Bookish Chat : Reviews that Bite!

April 5, 2013 Bookish chat 28

This post is inspired by the BBTC twitter feed this week; one of the topics for conversation was negative reviews.  Now as far as I am concerned, the whole point of a review is say how a book affected you personally.  If you hated it, rant on and and tell me why.  If you loved it, share the love.

To snark or not to snark –that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous plotlines and weak characters
Or to take arms against a sea of troubled books
And by opposing end them!

I have seen some great snarky reviews on other sites; some so good they made me splutter my coffee.  And I have seen some poorly written ones that just don’t hit the mark.  For me personally, I’m not a snarky person in real life so if I tried to do that in a review, it would come across as fake and over dramatic and just not me.  So for that reason, if you are looking for the snark, you are on the wrong blog!

No one can love all the books and no one can hate all the books. When I see a site that’s too much one way or the other, I’ll be asking myself questions and doubt I’ll be hanging around too long.  Another trend that I have heard about but not seen personally is where an author starts to rebut a negative review.  That does not impress me, I think they need to back off and grow a thicker skin.  A review is just a personal opinion, no more, no less.

As long as you are reviewing the book and things in the book and not the author, I’m happy to laugh along if you have well made points.  If you are knocking the author personally, that won’t work for me and I’ll be on my way as fast as my mouse can click as that’s just unnecessary and smacks of bullying.  However, snark  when used properly is a very effective way of getting your point across.  I think it is a skill all by itself and if you are a snarker, I will probably be reading your blog in envy wishing I could do that.  Sadly, much as I would like to be, I’m just not in that cool, witty gang.

That doesn’t mean there will be endless gushing though or that I’ll be making myself a comfy seat on the fence.  I try to point out what I liked and didn’t like so my reviews will always be honest and a true reflection of what I thought.   And one of my aims with the blog is to be me, just me.  I read all genres, love some controversial books (hello Twilight!), grew to hate some other popular ones (goodbye 50 shades) and that’s just fine by me.  I’m not trying to be anything other than myself here.

Bookish Chat : So what do you think, are you a snarker, do you find snarky reviews make more of an impression?  Or what do you think of Authors defending their books?  I’d love to hear your opinions on this.

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28 Responses to “Bookish Chat : Reviews that Bite!”

  1. Kelly W

    I agree with pretty much everything about this post. Negative reviews are inevitable, and just like you, if I see all glowing reviews on your site or for your book (especially if it’s an indie book), you’re going to lose a lot of credibility in my eyes.

    I wish more people could see it like this, because I’m seeing book and blog related drama way more often than I should be, and I’m not even a big-time blogger. Authors need thick skin, and reviewers need to know the difference between disliking a book and disliking the person who wrote it.

    I love your discussion posts, Trish!

    • Trish Hannon

      Thanks Kelly, now you are someone who does snark well. You can bite but only at books and it makes your reviews entertaining and FUN. And you can fan girl too with the best of them when you love a book. When I leave your blog I have no doubts as to your true feelings for a book. Love that.

  2. Kristine

    I think as a reviewer we have to be honest. I accept a large amount of review requests from authors and I am honest with every book. I won’t sugar coat their stars for them. If they have requested a review from my blog then they have read my process (or so I hope) which states my honesty.

    That being said, because I am writing reviews essentially for the author I am respectably honest. I don’t harshly shred the book to pieces if I didn’t enjoy the read. I still do what I do with every novel I read. I state a general about this book blurb, list what I loved and what made the book good, and then I list the negatives. Anything that the author needs to work on is generally in the negative paragraph and their praise is in the positives.

    Honest reviews are more helpful to any reader looking to pick up a book, and to any author who is willing to learn from their mistakes. That’s my opinion 😉 Awesome discussion idea 😉

    • Trish Hannon

      Thanks Kristine, your reviews always come across as genuine and constructive. If I had to pick a word for your review style, it would be well balanced (OK 2 words!). Again, I can trust you to tell it as it is. When I see 5 stars from you, I’m interested, very interested and your blog is a great place for me to discover new Indie authors.

  3. astichoquette

    I’m not a snarker (that I’m aware of), but do sometimes enjoy reading posts by other bloggers who are. Like you said, I think it’s a fine balance. It’s okay to make fun of the book, but not real people who work on the book (whether publisher, author, etc). It’s the same thing with those who don’t use snark. You can complain about the book or rate it low, I’m okay with that, I just want to know why (and for other reasons besides who wrote it or the font choice used).

    • Trish Hannon

      Thanks Asti, nope you are not a snarker, more like the anti snarker, with a big book heart, two sizes too big! Nothing wrong with that. What you can do is write creative reviews that grab my attention. Like your analogy on your The Casual Vacancy review. Fun and gets your point across perfectly. And you show negatives too, no glossing over on your blog. Again, I can trust your reviews.

    • astichoquette

      Thanks Trish! I do have quite the big book heart. I always just want the best for the wee little bookies and I know they’re trying so hard to be big and bad and I don’t want to burst their little bubbles. Sometimes, it just has to be done.
      Oh yes, and I think that’s just it. Each of us has to try and find ways to make our reviews stick out so if we don’t have the snark we have to try other things. I don’t really have a set method with mine, but I always like how yours are discussion-oriented. We both know I like to talk 😉

    • Trish Hannon

      Thank you Asti, I like that you consider my reviews discussion oriented. That is something that has just naturally happened without me being too aware of it. Thanks for pointing it out to me!

  4. Kelley

    Yeah, I definitely agree. I’ve seen some negative reviews that are just outrageous, and it really does turn me off. But then there are others (possibly even from the same reviewer) that are well done and humorous.

    I don’t think that I have the knack to pull it off, either. I’m much too straightforward, and people don’t always tend to get my jokes. I’ll stick to my plan of being honest, tactful, and thorough. 🙂

  5. kimbacaffeinate

    I try to highlight both the positive and negative. I personally do not believe in bashing the author. If I didn’t like something, I state what and why I didn’t and perhaps even what I wanted.

    • Trish Hannon

      You do it well Kimba, very balanced reviews. Stating what you would have liked, great idea and really helpful for the author if they want constructive critism.

  6. Michelle @ In Libris Veritas

    I’m not snarky in my reviews, but I’m fluent in the ways of snark and sarcasm in person. I try very hard to make sure I mention the positives and the negatives, even if I enjoyed the book. I pride myself on being capable of giving unbias opinons about things,because I know that what works for me doesn’t not work for others and so I try to make sure to mention those points.
    I don’t mind snarky reviews and I even enjoy them when they are natural and funny. However if you step over the line and start insulting the author, then that’s where I draw the line. It’s uncalled for. I should also note that I don’t tend to take snarky reviews seriously, I might laugh but chances are I’m going to disregard it when it comes down to deciding if I’m going to read the book.

    • Trish Hannon

      That’s it Michelle, snark that’s natural and funny does work. I like reviews like yours that point out what didn’t work for them personally, when its explained well, I might still be interested as that might be the very thing I love in a book.

  7. Candace

    I’m not good at being snarky either, it’s just not me. I find that I usually don’t like snarky reviews by others, but it’s just personal preference. I suppose I have read some about books that I loved and it was harder for me to take. I do appreciate everyone having their different styles and their own opinions though so as long as they aren’t rude and are only expressing their opinion than they should feel free to say what they want. You know, as long as they aren’t insulting the author and all that.

    • Trish Hannon

      Thanks Candace, I think we are all agreed here, slagging off the author has no place in a book review. I know it can be hard to read a snark of a book you loved but I’m loyal to my favourite books, other peoples opinion’s won’t sway me or you either I’m sure.

  8. Diamond Cronen

    I agree with everything you said, Trish! I love snarky reviews. There’s a big difference between pointing out a books shortcomings or why it didnt work for you– than criticizing the author personally. I think when it comes to criticism of the author– I (and others) draw the line.

    It’s important to say how you feel about a book, and how the book affected you. If you really didnt like the book it’s often fun to be a little snarky in saying so. In a funny way..
    I don’t try to be snarky. In real life situations I’m often very snarky though, so perhaps it will come out in some reviews without me even knowing. 😉

  9. appelkers

    I too love reading these snarky reviews. Just as long as it stays on topic of the book and doesn’t divert to the author, that’s just a no-go.
    As for me, I haven’t really given that many “full-on” bad reviews on books yet, so I don’t feel as if I’ve hit my stride just yet. I do try to be very honest about all the books I review. Sometimes I dislike a book because I read it the wrong way or whatever, and I’ll freely admit that this will have tainted the reading process. And if a book is bad but I liked some aspects, I will be sure to include those as well.

    Though sometimes it also hurst to read a snarky book review and this is when you loved the book yourself. I understand that not everybody likes the same books, but sometimes it just hurts a little.

    • Trish Hannon

      Thanks for visiting and commenting Appelkers! Interesting what you said about getting into your stride. I feel like this too, I feel I’m still finding my feet (or my hand, strictly speaking!) writing reviews, this is new for me but I know what is right and isn’t right for my personality.

  10. Meagan Cooke

    Trish – we so think alike! I am not a naturally snarky person either, so you won’t find any snark in my blog. Sometimes I wish I could because it is so interesting to read when done well. But alas, I will stick to my natural personality and tell it like it is.

    I try my best to point out the things in a book that I loved and the things that just didn’t work for me. But I like to leave it to the reader to decide if they want to read a book or not. If the things that make me cringe (ahem – 50 shades) seem to float your boat, so be it! And I’m happy if the reader can get enjoyment out of any book. It’s about promoting reading because it is good for the mind, heart and soul.

    I love the BBTC chats though and I always end up walking away with some new tidbit of information.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Trish Hannon

      Thanks Meagan, the BBTC chats were great fun, I loved how part of the book blogging community they made me feel. And I totally agree that promoting reading is a great aim.

  11. Cayce

    I’m a bit of a snarky person in real life, and I love to read well-written snarky reviews. But at the same time I rarely write negative/snarky reviews. I’m more of a gusher on my blog 🙂 When I didn’t like a book I just leave a short “review” on Goodreads and go to the next book.

    “they need to back off and grow a thicker skin. A review is just a personal opinion, no more, no less.” – exactly

    Twilight <3

    Great post! 🙂

    • Trish Hannon

      Love you for loving Twilight, everyone else seems to hate it nowadays! Bit of a gusher here too when I believe a book deserves gushing over!

    • Meagan Cooke

      Butting in – but I am such a Twilight fan! Of course, I love the books more than the movies. I think the negativity surrounding the books started when the movies came out. The biggest thing I here is that Meyer is considered a “sell-out”. Please! If you got offered millions to make your book series into a movie, you would jump at it too. Let’s not let jealousy detract from the fact that these were well-written and enjoyable books.

    • Trish Hannon

      Thanks Meagan, already loved you for your frequent visits! I can see the flaws in Twilight but they gave me endless hours of pleasure and were a great introduction into paranormal books.

  12. Kelly

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels small pangs of jealousy over not being able to pull off a snarky review. I tried once, and it was awful! So instead of trying to be like others, I just write how I feel.

    That being said, I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here. There is a place for snarky reviews, as long as they are talking about the book and not the author. I think people who get upset over snarky reviews just shouldn’t read them! Lol

    As for author’s replying to reviews, I’m not a big fan. I would love if an author stopped by a positive review and thanked me for writing about it, but other than that, I’ve found it usually leads into drama llama territory.

    • Trish Hannon

      Thanks for stopping by Kelly, you get what I’m taking about then. Nothing wrong with being just us and writing to our strengths, I think it will always work better.
      Drama llama lol Love it!

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