Why I Write Negative Book Reviews

Reading a book is a subjective experience. More often than not, it’s possible for readers to interpret the personalities of the characters, the descriptions and even the overall message of the book in different ways. When we pick up a book, we also have unique expectations, which tend to mirror what we enjoy in a story. For all of these and many other reasons, it’s impossible for a book to be universally loved. Some bloggers choose to only write reviews about the books that they enjoyed. I, on the other hand, don’t have any qualms about writing negative reviews.

I’m sure that it is distressing for an author to read a negative review about a book that is the result of months, if not years, of intense work. I don’t write reviews for the authors of the books, however. I envisage the audience of my blog (that is to say, the small number of lovely people who read my musings) to consist of other readers who want to not only know more about certain books, but also share opinions on them. Thus, I don’t tag the authors of the books on my reviews. I only imagine doing so if a book is a 5-star read, as these are the only faultless books to me.

I rate the vast majority of the books that I enjoyed and think are worthy of reading with four stars, though. For that reason, in most of my reviews, I mention at least one small element that I thought was not perfectly accomplished. As long as the book is not a 5-star read, I always remark on what I liked and didn’t like about it. But other readers may not have a problem with what I didn’t like about a book. For example, books that mostly consist of snippets, save for rare exceptions, don’t tend to work for me. If this is something that other readers enjoy, they may still decide to pick up a book I didn’t like after reading my review. Continue reading

How I Review Books

Reviewing books can be a daunting experience. Deciding what to discuss is not always simple. And to make matters worse there isn’t a single way to achieve a decent review, each blogger has their own personal approach to it. I find very useful to take notes of my immediate thoughts while reading, either on a notebook or on my phone, so when the time comes to draft the review I mainly just have to put my scribbles together in a coherent and understandable manner.

I always start by mentioning the star rating. I see it as a way of condensing in a number my feelings about a book. Despite not awarding half ratings, I don’t like all the books that I give the same star rating to equally. It’s only by reading the review that you can understand my different levels of enjoyment. 4-star books, for example, could almost have been either 3-star or 5-star reads. It’s the subsequent review that fully explains my opinions on a book.

In regard to my reviews of novels, they usually respect a four-part structure. In the introductory paragraph, I mention what struck me the most about the book. That can be its overall message, a general idea about the plot, the fundamental point made by the author, my feelings about it compared to my expectations, the contrast with other books by the same author or a more specific feature (such as a character, the writing style, the structure chosen by the author, etc). Continue reading

My Least and Most Viewed Reviews

Book reviews are the type of posts I most like to write for this blog, and they are also the ones that take me the longest to complete and edit. Nevertheless, they tend to have less views than the rest of the content on my blog. At least this is the perception I have. I don’t analyse my blog statistics thoroughly and frequently, thus there is a slight possibility that I’m wrong.

But this is something that has been intriguing me lately. So, I took a quick look at my blog stats to discover the reviews with the most and the least number of views. The titles of the books mentioned below link to the full reviews.

 

My Three Most Viewed Reviews

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The reason why I think this is my most viewed review is that it was published around the time when The Power was announced as the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2017. Told from various points of view, it delves into what happened when women discovered they had the power to electrocute other people with their hands. I quite liked the premise but didn’t enjoy the execution as much. Continue reading

‘The Black Project’ by Gareth Brookes

My rating: 3 stars

One of my resolutions for 2017 was to try reading graphic novels and comics again. I have never been much of a fan and hadn’t read one in a really long time. The Black Project by Gareth Brookes seemed like a good place to start reading them once more, because it doesn’t have many speech balloons, which is the graphic novels’ element that has annoyed me the most since my childhood years.

Richard, the main protagonist of this story, is a really creative boy. But the ways in which he uses that creativity are quite unusual – he creates his own girlfriends. The biggest problem is that it isn’t easy for him to keep them a secret.

The story being told is quite funny in parts, especially in the way that Richard deals with sexuality and discovering how women’s bodies work. As the narration is done in the first person, all his doubts and misconceptions are unadulterated and sound real. I was expecting the story to have a more terrifying strand, though, which is definitely not the case. The ending was also a bit too simplistic in comparison to what the events were building to. Continue reading

‘A Desumanização’ by Valter Hugo Mãe

My rating: 4 stars

The Portuguese author Valter Hugo Mãe reflects on the effects that the death of dear ones has on people in his novel A Desumanização (unfortunately I couldn’t find an English translation of the book). Through a poetic writing style, we travel to the Icelandic fjords where we meet Halldora, a girl whose twin sister (Sigridur) has died.

The book is narrated by Halldora. She tells in the first person how she felt like when her sister died, and how difficult it was for her to cope with feeling like she had to be two people at the same time. Everything is told from her point of view. There are no real dialogues, only the narrator expressing her feelings and memories, telling what other people said and conveying what she has discovered about past events.

Her relationship with her parents is a complex one. Her mother seems to be in a state of deep pain. She is aggressive towards Halldora, since she believes that she shouldn’t be alive whereas her sister was death. On the other hand, her father, a poem writer, has a close bond with her and is more loving. Continue reading

‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce

My rating: 3 stars

Dubliners was my first time experiencing a book by James Joyce. It presents the reader with 15 short stories focusing on specific moments from the lives of some of Dublin’s inhabitants at the beginning of the 20th century. I had high expectations, but unfortunately they were not met.

The majority of the stories felt quite bland and not engaging. There is almost no background about the characters and the stories usually start at a specific moment of their lives and develop from there. The reader instantly gets access to the characters’ thoughts or actions for a period of time and then the story ends. I also didn’t find the writing style appealing or particularly enjoyable.

However, there were some short stories that stood out positively among the collection, since I was either enthralled by the events being narrated or appreciated the conclusions drawn from them. One of them is ‘Eveline’. Eveline is a young woman who is struggling to decide whether or not to leave her home country to get married, being thus a reflection on how hard it can be to make decisions. It left me wondering until the very end about what her choice would be. Continue reading

‘A Morgadinha dos Canaviais’ by Júlio Dinis

My rating: 3 stars

A Morgadinha dos Canaviais is a Portuguese classic from the 19th century written by Júlio Dinis, whose works have not yet been translated into English. Although this is a romance novel, other themes are also addressed, such as the healing power of the countryside, religious fundamentalism, and the games played by the politicians of the time.

The first character to be introduced is Henrique de Souselas, who left Lisbon to visit his aunt in the countryside of Minho, a region in the North of Portugal. His doctor advised him to travel in order to overcome his hypochondria. When he arrives at his aunt’s house, he explains that he feels sad and sick, not having the desire to see or speak to anyone. He is a victim of melancholia. After his long journey, all the natural scenery around him is nothing more than an embodiment of desolation. However, when he wakes up on the following day, he sees the place in a completely different light and becomes eager to discover it.

During his excursion around the village, he keeps hearing about a woman whom the inhabitants call “Morgadinha dos Canaviais”. When Henrique is finally introduced to her, he is astonished at how different she is from what he imagined. Through their conversation, he doesn’t hide his amazement and how much he is in awe of her, not sparing gallantries either. Madalena (the real name of the “Morgadinha”), on the other hand, uses a sarcastic tone, seems quite sure of herself, and is not easily impressed. Throughout the novel, I also found her to be generous and well intentioned. Continue reading