My main struggle as a blogger is finding the time to keep up with my reviewing and write blog posts as well as all the other things… my own writing, work, housework etc etc But there’s a more pressing struggle:
Do you write critical/negative reviews?
This post is about my struggles with reviewing books, not just as a blogger but as a writer. I don’t like to write critical reviews but an honest review might be just that. I don’t want to criticise a book, I rarely do, but then if someone is spending money on a book and reading reviews to see if they’ll like it, shouldn’t I be honest and say if I didn’t?
I only review the books I like, at the moment. But sometimes even if I like a book, there may be a few things I didn’t enjoy. A recent review I published on here was a mix, I enjoyed some of the stories but it wasn’t to my taste and I was honest about it. But it’s a struggle to be honest knowing the author will read the review and they might not like it.
How I began reviewing
I first started reviewing books on Lovereading’s review panel, I chose the books I wanted to read and they’d publish the review on their website. I didn’t have a blog back then and all my reviews were positive because I liked the books. I probably wrote negative ones on Amazon at some point but they were books from my bookshelf not ARCs.
I started my blog ( on blogger which I migrated here) when I joined Netgalley. My reviews were mainly positive, I remember writing one negative review for Netgalley, which was a review of the chapter of a novel I really didn’t enjoy. I had no trouble writing negative thoughts then.
So what happened?
I started getting emails from authors and from publicists or representatives of authors looking for reviews. It was then that writing reviews became trickier.
I don’t like the idea of writing a negative review if someone has asked me to write a review for their book, it’s a bit like bad press. For Netgalley it doesn’t bother me but if an author or publicist or someone has asked me it feels more awkward, but then you can’t always tell if you will like a book from the beginning.
I struggled when I had a lot of books to review last year, I turned a lot of reviews down because I didn’t have the time. And then when I didn’t enjoy some of them. I didn’t want to read books I wouldn’t enjoy and I also didn’t want to write a negative review of books that I didn’t finish. I ended up taking a break because of all this (and my house move of course) and came back to reviewing because I enjoy telling people how great a book is.
Question for book bloggers/reviewers? Do you write negative reviews? Do you finish these books or just explain why you didn’t?
I wonder if it’s ok to write a negative review if you don’t finish a book?
Before when I was only reviewing on Amazon etc I would have no problem writing negative reviews but since I’ve started my blog I can’t. My maternal grandmother once told me I was “too nice” and maybe she’s right:
Writing reviews as a writer.
Thinking as a writer I don’t like the idea of writing a negative review of a book that someone has asked me to read. I just won’t review it. It’s my taste and might not reflect others and I really don’t want my review to mean that someone else doesn’t read the book. It’s not that I think I have any influence, I just don’t like the idea that it could happen. The idea makes me feel guilty.
Allow me a chance to argue with myself here: writers get negative reviews whether I write them or not. You have to have a thick skin, one day I will be published (hope) and I may get them too. Everyone is different and likes different things.
Maybe it’s more to do with how people see me? And I don’t want people to hate me?
Another reason I struggle to review as a writer
Ok, I’m not saying I’m the best writer, I’d love to be half as good as writers like Carlos Ruiz Zafon or Deborah Harkness, to name just two. But when I’m reading my writer brain will often pick out flaws and ways to improve (after hours of trying to improve my own work it’s natural) or compare to great writers.
They say you should learn to read as a writer so you can analyse other people’s books and learn from them to improve your own writing. It would be really helpful if my writing brain would analyse the amazing writing too so I could learn, but it just stops and I gush over a gorgeous sentence (and forget to write quotes down so disorganised) but I can’t see how to write it myself. I’m still learning.
My brain is good at finding flaws but when something is so good… can’t compute… can’t tell me how it is good. Only that it is so fricking good!
The problem with ‘reading as a writer’ is that I can’t always turn it off. I’ll be reading this riveting story and then my writer brain will go ‘ugh, show not tell, I can’t read this’ and then think of how it can improve it. (not good) Or if it’s first person and there’s been a lot of “I” I’ll start counting them. This spoils my enjoyment of the story. And makes me want to stop.
My writing could be the same, my viewpoint could be all over the place, I know I need to learn more about active writing. But then when I review a book I worry that people will think that I am insinuating I can do better. I don’t know if I can. Should I try and shut off that part? I don’t think it’s possible?
Do other readers who are not writers pick up the same flaws? If not should I mention them?
But I wonder when I read a book where I find flaws: did they have no beta readers? No editor or someone to point out mistakes or things that need to be improved? Should I tell them? If it means their writing can improve they should be told but at the same time, they may be crushed.
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com
There is the connundrum.
At the moment If I don’t finish a book I won’t review it. And so far I’ve only had that one review that has had any critical thoughts at all (that I can remember). I try to read books I know I will like to avoid having to turn down a review. I’m bound to eventually read something that doesn’t suit me, that I don’t like. Then I’ll have to decide whether to review it or not.
And at the moment I haven’t read a book that I’ve found flaws etc in but when I do, I’m wondering if I should be honest and explain the flaws? Even if the author may be crushed? The easiest way I can write a critical review is to point out the positive, then tell what I didn’t like.
You might be reading this and thinking just write your honest opinion. It’s difficult, but in being “too nice” I am also not being truly honest? It’s hard to be honest if you didn’t like something. Knowing that the author will know and might feel bad.