Lenore has a great post about the dos and don'ts of book blogging, you really should go and read it, of course after this one. But one theme bubbled up in the comments section...Should we be gentler with authors because they are real people?
I assume that people think this way because we can see companies are just that companies (well, except the USSC) and not as individuals. Authors, now there we know that some individual sat down, researched, wrote and toiled over a book. I've never done this myself, but I have plenty of friends, members of my chosen family, who have done this. I hope to do this myself one day. But I don't think that means as reviewers we need to treat them with kid gloves.
That said, I don't think that we need to rip someone because their book sucks unless it really, really sucks and it's being heralded as the best thing since Shakespeare....OR criticizes Shakespeare for writing the same story, when they do the same. That last one, I'm taking on faith since I've never read a Sparks novel.
And what makes an author more special than say an actor who picks a horrible role and sucks ass in it? I don't think we'd say we need to treat that with kid gloves. A real person spent years designing that crappy product we just bought at the store or got in the mail to review.
As book reviewers, we need to be honest with our readers. We should be critical, not slamming authors, but critical when we don't like something. Of course, most of the books I read are non-fiction so it's easier for me to be critical and like parts, but not others. I just finished a book for review that is fiction and I'm still figuring out how to write about it. I'm just not well versed in the creation of fiction to be a highly critical reviewer. Ditto if I had to review poetry or mystery. Heck, I love science fiction, but I'm not schooled enough in fiction to notice all those nuances others pick up on. That's hard shit for me.
In the end, I give two big thumbs up to Lenore for her post and making me stop to consider my own method for reviewing & communicating with authors. Now let's hit the books and point our readers in the direction of some good books. Which reminds me that I have 4 books to write reviews for...yikes!