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10.06.2011

Book Blogging 101 Writing Only Positive Reviews




The topic of conversation of last weeks #BB101 chat strayed to a few subjects but the one that seemed to ignite the most heated debate was the "I only write positive reviews" stance that some book bloggers take.

"Positive Only" reviewers gave the argument that the only books that they read are books they will enjoy, so therefor they wouldn't write a negative review, because they like every single book they read.

Much like the analogy that I like Macaroni and Cheese, therefor if I only eat Macaroni and Cheese - I’ll never have a bad meal.

Might make sense on the surface, but if you think about it long enough there is a bit of logical 2 and 2 that doesn’t equal 4. But, we’ll get to that in a second.

Then you have the opposite of the “Positive Reviewer”. This is the reviewer that jumps in feet first for a negative review. A reviewer that knows they will not like a book before they even read it. Let’s say they didn't like the first in the series, but still read the second one. Or they know they aren't a fan of the genre, yet still accept a novel in that flavor. Who knows, they could have high hopes. Maybe this is the Western that will change their minds about Westerns, or this book will turn the series around...then I guess you can’t fault them. But, what if they get the book for review, knowing they MOST likely will not like it? A lot of book bloggers stated this was wrong. You shouldn’t enter into a review knowing you’ll hate the book.

Are these reviewers two sides of the same coin? They both entered into the review, knowing the outcome before they even read a word.

Does the negative reviewer make you angry when you think about it?

But, stop there, because this is where my problem comes with both of these stances, the fault with this logic. How does either one of those reviewers know BEFORE hand what they are going to get before they read? How can we fault the negative reviewer and how can we trust the positive reviewer? Because how do they know?

I may love that Mac & Cheese, but that does not mean every “chef” can cook it right. My grandmother happens to add Spam to Mac & Cheese - I don’t particular care for that recipe.

In that same sense, I have read plenty a synopsis, drooled over a cover and then detested the novel when I turned the last page...that is the beauty of a book, you never know what you are going to get. I guess I just don’t understand how anyone can take a look at a book and know basically what they are going to get. In fact, I think I might trust a negative reviewer on this fact a lot more than a positive reviewer -- because in a negative sense, at least you know what you don’t like. It’s kind of black and white. I don’t like Mac & Cheese - therefor you won’t like any of it that you taste. Done deal.

I guess, I’m just trying to make sense of the whole thing and this is my outlet. I wonder why people don’t want to voice their opinion. Everyone has an opinion right? Opinions are like.... IQ scores, everyone has one, just some are more notable then others. Tell us what you really think! Make your opinion notable. It can’t all be roses and daisies, can it?? Do you really like everything you read? Can you tell by the synopsis that you are going to LURVE that book? Because, I'll admit I've been fooled. Fooled BIG time. I never know whether I'm going to love, like, lust after, or loathe a book. I don't know whether I'm going to turn that last page and fling the book across the room in desperation or toss it in the "could care less" pile. IT IS WHY I READ. Surprise me! And I’m sorry, but in this reviewers humble opinion, I don’t think I’m going to trust a reviewer that only has positive reviews. Because frankly, I view it as similar to promotional or Marketing copy. Do you guys feel the same?? Or did I take too much Benedryl this week?

And I must add -- don’t think that if you have ten positive reviews to your 1 negative review that you are that “positive reviewer”. There is a reason why publishers are selective. They choose well written books to publish. Most of my reviews are rated 4 out of 5. Which is great. I’ll probably have maybe 1 negative every few months. So, yes, most of your reviews will likely be positive.

That’s my rant - call me out if I’m off, or let me know if you feel the same. I really want to hear your opinion.

And as far as questions go...

I was recently sending out an email requesting a book to review, and I got caught before I'd even gotten into the email.
How should a book request email be addressed? "Dear Ms. Doe"? "Hello Jane Doe"? "Hi Jane"? And how should it be closed? "Sincerely, John Smith"? "Thanks again, John"? "Please doing business with you, JS"? If you use a nickname online (I do) should you introduce yourself by your online name, or by your real name? - Riv Re

A: I treat all inquiries like I would send an introduction letter to a business, if you have a contact name, Dear Contact name. If you don’t have a contact name, TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.
As a salutation, your real name is always good, maybe in parentheses, your nickname. Something like this:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

My name is Rachel and I run the book blog, pararjunkee.com. I would be interested in reviewing your forthcoming title HOT NEW TITLE by Super Author {ISBN 77787012980} if there are review copies available. My blog focuses specifically on books in the genre of Urban Fantasy, so I believe it would be a wonderful promotional outlet. If copies are available, please find my mailing address at the end of this email.

Thank you for your time.

Kind Regards,
Rachel (Parajunkee)

I hope this helps! I can't guarantee results, I only know it is best to keep it professional, unless you've already established a good rapport with the contact, then a more casual approach might be best. 

I can't get to all the questions, but please ask your BB101 Questions here...

54 comments:

Chrystal said...

I completely agree. I actually stopped rating books with "star" ratings. I just write what I feel about a book both good and bad. I write what I liked and didn't like about the book, I will even write a post for DNF (did not finish) - I have written a few DNFs in the past and a lot of the time it's not the book, but me - sometimes I'm not in the right mood for a book and I keep trying to push through or come back to it later and eventually I just have to move along. I think negative reviews are necessary if the book was not enjoyable for a reader, but people need to explain why they didn't like it so that others may say "oh BLOGGER/REVIEWER didn't like it because of FILL IN THE BLANK" Someone else might just like a book for the reason you didn't.

Lea said...

I am one of those who usually takes a side-- either I loved it or hated it. Those are the reviews I enjoy writing, much more than the ones that were like "meh. It was good but not memorable." Because I know that not all readers are going to appreciate my candidness, my review policy on my blog states the following:

As I'm sure you can tell, reading is a great passion of mine, and I have no reservations about stating my personal thoughts and opinions about the books that I read. I DO NOT pass over a review simply because I did not like a particular book: I follow my rating system and will post both positive and negative reviews.

Also, just because I may not personally like a book does not mean it's a "bad book." Everyone likes their own thing, so even if I seem particularly "harsh" about a book, I want to emphasize it is just my personal opinion. I would encourage everyone to read the books I review-- positive or negative-- and judge for themselves whether it was good or not. That is the whole point of blogging reviews for books, after all!


~Lea @ LC's Adventures in Libraryland

Jennifer@The Book Nympho said...

Sometimes a negative review will get my attention more than a positive and will make me want to check the book out just to see if it I will agree with the reviewer.

I do have more positive reviews but that's because I read a lot of series and once I find an author I really like I will read as many of their books as possible. But I have ran across that one or two books in a series that was a "stinker" and I gave that book a lower rating and stated in my review that I thought this book was the worst in the series.

fairypenguin said...

If I take the average of the star rating of all of the books I've reviewed I get around 3/5. I always go into books assuming I'm going to like them and they are going to get somewhere between a 3 and a 4. Sometimes they completely blow my mind and they get a 5. More rarely, they bore or disgust me and end up with a 1 or a 2. More than a few books have surprised me with how awesome or how dreadful they are.

I don't trust people that give out 5/5 or 10/10 reviews too frequently. If every other book you review is "perfect", I start to suspect that you aren't being honest with yourself about the flaws that a book may have. That or your getting insanely lucky with all of the books you choose.

I also think that its unhelpful to hand out 1/5 star reviews for every other book you read. At that point, chances are you're being deliberately viscous and choosing "bad" books on purpose. Unless terrible literature is the theme of your blog (I've seen a few like that) your goal should be to talk about books you picked because you thought they'd be good.

Jenni Elyse said...

I don't think you're off at all. I trust people who once in a while write a negative review more than I trust someone who's always posting positive reviews (or won't post a negative review). I know I can trust their opinion. If they genuinely like something, they'll let me know. On the flip side, they'll also let me know if they hate it. I don't have to second guess their review.

I have a few 1- and 2-star reviews. I'm not afraid to let people know I didn't like a book. I think the problem comes with the delivery. Am I going to take it out on the author by bashing them? No. Am I going to take it out on the writing? It depends on the writing and if I can cite specific examples. One thing I always try to do is find something positive to say, but that's much easier said than done with some books, lol.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

While I don't like reviewers who are constantly negative or mean, I love negative reviews. I can't tell you how many times a negative review has gotten me to try a book.

Beth D. said...

I have to agree with you. You never know what you are going to get until you read the book in question. I try to give everything that I start reading a full chance, and then I will write a honest review on how I feel. I think opinions are great! Different people see stuff in different ways and might see something I didn't, or didn't think about. That's why I write them, and why I read them. That, and so the world knows my opinion. I am less likely to read a blog that says they only do positive reviews, only because I am worried that even if they didn't like something in a book they are not going to put it up.

Beth ^_^
http://sweetbooksnstuff.blogspot.com/

Amy J said...

Great topic today Rachel!
I am a reviewer who writes a review on all of the books I read-- whether good or bad. My reviews focus on the feelings and emotions a book brings out instead of a quick summary. I have found it is easier to express my feelings on a book --whether positive or negative-- if I explain the pros and cons of the book. I used to get a lot of slack for giving low rated stars on books. But I figure they are MY opinion and I would rather say what works than not post a review at all. People who just write positive reviews are cheating the book readers out there who want to know by checking out other book blogs. At least that is my stance on the topic. Just be honest even if it is a negative. Even the publishers would more than likely agree that honesty is best because then they know what people are wanting to read.

ParaJunkee said...

@Chrystal - I hear ya. I haven't dropped my rating though, call it the compartmentalize part of me. I usually only write a DNF review if I got more than half way through. If it is a mood thing, I won't write it though. I completely agree with you, that you have to fill in the blanks.

@Lea - Meh reviews are the worst. Books that I think are good, just didn't have that extra oomph. It's a good review policy and thank you for sharing it. I believe the point of being a reviewer is stating your honest opinion. If you are their to just write happy thoughts you should become a copyrighter.

ParaJunkee said...

@Jennifer - I hear ya about the negative reviews. Sometimes they are fun to read and actually get me wanting to read the book more. Because what the reviewer stated I actually like about a particular book. It's all a matter of opinion.

@fairypenguin - And that is right on track - because 3 is average and in the middle. Right where it should be. My 5 of 5s are the gems. Those rare books that leave me shattered, or sobbing or insane after finishing the last page. And really people that give those all time, might just not be that seasoned of a reader. Or they don't really have what would be considered discerning taste where books are concerned. Deliberatly viscous is also a deadly trait…people that read the popular fiction that they believe is trash even before they've, just so they can mock and destroy. It's a very ugly place to be. And I think it might say something about the personality of the person reviewing. I understand you might want to do that every now and again for some entertainment - but over and over again. Why?

Michael J. McCann said...

As an indie author trying to establish an audience, I'm scared to death a negative review will kill my chances to build a readership base before I'm even out of the gate, but on the other hand a mindless puff is not only embarrassing but transparent to everyone.

What I look for in a potential reviewer is a sense of balance in their blog. I read through their reviews to get a sense of what they respond to in the books they read. If they can intelligently explain their reasons for having liked or not liked a book, I feel reassured they're reading AND reviewing at a level that's worthwhile to everyone. If their reaction is purely subjective and they're honest enough to say so, that's fine, but I think everyone would prefer something more concrete: the characters are too flat, the plot doesn't work, etc.

Additionally, I'd never query a blogger who doesn't read the genre in which I write. I'd think this would lead to a review that was negative before it was even written, so why force things?

Ultimately, I'd request a review from someone whose blog shows they are honest, genuine and thoughtful in their responses to the books they read. Because that's the kind of person I'm writing for, isn't it?

Anna said...

Great topic!
Nothing is ever black or white.You can't love everything you read,or hate everything you read,I mean if you know you're gonna hate a book,why read it?
And one can't possibly love everything he/she reads.It's plainly impossible.In my personal opinion,many of the positive reviewers just don't want to admit they didn't like a book and write a negative review.Apart from those who just don't review a book they didn't like,something that I respect.
Writing only negative reviews,is as well unprofessional and let's face it a bit mean.
Anyway,that's a huge topic!

ParaJunkee said...

@Jenni Elyse - There are some significant blogs that only post positive reviews. These blogs I treat as information places, where to look for hot books, those type of things. But, I wouldn't trust the opinion. There are a few blogs that I've discovered over time, they like what I like, they don't like what I like. These blogs -- now I trust, so if there is a book they rave about, I'm all over it. I also try to find something positive to say about a book that I just didn't like at all. Even if all I can say is that they have a nice cover ;)

@Juju - I'm the same way!

@Beth - I don't know how many times I've read a review of a book that I've reviewed also -- and that reviewer writes something and made me thought "Wow! Now that I think about it, I was thinking the same thing. I just didn't write it down."

@Amy - Luckily I haven't gotten a lot of flack for my negative reviews. It actually seems I get a bit more attention for them, than my positive ones, which actually kind of upsets me. Because, I really want people to know about the books that make me happy - not the ones that I don't like. I hear about the positive review stance, I think they are cheating themselves too…because finding your voice is a big part of being a blogger.

Amanda @ On a Book Bender said...

I'm working on a post right now about rating books and how it seems that 4 and 5 star ratings are the only "good" ratings to give. I think there is some rating inflation going on -- more than people "loving" every book they read. Plus, it can be really difficult to not like a book (and write a review that says so) that you know A LOT of other people REALLY liked. Every book I read does not blow me away. 3 stars is still a good rating (if you believe Goodreads, it means that you liked it). Or maybe my standards for what qualifies as a good book are higher than everyone else's.

ParaJunkee said...

@Michael - I can completely understand that a negative review can be a big "scare" in the industry. But, art is deeply personal to everyone and I think readers understand that. That is why a negative review can push a reader towards your book just as much as a positive review. Thank you so much for chiming in on what you look for in a potential reviewer. It makes sense that you are looking for someone to intelligently critique your piece, but you would be so surprised at how many authors approach me for off genre books - cook books, weight loss books, religious books. I never quite understand the motives.

@Anna - I guess I can understand the motives of a reviewer that doesn't want to write a negative review, it doesn't mean I agree with it. Maybe they don't want to upset an author, or their publishing contact. This is a complete sell-out. Once again, you might as well work for their marketing department and are writing their promo copy. Writing only negative is also mean - and just brings up the internet hater thing for me.

ParaJunkee said...

@Amanda - My 3 star is the hardest rating to review. It means I liked it but it didn't blow me away. Basically there is a reasonably long con list but it doesn't out-weigh the pro list. Personally, it is your blog so you can set up your rating system any way you want. I personally really like the alphabet rating and that is how I base my rating system, even though it is icon based…

To explain that
5 - A
4.5 - A -
4 - B
3.5 - B -
3 - C
2.5 - C-
2 - D
1.5 D -
1 F
.5 F -

While a C is still a passing grade, I was never proud of those grades.

Shelagh said...

Hi Rachel - another interesting topic that I'm sure a lot of us have thought about.

I don't think you're off base at all - I prefer to see balanced reviews on a blog because it's not possible for anyone to love or hate every book they read. It's also why I chose to use a rating system out of 10 - it allows me slightly more flexibility in the graduating of my reviews and it suits the organised side of me.

I also agree that all correspondence to publishers/authors should be handled as professionally as possible. In place of 'To Whom It May Concern' people could also use 'Dear Sir' - it's an accepted place holder.

Thanks, as always!

Shelagh
The Word Fiend

Annette said...

Spam??? Really? Anyway, I use a 1-5 rating system. I never give ones, probably have never given a 2. These are my DNF's -- usually I just post something quick about why I didn't finish the book. But, I'm a very open reader -- and try not to judge until I've read, therefore, I've found some thing to not like about a book. Things that to me, were a 2.5....I can't imagine that, even if you love vampire books, there isn't some variation in the quality of vampire books. They aren't all great, are they?

On the other hand, I recently discovered a blogger that dissed about 4 or 5 books in a row that I thought were some of the best books I've read, and gave them very high marks. I don't fault that blogger, not at all, but it makes me realize that maybe we don't have the same tastes, and that's OK.

Great thoughts. Thanks!

Jackie's Little World said...

I only POST positive reviews. If I don't have anything good to say about a book, I just won't put up a review. If I have a few criticisms, but still enjoyed the book, I feel like I can still review it.

Even if a book is truly terrible I try to remember that the person writing it spent time working on it. If I don't have something nice to say, I don't say anything. If someone is looking for feedback on a book that hasn't been published yet . . . then I will be extrememly honest. Otherwise it's like closing the barn door after the horse has already escaped :-)

Great post!!

Aimee said...

I'm the review that will write both positive and negative. Although if a book sounds like I won't like it, I don't want to waste my time with it. But I have never understood those who refuse to post a negative review. And hey, I have a time or two read a book I knew I would hate and still read it or finished the series. But it's not something I want to do all of the time.

I live by the rule you review the book, not the author and bashing is unprofessional. But pointing what made you hate the book isn't bashing, it's honest. And that's all that other people look for, is for that honesty.

Amanda @ On a Book Bender said...

@Parajunkee -- I use an alphabet rating system on my blog, but I created a special "A++" for 5 stars so that it looks like this:

5: A++
4.5: A+
4: A
3.5: A-/B+
3: B
2.5: B-/C+
2: C
1.5: C-/D+
1: D

I did mine differently for two reasons: First, I rarely give books five stars, and most books I truly enjoy only receive about 4 stars. So for me, a 4 star book is a damn good book. Damn good deserves an A. Second, an average "okay" book (it would pass, but it's not good) should get a C grade, as a C is generally accepted as average. To me, that belongs with a 2 star rating.

I use D (or I will if I read one) for books that I finish, but didn't like at all. F is DNF, and I've been considering doing an "F report" where I briefly state which books I did not finish and why.

ParaJunkee said...

@Shelagh - Thanks! I like your 10 point rating scale too, I guess it very similar to the half point scale I also use, just a few more options. I have to say, I won't do the Dear Sir - flashback to basic training when I accidentally called one of my TIs "Yes sir" and received a tongue lashing about her gender. Don't want to insult any females. LMAO. But that is just my hang-up. ;)

@Annette - I have finished books that I have give 1 stars. Sometimes it's like a bad train wreck - you just have to finish to see the outcome. And no they are not all great. Like saying all chocolate ice cream is awesome. I might love me some chocolate ice cream, but Blue Bell is decidedly better than Best Choice or whatever that off brand is.

@Jackie's Little World - Now see, I don't agree. The point of a review is to let people know about the book, not critique it. Barn door shut or not. Your review is for other readers, not the author. Yes, they spent time on it and it is their baby, that is why it should be handled with respect, but there is a difference with handling something with respect and giving your honest opinion. A negative review doesn't have to be considered mean - it should be considered honest.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I write negative reviews but I don't like it. I try not to take book reviews that I think I might not like. I think you have a good point about continuing a series even though you didn't like the first one. I had never thought about that before really. I definitely see how a reader can set themselves up for failure, so to speak. That wouldn't be fair to the author.

When it comes to reviews and ratings, I try to think about it as a service that I can offer. Hopefully my blog can be a resource to people. I won't be helpful to readers or writers if no one can take my reviews seriously.

I give review ratings using faces that say awesome, good, meh, or yuck. I've been that blogger that has given yuck ratings. This sucks but I have to be honest.

BUT I can understand people who always give high ratings when they have a policy/preference to only finish books they like. I guess I would want to know which books they didn't finish but few bloggers post DNF reviews.

ParaJunkee said...

@Aimee - If I read the synopsis and it doesn't say "read me" in my head, I won't read it. I found if I was guilted into reading something by an author - I didn't enjoy it and I was doing that author a disservice. I have also continued on in a series even though I haven't liked the earlier books. Mostly because I HOPE that this book will make the difference. It is usually not the case. Once a series goes bad for me - I'm usually turned off for good. Case in point, Anita Blake series. I loved that series - past tense. But, I kept punishing myself with more books. I completely agree with you that bashing is bad and an honest review is not bashing… ;)

@Amanda - That is a good way to do it.

Tina said...

I love reading blogs that have a combination of positive and negative reviews and frankly as long as the blogger isn't bashing the author, I usually find the negs more helpful (insightful) than the positives. The one thing I cant stand when I read a positive review is someone awesome-barfing all over it. With all the oh my ga's, awesomesauc epic and then forget to tell me what the book is about....

Aimee said...

I totally agree with Anita! Loved the first, but the last book I read it was like pulling teeth. Took me 4 months to finish. Not my best record. So I gave up. I've been on the fence before on whether to continue a series hoping it's just firstbookitis, but sometimes I get lucky and end up liking the series but sometimes I don't.

Anne said...

I stopped following a blog when she wrote a post about how she only writes positive reviews, if she doesn't like a book she doesn't write about it. Ok, she's entitled to her point of view, it's her blog. However, I think it should be posted at the top of every page that this is her policy.

I don't feel that I can trust a blog which only posts positive reviews.

Related to this is Harriet Klausner, the "#1 reviewer" at Amazon. I get so angry when I see her "reviews". The majority of time it's just restating the blurb. She's no reviewer and Amazon should curtail her privileges. When I am moved to write a review, they might not be the most literate, long, well constructed reviews, but it's obvious I've read the book and make pertinent comments.

Lily Child said...

Personally, I usually read several reviews and do a little research before purchasing a book. Since I am paying full price, I want to do everything I can to pick books that I will enjoy. With that being said, there are times when everyone is raving over a book that I just don't care for. Or when I really think I am going to love a book, and it's just "ok." Therefore, I have a mix of reviews on my blog, but they usually tend to stay in the 4-5 range.

ParaJunkee said...

@Alexis - I don't like writing negs either. Like I said earlier I try to include one positive thing in each review. It's awesome that you are "service oriented" I think that is what a lot of us book bloggers believe. We are a service to readers…

@Tina - Completely agree, the tend to be more insightful because I think the reviewer feels they have to explain more why they didn't like something - whereas a positive just well basically awesome-barfs LOL - like that a lot. Its like describing why you love your boyfriend…sometimes it's not so transitive. It usually takes experience to put forth the reasons in words.

@Aimee - I think I made it to like the 10th book or so before I gave up on Anita. Sometimes the second books are the hardest to get through.

@Anne - I had a pretty obvious no-follow like that also, but it was for other reasons on top of the positive only. The blog also felt just like a promo piece. One synopsis after another. What is that? Very similar to the Harriet Klausner LOL - which most people think works for Amazon.com - which is why they don't curtail her privileges. But, really I think they can't do anything about reviews because it would take a lot of policing.

Manga Maniac said...

I enjoy reviews that point out the strengths AND weaknesses of a book. The gushy reviews that don't really say anything except how amazing/awesome/wonderful the book is are useless, and the bashing reviews also don't accomplish much.

When I read (or write) a review, I want to know the good and the bad so I can decide whether or not to read the book myself. If you make the review personal to yourself, I like it that much better.

Fiktshun said...

I tend to review on the positive side. That doesn't mean I like every book I read, but I've only given a few 2 star ratings out, and a handful of 3 stars. Most of them are higher.

It's true that you can't know if you'll love a book before you read it, not until you've turned that last page as you've said, but you can certainly pick up books you hope you're going to enjoy, or think you will. That's what I do. Sometimes I don't enjoy them as much as I'd hoped, but I might still "Like" them.

I find that if it's an author I've enjoyed in the past it's rare that their writing will have gone so far downhill that it would be awful.

But I don't really have 1 star reviews, because if a book is so bad I can't get past the first 50 pages, I won't read or review it. I don't think I can give a fair review or assessment by page 50 and so I just don't review.

Even if I give it a 4 star, I will point out any drawbacks or items that I thought could use work. I try to be as honest as possible, but in a way that doesn't scream "bash."

And, like you, if I've put a book down because I'm just not in the mood - which happens more often than not - I won't review it until I pick it back up when I am.

I don't believe in writing for publishers or authors, but if I am enthusiastic - positive or negative - about a book, I like to share that excitement with my readers.

And I love negative reviews as long as the reviewer has valid points and is not 9 negative reviews out of 10 reads. I don't trust those either.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents.

Alisha (MyNeedToRead) said...

It's so tough to say. As a reader I really appreciate frankness in a review, and will read a negative review just as I will positive ones--sometimes, I end up wanting to read a low-rated book because someone else's "hated it" is my "loved it".

That said, one of my favorite book blogs (All About Happy Books) only posts positive reviews. The author of the blog makes no bones about it, either: she features only the stuff she really liked, and skips writing about the things she found to be "blah". And the girl reads like crazy (about a book a day)! We share similar tastes in many areas, so when I go to her blog I can count on finding at least a couple new books for the To Read list. I like that.

As a reviewer, I really try to find something before I start reading a book that will indicate I might enjoy it. After all, I'm not reading just to review; I'm reading to read, and sharing my thoughts thereafter is the icing on the cake. Something should stand out to me. But once I start reading a book, if I don't like it, I'll say so. I remind myself that to rate/review a book more highly than what I really think about it would be a disservice to the books that I really and truly did enjoy, (as well as to the readers of said reviews, of course).

If I REALLY don't like the book, or if I feel like I'm just wasting time better spent reading something else, I'll stop reading it at some point. I'm still not quite sure what to do about such cases...do I post something about why I didn't finish reading, or do I just cut ties and move on to books that I can talk about with full authority (i.e., that I've finished)? Jury's still out on that.

Alisha (MyNeedToRead) said...

Fiktshun, I agree with your statement: "But I don't really have 1 star reviews, because if a book is so bad I can't get past the first 50 pages, I won't read or review it. I don't think I can give a fair review or assessment by page 50 and so I just don't review."

That's exactly my thinking, since I will neither torture myself with a truly atrocious book, nor review a book that, technically, I don't know enough about. I'm still debating whether to mention what books I DNF and give a small reason as to why, but...dunno yet. I've yet to give out a 1 rating on my blog, as I'm more likely to not finish a book early on if it's bad enough to be a 1-er. :o)

Someone might ask, "Then why have a 5 star rating system?" Well, I use it since people have a sense, without much explanation, of what each numeric rating means. 1=bad, 5=good. 2.5 is right down the middle.

Fiktshun said...

@Alisha - I agree: "'Then why have a 5 star rating system?' Well, I use it since people have a sense, without much explanation, of what each numeric rating means."

Plus, if you want to rate your books on Goodreads or Amazon or other site, they have a five star system that you have to match it to.

And there may come a time when you end up accepting books for review that you have to read cover to cover and so that 1 star rating may be used.

Maybe consider mentioning DNF books, but then not star rate them. Just say that you started reading a book but you couldn't finish and why. I just tell my readers to ask me if I liked a book if they don't see it as reviewed and I'll tell them I couldn't get past the first fifty pages or there were too many grammatical mistakes that I couldn't get into it (self-pubbed) or that I just wasn't in the mood, I'll revisit it later.

Another option is to have a list of books read, and then just write DNF next to the ones you didn't finish. So, not in a post, but just on the blog.

Greytfriend said...

I like About Happy Books too, but that's a rare exception. And that's a philosophy as much as a policy, she just wants to have fun. But in general, I don't trust a reviewer that only writes positive reviews. They may believe everything they are saying, but they aren't saying everything they believe. And it isn't about ratings for me, I'm much more interesting in what people have to say. The difference between 2 and 3 stars, or 7 and 8, can be so subjective; I want to know what you liked and what bugged you. And was it more UF or PNR? Was the sidekick funny? Did you cry at the end? Did you add the next book to your TBR even though the book made you crazy? Not all "negative" comments and reviews are entirely negative and readers can often take them in different ways.

I screen almost all of my books by reading reviews on blogs and Goodreads, and I still find a rare few that I just don't like at all. And with the rest there are frequently aspects that I have to mention in my reviews about things that could have been better. I (usually) try not to do it in a snarky or rude way, but to provide the kind of information that I'd be looking for if I were reading the review myself. I'm not the best reviewer, I don't do recaps, I'm not analytical, I just point out thing that move me, interest me, annoy me or thrill me. But if a reviewer says that she never finds any books that she doesn't like because she pre-screens them, then that just isn't believable, especially if they are new books from the publishers. It's just impossible.

The perpetual question is always who the reviewer works for, the reader or the the publisher. I still think that honest reviews benefit the publishers more in the long run. Readers who trust the reviewers are more likely to get excited about really thrilled reviews and get a buzz going (like with Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis) than when it's manufactured by bland advertising, which is what always positive reviews come across as. They're just advertising blurbs.

Ivana said...

Thanks for posting this, just yesterday I posted about a similar topic...the last three or four books that I read were really great. If someone came to my blog for the first time, they might think I only gush about how awesome these books were. The thing is, I pick the books I want to review, books that appeal to me because of an intriguing story or if there's a promise of a great character. In other words, I won't request a book that I don't think I'd like (like erotica or even chick lit-I just don't read enough of those to have formed a taste). I've had my fair share of negative reviews. If I don't like a book, I'll probably still going to finish and review it because that's what the publisher expects me to do. What I appreciate most is the "what I liked" and "what I didn't like" reviews. Nice and balanced, and let the readers decide for themselves.

Johanna said...

I find it sad that reviewers jump in with preconceived notions (bad or good). Writers know that not everyone will love their book. That's the wonderful thing about books. There are millions of different types of people and, for each one of them, there is a book waiting for them!

Cassandra (The Book and Movie Dimension blogger) said...

I think books are just messy and you can never truly know. As for positive reviewers never been that type. I will say this I review books that I will find good and sometimes they are -- almost always. If not then I give a negative review.

Great post.

Tahlia Newland said...

You can't know whether you'll give a book a positive review before you read it. If you're honest, that's not possible, and I wouldn't trust a reviewer that took that stance.

I don't consider myself a 'positive' or 'negative' reviewer but I don't publish a review on my blog if I can't find anything good to say about the book. I do give feedback to the author (or publisher if I received it from them) and I give it a star rating on goodreads.

This is because I am also a writer and I want to support other authors. If I was only a reviewer, I would publish both positive and negative reviews and I appreciate reviewers who do.

A lot of writer/reviewers take this stance, so if I find a book that has no or few reviews on goodreads, I'm suspicious. It might mean thatnbo one reviewed because no one read it, or because they couldn't say anything good about it

Kah Woei said...

Well, when I started out blogging ... I wanted to write positive reviews but I've found that I simply can't. I can't be a 100% sure of what I'll feel about a book until I've read it and even if I'm re-reading a book I've loved before, there are still no guarantees. So, now when I read reviews, rather than focusing on whether it is good or bad, I find it's more important to understand the reasons why the reviewer liked or disliked the book and consider whether this is a book I'd like to read :-)

Sarah said...

I post positive and negative reviews. There are more positive ones, but that's because I like a lot of different books and genres and writing styles. But I'm not afraid of 1 star or DNF ratings. In fact, my most viewed book review is a 1 star rating. By a HUGE margin of views.

The Romanceaholic said...

I think I fall into the "too nice" category with reviews -- I had an author (whose book received 2/5 Stars) tell me that she loved my review and then went and posted it on her site, rating and all. I literally had to go back and re-read my review to make sure I hadn't accidentally rated it higher! :-/

It's not that I don't want to voice my opinion. I'm not afraid to rip a book apart if it was absolutely awful, BUT, chances are if it was that bad, I never finished it to begin with. My time is too valuable to read and review a book that isn't appealing to me, and almost all of my 2.5/5 and lower reviews were short enough that it wasn't a huge time investment to finish it.

(and for the record, I do realize that the mere fact that I HAVE 2.5/5 star reviews means I don't fall directly into the same category as those you were referring to by this post) :)

I try to be as balanced and "fair" as possible in my reviews regardless of the rating. I do the What Worked For Me/What Didn't Work For Me bit because if I bothered finishing it, it had SOMETHING redeeming about it ;)

And, I have TOTALLY purchased books based on one-star ratings lol If for nothing else than to see if it was really THAT BAD :P

Colleen said...

Great post!

I don't really have any negative reviews on my blog, but it's still so young that I'm sure I'll end up writing some eventually. Either way, I don't like to use a rating system for books, because I feel like it's so ambiguous - it's hard to tell what the rating really "means," since it seems to be different for a lot of people. Does 2 stars or 3 stars mean they didn't like it, or that they thought it was just okay? That sort of thing.

Mostly, I try to discuss what I liked about a book and what I didn't like (if there was anything - sometimes there just isn't, really). And regardless of my own opinion, especially if it is a more indifferent or a negative review, I want to still encourage people to read the book and form their own opinions.

And like some of the other commenters above, sometimes a negative review will intrigue me into reading a book, just to see if I agree with the reviewer or to see if it could really have been that bad. lol.

fivealarmbookreviews.com said...

When I started blogging, I set out to write only about the books that I enjoyed, but for me, it turned out to be completely unrealistic. There were just to many grey areas since most books have the good and the bad. How much was too much? So I have made it simple. If I have put my time into reading the book, I will write an honest review whether I liked the book or not. There was one October release that I gave my opinion on that was probably not very popular with the publisher. While I try to keep it professional, I am not going to compromise my readers trust. My readers are smart enough to know that they are not going to agree with me all the time. If they are anxiously awaiting a release, I don't think that my review alone will determine what they do. Rachel, we disagreed on Mara Dyer for instance, but I love your blog and trust your reviews.

Pabkins said...

We definitely need honesty. Personally, I take it with a grain of salt when people give positive reviews period. Unless they are jumping up and down trying to shove the book down my throat I'm not convinced. When I love love love a book I'm usually buying people copies lol. (well family and close friends that is). So I try to keep that in mind whenever I'm tempted to rate something really high.
Pabkins @ Mission to Read

Moonlit Librarian said...

I'm a positive reviewer because I can't make it through awful books. As they say at my favorite local indie bookstore, "Life's too short to read bad books!"

Jackie (Literary Escapism) said...

Honestly, I won't read a site unless I know they've posted negative reviews before. It's like you said, how do they know if they'll like it before even reading it? There's no way to know. I also believe negative reviews adds to a sites credibility.

On the flip side, just because *you* didn't like it, doesn't mean someone else won't. There are some elements I'm not a fan of, but other people are fine with them. I dislike flashbacks. One or two is okay, but they can drown out a story and make it confusing to follow. However I've found people who love them. My feelings are, just because there was something I didn't like, and it ended up being a negative review, that one thing may be the reason someone picks up the novel.

I've also read novels based on negative reviews because the reviews made me curious. So someone had an issue with this character, but he sounds intriguing, so why not?

Evie said...

Hi,

I really enjoyed your post today, because I've come across some reviewers that seem to LURVE or at the very least, like all the books they read. I've never come across anyone that is consistently handing out bad reviews.

It doesn't bother me that a reviewer gives all positive reviews. What bothers me is not backing up their statements with anything beyond "Plot was great, ending was surprising, loved the characters." Give me more than fangirl gushing and explain why you feel the way you do. Say something about what made the plot great, how the author used their skill to surprise you, and why you love the characters and don't say because I could relate because after a while, this is meaningless babble. I often read these reviews very aware that I've been given no insight into the story or author at all.

Sometimes negative reviews intrigue me, and I get the book anyway for exactly the reason another reviewer hated it, but I almost never read a book if someone gives it a positive review without backing up their words.

I don't love every book I read. I push myself to read other genres, new authors. I like to experiment, spice things up. I want to be surprised. I don't give star ratings. I just review the book and add something like : 1. Phenomenal, a must read, 2. A compelling page turner, 3. Enjoyable, 4. Okay but didn't blow my skirt up, 5. a struggle to finish, 6. pass on this one.

Sorry I rambled on.

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

Great topic today! I'm probably the same as you, Rachel. Most of my reviews are positive but there are some where book either enraged me or left me disappointed, and I will post a negative review then. If the book is average, I will talk about its good sides, but then give it a mark I think the book deserve, and let people judge for themselves. I do think we need negative reviews. If I go on Goodreads to read about an author I don't know I look at 5 star review and 1 star review and see if people's likes and dislikes are something I can deal with, then make a decision to get the book or not. On the other hand I wouldn't read reviews which are overly snarky and demean the author in some way - this is just mean and unnecessary.
I also don't post DNF reviews. If I didn't finish the book how can I judge it? So I just leave it in my DNF folder on Goodreads :)

Smash Attack! said...

Amen to this post. In short, I completely agree and have always been one to be honest, but always in a professional way.

ham1299 said...

Great post. I have to say, I am always suspicious of the book bloggers who always, always, always post positive reviews. It's impossible to love everything - or even like everything - you read, so if you're never posting negative reviews I don't take your reviews very seriously. But, if there's a reviewer out there who isn't afraid to say when a book doesn't work for them, I'm much more likely to put more faith into all of their reviews - ESPECIALLY the positive ones!

LoriStrongin said...

REALLY interesting post, especially for me. I'm not a book blogger, but an author, and this behind the scenes look at how it all works is super interesting.

Re: the positive/negative review thing. It's similar to being a reader, I'd think. You can read all the positive reviews, be intrigued by the cover and jacket blurb, and still hate the book by that last page.

That's why I appreciate the honest reviews you guys give. You guys have an opinion and you're not afraid to say it. Keep doing what you're doing!


Smiles!
Lori

Bea said...

Parajujnkee, great topic and post, thank you. I've enjoyed the comments as much as the post.

@Evie - I agree about the fangirl, it drives me nuts. I don't like those kinds of reviews. Tell me about the book, the writing, the story, etc. What did the author do well, what sucked? What did you like and why? What didn't you like and why? That's what I want to know.

I write both positive and negative reviews, though I've written few that were purely negative. Like many others, I try to find something positive to say, if possible. Also like most people here, I choose books that I expect I'll enjoy. Most of my reviews are in 3 star category (well, on goodreads and Amazon, they are. I don't actually use a rating system)There aren't a lot of books that I absolutely love and my reviews reflect that.

Thanks for this Rachel. :)

Jennifer Lane said...

Great post that obviously inspired a lively discussion. The more I read and write, the more I'm amazed by the variety of reactions to the same book. I don't know how a reader can pre-judge a novel since her personal opinion is so important and unique in determining her review. Even if a book is loved by many, SHE may hate it based on some quirk of her personality or some experience in her past.

As an author, I agree with Tahlia that I try to use my blog to support fellow authors. Therefore, I will highlight my favorite parts of the novel while at the same time offering a critique of what didn't work so well for me. Balanced, detailed reviews are what I love to receive. Hearing praise motivates me to write more. Hearing negative feedback motivates me to write better.

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