Friday, August 10, 2018

Discussion: What's the Con?

After I read a book, I read a lot of other reviews, to see what other people thought. When the reviewer and I are in agreement, I simply nod my head as I read, but when the reviewer is saying unsavory things about a book I loved, I tend to get a little edgy, and I expect them to explain the cons they attribute their low rating to.

This Week’s Topic: What's the Con?


You may have noticed, that I seldom put negative things in my reviews. I believe my star rating conveys my level of enjoyment, but there are other reasons I don't include a lot of cons. I hate to be negative, but mostly, I sometimes have trouble pinpointing the exact thing that kept this from being a perfect read for me. Therefore, when I DO include a negative, it was something that really stood out to me, and is rather specific.

I find myself frustrated when I read a negative review, and the reviewer doesn't really explain what they didn't like. There are normally the rants:

  • This book should never have been written
  • This book is a garbage trash fire
  • The author should never be allowed to write ever again
  • This book is a crime against books
You know what I'm talking about, and you know you have probably seen things like this. I get it! You didn't like the book, but you never really said why. 

Then there are the people, who sort of give reasons, but they are the stock answers that you constantly see in reviews. They are not really specific, and are therefore, not that helpful. The ones targeted at characters tend to bother me the most, because I feel like you can be pretty specific without be spoilery. 
  • The main character was annoying - What about them was annoying? 
  • I hated every character in the book -  What did you hate about them? 
  • The characters were two dimensional - What were they missing? 
I get that a reviewer may not want to reveal any major plot points, and I ran into that myself recently. I knocked a half star off a book, because I was really disappointed in a decision the character made. I couldn't talk about it, because I felt like it was a plot reveal, but I was as specific as I could be without giving away anything important. 

I guess, I just feel bad when someone hates a book I loved, and I want to understand why. It's really frustrating, when a review is all ranty with no substance, and I think I owe everyone a real reason when I am negative about a book. 


Now it's your turn!

How do you handle the "cons" in your reviews? 
Let us know in the comments!

64 comments:

  1. Great topic! I totally want to know why people don't love books that I do. As far as cons in my reviews I am probably the type that will say them but they aren't super specific unless something really stands out. I agree sometimes it is hard to say everything without giving something away.

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    1. It's those blanket statements, which leave me wanting more explanation. Especially if I loved a character they hated or enjoyed what happened in the story.

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  2. There was a phase in book world when biting reviews were all of the rage. There has been less of that, thank God! Like you said, I'm all for pointing out what didn't work but I don't understand bashing the book or author.

    At the end of the day, the author poured their heart into this book and I can't imagine having to read such negativity.

    The only time I can accept harsh reviews is when the book is super problematic, because the industry needs to study why they're hyping problematic books.

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    1. I don't tend to finish books I am not enjoying, and I don't review books I didn't finish, but I am wondering about those negative reviews, which throw out a bunch of negative things, but never seem to address the actual book directly. And, I do agree with you, someone worked hard on that book even if it wasn't for me, and other people are allowed to like it. I am NOT the thought police.

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  3. In my opinion, a lot of those things that bother you are self-explanatory. I don't think anyone needs to be super specific about why they didn't like a book. Some people just don't like spending their time writing long and detailed negative reviews. For example, I'm not one of those and I just end up saying a lot of those above because otherwise it's just a waste of my energy and positivity.

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    1. Not long and detailed, but something concrete unless it is spoilery. In the review you posted today, you gave an actual reason for not liking the character in the book. And I am talking more about the reviews that are for a book the reviewer didn't enjoy, not ones they did enjoy.

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  4. I try to be specific in my reviews because it is frustrating when someone is hating on a book and not explaining why. I think a lot of the vague rant reviews on Goodreads are just for attention. People are trying to be funny and get Likes, but I don’t find rant reviews funny. I’d rather read a helpful review than a funny review.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. That is exactly how I felt. I understand that not everyone will love a book I love, but give me a reason! You read my mind. It's sad, but we all know the ranty, negative reviews/posts get a lot of attention (sort of like bad behavior everywhere does, but I digress).

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  5. I must be the odd one out, because I love writing negative, ranty reviews! XD I am very specific in what I hated though, usually with highlightable spoilers. It is annoying when people just rant with no concrete reasons given.

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    1. I don't think it's a crime to have a dissenting opinion, I am just asking that people back in up. Would I post a scathing rant? No, I save that sort of stuff for my in person appearances (seriously, I can go on for days about some things), but I would like some substance to the rant. Something helpful and specific to the book we are talking about.

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  6. Hmmm, this is definitely something I need to get better at. If I don’t like a book I guess I should go into specifics. It’s hard without being spoilery though.

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    1. I was in that spot, where I hated something the character did, and it tainted my experience, but I didn't want to be specific. I said something like, I wasn't happy with some decisions she made, which I think is vaguely specific. It can be tricky, but I think you can try and explain what you didn't like without revealing anything major, and when I can't, I say, there were things involving the plot, which disappointed me. That's more specific than saying, I hated this book, it was terrible, which is what I see a lot of.

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  7. Lovely topic! I get this way when I read reviews, too. Especially when it's a book I DNF, because I try to explain why the BOOK didn't work for me with specific reasons. I don't trash the author or the work they've put into a book. It's rude and unnecessary. They worked really hard (a whole team of people actually), so some respect should be shown. If I didn't like the writing, I try to give examples of what didn't work for me. It's also not okay to call it "garbage trash fire," because someone else might love it for the reasons you hate it.

    I try not to be spoilery when I give specifics, but it's not always doable. Sometimes I just use a quote from the book, or am a little vague, but I do try.

    I completely agree that's is frustrating to read negative reviews that seem to be negative "just because." I want to know why!

    -- Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. I have read lots of reviews, which explain why the reviewer did not like the book, but in a constructive way, NOT a destructive way. It's possible, and I appreciate that you go that route. There is a difference between being vague and not giving any reason, and I think there are ways to work around it, even if you go the route of the hidden spoiler tag.

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    2. I've had to use the hidden spoiler tag when I felt I couldn't adequately explain my feelings/reasonings without revealing some crucial part of a book, but most of the time I can convey what didn't work for me and why in a constructive way. I feel like you do that really well with your reviews, too. You explain why you like something and give reasons/examples, and you also explain why you didn't like something with reasons/examples.

      If someone just says, "This was the worst book ever!" and doesn't say why, how does that help anyone?

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    3. I love when reviewers use that tag, because it gives the reader the option to read it or not. That is exactly the point. It just being bad for one person, doesn't mean it will be bad for another person (and vice versa with good). It's important to sort of try to explain what you didn't like. I posted a review on GR yesterday. Unnecessary political viewpoints in books are getting on my nerves, because EVERYONE is making EVERYTHING a political statement, and I am exhausted by it all. If I am not reading a book concerning anything political, I should not have any politics in my book. I pointed that out and how it affected my experience, but the rest of the review was positive. I think it explained why it was a 3.5, yet I had a lot of nice things to say.

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  8. LOL, I used to feel the same way about the (can I say abused?) phrase "The pace was off". I even wrote a blog post where I asked my blogging friends to explain what meaning they would attach to it, because to me, it didn't convey a specific idea. Most of them suggested substituting "off" with "uneven", which makes much more sense. But I still hate that phrase 😂. I feel like the reviewer isn't really telling me anything specific.

    You know I have a small "Pros" and "Cons" section at the beginning on my reviews - well, I've had them since I started blogging. I think it helps, whether you're reading the whole post or not, to have a brief summary of the things that worked or didn't work for the reviewer right from the start. Of course, once I tackle the actual review, I get more specific about them, though I try not to spoil anything (or if I have to, I use a spoiler tag). And ugh, I do hate those vague, vague reviews. You don't have to write a paper, but at least tell me "what" didn't work for you - then I'll decide if it might bother me or not.

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    1. I really find reviews which point out likes/dislikes helpful. A lot of the bloggers I follow do that, and they also tend to give real reasons. I read a book review to find out if I agree with you thoughts on a book or if I should bother reading a book. A ranty review maybe seem sort of amusing, but in the end, it's not very helpful for me. And yes! The (insert something) was off. Off how? I read my daughter a review once and for every non-reason the reviewer gave, she threw back a question. The child is fierce when defending a book she enjoyed.

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    2. Quote: "I read my daughter a review once and for every non-reason the reviewer gave, she threw back a question. The child is fierce when defending a book she enjoyed."
      Haha, I love your daughter already!

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    3. Yeah, I am always really impressed by her. I have no idea how she became so amazing.

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  9. Oh yes, I totally hate reviews like this. I ran across a negative reviewers when I was reviewing Good Luck With That. The reviewer posted things on Twitter as she was reading the book. Taking things out of context, especially with a book that is all about body image, led to people on Twitter in an uproar over a book. The reviewer missed the entire point of the book. Some people just like attention so they write over the top negative reviews.

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    1. I saw some of the reviews for that book, and they made me nuts, because there are mobs of people, who will latch on to one thing in the book, take it out of context, and fan the flames of hate. And, I agree, there are definitely a ton of people just looking for some sort of attention, and sadly, the populous is all about rage right now.

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  10. I agree with you on this. I'm always curious to know exactly what it is about a book I loved that someone else didn't.

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    1. I feel so sad when someone hates a book that made me really happy, and I am always curious to what it was that turned them off. Therefore, the whole non-answer thing just gets me twisted up, because I need reasons to help me see what they saw or just understand the sort of things they don't like in general. I am not a fan of high angst books. I can take it for a bit, but I reach a point, where I need everyone to calm down. So me saying, the characters were too angsty for me is a reason for struggling with a story. I am looking for something like that, which is specific but not super specific.

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  11. I try to be positive but sometimes the natural snark shines through and I can't stop it... lol.
    I always try to give reasons why I don't like a book and if I can't, because I can't put my finger on it myself, I tend to say that too. Often though, I struggle to articulate what annoyed me without spoilers...
    But I agree with you. I like to know WHY when reading a review. If for no other reason than the reason someone dislikes something maybe the reason I love it.

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    1. You can't love everything. Obviously, there was something that keeps me from giving every book 5-stars, but when I cannot think of the exact reason, I just avoid those stock answers. They irritate me, because it makes me sound like a politician - where I give no real reasons. I get the struggle too. I am right there with you, which is why you hardly see me talk about what I didn't like. If I cannot pinpoint it, I shouldn't be saying stuff like, "there were things I didn't like" or "some stuff didn't work for me".

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  12. I agree that if you're going to write a negative review, it should be specific. And not ranty (unless you can really back up the rant).

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. The rants make me nuts! They are usually never constructive and normally destructive.

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  13. If I'm writing a review for a book I didn't care for, I do try to be specific, although yeah, it can be hard if I don't want to spoil too much. Generally things that bother me are stilted dialogue, endings that fizzle out, and pretentious characters. I think those are pretty specific and self-explanatory!

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    1. See, those three things are fairly specific and also non-spoilery. I am fine with things like that, but if you say you hated the character, I would like to know what it was that made you hate them. If you couldn't get into the romance, what was it about the coupling/romance that bothered you. Or, if you cannot really say why, at least don't get all ranty about it.

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  14. I read 1 or 2 star reviews first before reading 4 or 5 star reviews. I also want negative reviews to state why they didn't like it. There are ways to be specific without actually spoiling anything.

    I don't understand attacking an author if they didn't like the book.

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    1. When I read reviews, where they attack the authors, I cringe. That is just wrong on a human level. I have been unhappy with movies, TV shows, clothing purchases, etc, but I complain about the thing, not the person who created it. I never understand that behavior. I know there is an audience for negative reviews, but I think people should be more responsible when writing them.

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  15. I agree it's not as helpful when reviews are vague, so I try to be as specific possible for both my positives and my negatives. And I do try to actually describe character personalities because everyone likes different types of characters.

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    1. I get that sometimes you can't really figure out what it was or it would reveal too much, but some reviewers don't even try. They just want to rant and scream and be sort of ugly about it. I really appreciate people who take the time to explain what they loved. They are usually the reviewers who are NOT retelling the entire book in their review (don't even get me started on that)

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  16. I have to have disliked a book to a certain level and be in a really ranty mood to explain in excruciating detail why the book/character/decisions didn't work for me. I will usually mention a few reasons for my dislike of the book, but if a spoiler is needed for context I'll always put a spoiler tag and make it so someone couldn't accidentally read it.

    I've learned, the hard way, that I can't read negative reviews of books I really liked. Because depending on the review it'll start to poke holes into things I never even considered to be a problem or overlooked when I was reading. It'll make me rethink why I liked it so much and I simply don't want to do that :)

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    1. I don't need all the details, but I want something solid, you know? You know, I actually get sad when I read bad reviews for books I loved. The ones that make me mad are the ones that seem to just hate the book for no reason, but no, none of their reviews have made me unlove my book.

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  17. I tend to try and find something about the book that kept me reading even if I have multiple things that I didn't like whether it being the characters or the plot itself. If I didn't finish the book, I simply don't review it and send the reasons why to the publisher. I don't put reviews on my blog for DNF's. I guess I just don't like to be negative about a book, it took a lot of time for the author and their heart and soul writing it. I don't think there is a reason for some of the things sometimes I read about a book that someone didn't like. I never know, I might love it while they didn't. Or vice versa.

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    1. I am a very liberal DNFer, so if I finish a book, there was a reason, and like you, I look for what kept me reading. I am not one of those "push through" people, who hope the book gets better.

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  18. I agree with you. If there is something specific I didn't like then I try and state that in the review - as much as I can without spoiling things. But for the most part, I'm fairly positive in my reviews, I think. I don't like when people put a lot of cons in their review without giving reasons why.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Same route I take. I wrote a review yesterday, where I explained something that made me enjoy the book less. It probably wouldn't bother a lot of other readers, which is why I included it. Otherwise, my review was quite complimentary. I don't finish books I am hating, though, there are those rare books where the ending was the WORST part, and then, one has to be vague, and just say, "I was not happy with the ending".

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  19. Great topic, Sam. Negative reviews are tricky enough but I agree - if you're going to give a negative review, at least give some specifics and explain *why.* It bugs me to see ranty reviews that basically just consist of lots of broad statements and hyperbole and angry gifs... but no actual explanation. I recently read a review of a book I really enjoyed but the reviewer didn't. But she quite methodically laid out her issues with the book and, even if I didn't feel the same way, I could appreciate her points.

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    1. Exactly! If you are going to throw stones, you should at least hit some targets. I have seen negative reviews that are respectful and thoughtful, in that they really explain why a book did not work for them. You can't just say, "I hate You" and not substantiate it.

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  20. It doesn't bother me at all when people don't love a book that I did. I know I'm often on the other end of it and rarely love the most hyped books. I don't mind negative reviews either.

    If I am writing a review for my blog I try to be specific or at least try to tell readers what they might like even though I didn't but sometimes I'm vague in Goodreads reviews because really I use that site to keep track of what I read. it's for me.

    I dislike 3 star reviews that say the book is wonderful/amazing because there was obviously something you didn't like that kept you from giving it 4 or 5 stars so I'm not sure what to think or if the book will work for me.

    For me, with negative reviews, the big no no is making it personal. The long ranty ones don't help me in any way so I just don't read them lol

    Good topic.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. YES! That 3-star review filled with raves makes me scratch my head. I classify 3-stars as I liked it, but something was missing or there was something that bothered me. I think ALL my 3-star reviews have a con in there somewhere, otherwise it would be higher for me. I automatically stop reading when a review gets ranty. I am looking for coherent thoughts about a book to inform my decision about reading or not reading for the most part. Rants never really covey much information. They usually just keep repeating the same thing in 27 different ways. Wow, you write separate reviews for different platforms. I am too lazy for that, and am more of a cut and past gal. What I post on my blog is what I post on GR and Amazon.

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    2. No, I don't write separate reviews. I cut and paste when it's something I review on my blog but I meant for books that I read for me (for fun) and don't have much to say or don't feel like writing a review.

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    3. My non review book reviews are usually shorter, unless I totally loved it and want to gush ☺

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  21. Great topic. For my reviews I point out what I liked and if it does end up being something that I don't care for I will point it out and explain. I try not to get spoil, but I do try to explain why I gave a lower rating and what affected me in not liking the book.

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    1. Which is all I really expect from a review with a lower rating. I don't need a dissertation, but I would like a concrete reason.

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  22. What a great post Sam!
    I have to say that I am REALLY vague on why or why not I liked a book. I try never to put in spoilers into my reviews. I don't want to sway someone if they really want to read the book. But, I do want them to know I did or did not like it. I guess I should maybe be a little more specific. Did you write this post after seeing one of my reviews?

    =)

    Mary

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    1. If it's a major plot reveal, which I hated, I am vague. Like, saying I was disappointed in the direction the author took a character, or something like that. I am talking about things where someone can be more specific, but isn't. I am especially interested in why they hate a character, because I am such a character driven reader.

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  23. I used to be a reviewer who was a bit insulting about the books I didn't like, going for a cheap laugh. To be honest, I don't like those early reviews I did on Goodreads and I'm embarrassed about some of them now. In time, I might change them or edit my thoughts a bit. But as time has went by I'm a lot less negative in my comments and try to keep them focused on the points I want to make. Reading this post has made me think I might be a bit vague in why I don't like things so in my future reviews I'll be watching out for that!

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    1. We all grow and change nothing to be embarrassed about. I feel like the rant reviews were the norm at one point, but I think the longer social media platforms are around, the more we realize the power of our words.

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  24. I hate not knowing why a book doesn't work so I always try and figure it out. Sometimes I end up being vague about why there's a lower rating just because I couldn't figure it out and sometimes I know exactly what it is so want to point it out so folks know I'm not just being mean for no reason. And sometimes I vague because spoilers, that's a hard one because I never want to reveal too much in a review. I do agree, when reviewing any negatives I always try and explain the whys of it all.

    I don't tend to write really negative reviews, even when I DNF I always emphasise that it's my thoughts and everyone won't agree. I think it's because I've had someone say they won't bother reading a book after a negative review I wrote and I don't want to put folks off of reading a book, but if I have a grumble I want them to be aware going in in case it will bother them.

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    1. There is a difference between not being able to pinpoint the issue and ranting without explanation. I only feature books I enjoyed, so no rating required, but if there is something that diminished my enjoyment, and I am able to zero in on what it was, I will mention it.

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  25. Very interesting discussion, Sam! I feel like I get pretty vague about stuff for things that I didn't like sometimes because of the plot reveals. It's hard to think of ways to not spoil, lol. But I think I do need to work on getting more specific with certain things, because I have done that myself with, but why??? XD Wonderful thoughts, Sam! :)

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    1. I understand tiptoeing around a plot reveal, but there are people, who write scathing reviews, with no real explanations. That much ira points to more than a plot point, and if it was, why not say, the plot took a direction I hated or something besides trashing the book.

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  26. I seriously need to bookmark this because I KNOW that I have been vague about stuff in the past. And the truth? It's laziness on my part. Because I maybe didn't mark exactly what I meant, and I can't remember the specifics so I half-ass it, I won't lie. And looking back on old reviews, I used to do better. But I also wholeheartedly agree that people should not just say "this book is a dumpster fire, 1 star" without telling us anything about the why- mostly because it simply is not fair to anyone- including someone who may steer clear of said book because of the negative reviews! Whereas, I know sometimes the things people didn't like about a book were something that simply wouldn't bother me, so it actually made me want to read it MORE! Definitely the more info the better! Great topic!!

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    1. When something I read really annoys me or riles me up, I highlight/bookmark/etc, because I have so few hot buttons. I was reading the most wonderful book last night, and at 91% I had to bookmark and put a "WTF" in my notes. I cannot say exactly what happened, because it would be all sorts of spoilery, BUT I cannot NOT comment on the direction change. I get vagueness like that, but I read too many reviews, where I feel like the person could explain a little more than "dumpster fire". If something was THAT bad, it's more than one thing. And, you actually do a good job explaining yourself in your reviews.

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  27. I love when people talk about both the pros and the cons, but I totally agree with you - there are some phrases way over-used in reviews with no explanation given as to what they mean. Although, I do think the same is to true negative reviews, as well. I understand not wanting to spoil any major plot point, but it does make me a bit frustrated when someone rates a book 3-4 stars, and proceeds to only say good things. I read reviews to decide if a book is for me, or to relate to someone with the same opinion, and if I can't really do either if I don't know what exactly was "wrong" about a book. IDK, it may just be me haha.

    Great discussion!!

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

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    1. YES!!! The overused buzzwords and phrases drive me nuts! I often give out 4 star ratings, and I really enjoyed the books, but that 5th star is a for a book that pushed me emotionally over the top. I personally am always looking for more from a 3 star review, because in my head, 3 stars is good with some sort of issue. I struggle with expressing exactly what made me dock a star here and there, but I don't throw out insults either. I just focus on the things that I am able to really explain. I find it MUCH easier to describe what I liked, than what I didn't like.

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  28. Good topic - gotta admit, though, I do like going on a good rant!

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    1. There are lots of ranters out there, and that's all good, I just want some explanation in your rant.

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  29. If someone is going to state a con, I would like it explained. But I tend to like things explained whether they are a con or pro, because what is a con or pro for you might not be one for me? So I need the explanation to properly make a judgment. Which is why my reviews are all long (and hopefully not too boring, I try to highlight the main points.) I feel like I have a lot of 3 star ratings where I have to say the pros and cons and hopefully I explain things properly and it doesn't frustrate you or other readers DD:

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    1. I feel like if it's worth mentioning, good or bad, substantiate it. You definitely do a good job in your reviews.

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