Online reviews, Goodreads reviews – and honesty.

This has been on my mind for a while. In fact, every time I add another review of a book to Goodreads. Or I read an online review. Or I review a book on my blog, I think about it.

For Goodreads reviews I only use 3, 4 and 5 stars. (If I’d give lower than a three, I don’t review it.)  

Five stars: These books are my favorites. They hit every aspect of a book that I like. It’s personal. And I’ll probably read it again.

But on Goodreads – should it be personal? Should I give five stars to books that even if I didn’t love, I think kids will?

On my blog I only list the positive aspects of books. For one, this is not a book blog. I know most of you understand that. We’re writers and we want to promote, not tear down.

But I have so much more respect for a book review when a reviewer states what they felt could have been done better. Then I trust why they loved the book because they are being honest.  And just because there is a negative doesn’t mean I won’t read it. Because let’s face it – it’s nigh impossible to write a book that pleases everyone.

What do you think? How do you review books on Goodreads? And should my reviews on Goodreads not be personal? And at some point, do book reviews lose their power when book after book is always a glowing review?

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17 Responses to Online reviews, Goodreads reviews – and honesty.

  1. Quinn November 8, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    I wrote about this before and it is a tricky subject. I feel that when someone only gives positive reviews, the reviews do lose power after a while; I feel that I can’t trust their judgment anymore if everything’s always great.

  2. Jessica Bell November 8, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    I too refuse to review books that I would give lower than 3 stars. I don’t want to put an author down that has put so much time and effort into writing something. Plus, someone else might love it. It’s not worth it. If I do give something 3 stars, I breifly explain why, and then move onto the positives. I ALWAYS focus on the positives though. They should be personal. But sometimes I give something an extra star for the quality of the writing even though the subject matter may not be my cup of tea. A well-written book isn’t always enjoyed, I find. And it can also depend greatly on my mood, so I don’t want to batter something that I may have gotten into more if I’d been in the mood for such a thing, you know what I mean?

    • Laura November 8, 2010 at 11:48 am #

      Quinn – It is a tricky subject and each person has to decide.

      Jessica – One book I might have given this one book a 4 but shot it up to a five 5 because certain aspects were done really well.

  3. shelley November 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    I wish I had time to keep up with goodreads! But for me, it would be more of a “Books I liked” sort of thing.

    I can’t imagine being an author and giving other books poor reviews….

    If I didn’t like a book, I guess I just wouldn’t mention it. I mean, there are sooooo many good books to talk about, right?

    (It is called “goodreads” after all!)


  4. Patti Nielson November 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    I have to admit that I wonder just how sincere people are being when they review a book, because nobody wants to bash a book on their blog.

    It’s an interesting question.

  5. Lois Moss November 8, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    I like for people to be completely honest in reviews. I’ll read a book even if it isn’t “perfect.” I think you should do the scores by your opinion. If you think a child would like it better than you, I’d say that in the first line of your review (on Goodreads).

  6. Laura Marcella November 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    I like your criteria, Laura! I review books on Goodreads when I have time- and the words! Sometimes I’m so mesmerized with a novel that all I can think of to review it is “amazing, amazing, amazing, read it right now!” Lol, so then I just give it the 5 stars and hope that’s enough!

    I don’t give a bad review. I’ve read some on Goodreads, and they’re so cruel. There’s enough crass criticism in this world as it is and I don’t want to contribute to that.

  7. Kelly Polark November 8, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    I agree it’s tricky and that’s why I don’t do regular book reviews! Also, I just won’t bash a book on my blog. That author worked hard on the book and someone thought it was good enough to publish. If I don’t love it, I’ll tell people individually but certainly not publicly.

  8. Anna November 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    As others have said, it’s tricky. I actually stopped reviewing books on Goodreads because I didn’t know what to do about it. The star system just seems so limited. I guess I’m okay with the written reviews, but to put a number on it feels too harsh somehow. Even three stars might hurt someone’s feeling, you know? I’m not really sure what the answer is, though…

    • Laura November 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

      Shelley – Yes, there is nothing wrong with just listing books you like. But I also love honest reviews when deciding whether to purchase a book.

      Patti – When I review a book on my blog, it’s because I love it.

      Lois – Good point. Mentioning that someone who likes this kind of book will like this one then too, even if I didn’t love it.

      Laura – I never believe in being cruel in a review. I can’t imagine any writer/author doing that. I like recording the books I read on Goodreads, more for me, to keep an accurate record of what I’ve read and why I liked it. And to support authors.

      Kelly – That’s why I don’t do regular book reviews either. And I still won’t review a book just because I loved it. But I will review a book if there was a certain element of craft, like dialogue or pacing, that was excellent.

  9. Creepy Query Girl November 8, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    I haven’t really done much reviewing on goodreads. Just joined a couple weeks ago but I agree it’s best not to review a book if I didn’t like it.

  10. Paul November 8, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    I don’t think I’m going to be of much help here because I’m not on Goodreads. Maybe I will be at some point. On my blog, I spotlight books that I really liked. I usually turn to professional reviewers like booklist, Voya, ALAN, if I’m unsure if I want to read a book. I do love it when my blogger friends review books, and I have chosen to read books b/c of those introductions to them, but I somehow wouldn’t expect to see a negative review on a writer’s blog, or at least the ones I frequent.

  11. Susan R. Mills November 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    I don’t review books on my blog, but my policy would be to only review books that I would recommend. I don’t want to ridicule anyone. When I read a review, though, I prefer honesty. I agree with you about if they reviewer is honest about something negative, their positive thoughts are more reliable.

  12. Lynda Young November 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    I don’t often write reviews, but when I read them I would prefer honesty. Books are so subjective but I’d still like to know what it is that a reader likes AND doesn’t like about the book. Note: if they want to say something negative about the book, it has to be about the book and not the author. It shouldn’t be an attack.

  13. Corey J. Popp November 9, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    I use GoodReads as my own personal book log, giving very little thought to anyone that may or may not be paying attention to my activity.

    My review is there if anyone wants to read it, but my feeling is that my reviews are probably never read. For that reason, I keep my reviews very short.

    I figure the small dent my rating makes in the aggregate GoodReads rating of any book isn’t going to cost an author any book sales, so I rate them honestly, reserving 5 stars for books that truly blow me away. I’m never cruel. I wouldn’t think of being mean.

    I welcome anyone to friend me on GoodReads by visiting my profile at

  14. Karen Strong November 9, 2010 at 5:32 am #

    It’s kismet, I just wrote about blog post bad reviews. 🙂

    I always wonder about people on Goodreads that like go off on the book and the author — sounds like a personal vendetta to me.

    I actually read 1-star reviews (I’m weird) but I always wonder about readers who give 5-stars to EVERYTHING. Makes you wonder if they’re being sincere.

    I tend to really get this most out of 3-star reviews. Some of them can be really balanced.

  15. Emy Shin November 10, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    I almost never write an entirely negative review (that is, anything below a 3 star). Sometimes, I have difficulty finishing personal 4-star books, and cannot afford to waste time reading and reviewing books I don’t like. However, I find it more difficult to juggling positive versus constructive comments in a review about a book I like.

    Personally, I do get a bit wary if all reviews are glowing. However, sometimes, I just take them as recommendations rather than proper reviews. 🙂

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