Friday, May 27, 2011

Armchair BEA: Blogging About Blogging

Negative Reviews: What do you do when you don't like a book?

For today's Blogging about Blogging I wanted to discuss a topic that is sensitive for bloggers and authors alike, Negative Reviews.  Actually, I dislike the term negative reviews.  It connotes that the reviewer is being negative, attacking the author and his/her work, which is exactly the type of review that hurts everyone.

I remember in my AP English class senior year of high school we were to read a book and instead of doing a report, we were allowed to write an opinion essay.  We could tell our teacher we didn't like the book but we had to back up our position with solid why.  I was positively giddy at the thought of disagreeing with the establishment and turned in a negative review of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  (Yes, the irony of the situation is not lost on me.)  I think that I was prouder of that A than any I ever earned.  Not only did it teach me a valuable lesson in constructive criticism, I felt like it validated my right to have an opinion about literature.  

N.B. Armchair BEA is a blog event for
book bloggers who can't attend Book
Expo America in NYC this week
But the question stands, what do you do when you don't like a book?  Many bloggers just don't review them, saying that there are so many good things out there, they don't want to spend time on things they don't enjoy.  While I respect that, I don't know that I necessarily agree with it.  I became a book blogger to share my feelings about what I am reading, because a lot of my friends aren't readers or are readers who don't take time to read anymore.  If I only share with you my warm fuzzy reads, I think we'll have a rather shallow relationship (blogger/blog reader).  Some books make you think, some make you angry, some make you sad, ~that's why we read.  If I'm omitting the books I don't like, I feel like I'm not being honest with the readers of the blog.


Not every book is for everyone.  I can't count the number of times I've picked up a book because the very thing someone else disliked about it is what draws me in ~and vice versa.  Differing opinions about books opens a dialogue, and I love that about books.   Some of my favorite reviews are our group reviews where we are of opposite opinions on a book.  (Our review of Hunger Games or our review of Before You Know Kindness are a prime examples.)

Of course reviewing a book you don't like has to be done constructively and as objectively as possible.  Here at Girls Just Reading, we strive for honesty.  We can only tell you how the book makes us feel and where we felt there were issues, if any.  If the book I'm reading is out of my normal scope, I'll tell you that so you have a frame of reference for what my thoughts are.  (My integrity with blog readers is important to me.)

Reading is personal and so are our reviews.  As long as everyone remembers that this is just one person's opinion, all is well.
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15 comments :

leeswammes May 27, 2011 at 1:31 PM  

I agree totally with you! I've also heard the term "bad review" and that sounds even worse.

I always review all the books I read because I like my readers to know about books I didn't like, as well. They may value to know what I think. If they see it in the shop and buy it, then write how they disliked it, I'd think: I could have told them that!

So yes, always review. On the other hand, I vet the possible books I read and only pick them up if I expect to give them 4 or 5 (out of 5 ) stars - I read for my pleasure so I only want to try books that look good.

Jenn May 27, 2011 at 1:39 PM  

Exactly. I am always willing to try new things, but if it's a book I know I'm not going to like at the outset, I don't read it either.

Sometimes I'm woefully disappointed, sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised, but that's the joy of reading.
:)

lisa (the little reader) May 27, 2011 at 2:00 PM  

i love the point you make about how the very thing that might discourage someone else is what might draw you in. i think it is important for us to be able to write honestly, even if it's not all glitter and frills and flowers.

great post!

Teresa May 27, 2011 at 2:10 PM  

You comment on the very reason I review a book that I didn't like. It will likely appeal to someone else. I don't believe that everyone who reads my blog has the exact same taste as me.

Honesty is key.

carolsnotebook May 27, 2011 at 4:54 PM  

I believe in giving honest reviews, good or bad. I didn't like Brave New World by the way. That being said I tend to only read books that I think I'll probably enjoy, so real losers don't happen often.

Julie May 27, 2011 at 5:10 PM  

Excellent post my friend! I agree with everything you said about posting a less than favorable review. In fact, one of my relationships with a publisher was from a book a I received and couldn't finish. I explained why and we've been friends ever since.

I don't mind going out of my realm. What disappoints me is when I'm expecting a ballpark home run based on reviews and it's the opposite. Essentially, if I'm mislead because other readers can't be honest.

Robyn Bateman May 27, 2011 at 6:08 PM  

Great post and totally agree. Just like movie reviews, it's all subjective and just because one person doesn't like a book doesn't mean no one else will. We all like different things and we all read in different ways. For me, negative reviews tell me just as much about a book as a good review and I'll make my own decision whether I read it or not. There's no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Tina May 28, 2011 at 11:02 AM  

Good points on negative reviews! :) I try not to be afraid to write negative reviews especially if the book disagreed with what I believe in or if it just really annoyed me. The trick is writing it with respect and honesty. It's easy to start bashing the author when writing a negative review (along the lines of "What was the author thinking?! Were they even thinking here?"), so there should be conscious effort on making the review as objective as it can be.

I have to admit that it's harder to write a negative review when you have interacted with the author personally, or when the book comes from a book tour and the other people who have read it before you liked it so much. But I really admire reviewers who are not afraid to say why they didn't like the book even when they are in the minority.

Ellison May 29, 2011 at 1:33 PM  

I agree with Tina in regards to interacting with the author before reading his/her book. It's tough when you genuinely like and respect the author but don't feel the same towards their book.

Often I find myself trying to pick out good things about the book and working around what I disliked. Have to say, I am trying to refrain from that now because it's not fair to other readers.

Great topic, great post!

Laura @ The Shabby Rabbit May 30, 2011 at 12:45 PM  

I too totally agree. My blog is foremost for me to capture the fleeting impressions and emotions of what I read. Sometimes those are not glowing. One thing I know from the business world that never dawned on me to use in reviews is positive sandwiching. Point out a positive, Ie: the humor was great, state the negative, close with a positive.

I think I'll try that and the tip about stating if a book is outside my norm. That's a great one!

quirkygirlsread May 30, 2011 at 2:51 PM  

I agree. There are ways of sharing an opinion that is less than favorable while maintaining respect and honesty. Great post!

-jehara

Anita May 31, 2011 at 1:42 PM  

Great post Jenn. It's very hard to write a review when I wanted to much to love a book, and I instead come out more luke warm. I don't always review a book I couldn't finish, or I post that it just wasn't for me. There are too many books out there.
Thanks for your honesty!

Audra June 1, 2011 at 3:03 PM  

Great post. I too try to be fair and even-handed when I review a book I didn't like -- and I try to acknowledge that usually, disliking a book says something about me, and not the book!

CarolOates June 2, 2011 at 5:47 PM  

Great post. Reviews are like people, they come in every shape and size imaginable. From an author's point of view they aren't always fun but a writer who thinks they will please every single reader will be left disappointed. Varied opinions make things interesting. From a reader's point of view I won't pick up a book that I know I will hate. My spare time is too precious to me to put myself through that. However, I will pick up a book with lots of negative reviews if there is something in the reviews that grabs my interest.

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