Inside My Obsessive Consciousness: On Negative Reviews

I feel like we need to have a talk.

It’s probably going to be uncomfortable, and not everyone is going to agree. But there’s been a lot of chatter about this subject, and I have kind of an unpopular opinion.

Sort of.

The topic of how bloggers approach negative reviews has been brought up over and over lately. I’ve seen it a lot from authors, some from bloggers. And I completely understand the sensitivity and power that we as reviewers have. Especially when it comes to new authors–we can really affect the marketing of a book by a few bad reviews.

Reading is a subjective thing. What I like will be disliked by someone else, and visa versa. Which is why most of the time, I try to give suggestions in my summaries–“If you like this type of book, you’ll like it, if you don’t you wont…” sort of thing. I’m always very careful to tag my genres and key words too. And for the most part, with a few exceptions (bestsellers, classic lit, deceased authors), I try not to tag the author on 1’s and 2s.

However.

When I started ILR, my goal really wasn’t to be a reviewer at all. I mean, that comes with the territory of being a book blogger. But my overall intention for this blog was to facilitate discussion of the books I was reading. I read such a huge variety of books–old and new–that I wasn’t seeing in the blogging community, and I wanted a place for that. It’s why for the first year I didn’t even have a rating system (I’ve started going back and filling those in whenever I deep link something). I just wanted to talk about the books.

I’m taking on new books more often, and those I am always gentler with. Unless the book is just outright disgusting (racist, bigoted, etc), and there have been a few, I am very careful to give a solid and standard review. But the older ones–like High Fidelity on Friday? That thing has been around since 1995. It’s a movie. It’s a best seller. I’m not going to hurt Nick Hornby’s pocket by giving a wholehearted rant on that one.

And sometimes, as a blogger, I have to do that. If I can’t be honest and emotional about the books I have strong feelings about, why am I doing this? I want to illicit a reaction. I WANT discussion. And most of the time, a standard 123 review is not going to do that. And hell, my Nick Hornby rant might just get someone to go buy that book so THEY can find out why I was so dang angry. We live in a reactionary culture.

I have all the respect in the world for authors. Good god, if I had one ounce of the talent in my body that some of them have, I would probably explode. Even many books I don’t like for content are extremely well written–and I want to make sure I stress that. My discussions and analysis are usually about the plot and characters, with a little bit of culture thrown in for color commentary–not about the author as a person (excepting memoirs, of course). I would never EVER condone a personal attack on the author because a series doesn’t go the way you wanted. I didn’t care for Cursed Child–it wasn’t my ending–but it was JK Rowling’s ending. A negative review is NOT the same as an attack. These are not the same thing. And I want to make this very clear, because after I originally wrote this Friday night, an author was personally attacked online. THAT IS NOT OK. Authors DO NOT OWE US a story. We are gifted with their work, and we can choose to read it or not.

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Again, not everyone is going to agree with me. And I’m probably going to ruffle some feathers along the way. I never ever set out to write a blog to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. But if I ever stop being authentic here, then I’m going to have to stop blogging. Because if I can’t be completely honest when I don’t like a book, then how does anyone know if I really truly love a book as much as I say I do?

People ask me how I read 5 books a week, and the answer is simple. Books are my oxygen. I breathe them in, I breathe them out. And before I take another breath, I log in and take a moment to share that oxygen with you.

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