I don't like leaving bad reviews. I'm no writer, but I can only imagine the amount of work that goes into writing and getting a novel published, much less the heart and soul that gets poured into a book. I'm pretty sure my little blog doesn't register particularly high on many radars, but even so, I feel a prickle of guilt leaving less than glowing reviews for books. And if I got the book on free review, the guilt goes up another notch.
I think it's important to be honest in my reviews. Wall to wall five stars reviews don't mean anything, I might as well go on to Goodreads and five star every book I read, and like my disclaimer says; all views and opinions are my own. My reviews ratings are great, good, average, bad, terrible. They're loved, liked, ok, didn't enjoy, hated. Just because I don't like a book, doesn't mean it's not a good book and doesn't mean someone else wouldn't love it and give it five stars. I try and make sure my reviews are balanced and about the bits I didn't enjoy, as opposed to dismissing anything as rubbish. But still...the guilt...I need a box of kittens on standby for when I click post.
I've luckily only come across two books for review which I one-starred, some I haven't liked and others I've been fairly indifferent to. But my latest one star review made me feel a little guilty. It was a debut author with a fairly new novel, but I just really, really didn't enjoy the book. Giving one star to Allegiant by Veronia Roth seemed easier, maybe because she's a best-selling author with a multi-million dollar film franchise to her name. Even so, I try and stick to a couple of basic rules of human decency when critiquing books.
Don't get nasty
When I beta read, I'm super careful to word my criticisms carefully. There are ways of saying things constructively and tactfully. "It was crap", "how did this get published", "x is a terrible writer". I've seen these and more, there's no need for it.
Don't get personal
It really bothers me when people say "so and so can't write for sh*t" or "so and so is talentless/lazy/a rip-off etc". I'm happy(ish) to criticise lazy plot developments and characters that seem ... "inspired" by more popular, successful ones, but criticise the writing, not the writer.
Don't get snarky
I admit, I enjoy reading a good snarky review. I gave myself a stomach ache laughing so hard at some of the epically snarky one star reviews of Fifty Shades Of Grey on Goodreads. But even if I utterly despised a book, I couldn't bring myself to write anything like that because I can imagine how I'd feel if it was my novel and someone was tearing into it. If you're a millionaire living it up on the NYT bestseller list these things probably don't worry you so much, but if it was me, that stuff would sting!
Keep it balanced
Even in a complete lost cause of a book, I can usually find something I liked. And I don't use the phrase "lost cause" in my review!
Try and find something nice to say
I was always told if you can't say anything nice then don't say anything at all. And I've been tempted to skip a review if I didn't really like the book. But I wouldn't think of myself as much of a blogger if I couldn't or wouldn't say anything that could be perceived as negative.
Put it down
I don't think there's anything wrong with DNF-ing books you just don't get one with. Life's too short to read bad books! If I'd promised an author a review, I'd get in touch and say I just wasn't feeling it, otherwise, I'd just stick it on Amazon and get started on the next thing in my tbr pile. Whether or not I'd review what I'd read and call it a DNF is another thing entirely, one I've not had to deal with yet ...
Does anyone else struggle writing, and especially posting, bad or even just less than glowing reviews? What are your coping methods?