Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sometimes I want to read negative reviews...

This feels like a strange admission, but every now and then I feel like I get bored of reading rave reviews and want to read something a little more negative for a change. Does this make any sense? Does anyone else feel this way? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I wish bad books on my fellow book bloggers. I know it sucks to read a book you don’t enjoy. But just because you didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean I won’t. And variety is the spice of life, right? Humour me please: What negative (or at least semi-negative) reviews have you written lately? (And if you don’t write negative reviews, let me know why not!)


  1. Recently I have written less than completely positive reviews of Dance Me Daddy, A Passion Denied, The Moment Between, All of Me, Stop the Traffik, Great Adventures Kids Pack, and Note II. I'll admit I try not to write completely negative reviews of books sent to me for review--I'll usually just put up some canned stuff from the publicist instead if I can. If I get a book at the library that I hate, I usually don't get far enough into it to write a review, kwim?

  2. Thanks for the Memories by C. Ahrens (

    The Agency (

    Feels Like Family by S. Woods (

    Sorry I couldn't link them. These are 3 less-than-glowing reviews. There are probably more but I don't have time to go through the blog. I think this is a great topic.

  3. I wrote less than glowing reviews for The Pact, Tantalize, and Carbs and Cadavers.

    I also have a couple of non-reviews (commentary on books I did not even finish) coming up for The Gargoyle and Afraid.

    I like to read and write negative reviews every once in a while, too.

  4. Hmm...I haven't had any outwardly negative reviews, but if there are things I don't like about the book, I will put them in the review, and try to keep it balanced with what I did like.

    Some of my more negative reviews are these:

    I have been lucky to receive some really entertaining books lately though.

  5. Funny you should write this. Yesterday I had to write a one star review, but on top of that, it was for a book (A Reliable Wife) that most reviewers have been raving about. I think it came off well in the end and I have also received several supportive comments, so I'm really glad I didn't chicken out on the review.

    But I agree, it is often refreshing to hear the other side of the story. More often than not, I probably DO agree with the reviews that are raving about a particular book, but it's definitely good to have some perspective.

    Nice post!

  6. While I can't say I have ever gotten bored reading positive reviews, I do find negative reviews helpful sometimes, especially when I am on the fence about reading a certain book. Negative reviews sometimes make me want to read a book more, so it's not necessarily a turn off to come across one. I cannot stand offensive negative reviews that get downright mean and nasty--not to mention those that get personal. It speaks more about the reviewer than the book or author.

    I have written a few less than stellar reviews, but for the most part, I enjoy the books I read and you're more likely to find positive reviews than negative ones. And even with the negative ones,I can usually always find something I liked about a book I've read even if I was disappointed. I believe in being fair and honest. And I always try to be respectful. As you pointed out, just because one person doesn't like it, doesn't mean another one.

    I do not finish books that I am not enjoying at all, simple as that. It doesn't happen very often though, but when it does, I mention it on my blog. What you won't see me mention are the occasional books that I set aside to come back to at a more appropriate time. These are the books I really think I'll like, but when I started them, it just wasn't the right moment. I can usually tell the difference immediately between these and the books I won't want to finish at all.

    I read for a variety of reasons--to learn, to grow, to be inspired, to be entertained, to escape, to laugh and cry, to whatever--but it is always for pleasure. I read for myself first and formost. Reading is more like a hobby (albeit a serious one) for me than a vocation. I don't have a lot of time to devote to reading, and I so I squeeze it in when I can. The last thing I want to do is waste my precious reading time on a book I'm not enjoying. Simple as that. As a result, I purposefully choose books to read that I think I will like. And I've gotten pretty good at judging whether a book will be to my liking or not. Hence, why I write more positive reviews than negative ones.

  7. Sorry for all the mistakes, not to mention the length. I'm in a location that makes proofreading easy. :-(

  8. Honest reviews are the best reviews. "Forgive Me" by Amanda Eyre Ward was one book that I did not enjoy. Not that it was a bad book! I, personally, did not like the story. You are right, though...just because I disliked a book does not mean that you will, too. :)

  9. Yes. I know what you mean. every book is AWESOME sometimes, it gets a little boring. i thought SONATA FOR MIRIAM really stank up the page; if you want to read a negative review you can go to my blog for that one!

  10. RAnn, thanks for mentioning some of your less-than-glowing reviews. I will check a few of them out! I agree about not writing completely negative reviews (even with books I really didn't like there's usually something positive I can say about them). I had to look up "kwim" to know what you meant!

    Mary, I don't know why the links didn't appear on their own (very annoying). I'll check out your reviews too!

    Vanessa (NotNessie), it sometimes feels like my less glowing reviews are easier to write than the really positive ones -- I guess because I find it easier to pinpoint why I didn't like something rather than why I did. I don't generally write non-reviews for books I didn't finish, but then I'm kinda behind on my reviews in general!

    Serena, thanks for your links too. I remember at least one of those reviews, the one for Follow Me (which, based on your and other similar reviews, I've decided to scratch from my wish list).

    Melissa, on a couple of occasions I've had to write negative reviews of books everyone else loved (Aberrations and Testimony come to mind), which felt kinda scary at the time. But I also received supportive comments, so I was glad I didn't chicken out too. (Plus my review of Testimony is one of my most visited posts!) I also find that when I read negative reviews of books I loved that I can see the reviewer's point; I just don't happen to be as bothered (or bothered at all) by whatever they didn't like.

  11. I have to be honest when I am reviewing a book. I've written three that were on the negative side within the last few months:

    I am immediately suspicious if a book receives nothing but glowing reviews and I tire of reading fluff reviews when I know the book was "meh".

  12. Wendy, I totally agree that I don't want to read nasty or offensive reviews (although I do think that there is probably some room for debate as to what constitutes a nasty review). And I also don't finish books I'm not enjoying at all -- unless I've said I would review them, in which case I feel a certain obligation to finish them. (I probably wouldn't have finished the two books I mentioned in my last comment, had it not been for the fact that I'd requested them for review.) Plus I've also read good books that just weren't my type of thing, such as A Likeness in Stone. It was well-written, suspenseful and kept me up half the night, but I wish I hadn't read it because it gave me the creeps in a big way.

    I also can totally see that you would write more positive reviews than negative ones (thank goodness!). I guess that I sometimes feel like there is a sameness to glowing reviews (there's only so many ways you can say that you loved a book), whereas negative reviews tend to be more individual.

    Oh and I didn't notice that many typos in your comment! (No need to apologize for the length!)

  13. Missy, I was going to say I hope not because I have that book on my TBR pile, but it's actually another one of her books How to Be Lost. Hopefully, I'll enjoy it more than you did Forgive Me!

    Marie, thank you! I enjoyed reading your review of Sonata for Myriam.

    Ti, I also feel suspicious sometimes. And if it's a book I didn't like at all, it's also lonely being in such a minority! Having said that, I still think I'm going to like the Guernsey Potato Peel book!

  14. I don't hesitate to write negative reviews if I don't like a book. My most recent was for Beneath a Marble Sky I've also given fairly negative reviews to Pillars of the Earth, Monsters of Templeton, and Middlesex, among others. (The Pillars review has gotten more stars than any of my reviews on LibraryThing, so I must have done something right.)

    I try not to be nasty about my negative reviews, although it's true that what constitutes nasty can be debatable. Personally, my rule of thumb is to consider how I would feel if I read the review and actually liked the book. Are the criticisms fair? Are they clear? Is there room for someone else to like the book and not feel like an idiot?

    And I do mention books I didn't finish (and these are pretty rare). I fess up right at the start that I didn't finish and mention where I stopped reading and why. I figure my readers can decide for themselves whether I gave the book enough of a chance. (And I'm always glad to have folks pipe up and say I should have given it more time or that I was right to abandon it.)

  15. I wrote a negative review about Life of Pi (Yann Martel) for a high school paper when I was working in the library there about nine years ago.

    I still feel guilty, because even tho' I didn't like the book I do feel everybody should pick it up and form their own opinion. Form their own opinion on all books, that is,not just that one. (LOL)

  16. I'm late reading your blog! I get bored reading rave reviews too, but when I write myself I find I have to put what I liked about a book even if overall it wasn't that good. So sometimes it comes over as a positive review, so much so that I've had an author thank me for my review of a book I thought was just OK. I don't put a rating on my blog, although I do for myself.

    Like other commenters I don't finish books I don't like so mostly my reviews are favourable. I'm very suspicious of books everyone raves over and usually avoid them - I'm thinking of the Guernsey Potato book here and as I haven't seen it on the library shelves I haven't even picked it up but just the name puts me off!

  17. I've been pretty lucky in my reading lately, but I have put up a few reviews of books I didn't really care for in the past few weeks:

    Palace Circle:

    An Edible History of Humanity:

  18. You're funny! I guess I do appreciate a 'good' negative review every now and then! I have to say, I have more trust in reviewers to are willing to admit to disliking something once in a while than saying they like everything (like Harriet Klausner). If I'm given a book, I try to say something nice about it, if I bought it or borrowed it from the library anything goes - I don't think I'm ever mean, though, and try to be specific and constructive in my critisism.

    This year I haven't loved and did review:

    Something Like Beautiful
    Time of my Life
    The Local News

    And I wrote a funny (I thought so anyway) letter to Sarah Waters about Tipping the Velvet (

  19. I definitely agree that I enjoy having a variety of opinions on a book. It lets me know whether or not I might enjoy it. I myself try to write the most honest reviews possible, but always keeping in mind that these are actual people with breakable emotions behind these stories, and so I try to suggest who might enjoy it, or make it clear why the book didn't work for me.

  20. Teresa, I really like your rule of thumb! I have read reviews of books I loved in which the reviewer said they wanted to hurl the book across the room (Eat, Pray, Love comes to mind), etc., and felt offended, so I think your last question ("Is there room for someone else to like the book and not feel like an idiot?") is an important one to consider. You've also inspired me to think about mentioning books I haven't finished reading on my blog -- I hadn't thought to ask for feedback on whether others think I should give them more of a chance or not.

    Gigi, while I agree in theory that everybody should make up their own minds about any given book, there are a zillion books out there but only so many hours in a day. And it seems to me that part of the point of reviews is not only to draw attention to good and great books, but also to steer readers away from the not-so-good, this-won't-be-your-cup-of-tea and just-plain-bad books. (And by the way, I read Life of Pi a couple of years ago and was really disappointed by it!)

    Margaret, something like that happened to me too! On the other hand, this also kinda worries me. It seems to me that it's obvious and understood that just because a reviewer didn't like a book, it doesn't mean that other readers won't, so it bothers me when reviewers bend over so far backwards to make that point in their reviews that I can no longer tell if they liked the book or not. It seems self-defeating.

    Thanks for mentioning those reviews, Fyrefly. I'll check them out!

    Tara, exactly! Although I appreciate that some reviewers don't review books they don't like (which is fine), I'm also wary of reviewers who love everything they read. I'll have to read your review of The Local News once I've read it. I'm definitely going to check out your letter to Sarah Waters!

    Steph Su, I think that's a good guiding principle, for the reviewer to explain why the book didn't work for them. Saying a book sucked is of no use to anyone really. It's only if the review contains some sort of explanation for the reviewer's judgment that I can then decide whether this is a book I'd want to read or not.

  21. Yes, I understand what you're saying. Maybe sometimes bloggers have trouble writing negative reviews or don't even write reviews of a book if they aren't recommending it, which I understand. My biggest hurdle is writing reviews for books in which I felt lukewarm about. Sometimes I can't even put into words what the problem was. I am having trouble right now with a DNF book that was from ER on Library Thing. I have promised myself to get it done within the next week.

  22. I don't get bored reading the positive reviews, but I do know what you mean. I don't personally read 5* books all the time (I wish I was) and I guess neither is anyone else. I do write some negative reviews from time to time, although my reviews often are not that long.

  23. I've done some negative reviews too. Like this one, for example.

    I do try to find what positive elements I can, since it's rare that anything is completely awful. But it has gotten tough with a couple of things.

  24. I totally agree! If everything I read is gushing about books it makes me think that they are saying nice things because they feel they have too. No one ever loves everything they read, so I want to hear about the not so good ones too!

  25. I try to accept books that I think I'll like, as I don't relish writing negative reviews. However, I do believe in honesty. I do try to find something positive to say about books I don't like.

    I've had a couple of authors take offense at my reviews. I know it's hard when people don't love your book as you do, but the comments were quite interesting.

    If I really can't get into a book, I just won't finish it, and I'll state that in my review. In those cases, I try to have links of more positive reviews. Sometimes I think rave reviews can be detrimental: often those are the books that don't live up to the reputation for me.

    It takes a lot to make me rave about a book, and I don't give out 5 stars on Goodreads very easily!

    Great post!

  26. I have written negative reviews in the past, but less so recently. I think that's because I have become braver about not finishing a book if I'm not enjoying it. I used to force myself to finish every book I started - but as I get older and my to-read stacks get higher, I have less and less patience for a book that I don't like. I have seen some bloggers post "did not finish" reviews - with the reasons for not finishing, but I've yet to do that.

  27. I have no trouble writing a negative review if I really didn't like a book. Here's my latest:

  28. I don't post reviews on my own site, but I do showcase every once in a while particularly interesting negative reviews: some for their utter stupidity and others for their interesting and different points. When I do write reviews, I write what I think: if the book was bad, I'll write a review explaining why I didn't like the book and if I'd recommend it to anyone (if at all). I think it's important to write negative reviews in addition to the glowing variety, so long as it isn't a rude insulting mess. Diversity in thoughts and opinions is crucial and I think critical reviews certainly help in that respect.

  29. I try not to be too negative but I didn't care for Wally Lamb's "The Hour I First Believed" and said so. There were aspects I liked but I thought it was a bit of a mess.

  30. I agree - I think it is important to write both positive and negative reviews. It is only by reading both that you get the true picture of a bloggers reading taste.

    I don't pay much attention to people who love everything they read, but I have noticed that people sit up when I give a book 5/5 stars, as it happens so rarely - only 3 times so far this year.

    If you write a negative review well then some people will still be encouraged to pick up the book - just because I didn't like it doesn't mean you won't.

  31. I have to admit....if I find a blog and after a couple of months haven't read one "didn't like it" review, I drop that blog from my feed reader. It's not that I relish a negative review (although I've read some hysterically funny ones), it's just that I know darned good and well they couldn't have loved every book they read so either:
    1) They aren't reviewing books they didn't like, or
    2) they aren't trustworthy or honest with their reviews.
    Either way, I'm pretty much done with that blog.

    I've written a couple of scorchers, but I also try to remember that just because I hated it doesn't mean everyone will. For goodness sake, I'm the person who HATED Cormac McCarthy's The Road, lol. So it's not as if I'm a great judge of literature. I just know what I like and say so.

  32. i'm a bit late to this party..but have to comment. for the first few weeks of my blog, i felt horrible--i was writing nothing but less-than-stellar reviews! i was almost afraid to keep posting 1 and 2 bookmark (star) reviews because i didn't want readers to think i was being a hardnose.

    while my reviews critique, i keep them professional and support my opinion. attacking an author personally or just being snarky are two things i avoid.

    reviews of any kind are subjective and people have to go into reading other reviews with an open mind. sometimes i'm more likely to pick up a book if someone else struggled with it--just to see if i agree!

    a few books i struggled with:
    here's the story by maureen mccormick, and life after genius.

  33. Did you manage to write your review, Rebecca? I haven't written any DNF reviews so far, although I did mention my book/blog stats post this month that I abandoned two books (though I didn't specify why). I'm still undecided as to whether I want to bother writing reviews for books I didn't finish reading.

    Louise, I guess "bored" is a pretty strong word, but I do sometimes feel like some bloggers seem to love everything they read. Whereas I often find myself criticizing even the books I loved!

    Thanks for pointing out that review of yours, Phyl! It made for great reading!

    Exactly, Melissa, so do I!

    Holly, yeah me too, except it's not always easy to tell in advance whether or not you'll enjoy a book, especially from an author you don't know. (And then again, sometimes you can be sure you'll love a favourite author's latest book and you don't!) Wow, I read those two reviews you mentioned and I'm almost reluctant to post a comment on them for fear of stirring things up again! I'm glad I haven't had any negative author feedback on any of my negative reviews (although I think you handled it very well). I agree too that rave reviews can be detrimental if they set up too-high expectations.

  34. Carrie, yeah I tend to finish books too, although as I just mentioned, I gave up on two in May. You're right, life is short and there are so many books to read out there! And who knows, maybe some of the books we abandon now will appeal to us more at some other point in time.

    Thanks, Dorothy, I'll check that review out!

    Anonymous Child, I totally agree that diversity of opinion is important. I'm curious about the negative reviews you showcase. I'll have to poke around on your blog and see if I can find them!

    Jenners, thanks for pointing that review out!

    Farmlanebooks, you put it so well. I completely agree that "it is only by reading both [positive and negative reviews] that you get the true picture of a blogger's reading taste." I've read comments by bloggers who say they basically love everything they read, which to me makes them fairly useless as reviewers. It would be the same if they hated everything they read.

    Michele, I love your scorchers! And I must say I'm not even tempted to give McCarthy a try, so I'll take your word for it about The Road!

    Natalie, it's never to late to comment on my blog! (And heck, I'm the type of person who shows up late for her own parties!) I also feel horrible when I write negative reviews, especially a bunch in a row, but sometimes it just has to be done. And yeah, depending on the nature of the criticism, a negative review can make me want to read a book!

  35. I get what you mean! Sometimes I just get turned off by reading positive reviews, even though I loved reading that book myself and can't find anything wrong with it.

  36. Liyana, I actually find it's pretty rare that I read a book and can't find anything negative to say about it... But even so, that doesn't prevent me from loving many books!

  37. I had to write a negative review for Pact of the Fathers because it was just such a badly written book. I don't like to write bad reviews. But sometimes, honesty demands it.

  38. K Wodke, I actually find that writing negative reviews is often easier than writing positive ones (I find I can more readily identify why I disliked a book than why I loved it), but I agree that honesty sometimes demands that you write a negative review, especially if the book was a real stinker, as Pact of the Fathers appears to have been! (I checked out your review on LibraryThing.) Thanks for commenting on this post even though it's two years old!