Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Discussion Post- My Reviews

After looking around the blogosphere and seeing posts about negative reviews, I read some thoughts and comments (and have heard this same sort of thing elsewhere in an unrelated discussion) that made me think about my own reviews. Yes, this is essentially a self-centered post and are my sort of stream-of-consciousness thoughts on this matter so I'm not sure how much sense it will all make.

Several people said that they find it off-putting when a blog has only positive reviews and they feel that they can't trust the blogger in question because how can every book be amazing? This made me think about my own blog because my reviews are always positive, which then led me to think about my readers. Do my readers trust my reviews? Do they even read my reviews, or am I losing my audience because of my consistently positive reviews? Because if everything's good, why read my review? Should I even continue being a blogger? Other book bloggers seem to do much better because they have such a variety of reviews- 1 star to 5 stars. You never know what's going to come up next and that makes the blog intriguing. Is my blog bland in the review aspect of it? Or, like I saw someone else say, is it becoming more like a promotion site than book blog?

One other thing that really frustrates me is when people equate "honest" with "positive and negative". I am always honest in my reviews. I am not just kissing ass or anything. These are my honest thoughts and my honest perspective, which may not always include a negative side of things. Am I somehow not being honest when my review is all positives just because someone else saw flaws within the book?

This has been bothering me for a while so it's nice to be able to finally type this out and get it posted. Any thoughts, suggestions, boosts of confidence (as I'm feeling insecure at the moment), whatever would be fantastic. And just so everyone knows, I am moderating all comments on all posts but every comment will get published. I'm mainly doing this just because of the spam I've been getting (always written in Chinese/Japanese language, which I find really odd- has anyone else been getting this?) so it is not some tactic to weed out negative comments, so feel free to say whatever you want.

ETA: So I was looking through my Amazon reviews today and in my review for Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby, someone had left a comment saying that since I only post 5 star reviews (that should change when I go through my reviews and post them up on Amazon and there should be a little more variety then), I must be a shill, which is someone who praises or talks up an item to veil the hidden truth of its suckiness and to get people to buy it anyway.

This comment was posted in early March but I'm just now coming across it. I thought it was funny though that it happened to be the same week I talk about my reviews, lol.


  1. If you're truly being honest and just giving your thoughts on the book (even if they're all positive), that's not a bad thing. I think the problem some people have is that posting only positive reviews can come across as dishonest; the reader may wonder if there's lying by omission going on if all they ever see are glowing reviews.

    I follow so many blogs that I can't remember if someone is posting only positive reviews, so I don't think it would necessarily affect whether I kept reading or not.

  2. Wow this topic has been making the rounds lately.

    You asked about the foreign language posts yes I have been getting them but nothing lately.

    The question that comes to mind is who are we blogging for? For ourselves or others?

    What you might have really enjoyed, I might not so i guess it depends on the reader. But I think if you are honest then that is all the matters.

    We aren't being paid for reviews. Perhaps we aren't as critical as others are who dissect the book to shreds. I read because I love to read and I think my good reviews come because I am very picky about what books I accept to review.

    Gee did any of that make sense?

  3. Don't quit blogging! That's not allowed! You were one of the firsts and you'd better stay aroudn to be one of the last!

    I know what you mean about all positive posts...I feel the same way about mine because generally, I like everything. I've noticed that I've started to get pickier over time, though.

    If you feel like your reviews really are too positive, maybe try to include one thing you didn't like in each review or something.

    But no quitting!

  4. I love your reviews! They are always relevant and well thought out. I always get a sense of why you enjoyed a book and what you didn't like about it.

    I am like you, I almost always write positive reviews, and I am 100% honest. I don't think negativity equates to honesty. And I often think the opposite, some bloggers (not all) write negative reviews just to build an audience. Of course, I don't read those blog.

  5. Oops.

    Last word should have read "blogs."

  6. There two reasons I can think of for people to post only positive, honest reviews:

    They don't like to post negative stuff, so if they don't like a book, they just won't mention that book. They only give coverage to books they like.

    They like everything they read--or at least can find something positive to say about everything they read. (For example, if they didn't like a book, they still might be able to say what audience would like it.)

    Not every review site runs this way, but these are valid approaches. Isn't there room for every kind of review site?

    (posting anonymously just b/c OpenID isn't working!)

  7. This is such a good discussion, and your interest in it and honesty around it is heartening. I think that since we're entering a new era of reading and writing, and it's people like you who are leading the way - whatever that way turns out to be - it's important that you go for it: follow your passion and your heart. I enjoy your writing a lot - I just added you to my list of book bloggers on my site that I'm trying to compile.

  8. Great Post! I have a book feature called Monday Madness and I pick which books I want to feature that I know that majority of readers would like. So, when it comes down to it, these books get good reviews, I know what I like in a book so I've been lucky to choose some amazing books to feature. I have the 5 Star review and I only have 1 book on my site that received lower than a 3. But, I'm always honest with my reviews but you know what? What I may love about a book, the next person may not but that's how it is.

  9. I really loved your discussion post- and what you said about how "honest reviews" don't have to be just negative really resonated with me. I'm VERY picky myself over what I review- I mean why would I want to read a book I hate? Who has time for that and what is the fun of that? So I've been real fortunate with enjoying the books I've received too and almost always have written positive ones. I think you you should keep on doing what you are doing- I love your blog and reviews! :) Keep up the good work!

  10. Well I've only just started reading you but so far I have loved your reviews, so I hope you keep blogging.

    I only really have positive reviews on my blog because I barely have time to write reviews of books I love and also because I want to share and get other people reading books I really liked. I try to say why I liked them and why others might like them.

    Really I think of my blog more as a "I want to share this great book with you" blog rather than a review blog because I know if I really like something I am capable of overlooking all kinds of flaws :) So the honest/positive thing rang a bell with me.

    Interesting question though I may (time allowing) write more on what/why/how I review.

  11. As an author and teacher who has sat in on many years of writing workshops I KNOW things can be said constructively and informatively without ever veering into the negative or hurtful. The blogosphere allows for a blind bluster of opinions that inspire people to be "honest" in a way that I actually find disturbingly "dishonest." A face to face workshop or even a print magazine with a subscription list requires more civility in its discourse and in some cases more social knowledge of the topic at hand. The negative blogger, on the other hand, can lead with their first and not be held accountable for the damage they do to reputations. Dishing the dirt may be a heck of way to relieve anxiety, but in general, negativity isn't good for global conversations about literature which should be about spotting and understanding trends, understanding why certain writing works.
    It actually does my heart good to know that a blogger such as yourself is thinking about this issue. Ten stars out of ten for you and if you keep on blogging, I'll keep on reading.

  12. I think you shouldn't feel pressured, however, that does seem to be the way of the book blogosphere, huh? I admire you for not caving into the pressure. In the beginning I did. Then when I really did not like a book too much I still felt guilty about saying anything bad because I was too harsh and negative before. That probably doesn't make sense, but I guess it would be that in my mind I was wanting to make up for the pressured negatives from before.

    Blogging for me was such a stressful and pressured thing that I just stopped even after trying again and again. I don't want you to go through that so I say keep doing what you're doing. Try hard to ignore all the people out there who think they know everything and can tell other bloggers how they should be running their blogs. You're the only one who knows how to run YOUR blog.

  13. LaCoccinelle- But how is the reader to know if a blogger is being honest in their consistent positivity? I wonder if anyone just thinks "He can't really love everything. He must be lying and just kissing ass." while reading my reviews.

    Cindy- I get them like every other day. It's frustrating, but at least with the moderation, it's easier to weed them out.

    That is a good question to bring up. I blog for myself because I find it fun, but at the same time, that's not enough because I want readers to comment on my posts. Not necessarily just for my own ego or whatever, but I feel bad for the author who I've interview or whose book I reviewed or read from in a vlog. But your comment definitely makes sense.

    Harmony- Hah, I don't think I'd ever actually quit blogging. It was almost a rheotircal question. Besides, if I did quit blogging, I'd want to review all the TBR books I have and it would be like I never quit, lol, because I'd be posting so much.

    I hear you on being more picky. I feel like my reviews have gotten better over time and I'm a bit more critical in my reviews and find one or two flaws in a book. But still, I always still really enjoy all books. I don't think I've ever given a book less than a C grade, and that was probably just one book that got the C. Most everything I read gets As and Bs.

    I think one of the things that made me more critical in my reviews were people who said my reviews were too positive and that I was a bad reviewer because I never hated anything. So I think because of that, I ended up looking more for flaws within a book and becoming more receptive to them. But at the same time, I'm still giving out good grades to books despite the flaws I find since there are so few from my perspective. *shrugs* So I dunno, lol.

    Shalonda- Aw thanks! Glad you like my reviews! :) And yeah, I hear ya on the building a readership from negative reviews, though I haven't come across any blogs like that. I do know they're out there but I guess I always manage to find the good ones, lol.

    Anon- Really good point, and I'd definitely fall into the latter category. I just love reading so much that I guess that makes me enjoy most everything I read for pleasure. And you're right, there's room for every kind of review site. And I'm sorry OpenID wasn't working, but you still could've left your name!

    Winslow- Thanks so much for the wonderful comment! I'm glad you enjoy my site and my posts. That really makes me happy. And thanks for adding me to your list! :)

  14. Once, my job was to be a food critic for a local newspaper. My guidelines were that I shouldn't post negative reviews -- not because of any of the reasons you ist here, but because the point of my column was to recommend restaurants to people -- to find restaurants they may not have heard of -- or maybe had heard of but hadn't tried -- and show them why they should give those restaurants a whirl.

    That being said, a few bad reviews sneaked in -- often if I'd ben utterly shocked by how bad a highly recommended place was or for some other very unusual reason. But mostly, my column concentrated on recommending things to folks.

    I think it's a perfectly valid paradigm.