Should You Write Negative Reviews?

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Negative reviews can be a bit of a sensitive topic among bloggers. There are some who never write or share them, some who only post them to Goodreads, and some who post them on their blog frequently. Personally, I don’t write them often simply because I usually enjoy the books I read, but I still share them on my blog and Goodreads. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about when I think it’s okay or even good to write a negative review and when you should maybe skip it. Obviously, this is my personal opinion and people are free to write or not write negative reviews as they wish. So if you disagree with anything I say, don’t get too upset about it. πŸ˜‰

As I already mentioned, I end up not posting negative reviews very frequently but this isn’t due to me choosing not to share negative reviews. I know a lot of bloggers decide not to write negative reviews for a variety of reasons. Some bloggers would rather only spend their time promoting books they actually like. Others fear pushback from readers who liked the book or the author that wrote it. Others may simply struggle with writing a negative review. I write them, but you don’t end up seeing many because, as I said, I like most of the books I read. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences in how I handle a negative review vs. a positive one. For example, if I write a negative review of a book and see that there aren’t very many other reviews on Amazon, I usually don’t cross-postΒ it there. If there are already a lot of other reviews, I might. The reason I do this is because I know some people like to read negative reviews before they buy a book, but I don’t want my negative review to be one of the only ones potential buyers can see, especially if it’s a book that isn’t badly written, but just wasn’t something I enjoyed. (This raises an entirely new question of whether people should write negative reviews only if it’s a poorly written book vs. one they personally didn’t like, I know)

Generally, I treat negative opinions the same way I would positive ones. There are some times where you might just not want to write a negative review, though. One thing that really bugs me is when I go on Goodreads to read a few reviews and decide if I want to read a certain book and I see one-star reviews that basically amount to “I hate this genre but decided to give this book a try and surprise! I hated it.” In my opinion, this is an unfair review, both to the author/publisher and readers. A lot of readers may not take the time to go through individual reviews, but rather only look at the overall rating for the book. Reviews like this aren’t a reflection of the actual quality of the book, but rather of that person’s individual tastes. And going into a book knowing that you dislike the genre is different from reading a book in a genre you like and not liking that individual book. In this case, I think you’re probably better off either not reviewing the book or not including a star rating so that it doesn’t affect the overall rating. I understand wanting to try and branch out into a new genre or give a specific book a try even though you don’t usually like that genre, but these kinds of reviews don’t seem very helpful to me. The readers looking at your review probably know they like this genre, so your review likely does nothing more than negatively affect the rating.

Another type of negative review that tends to be really frustrating for me is if an adult is reading YA and complains that the characters are too immature or that there’s too much high school drama. This can sometimes be a valid critique, as there are certainly kidlit authors who don’t write teenage characters very well and end up making a 16-year-old seem more like a 12-year-old or who go overboard trying to fit as much drama as they can into their story. But I’ve seen reviewers who consistently complain that main characters in YA are too immature and to me, this is a sign that you probably should just give up on reading YA. If you think every YA MC is immature, it’s likely that you’ve just reached a point where you can’t connect with or relate to teenage characters anymore. And that’s fine, but maybe don’t write reviews for YA books.

One time I think you should write a negative review is if you disliked the book because it had problematic content. I know this is a very sensitive topic and often causes huge arguments, especially on Twitter and Goodreads. As a result, I completely understand if people don’t want to put themselves in a position where they might be harassed or attacked for saying “I thought this book was homophobic” or something similar. But your review can be especially helpful to readers who might be upset and hurt by content like that. In that case, your negative review can be much more helpful than you might think.

I also think it’s completely fair for youΒ to write a negative review if you read a book in a genre you like and end up not liking the book. Even though this may be more of a reflection of your personal tastes than the quality of writing (which I previously criticized), it’s likely that if a fan of sci-fi dislikes a particular sci-fi book, other sci-fi fans will also dislike that sci-fi book. It’s much different than someone who hates sci-fi giving the book a try and then writing a negative review saying they hated it. In this case, mentioning what you disliked about it will give other potential readers a chance to decide if the same things you disliked would bother them and take away from their enjoyment of the book, too. Reviewer and reader both being fans of the genre makes it a more fair and balanced review.

Clearly, there are a lot of things to take into consideration when deciding if you should write and share a negative review and obviously this is a personal decision that I can’t make for you. But if you’re having a hard time deciding whether or not to write a negative review, I hope this will help you make up your mind.

Do you write negative reviews? What factors do you consider into your decision?


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48 thoughts on “Should You Write Negative Reviews?

  1. I agree with everything you said here! I think negative reviews should be written with extra thought put in to them. I try to think critically about why I didn’t like it and point out reasons why other readers might have a different opinion than me. Unless a book is completely problematic, I like to point out the redeeming qualities of books I disliked as well!

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    • I do the same thing. I always try to make sure I’m polite in pointing out what I didn’t like, but also mention the things (however few they may be) that I did like. I want to review it honestly, but there’s no need to be cruel about it!

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  2. I agree with most of the things you say here, and I generally understand why there are those who prefer not to waste time or just not write a negative review. I, for my part, decide to write it and post it as any review, it’s important and I always try to be respectful towards the work of others and try to make the criticism as constructive as possible, it’s also important for me to highlight to the reader of my blog that is just my personal opinion and that we don’t all like the same things. This is a super interesting topic to discuss, great post! 😊😊

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    • For the most part, I do the same. I certainly do a couple of things different (like I mentioned in the post), but generally, I try and review it as I would any other book. Like you said, I always try and be respectful and make my criticism as constructive as I can. Even if I totally disliked the book, I still try and add at the end that other readers who enjoy X genre or don’t mind the specific things that annoyed me might enjoy it. Just because I didn’t like the book doesn’t mean none of the people who read my review will. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts! πŸ™‚

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  3. This is such a good post😊I agree with everything you out here. I do think you can review a book in a genre you don’t like in my opinion. When I do this I add a disclaimer kind of thing that says something like “I don’t like this genre usually but if you do, you might like it more!” Or If everyone else gave it a good rating “I’m the minority when it comes to this rating”. But I tend to add those to all my negative reviews regardless of genre xD.

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    • Haha, I do that, too. Even if I hate a book, I kind of feel bad telling everyone they would hate it, too. πŸ˜› As for negative reviews in a genre you don’t like, I guess it would kind of depend on why you disliked the book (for example, if you thought the writing was bad, I think that’s a fair review) and where you’re posting the review. I think it’s more acceptable if you only post it on your blog vs. posting it on places like Goodreads, too. People who follow your blog probably have a better sense of your personal tastes than random people on Goodreads. Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

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  4. I don’t have a problem writing negative reviews. For example, I usually enjoy sci-fi but I absolutely hated Illuminae, and I had no issues writing the review for it. This year, I have actually written more three star reviews than in years past, and those were for books in a genre that I started reading more of last year.

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  5. I definitely write negative reviews, and don’t really feel bad about it! I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. πŸ˜‚ I only post reviews on my blog and don’t share them on other reviewing platforms, so I guess that might influence it.

    I agree with the genre thing! I just don’t like contemporary, so I’m not going to bother picking up contemporary books when I find them super boring and probably rate them poorly because of it. It’s not really fair to the author and other readers who really like the genre!

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    • Hahaha, I definitely get more worried about negative reviews when I’m posting them on other websites like Goodreads. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone react badly to a review I posted here, but I’ve seen some nasty responses to reviews (luckily not mine) on Goodreads, especially with really popular books.
      Every once in awhile I might decide to read a book from a genre that I don’t normally like that much, especially if it’s a book that’s gotten a lot of praise. But if I end up disliking it, I’m not going to post it anywhere other than my blog. People who read my blog would probably know that’s not my normal genre and would know to take my review a little less seriously whereas people on other websites wouldn’t. I completely agree that giving a negative review for a book in a genre you don’t like is unfair to the author and readers. It just ends up being such a biased review, you know?

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  6. There is a difference between helpful and hurtful. As long as the review is helpful to the reader and/or the author. without being mean spirited, there is nothing wrong with low star reviews. Some of my 5 star reviews are just so-so reviews, but I have had 2 or 3 star reviews that were really good!
    Happy Reading!
    ~Icky. πŸ™‚

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  7. I love writing negative reviews! However, I only publish reviews on my blog so there is no way my review can affect readers massively (like on Goodreads or Amazon). I think when I publish a negative review on my blog, I’m just exercising my right to express my opinion and of course as readers, we need to be well aware of the fact that all opinions are subjective. I think when readers who hate a particular genre and still pick up a book from it (and hate it) – they should clearly state it in their review.
    Of course, pointing out problematic things in books is a major reason for writing negative reviews. I recently did so for When Dimple Met Rishi, I was quite offended by it. The review did not get a lot of attention, but I felt that it is my duty to point out whatever problems I had with it. Sometimes, writing a negative review is as simple as that!

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    • I think it’s generally a lot more acceptable to publish negative reviews on your blog than on other websites. I know I personally feel a lot more comfortable posting my own negative reviews here than on Goodreads or Amazon. Most people who visit your blog regularly would know how much their tastes align with yours and can make a better judgment re: whether to listen to your review than someone on Goodreads, you know?

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  8. This is a very fair and well thought of post πŸ™‚ I practically agree with everything mentioned here particularly the part where adults constantly complain about immature teenagers πŸ˜› sometimes it’s valid like you say but mostly it means adults can’t connect with young characters.

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    • It annoys me so much when adult readers complain about YA characters being immature. I think if you’re going to read YA, especially with the intention of then reviewing it, you have to remind yourself that they’re only teenagers. Of course they’re going to seem immature to someone who’s in their twenties or thirties!

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  9. Great Post! I haven’t been blogging for very long, but I have read a couple books to review that weren’t exactly my cup of tea. I didn’t want to give them terrible reviews because I didn’t like them. So when I write a review of a book I didn’t enjoy, I try to find the pieces that I believe other people would like and highlight those while explaining why I didn’t like the book. I would never want something I said about a book to cause someone to not pick it up. If I don’t like it, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book, it’s just not for me. I also tend to only pick up books that I know I’ll like if not love so I end up reviewing a lot of books that I rate 5 stars. I don’t know, I feel a strange pressure when writing reviews. I don’t want to be mean, but I want to be honest.

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    • I completely understand where you’re coming from! Even if I hated a book, I try to point out things that I liked or that other readers might like. I always try to make my negative reviews as fair as I can. Just because I didn’t like a book doesn’t mean no one will and I don’t want to be the reason someone passes on a book that they would’ve ended up loving!

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  10. I get if people don’t write negative reviews because their philosophy is to only promote great books, but I also think it’s helpful to post that somewhere clearly so people aren’t scratching their head wondering why you seem to like everything you read. It could accidentally come across as dishonest or undiscerning if you’re not explaining your philosophy to others. πŸ˜‰

    I do write negative reviews, though, because my reviewing philosophy is just that I’m going to share my honest thoughts about books, whatever they are. I think all negative reviews are valuable as long as people are clearly explaining what they didn’t like abou the book, so readers can decide if they agree or if what bothered that reviewer would not be a problem for them.

    While I do understand that it’s kind of maddening for someone to write a review that’s like “I hate romance novels, so I didn’t like this book,” I also get that 1) many people are writing reviews for themselves and their own records, so they should be allowed to write those types of notes to their Goodreads accounts or blogs and 2) I think it’s fair to say “I usually don’t like romance novels, but I loved this one,” so the inverse can also be useful. It could actually be valuable to know something like “This book is going to appeal mainly to strong romance fans.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup, I agree. I know a lot of bloggers who only want to spend their time promoting books they like, but it can be a little confusing if readers aren’t aware that the reviews are “filtered.”

      I know a lot of people use Goodreads for their own records but I’ve even seen those kinds of reviews on Amazon which just doesn’t really make sense to me. I suppose it’s possible that people review on Amazon for themselves, but I think for most people Amazon reviews are more explicitly to help potential buyers/readers decide if they should read the book. And I guess it is true that knowing a book will only appeal to people who usually like the genre is useful, I hadn’t really thought of it that way. I see where you’re coming from though. It could definitely be useful for people who are trying out a new genre and kind of want to ease into it.

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      • Oh, yeah, I definitely see Amazon reviews as being designed to help people decide whether they should buy the book. Goodreads I get that people don’t always see themselves as speaking to a broader audience or trying to influence whether people read the book or not.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. This is a great post! Very enlightening! Yes, I do agree with a lot of what you said. I try and be as positive in my reviews, even if they’re 3-stars. Now I only negatively review a book if I receive for review and I finish it. I don’t like hurting authors with 1-star reviews if I didn’t finish it because I didn’t like it. But I agree that if you received the book for review and you’ve finished it and really disliked it, you must write a review. But I agree that it’s very lopsided if you negatively review a book knowing that you don’t like the series or the age group. It’s like me reading a literary fiction- I know I will extremely dislike it. There’s some genres, such as fantasy, that I take gambles on, but if it is in a genre that I read, I am most likely going to review it. Sometimes it is necessary to write a negative review once in a while to show that “Hey, I don’t like every book I read” because if I rate books 4 and 5 stars so frequently, it makes me seem as if I “inflate” the ratings. Great post! πŸ™‚

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    • I usually don’t mind writing negative reviews. The only time I get a little nervous about them is if it’s a book I received directly from an author because I know they’ll end up reading the review and I don’t want to upset them πŸ˜› But I definitely think it’s important for potential buyers/readers to be able to decide whether or not it’s a book they’ll want to read, so I think negative reviews are an essential part of that. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! πŸ™‚

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      • You’re welcome! And yes, I have one book an author sent me that I’m rating 2-stars because I just did not like it at all. And I’m afraid of what how she’ll react since she has followed up on it… XD But yes, negative reviews are important. That’s why we get these books in exchange for an HONEST one!

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  12. I tend to write reviews for all the books I read. Ultimately, all reviews are subjective and I don’t see why I should review the books I enjoyed and not the ones I didn’t. If I’m reading a book, then obviously something has determined me to read it and I have certain expectations of said book. My ratings/reviews are always on a curve and largely based on what my expectations for the book were. I mean, there are certain base expectations I have of all books in terms of writing and common sense. But beyond that, I review books based on the expectations I had for them. Which is why not all books that have the same rating were equally enjoyable in my opinion.

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    • Yup, I do too. I just don’t necessarily post all my reviews on websites other than my blog. My expectations for a book definitely influence my rating/review, but I think it’s kind of subconscious, haha. But naturally if I have low expectations and end up liking the book, it’s going to feel like a much better book simply because I wasn’t expecting a lot from it. I hope that makes sense, haha.

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  13. I agree with pretty much everything you said here. One thing I somehow hadn’t thought of was not rating a book, then writing your somewhat negative review, particularly if it’s a genre you don’t like.

    When I write negative reviews, it’s mostly only for really problematic books. As much as I’m irked by various writing/character/plot problems, I rarely will 1-star a book based solely on that. Actually, I’m pretty sure 99% of my 1 or 2 star rated books on Goodreads are problematic in some way or another. But even when I write a negative review, I try to look at it from the other side of the argument, or at least point out some things the book did well. For instance, there are plenty of biphobic books out there that might be great rep for the G/L folks, so I try to put that in my negative reviews as well.

    Really great post Kourtni!

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    • I do the same thing! Even if I hated a book, I try and point out some things that I liked or that other readers might like, especially if there’s problematic representation for one group, but good representation for another. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts! πŸ™‚

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  14. Ahoy there matey. This is a great discussion. I do in fact write negative reviews about me readin’. They get posted on Goodreads, Amazon, and me blog. If I finish a book and don’t like it then it walks the plank. If I chose to not finish it then I note it as an abandoned ship. There are only two things that stop me from posting negative reviews. If it is a NetGalley book and I don’t make it past 20% or more and it’s not to me taste then I will review it on NetGalley only and let the publisher know why it won’t get a long review elsewhere. The second possibility is if the author sends me a book directly and I don’t like it. Then I would still write me thoughts and would send them to the author only. I haven’t had to do this yet fer any of the books sent to me directly yet. But I specifically have terms fer the author to read so they can choose to not give me a review copy. I also direct them towards me more unfavorable reviews on me blog so they get a sense of me style. Lost some Arcs that way and it was good that neither the author or me wasted time. Very thought-provoking topic. Thanks matey.
    x The Captain

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    • Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! I luckily haven’t had to send a negative review directly to an author yet, but I’m dreading the day it happens, haha. I think your idea of letting them know ahead of time that you wouldn’t review it in that case and giving them the chance to revoke their offer is a great idea, though.

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  15. You have a lot of good points! I am like you where I don’t usually have books I read that I don’t really hate. But when I do have one, I think it is acceptable to write a negative book review in a respectful way. Also I think it is good to write a negative review even if you don’t usually like that genre and then read it and hate it, because then you let the other people like you who might have considered reading it that it’s not worth it, just as long as you let the readers know the circumstances.

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    • Yeah, I think at the very least you should let readers know that it’s a genre you don’t really like. Someone else commented with a similar idea – that the review would still be useful for readers who are like you and considering giving the book a shot even though it’s not their usual genre. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s a great point!

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  16. I’m hesitant to write a negative review for problematic content alone. I think it is possible to still enjoy a book sometimes even when it contains some problematic elements, if you really like the characters/storyline. I hope this makes sense. I’ve been trying to write a blog post myself about problematic content but having trouble wording it clearly. If a book has potentially problematic content, I think it should be addressed in a review but it might not be enough to completely make me have a negative opinion of the book as a whole. Although maybe I can’t really talk, since I rarely post reviews.

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    • When I said that reviewers should write negative reviews for problematic content, I meant that I think you should write a negative review if you have a negative opinion of the book due to problematic content, not necessarily that having problematic content automatically warrants a negative review. Like you said, I think you should mention the problematic content in your review regardless, but if you still liked the book because of other aspects of the story, then write a positive review. πŸ™‚ I hope that makes sense!

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  17. Lovely discussion!
    I… write negative reviews all the time. There are SO MANY TIMES I just rant about a book. Even some that I mildly liked. (I like ranting??)
    It’s just a way for me to express my feelings, I feel, and I don’t think I’d try to hide my opinion to help others. It’s my own opinion, and people can take what they want from it in my opinion. Although I do sometimes feel bad for the authors, I feel that authors already know that they will get unfavorable reviews. After all, you can’t appeal to everyone, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Authors definitely should expect to get negative reviews, but I still try to be nice in my reviews because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. That could just be my personality & social anxiety though, haha. I also have heard some wild stories about authors threatening and stalking reviewers who gave them harsh negative reviews which undoubtedly affects how I write my negative reviews because I would definitely not be able to handle that well if it happened to me. πŸ˜›

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, they should. MAYBE I SHOULD TRY TO BE NICE IN MY REVIEWS. That’s something I don’t do that much?? But now I feel slightly horrible and mean so I’M GOING TO TRY TO BE NICER.

        And WHAAAT I can’t believe some authors would stalk reviewers? I would scared out of my mind if that happened to me tbh.

        BUT I know that authors can be super sensitive because once I was browsing on Twitter and someone tried to DM an author about the problematic content in their book and got blocked…

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      • Oh nooo I don’t want to make you feel bad, hahaha.

        There was an author a few years ago who literally stalked a reviewer and showed up at her house because she gave a negative review of the book. Absolutely terrifying.

        Yeah, that unfortunately happens a lot, especially with problematic content. I could understand if the author blocked them if they just DM’d the author to say “hey your book sucked” because that just seems unnecessarily rude, but if they’re trying to point out things in the author’s book that could potentially hurt readers, I think authors need to be more open to that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • XD it’s fine you’re actually influencing me to be nicer

        Wow that story is seriously so scary.

        Yeah… well, apparently the reviewer DM’d the author and was like “I want to talk to you about the problematic content in your book.” and they were trying to be kind and not at all mean. But yeah, authors need to be more open.

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  18. Great post, Kourtni!!

    When I first started blogging I was really nervous to post a negative review especially because it was for ACOTAR which I know everyone loves, haha. Fortunately it went okay and I think that’s definitely helped me be more okay with talking about books I didn’t like. If it’s a Me Thing I generally always try and find something to put across that I think was done well so it’s not All Bad.

    Can’t even express how much I agree with this: “β€œI hate this genre but decided to give this book a try and surprise! I hated it.” it’s so incredibly frustrating along with Adults saying YA is too “immature” or whatever. I hate how they feature in SO MANY of the top reviews on GR.

    I have so much respect for the people calling out problematic elements because I’m still learning/trying to educate myself and seeing those reviews help so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here! I was really nervous the first time I wrote a negative review, especially because it was for Truthwitch which a lot of bloggers liked (at the time, I hadn’t seen any other negative reviews for it). I was so nervous that people would get really mad at me or something, haha. But yeah, after that review was posted and I never got any angry comments, it made me feel a lot better about sharing negative opinions.

      YES!! It gets me so mad when the top review on GR is something like that and it happens a LOT. Someone pointed out in a comment that it could be useful to know that a book will only appeal to fans of the genre which is true but at the same time I kind of expect that to be the case for most books. If you don’t like a genre, why would you think you would like a specific book within that genre? It just doesn’t make any sense.

      Me too. I know that I’ve posted positive reviews for books that I later found out were problematic and it always makes me feel a bit guilty. Like you said, I’m still learning and those kinds of reviews are soooo helpful.

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  19. I do write negative reviews, but I am as kind as possible when I do. In fact even when it’s a positive review overall, I always mention the things I didn’t like or which would have made the book work better for me.

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  20. Great post, this was really interesting to read and you made some really great points. I don’t tend to write that many negative reviews but when I do I always try to write something positive about the book as I know that while I didn’t enjoy it their are other people out there that will.

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