Bookish Chat About: Negative Reviews: Should you keep your mouth shut?….

We’ve all been there.

You’re pumped for a book that you’ve seen all over the socials. It has a humongous publicity campaign, all the people who’s book opinions you value are waxing lyrical about it and YOU CAN’T WAIT!

You finally get it in your grubby mitts and you hunker down and begin to read…..

Ok, so maybe it’s just off to a bad start but you know it’s about to get good!…..it has to…..

You’ll give it a few more pages because surely it’s about to blow your socks off!…..

Any minute now……

Maybe the end will blow you away!……

Erm……..was THAT it?!

The End.

What was all the hoo-ha about?

Perplexing.

When I asked on twitter recently if an unpopular opinion post had any place the resounding answer was yes! Now I don’t know if you guys are just hovering waiting to see which books I’ll bash……which super popular smash hits I’ll deride BUT if you are then you’ll be disappointed.

I WILL of course mention the books I didn’t enjoy at the end of this post so if you’re all about instant gratification you can scroll down and get to the big reveal. But I won’t be providing hugely in-depth reviews of them, nor will I be tearing them apart. If however you don’t mind me waffling for a bit, strap in!

When I read a book I love I immediately want to write the review and share the book excitement. Shout it from the rooftops and hope that maybe other bookish folk will join me. Conversely, when I’ve not enjoyed a book, I will close it quietly, put it into the charity shop pile and forget about it. This does of course mean that I rarely, if ever, write negative reviews for my blog.

I can see that this might mean that from the outside it might look like I love ALL the books I read but that’s really not the case. I just find it easy to write about the books I’ve enjoyed. I feel like it’s a waste of my efforts to write about something I’ve not loved. I have precious little free time as it is, I work full time and have two children (and a husband, let’s not forget him!) and if I’m sitting down to write something, I want it to be positive and hopefully a catalyst for someone to head to a book they maybe might not have considered.

Don’t get me wrong, if there is an element of a book I’ve read that I didn’t enjoy I will of course make reference to it in my review but overall if a book has been reviewed on my blog then it’s a safe assumption that I’ve enjoyed it. I think going forward into 2019 I will endeavour to write reviews regardless of whether I’ve enjoyed a book or not. What are your thoughts on this? Not allllll the time of course, but maybe just throw in a few negative Nancy curveballs?

Whilst I appreciate that negative reviews can be helpful in steering us away from wasting our time with a book. I also don’t want to fall into the trap of putting someone off a book completely without giving it a go. As we all know, we can’t all like the same books. The world would be proper dullsville if we did. But I do find myself absorbing the opinions of the booktubers/bloggers I respect the opinions of and maybe putting off a book I was excited to get to based on their negativity towards it.

What can I say? I’m heavily influenced people!

The problem this year with me goes beyond just writing a negative review. Way beyond! I’ve found a handful of books I’ve read this year I’ve really not enjoyed and I have kept my trap fairly shut about it on Twitter and on here for fear of retribution. I didn’t want to have to go into hiding based on my book opinions!

So it’s difficult when the books you really didn’t like are the ones EVERYONE is raving about! The ones your bookish influencers are extolling the virtues of ON THE DAILY, the ones winning Book Of The Year awards (massive hint there for the Columbo’s and Miss Marples amongst you).

I enjoy the conversations that happen when a book divides opinion, but there’s usually a fairly equal division. So when you feel like you’re the only one being the Negative Nelly it can be a lonely old place and far too daunting to stick your head above the parapet and say ‘well actually I didn’t like it’.

Today kids, I am going to stick my head above that bloody parapet, be brave and stand by my decisions.

As I said at the start I am not going to tear into any books, I am merely divesting myself of my dirty book secrets, by which I mean naming the popular books I haven’t enjoyed. Maybe then I’ll feel cleansed.

DEEP BREATH.

HERE GOES:

First up we have Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss.

I cannot tell you how much I was looking forward to this book after reading and loving Night Waking and The Tidal Zone. However I just didn’t quite get this one. I found it instantly forgettable. In fact I can barely remember what went on as I’m writing this.  It is a super short book but it felt like a struggle to reach the climax. I think part of my disappointment with this book was that I had expected it to be more creepy.  I’d heard there was the voice of a ‘bog girl’ when in reality we hear barely anything from her.  I think her narrative appears once at the beginning or very sporadically at any rate, but I may be remembering that incorrectly…Sarah Moss can write, and I usually love her writing style but the dialogue ran into the normal prose and I didn’t find it a comfortable read in that respect.  Overall it was not a hit for me.

Next up we have Peach by Emma Glass and interestingly I wrote a review of this early on in my blogging history which whilst not being hugely negative was a different kind of review for me.  Go check it out here  This book made me feel like I’d somehow ‘failed’ as a reader in some way.  I felt like I just wasn’t clever enough to ‘get it’ yet everyone around me was! As I mention in the review Emma Glass is a great writer but the strange characters in this story were a step too far for my reading tastes.

Then we have Crudo by Olivia Laing. I will say that I loved the cover of this book! It’s extremely eye catching. However the contents were not for me! I felt like every current affairs topic had been shoehorned into the story and I just didn’t gel with the narrator.

And finally……

Possibly the two books I’m most afraid of mentioning.

Brace yourselves.

Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends and Normal People were not to my liking at all. I read them both fully although I did consider DNF’ing Normal People. I just don’t feel I enjoy or identify with the millennial voice. I thought that Marianne and Connell’s story in Normal People hinged tenuously on the smallest of miscommunications and I couldn’t decide if that was genius or irritating. In the end I plumped for irritating I’m afraid. I didn’t like that there was no clear differentiation of dialogue and found some of the minutiae of explanations a little dull. The smallest of actions explained to the nth degree. Conversations With Friends just didn’t grab my attention I’m afraid. I found the characters a little pretentious and the storyline didn’t grip me, it is certainly not a book that sticks in my memory. I am not sure I will ever be a Rooney fan but I am open minded and will try her work again in the future.

So there we have it! I hope we can still be bookish pals?!

I am super cautious about publishing this post but I think we’re all adult enough to understand that we won’t all like the same authors and the same types of books. Life would be very dull if we did!

PLEASE PLEASE bear in mind that if you see someone commenting that they didn’t enjoy a book, this doesn’t mean YOU won’t! Please give books a try and form your own opinions. It makes for very interesting bookish conversations and that’s what it’s all about!

Anyway, that’s all for me on the subject. Please do get in touch with your thoughts (if you’re still talking to me!).

Love you.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

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42 thoughts on “Bookish Chat About: Negative Reviews: Should you keep your mouth shut?….

  1. As long as people clearly explain the reasons why they didn’t like a book, I find negative reviews helpful! I do like to read them and usually don’t have a problem writing them. We all enjoy different things after all!
    Almost everyone has been raving about Conversations with Friends and Normal people, but no one has managed to convince me to read them. They don’t sound like something I’m interested in.

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    1. Yes I feel it’s important to give reasons but sometimes I just get a ‘feeling’ and can’t quite put my finger on why I didn’t like a book. In those cases I wouldn’t write a review as there wouldn’t be much point! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a very well written and thoughtful post. Like you I blog my reviews because I want people discover the books I love and want to shout about. Not everyone will agree, but at least they may give it a go and/or look into other books by the same author and publisher. I’m not interested in posting negative reviews personally, but I get that others do. I may mention on Twitter if I didn’t like a particular book, but that’ll be it. Then again, I’m not a very adventurous reader and I usually stick to what I like genre/author/publisher wise, so it’s rare that I DNF a book. I recently abandoned Rotherweird about 150 pages in just because I wasn’t feeling it, not because it was bad or anything. It just didn’t engage me or really interest me enough to carry on. I may return to it at some point in the future though.

    It’s a personal choice in the end. I guess what it really boils down to is that you post what you want to post on *your* blog 😉

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I was proper nervous about that post but people seemed to want to hear which books I didn’t like…..I know that going forward I am highly likely to not post negative reviews but wanted people to know that I don’t LOVE every book I read. I just like to spend my time writing about the books I love. Having said that, I wouldn’t entirely rule out a negative review. As long as it’s constructive of course!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s one of those eternal topics which people will always debate about. And to me, as to a newbie, it all looks very peculiar, funny and strange. Only a few months ago I wouldn’t have even thought such dilemmas existed in reviewers’ worlds, to be or not to be the blogger who posts a negative review. As a consumer, I naively used to think that a reviewer just reviews. But apparently not. That’s why I stopped trusting many reviewers, by the way. If they say they only praise, I don’t read them. Why should I? It’s my time, I’d better spend it on those who will give me more information on what’s happening in the world of books, i.e. information on both good and bad books.

    I, for example, never had a problem with posting a negative review. I would have added “yet” but I don’t really see how that would change without me not just deleting my blog altogether. I mean, the only (or one of the most important) reasons I’m online with my opinion at all is that I can actually express it. To be tortured by a book and not to be able to say how bad it was, what’s the reason of having a platform for speaking out at all?

    As you can see, I have accumulated some thoughts on the matter 🙂 I’m happy you posted the negative reviews. (I can’t believe someone holds the words review and praise as synonyms). Negative reviews are fine! That’s the aim of a review to REVIEW a book, not to applaud it or hide it away.

    In fact, I heard somewhere that a negative feedback is better than no feedback for a promotion. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but a negative review does make a book more noticeable than no review at all. I also talked to an author who thinks that negative reviews are important because they help to make future books better. So, those are pretty legit reasons, I think.

    Main point for me though is, just say what you thought. What is the point of being here at all, otherwise? 🙂

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    1. It’s a subject I’ve seen very different opinions on. I don’t think I’ll ever be a person who’s entirely comfortable posting a negative review but if I feel it necessary I will. I’m much happier spending my time writing about books I’ve loved. We’re all different I suppose! That’s what makes us interesting! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. X

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  4. Good post, Amanda. It is perfectly ok to not like a book, no reader can love everything and people can have widely differing opinions even with authors that they like a lot. I do try and avoid hyped books as these tend to be the biggest disappointments for me. I tend to avoid using words like hate when reviewing as that is a highly emotive word and often isn’t helpful and indicate that I didn’t like the book rather than the book is at fault.

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    1. Yes I do feel that sometimes books just haven’t been the right fit for me as a reader and there’s nothing wrong per se with the actual book itself. If there’s massive hype around a book it does tend to push it further down my TBR for me.

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  5. This is a good review… We cannot like all books and should not like all books. We would become robots then… 😂 😂 So write your views about the book and chill out. If someone doesn’t like, their problem. I like honest reviews, positive or negative. It is your view, and I respect it

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    1. ‘Chill out’ is good advice indeed! It’s a divisive topic but ultimately it comes down to what an individual wants to post on their blog.

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  6. Don’t be afraid of writing bad reviews. They are often more insightful – if the reviewer says why they didn’t like the book rather than simply indulging themselves in a bit of ‘hatchet-jobbery’ (although that’s fun to read too) – and often readers will go to the book out of interest, simply to see if they agree with you or not. And don’t forget that your blog is about your taste. If readers think you’re soft-soaping, there’ll be less likely to trust your positive reviews. Go on, get your claws out!

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    1. Get your claws out! Love this! I can’t see me ever being a huge negative review poster but I agree that negative reviews garner interest and can be useful to readers.

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  7. Great post!!
    I think I try ‘protect’ myself in some ways by staying in my preferred genres and vetting the books ahead of time as much as possible… but I still run into some stinkers. In that case, I try to write a balanced review. Finding some good things about it or trying to predict who might like the book or what other books it’s like.
    That’s why most of my reviews are 4-5 stars, with some 3s and a few 2s.
    V good discussion by other bloggers on your post also!

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    1. Yes it’s interesting to get a discussion going. We all have different views on the subject and I think ultimately you must do what’s right for you on your blog. I agree that I am much more choosy with the books I review now and try to ‘vet’ them as much as I can before agreeing to review them. I’ve fallen fowl of a few duds in the past 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I find that if a book is really bad, I won’t finish it. The only time I ever write negative-ish reviews are when it didn’t live up to the immense hype surrounding it and then it’s going to more of a 2 to 3 star review rather than worse.
    I have read some shockers of indie /self-published fiction but I try and resist the hatchet job, regardless of how tempting it feels, ill just settle for a low star rating on Goodreads.

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  9. Negative reviews are essential and I have no problem writing them. I am totally confident and comfortable doing so. I am also interested in reading negative reviews of others. If there is an unpopular opinion it just means normality and that someone is thinking without being influenced by others. It produces a healthy debate and fascinating discussions. I don’t see any problem in that. Btw I am about to write a negative review of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Some people may not like it, but it is my opinion and I put it out there. My previous negative review was of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – I really enjoyed writing that.

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      1. Chances are you will like it since I am in the minority with my opinion. I put my arguments in my review, just for people to maybe take them into their consideration and decide. I never tell them not read something 🙂

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  10. This post is wonderful. Beautifully written and thoughtful too. I totally agree. We shouldn’t be constrained to like everything , we DO all have different tastes and we should be able to say so. Its also true that bloggers look as if they are devaluing books if they LOVE everything, who would believe that? But i also feel for the authors and wouldn’t want to slate anybody. I have only once done negative on my blog- and i did a few disappointments rather than one negative. Honesty with respect is key.

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    1. Oh definitely be respectful. I can’t imagine I will ever post a lot of negative reviews, I just can’t be bothered sitting down to write about something I didn’t like.

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  11. You shouldn’t be afraid to post negative reviews, I love reading rants and hearing the reasons a book didn’t work for someon.. it’s always highly entertaining and I like being warned about a novel too. I also don’t mind if someone comments they didn’t like a book while I gave it 5 stars.. well it’s a shame they don’t share the same opinion but I don’t mind in the end. You do what you want but I wouldn’t mind more reviews like these 😘

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    1. Each to their own in bookish opinions and each to their own with what they choose to share on their blog. I definitely have more ‘muted’ reviews on my blog but I can’t imagine I’ll ever be a prolific negative reviewer

      Liked by 1 person

  12. For me the blog is a kind of writing exercise and although I only use it to write reviews and I take extreme care to try and discern whether a book is for me or not, to avoid having to read something I’m not likely to enjoy, there will inevitably be the duds, because I got carried away with the opinions of others and stopped listening to my inner voice, the one that knows if a book is for me or not. That said, because its a writing exercise and not just a space to share the positive experiences, I decided that if I did read a book I didn’t like I wanted to try and understand that with the same depth and to present it in a way that doesn’t put other readers off. Because that is a challenge.

    Thankfully it rarely happens, but when it does, I become both teacher and pupil and reach into compassion and understanding and never forget that this person spent much time and effort creating this work, so I bear that in mind. I am defintiely interested in the views of readers who didn’t like a book though, I want to know whether their challenges are likely to resonate with me or not, so I appreciate a thoughtful response to why someone didn’t like a book. Just like we would in conversation, delving into why, for perhaps we are actually revealing a part of who we are.

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  13. I understand completely your dilemma. I have chosen to review EVERY book I read. I don’t know if I’m being fair to everyone – but I try to be. Even if I don’t care for a book, if someone reads my review it will make them ‘aware’ of the title and perhaps it will be their favourite book. As they say, “there is a book for every person – and a person for every book”.
    If you find there are not a lot of low rated reviews on my site, it is mostly due to the fact that I choose the books I read for the most part. There have been a few stinkers, but hey, that is just my opinion. You might think the opposite.

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  14. For the exact same reasons my blog is also full of positive reviews (I always add in what I thought didn’t work well for me too though, for balance). If I’m honest if I don’t enjoy a book I just DNF it, and it’s not fair to write a review on something I haven’t even finished! I think the world is negative enough without me adding to it and potentially putting a reader off something that, just maybe, for them would have been incredible. I’m on the side of positivity and shouting for what you love, and brushing under the carpet what you didn’t. But, that’s just me!

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  15. Very interesting to read this. I’m not a book blogger but do read one or two as well as reviews in the Guardian. I recently ploughed through a book which I really didn’t enjoy, despite having liked previous novels by the same author. I found it helpful to check on Goodreads what other people thought and it was quite reassuring! I suppose it’s different for a professional critic who is paid to give a thorough analysis of what they find good or bad, and I understand your reticence to be negative. On the other hand, if you only write about what you like, are you losing context? I read a bit of a concert goer’so blog and everything she saw was wonderful or marvellous in some way. I believe she had a background in PR; as a review it was pointless.

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    1. I don’t think my positive reviews are pointless and I hope people don’t see them that way. If I’ve reviewed a book on my blog, chances are I’ve liked it. If I’ve not liked a book I’ll mention it on social media but I really have very little time to sit down and construct a review about something I didn’t enjoy. I am hard pressed to find time to write about what I’ve enjoyed! As it’s just a hobby and I work and have a family. I don’t get paid for my time. If there is something about a book I’ve not enjoyed but still liked the book overall I will of course mention it.

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  16. Didn’t mean to imply that positive book reviews were pointless! Sorry if that’s how it came across and it was pointless to compare them to concert reviews – if you’ve not been there you won’t get the experience, unlike a book which can be read any time. I think that is the difference: when you’re doing something for love and fitting it round the rest of your life it’s completely understandable to make it a pleasurable activity. I’m posting some ‘reviews’ on Goodreads for #BookReviewGift but only of books I’ve enjoyed this year.

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  17. This is a terrific post (bold, brave, honest), especially as you are a book blogger and your reviews will reach far more people than if I leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. I think, in general, we have shifted to a rating system that forgoes the ones and twos. Five is great, four is good, and three can be anything from ‘meh-boring’ to ‘not my cup of tea’.

    I think, like many people, I would feel that a one or two would reflect as poorly on me as it would the author, and simply, for someone who has taken the time to write a whole book and put it out there, those ratings are cruel. If I truly feel a book is a one or a two, I don’t leave a review because I can’t find anything to praise.

    Still, I’m an author as well as a reader and I know my writing won’t be for everyone. That said, I would prefer no review to a one or two.

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  18. I think all and every opinion is valid. Whether you like something or not, you are entitled to your opinion. Others are welcome to disagree either way.
    Since this is also your blog, if you don’t want to write about something, it’s all up to you.

    I haven’t read any of these books, so i don’t know whether i’d like them or not but it’s interesting to see why you didn’t enjoy them 🙂

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  19. Loved reading your post..!! And I can totally relate with your feelings…! Its sucks when everyone whose opinion matters rave about a book and you internally feel that it sucked , how can everyone like it…!!

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  20. I love that you brought this discussion up because I think a lot of book lovers struggle with knowing when to talk about a book they didn’t like! I think that negative reviews definitely need a place in the book community, but by negative I mean low star ratings, not harsh or mean ramblings about how much a book sucked without any constructive criticism. We of course all have different feelings about books, and I think that talking about what you think could’ve been better in a book is good because it not only gives other readers the opportunity to see if they want to check the book out (especially if the critiques are significant, like blatant racism, slut-shaming, sexism, etc), but it also gives an author a chance to see both views on their books! I think the time to keep opinions to one’s self is when they hate a book but have no clear reason why (which is not wrong! I’ve disliked books but not been able to put my finger on why before). I think if you don’t have anything constructive to add, it’s best to just move on from the book! There’s nothing wrong with not liking a novel and not really knowing why, but if that’s the case then it’s just best to leave it be.

    All of the books you mentioned have clear explanations why you didn’t like them: you didn’t mesh well with the content, you didn’t quite understand the story, etc. These are perfect examples of how to critique a book in an approachable, constructive way! You didn’t trash the story with no context, and you explained why you didn’t like it. I actually rather enjoyed your explanations of why you didn’t care for each, and I’d definitely like to read some more of your opinions on books you didn’t care for!

    When it comes to disliking a book that everyone else loved, you are so right! It can be so lonely and feel like everyone now distrusts your opinion because you didn’t like a book that they loved. I think that everyone just has to remember that we all read a book quite differently. We don’t all connect to the same type of characters or story lines, and that shouldn’t mean isolation! Sometimes its hard to speak out against a book that you see everyone else praising, but it’s important to be able to talk about books constructively without fear of retribution. Some bigger authors have fans who are poised to strike if someone trashes their book. It’s honestly very silly that as readers we are sometimes made to feel like if we didn’t like a story that we should just stay quite on it.

    Sorry for such a long rant, I just haven’t seen anyone else talk about this yet and I’m so glad someone finally did!

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    1. Hi! Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and write this insightful comment! I totally agree that sometimes you can’t explain WHY you didn’t like a book and you are absolutely right that those are the times to keep quiet! Even since writing this post I have DNF’d a couple of books that I wasn’t getting on with purely because lots of people commented on here that they don’t tend to write negative reviews because they don’t actually finish a book they’re not enjoying! Its been a bit of a revelation to me. I will always metion negative aspects of books regardless of whether I enjoyed it. Not many books are perfect. Thanks again x

      Liked by 1 person

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