Kernels of Nonsense, #24: Negative Reviews

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly feature, posted every second and third Sunday. Today I will be discussing my feelings regarding negative reviews.

Every once in a while I’ll come across a blog with a “positive feedback” philosophy. These blogs only write positive reviews for books and abstain from negative reviews. Their philosophy, though affable in many respects, baffles me. In other cases, I’ll come across bloggers who don’t advocate this kind of philosophy, but who have given positive ratings to every book they’ve read anyway (I often see this on Goodreads), and it makes me down-right suspicious.

Before I started blogging, I read a lot of bad books because I really wasn’t familiar with book blogging and so I just picked up whatever sounded interesting. Sometimes this worked out great. I remember one of the first YA books I picked up without reading a review or knowing how it was received by other readers was Neal Shusterman’s Unwind. I really enjoyed this book and am glad I decided to buy it after only reading the synopsis on the back cover. But when I look back on my decisions making, I was actually really lucky. I discovered a lot of wonderful books this way. That being said, I also have a bag full of books I bought years ago that turned out to be terrible, currently residing somewhere deep in my closet. I could have used a few negative reviews then to persuade me not to buy these books.

Negative reviews are important to me, both as a reader and a blogger. As a reader, I rely on these kind of reviews when trying to decide whether I want to read a book. They’re essential when I’m trying to decide if I want to purchase a book as well. Book hype, while I love hearing about new books, can be extremely unreliable when it comes to the actual merit of a book. Negative reviews, especially if there’s a slew of them, is a good indication that a book has nothing to stand on beside this initial hype.

In an community where publishers work closely with bloggers in order to promote their books, honesty is extremely important. In many cases this can result in a conflict of interest where a blogger is paid in some way to endorse a book. Perhaps it’s the cynical side of me, but if I come across a blog or Goodreads reader that has rated every book high, I start questioning how reliable they are. Surely, not every book they picked up was a winner. This is the fastest way for a blogger to lose me as a reader. I value honesty above all else when it comes to book blogging. I need to be honest myself and I need the blogs I read to be honest too.

In many ways I find it easier to write negative reviews. When a book doesn’t work for me, it’s usually not hard to pinpoint what bothered me. I do save myself from writing a lot of negative reviews these days because I’ve allowed myself the freedom to DNF if I get the distinct feeling the book I’m reading isn’t going to live up to expectations. After all, with so many books to read, who wants to waste their time reading a one-star book?

What do you think? Do we, as book bloggers, have a responsibility to our readers to share with them the positive as well as negative experiences we have with books? How to you feel about blogs who only give positive ratings? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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26 thoughts on “Kernels of Nonsense, #24: Negative Reviews

  1. Really interesting post. I am always completely honest when I review books for my blog, I don’t want to give people the wrong impression if I really didn’t like the book, and like you, I hate it when people mislead me and write a really positive review about a book I end up hating. Having said that, I don’t tend to read a lot of reviews before buying books anyway, even now that I am a blogger, because I know what appeals to me and I can usually get a good sense of whether or not I’m going to like a book by the synopsis given (I came across Unwind in a similar way to you, I was just surfing Amazon, read the synopsis and just knew I was going to love it without reading any reviews). If a book that I think sounds interesting has a lot of negative reviews, I usually try it anyway because my initial feeling was that I would find it interesting and so I should give it a chance. However I have fallen victim to hype before, so I definitely prefer it if people are honest than if they always write positive reviews. For me, the hardest reviews to write are not the negative ones (it’s easy to pinpoint what you disliked about the book) or the positive ones (equally easy to pinpoint what you liked about the book), but the books that leave you feeling kind of “meh”. It’s hard to review “meh” books because I find it difficult to tell why I felt that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Meh” books definitely present more of a challenge, especially when you know it wasn’t a bad book, but you’re not sure exactly why it was good either (or vice versa). Negative reviews don’t necessarily dissuade me from reading a book, but they do convince me not to buy a book. This is where the library comes in and saves me from going complete broke.

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  2. As book bloggers we have the responsibility to be honest. If that means that you have to write a negative review then fine. As long as the negative reviews are respectful towards both the author (especially) and the book then I don’t have a problem with there being negative reviews. No one wants to read a review that is offensive towards the author or in just general. Now, if you can tell me why the book wasn’t the greatest I will read and respect the individual’s opinion. For example, the plot was weak, it was too predictable, or the chemistry between the characters seemed off. If you can back up your reasoning with logical support then I will continue to read your review and take your opinion in consideration. There’s just a level of respect between the blogger and the author that I feel is fading away. Negative reviews, when done correctly, are needed, because it provides an insight from both sides to the potential reader/buyer of the book.

    Meredith @ A Book Lover’s Corner

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m also not a fan of negative reviews that focus on the author, they tend to be very ranty and have little to do with the book itself. I know there has been trouble before between authors and bloggers when it comes to negative reviews and though I’d like to believe we’re all adults and therefore should act like adults, this isn’t always the case. Mutual respect is essential and focusing on the work rather than the author is very important.

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  3. Very well put. I think as book bloggers we have the responsibility to be honest but also to be considerate. I do write negative reviews and consider it an important part of the whole process but reviews that read as hostile to the author and anyone who enjoys the book set my teeth on edge. But bloggers who give every book they read a 5 star review eventually lose me as a reader because I can’t trust their recommendation.

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    • Thanks! Consideration goes a long way. I think because blogging is largely informal, reviews are often written in a colloquial manner and this sometimes can result in tirades that attack the author. That being said, you can also attack an author using more formal language.

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  4. I really think it’s important to write negative reviews. It’s obvious you can’t like every book you read, so why pretend you do? As long as you give valid reasons and explain why you didn’t like it, I think it’s perfectly normal. I do think you shouldn’t bash a book though.

    I have to say that since I started following book bloggers and booktubers -way before I started my own blog- I’ve read much more amazing books than bad ones. Probably thanks to everyone’s great recommendations… But I do still read books I don’t enjoy, I still have books I DNFed or gave 1 to 2 stars.

    Really interesting post Alicia!

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    • Book bashing is really interesting. I don’t think I would ever stick with a book I hated so much I’d feel the need to unleash a myriad of insults. I think the amount of good books I’ve been reading has increased too since I’ve started blogging. Thanks so much, Jolien!

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  5. You’ve all made interesting points. I’m new to the book blogger space and the advice I was given was to not post negative reviews. I was a little sceptical about this as it seems less than honest. Luckily I haven’t come across book I would give less than a 3 star rating too, so it hasn’t become an issue for me, yet. When I think about it, if the author really wants to succeed they would like for us to post negative reviews so they can make improvements to their writing to fit their target market.
    A question I have is, do you promote the crap out of negative reviews, or do you just post to your blog & goodreads account and move on? As in avoid promoting the post on other social media.

    Liked by 2 people

    • First of all, welcome to the community! I’m not sure who gave you this advice, but I must strongly disagree. I think your gut feeling was on par, it does seem dishonest to not post negative reviews. I find that people in general can be really sensitive, so I understand how you wouldn’t want negative reviews floating around everywhere if you were an author or publisher, but I’ve also come across many authors who understand that as soon as you publish a book, you are asking for the world’s opinion and not everyone is going to like your story. I don’t think we need to hide the fact that we won’t love every book we read. Now, I don’t suggest you go out of your way and shout from the rooftops that a book is horrible and tweet at the author how much you hated their novel or anything like that, but I also think you shouldn’t be afraid to post and share your negative reviews in the same places you share your positive ones.

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  6. I don’t know if we have a responsibility. I think that it’s okay if a blogger chooses to only share book recommendations for their favorite books. In all fairness, they should make it clear that it is their policy to do so.
    On a personal level, I choose to review every book that I finish reading, which means negative reviews. I also tend to follow blogs that post negative reviews.

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  7. Book bloggers definitely have the responsibility to be honest. In my eyes, the only way to fail as a reviewer is to lie – other than that, there are no rules.

    Still, I don’t think it’s a bad thing if someone only posts positive reviews. It’s their choice what to post on their blogs, and as long as they aren’t lying it doesn’t bother me. It probably doesn’t mean they love every book they pick up, but that they don’t post about the books they dislike. Also on Goodreads, some people do that same thing. Not all of them, but I have seen people who give either five-star or don’t list the book. (It’s usually authors who I see do this, though.)

    Personally, I give very few negative ratings because, like you said, I end up not finishing the book at all. But also, if I don’t review it, I will remove a book from Goodreads instead of shelving it as DNF. I usually like to “forget” about the books instead of keeping them around, if that makes sense? (It’s probably just me, haha.) I’m also pretty easy to please as a reader, though, so I don’t usually rate books under 3 stars. (Although it does happen, on the odd chance I get to the end and hate it.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is not just you, I do the same thing! I erase it from any of my Goodreads shelves. I actually will wait to read a couple of chapters of a book before I even mark it as currently reading just in case I decide it’s not my kind of book. Sounds like you’ve had a lot of luck with the books you’ve read. That’s awesome!

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  8. I have to agree that it is easier to write a negative review than a positive one. If you love a book, you don’t want to analyze it, you want to savor it, and that is hard to put into words. If you dislike a book, thousands of words just fly from your keyboard onto the page, and you can fill your review with all the things about the book that disturbed you or you thought were inconsistent or that just didn’t work. The problem is, when you adore a book, and you want others to read it and see what you saw in that book, you can often end up being overly effusive, which could (in the end) turn people off in many ways, including making people suspicious that the review isn’t a totally honest one. How counter-productive is that?

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    • Yes, over-enthusiasm can sometimes put me off from reading a book. If a review lacks enough explanation for why it’s praising a book I might not be convinced enough to read the book. You’re so right, positive reviews can be counter-productive, especially if the blogger does not have the trust of a reader.

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  9. I think you got to the heart of the matter when you noted that bloggers need to be honest. While I personally post both negative and positive reviews because I believe that promotes trust among my readers (as they can see I do think critically about what I read and try to give honest feedback, even if it is painful for me to have to admit there were things about a book that didn’t work), I appreciate the sentiment of those who feel they merely want to celebrate the books they love, not focus on the things they didn’t. However, I think that, if someone does only post positive reviews, that should be noted somewhere on their review policy just so no one does start to wonder how a person could love everything they’ve ever read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree, I think having both positive and negative reviews shows that a blogger can and does think critically about the books they read. I also tend to trust their judgement more when trying to decide whether to read a book or not. I personally feel that sharing your views, both good and bad, is part of being honest. I can still be a positive person and express negative feelings about books. I can still celebrate books and still write negative reviews. Yes, anyone who chooses to only review and rate books positively should put a disclaimer on their blog.

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  10. There is a level on which I understand only wanting to “promote” books. I can understand that from a librarian or a teacher, or someone who’s generally in a position where they want to encourage reading as much as possible and maybe not come across as telling children or other readers that a books is in some respects “not worth reading.” That said, I don’t think a lot of librarians or teachers have their patrons or students as blog followers, but maybe the sentiment of wanting to promote all reading is still there. 😉

    I don’t think I personally read any blogs that only post positive reviews, mainly because I haven’t come across too many. I’m not against the idea on principle, but I do enjoy reading a range of reviews. That helps me get a sense of what a bloggers thinks is good and bad and how much our tastes in books match.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can see that, wanting to build interest in reading if you are a librarian or teacher. As a book blogger, I feel like we’re speaking to those already interested in reading, so to take it a step further is to let readers know what books are worth their time and which ones they could probably skip. Yes, reviews are the first place I look when I come across a new blog.

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  11. I’ve seen a couple of blogs revert to positive only reviews – while I can merit in it, for me it isn’t very useful. I think having an online collection of positive reviews for books you enjoy is great, but like you I use honest reviews to try and pick my next reads. This has inadvertently bumped up my ratings I think, because I generally am picking less “bad books”, but the odd one still sneaks in, and sometimes I even like when that happens because it kind of recalibrates my opinions and lets me know that my ratings are accurate to my views. I do tend to rank low books on Goodreads, or mark them as DNF without talking about them on my blog, but I’m planning to do a round-up of those soon. It’s probably not a good thing, but I find reviews for books I LOVE or HATE to be so much easier to write for books that were OK or reasonably good. I just have less words for those books! R x

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    • Hmm, I like that, reading less-than-stellar books in order to provide a broader perspective of what makes a good book and what doesn’t. I’ve noticed I’ve been reading a lot more books I end up rating positively too when compared to the time I wasn’t blogging. “Okay” books can be the worst to review and sometimes it’s not necessarily something you can pinpoint as lacking, for me this happens with books I don’t connect to on a more emotional level.

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  12. I totally agree with you. I do think it’s unfair to your readers to sugarcoat and I know negative reviews have helped me steer clear of books that I probably wouldn’t enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

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