The danger of reviews

I recently reread a trilogy that, aside from an abundance of teenage romance, I thoroughly enjoyed. It had a complex and engaging plot, varied and developed characters, and a villain who gave me nightmares. Granted, it wasn’t a literary master piece or anything, but it was fun YA sci-fi.

When I posted my rating on Goodreads, I happened to glance at the other reviews on the page. I was surprised to see a number of fairly negative reviews, in spite of a decent overall rating on the book. Glancing through them, I found that I really didn’t agree with most of the reviews, and the bits that I did sort of agree with weren’t a big enough deal to me to lower my four-star rating.

This is the down side of my up-down relationship with Goodreads. I love seeing what my friends are reading and their reviews–but I hate seeing reviews from total strangers, because I can’t put it in context of their personality.

Book bloggers are a step up, because I feel like I do get some sense of their personality and their perspective after a bit. I can tell where our tastes meet and where they diverge. Usually. If it’s a good blogger.

But my top source of book recommendations is still my circle of bookish friends. We know each other well enough that we can say, “I liked this book but don’t think it would appeal to you” or, conversely, “I didn’t like this book, but it’s right up your alley.” Not only that, if I read a book on a friend’s recommendation, I already know that I have someone to talk to about it when I’m done. Because, seriously, what’s worse than loving a book and having NOBODY to talk to about it? I’m still trying to find someone to squeal about A Corner of White with, by the way, if any of you have read it. The last book in the trilogy is coming out next month and I’m dying here!

So how do you feel about online reviews? Do you check out Goodreads before you pick a book? Any favorite book bloggers?



  1. Until recently, I never read reviews. Period. I found that with books, like I did with movies, I would enjoy what the critics hated and loathe what the critics loved. I’d pick books based on the cover design (yes, I’m one of those people; I like a pretty book) and the blurb on the back. In a lot of ways, I still do that.

    However, I am starting to read reviews more. I tend to look at the three-star ratings more-so than four-or-five-star ratings. I can’t really explain why, but they seem to mention the major flaws of a novel without raising it too high on a pedestal.

      • I’ve noticed a lot of five-star reviews tend to come from those who received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, and most of the books I’ve read with reviews like that have garnered three-stars from me.

        I also don’t trust some review sites anymore. I was a host for one that emailed me and told me to remove a three-star review because it would hurt the tour. This was after I emailed and let them know I hadn’t finished the book and asked to change my post date because of it, which was rudely (it’s not what you say but how you say it) denied. *sigh*

        So… yeah… I won’t go as far as to say I don’t trust a five-star rating, but I don’t believe all of them either.

        It would be interesting to see a post about the pros and cons of a three-star review. 😉

      • That’s the only one I’ve had issues with. The others I’ve worked with have been better, and I did end up giving the book a higher review… once I finished it.

        I like Netgalley for that reason too. They don’t care what kind of review you give as long as you review it honestly and post to either Amazon, Goodreads and your blog/vlog. I’ve only recently begun getting books through them, and I’ll admit I haven’t finished a fourth of the ones I’ve picks up, but… yeah… I like it a lot.

  2. Reviewers on Goodreads are nutsy sometimes. They rate all books as if they expect they author to always be writing the “Next Great American Novel.” But what if authors just want to write a fun, engaging, adventurous tale? Why is everything held up to such stringent guidelines? I also hate when people compare one author to another unfairly. Many authors have similar styles, plots, tastes, etc, but that’s to be expected. Why, then, to reviewers take it upon themselves to cast one author in a terrible light because of the similarities of a plot or character or setting? I cringe when I read Goodreads reviews, and I just learn for myself and from book/writing buddies what books sound good. Then I can judge for myself. But in general, reviewers are completely unreliable.

    • Yes! It kills me when I see a Goodreads review of an MG novel treating it like a candidate for a Nobel prize. And I hadn’t thought about author comparisons, but that’s absolutely true. I hate seeing reviews that accuse one author of “ripping off” another author just because they both talk about capybaras or some equally stupid connecting thread. Agh.

  3. Hi, great to find your blog! I stay away from online reviews until I have finished the book. I never rely on them to choose a book. Like you, I listen to my friends and family for recommendations. I do like to read reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, afterwards, because I like to see if anyone else feels the same way, but I don’t pay much attention to the 1-2 star and 5 star reviews. The 1-2 stars are mostly unfair rants and I think the 5 star reviews are all too supportive and gushing, and perhaps unrealistic. Most of my own positive reviews are 3 and 4 stars. I save the 5 stars for the really great ones!

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