I’ve recently been visiting sites such as https://bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com/ and http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/ in search of bloggers who might like to review my novels. In their guidelines for authors, some of them state that they will only post about those books to which they can give a good rating, while others warn that they may include negative reviews as well as positive ones.
I tend to favour the first policy, although I do think that an honest and helpful review usually needs to include a few points of constructive criticism. Reviews which consist of undiluted praise may have been paid for, or written by friends or relatives of the author.
Negative reviews can be devastating for authors, especially sensitive or inexperienced ones, but they are often highly subjective. Even prizewinning best sellers are never universally admired, but receive a handful of damning comments and low ratings. From the reviewer’s angle it can be a waste of time and energy to read through to the end of something boring, distasteful or poorly edited, though there are a few who derive perverse satisfaction from trashing a book. A strongly worded negative review can actually attract readers, whereas if the book was really all that bad it would have been kinder to ignore it and let it lapse into obscurity.
For all these reasons, I prefer not to post ratings of less than 3 stars or reviews which are predominantly negative, even though I do find that negative reviews can be the the easiest sort to write. When I dislike a book I can usually give a specific reason for my opinion. For example, novels containing descriptions of cruelty to animals are my pet hate (no pun intended). I recently gave up on a thriller in which the F-word appeared several times on almost every page. And an autobiography which should have been fascinating was, in my opinion, marred by the self-pitying tone of its author. In contrast, when I do like a book I am often unable to explain exactly why, and find myself reduced to using bland general terms such as “interesting”, “original”, “gripping” or “uplifting”.
For the record, looking back at my list of 5-star ratings on Goodreads, a few of the titles which I have enjoyed reading or re-reading lately have included psychological thrillers (The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Children Act by Ian McEwan, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn), biographies (Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner, The Last Enemy by Richard Hillary, Bomber Boys by Patrick Bishop, Noel Streatfeild by Angela Bull), and books about holistic healing (You are the Placebo by Joe Dispenza, Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani).