Mid Monthly Musings: positive reviews

Once a month I thought I’d muse about something that has occurred to me and might be of interest.

This month my thoughts centre around reviews.  How do you review – the good and the bad?

As a reviewer I’m probably considered to be something of a raging softie.  Most of my reviews are positive and glowing and I have a high average rating on sites such as Goodreads (4.2).

Harsh reviews are not really my style – and that isn’t a criticism of other reviewer’s style but more a reflection of my nature.  Basically, I think I’m anti-confrontation and even if I start out a review that is a bit snarky I eventually work my way back and remove all the sarcasm. I think In that respect I’m probably a bit old school, you know, ‘if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all’ although I think I’m much better these days at including criticisms in my reviews.  But, more than that, over the years I’ve changed my reading ethos.

Years ago, if I picked up a book – I completed a book.  It was almost like a badge of honour or something.  Even if I really wasn’t enjoying that book, even if picking it up was slowly robbing me of my reading mojo and making me miserable, I’d press on to the bitter end.  And, let’s be honest, reading a book that you’re not enjoying does make you feel a little bitter and resentful.  I think part of this was also related to eternal optimism – like, any minute now this book is sure to pick up coupled with my ‘need to know how everything concludes’ personality.  But, really, how far are you going to read on before you come to the realisation that this book just isn’t for you?  How far do you read before deciding to put a book down?  This is where my change slowly but surely came about.  For me, life is too short to read something I’m not enjoying.  There are plenty of books out there and a lot of those books I simply know I’m going to love.  What there isn’t a lot of out there is time.  Time is a precious thing and something I want to use to make me happy whenever possible. Selfish much?

Now of course, that means that most of my reviews are positive (because obviously I still have the odd book where the desire to know the ending wins the battle over the ‘I’m not enjoying this and want to put it down’ battle).  Obviously this is a mixed bag because how can all my reviews be so positive?  Does this mean I have no real discernment?  Can I be trusted to write honest to goodness reviews that others can believe in?  I hope so and that’s partly what these musings are about.  Of course my reviews are mostly positive – I don’t read anything I’m not enjoying.  Of course, there is the odd spanner in the works where I’m really enjoying a book right up to the point that the ending takes a nosedive and goes totally crazy.  I do review such books – oddly enough those reviews where I have very mixed feelings are usually the most popular!

That brings me to another issue.  Negative reviews.  Yes, they are necessary imo.  They help to strike a balance and I admit that I always read the negative reviews along with the positive because it’s interesting to read other people’s take.  We’re all different after all and to find a book without any negative reviews is probably impossible.  I take my hat off to those people who press on and read a book to the end even if it’s a bit of a struggle.

There is an element to my psyche that thinks I should complete some of the books that I’m not really enjoying so that I might have some less than positive reviews.  But, you know, I just can’t do it.  It brings me down.

So, I’m not entirely sure where this month’s musings are going other than to get something out there that’s been on my mind for a little while.

What do you think?  Should I read the Good, the Bad and the Ugly?  How far do you read up to if you’re not enjoying a book?


30 Responses to “Mid Monthly Musings: positive reviews”

  1. Andreas

    Negative reviews have their place. I don’t shy back from shredding books if I didn’t enjoy them or if I DNFed them. Actually, that’s my blog‘s name, „Reißwolf“ is a shredder.
    I often read reviews before selecting a book. But when I really really want to read one, I skip the negative reviews completely, because they harm my reading experience. It’s the same for choosing restaurants or vacation hotel: there are always people disliking or hating things, and that can ruin my experience.
    At the end, it’s always about trust in the reviewer, right?

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, you’re right. It is about trust at the end of the day whether or not the review is positive. I like to have a look at reviews once I’ve finished reading – to see whether or not I feel similarly to others, it’s interesting how what can really annoy one reader will totally glance off another. 😀

      • Andreas

        Do read other reviews before writing up your own?

      • @lynnsbooks

        Sometimes, usually the negative ones strangely enough – particularly when it’s a book that I loved, I like to see the alternative povs. Sometimes as soon as I finish a book I just dive straight into the review. Other times I leave it a few days and try and sort out my feelings.
        Lynn 😀

      • Andreas

        Five days after… I‘ve already forgotten what I wanted to say 🤣

  2. Tammy

    I’m more of a softie too, Lynn. Although when I read something I really didn’t like, it’s hard to hold back in my reviews. I do DNF books more now, because like you said, life’s too short to waste time on a book you’re not enjoying. Plus I’m a slow reader so I resent a bad book taking up my time.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, exactly, I find myself becoming resentful if I’m forcing myself to read something I’m not enjoying. Time is too precious.
      Lynn 😀

  3. mallikabooks15

    I find it hard to do negative reviews as well so mostly try to highlight what I liked about a book before I get on what I didn’t. I try to read through at least the review copies except in cases where it’s simply impossible to go on.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Writing positive reviews is so much easier isn’t it! I do like to read my review copies but sometimes I have to put them down as they’re really not working for me.
      Lynn 😀

  4. WordsAndPeace

    Like many book bloggers, when I stated, I was thrilled to request and receive tons of ARCs, and reviewed them. Obviously, some were not that good, and I didn’t hesitate saying so, even though I always tried to find one redeeming aspect in the book.
    Ten years later, I focus more on books I REALLY want to read, and request very few. Hence most of the books I read are terrific!
    If I received a book I didn’t request, I am OK DNFing it if I don’t like it. A few chapters is usually enough for me to judge, plus checking a few reviews sometimes.
    There is one big exception. I know about everyone love The Shadow of the Wind. I started listening to it, and kept going for 55% of the book, as the narrator was fabulous. But then I did stop, because of elements I didn’t like at all. So I listened to the equivalent of 267 pages before saying, that’s enough!! lol

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I’ve become much better at choosing which books to request and this has definitely helped me.
      And, yes, I did love Shadow of the Wind although it feels like a long time since I read it and I would struggle to describe it at this point.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Susy's Cozy World

    This is really an interesting post! I had the same problem with dropping a book some years ago. If I started it I just had to finish it, for both the reason you mentioned here. But now that I have finally learned to just let go I am way more happy.
    And I write for the most part positive reviews, too (I think that since I have my international blog and not only the Italian one I have written maybe a couple of negative reviews) and the main reason is that I read lot and I don’t have the time to review all the books I read, so when I have the time to write a review usually I prefer to talk about a book that I loved rather than one I hated or disliked, because, obviously, I want to share the books that I love!!
    But I am also a fan of negative reviews because we don’t always like or love the same things, and sometimes it can happen that something that really irked the reviewer it is not irking for me, and they can help me understand better what to expect from a book. And it happened to me to exchange books with another blogger, and this was quite a nice episode because both of us wrote ranting reviews for the book that the other requested and we both requested that book because of the ranting review! (It sounds a bit too complex, maybe if I explain it this way it made more sense, or at least I hope! I rant-reviewed book A, she rant-reviewed book B, then we took part in an event to exchange books and we both request the book the other one rant-reviewed, because of the reviews) and we enjoyed the books way more than the other had.
    And I don’t trust less a blogger because they write only positive reviews, because the reasons behind that are usually solid reasons that made sense, but I don’t really trust books with only positive reviews because you can’t make everyone happy, as hard as you try.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Excellent point about writing reviews for the books you love because you want to share that love with others. I really like that.
      I also like to look at negative reviews, it’s interesting to see which things that maybe I found really fun others may be found irritating.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Maryam (@thecurioussffreader)

    I don’t write a ton of negative reviews because I now DNF the books that really don’t work for me but I definitely write a few here and there. I think that they definitely have their place and I find them useful when I’m choosing what to read next. I think that now I’m able to write negative reviews while still managing to be respectful, I used to be very snarky at the beginning of my blogging years but now, I try to express my thoughts and feeling in a more detached way (except when the book REALLY makes me mad :P).

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha, yes, sometimes, when you’ve put all that effort into reading something and it disappoints you it can be so annoying – I have to let myself simmer for a while if that happens before writing a review (although it rarely happens these days). Definitely negative reviews have their place and I enjoy seeing the things that don’t work for some but might work for me.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Greg

    Most of my reviews are positive too- and I think it partly has to do with me picking out books I know I’ll like (or am at least very likely to like haha). I suppose if I tried new genres or read outside my zone more I’d be more likely to find more that I disliked? And I’m the same. If a book isn’t working for me I’ll let it go…

    I do think negative reviews are good though as well. Not mean ones just to be mean, but honest reviews that point out flaws or just why a book didn’t work for whoever. That way we all get a much more rounded view of the book and can make a choice.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Definitely, negative reviews are important to strike a balance, I must admit that I really dislike writing them and I tend to pussyfoot around a little which is another reason I feel much happier now that I’ve reached a place where I don’t feel compelled to complete books I’m not enjoying. Good to know I’m not alone with that.
      Lynn 😀

  8. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    As my “book radar” improves, I find myself able to mostly pick books I will ultimately enjoy, and that of course reflects on the tone of my reviews. But sometimes a not-so-good one sneaks its way onto my TBR, and I am usually faced with two options: if the book is really not for me, I can see that before the 20% mark, and so I DNF it (time’s too short, there are a lot of other books, and so on and on…) and never review it. But sometimes the book starts in a promising way and then something “bad” happens, either in the storytelling, or the characterization, and I manage to finish it, but I’m saddled with great disappointment, if not outright annoyance, and in that case I prefer to express my negative feelings in a review: I always try to strive for some balance, but sometimes the “authorial sins” (from my perspective) require a few choice words. For me it’s not so much an exercise in bashing the author, but rather a way of warning other readers with tastes similar to mine that… on that road there are some dangers 😉

    • @lynnsbooks

      ‘I’m saddled with great disappointment, if not outright annoyance’ – oh yes, I know that feeling all too well. You’re loving a book and then it just bombs – this is one of the few times these days where I find myself writing a negative review, because, as you said, I stop reading a book quite quickly when I’m not enjoying it and so it’s these sneaky books that make you like them early on and then nose dive that end up on the chopping block.
      Lynn 😀

  9. alburke47

    I’ve always been a “focus on the positives” type of guy. When I write reviews, I tend to do this, but I also point out any flaws that I think need fixing. As a result, I have had some great interactions with authors who appreciate my comments and try to improve based on what I said. I find this way more rewarding than scathing reviews ripping an author’s hard work (it is hard work writing a book, I can assure you). In saying that, I accept that some reviewers see the importance of harsh reviews and that they to can benefit the author. Also, some of them are magnificent and make me laugh my butt off. I believe, as long as you can back up what you say, that you should write as you see fit, so keep up the good work.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks. Yes, I believe you that writing books is hard work – definitely another reason to keep reviews polite (at the end of the day it’s a lot quicker to read a book than to write one and I have such respect for authors (plus where would I be without all these lovely books?) – although, as you say, some of the scathing reviews out there can be very funny indeed.

  10. Captain's Quarters

    I am not shy about abandoning a book or writing a negative review. I have bloggers whose reviews that I read almost always are the opposite of what I think. I like the different perspective even if I am sad that the books I adore are not ones they like (looking at ye Reißwolf). Reading negatives reviews lets me make better choices about if a book might be right for me. Of course writing criticizing books from authors whose work I adore makes me sad. Three already this year! Arrr!
    x The Captain

    • @lynnsbooks

      Oh no, three disappointments – that is enough to make anyone sad at this early point in the year. I do love the way we all differ so much and yet even with these differences often love the same books.
      Lynn 😀

  11. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I don’t like writing negative reviews, but when I do I try not to be overly harsh and only critique the book and what I don’t like about it. That said I won’t hold back on anything that truly bothers me. I think most of the time I am quite lenient, and try to see the positive side, which is why 2 star ratings are rare and 1 star even rarer.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I would say that your reviews are always very fair and well balanced tbh and I enjoy reading them. Plus you always push on and finish the book which I have a lot of respect for because I just can’t do it anymore as it really stops me reading altogether.
      Lynn 😀

  12. pagesandtea

    It used to be that if I started a book then I’d definitely finish it, even if I wasn’t enjoying it, and if I was past the halfway point there would be no chance I wouldn’t finish it. I’m getting a bit better at DNFing these days because as you say, there are so many books out there to enjoy.
    As for reviews, I like writing about what I’ve enjoyed reading, and I do try to pick out books I think I’ll enjoy so I don’t really have much in the way of negative reviews either. I’ve always wondered how it works with books you’ve been given to review though? It’s not something I’ve done so far so haven’t had the issue.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s tricky (not to mention it doesn’t help your stats on sites such as NG) but I do say in my profile in such places that I don’t complete a book if I’m not enjoying it and I think with that in mind I have definitely become a lot more careful about which books I request. I still make mistakes though. I guess I’m a work in progress.
      Lynn 😀

      • pagesandtea

        So you don’t need 100% in your stats to still be able to get books then? I keep wondering whether I should look into this but then I think how many books I already have and how easy it would be to get totally overwhelmed with a mass of new books and it puts me off a bit 😀

      • @lynnsbooks

        Ideally, NG for example, like you to have 80%. I’m usually around 75% – some of that is down to the initial heady rush when I first joined and requested too many books. Then there is the fact that probably 20/30 books are releases that are maybe months ahead so I won’t review them until much closer to release. It is very easy to get overwhelmed so I can understand your reluctance. I’m much better with requests these days but it did take a while.
        Lynn 😀

      • pagesandtea

        75% might be doable if I was very selective (if!). Do you have to post your reviews to other sites as well as your blog?

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