I wish I could remember where I originally heard that phrase so I could give credit where credit is due. But wherever the words came from, they’re accurate. This is my natural tendency when writing a review: specific criticism and vague praise.
Even in some of my mini-reviews you can see this trend, but it becomes even more obvious in full reviews. And while I’m trying to improve, and I like to think I’ve gotten better over time… it’s just so hard to fight.
I think this is especially obvious in 3-star reviews. These reviews are so awkward. No one can seem to agree on what 3 stars really means (which is probably a discussion for another day). For me, a 3-star rating means that I liked the book. I liked it. I didn’t love it. I didn’t get super excited about it. But it wasn’t bad. It was even a step above “meh.”
I. Liked. It.
So why, then, do I always feel like I’m fighting against this negative current? I feel like my 3-star reviews are just an explanation of why the book didn’t get 4 stars. And even a 4-star review can fall into the same trap; what was wrong with it that I didn’t give it 5 stars?
For the average book, it’s just easier for me to find the things I didn’t like about it than the things I did. Whether or not I liked it overall. Even if I loved it. Those nitpicky specifics just come to me, whether I want them to or not.
But what I like about a book is often just this nebulous feeling that it did something right. Nothing I can pin down… or if I can pin it down – maybe it’s a particular character that spoke to me, or the way the plot comes together – once I look at it in black and white, I realize that it’s not as special as I’m making it out to be, and then I feel silly that this is what I’m basing my reaction on. Which brings us back to that inexplicable “feeling” (and when trying to write a review, “inexplicable” tends to be an issue).
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that we react to books in different ways… and it’s not even a bad thing to react emotionally rather than logically when deciding how we feel about a book.
But it is frustrating to feel, even after a year of book blogging, that I’m not doing a good enough job of expressing my reactions.
Is it just me? Do you find it easier to point out the bad than the good when talking about books you’ve read?