Are Positive Reviewers Unreliable?

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I’ve been wanting to talk about this for the longest time but I was never sure how to elaborate on it. But when I came across Katie‘s post on Why She Writes More Positive Reviews Than Negative, I decided I wanted to share my perspective about this certain topic.

As a matter of fact, I am a positive reviewer. At least, I think so. For me, a positive reviewer is someone who a) has more positive reviews than negative b) has usual ratings of 3-5 stars. So I guess I fall into the category because I have yet to post a negative review here. I still haven’t posted reviews with 1-2 stars here too, although I have a few with less than stellar ratings on Goodreads.

I know a lot of people are turned off by blogs that have constant high ratings for books. Why? Generally, most of them doubt the authenticity of the reviews written by positive reviewers. I think I can understand why people tend to believe that positive reviewers aren’t trustworthy. The book blogging community is a very mixed one, after all- readers, bloggers, reviewers establish relationships and friendships with writers, authors, publishers. I’m sure some bloggers have tried to please those previously mentioned, thus making their reviews questionable. BUT there are bloggers who really just enjoy most books they read. And I’m one of them.

‘How could you possibly enjoy almost all the books you read?’ Well, for one, I don’t read books I know I won’t like. Why in hell would I let myself suffer through that? Second, I research books before I read them. This is what the bookish community is for! Goodreads, book blogs, bookish friends are there to help you decide or at least get a clue whether or not you’ll like a book. This is ultimately why I take time to read reviews. I want to make sure that there are elements of the book that I can enjoy. And even on the rare occasion that I have no clue about a certain book, I make sure to read the synopsis and maybe even skim a little bit if I’m doubtful. (Confession: I connect to Goodreads via my phone whenever I go to the bookstore. When I pick up a random book, I check out its details and my friends’ opinions.)

Also, I’m not a hater. I look at the things I liked rather than just those I hated. Of course I do mention the negatives, but I try to appreciate the positives. Example: I don’t like the MC. If I let that be the focus of my review, the book would be ruined for me. But I look at other components such as the writing, the story, the side characters, the emotions it brings out in me as a reader. If I did my research well, I’m bound to like something for sure. Aside from that, I weigh the positives and negatives. Example: I found the story excruciatingly slow. But I teared up during the climax! That could make up for the former. Maybe that’s even the whole point of it. For me, it’s really important know what the author’s purpose is. (Maybe you were really supposed to be annoyed by that character who irritated you so much!)

Eeeep, sorry for detailing out my rating/review process there! I just wanted to explain why my reviews are more positive than others’. So yeah, I’m a positive reviewer. Does that necessarily mean I’m unreliable? No. I do my best to put my heart into the reviews I write. I try to cover all aspects of the book and share how I felt about those. Yes okay, some people hated some of the books I liked. In the end, we all have different opinions. We may have read the same book, but we’ll all have different reading experiences. Just because mine is a positive one, doesn’t mean my standpoint isn’t honest.

PS: Thank you to everyone who has left such respectful comments on my reviews despite our different opinions! I seriously appreciate that!

How do you feel about book blogs that have more positive than negative reviews? Do you think positive reviewers are unreliable? Do you enjoy most of the books you read? Do you write more positive or negative reviews? Talk to me!

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37 Responses

  1. I agree with a lot of what you said. I used to mostly post 4 and 5 star reviews. It wasn’t because I was throwing my ratings, it was simply because I put a lot of effort into only reading books I thought I’d love. I was selective. I judged the synopsis carefully and read a lot of reviews before diving in.

    Now, I’m a bit less like that. I read more ARCs, which means there are less reviews available when I read a book, or sometimes I’m even the first person out of my Goodreads friends to post a review. This means I take a lot more risks, and thus I post more negative reviews.

    So I think it’s definitely possible for someone to love most of the books they read!

    Although, I will admit I am a bit skeptical when someone posts mostly 4 or 5 star reviews AND they read a lot of ARCs. Just because that level of research you talked about isn’t as possible/accurate when you’re reading an ARC. With ARCs, there aren’t a lot of ratings or reviews out there for you to read or factor in, so you can’t as easily guarantee that you’ll love the book before reading it.

    1. Ashley, thank you so much for leaving a comment! I really appreciate your input- you’re one of the bloggers I look up to and highly respect!

      I think it really is important to be more selective if you want to make sure to enjoy most of the books you read. I do understand how it’s different now for you, especially since your blog is really popular. That’s gotta be tough- having no other opinion to check out and just diving in to a book that hasn’t even been read by most of the bookish community. But I’m sure your readers, (me included of course) appreciate you taking the risks of reading ARCs and sharing early reviews, whether they be positive or not. ;)

      I’ve dealt with some ARCs already, mostly from Netgalley, but so far, I haven’t come across a title I have disliked yet. Usually though, it’s because I still have somewhat researched them, based on even earlier ARC reviews. After all, I haven’t reached a point in my blogging career (and highly doubt I ever will) where I’m one of the first to read an ARC.

      But hmmm… I just now realized how possibly tricky ARCs are.

  2. Loved hearing your thoughts on this! It was really interesting, especially since everyone has a different reading style. I try to pick up only books I think I’ll like but every once in a while, there will be one that totally lets me down. I think my expectations truly affect my rating sometimes too. If I had high hopes for it, I could spend the whole book waiting for that “OMG” moment and it never happens.
    I think that’s really interesting and so wonderful that you can look past the things that you aren’t enjoying about a book! Once I hit a point like that, it’s so distracting for me and I actually have a hard time ignoring whatever that may be, but especially if it’s a main character I don’t like! An MC I can’t get along with ruins the whole story for me because then I end up rooting against him/her hahaha.
    I really don’t think too many positive reviews are unreliable though!! Most of my reads are four and five stars, some dip into threes (which according to my personal feelings rating scales means that I was disappointed but it still wasn’t bad — I actually give twos to books I hated and I rarely give one star). I think positive ratings generally mean we’re picking up what we like to read and that’s a good thing! We’re giving happy reviews and we love to share those books that we liked with other people. I actually get wary when someone has TOO many negative reviews. We’ll all have some, obviously, but if I see negative review after negative review, I start to wonder if that person it just picking up books randomly or picking up books to find things wrong with them instead of finding happy reads or things they’d like. Absolutely nothing wrong with branching out and finding out you don’t like that book or that genre, but from my POV, I just get confused on why someone would constantly force themselves to read things they don’t like. (Totally generalizing here — Obviously this happens to all of us SOMETIMES.)
    I like what Ashley said about ARCs too! I usually try to feel a book out before I read it, see if some of my friends & trusted bloggers have reviewed it yet, but sometimes you think an ARC will be great and without those reviews to rely on, you dive in and OOPS, not great at all. On the flip side! I recently read a book that most people LOVED and I absolutely did not like it at all. Even my trusted reviewers liked it and I couldn’t understand that haha. So in that sense, I think that we’ll all have a decent amount of negative reviews.
    ALSOOOO I know that some people don’t like writing and posting negative reviews or they’ll DNF a book they don’t like so they don’t write DNF reviews. It really all depends on the reviewer and I definitely think someone should “get to know” the reviewer before they decide if their reviews and rating systems are ones they want to rely on! :)

    1. Thank you! I was afraid that I won’t be able to get my thoughts across properly. I agree, everyone has a different reading style. I’ve been let down by a few too, although it’s rare. Still, coming across a book that’s really not our taste is inevitable, yes? But I don’t often have high expectations for books, unless the title has been super praised by bloggers I love. I can definitely see why expectations sometimes can ruin a book.

      I’m glad you don’t think I’m being too ‘easy’ or ‘nice’. Haha! I’ve come across MCs I don’t like a couple of times and while that takes major points off the book, it doesn’t wreck the whole thing for me. But it is really tough when you’re against the MC.

      I don’t think having more positive reviews is bad thing too. But I’ve noticed that some bloggers find a blog more believable or trustworthy when they have mixed reviews. Personally, I’d like that too. Thing is, some people write-off blogs that have more glowing ratings. I could see why that can be questionable, but I think that positive reviewers shouldn’t be so generalised. I totally agree- it can really just mean we’re picking up books that suit us and that’s not bad at all.

      I’ve never thought much about negative reviewers since I haven’t come across some yet, but seeing to many ‘hateful’ reviews would be a real turn off for me too! I haven’t dealt with as many ARCs as you and Ashley probably already have so my experience with them is still rather limited. But I’ve enjoyed most of those I got. I guess it’s because I request titles rather than just receive them so I am able to be more selective.

      I don’t know, I think it’s much easier to dislike a book everyone loved than to like a book everyone hated. I guess I haven’t blogged long enough yet to have my share of negative reviews. And yeah- reviewers have their own approach and getting to know them before judging their reliability is definitely important! :D Very well said, Brittany!

  3. Such a brilliant post! Written very well and I agree with all of it. Sometimes i will read a book, dislike it, and then not review it… Mostly because I dont want to put other readers off. I tend to like books sent by publishers to me, and some people have asked me before if I only give positive reviews because I get free books. That’s not true! I do write negative ones from time to time… I just seem to enjoy more books than i dislike books.

    great post!


    1. Hearing that makes me real glad I opened up!! I’m not sure it’s written well, but THANK YOU!! Writing a negative review is something I haven’t done much, but I can see why it would be hard especially when you worry about offending those who liked it. The few books I’ve received from publishers, I really enjoyed as well. It’s sad that people get suspicious whether or not we write positive reviews because we got those books for free. I’m definitely like you then- I rarely dislike the books I pick up.

      Thank you again! <3

  4. I really loved reading this! and I wholeheartedly agree with you that being a positive reader doesn’t immediately make you unreliable. There are of course exceptions, but lets not focus on that.

    I actually think that as a reader you reach a certain point where you know your own likes and dislikes very well. Because of this you just become better at picking books and leaving out those you’ll probably dislike. (Of course a little research never hurts! I actually use Goodreads as well whenever I’m in a bookstore, it comes in so very handy!)

    I always try to be objective in my reviews, focus on things I really liked, and then mention the aspects I liked less. I have very few negative reviews on my blog (I think two tops) and most of my ratings are 3 or 4 stars (the best are 5 of course but those ratings are considerably less). Good research, knowing your own (dis)likes and listening to your friends will do that.

    Great blog post!

    1. Iris, thank you so much!! AND YES YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!! If someone has been reading long enough, he/she will definitely have a clue what kind of books he/she likes. It’s definitely easier to pick up books if you know what you want. Ha! I’m glad I’m not the only one who checks out Goodreads when I’m at the bookstore. (This is honestly why I refuse to leave GR despite last month’s drama.)

      I do my best to write well-rounded reviews too, although sometimes I can’t help but fan girl over books I super loved! I haven’t posted an entirely negative review or a 1-2 star rating here yet, although I’m sure I won’t be able to avoid it as I continue to blog. Nonetheless, I want to work hard on finding books I know I will really like. :)

  5. Ah, yes, I just recently made a post discussing this same exact topic, haha.

    I am a positive reviewer myself because, like you said, I know what I like and/or dislike. For example, I tend to stay away from Paranormal Romance books because I know they’ll most likely make me want to bash my head into a wall.

    It all depends on what KIND of reviewer you are, as well. Some (like myself) read for the enjoyment and don’t focus TOO MUCH on the technical things, whereas some people are more critical when they read. I think it’s a matter of just researching a blogger’s reviews to figure out if they’re reliable or not.

    1. Eep, I’m sorry I missed that blog post of yours! I’ll drop by and check it out!

      Glad to hear that you really know your taste in books. I, myself, am not much of a Paranormal Romance fan! I’ve read very few of them. I’m definitely a Contemporary Romance gal though. I tend to appreciate them so much more.

      True – review style is also an important factor! All of us have different approaches when it comes to reviewing the books we read. I’m more of enjoyment > technicalities too. Not just enjoyment! Just generally the emotions a book evokes from me!

      You totally got that right – we should look into the blogger first before we decide whether we should rely on them. :)

  6. Great post, Hazel! I’m glad you brought up this topic, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I guess you could call me a “positive reviewer” too, because most of my ratings are 3-5 stars, and I have very few negative reviews on my blog or elsewhere. But it’s because I have methods similar to yours. I research books before I pick them out to read, so that I can make sure I’m choosing books that I think I’ll like. And unless a book was just utterly dreadful (in which case, I would probably DNF it), I tend to focus on the more positive aspects in my reviews. That being said, I do have some 3-star reviews that sound more on the negative side (Lumatere Chronicles :P), but what can you do? :)

    1. Yey, Kelley! Thank god I’m not alone when it comes to pondering about this topic. Oh yeah, I remember your Book Shopping post and how you’re quite selective when it comes to it. I think it’s important to discern whether or not a book will suit your taste before you pick it up. Researching will definitely help you with that. That’s good- that you look at the positive side of a book. Still, we can’t help it if the negatives tip the balance. This is news to me though- you didn’t like the Lumatere Chronicles so much? I’ve heard so many good things about it; I haven’t read anything negative yet. I’ll have to check out your review!

  7. I think it works both ways. But it’s not reliability of the reviews that I consider; it’s the personal taste of the reviewer. If that person always writes negative reviews it means she/she is just meticulous. And if it’s always positive maybe she’s just easy to please. Some people work that way, and I’m ok with that. It’s still their opinion and I respect that.

    I’m quite stubborn because I’m not easily thrown off by negative reviews. In fact, negative reviews tend to arouse my curiosity hence reading the book and judging it for myself; so my book selection as well as rating has variety.

    1. More people should do that- rely on the personal taste of the reviewer. It’s just that some people automatically ignore blogs that have many positive reviews and think they’re unreliable. But you’re totally right! Sometimes reviews are subjective to the reviewer’s personality.

      Ha, I’m stubborn too! Especially when it comes to books I’ve already decided I need to read. Despite some saying it’s really bad, I still have the urge to read it. Can’t help it, I guess. My curiosity about books with negative reviews isn’t much though, unless the plot summary captures me.

  8. I can see why someone thinks a blogger isn’t reliable, because if I see a blogger only posting 5-rating reviews, it makes me a bit suspicious. It’s just not possible to love every book so much that they are all 5-stars, no matter how much research you put into them before reading.

    But if there are different types of ratings, I don’t mind that they are only positive reviews :) I sometimes post negative reviews, because I want to be honest about books, but it’s not that I’m trying to be hateful. I sometimes have the idea people try to find a book they hate, just so they can bash it. There is always something positive to find in a book and I like to approach it that way :)

    1. Just 5-star reviews on a blog is definitely something to be suspicious of. But if it varies, even though most of it is still more positive, I don’t think there’s any reason to think the blogger’s unreliable.

      The only reason I haven’t post a truly negative review here is because i haven’t come across a book I really really disliked yet recently. And that should be okay. I think negative reviews don’t necessarily have to be bashful or hateful. But I dislike people who read just to hate on a book. Or people who just say everything they hated about a book and leave out the positive.

      Thank you so much for your insights, Mel! :)

  9. I think I write in between positive and negative? Some reviews may have good ratings, but I like to give what I didn’t like about the book too. I think it’s a nice balance because you’re acknowledging that yes, you like the book, but there are problems in it that needs to be addressed. When I look for a book, I do the same thing you do. Go onto Goodreads or ask my friends whether the book is good or not. If I buy a book, I have to be absolutely sure I will like it. If not, it’s such a waste of my money.

    I’m generally fine when book blogs have more positive reviews than negative. I think a large part of that is because the blogger reads books they actually (will) enjoy. However, like I said above about my positive reviews, I want to see the downside/the problems with the book. A book cannot be all good. There has to be something that irritated you or was problematic.

    1. That’s great- that your reviews are mixed! I definitely like reading your reviews because you always make sure to mention both positives and negatives you find in a book and keep it well balanced. I try to do my best to keeping my reviews that way too.

      Yey, we’re brain twins! Or at least book-selection-process twins? Hahaha! Like you, I really want to make sure the book I read or pick up is something I can like, possible even love. It’s really not that hard to discern it, when you’ve read quite a lot of books and know your taste already. I agree, it’s a waste of money if you get a book you aren’t sure about!

      Aaaand you’re fabulous for not judging positive reviewers! But yeah, you’re correct- the review itself shouldn’t all be about the positive, it should mention the negatives too. :)

  10. I think you make a lot of good points here. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading what you want to read and think you’ll enjoy. I feel like many of the negative reviews out there are books that the reviewers didn’t necessarily want to read – either recommended to them or ARCs or somehow unsolicited. Sure, there are exceptions to that, but at some point I do think book bloggers especially, given how much we read, tend to have a pretty solid understanding of their likes/dislikes related to books. In every review I do appreciate knowing what worked and didn’t work, so as long as a reviewer isn’t saying that every book is perfect, I’m not going to necessarily think that they’re too positive.

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I totally agree with you. We shouldn’t force ourselves to read something we’re not sure we can enjoy just so we can have more ‘mixed’ reviews. I really understand how negative reviews from ARCs can get tricky, especially after reading other comments. But given the chance we CAN pick what we will read, shouldn’t we read the ones we know we can like and suits our reading taste?

      I do think that the content of reviews need not just be positive. We, as objective reviewers, are obliged to mention the book’s faults, if we found any. Otherwise, we’d have omitted something and our review will have been dishonest then.

  11. Most of my reviews are positive (sort of :D). But I don’t think that people with more positive reviews are unrealiable. Some people just like to read books they are sure they’ll enjoy and they end up liking them. That doesn’t make them untrustworthy, but if I have to be completely honest, if a person with more positive than negative reviews gave me a recommendation, I would keep my expectations as low as possible. But that applies to everyone (except for a few people whose tastes are very similar to mine).

    Besides, some people just like reviewing the books they liked and not the ones they didn’t like/hated. I guess it depends on the person. I like reading both positive and negative reviews, even if I enjoy the negative ones a little too much because they’re often very fun.

    1. I cannot agree with you more on that note!! But I absolutely get why you’ll lower your expectations. Still, I think that a reviewer can still have good taste despite having more positive reviews. I guess, it’s really just a matter of whose taste yours is similar to, like you said.

      I think it’s okay not to review the books you liked. We’re allowed to review whatever we want after all, as long as we are being truthful and objective. I can see why you’d enjoy negative reviews. I’ve read some of them myself, and most of the time, they were hilarious and snarky which is amusing.

      Thanks for dropping by, Eve! :D

  12. Ahhhhh, THANK YOU for this post!! I totally agree with all the points you made, especially about how Goodreads, and the book community in general, really helps one weed out books you might not like, and makes it possible to consistently find books that one enjoys! I have a lot of very positive reviews on my own blog, which I’m happy about, because thanks to all the research that goes into my book-shopping, I usually only pick up books if I know there’s a good chance I’ll like them.

    I can see that changing as I start getting approved for more ARC’s, because it’s hard to really be able to tell if you’ll like those, since there aren’t as many reviews to base your reading-decision on. But the general rule still applies I think. I don’t ever pick up a book I think I’ll dislike!

    Awesome post, Hazel.

  13. I totally agree with what you said! A positive reviewer doesn’t mean an unreliable one. I really like the fact that you tend to look on the positive side of books because I am a very pessimistic reader but a very big optimist. Wow I contradict myself. I like reading negative reviews because I love the snark but I also love reading positive reviews to know what people enjoy about books I want to read/am interested in. Awesome post! :)

  14. I have a mix of positive and negative reviews on my blog, but lately I’ve had a run of really good books, all 4 stars and up! And as a result I feel like I’ve just been repeating myself each time, because I love every single part and I can’t stop singing praises. I just hope no one thinks they’re reading carbon copies with every review I post!

    And I find that positive reviews are reliable – unless I find a reason to distrust them. If I can’t sense the enthusiasm coming out the screen, and they give it a five? Hmm… But if they’re ambivalent and give it a 3 or 3.5, I can understand that. It all depends on the tone of the review for me :)

  15. For me authenticity isn’t about the number of positive/negative reviews, it’s about the review itself.
    When you read a review you can tell if a person is faking it or not.
    And like Ashley said it is a little suspicious when someone posts mostly 4 or 5 star reviews AND they read a lot of ARCs.

  16. I’m also a generally positive reviewer, and even though it pains me to say that I find writing negative reviews so much easier to accomplish, I guess I’m proud of the fact that most of my reviews are relatively high rated. I’ve never really thought that by constantly giving books 4-5 stars I’d be considered unreliable, but I think that if you back your reviews with enough reason, then you can’t really be considered unreliable. Besides, people have different opinions on much the same books, and if someone’s opinion differs from a review that person has read, I think the problem lies with the person himself. I don’t think reviews can be considered “unreliable” as a matter of fact, positive or otherwise– I mean, it would only be unreliable if somehow you think the reviewer isn’t giving you an honest opinion, and why would a reviewer even want to do that?! I just don’t think it would be fair if positive reviewers would be considered unreliable just because they seem to like everything they read. And believe you me it’s fairly possible– if, like you and I both, readers do research on books and pick up those they feel they’d genuinely like, as well as focus on the good parts instead of dwell on the bad, it’s not that hard to like what comes your way :) So yeah! Great post Hazel <3

  17. Tough topic, but one everyone has thought about or dealt with when book blogging, for sure! When I was first starting out I noticed all the big blogs only posted positive reviews so I thought that was what I had to do-which lead to me lying in a lot of my first reviews all the blog because I felt the pressure. I’m kind of the opposite-I tend to be a bit of a pessimist and it doesn’t help I lack time and patience so I tend to be a bit harder to please. I do still tend to doubt book review blogs that have all 5 star reviews because of the unreliability issue you described but it comes down to the fact that everyone has different opinions and different ways they decide to pick up a book. Interesting post!

  18. Books are subjective, and you can’t just like what everyone else likes and hate what the majority dislikes. It’s just really a matter of perspective. You can’t force yourself to dislike a particular book just because your friends or someone you know disliked it as well. Book blogging and writing reviews must come from the heart. That’s the purpose of it. It should not be going with the superiority every time.

    I admit I mostly write good reviews. Why? Because I tend to enjoy the books I get. You’re right, Hazel. I wouldn’t get something I am positive I would hate. I also always dig deeper when reviewing books. I consider all aspects and respect the author’s effort into putting up a work of art. Honestly, I am a bit annoyed with reviewers who sort of curse an author and insult their work. I know it’s their right and own opinion, but, a little appreciation wouldn’t hurt, right?

    This was a nice topic to discuss on, Hazel! :) I don’t think you, me, or any positive reviewer is unreliable. People tend to get suspicious, and I think we could only let them be. Just continue writing heartfelt and honest reviews, Hazel! DFTBA. ;)

  19. I’m definitely a positive reviewer. If a book isn’t at least 3 stars for me, chances are, I’ll stop reading and put it down at about halfway through. I like writing positive reviews, for me, one of the main reasons I started blogging, was to share amazing books with people and it’s what I enjoy doing.

  20. Excellent post, Hazel! I will admit that I’m more wary of bloggers who are primarily positive reviewers, but you brought up a lot of interesting points that I hadn’t considered myself. I hadn’t even thought that people research their reading choices thoroughly and make decisions based on whether they’re more likely to enjoy that book or not. Perhaps it’s because I’m not personally at that stage yet where I can read a synopsis and think, yep, that’s a book I will like, or nope, that’s one I wouldn’t enjoy – if I ever will be at that stage, because my interest in book topics is really quite broad.

    You’ve made me realise that it’s quite narrow-minded of me to view positive readers with some suspicion, and I should note the difference between a positive reviewer and an exclusively four- or five-star reviewer. My issues should definitely be with the bloggers who post only four-/five-star reviews because they believe in the Cult of Nice, or because they want to be a part of the blog tour, or because they received the ARC for free, and not with those who know their own reading tastes and adjust accordingly.

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