction. I love blood, gore, and a strong main character that grows. I hate insta-love.

I love romance when it’s done well. I want a believable relationship between two characters, I don’t want sparks and electricity for no reason.


In my opinion, there is never anything new in books, there’s just ideas recycled and it’s up to the author to make me like the book. A book may have a Mary Sue, but it may be written so enjoyably that I forget about the fact that she’s a Special Snowflake. It’s all about the writing.

I support the First Amendment. I encourage the rights of readers to read and review books as they see fit, without harassment.

See Khanh’s Goodreads profile here

Interview Questions

1. Hi Khanh. Thank you for doing this interview for Inspiration for creation! I’d like to start by asking you to tell us a tiny bit about you. What do you like doing in your spare time, that sort of thing………

I lead a boring life. I work, I read, I go to the gym. Occasionally, I can be persuaded to hang out with people, but you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming into any sort of social activities.

2. What inspired you to start doing reviews on Goodreads?

I realized one day that I wasn’t as good at articulating my thoughts. I had trouble putting down how I felt about something, and that made me go on a mission to improve myself and my thought process. I started writing brief reviews, and it just went uphill from there. And now I write long-ass reviews that run far longer than anyone wants.

3. What do you like most about being on Goodreads?

The community. There’s nothing like being in a community with fellow book lovers with such diverse personalities. I love getting to know all my friends, and I’ve been trying to limit the number of friends I have because I don’t want to be one of those people with 5000 friends, who hardly know any of them. I prefer a small, close group of people with whom I interact regularly.

4. Your reviews although sometimes brutal are very detailed, and you try to be fair by critically analysing books. You mentioned that you look at writing, setting and characters. As a prolific reader, how would you describe good writing, characters, settings?

Good writing depends on the book. It should be appropriate for the tone of the book, and the setting of the book. I wouldn’t expect flowery purple prose in a sci-fi, and I wouldn’t expect brutal, staccato sentences in a historical romance.

Good characters are imperfect ones. They start off somewhat weak, but they have to grow up fast enough for me to sympathize with them and not hate them. They have to realize their errors, see how they’re lacking. They have to overcome things in order to be a better person.

Good settings are well-drawn and not just concentrated on where they matter within a book. If you’re going to give me a dystopian US, I expect a reasonable explanation of the government, the people, the social divisions. I want to know why things are the way they are. I want to see how the world, not just the US, is affected. I need things to make sense. Most of my problematic books have been from the YA dystopian genre, because of the piss poor settings.

5. Your reviews are notorious for their brutal honesty, do you ever fear that you will offend the authors?

Yes. Very much so. But I do know that authors are reasonable people, and that I provide a good backup for why I gave them that rating. I do feel bad when an author gets back to me, or when I read about them feeling sad about a negative review, but ultimately, it’s my opinion, and I will be honest.

That’s why I always give evidence as to WHY I gave a book that rating. I provide samples and quotes to back up my claims.

6. Do authors ever contact you to complain about bad reviews?

Thankfully, not directly. I have heard complaints, but nobody has actually confronted me on a negative review. Most of my author contacts have been positive, and if I give a negative rating, we usually just try to pretend it didn’t happen if they contact me afterwards.

7. Can you explain your rating system?

I rarely give 5s, 5s are for my all time favourite books, and those are given once in a blue moon. 4s are awesome, really enjoyable. 3 has faults, mostly a boring plot, or one or two minor elements that I didn’t like. 2 has some major faults, like Mary Sues, slut shaming, terrible world building. 1 is absolutely atrocious, with too many faults to count. If a book is at least readable and entertaining, it will get a 2. It takes a truly bad book for me to give a 1.

8. As a reader, what do you think kills a novel? I mean, makes it really bad every time for you?

Girl hate and slut shaming. I absolutely hate it when the main character is perfect perfect and every other girl is bad except for her.

9. Some publishers and literary agents are saying that YA dystopian novels are out of fashion now, as a reader and reviewer, do you still read them or are you tired of them?

I love the genre, and it’s awesome when done right. Unfortunately, they rarely are. I will continue to read them, and I read as many as I can, but they disappoint me more often than not.

10. What’s your favourite genre to review and why?

YA dystopian and fantasy, just for my love of the genre in general. I love an alternate world.

11. How do you decide which books to review?

My own interest. I’m not driven by anyone’s pressure, I read ARCs, but ultimately, if I’m interested in something, I’ll buy it, borrow it, read it. It could be something recently released, or something released a while ago. I just read what catches my eye.

12. Do you accept self-published novels for review? If ‘yes’ why? If ‘no’ why?

No. I’ve decided that they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Often, self-pubs are poorly edited and I just don’t have time for that. There are some notable gems out there, but they are rare. Also, self-published authors have been known to be badly-behaved when it comes to a negative review. Reviewer bashing sites like STGRB started on a negative review by a reader, and I just don’t have time for that drama.

13. What are the main mistakes that you’ve seen self-publishers make that put you off reading their books right from page one?

The cover. Self-published covers are terrible. I hate to say it, but it’s worth the money for a good cover. The summaries are also really, really bad. I can smell a Mary Sue from a mile away, and it’s even more evident in self-pubbed book summaries.

14. This month you’re the number one on Goodreads out of the 100 most popular reviewers in the United States, what advice would you give to someone wanting to start reviewing on Goodreads?

Just start writing. Start making friends. Start interacting with people. I started the same way. I didn’t have the goal of becoming #1, it just happened as I was doing something I enjoyed. I think the most important thing is the interaction. It makes reading and reviewing so much fun when you get feedback and give feedback on fellow readers’ reviews and statuses.

Thanks Khanh, for this fantastic interview!


It was great to catch up with Khanh this week. I’m an avid reader and writer and often read her reviews on Goodreads because they are entertaining and brave.

Khahn gives great tips on how to review, and what she looks for in a novel. If you’re an author take note as Khanh is giving the readers point of view on plot, character development etc which you won’t get until your novel is out there, and by then it might be too late…….

I’m a fan of YA and NA dystopian novels, aswell as futuristic and some sci-fi. If I didn’t write, I too would probably be reviewing. Instead I interview authors as I love sharing the work of creative people, but take note I am not endorsing any of the ones I interview! If you want my opinion on a book, you’ll have to email or Skype me! 😉

In the meantime happy reading and if you dare….reviewing!

What Do You Think?

Make Me Smile, Leave A Comment……..


  1. Nathan Coppedge says

    I have a number of books that I think are above average. Most are philosophy, not fiction, with a spattering of other subjects as well.

    I also have a plot summary of my recent novella / young adult novel based on the life of a Chinese god.

  2. Michael Tappenden says

    I like your toughness. Nothing like strong critical feedback as long as its positive. Want to see a good self pub cover? Thougthful, compelling, technically skilled. Marriage of designer/author and illustrator (who produced album covers for Marvin Gaye). You’ll understand this book in an instant.

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