29 comments on “Specific Criticism and Vague Praise

  1. YES! I agree with you, particularly on the 3 star thing. It’s a like. Better than a “meh.” But even with those I find it easier to pinpoint what I didn’t like than what I did. I feel like my reviews sometimes come off more negative than I really intended them because of it.

    • That’s what I worry about, that my reviews are coming off as negative. Maybe I’m too defensive about my opinions? Like I said, I feel like I have to justify not rating the book higher. Especially because I’m very stingy with my 5’s, and I don’t use half stars… so I think a lot of my 4-star books would be 5’s or at least 4.5’s for someone else (even someone else with my exact taste in books, who just rates a little differently).

  2. I find it incredibly hard to specifically pinpoint examples of why I liked a book. It’s often about how much I was caught up in the story and characters. A 3-star book often has the flaw of a wrong note or poor editing which serve to remind me that I’m *reading* rather than *experiencing.* It is, indeed, inexplicable.

    • I think that’s a big part of it. When it’s working, you’re just enjoying it, you’re not thinking about why.

  3. I find pointing out specifics, both good and bad, without spoiling the book very difficult. I try my best, but I am not always sure I get it right. So often what I love or hate about a book is directly tied to certain plot points and I can’t be going on about them if people reading the review haven’t read the book!

    I completely agree with you on a 3-star rating meaning that I liked, but did not love the book. I use just about the same ratings as suggested on GoodReads 5 –> 1 Loved it, really liked it, liked it, it was OK, didn’t like it. But of course ratings are so incredibly subjective, it can be hard to translate from one reader to the next.

    • The spoiler thing is tough, and a lot of the times the things I like are more spoilery, so even when I do know exactly what I loved about it, sometimes I can’t come right out and say it. As for the ratings, I like the GR explanations as well, they’ve always made sense to me. But I think it’s perfectly fine for everyone to use whatever works for them rather than trying to conform to some universal standard… as long as they indicate somewhere on their blog what their ratings mean, so we can all stay on the same page!

  4. Star ratings are so arbitrary anyway, I tend to place more weight on your written reviews rather than your star ratings. I know that you’ve thought about the book and the criticisms are easier to place than the likes, especially when you’re going into the book critically thinking about it.

    • I was rating books long before I started reviewing them, so to me it just makes sense to rate it first, and then I feel like that gives my review focus. But yes, words are going to be clearer than a few stars can ever be.

  5. I tend to have a much harder time writing about books I disliked than books I loved (although both are hard in different ways). When it’s a book that I didn’t care for, I tend to worry a great deal about whether the problem is ME or THE BOOK. Sometimes I want my reviews just to be “This was not the right book for me the end.” :p

    • See that doesn’t worry me so much, because I feel like all my reviews are pretty well infused with a “but this is just me” tone throughout. At least I like to think they are.

  6. I agree, writing what you didn’t like is easier – I feel like it’s because you can really break down what you didn’t like about something or why it didn’t work, where trying to show why something was the best would take you less time. And 3 star reviews are hard – I’d rate them the same as you I think- books that just didn’t affect me in any way. It would be nice to have a standardized star rating breakdown but even Amazon and Goodreads are different! So it is better to read the review as another commenter said.

    • It definitely takes more words to explain what didn’t work for me than what did… unless I resort to fangirl gushing, which I tend not to do. Goodreads stars always made more sense to me and that’s what I use, but I also have that breakdown listed in my sidebar; I’m not going to assume that everyone knows what my stars mean.

  7. The easiest reviews to write are the ones about great books and the ones about sucky books. The “meh” reviews are by far the hardest to write. Definitely.

  8. Rating books for me can be so hard, and as I mentioned earlier today in a conversation, I do find myself adding 1/2 stars in Goodreads because a book just doesn’t fit quite right into their rating system.

    What I don’t like does tend to stand out more and I can put my finger on it. What is lacking is sometimes more difficult. It is sometimes just a feeling or lack of one that isn’t right for me. Good stuff can be easy … sometimes. I try to explain all of this in my reviews, but I am definitely not always happy. Sometimes, even putting it into words proves to be difficult.

    • I think the best books for me are the ones where I get so wrapped into the book that I’m not even thinking about a review… but then I sit down to write one (and of course for these books I really want to write one) and can’t put any of it into words. Of course, some books can be a surprise challenge, where you thought it was going to be an easy review to write until you sit down to do it!

  9. I think actually.. I am a little opposite. I find that I say way more good things then bad things. I have a hard time saying negative things. I sit forever trying to figure out how to word it right without sounding bitchy. I see some blogs that do these real aggressive reviews (http://insatiablebooksluts.com/) (http://booksnobbery.wordpress.com/) and while I don’t mind reading those reviews I just can’t bring myself to write like that. I just don’t have the personality I guess.

    • Sometimes I wish I had the personality for the more snarky reviews. Because part of the issue is definitely that I don’t like focusing on these negative things, but for some reason they’re so much easier to put into words than the positives. The negatives are things I can explain. The positives just… are.

  10. I definitely feel the same way! Especially the very best books I’ve read, I often have a hard time putting my finger on why I love them so much.

    • Yup. For me there’s a very fine line between 4-star books and 5-star books… and there are lots of 4-star books that I do consider favorites, even though I couldn’t quite give them 5-stars for whatever reason.

  11. My 3 star rating is similar to yours and they are definitely not meh books. However they are the hardest reviews to write. I feel like the 5 star reviews write themselves as I’m so fired up about the book (but they are also pretty rare) and the 2 stars are easy to write as I usually know exactly what I didn’t like. 4 stars are books I’m excited about and don’t usually pose a problem. But 3 stars are just so middle of the road that it’s hard to express exactly why I didn’t love them or hate them. Sometimes I can’t even put my finger on it.
    Love that saying specific criticism and vague praise. I feel like I do that too much in 3 star book reviews which probably leads to people saying not for me and not really getting that I liked the book.
    Great topic :)

    • I’ve been thinking about making different graphics to use instead of just the stars. I have a “key” in my sidebar of what my ratings mean to me, but that only helps if you actually look for it. I’ve noticed a lot of blogs have their definition along with the rating in each post, and I think that could help alleviate any confusion. (Of course, so could learning to be clearer in my reviews!)

  12. It’s SO much easier to point out what I disliked, over what I enjoyed. I think it’s because I start to feel like I’m running out of ways to say, “I loved this for [reasons]; it was amazing!” whereas I can find numerous ways to describe why I disliked something, haha

  13. Oh my goodness I know exactly what you mean! I just always find it so hard with 3 star books – hence I’ve started doing “snashop reviews” where its just something quick and vague because frankly I dont’ have a whole lot to say about it. It wasn’t great or bad but just ok. I don’t even use the work good…just “OK” in my mind. So when its just ok how can you find things to say about it?

    • For me it’s the 2-star books that are my “okay” books… but even the 3-star “I liked it” books do sometimes come with a bit of a shrug. Mini-reviews are wonderful for that.

  14. AH, the 3 star. For me, it’s a book I like but like you, didn’t LOVE. But I do find that there are more “negative” things mentioned over good.

    Yes, it is SO MUCH easier to express what I didn’t like about a book, than what I loved. I think for me, it’s because I don’t want to sound like I am FANGIRLING, ya know?

    • Yes! I feel like that’s what a lot of my “vague praise” turns into, because I can’t explain exactly what affected me so much (or I can but don’t want to because of spoilers), and so I’m just like, “Trust me, it was great!”

Comments are closed.