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The struggles of reviewing as a book blogger….. and a writer.

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.

woman working girl sittingPhoto 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.

What do you think?

54 thoughts on “The struggles of reviewing as a book blogger….. and a writer.”

  1. I hate writing reviews for books I didn’t really enjoy. I always request books that I believe I will enjoy for this reason. I never tear a book apart, like I’ve seen other reviewers do, I tend to include what I did like and then explain why I didn’t like certain things. I always try to say that “This could just be me”. There’s been a few books that I haven’t really enjoyed and I’ve been in the minority for, I always point that out, stating that I’m glad I’m in the minority on it and that I’m so happy so many others enjoyed it.

    I also write, and I find I pick out flaws in writing and sometimes restructure sentences in my head in the way I would have written it, but I never put these things in my reviews.

    I find if you’re talking about the good, then maybe touch on things you didn’t really like, you’re pretty safe. It’s only when someone completely tears a book down and has no constructive criticism in it that I find it would be hurtful to the author.

    I never write blog posts for books I didn’t finish, but I will write a brief explanation on goodreads as to why I didn’t finish it. I actually had the author of a book comment on one of these reviews recently, and he actually thanked me for being so considerate.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I agree completely. It actually makes me really angry because you know that those people don’t see the book as someone’s heart and soul. I feel like they don’t understand what goes in to writing one.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Fab post! I also struggle to write negative reviews and have been sitting on two I recently read that I want to share but feel awkward about it. From reading comments on social media and blogs I thin the way to go is explain why you personally didn’t like it so it’s about you rather than the author. Hope that helps?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with so much of this! I don’t and probably won’t write negative reviews either, but I do write rather mixed reviews… books I’ve mostly enjoyed, but – sort of thing.

    I have no problem with negative reviews, but I just don’t write them. If I don’t finish a book then I don’t write a review.

    It’s an interesting discussion.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I will mention flaws in books but if I really dislike them I don’t share a review. Also as I writer, I get irked by technical aspects that readers might not notice like character motivation etc. so I’m coming at it from a different angle. On the review copy front – it’s a tricky one. I’m very careful to only join campaigns for books I know I’ll enjoy. Mainly because of time constraints, but also because I want to stay as neutral as possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It is very tricky, I try to pick books that I will most probably like in some capacity. If my reading experience is negative I try my best to review in a way that the writer can learn from it. The best reviews Ive had for my stuff are the critical ones because I can learn from it as a writer.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I write negative review, even for my DNF. I have spent time reading it even if it is 10%.but it is my time, so I write a review.
    Also I try to skim read if the book is bad to see if it improves, if it doesn’t I say it.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. If a movie is bad, we say directly it was pretty bad, we don’t think then how many people have worked hard at it. If the food at the restaurant is bad, I don’t eat it but I review saying it was bad. Hence books come in the same category. For me, books are expensive and I don’t get many free books by publishers so I believe in being honest and saying it. Even at work, boss does not pay if the project is not up to the mark, gives me a bad overall review, he doesn’t see my hard work. So I keep to my own principles of honesty

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I look at it that publicists and authors are looking to make money from their product, the book. This money comes from the paying public. I don’t like paying for a book that had only great reviews, only to find that it has flaws.
    I always read the 2*, 3* and 4* reviews before any 5* ones. They often give a more rounded, balanced review. I’m happy to decide to buy a book from an honest review that says there were things which didn’t work for the reviewer, with backed up reasons. I might not mind those flaws, but I like to know about them up front.
    In fact, I prefer to trust book bloggers who know how to find the flaws and can say them without bashing a book.
    If you write a balanced review with reasons for any faults that you find, it can also help a writer improve their work. Most writers will accept this.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I do a similar thing. I point out what “didn’t work for me” and what did work. I also include bonus tips for writers at the end if the review, where I try to highlight some strong point of the writing-most books have one-and show what I learned about writing from reading that book.

      I have written critical reviews, but I try to be kind. If it’s a DNF & I read a substantial part of the book, then I review but don’t assign stars on Goodreads or Amazon. (One was a DNF after 400 pages. The book was 500 pages, I had spent at least 10 hours reading, and I felt I was justified in reviewing it. If the book had been a non-starter & I had given up after 10 pages, I wouldn’t have bothered.)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Honesty all the way! If you didn’t like the book, say so, but explain the reasons (and flaws in the writing style are valid reasons) and try to pick out some positives too or say how the book could be improved. Those are my principles, cos I’m a writer too and I tend to be more critical about the writing style than many other bloggers out there.
    I also rarely accept review requests, so there is less chance that I’ll have to write a negative review which an author will actually read.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Some good points, but a bit rambling at points. Sorry, just teasing. Surely Shalini above is more or less right? What is the point of a review that fails to point out flaws? The review is for potential readers, not (primarily) for the author. (I mean, I know it’s the author’s baby but, then again, they are trying to sell you their baby.) Obviously all the stuff about being positive, not rude, etc. is important too. C

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Generally if I don’t like a book I’ll just stop reading it; I have too many books on my TBR list to waste my time with something I’m not enjoying. Whether I leave a review – on Amazon, Goodreads, my blog, whatever – often depends on the level of fame of the author. If it’s someone who already has 100+ reviews and isn’t an indie writer, I’m more likely to leave a negative review because I figure it won’t sting as much. But if it’s someone I know (either IRL or online), an indie author, or they only have a few reviews, I generally won’t leave a negative review. I think sometimes, especially on Goodreads, just seeing how many people have read a book without leaving a star rating or review can tell you a lot about a book, even if they have a high rating.

    I know as authors we’re not supposed to let reviews get to us, but I definitely understand that authors are real people with real feelings, and I try to be mindful of not being rude when I didn’t enjoy a book.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I don’t think I’d review a book I didn’t finish – unless the reason I couldn’t finish was that it was obviously faulty, rather than just not good. Eg if half the pages were blank, missing or suddeny not in English or something else very wrong which clearly should be brought to people’s attention.

    If I didn’t finish simply because I didn’t like it then leaving a negative review would seem unfair as the rest of the book may have been much better, or perhaps it was fine, just not my kind of thing.

    When I feel cheated I do leave negative reviews – that usually happens when what I thought was complete book turns out not to have a proper ending and I’m expected to read the whole series to get a resolution. I hate that.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I seem to have strong instincts for books and have not really read one that needed a negative review for a long time. I’m also easy to please 🤣
    For various reasons I decided I wouldn’t put negative reviews in my blog but I would put kj d negative ones on GR or Amazon if I needed to.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This has been so interesting, because as a new blogger this has been my biggest concern. I want to review books to provoke debate as well as guide people to read books. But I am the sort of person who doesn’t like to offend and I am very well aware that even poorly written books are some ones pride and joy. This has given me lots to think about!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The best thing to do is write a balanced review. Everyone is different and there will always be critical reviews. I just email the authors and explain and then decide. Right now I am deciding whether or not to write and post a review but if I spent money on the book I’d be annoyed. Editing issues

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  15. I do write negative reviews because as I reader I value reading negative reviews as well as positive ones, hey help me form an opinion on whether I’d enjoy a book or not.
    I do always try to be constructive though and explain why it didn’t work for me. I will also review DNF’s if I feel I’ve read enough to give an actual opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Writing reviews is hard, especially in this day and age when writers and reviewers all know each other. It’s cool that we have the direct contact, but if you end up not liking the books it can get a little awkward.
    I also hate judging a book too harshly for writerly things I see, especially because i’m a writer. I know I make mistakes constantly or have areas that need vast improvement. That puts me in a spot where I have to sit back and say, “who am I to judge?”
    I try to just review what I like and leave the negative reviews to the ones who like to write them.

    Thanks for the post. Great job.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I can relate to this! It’s definitely tricky to be honest when you know the author will read the review because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. I try to be balanced and constructive in my reviews. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. As a reviewer myself,I understand exactly where you’re coming from. It’s difficult to leave any kind of negative feedback especially when the author or their representative has made personal contact. For me, if I do have to write something negative I try not to be too harsh and couch it in gentle terms. It still hurts my heart (as my mom likes to say) and I doubt it will ever get easier.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Fab post! As it happens I read a book via The Pigeonhole very recently and I really hated it. I was very frank in my Goodreads review but I won’t post it on my blog. I don’t review all the books I read on my blog, only the ones I have to and the ones that inspire me, usually because I loved them and want to gush. But I do usually put a short review on Goodreads to explain my low rating.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I just love this post. Thank you for writing it. I can write negative reviews for books I bought, but I feel less comfortable when an author has asked for a review and I didn’t enjoy the book. I always try to be constructive. I let the author know, but refuse to change my opinion. Reviews need to be honest.
    Now, I’m not a writer but I work in publishing and like you, sometimes the professional side gets switched on and I notice flaws that regular readers might not see or would forgive!

    Like

  21. Personally I think as a book reviewer it is my job to be critical. I won’t straight out bash a book though. I rarely write reviews of books that I don’t finish and if I finish a book I have to be enjoying it to some extent, right? I always share the pros and cons of my experience.

    When I read book reviews I also keep an open mind. Some of my close blogging friends have very different tastes then I do, or are more critical. When I see a 3 star review from a certain friend I know that I might wind up giving it 5 stars. Then there are other friends that I have that think just like me, if I see they gave a book 5 stars I will request a copy without even reading the blurb. It’s all a matter of opinions, and I think negative ones are just as valuable as the positives.

    It’s a personal preference though. If you don’t want to share critical reviews then don’t. I think the difference is that my reviews are critical rather than negative. I talk about why I had a bad experience or what I didn’t like, I don’t bash the book and say it was horrible and that writer sucks.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This is so difficult! Just this week I wrote a less than positive review ….it was for an ARC and I posted it on netgalley and Goodreads but I elected not to share it on any other platforms. I wanted to fulfil my obligation to netgalley for the ARC but didn’t want to hurt an author’s feelings. Fortunately there were some redeeming qualities of the book I could focus on first. Then I included my concern in the nicest way possible. Probably someone who is familiar with my reviews could spot my dislike right away because it wasn’t my typical type of review. I hated writing it but I find that with practice it gets easier to be honest and kind. A few months ago I had to contact an author and explain that I couldn’t review her book because of certain objectionable content…..she had sent me a request for a review…..she was completely understanding and let me off the hook. I told her I would still write it for amazon but I didn’t feel comfortable promoting it on my blog or Instagram….and that for amazon I’d still have to give a trigger warning and that I couldn’t give more than 3 stars. She said No Thank you! I read lots of reviews before I decide on a read so I absolutely appreciate thoughtful, honest, and kind reviews! And I want to write the same reviews for my followers and build that trust with them. Thanks for a great discussion of an important topic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am deciding whether or not to read review a book on my blog. I think I’ll put it on Amazon because the book needs editing and people need to know before they spend money on it. The author doesn’t seem concerned

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel better putting those types of reviews on amazon rather than my blog. I like putting the most recommendable reads on the blog!

        Like

  23. I also struggle with the time bit. That’s why I only post negative or lukewarm reviews on Goodreads, and they’re usually really short. Because drawing up a blog post with all the formatting that I normally do takes forever… Why would I want to invest all that energy into a post about a book I didn’t like? So I end up only reviewing books I loved on my blog. Maybe it looks weird or as if I love all the books I read, but I mean, I blog as a hobby, so I post what I want 🙂

    Like

  24. Love this post! You’ve put into words a lot of book reviewers’ feelings! Writing negative reviews is always hard, but I keep thinking that I do it first for myself, then the readers. That’s the reason why I only tag authors on positive reviews! But omg this line tho:

    “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.”

    I’m not a writer, per se, but I feel this way all the time when I’m reading! Same pet peeve too with the I, I, I thing! Maybe when we start reviewing books, we can’t simply enjoy them anymore? At least that’s how I feel ever since I started reviewing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I often wonder if it’s just me as a writer. I do it to films to if they’re bad maybe it’s not just me being a writer then but when you read a lot you get sensitive to things. That’s why all writers should read. I didn’t know what the reaction would be to this post and I’m so glad people can relate. Thank you for stopping by and commenting

      Like

  25. I don’t like to, but I have written reviews over books I didn’t like. I felt like the author was watching me though, so I kept the review more honest. I mentioned what was different about the book, something the author may have tried to be unique with. But I try also not to be biased. So, I mention what the author could’ve done better or something that felt off with the book for every review I do. Some type of critique so the author can perhaps improve instead of just a bunch of praise.
    I’d want the same as a writer too. I’ve gotten so much hate for my novel that I think I can take it. I want to know how to improve and what worked more than someone who just spouts priase no matter what I said.

    Liked by 1 person

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