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Sunday, November 22, 2009
sunday salon: the importance of negative reviews
Earlier this week I posted a review of Behind the Bell by Dustin Diamond. I considered not reviewing the book because it was so bad, but after a few people asked me how I liked it, I decided to review it. Many bloggers don't post negative reviews, and I respect that. I was blown away by the positive comments I got on my incredibly negative review. Most commenters thanked me for my honesty, and it got me thinking about negative reviews in the larger context. I think they're important, and I don't come across very many of them.
Reading is about personal taste, and simply knowing what books I like doesn't tell the whole story. I write reviews because looking at a star rating only tells part of the story. I give a lot of four-star reviews. I'm pretty good at finding books I enjoy to read, and I think most book bloggers agree. There are authors I always enjoy, books in a series I like, and recommendations from those whose taste is similar to mine. Perhaps also we don't finish the books we dislike.
Most books that get a four-star rating from me get it for different reasons. Rating a book is complicated, and I take a lot of things into consideration. The two biggest criteria for me are the quality of the book and how much I enjoyed reading it. I recently read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I gave it three stars, even though I didn't like it. It was beautifully written, and I really enjoyed the first one hundred pages. I think it's a book worth reading, even though I didn't like it. I read some books that are not especially well-written but incredibly entertaining (the early Sookie Stackhouse books come to mind), and I think of them as four-star books largely because of how much I enjoy reading them. I like ratings, but explaining why a book gets its rating is more important to me.
I know my taste is not universal. I never want to write a negative review for the sake of writing a negative review, nor do I want to write a positive review for the sake of writing a positive review. Reading is an incredibly personal and often emotional experience. I admire writers, and I don't want to engage in ego boosting or personal attacks; I want to write about my personal reactions to books. I will continue to write negative reviews. I will continue to write honest reviews, both positive and negative. Calling a book the worst book I've ever read, as I did this week, requires justification. There is often a fine line between being honest and being mean, and I think I achieved it.
What do you think about negative reviews?
I finished Evil at Heart, the latest Chelsea Cain novel about Gretchen Lowell, and my review will be posted tomorrow. I also finished Driving Sideways by Jess Riley, which will be reviewed Tuesday.
Want to win a Kindle?
It's no secret I want a Kindle, and there is little to no chance I'll get one for Christmas. Thankfully, Bibliofreakblog is still hosting her fantastic giveaway. If you enter via this link (or the one on the top of the right sidebar, then I get one entry too.)
Coolest thing about being a book blogger this week:
Robin Maxwell emailed me after my Waiting on Wednesday post about her latest novel, O, Juliet, which comes out in February, and offered me an advanced copy of the book when it's finished. It's always a joy to hear from authors, but to receive an early copy of a book I can't wait to read was completely unexpected and incredibly exciting!
at 6:30 AM