Do You Ever Feel TOO Critical?

Zoe N. | July 11, 2014 | Discussion

d i s c u s s i o n

As book bloggers, it’s our job to honestly say what we think about a book and to help promote it. We’re supposed to critically analyze what we do and don’t like about the book and support our opinions with examples from the story.

But lately, I’ve been looking back at a few of my reviews and have come back feeling almost a bit self-conscious about my reviewing style. Why? Because I look back and I feel like I’m being almost too critical compared to some other bloggers.

In reality, I’m probably not the most critical reviewer in the blogosphere, but when I go around blogs and see constant 3, 4 and 5 star reviews and people who review most every book they read, and when I see those blogs, I wonder if I’m being too harsh on a book when I rate it, and that’s never a good feeling.


So my question for you is…

Do you ever feel like you’re too critical or too lax when you review books? Or is it just me?

35 comments

  1. This is a good discussion question!! I’m self-conscious about some of my reviews, though I am lucky and tend to read mostly things that I enjoy. If I’m not a huge fan, I just try and talk about the good AND the band so it’s not too harsh. But I see a variety of reviews – good and bad – on people’s blogs, so you’re not the only one who writes negative reviews.

  2. YES, I DO FEEL CRITICAL. ALL THE TIME. Don’t change, Zoe, because I LOVE reading your honest reviews! And, yeah, I see people giving positive reviews a lot and I’m very suspicious about those. You know the kind that have to say 5++ and then 5+++++++, that’s really suspicious. Some of my reviews are very negative and some to indie authors but they’re honest and I want to HELP the authors so I don’t feel bad no. 😛

  3. The thing is that.. none of us like to give out bad ratings and very critical reviews, but that’s our job too, yeah? And tI do my research in the fact that I rarely review an arc or a review copy so I almost always know what my friends thought of a book before I purchase it, which helps a lot since some of my friends have very. very similar taste to my own. Also, I know my taste well and that’s why I review lots of 3-4 star books. Occasionally there are some 2 stars here and there, but I’d rather DNF than keep going and bore or frustrate myself with reading a mediocre (or even less than that) book. I rarely give out 5 or 1 stars. My last 5 star was 2 weeks ago and the one before that? March O.o One star? Ehh, June. Before that? I don’t even remember. I’m very picky about what I read hence I review books that I’ve rated quite well. And tastes vary, perhaps your standards are higher than mine are? That’s a possibility and not a bad one 😉 Heh. And trust me, your reviews are gorgeous, thorough and well-balanced with comic relief and sarcasm. Not everyone can write a classy review. Some people think that if they’re bashing or very ranty, it makes them the queen of reviewers. Nope! There have been times when I’ve deleted paragraphs after paragraphs of a review because the words seem too harsh, but at the end of the day, it’s what I felt and I shouldn’t be ashamed of it *shrugs* So nope, not just you 😉 Great discussion, Zoe! AND SORRY FOR THE MONSTER COMMENT HAHA.

  4. Hmm… I think I kinda lack being critical. I am easily swayed by a good romance and a swoon worthy guy in a book. I still look at all the good and bad points, but I focus more on the fact of whether I liked a book or not.

    But do I think being critical a bad thing. Not really, I actually love reading your reviews Zoe 🙂 its on point and specific, whilst I get distracted with fangirling/ranting or babbling about a book. I don’t have any problem with “critical reviews”, just as long as they are not super uber long 😀

  5. I don’t take my reviews super seriously, and I just write what’s still in my head so I don’t think I’m too critical. I guess, though, I guess.

    But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being too critical. We all operate in different ways, and while some can be totally lax others analyze everything and all of those things are great (unless the lax means you don’t write an informative review at all :P). And being critical means you have more to inform the reader about, and I wanted to learn what you thought of the book, I wouldn’t have a problem!

  6. It’s all a matter of personal opinion. Some people don’t feel as strongly about certain things and therefore don’t find the read as dissatisfying as others. I know 4 and 5 stars are rare on my own review blog – hell, even 3’s, sometimes – but I know it’s because I have pretty particular tastes. I don’t think I’m being TOO critical. I think I’m just bein’ me.

    It’s bein’ too LAX that bothers me because I know I’m the kinda person that doesn’t hand out thumbs-ups and head nods to just any ol’ thing. It takes a certain brand, if you know what I mean. Upping a star rating because I feel bad about not liking a book? That wouldn’t sit well with me at all.

    So, again, subjectivity. It’s up to you individually.

  7. I understand this!! I often feel too snarky. Like I DO give out plenty of 4-5 star reviews, but when I don’t like a book…ohhh, what if I’m too harsh?? IT’S SCARY. What I kind of think, though…when I’m not sure if I’m going to rate a book higher, is — well why not? I mean life’s short! Throw out a few higher ratings just ’cause. I know you don’t, but when I see bloggers only giving out 3s and 2s I wonder why they bother reading. You know? ANYWAY. end-of-randomness. This is definitely a legit question, but I think your reviews are always super fair Zoe! And balanced. And fun. x)

  8. I feel like we shouldn’t feel ashamed for being critical. As our reviewer it’s our job to showcase our HONEST views on a book and back them up. I personally find critical reviews helpful as I know they reviewer is showing how they truly feel. Of course, there’s also a point where being critical can go too far.I feel this point is when a reviewer personally attacks a author. That’s where you need to stop, take a step back and realize that you’re no longer just pointing out and critiquing different aspects of a story.

    So overall, don’t feel bad Zoe! You’re just doing your job as a reviewer and anybody who shames you for it needs to click that little red ‘X’ at the right of the screen[; Oh, and I personally adore your reviews <33 I find them so detailed and lovely.

  9. Echoing Larissa, we should never feel ashamed for being too critical. If that’s how you roll, if that’s how you really are, then I wouldn’t have it any other way. Plus, I like critical reviews. I take them very seriously, and it only goes to show that if you like something, I’ll probably like them, too. It makes it easier to know what kind of stuff you like as well. And did I mention I find them the most honest? Because they’re not afraid of letting everyone know what they think are the flaws of the book. And that’s awesome in my dictionary 😉 So go do your thing as you always have done, Zoe! It worked, it’s working, and it will continue to work and that’s one of the reasons why people love you! \o/

  10. I think one of the most important things about blogging, is the desire to be honest and write a review that perfectly echoes your sentiments toward a book and is true to your impressions of it.

    Okay, yes, I do try and write reviews that are a little tactful, rather than calling a book the worst thing ever and senselessly attacking it, but I’m always honest too. I point out the flaws, why they annoyed me and why, in general, they sucked, and I think that’s important to do.

    Reviews are personal by definition; they’re your own feelings toward a book and your own experience. They’re going to be slightly bias and some may be harsher than others but that’s kind of the point. Because it’s YOUR experience of the book, not somebody elses.

    I think the moment you start censoring your reviews and debating too hard on whether or not something is too critical, is the moment you take the fun out of writing the reviews and they begin to fall flat and echo every other bog-standard one out there.

    As long as you’re not personally attacking the author and labelling the book ‘the most asinine piece of trash ever’ or something (lol), then you’re fine to be critical

  11. Hmmm… I have sometimes wondered the same thing–though rather briefly–I think that you shouldn’t feel worried about it though–because the second you start trying not to sound critical is when you are censoring yourself and not giving your honest opinion about a novel.

  12. I won’t consider myself as overly critical! When it comes to books and me, I’ll try to consider 2 things before writing my review/ posting a rating: how much I ENJOYED the books VS how good the book substantially is. I’d like to think that I’m mostly objective and honest with how I feel, and I love it when I’m on a slew of good books! Sometimes though, if I have too many 1 star or 2 star reviews lined up, I’ll try to change one to another 4 or 5 star read so that it doesn’t make my blog look too gloomy/angsty because really, I love books!! :))

  13. I don’t consider myself too critical, I consider myself honest 🙂 I rate a book based on how it made me feel together with all the important aspects like world-building and writing-style. As long as you feel okay with your rating, that is fine right? No need to compare yourself with other bloggers, because we all rate in our own way – and we read books differently 🙂

  14. I sometimes feel like I am more forgiving than other bloggers – or maybe not as perceptive to notice plot holes and things like that, but I am okay with just being as honest as I can in my reviews. And as long as you know you are honest in your reviews, it is totally fine – you should just focus on how the book made you feel. (this is advice I need to remind myself of often!)

  15. Over the years I find that I have gotten more critical (jaded?) because I’m just not as forgiving as I used to be. After you’ve read one too many books that featured insta-love it’s hard not to be.

  16. I’ve noticed compared to my past reviews and the reviews I write today, it’s pretty critical. Especially after I started implementing raw ratings… O_o

    Read one too many of the same and you sort of get tired of it… and want a change.

  17. I don’t think I’m critical enough. Sometimes I think I would write better reviews if I could be more critical & in-depth. I read for fun & enjoyment. Great discussion! 🙂

  18. Oh, definitely. I feel insecure about it all the time. Yes, I may sound all snarky and confident in my review (especially those books that reaally piss me off), but sometimes, I doubt myself. I don’t really care whether authors read my reviews or not, but at times I feel like people think I’m being disrespectful to the author (I try not to be – I just see a lot of people complaining about this on Twitter) or that my reviews shouldn’t be trusted because I’m hesitant in giving 4-5 stars. But then, who gets to decide how reviews should be? I love your reviews, Zoe, and I feel like our tastes are very similar, so I’ll always trust your book reviews 😀

  19. Personally, while I usually rate fairly highly compared to other bloggers (because my rating system is weird, and is weighted out of 7 rather than 5, I tend to have a lot of 5 star ratings) when you read my actual reviews, I am pretty critical a lot of the time. Even in my 5 star reviews, sometimes I’ll actually be more negative than positive haha. I don’t really think I’m “too” critical though. As a reviewer, you want to bring up both the negatives and the positives of books! I feel like, as long as you’re honest, you can bring up anything you like.

    I guess you also have to consider that quite a few bloggers only post positive reviews. So if you see bloggers with only positive ratings, it could just be that they didn’t want to post the negative ones! 🙂

  20. I feel this way sometimes too, especially when I didn’t’ care for a book that everyone else is rating high. I fear that maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance or that I missed something because I pushed through it and read too fast.

    I think really it comes down to, we all read things different and see things differently and even if we have 20 other books in common that we loved or hated, it doesn’t mean we will still agree or feel the same way about them all.

    I think as long as our reviews are respectful then really that is all an author can ask for.

  21. I think as long as we are honest with why we’re being critical of a book, I don’t see any problem with it. As long as the review is honest, I don’t mind if a reviewer fangirl or rant a book. When I write a negative review or when I nitpick or even point out the negatives of a book I like, I try not be feel guilty about being critical because I’m just being honest and I do owe it to my readers to share what I really feel about a book, even if it leans to the negative. Awesome topic Zoe! <3

  22. I often feel that way when I see the funny and sarcastic reviews, that maybe I present my reads as being too positive. If it’s one I completely loathed, I still attempt to find the positive as well as include all the points that didn’t work for me. Your reviews are fabulous, honest and really helpful. I base so many of my own read off your opinion and a small group of bloggers who write similar reviews to your own <3

  23. I don’t read as much as the next blogger, so I’m very picky about what I read. The outcome? I end up really liking most of the books I read, so most of my reviews tend to be favorable. Still, I point out negatives, in my reviews, no matter what. But honestly, I don’t hand out 5-star ratings so easily; I really have to be impressed, and I shouldn’t be able to find a fault in the story. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m being too critical in that respect. Maybe I’m being too stingy with the 5-stars? But we all have our thoughts and opinions, and I do my best to point out why I loved, liked, or hated a story to the best of my abilities, in my reviews. My rating system also has a lot to do with emotion. I have to emotionally connect with the characters and the plot to really find a story worthwhile. So, while I don’t think I’m too critical, I don’t think I’m too laid back about my style of reviewing either. You brought up an excellent discussion question, my dear! This is a topic we can certainly go on and on about! And if you’re wondering about your reviews, I think you’re doing a phenomenal job with them! Keep doing what you’re doing! 🙂

  24. I actually get the opposite, I sometimes wonder if I’m not critical enough, wonder if I overlook a few flaws in writing if a story really speaks to me. Especially if I love a book that everyone else seems to hate. But I don’t let it bother me much. I just keep in mind that my reviews are my own honest opinion about how I feel about each book.

  25. I feel like that when I have a bunch of negative reviews in a row. I know some bloggers don’t post negative reviews and that’s their choice but I feel you get to know what kind of reviewer I am by reading what I do and don’t like. And also, why it works for me or why it doesn’t.

    Being critical is how I learn to trust you. Even if we different on ratings, I want to see your justification behind your rating and I want to know a clue on your thought process.

  26. I think most of the time I focus on being critical because let’s face it, as bloggers we read so many books that if the one we’re reading isn’t enthusing us then that’s probably a better benchmark against all of the other books we read. Great discussion topic Zoe! <3

  27. I often feel like I’m being too critical of the books I read. I want it to be an honest review, but it’s easy for it to come off like I didn’t like the book when I did. Lately I’ve been trying to tone down my negative comments. That old if you don’t have anything nice to say. But some books there isn’t much good to say.

  28. For me, I think my answer would be that it depends. I don’t consider myself to be an extremely critical reader, but at the same time I know I’m not exactly lax, either. It depends because my mood is different for each book I read. I might read a certain book during a happy day and love it so much because I was in a brighter mood, but if I’d read that book while feeling down or irritable, I don’t think I would’ve liked the book quite as much.

    Don’t know if anyone has noticed, but recently I’ve been reading so many mediocre books (my average rating this month is probably only 2 to 3 stars). It’s crazy! And I’m starting to get really sick and tired of always feeling on the fence about a title instead of feeling intense love or intense hatred. So since I’m feeling kind of weary and annoyed at the lack of good, 4-star-worthy ARCs, I’m probably more nitpicky with what I’m reading, which would make me more critical and my reviews harsher.

    On the other hand, I think my expectations of a book also play a huge role in how critical I am. If I have really high expectations and the book doesn’t deliver, then I’m probably going to sound much harsher in my review because I’d be feeling SO disappointed, and I think the same goes for if the opposite happened!

    I DO think I tend to be more critical when it comes to romances, though, as you probably know from my reviews. xD Gosh, I’m such a cynic! It’s just that I’ve read so many horrible romances that it takes a lot to impress me, since I’m always so afraid that the romance might turn out to be a instalove or a love triangle. So yup. If the romance was bad, most likely it’ll ruin my overall experience and enjoyment with a book as well.

    Not sure if I made much sense here, but this was a great discussion post, Zoe! … Uhm, even though my comment turned out to be longer than the original post, hehe. Hope you don’t mind? *sneaks away quietly*

  29. Sometimes I do wonder why my 5-starred reviews are 3-starred or less by other reviewers. Are they too critical? Maybe. But I think, for me, it solely depends on my reading experience. Overall, did it make me feel good? Did it feel like it was worth my reading time? I don’t usually nitpick, but there are some things that could annoy me when I am not in a good reading mood. That can definitely affect my review, and I feel like it makes me critical. This is a very insightful post, Zoe!

  30. I find that most books I review end up getting three to four stars, but then again I am also kind of picky about which books I read, so I will only read a book if I THINK I am going to like it.

    But when I don’t like a book and I review it – I can feel pretty snarky. Because as passionate as I get in reviews for books I love, I get equally as passionate in reviews for books I don’t like.

    I think being a critical reviewer is important. You can’t like every book you read, but then I also think you need to give adequate reasons why you didn’t like the book, as well. Which is what critical reviews give.

    And it also makes books that you love seem even more amazing, because they stand out!

  31. I personally feel self-conscious too when I write critical reviews. I feel like I was a little too harsh or something, but I keep the review that way anyway because it is my honest opinion. Reviewing is about sharing your opinion anyway. And I think it’s okay if there are things that you really didn’t like, as long as you do it in a respectful manner, I guess. You should clearly state why it didn’t work for you. Although, I must admit that I’m not always so critical. I usually fall in love too easily with books, and I guess when I find a bad one then they get the brunt of frustration. Haha

  32. I have these phases… most of the time I am pretty critical, but then when I am in a bit of a slump I start reading books which I know I’ll enjoy and love. The ones that have been sitting around for a while collecting dust. Then I’ll find a bunch of 4 and 5 starred reviews posted after each other on my blog.
    But I always stay honest, I might be able to overlook some things if there were other things that I absolutely loved, in the end I pride myself on being honest and always write down all my thoughts on a book (then I start thinking about the amount of stars I want to give).
    Being critical is important, as long as you give an explanation as to why you didn’t like certain aspects. 🙂
    Great discussion questions!

  33. I definitely think it’s a personal style sort of thing. I’ve also gotten pretty good at picking books I know I’ll like which definitely helps cut down on the critical reviews. Part of my issue is that it just makes me feel bad when I have to write critical things! And I feel like I’m not that great at dissecting and articulating exactly what bother me when I don’t like a book (unless it makes me angry. Then you can’t stop me muahahaha!) I do love reading other people’s snarky reviews though 🙂

  34. I sometimes think I’m over critical of books. When I’m writing my reviews I think, “Is this aspect really worth me taking a star off?” but in the end I just think that if it bothered/made me uncomfortable then obviously the book isn’t worthy of 5 stars.

    Although sometimes if I love the ending of a book enough, I’ll probably up the rating a bit. It all really depends on how I was feeling when writing the review, lol.

  35. Great topic, makes me feel better knowing I am not the only person who worries about this. Sometimes I do worry I am too harsh, and sometimes I think I am. But I like to be honest, I am never going to rate a book 4/5 stars if I really only thought it was a 2/5.

    Some reviews are harder to not be real critical in when I am reviewing them. I recently read The Kiss of Deception and I know I was way too harsh on that one. I couldn’t stop myself.

    But, I once wrote a review for What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick. I loved her first book but didn’t like it as much. I tried to be honest in my review, but my love of her first book stopped me being really critical. Still the author followed me on Twitter, saw my review and then promptly unfollowed me. I felt really bad after that, even though I thought my review wasn’t too harsh.

    I try not too worry as much any more, but it’s easier said than done.

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