Discussion: Why I Write More Positive Reviews Than Negative

Posted December 10, 2012 by Kaitlynn in discussion / 40 Comments

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that my reviews are more on the positive side.  Sure, I’ve written some negative reviews and I always make a point to mention the things I don’t like about books but in the end, most of my ratings are 4 or 5 stars.  I don’t think I have ever given a book 1 star and I’m pretty sure I only have one 2 star review.

I’ve gotten comments before saying I’m too nice with my reviews and ratings.  I’ve gotten comments asking how I could possibly like almost every book I read.  The answer: I read books I’m pretty certain I’ll like.  I’m not a negative person.  I hate writing negative reviews but I’m not willing to just leave all negativity off my blog.  If I don’t like a book, I will tell you that.   However, if I think I won’t like a book, I won’t read it.  Why put myself through that if I’m almost certain I will hate the book?

The books I read and review on my blog are books that I think I’ll like for many reasons.  First, I check out the author.  If it’s an author I’ve loved in the past, it’s a pretty safe bet that I will like their new book.  If it’s a debut author I do have to do a little more digging and I try to look at other blogger’s reviews before I decide whether or not I want to read it.  Second, I look at the genre.  If it’s a contemporary book, I’ll read it.  That’s the one genre where I’m not really picky.  I love contemporary and since I love the genre so much, I usually love or at least like the books I read.  Paranormal books, on the other hand, are really hard for me to like so the story has to be really interesting for me to check it out.  The process is the same for pretty much all other genres.  I look at reviews, the author’s previous books, the story, etc. before I decide whether or  not I should read the book.

This may seem like a lot of work just to decide what books to read but I’m picky.  I can’t not finish a book.  A lot of bloggers DNF books and I wish I could do that but I just can’t.  I always keep reading just in case there is something that redeems the book for me.  If I’m not liking a book it makes it really hard for me to keep reading and I spend a lot more time reading that book than I normally would.  It wastes my time.  I have too many books to read to spend a ton of time on books that I don’t like so I avoid the ones I’m pretty certain I won’t enjoy.  There are a few cases where some bad books slipped past my system but it’s rare.

I know readers like to see a mix of positive and negative reviews but you may have to look elsewhere.  My blog is mainly full of 4 and 5 star reviews and I have no problem with that.  I read what I like and I like what I read.

What about you?  Do you read books even if you’re pretty sure you’ll hate them?  Do you have a system for avoiding books you won’t like?  Is your blog more positive or negative reviews (or maybe even in the middle?)

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40 responses to “Discussion: Why I Write More Positive Reviews Than Negative

  1. I’m the exact same way, if I think I won’t like a book I won’t read it. My blog consists of books that have caught my interest and I would never read a book I’m certain I won’t like. When deciding to buy/read a book I look up reviews for it and things like that. I have never given a book one start, I think only one has 2 stars, a handful of 3’s, and the rest 4’s and 5’s. Great post.

    Kaina @ These Flying Pages

  2. Looking at my Goodreads list, most of book ratings tend to be 4-5 stars as well because I read lots of reviews before buying a book to make sure that I’ll like it. I also have gotten much better at putting down a book that’s just not holding my interest.

    For me, it’s much more fun to gush about an amazing book than have to write a review criticizing a book I didn’t like. That being said, I really do appreciate people who are able to write critical negative reviews (in non-mean-spirited ways) because I rely on those reviews just as much, if not more, than the high rating reviews to try to determine whether I’ll enjoy a book.

    What I don’t understand is why people intentionally pick up books knowing they will not like them and then mock the book in a status update on Goodreads every five minutes. If they hate the book or author’s writing so much (having read and disliked the previous book in the series), then why waste the time on it? There are so many other good books waiting out there!

  3. That’s a very good point – Sometimes I feel like I rate books too “softly” (which is also why I switched up my rating scale adn took the numbers away), but really I have so many 4 and 5 star reviews because when I pick up a book, I want to make sure I like it. That is why I read after all – to enjoy myself!
    Sometimes I do write the negative reviews since I do review every book I read. As far as DNFs go, I really don’t have that many, but I’d rather stop reading if I’m really not enjoying the book. If I’m somewhere around the 2 or 3-star rating, I’ll push through. Great post!! it’s a great topic to talk about!!

  4. I get asked why my blog’s reviews are mostly positive too! People sometimes tell me to just read a bad book and put a negative in the mix. I am perfectly fine with my system of ratings, as you are. This is a great discussion topic and it’s nice to see someone who does the same thing with picking out books and rating them as I do.

  5. feel the same way – I do want to like the books i read because it’s very hard for me to give up on a book. I’ll end up spending weeks reading a book I don’t like! That said – I’m not that careful with choosing books, and I like to browse the library and pick up whatever catches my eye, so quite a few times, books slip in there that I really don’t care for.

  6. The only way I’d read a book whose premise I didn’t like is if the author liked it or if it was being fostered onto me by friends. I’ve been giving a lot of DNF reviews and more negative reviews lately simply because I’ve gotten a lot pickier, especially with my time constraints on reading. There are still plenty of books I love — I just love a lot less nowadays.

  7. Sometimes I expect to love a book and don’t, those times when the story doesn’t live up to the interesting premise or the gorgeous cover (yeah, I still fall for that one sometimes…). I always hate it when that happens. I’d love to be better at just picking out books I’ll enjoy, but sometimes I fail. I won’t pick up a book if I think I’ll hate it, but sometimes I have a feeling it might be just an okay book for me and still want to read it.
    I noticed you mainly have 4 and 5 star reviews, but I’m actually kinda happy for you that you’re enjoying so many of the books you read!

  8. I absolutely agree with what you said. I only tend to read books that I am pretty sure I will like. I will go out on a limb a little, but usually I know it will be 3 stars or above. I also know that even though I may not like it, someone else could like it for the reason that I don’t, so I like to be constructive with my reviews.

    Great blog post!

  9. It’s the same for me. I just don’t read books I think I will dislike. I don’t see the point. I don’t read just to review the book. I read the book because I want to.

  10. I rend to agree with you. I rarely write a negative review.. Although twice I wrote what I thought were scathing reviews and on one of them a friend bought the book on my recommendation and on the other, the author emailed me thanking me for my suggestions.. LOL..

    I agree with going with what you love. Sure your favorite authors are going to have eh books on occasion but those books are still easy to like. Why, because they are by a favorite author.

    I have been writing reviews for netgalley recently and have found that there are books that I don’t like but I still see the value in them and can manage to write a decent review. The goal is to always find something nice to say. There is always something.

    The one thing I am stingy about is my stars. I don’t give out 5 star reviews willy nilly.. I tend to do 3 and 4 stars with only one book ever having a 2. To me, a 5 star review had better be an absolutely awesome book.

    ok, leaving now that I have hijacked your blog..


  11. I can’t believe you’ve gotten comment saying you’re too nice! Not that you’re not nice, but seriously, since when is giving positive reviews a bad thing? I can understand if someone NEVER gives negative reviews, but if it’s just mostly positive (not all), then that’s got to be a good thing. Jeez, reviewers can’t win these days can we? Coz on the other side you’ve got all the snowflakes whinging that reviewers are bullies with too much negativity. Argh.
    Great post! It totally makes sense – the more you read and review, I find, the better you get at picking the right books to read in the first place.

  12. I don’t have many negative reviews on my blog for much of the same reason. I don’t like contemporaries so I will not read them. I love paranoral, dystopian, sci-fi, and high fantasy so my reads go more in that direction.

    And my biggest thing… If I don’t like a book I don’t finish it. And if I don’t finish a book I won’t review it. Because how do you review a book that you didn’t read all the way through?

    Great post Katie!

  13. I feel the same as you. I really want to spend my reading time reading books I know that I am going to enjoy. Like you I have mostly, 4 and 5 penguin review.

    I also have to stop reading a book, if I can’t get into it and I do not find it fair to review a book that I didn’t make it through.

    Now all this being said, I have a million reviews to catch up on and I need to find the motivation to do them.

  14. I read a huge variety of good and bad books, but since I read so much I choose to review books on the blog that I’m more positive about. I do post all other reviews on my Goodreads page, though, so there’s a much wider scale there.

    I can definitely stop reading a bad book — life’s too short to force myself through them!

  15. Personally, I do post reviews that are below 4 or 5 stars. That’s partly because my rating system is a bit different from a lot of other bloggers’, and partly because I’m very hard to please. I’m okay with being as picky as I am, though. And just because I don’t give a book a high rating or glowing review doesn’t mean I don’t think others will like it; I regularly recommend books to others that I didn’t personally LOVE. Most books have some good aspect, even if I wasn’t completely won over.

    As far as reading other blogs goes, I do prefer to read blogs that have a mix of ratings. The way I see it, no matter how much research you do, it’s just not possible to give every single book you read a 5 star rating. I mostly get suspicious, though, of blogs who advertize that they post only positive reviews. It’s one thing if you do genuinely like a book, it’s another thing if you sugarcoat your opinions to make the author or other bloggers happy or whatever.

    And, in general, I really do find that a negative review has a lot more value to me as a consumer than a positive one.

  16. I am pretty similar. I mostly give 4 or 4.5 stars. But only a handful of 5 stars. Very few 3 stars. And I’ve never given a 1 star.

    I prefer to be positive. But like you I also only read books that I think I will like. And many are either genres i really love (like dystopia) or books from authors i love.

    The thing is even if i give a book 4 or 4.5 stars I will still point out in my review what i did and did not like about the book.

  17. I definitely write more positive reviews. My brother makes fun of me all the time for it (though he’s only ACTUALLY read, like two of my reviews). I’d rather not spend goodness knows how much time pushing through a book I do not like. That time could be spent reading a book I DO like. Or sleeping. Goodness knows I don’t get enough sleep as it is. So, yeah. I agree with you a million percent. I’m not here to read bad books and tell people about them. I’m here to have fun reading books I like and sharing THOSE.

    Katie, I am so high fiving you right now.

    Just a Booklover

  18. Love this post! It doesn’t make sense that people would ask you about all your positive reviews; of course you’re going to read books you think you’ll like. I have the same standards when it comes to picking books, and that, combined with the fact that I’ll happily DNF a novel, means that ALL the reviews on my blog are positive overall. There are often things I don’t like that I talk about, but if they overpower the things I do like, I’ll stop reading.

  19. I’m surprised people have commented about that. I don’t think its something a person should point out since they don’t know everything. Like you said, you read books you are sure you’ll enjoy. I tend to rate high as well. Most my reviews are 4 and 5 stars but I DO DNF and if I don’t like a book I will stop reading it. Therefore its not reviewed on my blog since I don’t think its fair to review something you didn’t finish. I hate contacting authors to tell them its a DNF but I’m sure its better than getting a one or two star review…
    Anyway, we all have our way of doing things and keeping things positive is NOT a bad thing! Especially when you DO point out negatives even in the books you like.

  20. Why are people telling you that you’re “too nice”? It’s your blog and your reading life-why do they care???? I happen to really like your reviews and I understand your rationale completely. Keep up the great work!

  21. my blog is shared with my sister and at the beginning we usually read any book we get our hands on, no matter what the synopsis or genre (YA books here are pretty rare) so you see varied ratings. However, our rating system is a bit different than yours. for us a 3 is a like for us. It is kind of like your 4 stars. If a book isn’t for us then it is definitely less than a 3 so relatively speaking, I find your ratings to be fine. We have given 1 stars, 2 stars, and maybe two DNF in total, but those aren’t that common. I think this past year we’ve given three 1 star ratings and around five 2 star ratings.

    great discussion!!

    – Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  22. Most of my reviews are 3 or above, but mainly 3. I tend to be very critical of books and very few earn the rank of 5 stars. I also try to avoid books I think I won’t like so I don’t have many low ratings. I don’t think there is such a thing as being “too nice”. I love reading your reviews!

  23. Most of my reviews are positive as well. If I do come across a book that I hate, I usually stop reading it and don’t feel like I can give a fair review based on a partial read. Besides, I use my blog to highlight and promote books that I love, not books that I hate.

    I have read several books all the way through that I didn’t like. I simply don’t review those ones.

    I normally like the books I read, because like you, I pick out books that appeal to me as a reader.
    Books for Kids

  24. If anyone has read your reviews they’ll know that they’re genuine. And there’s nothing wrong with taking the extra time beforehand to find a book you think you’ll like to read.

    That’s what I do. I typically judge a book during the first ten pages, if I can’t get into it at that moment I don’t force it. I pick up another book that I can get into immediately. I don’t have the kind of spare time to force myself to read a book cover to cover that I don’t enjoy, and only on rare occasions have I DNF’ed a book at 100 pages or more.

    Reading is supposed to be something you enjoy doing, not something you hate doing. And if I had to push myself to read every book that wasn’t for me I’d have quit blogging long ago.

    I love that your reviews are positive and you share your thoughts about the books you do love. I don’t take it to mean that you love every book under the sun, just that you don’t waste your time reading those books too often.

    I’m sure if I was a paid reviewer I’d have a lot of one or two star reviews, but since book blogging is something I choose to do with my time, I prefer to spend my time reading the things I love, so, like you, most of my reviews are four and five star ones.

    Your reviews are well-articulated and always helpful so I say keep on doing what you’re doing!

  25. I actually just wrote a post about this because someone commented on my blog about my lack of negative reviews. But I get what you’re saying. I like to research the books I read beforehand, so I know that there’s at least a chance that I’ll enjoy it. I like to read contemporary and the occasional paranormal or dystopian because I know those are the ones I like, and I rarely leave those genres unless there’s glowing recommendations from people I trust.

    And I really like your reviews, they’re honest and you can see why you’re giving them those ratings! (:

  26. I actually do post 2 star reviews because I like to try books other people recommend and sometimes it is just not that good. But honestly I do not really look at how many stars you give a book. If I like the looks and the synopsis I read the review and as long as you point out things you like and disliked about a book I do not see any problem with it.

    Just keep up the good work and keep on enjoying the books you read. That is the most important.

  27. I’ve definitely written a few negative reviews, I think my lowest rating was 2 stars and I only have a few handful of those.

    I feel sort of guilty when it’s an indie author, but hey, I thrive on honesty.

    One thing that sucks is that I tend to get sucked into a hype and not really liking the book that everyone is raving about. It’s weird having your 2.5 star review appear in an ocean of 5 star reviews. o.O

    I’m happy you’re reading what you like, less chance of a reading slump!

  28. I write both types of reviews but my main issue is that I like all sorts of books. Plus, it depends on my mood. If I’m in a bad mood, I will probably not like the book, even if it’s contemporary or fantasy. I do know what types of books I like but they don’t always measure up.

  29. I don’t read books if I know I’ll hate them, but I’ve read /tons/ of books I thought I wouldn’t like and in general I ended up loving them. That’s why there’s not too many books I’ll discount and refuse to read. Usually if it’s paranormal it doesn’t go on my list unless everyone and their mother seems to love it. I don’t read anything historical unless it has some other element as well like fantasy. Other than that, I read pretty much everything which means I end up with a lot of negative reviews. I try to keep them all as nice as possible, though because I know I’d never want to be on the receiving end of a scathing review.

    (I know this is, like, three weeks old, but I’m WAY behind in my reader :P)

  30. I don’t post about DNFs anymore, but I will post 2 and 3 star reviews, too. For one, I think my readers want to know what I think regardless of whether I loved it or not. Two, books are hit and miss with me. I have found books I like and hate in every single genre. I have read many books before that I thought I was going to love and ended up not liking at all, even though there were rave reviews and they were in my favorite genres. I like to try new books and authors, though, in order to not risk ending up in a bubble.

    All this being said, if I do need to write a more negative review, I always accentuate the positive as well. There is no book that is all bad (not even books I hate like Twilight and The Scarlet Letter) There are redeeming qualities of some kind in every book, whether it is the writing style or one particular character or great descriptions.

  31. So I’m a lot like you – I do a lot of research before picking up a book. Goodreads is a godsend when it comes to said research. And I also don’t really DNF. I have to keep going. I mean, how can I truly be critical of a book if I haven’t even finished it? It doesn’t seem right. That being said, I rarely find myself in a DNF position since I’m so selective.

    As for my reviews, I’m relatively new to the game, but out of my dozen or so reviews I only have a couple of 3 star ratings and a bunch of 4 and 5. I try to be selective with the 5, just because I want it to really mean something when I label a book worthy of 5 stars, but that’s really the only reason why.

    Oh and it’s not that you’re too nice, you just know yourself well enough to know which books are going to make you all angry faced and which are going to inspire and great, positive review. I’d say that’s a pretty good trait!

    Great post, Katie! 🙂

  32. Great post Katie, I feel the same way. Why waste time on books you don’t like? I also do a lot research on a book before I read it. It has to be something that interests me, be it genre or plot and over time i’ve become good a picking out books that I like. Like you said we in the end we read for enjoyment.

  33. I totally agree with you, Katie. I only read books I’m sure I’ll like. That’s why my average rating on Goodreads is 4.2 😛
    I only have one 3-star review on my blog so far.. And that was for a book I was really expecting to like. And if I read a book I really didn’t like, and gave it 2 stars on Goodreads, I don’t review it on my blog. I really don’t like writing negative reviews 😛

  34. How do you know you’ll hate it if you haven’t read it? I’ll read the blurb on the back, decide it sounds pretty good, and then a quarter or halfway through the book find things that really bother me. If you’ve invested the time to read half the book, you might as well finish it (unless it’s really bad), because maybe the ending will make up for it. I don’t see how you can read the blurb, or a few inside pages and say, “hey, I’m really going to like this book!”.

    Regarding the reviews on Goodreads, not everyone has the same taste. A book someone likes you might hate, and vice versa. I’ve seen great reviews on Goodreads by several people on a book, and hated it myself.
    I also feel that an honest review, negative OR positive, is better for the reader.

    You may not like to write negative reviews; but if I come across a blog that has only positive reviews, I probably won’t pay attention to anything that person reviews at all; because I’d be wondering how many of their books they didn’t really care for but just didn’t want to give a bad review. How would it be if everyone on Goodreads gave only good reviews? That would be no different.

  35. Christina Kit.

    That’s very sound reasoning behind what kinds of books you’ll pick. It makes sense to choose books that are by authors you already like and for debuts there are all these early reviews, like you said.

    Do you ever try and track down excerpts for debut books before deciding, just reading a little bit can tell you if you’ll like it. Lots of publishers and authors and amazon are doing it for debut novels. I love that. It’s honest and a good marketing tool for people who aren’t sure whether or not to buy it.

    Lovely post 🙂

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