Really Bad Book Reviews

Ever read a book review so bad that you wanted to obliterate it from existence, be it on Amazon, Booktube or Goodreads?

I just did. I’m still in shock.


Sometimes, a bad review can be funny. Like when you see someone bragging about having found this “obscure” literary masterpiece that you’ve probably never heard of because you’re a filthy pleb, and it turns out to be The Shining or David Copperfield or something equally ridiculous and well known. You laugh, you move on.

What if the review enrages you? Like a prudish and thinly hidden anti-Semitic review of The Diary of Anne Frank? Do you say anything at that point, or do you shake your head, wish humanity wasn’t so horrible, then forget about it?

What if it’s a really ridiculously dumb 1 star review that’s dragging the poor author’s overall rating down, potentially putting off buyers who don’t look further than that?

Do you even read reviews? Some people think they’re useless anyway, but obviously, I disagree. I think negative reviews definitely have their time and place, but only when they’re well thought out and the reviewer has stated their problems clearly, not just like:

So romance. Much melodrama. Wow.

I hate, hate, hate this book. The hero and heroine are barfingly irritating and at no point do i sympathize with any of them. They both needed punched.

Well reasoned there, lads!

I tend to read one star reviews when I’m deciding on whether or not to read a book, especially if they’re by people I think are on the ball. I read them because then I know what my absolute worst reaction may be. Either that, or I’ll read them about a book that I love just to see what the other camp thinks. Sometimes, if I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about a book, but can’t decide why, the lower star reviews help me to decide what the problem might be- as long as they’re written properly and they’re well thought out, of course.

So… not this masterpiece of reviewing:

Reasons I personally won’t read this book….

I just read the ‘blurp’,,,
Yes…I read it all….
I’m thinking to myself…,”why in the hell would I even ‘consider’ reading such a book given what
I’m living with now? I already feel confined enough in a cast, (can’t go for a walk, or swim, or drive,
I certainly do not want to read about a book where a woman chooses to live
in a cell.

I’m sure it may even be a good book! 

I don’t want to go there!


COME ON! Why review this book at all, if you’re only going to read the “blurp” and decide it deserves a one star review, which has wormed its way up to the review list so it’s one of the first a potential reader will see? Sure, you’re having a bad time, but that relates to how bad this book that you’ve not read is exactly how?

When it’s a review of a major book, something so big that a bad review won’t make a dent, I don’t mind so much. I just get annoyed when people do this to authors who haven’t yet made a name for themselves, for whom each review or rating could mean the difference between someone picking up their book or not. It’s just rude, it’s pointless and it gives user-driven reviewing a bad name. It’s nearly as bad as reviewers who get paid to review giving 5 stars to everything, even when their review was mostly negative, which I discussed a while ago.

Am I the only one who gets annoyed by these types of reviews and sees them as ridiculous wastes of time?


38 thoughts on “Really Bad Book Reviews

  1. Totally agree! I’ve found like you that a well-written 1 star review will help me clarify why I’m struggling with a review, and also make me feel not so odd for not liking a book everyone else seems to. But some of them are incredible – commenting on the fact the book was delayed, or the condition wasn’t up to much or even that they got sent the wrong book – that’s *not* a book review!!! And I always look at the 1 stars because of the tendency of a) people jumping on the bandwagon and b) friends of the author talking it up. Having said that, I still always make up my own mind. But now I’m very curious as to which review it was that set you off on this post….. 🙂

    • I’m glad I’m not alone in my 1 star review reading! I like writing them, actually! I find it heaps easier to say why I really hated a book than I do to write why I loved one! But yes, always thought out and with actual examples of why it was awful.
      OHH I was talking about those kinds of Amazon reviews last night! So annoying! It’s not the book’s fault the postie left your parcel in the rain, or that you didn’t like the cover!
      Ha, reminds me of when I wrote a 3 star review of a book I didn’t mind, but thought was way too sickly sweet and I’d found continuity mistakes in. Turned out that most of the 5 star reviewers were the author’s friends and family and they DID NOT like anyone giving her less than full marks! It would have been terrifying if I wasn’t laughing my head off at the ridiculousness of it all! It was like they didn’t want anyone reading the books, or like I was ruining their little club!
      They’re all actual reviews, the first two are on Wuthering Heights (I somewhat agree with them, but they’ve missed the point entirely) and the second was the one that set me off, found on Goodreads! 😉

      • Ah yes – found it. And that is the dumbest reaction possible to the book’s subject matter I think I’ve seen! i mean – really! Like me moaning about not reading a Hemingway because it’s got hunting and saying it’s a bad book because of that….. ;)))))

      • I knowwww! I was looking at buying the book (I did) and went to look at Goodreads and was worried about the rating, so scrolled down to check them out and was like “oh man, you’ve got to be joking!” I’d be put off my hunting too, don’t worry! I’m always the one cheering when the bull stabs the bullfighter with it’s horns 😉

      • The only notice I take of reviews on Amazon is in how descriptive and reasoned a review is. Most reviews, especially when unequivocally 5 or 4 star, are clearly written by friends and family – perhaps a warning sign in itself. I would suggest that the reviews that sit alongside online purchases are nobbled by friends and family to encourage a bias called ‘the cheerleader effect’ because it probably works. It’ll only ever sway the odd purchase though: a momentum of support would demand either a massive budget for cheerleading, or that much rarer phenomenon called a decent book.
        The best guide is your own assessment of the first few pages. How many readers are that confident though? Nobbling is probably with us to stay so long as self-publishing continues the way it is.

      • You’re absolutely right, it’s really something that puts me off. I had an experience a while ago with a pack of friends of a self published author who didn’t like that I gave the book 3 stars- I didn’t pan it, I actually liked it and had bought the next in the series, there were just issues that meant I felt 3 stars was deserved. They got really mad, I thought it was hilarious that they got that rabid over a 3 star review. Needless to say, I got a refund on the next book and didn’t read her books again! Since then, I’m really distrustful of any self published book with unanimous 5 star reviews from Goodreads accounts with only that book added!
        Another commenter just posted an awesome theory about how bad reviews can actually be a positive, which definitely backs up this whole idea 😀

  2. I hate those kind of reviews too. Sometimes I am baffled/ fascinated by someone’s different way at looking at things. But if reviews are all about the reviewer not liking a character I get irritated. However a well written one star review can certainly be helpful.

    • Sometimes it is truly fascinating, especially when they totally miss the point and I’m like “How on earth did you miss that?” =P I’m definitely of the belief that if you REALLy hate a character, it’s the mark of a good writer- they can actually make you feel something! I totally get what you mean, it’s so silly!

    • If a reviewer is annoyed at a character, it helps if they explain the irritance. I just attacked the unsympathetic characters in Amis’s Money, for example, and this was out of scepticism that an entire social circle could be one-dimensionally nihilistic and lacking in any self-awareness. But then, as a book blogger, I take the trouble to write at enough length to qualify statements. Isn’t a lot of the problem with the brevity to e-book provider pages (e.g. Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks etc.)?

      • Absolutely! If you’re hating a character, say why, but don’t just smash it and say it sucked 😉 your Money review was on point, you explained why you didn’t like them reasonably and with examples, not just “HEATHCLIFF SUX OMG” 😛
        Those ones were taken from Goodreads, and yeah, e-readers are a pest to write on, but sometimes I think it is just sucky reviewing.

  3. I actually heard a theory in a conference that sometimes a bad review can be better for a book than a good review. The idea being that if someone jumps up and says “These characters are awful!” it makes the people who *did* like the characters more likely to leap to the books defense. If a book has ONLY good reviews, a shy reader might think “Well, they obviously don’t need MY review” but if they see someone making an attack on the book they may feel like their glowing review is necessary. It really got me thinking.

    • Ooh, that’s an interesting theory! I can really see where they’re coming from with that. Another commenter said earlier that it’s sometimes the author’s friends and family (mostly for self published books) that write 5 star reviews en masse, which makes me distrustful of the rating. Also, some 1 star reviews are just so bad that I don’t listen to them and give the book a go! Awesome comment, I’ll definitely keep that in mind, I’d never thought of it that way before!

  4. I think some of these people are just putting up all the reviews they can to move up in the reviewer line. I don’t personally review much on Amazon, but I did notice that reviewers are ranked. So in the case of the review from the person who had no desire to read the book, all I can think of is they were trying to improve their ranking. So irritating! I don’t mind bad reviews that are thought out and have reasoning. Not every book is a good fit for every person.

    • Hmm, I didn’t know that about Amazon. These examples were actually pulled from Goodreads, but it’s likely it runs on a similar algorithm (I haven’t paid much attention) It is irritating, these reviewers don’t deserve a higher ranking, what’s the point when they don’t actually do it properly?! Grumble.
      Absolutely, I’m all for well thought out and reasonable negative reviews, I do them myself on the odd occasion. As long as the reviewer coherently states why they didn’t get along with the book, it’s sweet. I find some people’s negative reviews more fun to read than their positive ones 😉

  5. If I REALLY love a book, I tend not to read any reviews on it because I get way too defensive of the books I love. Especially if the book is a classic, because I feel like they often get some less than eloquent bad reviews on Goodreads and such. I always worry about people who are constantly giving books one or two stars on Goodreads. Why are you reading so many books you aren’t enjoying?! A well written negative review is totally fine with me, as long as the person has actually READ the book and thought about it. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone gives a novel (like Gatsby or Wuthering Heights) a low rating because they didn’t like the characters. That’s the whole point! The characters are unlikable for a reason, it serves a purpose to the story! Don’t get me started!
    Great discussion!

    • Some books I definitely get defensive about, especially when it’s petty rubbish or they missed the point. Both of those short reviews were actually for Wuthering Heights, and while the characters do need a slap, that’s the point!

  6. I agree, some reviews don’t deserve to be called reviews. I have two additional dislikes, when someone writes a that they enjoyed the book but give it 1-3 stars. It just doesn’t make sense why they did that. I also dislike when someone writes a review on Amazon based on the books condition, that is seller feedback not book feedback!

    • Ooh me too! I’m so annoyed that I didn’t mention those two in my post as well! It’s so ridiculous to have a good review, then give it 3 stars. I know some people just use a different rating system, but I swear for others it’s just petty silliness. I remember seeing one where they said it was one of their all time favourites, but gave it 3 stars because they didn’t like the font. Whaaaaat?!

  7. I just had one on one of the books I’ve written! It was very much in the “What if it’s a really ridiculously dumb 1 star review that’s dragging the poor author’s overall rating down, potentially putting off buyers who don’t look further than that?” vein, esp as it’s sitting at the top of the new reviews at the moment. And, if the writer had read the book properly, they would have seen that what they are saying is just not correct, as well as potentially damaging. I actually wrote a response to that review, which you’re not supposed to do, but correcting the facts, as I did when someone reviewed the book with 3 stars, complaining the images are no good … there are NO IMAGES in the book! Gah!

    • Oh no! I’m so sorry, that’s awful. You’re exactly the kind of author I hate to see those kinds of things happen to, it makes me so mad! Makes me wonder whether the people doing it are belligerent or just plain stupid. Hope you have lots of good reviews to make up for those twits!

    • Just stalked some of your reviews and wanted to scream at a couple! How dare you use British English when you’re British and use metric, you’re a terrible human! 😉

      • I know, it’s terrible, isn’t it! And how awful of me to write about cardigans and cups of tea! Actually, those ones I don’t mind so much as they will show people aspects that they won’t like in advance, but the one on my health book did annoy me. Still, I blogged about it on my writing blog and got 4 sales and a new 5-star review, so … PS thank you – very sweet of you to go and look!

  8. I saw a review once were the book didnt arrive when expected but the cover looked good so the reviewer gave it one star because they thought it looked good enought to read some day.Fortunately, the book had hundreds of reviews, so this one did not make much difference.

    I have to admit that when buying books I always check out the lowest reviews… they’re just so entertaining! And as I tend to side with the underdog its usually the bad reviews which convince me to buy.. I’ll make my own mind up thank you!

    In general though, I wonder if anyone really cares about reviews, or uses them as a buying guide. I dont. I go by the look inside feature, and recommendations from people I know and trust.I can’t be the only one…😊

  9. One star reviews are the first thing I read too, normally they contain spoilers, but I try to just gaze over those.
    I personally enjoy reading one star reviews, the worse the review the more I assume I’ll enjoy the book.
    I’m glad to know I’m not the best Bly one who enjoys reading the low star reviews.

    • I was reading one star reviews while in a bookshop yesterday, since I was looking at buying a book I’d never heard of before… since all of them were carrying on about something that wouldn’t bother me, I bought it!
      I always thought it was just a bad habit of mine- I’m so thrilled that so many have responded feeling the same!

  10. Sometimes a 1 star review can intrigue me. Why, exactly does the reviewer hate the work in question so much? On occasions such reviews have caused me to actually read the book and make up my own mind. With the availability of free samples on Kindle its a good idea to download a sample prior to reading (if you are not sure whether or not the book will be to your taste), read the extract and then determine if the work is for you. Kevin

    • I recently reposted a review I wrote ages ago of Northanger Abbey, if you want to see if that makes you get the urge for Austen 😉 I don’t know. Different things I suppose. Sometimes I have a very negatively emotional reaction to a book that I don’t like, or the writing is dreadful, or I find it boring. But regardless of why, the review should make it clear that there’s a personal reason for it, or give examples if it’s a case of shoddy writing. I purchased a book yesterday based on negative reviews alone, because they sounded either petty or something that would actually appeal to me (in that case, a slow/unresolved mystery). I really should use that feature more, since I flick through and read random paragraphs when I buy a physical book to get a feel for the writing. I forget it’s there, unless I’m checking formatting for a cheapie classic! ☺

  11. I wish I could get friends and/or family to review my novel. They all say they will but never do. Even most of my Kickstarter supporters haven’t written one. But luckily, my book is selling & the reviews are slowly coming in. I had a couple one * reviews, but luckily it was obvious that they didn’t read the book so Amazon removed them. Something to consider, contacting Amazon, if it is obvious they didn’t read it.
    There is an author who wrote a memoir that was very revealing. And she had one bad reviewer just say all kinds of terrible things about her and the book. It turned out that the woman had rented an apartment from the author. I guess she was envious of the author’s fame though she really only became known enough to do workshops to help troubled teens write through their pain & hopefully heal themselves.
    I guess there are always going to be haters out there. Not much we can do about people who go through life putting down other’s hard work.
    Cést la vie!
    Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

    • I wish I could say the same… I’m a tough one to please when it comes to bad writing. But absolutely, every bad review needs to have actual reasoning, it’s just good manners!

  12. Pingback: Epic Birthday/Graduation/Thesis Completion Book Haul | bookarahma

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