Are There Reviewing “Rules?”

Discussion Post Stars

Recently the blogging world got itself into a minor uproar.  (Not entirely news, right?)  As far as I understand the situation, one blogger wrote a post outlining a few of the things she personally finds annoying in reviews.  Somehow, in response, people starting tweeting en-masse about their own reviewing peeves.  And suddenly reviewers were in a debate about whether there is “right” way to review and whether anyone is allowed to say there is.

Realistically, we all have things we like and dislike about reviews.  Because of that, I do not personally have anything against the original blog post, even though I disagree with some of her points.  There are things I dislike seeing in reviews; I just don’t normally talk about them.  However, I think the subsequent Twitter debate became a problem because it crossed a line between people presenting their personal opinions on the reviewing process and people telling other people they were “wrong” for some reviewing choices they’ve made.  I did not follow the hashtag extensively; I have no burning interest in the subject.  However, I do think one important point was never presented: there are different types of reviews.

Some bloggers try to be as objective as possible when reviewing; they try to take note of things like the pacing, whether there was character growth, whether the prose is good.  Of course, many of these things are subjective, ultimately, but most people agree that they are valid topics to tackle in a review.

On the other hand, some bloggers write more personal reviews.  They comment on whether they laughed, whether they thought the book was enjoyable, whether they connected with the characters, or whether they thought the characters were irritating.  They chronicle their own response to the book.

Both reviewing styles are okay.  I’m pretty sure Krysta and I employ both on our blog.  And I trust our readers to have enough common sense to be able to tell the difference between the two.  If I want to say, “This character is really stupid and it drove me crazy to read about her,” I’m allowed to say it.  I’m certainly allowed to think the character is dumb and I’m definitely allowed to be frustrated by it.  If I can be annoyed by real-life people, why not also fictional characters?  Maybe that’s just a sign the author created a very realistic protagonist.  However, I trust any blog readers to realize that the fact that I was frustrated by the character does not mean that they have to be frustrated, as well, and that I am in no way trying to imply they need to react the same way I did.

So, in the end, I think the whole “how to review properly” debate is silly.  Everyone is allowed to have a personal reaction to a book.  And everyone is allowed to share that reaction in whatever reviewing style they choose.  Does that mean everyone is allowed to have a personal reaction to a blogger’s review, as well?  Certainly.  You can dislike reading gushy reviews with gifs in the way you dislike reading science fiction.  However, I think there’s less of a reason to comment on how a blogger is reviewing badly.  I critique books because they’re products being sold to me.  I don’t go around critiquing other bloggers’ reviewing styles because most of us are hobbyists trying to enjoy a book-loving community, and I’m not really sure what I would gain by doing it.  If I don’t like reviews with gifs, I just close the browser window when I run across one and find another review to read.

How do you think the book-blogging community can discuss what they like seeing in reviews in a productive way?


23 thoughts on “Are There Reviewing “Rules?”

  1. Rachana says:

    I personally like both reviewing styles because it provides more diversity in the kinds of reviews I’m exposed to online 🙂
    In response to your question, maybe there isn’t a productive way to discuss this “issue.” As you said its a very personal/subjective process…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I think you’re right. It is a tricky issue. On the one hand, I don’t want to promote any type of censorship. I don’t want to say, “You’re not allowed to complain about certain characteristics of book reviews.” On the other hand, I think complaining takes away our sense of community. But I think it’s like, even though they have the “right” to, authors don’t usually post negative reviews of other authors’ books, singers don’t usually make public statements that some other singer has no talent, etc. It’s just considered professional courtesy not to insult people in your own industry because those are people you’ll probably meet and interact with at some point. You want to foster positive relationships.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Rachana says:

        So authors aren’t supposed to negatively review a book? (Sorry I’m a little confused by the second part of your response.) But aren’t negative reviews also honest reviews?


        • Briana says:

          Authors can write negative reviews. I just know that a lot of them choose not to, or even go back and delete any negative reviews they may have had online (like a personal Goodreads account) before they got a book deal. It’s just awkward if you publicly state you hate someone’s book…and next week you have to sit next to them at a book signing event.

          Liked by 1 person

            • Briana says:

              That may be up to interpretation. Authors definitely have different approaches. Maybe some do give low ratings but don’t write negative reviews? And some do actually write negative reviews. I’ve just seen a number of blog posts by authors saying they’re basically stepping out of the reviewing world, or will only be promoting books they love.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. kamifurr says:

    I completely agree! We have to keep in mind that these are people’s OPINIONS. They aren’t facts. It is just how people feel, and it is wrong to tell someone how to feel. Great insights!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:


      I was most baffled by all the people making statements like, “You can’t complain a character is stupid. First, that’s a personal opinion. Second, they’re in a book so you have more knowledge and more time to make a decision than they do so of course you would come up with a smarter plan. It’s unfair to criticize them.”

      …Why can’t I think a character is stupid? As you said, it’s a personal opinion.

      And, frankly, there are different levels of “stupid” characters. I probably won’t complain about someone who had 10 seconds to make a life or death decision and didn’t make the best one. I WILL complain about characters who make silly choices, with no excuse, particularly if the author/narrator spends half the book trying to convince me this character is actually highly intelligent. If the character really thinks popping in colored contact lenses will work as a “disguise,” that just IS stupid. But it makes it worse if the narrator tries to tell me it’s not. If authors want to write stupid characters, I prefer they would present them neutrally and leave me to come up with my own opinion on the matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Krysta says:

    I haven’t been following this debate because, frankly, it seems a little silly. I’m gathering that a lot of attention was being focused on “subjective” reviews, like it’s wrong for a person not to like a protagonist or to feel disappointed by a book that didn’t meet expectations. How can feeling emotion be wrong? And are people worried that these apparently undesirable emotions might rub off on other readers, that, for instance, if I say a character was annoying, people who read my review suddenly might not be able to read a book and form their own opinions?

    But what is an “objective” review really? Even if you write an “objective” review focused on pacing, character development, etc., not everyone is going to agree with how you responded–pacing you found slow might have been “slow burning” to someone else. Reader response is necessarily a part of the reading process. It’s very difficult, perhaps impossible, not to bring your own background and experiences to a book and react to it through that personal lens.

    For example, even if I recognize that a classic book is great literature, I might be, as a woman, offended by some parts of that same book. And when I think of that book, my anger or hurt cannot be divorced from the memory of the reading experience. So should I ignore that emotion? Or should I bring it up and start a discussion with other people so we can talk about the problematic parts of the book and how we deal with or respond to them? The second option seems more profitable to me than pretending that, as readers, we have no personal thought processes or responses when engaged with a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. DoingDewey says:

    I haven’t been really following the debate either, but it sounds as though it’s really focused on things people don’t like about reviews. I think turning this around and talking about what we like to see in a review would be an improvement. If I read that someone hates something that I regularly do in my reviews, I’m likely to be offended. If I read that they like something other than what I do, I’m likely to stop and seriously consider if I want to do things differently. I’m not sure it’s a very helpful conversation to have at all though, since I do already write the sort of reviews I like to read and I’m guessing this is true for other people.So, while I could definitely get good ideas from someone else, I think I’m most likely to stick to writing what I like to read instead of trying to please everyone since this is a very subjective thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I agree! Focusing on the positive seems as though it would be more beneficial. Like you, I don’t know if I’d massively overhaul my reviewing style if I saw that “everyone” seemed to like something I don’t typically do in reviews, but it might be possible to make minor changes to my style. Or, it would just be fun to see all the different types of reviews that people enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lianne @ says:

    lol, I seem to have missed this latest bout of drama…I mean, err, news 😛 I think I’m with you guys that it seems pretty silly, everyone clearly has their own style of reviewing and preferences on what they think is important to cover when reviewing. That’s the beauty of reading and blogging–everyone approaches these books differently.

    I’ve personally been meaning to reassess myself a little when it comes to reviewing (for the sake of accurately recording my reactions to books read 😉 ); I think I generally lean more towards the “objective” style of reviewing, but if there’s something you feel strongly about (or something you really want to flail about), it’s worth noting, right? 🙂


    • Briana says:

      Exactly! I like to try to be objective, as well, but, in the end, every reaction to a book is a personal one, and if people want to share those types of reactions on their blogs, I’m all for it.


  6. Megan @ bookslayerReads says:

    I agree with everything everyone has said, ultimately. I don’t believe there is a “right or wrong” way to review and I definitely am not going to knock a fellow blogger on how they choose to review a book. Like Briana said in her post, if I don’t like what I’m seeing/reading in a review, I’ll simply close out of it and move on to a different review. I really wish there wasn’t so much negativity going on (which, I know this was posted years ago, but you guys know there’s still negativity going on), but like DoingDewey said, the best way to stop the negativity is to spread positivity. So for example, in this case, let’s try to focus on the positives of fellow bloggers reviews. I know I’m super late to this discussion post, but I just wanted to put my two cents in. Lol. Thanks for another great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Briana says:

      Oh, I definitely think there’s still negativity. I’m trying to think of ways I can better avoid it and also not add to it. (Sometimes I fail at that.) But Twitter is the worst, and I’m thinking of distancing myself, even though that’s where the book community is particularly active.

      Focusing on the positive is such a great idea. That’s one of the things that was emphasized as “career advice” in an internship I had a few years ago. Don’t say things like “I like this, but __.” Try to use “and” instead of “but” and focus on the positives to get results. If you say “I like reviews that are long,” that’s just such a different tone from “Short reviews are pointless and boring.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Megan @ bookslayerReads says:

        Great advice! And yeah, Twitter is pretty bad. I just recently signed up for Twitter and I can already see all the negativity it generates.


  7. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Fantastic post! For myself, I treat reading and reviewing the same. They are an individualized experience, and after all opinions. So they will vary 😊 The only rules I follow are my own two personal rules.. 1. Never attack a real person (author, fellow blogger, etc) 2. No Spoilers 😉 But I don’t hold other bloggers to any expectations aside from honesty. If I enjoy your reviews I will read and share them. If I do not, I will peacefully move along. Again, great post ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Adam says:

    I think one of the interesting conundrums of reviewing and recommending is the complex and elusive line between “I like/dislike” and “good/bad”.
    Granted, the debate over what qualifies as “good” or “bad” is ongoing and eternal, but for me there’s also a distinction between the personal good of “I like” and the general good of “I would recommend this.”
    There are plenty of stories that I enjoy, but rarely recommend, and even then, always with some trepidation. I’m often struck by this weird “pressure” to only like “good” stories.

    As you mentioned, even expressing a sentiment of “I don’t like” can easily snowball into a debate over what is “right”, and I agree with you. Everyone has their own personal preferences, and is entitled to their opinion, whatever it may be.

    Often I’m less interested in what someone thinks and more interested in why. I often like to read reviews of stories I’ve already read; see the story through their perspective, a type of quasi-conversation, if you will.


    • Briana says:

      I agree! I think I write both types of reviews. Sometimes my reviews are really just my feelings, and I don’t know that they would apply to anyone else. In general I do try to be more objective and think about whether it’s “good writing” by the most common standards, and I think more objective reviews can be more helpful to other readers. When I run across reviews that are too personal to that particular reviewer, it doesn’t help me choose at all whether I want to read the book or not, which I think is one of the primary functions of a review.

      I do think you’re write that recommending definitively can still be hard. Often I end up with a recommendation that’s basically, “If you like x types of books/things in books, you’ll probably like this.”

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.