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September 23, 2015

Gush & Gripe: Bad Reviews, Don't Take It Personal [Kristi Charish Piggyback]


Today, I am shamelessly piggybacking on Kristi Charish's article about how authors AND reviewers navigate the Temple of Bad Reviews. I strongly recommend you all read it at some point because it's a balanced commentary reflecting both sides of the coin.

I know this topic has been beaten to death, and just like zombies and immortal, otherworldly beings, the case that is Author & Street Team v. Reader/Blogger refuses to die down. As book bloggers, I think we're closer to the flame than the average reader because we're in the frontline and our voices are "louder" to some degree. As we are applauded for well-written reviews, we also take the most heat when we rate a book 3 stars or below. Here's where KC's article comes in. She eloquently speaks from both the standpoints of author and reviewer:



Let me ask you this: would you rather have an honest review even if that means it's a 3 or below, or a BS 4 or 5 because you don't want your star rating to suffer? To remind you of the standard review disclaimer: Copy recieved for free in exchange for an honest review. By giving me your book, you've also given me permission to rate and review your work based on my experience with it.



I for one have encountered at least one author who took my review personally, and if memory serves, I even gave it a good rating with a few critiques because there were aspects that didn't work for me (as a side-note, you know who you are, Dear Author). My first reaction was sadness, then when that eased, I got pissed off. I can only speak for myself, but when I end up disliking a book, more often than not, it's a case of it's not you, it's me followed by a list of why it didn't work for me.



The way I see it, I'm just ONE reader and even though I have a certain degree of influence, I don't make decisions for others. They can make their own judgments based on the package as a whole (blurb, cover art, average star ratings, and other reviews). So if you're novel is as strong as you believe it is, then my high/low rating shouldn't devastate your ranking and sales. 

Now if your book isn't on fire then I suggest you look at that same package. Do you have enough reviews? Are those reviews curated? What's the ratio between reviews from sales versus those from review requests and book tours? From a customer stand-point, it looks dubious if you have less than 100 ratings and it's mostly 4s and 5s from people who didn't purchase your book.

In closing, allow me to reiterate that Talk Supe is a personal blog, therefore my reviews are subjective. My responsibility as a professional reader ends on reviewing your book. The rest are fringe benefits including (but not limited to) gushing about it in social media and virtually forcing it down my follower's throats (sorry guys!). Your star rating, book sales and reputation is not part of my job description, so if I end up disliking your work and its not ranking high, it's just pure coincidence. Don't take it personal.










Talk Supe



70 comments:

  1. "Your star rating, book sales and reputation is not part of my job description" - THIS!!! So much this. This is true whether I'm wearing my reader hat or my reviewer hat. I'd even say that for the average reader, just leaving a review is not in their job description. The only obligation a reader has to an author is to legally acquire their book, whether they purchase it, borrow it from a library, or borrow it via Scribd or another lending program.

    For reviewers, if we agree to review, we should actually review it, and do so honestly. That's it. The rest is on the author.

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    1. Some authors think that a blogger can make/break them. Well I guess, if you're Maryse, but I'm not Maryse, don't have that much clout on the readersphere

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  2. I totally agree with you. You know a few months ago I had something that pissed me even more. I saw a French book on a few blogs but it was sci-fi, you know I'm not that much into that but I saw a wonderful review so I said that maybe I could try. Later I saw a negative review so I was a bit more mixed because as I'm not a fan it needs to be good so I thought that it could be better in the end not to read it so I said that I was sorry for her feeling and that I wouldn't read it in the end even if someone loved it because well something like that. The author emailed me like really angry against me and I had an enormous email all that to finish that I should read the book. I was so surprised, if now I can't even say my feelings in my comment and not even in my reviews, what can I do?

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    1. You should tell the author why you didn't want to read it anymore. I mean you don't want to shortchange her, still read her book even if you're almost certail you're not going to like it right?

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  3. Yes! And do authors not know that a lot of bloggers have a 'never read again' list? I don't know if you do or not but I do and I know of at least 20 other blogger buddies that also do. Authors get added to that list when they behave list shit and belittle a blogger or reviewer for posting an honest review, even if that review is a 1 or 2 star. Bloggers talk to each other and if an author pisses one of us off, tries to make us feel bad or berates us for posting our own opinion about a book, we are likely to tell other bloggers about it and oh look, never gonna read you again X's 20 or more.

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    1. I don't have an actual list, but there's a few that I won't touch with a 10-foot pole

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  4. Agreed. At the same time though, I can fully understand an author getting upset over certain bad reviews, because sometimes as a reader, certain reviews piss me off because they'll dump on something I love and had such a connection with. So I'm sure it hurts the author at times too. But, just like I roll my eyes, mentally call the person a few choice names and move on, so should the author. Or not read them at all.

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    1. I get that part too, but it's difficult for an author to put his/herself in that situation. S/he instantly becomes a target, put on the defensive, and it never goes well from there

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  6. A review is an opinion, so by definition it's subjective. Arguing with someone about a review is like trying to convince someone who doesn't like chocolate that chocolate is yummy. It won't work, because that person's taste is different from yours. But that's fine. Their failure to appreciate chocolate won't affect your ability to enjoy it. Nor will it prevent other chocolate lovers from indulging. A review is just an expression of one person's opinion; nothing more, nothing less.

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    1. Love your analogy! And I love chocolate ;)

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  7. Hear, hear! Great post, Braine. You are absolutely right. When we, as readers or bloggers, review a book - whether we've purchased it ourselves or received it to review - we do so in a subjective and honest manner. It's our opinion, positive or negative. And while we may have a small bit of influence, in the end, we're only ONE opinion.

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    1. It's flattering to think that I can influence one's decision as to whether or not they should read the book. But I don't believe that though. It's still the reader's decision

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  8. Great post and I definitely agree! I can't imagine what it would feel like to read a bad review, or even bad comments on something in your novel (especially if you assumed that aspect was great) but at the same time, don't turn that against the blogger or your readers. Also, stars and reviews don't always turn every reader away. I've read slightly negative reviews of books I still want to read. It's subjective.

    -Lauren
    www.letsgetbeyondtolerance.blogspot.com

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    1. I'm the same way, I've read a few books whose star rating was low, but totally loved it!

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  9. Yes, yes and yes. Let's also remember that just because I didn't like, doesn't mean that someone else won't love it. I've often bought books based on other people's negative reviews. As a matter of fact, Rachel Vincent recently tweeted that she had seen three DNF reviews of her most recent book, Menagerie, because it was so dark. For me, this is golden and making me want to read it even more. I've heard of erotica authors getting low ratings because of the amount of sex in their books. Hello, it's erotica, it is supposed to have a lot of sex. I never judge a book my a single review, especially if it is from someone I don't know and trust, be it positive or negative. Great post.

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    1. You and I are similar in that way. I seek out dark reads while some can't. On the flip side, I don't like super sexy books that doesn't have much plot, and the ever popular angsty reads.

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  10. I have never had a bad author interaction. *knock on wood*

    I have had a swarm on teenage commenters inform me that a popular YA author was nice on a balanced (mentioned what I liked/didn't like) 3 star review. I just ignored them. They're entitled to their comment - and as I hadn't mentioned the author at all in my review I didn't feel the need to justify anything.

    One thing I noticed this week (on twitter) is now that the new tv season is underway - I see a lot of authors ripping apart new shows. Occasionally even tweeting the network or hashtagging the show directly. How is that ok? I mean aren't' these also fellow artists who are doing their best to entertain? To me it's the same thing.

    Once it's out there it's a product and people can express how they feel.

    As long as the review is about the book - not the author - than you should feel free to express your view honestly.

    And I've talked about this on my blog before - negative reviews have sold books. I buy 1, 2, 3 star reviewed books ALL THE TIME.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. Great point! I guess those author think that dissing a TV show is worlds different from dissing their books. Maybe their defense is there are a lot of moving parts so it's not a direct attack on just one person?

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  11. I totally agree with your thoughts on this. God, I can't tell you how much it pisses me off when I read author comments on reviews with a 3 or less star rating. Different strokes for different folks. Not everyone will like it, so it is what it is. Like you said, if the book is as hot as the author thinks it is, then the review in question should have no affect on others thoughts, book sales, nothing.

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    1. And why are they getting upset with a 3-star? It's "average", when did average become such a bad thing?

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  12. I agree completely with you. There are books I didn't like that some of my friends like and viceversa. I also like to read the 3 or lower star reviews because they usually made me realize if the book is for me or not, more than the 4 or 5 stars. I think the 3 or lower star reviews are sometimes more honest because the reviewer usually tries to be more clear about the "why" the book didn't work for him/her.
    Authors shouldn't be upset because somebody didn't like their book, they should be happy somebody took the time to read it. I think even a negative review is a good review because what it doesn't work for some people it does work for others. We all have different tastes, it will be worrisome if everybody would like the same thing.

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    1. As a consumer, I actually seek out the 3 and below ratings. I want to know what I'm getting myself into especially if I'm investing my time on it.

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  13. Braine what a great post.
    I'm an editorial contract reviewer for more than one publication and have to read and review the books I'm given no matter how I feel about them and review them honestly.
    Therefore I won't ever get far enough through a book I don't like that I'm reading for pleasure to review it.
    For a second thing I rarely post non contracted book reviews on my blog and its even rarer for me to accept a review request from an author.
    The reason I won't review a book I can't finish is because like you mentioned above a review is a personal opinion and its not fair for me to blurr someone's opinion because they happen to respect mine and the way I look at/review a book for the publications are totally different than the way I review a book I'm reading for pleasure.
    When I put my editorial reviewer hat on I look at sentence structure, character development, world building, plot/storyline development etc.. When I read a book for pleasure I just want to be entertained, fall in love with the characters/settings etc..
    I do happen to love reading other bloggers reviews and will usually add to my aching TBR pile because of them.
    If you'll notice I don't rate the books on my blog I do review, and only give stars to reviews where it's required.
    I also have a don't read list. Its made up of authors I've seen bashing other authors/books/bloggers/reviewers.
    And speaking about bad reviews, when I get a review magazine and see a low review for an author that I've previously enjoyed I usually contact them or their publisher to request a copy, and usually end up scratching my head at the bad review and am happy to produce a positive one to combat the negative.

    Maybe some of you don't agree with my not reviewing books I don't like and guess what you're entitled to your opinion and I'm not going to bash anyone because of it. ;-)

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    1. When it's a review request that I agreed to, I don't post my review when I end up not liking it. I instead email the author and tell him/her why it didn't work for me. I also don't post it on GR or Amazon.

      It's different for ARCs though because the publisher expects a review. I've learned to use the DNF tag wisely. If at some point I know I'm not going to like the book, I DNF, IMO, not finishing is better than outright disliking the book.

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  14. Great point, I can see how authors could try to take it personally because its their baby, but also see it from the reader point of view

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    1. I can see that too. But not everyone who rates a book low are "trolls". It's all about the context and content.

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  15. Great post and I also thought Kristi made a terrific one as well on this subject - from both sides of the coin so to speak. There's got to be an honest, thoughtful balance in reviews and most bloggers I know always strive to do that. Not all books are for everyone, I have had many that I love and others not so, and vice versa!

    Thanks for the great post, Braine :)

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    1. In my life of blogging, I've only come across a blog or two who relishes on hating on either the book or the author. I stopped following them. Hating won't help the author's craft, constructive criticism will. However even that seems to be subjective nowadays, there are some authors who don't like their work to be criticized at all.

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  16. Very imformative post, I will go read Kristi's post next. I couldn't agree more. As a reviewer, I feel pressure to read and like books, but often times I just don't, whether it be a case of me or the book. You know that I always try to be fair when writing my reivews by laying out what I liked and didn't like, and if I can't find anything nice to say, I don't write a review, which has only happened twice in my blogging career. Even though it is hard to read negative reviews, you need to take criticism and learn from it.

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    1. There's always a learning experience. Either you learn something from the review, or learn to ignore the "bad" ones

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  17. Yep, sadly the more inexperienced authors will struggle. I did (though not to the point where I gouged peoples' eyes out in writing, lol). It gets easier with time. And in those cases where no such progress is evident, well ... I guess you SHOULD get pissed off. Really interesting post.

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    1. I got pissed because I felt like all that person's frustrations about the book was dumped on me! Like I'm just one person, and I actually LIKED your book! Gosh!

      How did you deal with your low raters?

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  18. What a great discussion, I can tell I need to read all of it. Honestly, a lot of 3 star reviews make me more curious about a book than say a lot of four stars. Why? I have no idea other than I want to know what was so blah about it so I get curious and read the synopsis or the reviews. More often than not, I even check the library for it LOL!

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    1. When the author/book is new to me, I look up the 3 and below ratings and reviews. That's where I find the grit, I want to know what I'm getting myself into when I pick up a book

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  19. I know some only wants 4s and 5s, but come on! I can spot the BS reviews. If your book only has 4 and 5s I call BS on it. Cos for every book that people ADORE, there will be other peeps that find it boring nad that is life

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    1. There's always one odd person, sometimes it's me, that don't like it.

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  20. What a great post, Braine! I didn't know about Kristi's article. I'll have to read it more thoroughly. I agree. At the end of the day everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and we don't all have to agree. If an author writes a really good book, it will reflect in sales and praise. Zeroing in on that one bad review or blaming the blogger will not help and will make you look whiney. Very interesting discussion.

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    1. A big chunk of readers don't blog, follow blogs, or even reads blogs. So my "influence" is isolated,my effect on a book's sales/ranking is nonexistent

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  21. I hate to tell authors this, but I have picked up books BECAUSE of a low rating. What didn't work for one works for me. Also, you cannot take it personally. Any kind of artistic endeavor will have both good and bad critics. Often if we just let it marinate we can pick out what is constructive and what is not. Good post.

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    1. I can't understand Picasso's paintaings, does that make me a hater? It's all about the interpretation and maybe I'm not too smart to "get" your book hence my low rating.

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  22. Oooch on the ones that don't handle them well. They really kick themselves in the ass when they act snotty over it. I've had a couple encounters and lordy yeah they ended up on my never again list and had quite a few others knocking them off their read lists.

    I get real sick of the fake 4 and 5 star reviews. I always wonder if anyone else can see right through them. Too many of those and I end up being meh about trying an author/book.

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    1. As a blogger, we can TELL if it's curated

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  23. Yeah, I understand authors can't help but take it personally, but I think they can learn a thing or two about responding ungraciously to criticisms. Reviewers/readers tend to have a good memory when it to those type of things. All it takes is one and the backlash is like a splash in the ocean.

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    1. Very true. And there are some people who are waiting for the next meltdown so the "press" is already waiting to sensationalize and blow up the situation otu of proportion. Prevention is th best remedy

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  24. It hurts me to give a low rating, but I would much rather be honest than untruthful.
    I even encountered reviews that greatly disliked a certain book but that didn't stop me from reading it on my own and forming my own opinion. I think authors forget that sometimes. Great topic to bring up. I loved reading everyone's comments :)

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    1. I go against the grain too, I like books a lot of people won't touch, and vice versa. And yes, if I agreed to review your book, you can bet your dollar I'll be honest with my review.

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  25. Great post, Braine. I agree with you. Yes, yes, and yes. All reviews are subjective to that persons personal opinions, believes, lifestyle, etc.., so just because it did not work for one does not mean it won’t work for another. I have picked up books my friends liked, but for me not so much. I like to see a verity of reviews good and bad on any book. The 3 stars I love because they usually give me more of the “Why” the book did/didn’t work for them. Reviews area my way of getting perspective on the book, lets me know what some people liked and did not like. As a blogger I am grateful I have yet *knock on wood* to have a bad author interaction or get slammed with negativity about a review I have written. For me, even my own reviews, I take with a grain of salt. They are only part of what helps me deiced on a my next book.

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    1. I can be very subjective at times like I don't like multiple POVs in contemporary but love it in fantasy. I don't like angsty reads like NA, I love sexy but gory reads, and can't stand women who are treated like property in books. But that's me, some people love those, I don't take it against them though

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  26. This was a fabulous post! I've only had one instance where an author stepped over the line and bitched at me foraking her book so low but I did warn her NUMEROUS times that if it went a certain way, I would give her a bad review. You can't fault me if I warn you ahead of time. I need to go read that article you posted. This whole thing is why I just quit blogging and became a regular reader who buys and reviews of my own accord.

    (P.s. If the author you called out above is who I think it is, then I can see why you had issues with her. If it's the same person, I've had words with her too.)

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    1. Oh noes! We need to chat in private, I need to confirm if we're talking about the same person

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  27. Oh man, this topic again? I totally agree with what you said Braine, this is wholly and solely the reason why I refuse to participate in blog tours or review indie author reads - been there - not going there anymore. I've had from the rude and the ungrateful to those who just never responded after you gave them a THREE STAR RATING which is hardly bad.

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    1. I promise I won't talk about it again :D

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  28. You can't beat this topic to death, especially as bad behavior on both sides persists. Your points are well presented and I hope those falling into the traps take a moment and reflect.

    Coincidentally, I was looking at Goodreads' list of the top reviews of all time and was saddened to see that most were over-the-top dissections obviously meant to entertain rather than inform. To each his own but these are meant to sting.

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    1. Yeah, some reviewers like to imitate them snarky heroines :/

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  29. It's sad that this has to keep being brought up. I honestly don't understand it at all. I don't trust ANY product that gets all 5 stars. Granted, if the majority are one stars and the reviews explain a reason why and it jives with something that I wouldn't like either, then I pass but otherwise I like a well-rounded rating. There have been plenty of books that other bloggers have rated as DNF and after reading why they didn't like I, I picked it up and enjoyed it.

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    1. I get why they want to maintain a certain ranking, but slamming me for not liking your book is almost like censorship

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  30. VERY good points! I haven't had an author get upset with a review I did but I've had others upset because they didn't get more 5 stars on a blog tour (it averaged 4 stars) and that kind of ticked me off because they should have been OVER THE MOON to get an average of 4 stars!

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  31. I think that author has the right attitude for handling reviews, I just read her post. I especially liked how she said "If someone bothered to pick up your book and read enough of it to give it a 1 or 2 star rating, they were interested in it enough to open the cover." I think it's still a compliment that someone read the book, even though I can imagine receiving a negative review is never fun.

    btw I actually gave the first Owl book a critical 3 star review as I liked some things, but it wasn't really for me. And like you said when you dislike a book it is more than often it's not you it's me. I also try to emphasize that in my reviews, why I didn't like it. That doesn't mean others won't. In fact most books I rate low, also have enough high ratings.

    In my opinion a few low reviews or rating can make a book look more credible, I am always a bit warry if a book only has positive reviews. it just isn't possible for everyone to enjoy your book. I think for authors the best thing to do with review is to not take it personal, the reviewer didn't like the book, not you as a person. Great post!

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    1. Exactly, even if the reader isn't a blogger, out of all the books that's on the shelf, s/he picked YOURS. S/he invested TIME s/he can't take back on your book. That entitles him/her to rate the book according to his/her experience and not on the author's expectations.

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  32. It takes a lot for me to pick up one book out of HUNDREDS to read. I think it's something to be said, even if I didn't particularly like it. I also agree that they shouldn't take reviews personally, everybody has a different POV and honestly, it scares me off if a book only has positive reviews. Especially if they have hundreds of ratings and only good ratings.

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    1. Right? IT's like the Stepford Wives of books

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  33. Loaded topic, major props for talking about this.
    I am on the honesty side of this argument. I refuse to stroke an ego for something I don't love. I try not to bash authors personally. One review is just that, 1 review.

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    1. I'm NOT for bashing, but honesty should be encouraged and if that means you'll be disappointed, so be it.

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  34. This is a touchy subject with readers/bloggers and authors. I understand it's their babies, but I would like to see some low ratings on books. I actually look for them just to see what people think. And yes, there are those out there that low ball all books. We know who they are and know what to think. But if authors do good research on who they ask for reviews, that's what helps them. And if they use blog tours, well, don't look is all I can advise. lol.

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  35. For me the negative is often an immature writing style, and it's difficult to express that without it seeming like bashing, so I don't mention it. I think people can pick up on how I feel about the book, even though I don't do star ratings, by the details I give from the story and connections I make to other books/movies or my own life. If it's a flat review then it was a flat book.

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My reviews are subjective & does not reflect that of Talk Supe's followers.

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