Do you give bad reviews?

This is not primarily a book review blog. I do write up book reviews, because I think it’s important, and I think any press is good press, and I like to read, and I like to share. How do we find out about books we might like if other folks don’t talk about them? This is especially true of ‘midlist’ authors. Everyone knows about Stephen King and Neil Gaiman and China Meiville and Robert Jordan. Word of mouth (or blog) is a good thing.

I have a dear friend who, for a time, officially offered reviews. This is coming to an end as she is YAY focusing more on her own in-various-stages-of-production works YAY. She maintained a firm policy of refusing to give bad reviews, so if there was a book she wound up not liking, for whatever reason, instead of talking about why, she simply would not review it.

I’ve been on the fence about that. I think that one needs to at least think about why it doesn’t work — is the writing bad? Does the story not make sense? Is it just a subject you don’t care for? I have given not great reviews in the past; there are some writers whose works just do not work for me. A great example is Guy Gavriel Kay’s work. I’ve tried a bunch. His Fionavar Tapestry series should have been right up my ally. I loved the lushness of his writing, I loved the premises, and I could not progress very far into the series. I also tried three others of his books, to the same end. There’s no flaw in his writing that I can find, I just didn’t care about the stories. So, I wouldn’t give them a bad review (because I never finished) because the a fault in making a connection isn’t the sole province of the author.

I try to separate, too, the writing from what could be editoral and/or formatting issues and annoyances. Often, I’ll include that in my review and stress that I understand it happens, and it doesn’t usually impact my rating, if I’m using a rating system.

And then there are books that just come across rushed and, well, bad. We’re allowed to write bad books, right? They can’t all be amazing.

So, what do we do? Do we ignore them? Do we review them? Especially when the book in question is written by a writer’s whose work you typically enjoy? When the whole thing comes across as completely rushed, when you can see, as a writer, that if it had been given a little more time it could have been great . . . do we point that out, do we walk about it, or do we pretend it never happened?

Where do you stand on this issue, as a writer, as a reader, as one who looks for reviews?


10 thoughts on “Do you give bad reviews?

  1. lykeiaofapollon

    That is a difficult question. I think I will state if I don’t like something but usually I try to balance it why I didn’t I like with what I did like about it (there is usually some good point) and constructive criticism about what could have made it better. Sometimes it is just that the story doesn’t suck me in and that is not always the fault of the author as you said.

    1. Jolene Post author

      See, that strikes me as a very good way of reviewing. As a writer and a reader, I think bad reviews are necessary, are useful, have a place. I know a ton of ‘people in the biz’ suggest that, if one is trying to get published, one ought not post negative reviews. I don’t see a value in that — be constructive, be thoughtful, be compassionate or at the very least don’t be cruel or personal, but be honest.

      And yet, I’m sitting a review that is ultimately ‘negative’ and I can’t decide if I want to post it or not. It’s an author whose work I dearly enjoy, and I was so disappointed by this book. (I’m not even sure, at this point, if it was entirely the author’s fault; I know there have been a slew of books out recently that have been rushed because the emphasis has been on the business and not the craft and that’s another post all on its own). I still haven’t decided, but these comments have given me food for thought.

  2. Beth

    As a writer (though I’ve written mostly short pieces thus far–essays and short stories), I appreciate knowing when something I’ve written is “off” from the point of view of people who usually enjoy my work. And as a reader, I appreciate knowing when a book I’m considering spending hard-earned money on may not quite live up to its potential in the eyes of other people who enjoy similar topics or stories. So, I’d have to say that in my opinion bad reviews are useful from both perspectives, but of course the more detailed they are, the more useful. (And depending on how obsessed I am with a topic, I have been known to buy books despite bad reviews.)

  3. Dani

    Yeah, I think bad reviews are necessary. And there’s a difference between a bad review and a cruel/brutal review. You don’t have to tear an author, or his work, completely apart to get across that you didn’t like the work.

  4. Lyra Rose

    I will give bad reviews. I don’t run a book blog either, but I do post the occasional review. If I read something and it bugs me enough to post about it, or if I said I’d review a certain book, I’ll post my honest thoughts about it.

    For example, I recently posted about Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink over on my blog. If no one said what utter crap that book is, everyone would buy it and be mad that they wasted money on it–and think the reviewers were a little crazy. (See my blog for why I say this.) People deserve to know the truth, and it is my blog–I’m allowed to post my opinion there. It is after all, my opinion, and someone else might have a different one–that’s fine, and it’s even fine if you voice it. But to only say good things about a book is…frankly, bad form.

    1. Jolene Post author

      I was glad, too, that you posted your review of that book. The title was intriguing, and I would have been so ticked off if I’d purchased it without knowing more. I hate misleading titles.

  5. Artist of Life

    I used to do reviews, and admittedly I would write the bad points in, but then take them all out because I felt bad and I knew the authors would be reading them! But I believe that if a review contains constructive criticism, even if it doesn’t provide a glowing review of the book, it’s a good review. A bad review is one where someone just bags the book out harshly and unfairly.

    It’s not fair to the readers because they’re reading it to find out if it’s worth reading and if it’s not and you say it is then they’re in for a rude surprise! And also the author *hopefully* will find it constructive for next 🙂

    Oops this turned into a novel itself!!!

    1. Jolene Post author

      I really like that I’m not the only one who feels this way about “bad” reviews. There’s a difference between “bad” and “mean” that other folks realize, too. This is good.

      I think I’m still upset about the book in particular, because I really wanted to like it, really fell in love with the premise, and was really disappointed that it didn’t pan out. *sigh* ah well. We’re allowed to write bad books!


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