Is It Really an Honest Review?

On probably half of the reviews I read, I tend to see a version of the following statement. “I received this book from *insert source here* in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my opinions.” There are variations of this disclaimer, but the general message is always that getting an ARC or free finished copy of a book, doesn’t affect the final rating of a book. But to be quite honest, I don’t think that’s true.

I write something similar on my reviews because it’s necessary to be transparent about where you received your books from, especially if you get them for free from a publisher. But I am very specific with my wording for reasons I’m about to discuss.

My go to disclaimer is “I received this book from *insert source here* in exchange for an honest review.” This statement is always true. I’m not given compensation to discuss a book and I’m not told how to rate a book. I am given a book in exchange for my opinions on it, and I am truthful in all my reviews whether I loved them or not.

true the muses GIF

At this point you may think there’s nothing more to discuss. But there still is a line I see included that always makes me uncomfortable. And that’s the statement that receiving a review copy doesn’t change your opinion about the book. Because frankly, you have no control over whether or not your opinion was influenced. From a purely psychological perspective, receiving a gift inserts bias. And bias is a subtle but powerful thing.

For me the difference between bias and honesty is most obvious when it comes to books that you’re unsure about. If you hate a book and say you love it, that’s being dishonest. But what if you like some parts of a book but really dislike other parts? Say you’re unsure whether you should rate a book 3 or 4 stars because it’s a 3.5 star read. Bias can influence your rating in that case so that you round up (on Goodreads or in general). It may very well be that you have reasons for rounding up, but you had reasons that made you consider rounding down, and you chose to round up instead. Bias was a part of your decision whether you recognize it or not.

Elizabeth Warren Feminism GIF by Women's History Month

But it may also be a biased one

You might enjoy a book more because you had a chance to read it early without any hype. You might enjoy a book less because the e-arc you got had typos and that detracted from how much you enjoyed the book. You might enjoy a book more because it’s by an author you love and you’ve been anticipating it. You might enjoy a book less because it didn’t live up to the hype. You can be honest and mention these facts in your review, but you were influenced nonetheless.

I also think that this bias is strongest when you’re a new blogger. You don’t want to ruin relationships with a publisher, so you look really hard to find the positives in a book, even if you didn’t like the book for the most part, and normally wouldn’t think twice about its rating. Even now sometimes getting a really anticipated book early influences my opinions, and it’s only a few months later that I realize that although I was honest that this was a book I was really anticipating and therefore I had that extra bit of love for the book, the actual review I wrote was a little biased because of that!

I know that most people aren’t thinking this deeply when they write their disclaimer when discussing ARC review, but apparently I do. I wanted to bring it up because I thought it could start an interesting discussion about what influences your reviews when you write them!

Do you think there is a difference between honesty and influence? Am I being too picky about the wording? What factors influence your ratings?

100 thoughts on “Is It Really an Honest Review?

  1. Interesting post and you raise some valid points on whether reviewers are influenced by the fact that it’s free or whether a new blogger may feel some internal pressure to be positive to keep a relationship with the publisher which may be the case.

    On a personal level I weirdly don’t have this issue because I’m picky AF and so when I give an honest review I’m genuinely being honest – that means I’ll say what I liked and didn’t and if I loved it I’ll go buy the book and if I didn’t I’ll DNF or 1 star it and critique it to pieces.

    But then I’m a certain age and a certain mindset and as I quite like reading critical opinions it may be that I’m a bit more relaxed with the same!

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    1. Thank you! I definitely think that rating and reviewing is more complex than we normally make it sound! Like you mentioned, free books and pressure to be positive can easily influence ratings and reviews!

      I definitely get how being picky can make someone a more critical review. And I wasn’t doubting anyone’s honesty! I just know that from my own experience, while I’ve always been honest, at times my excitement over a book may have made me care less about errors that I noticed in a book, that upon reflection a few months later, I care about more, now that my judgement is less clouded by that excitement. Even if I discussed the errors in my reviews, I may have given the book a higher rating because at the time my excitement was more important to me than those errors!

      But I think you’re right. With time you learn how to separate between emotions and critical reading, as difficult as it can be. It just takes a lot of practice! I also think that there’s a balance to be reached. As long as I disclose that I was influenced by my emotions in some way, I don’t mind adjusting my rating because of non-objective reasons. But personally, I don’t think that it’s required to be purely analytical to write a critical, honest, and just generally well-thought out review!

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      1. I don’t mind if someone comes at a review from a purely ’emotional’ place – quite often if they go ‘I love it so so much because I love every single thing this person writes’ I may end up not trusting the review quite as much – if that makes sense? If I know someone’s a fan then I may think they might be blinded by that excitement!

        I tend to have the opposite – excitement over a book and then it doesn’t live up to my ridiculously high expectations! Than I think I’m definitely more critical than I should be! So I’m influenced by emotion too – just the opposite end of the scale – disappointment!

        I think there’s no carving out the emotion from reviews but I think that’s fine because the subjectivity makes it all that more human. I find it hard to disentangle personal taste and may end up rating something harshly just because I’m not into the genre.

        It’s funny because I’m re-reading a book now which I read over 15 years ago and I loved it at the time and now all I can see is the bits that don’t work! It would be interesting to see how many people also change their opinions on a books on a re-read maaaany years later.

        Great discussion point!

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  2. I really love this discussion, Malka! 🙂 I agree with everything you said – getting a book can absolutely influence my opinion of a novel. Not to a great extent, no, but it can make me biased. For one thing, I feel like I’ll be more likely to round my rating up if it’s a novel that hasn’t been published and/or hasn’t been reviewed by many people. I don’t want to drag its average rating down before more people have a chance to read and rate it. :/

    Another thing is, in the past I’d requested books that I was genuinely excited about, but then I lost interest somewhere along the way before I could pick them up. Or I still wanted to pick them up, but I was not in the mood for that genre at that time. In either case, I ended up having to force myself to read these books, which then negatively impacted my reading experience. This didn’t happen with every book, obviously, but I *hated* it when reading felt like a chore, and I think it’s always influenced my rating in a negative way. This is the main reason why I stopped requesting books – it’s not fair to the book/author, and it’s also stressful for me. Reading and reviewing for a given date doesn’t work for me. :/

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    1. Thank you so much, Veronika! Exactly! I even had a case where I had an ARC that I didn’t feel the need to review, and I think that’s why I felt more comfortable giving it a lower rating. It wasn’t a very popular book at all, so I think had I been reviewing it, I would have tried to be a bit kinder. Or maybe not. I didn’t really like that book!

      Yes! I totally understand that feeling! There are so many books that I would have put aside immediately and not considered it an official DNF, had it not been a review book. But since I was obligated to review the book, I had to either push through and give a low rating, or make my DNF official, when it was just a case of a book not meshing with me. That’s why at this point I’m so specific about the books I request. But even so it’s not foolproof! Sometimes you just don’t like a book, even when you were looking forward to it!

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  3. This is such an interesting discussion and definitely something I’ve thought about before. I do think a lot of factors influence how we perceive a book, both positively and negatively, and that these feed into our reviews. However, I also believe that despite these influences, the review is still ‘honest’. From finishing the book after you’d had a day vs. finishing a book following a job offer to reading and ebook with typos or a beautiful finished copy, your perception of the book is honest. You might acknowledge these influences, you might not even realise them, but as long as you don’t wilfully or intentional tell untruths or conjure an opinion about a book that doesn’t reflect your true view, I would consider it honest. That’s my perception, anyway!

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    1. Thank you! Yes! I totally agree! There are so many factors that go into how we rate and review books including our mood, our expectations, our anticipation, and so much more! But honesty just means that you don’t lie about how you felt about a book, it doesn’t mean you need to remove your emotions entirely from your rating or review. That’s why I thought it was important to make the distinction between honesty and influence!

      Personally, I try to acknowledge when I feel I’ve been influenced by my emotions, either negatively or positively. It makes me feel better when I look back more objectively a few months later. Even if I rated a book higher than it deserves based on the writing, plot, characters, and such, I can still see why emotionally I felt it deserved that specific rating, and I therefore don’t feel like I was dishonest in any way, and I feel no need to change my rating.

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      1. Yes I completely agree. I’ve thought a lot about how I rate book recently and have definitely decided that my ratings will always be entirely subjective and are based on the merits I would give the book, rather than perhaps the merits the book would receive from an objective judge — it makes me certain that I wouldn’t want to judge books for prizes! But I acknowledge in my rating system this influence in the way I can see a fault in a book but still rate it 5 stars etc. (The exception of course being anything problematic) and why a book may be objectively good but I really disliked it! It’s such an interesting conversation!

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        1. That’s so interesting! I haven’t posted a rating system yet because mine is so confusing, but I feel I would have some similar things to say! I definitely rate based on emotion most of the time. Of course, I care about objective aspects as well, but emotion definitely has a lot of sway on my overall feelings towards a book, and therefore on my rating!

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  4. Great post! I insert disclaimer for transparency and definitely I’m being honest in my review when I write it. Of course, receiving arc is always good and I feel good when I was anticipating particular book but I wouldn’t say I like it even though I didn’t enjoy the book. Level of enjoyment is different for everybody and maybe the book I gave 5 star is 3 for other reader and that doesn’t mean I rated it high because I got it from publisher. It’s really different for everybody and I can see your point. Honestly I don’t care the word they write in disclaimer as long as people are being transperent.

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    1. Thank you!

      I definitely hear that! Taking your emotions and personal preferences into account is what makes each review unique! I might like something you hated, but you saying you enjoyed that aspect doesn’t mean you’re lying!

      And I don’t think that people who include a different wording than me are being dishonest, but I prefer my wording because I feel it’s more accurate!

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  5. This is such an interesting topic, and I have to say I have similar misgivings when I read reviews by bloggers that state receiving an ARC in no way influenced their opinion. Although I don’t doubt the honesty or integrity of their posts, I can’t help feeling that they are likely to have been influenced a little bit. I’m sure I would be!

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    1. Yes, exactly! I know that most people aren’t thinking about the wording as intently as I do, but I just feel that influence and bias aren’t things you can really ignore. But like you said, since I know their posts are honest, it doesn’t matter too much. It just bugs me a bit because I’m a big fan of precise wording!

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  6. This is a very interesting post and I bet it’s going to make me pickier with my wording in my next ARC review!
    I think i’m very honest with my reviews and always give the rating I think i’d give the book if I was reading a finished copy, but of course there are factors that influence my rating like if the book is hyped or not, my expectations vs. what i found on the book, and of course the pacing (if a book has a slow pace and nothing interesting happens, there is a high chance i won’t rate it higher than 3 stars)
    However I think that using the CAWPILE method or a similar one can help readers give more objective ratings to the books they read.

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    1. Wow! I’m so honored that this post made such a big impression on you!

      It’s interesting for me to think of the factors that influence my review. There are so many little things that impact how I feel about a book that I rarely take the time to notice! I feel like certain things are universal with every book, like pacing and expectations, but that receiving an ARC adds some extra factors that impact the overall experience.

      I’ve seen the CAWPILE method before, and I think it’s a really great way of breaking down all the aspects of a book and turning that into a rating. For me, I don’t mind the fact that my ratings aren’t fully objective, and I don’t try to remove my emotional reactions from my rating. Instead, I prefer to be transparent about the emotions I had while reading a book. I think that a lot of people rate based on a variety of factors, one of which is emotion, so as long as that aspect is discussed as much as every other factor, there’s no issue with including how a book made you feel into a rating!

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  7. This was a really interesting post, especially as a brand new blogger who hasn’t figured out the ARC requesting process yet. I do especially think that the whole trying to round up the half star or rounding down the half star bias can play a huge role. Like… what REALLY gives you the urge to round something down versus round something up? A lot of times for me I feel like it’s just a gut feeling — but how do I know what my gut feeling is influenced by? Do I really even know how to pinpoint the source of my bias? Thanks for this post, Malka! 🧡

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    1. Thank you! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post! 💕

      Exactly! I think that it’s normal to have reasons to round up or down, but I’ve never really seen anyone mention how biases play a role in that decision! It was really interesting for me to break down the thoughts that go through my mind when I review a book, and to try to find some of the hidden biases that have influenced my ratings and reviews in the past. I know I’ve been influenced by a variety of factors in the past, and that doesn’t really bother me, but I appreciate knowing what my biases are that way I can be open about them and discuss them in my reviews!

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  8. That is interesting, I think that can be true of newer bloggers, I’m definitely more comfortable being totally honest now. But I think the bias comes in from everywhere so I wouldn’t limit it to people receiving ARCs! Like if you’ve seen it all over social media, if someone recommended it to you, if you are drawn in by the cover or blurb, lots to bias your opinion from the start.

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    1. Bias definitely comes from a variety of places! I was only focusing on ARCs because that’s where I’ve seen people unknowingly claim not to have biases! But there are so many factors that can impact one’s enjoyment of a book, from your mood that day, to the font size, to how distracted you are while reading!

      One of the things that i had fun doing while writing this post was taking a look into the variety of factors that influence my ratings and reviews! There are many factors, some of which you mentioned, and what’s most interesting is that the same factor can influence a book both positively AND negatively. But yes, there are lots of biases that go into rating and reviewing book, not just how you acquired it!

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  9. A thought-provoking post! I think you are right – most definitely people (even subconsciously) are influenced by the manner they receive their books. I don’t think I will ever meet a person who anticipated a book for years from their all-time favourite author and then find only negatives in there. The anticipation, the author-bias and the fact it was given for free – everything influences the reader. We tend to love our free stuff, be it books or prizes so there will always be bias. What pains me is that many book reviewers on youtube have become almost champions for publishers and advertisers of books because they only can find praise for the books they receive for free as a way to thank publishers. There is something wrong with it because we don’t hear the true honest opinion – or we don’t hear it often enough. I am still to receive an ARC or a free NetGalley book so I never put any disclaimers in my reviewers and I believe I provide a very (sometimes brutal) honest opinion (a free book from NetGalley will most definitely influence my review of the book). People should not shy away or be afraid to express their honest opinion even if it is very negative.

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    1. Thank you! Yup! I think that a lot of subconscious influences end up impacting a rating and review. I think that when it comes to a favorite author, you want to see the positives, and so you find them, even if you didn’t love the book, while you may not try as hard to find positives in a book had it been a new to you author!

      Oh, yes! I know exactly what you’re talking about! There though, I feel there’s a bit of dishonesty involved. It’s one thing to be like, I saw flaw in this book, but I loved it so much that I don’t care, and give a book 5 stars. It’s another thing to leave out any negatives from your reviews for fear of damaging your relationship with a publisher. I’m sure that they’re being honest about the positives that they found in the books they received, but it feels like a lie by omission when they gloss over or completely skip the parts they disliked. I want to hear all your thoughts, good AND bad, so I know whether a book is for me or not!

      I mean, for me, NetGalley is practically the only reason I even review books on this blog in the first place! So of course that’s going to impact my review! I’ve always written honest reviews for NetGalley, including some very negative ones, but I know for a fact that there was blatant bias in many of them! I do my best to address the areas in which my opinions were swayed though, so that people can make an educated decision about whether or not they’d enjoy a book, since I’m not rating and reviewing objectively. I think by pointing out places that I know there was bias, it shows people reading my review that even though I overlooked something because I enjoyed the book overall, I still recognize the thing I overlooked, and I want them to be aware of that aspect in case that’s something that they take issue with.

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  10. This was such an interesting discussion! I have personally not requested ARCs yet. But I can see how certain situations and circonstances could influence your rating (if the book is very hyped or not, if you already liked or hated another book by the same author…) Thanks for this post!

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    1. Thank you!

      There are so many little factors that can end up influencing a review or rating! What I find most interesting is that we rarely take the time to think about what those influences are as we rate and review books, so the bias becomes fully subconscious!

      I think that’s why most people feel so comfortable saying that they weren’t influenced by receiving a book for free. Because while I know that bloggers do their best to be honest, bias/influence is subtle and not really something you can control. The best you can do is address it you’d like, by mentioning that you got an ARC from the publisher, or that this book was one of your most anticipated books of the year. That way readers are aware of where exactly your biases lie, and can make an educated decision about whether or not a book would be for them, despite the non-objective review!

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  11. Malka, I found this post super interesting. I agree that your rating can definitely be influenced, even if it’s by little things. Like if a book was super hyped and I didn’t like it, I’d probably give it a higher rating because people I admire loved it. Once, an author reposted something to their Instagram story where I was really excited about their new book. I didn’t end up loving it (it was pretty good, but not my favorite), but I gave it a higher rating at first because of that author interaction. I try to rate and review books without bias and without being influenced by other people’s thoughts, but it can be really hard sometimes. I haven’t gotten a ARC before, but I think it would probably be harder for me to give it a low rating because of excitement/influence. I’ve never really thought about the little influences before, but they seem so clear now lol.
    -Rose

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    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! 💕

      And yes! There are so many little things that can influence a rating or review! That’s such a cute story about your interaction with that author, but also such a great example!

      I don’t really think it’s possible to rate without bias, and I don’t think people expect an unbiased review. Instead I think people (and I guess by people, I’m really saying what I think!) just want you to be upfront about what influenced your opinions. I know that mentioning something like, “The setting was a bit flat, but I didn’t mind that because the characters were so fleshed out and everything else was amazing”, lets people know that while you’re overlooking the fact that the setting wasn’t the greatest, if the setting is something you care about, you might not like this book!

      ARCs have definitely gotten biased reviews from me, especially in the very beginning! But I have always remained honest, and tried to mention as many influences as I could think of in my reviews! I think that’s it’s normal not to notice these influences, since they’re subtle and sometimes sub-conscious, but my hope is that once people notice them, they’ll start to be more mindful with how they deal with them!

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  12. I think it depends on the reviewer, if I don’t like a book but I was sent it, I’m still gonna write about the things I didn’t like and not sugar coat it. I think maybe thats why Simon & Schuster havent sent me books cause I wrote my feelings about an Adam Silvera book I didnt like 😂 I was fair, and I always try to be cause some people take reviewing/roasting books so far that it is not addressing that the author did put lots of effort into it. I’m not a fan of reviewers who roasts Authors for their books. Authors can always improve their writing, their books are just a testament to that ☺ great post 💖

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    1. I’ve also written about the things I disliked, but I noticed that in a few of my reviews, even though I mentioned those aspects, it didn’t affect my final rating that much. So even though I discussed the problems logically and in detail, my rating didn’t really reflect that. But on the other hand, I’ve rated some ARCs super low, and even have a 1 star rant review of a NetGalley book. So I think it really does depend, and that every book is different!

      And I’m sure that your review was honest, but fair. I really hope that isn’t the reason that Simon & Schuster hasn’t sent you books! That would be terrible!

      But I totally agree that there is a difference between being critical and being mean! If something is not handled well, you can discuss the flaws without bashing the author! There’s a difference between stating the aspects of a book that you personally disliked and saying that an author should never write another book again! Even in my 1 star review rant review that I mentioned, I was very careful to discuss the book itself and the harmful tropes it used, backed up with quotes, without ever attacking the author. I really hope I succeeded.

      Thank you! 💕

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  13. I am so glad that I am not the only one who thinks this deeply about this sort of thing! I have absolutely had this thought, more than once (like, every time I review anything?) because it is so TRUE. We are unequivocally influenced by receiving a copy. That’s it, full stop. I am not saying that is a bad thing though! It just… IS. Like- think about it, no matter HOW you get a book will influence how you feel about it. If you bought it, it will come with certain feelings and expectations (did you pay full price and NEED to love it? Was it in a clearance bin, and now you wonder if it actually will suck?). Same goes for winning it, getting it at an event, library, whatever!

    I still think we’re totally being honest- we aren’t psychoanalyzing ourselves and trying to pretend that all KINDS of outside influences don’;t affect our ratings just as much if not more. (The mood we’re in, the state of the world, whatever.) But I think that for the most part, save some really extreme cases, our general feelings about the book are similar to what they’d be under different circumstances? Like sure, maybe I bumped up a rating because I felt guilty or whatever, but I think my general feelings still come across the same? So even if say, I bumped up a 3.5 to a 4, I still would have felt mostly the same about the book had I gotten it at the library? So maybe that is what the “honest” part is, you know? Just… acknowledging our feelings after reading, without exploring WHY they are our feelings? Because while yes, receiving a copy can influence it, so can a million other things. Incidentally, sometimes I am MORE irritated with review books because I feel overwhelmed, so I think it can work both ways!

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    1. I was so scared that people would tell me that I was just over-complicating things! (And even now I feel like some of the comments are trying to tell me that bias isn’t a thing, which is just confusing.) But I’m so glad that you agree! And, yes! I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, or that we should try to get rid of all biases in our life, but I would like to see these biases addressed at the very least!

      There’s a reason that I only buy books I think I’m going to love. I don’t want to get rid of them! So I may try convincing myself that I really did enjoy them, just to feel like I got my money’s worth! (And then of course a few years later, they’re the first books to go when I need more space on my bookshelves!) But there are so many factors that go into how we rate and review our books! I think that denying that fact is downright laughable!

      And I’m with you about the honesty aspect. I don’t think that any blogger I follow lies in their reviews. I just appreciate it when people take time to discuss any influences, both negative or positive, that may not be reflected in a simple rating. For example, I have said many times that I had an issue with one or more aspects in a book, but still rated it 4 or even 5 stars, because my emotional enjoyment was so high. For me, mentioning those aspects that can seem more negative is really important, because it allows the people reading my review to make a better judgement about whether or not a book is for them! If one of the issues I mentioned was flat characters, and all you care about are the characters, then even though I gave the book 5 stars and loved it so much, it might still not be the book for you!

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  14. This is a great topic! I consider myself still pretty new to book blogging and ARC requesting. Upon reflection, I can’t deny that receiving an ARC somewhat influences how I review the book. I tend to be nicer and more enthusiastic in my review even if I don’t like the book THAT much, and the tone of my review often doesn’t match my final rating. I haven’t read an ARC where I dislike everything though, so I’m not sure what I will do in that case. I’ll definitely have to be more mindful in future reviews. Thanks for the thought-provoking post! 💕

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    1. Thank you! I think that’s only natural, especially when you first start out and the prospect of an early copy is still really exciting! I did the same thing where I’d add extra enthusiasm to reviews where I wasn’t as obsessed with the book as my review may have let you to believe. I mean, even now I’ll have extra excitement when I get an ARC of a book I’m really anticipating. But the difference is I’ve gotten better at handling it.

      I think the important thing is to let people know that you’re biased. For example, I can say that I had some issues with the plot of a book, but that I didn’t mind those issues and gave the book 5 stars anyways. This lets people who are bothered by poorly written plots that this might not be the book for them, even though I loved it. As long as I mention any issues I had, I don’t mind if my rating doesn’t take into account those issues! If the book was perfect to me, it can get 5 stars, even if it wasn’t objectively perfect!

      I’ve had a few times where I haven’t liked a book. But the book that stands out the most in my mind is a 1 star review I did for a NetGalley ARC. I had a number of issues with the book, but I did my best to address the issues only, without demonizing the author. I also used quotes from the book to back up my thoughts, since a lot of the issues I had were surrounding harmful content, that I hadn’t seen addressed in any other reviews. I also tried making it a more positive experience, by recommending books that handled each issue well, with every item that I listed. Overall, while it was difficult to rate a book so low and then review it, it may be the review I’m most proud of!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed! 💗

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  15. I struggled a bit with my disclaimer when I started out too! You bring up some very valid points here. I know I tend to be more lenient on indie reads with ratings but not with the reviews I write.

    Another thing is that sometimes after days or months my opinion of a book sometimes changes! Which is surprising but I suppose taking the step back really helps me assess the book better.

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    1. Yes! I find it so interesting to see the exact wording that different bloggers use in their disclaimers! I’m sure some people don’t even put that much thought into the wording, but since I love overthinking things, it’s fun for me to dissect when I come across a disclaimer that is worded interestingly!

      I hear that though, because people can be super judgmental when it comes to ratings, especially when it’s a book that they’re unfamiliar with. I know I am, at the very least! But as long as in the review you point out the issues you had with the book, I think that’s enough information to allow each reader to figure out whether or not a book is for them. I feel as though if someone’s reading a review they’re already interested in a book, whereas people look at ratings all the time and use those to decide whether they even want to read reviews in the first place. So I think your method makes sense!

      And I have that too! Sometimes distance really does provide me with more clarity! Many times I’m so wrapped up in my emotions over a book when I first finish it, but in a few months time those feelings fade and I’m left to more objectively figure out how good the book was!

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  16. I loved this discussion Malka!! So interesting to hear your thoughts on it as even though I don’t receive ARCS myself, I’ve often thought about this. Because I know myself if I was to receive an ARC I’d definitely have that bias – I’d feel too bad otherwise? It’s the same with receiving any gift – I personally would feel obligated to like it and so that would make writing a review really difficult for me if I didn’t, as I’d want to be honest with my readers, but at the same time I’d want to be nice to the publisher if that makes sense.

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    1. Thank you so much! And that’s exactly it! It’s this weird sort of expectation that you need to love something because it was given to you for free, which makes no sense, but is the feeling I’ve gotten all the same! I think I’ve sort of found a happy medium. I’m always honest, and I would never rate a 2 star book 5 stars, but rounding up or down happens at times.

      The thing I always make sure to do though, is to explain my ratings in my reviews, especially when my rating was influenced. So for example, I can mention that a specific aspect about a character bothered me, but then say that I rated the book 5 stars anyways. But by mentioning the thing that bothered me, it lets people know that it was not a perfect book, and if that particular aspect is something that would bother them, this book may not be right for them!

      And even when it comes to fully bad reviews, which I’ve only written once or twice, I think as long as you state your reasons clearly, and don’t attack the author, publishers will respect what you wrote. Not every book is going to work for every reader! But as much as you have a responsibility to the publisher, you also have a responsibility to your readers, who trust your opinion. One bad review that keeps other people from rating a book negatively, actually can do some good. And there’s still a good chance that people will decide to look further into a book, and even read the book despite of/because of your review, even if it is negative!

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  17. I totally agree with this sentiment. I read an early copy of Bookish and the Beast, and it had a lot of awful typos in it. I purposely haven’t published my review of it yet because I’m waiting to see if they are addressed in the final copy (I emailed very detailed notes to the publisher 😂).
    I have reviewed one review copy (final copy though) of a book where I was contacted by the author. I said that the reason I was lowering it by 1 star was because of the editing, and if that was addressed then I would increase my rating.
    I try and let my readers know why I’m giving a book a certain score.

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    1. Yes! I’m one of those people that gets very bothered by typos and formatting errors. Usually when I get those kinds of books from NetGalley, I wait until the book is published and then read a finished copy from my library and review the finished copy instead. But it’s good that you sent the publisher you’re detailed notes! I’m sure it really helped them!

      I think that explaining what made a book lose a star is always such an interesting discussion because for me sometimes I can’t quite even explain why a book lost a star, I just know something isn’t right. For example, most of my 3 stars are just okay books. There’s nothing bad about them, per se, but they’re more forgettable and nothing stands out as good! So I guess I’m taking off stars for mediocrity?

      But, yes! I think it;s important to break down all of the components of a book into what did and didn’t work so that people can judge whether a book would be right for them or not. If my issue was mainly with the setting, and a reader doesn’t care at all about setting, but wants to make sure the characters are good, it’s important that I specify that my only issue was the setting, no matter what my rating ends up being! I want anyone reading my reviews to be able to make an informed decision!

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  18. This is an interesting discussion, Malka! I am one of those people who write the “this did not affect my opinion” phrase in the disclaimer in my arc reviews and I would like to think that I’m being honest with what I write in my review. I haven’t had that many arc read and reviewed at the time but I still can relate to some of your points in this post. Especially in the case of rating. Now that you mentioned it, I agree with you about how it does influence the way I rate the book. It’s a dilemma I always have for books that I think just okay and have no strong feelings towards, but when it comes to arc it takes me a long time to finalize my rating for the book.

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    1. Thank you!

      And, I’m not doubting your honesty! I just think that influence is different that honesty, and I hope I made that distinction clear in my post! I also think that there’s a difference between a rating and a review. I think that it’s more likely that someone is influenced to change the rating a bit, by rounding up or down, even if the content of their review stays exactly the same!

      And since almost every book I review is an ARC, I definitely can understand that having to rate those books is more difficult. Because I’m the same way. Normally by the time I finish a book, I know the rating I plan on giving it. But when I’m reviewing a book I start to break down all the different elements, ans sometimes my emotional rating is not the same as my objective rating, and then I need to figure out which one is more accurate! I think this is part of why reviewing is not that much fun for me! Talking about all the little details that went into my final rating is difficult and time consuming!

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      1. Of course! And don’t worry, you made the distinction very clear to readers. I’m so sorry if my wording and/or phrases confused you. I didn’t mean to 🙇

        And yeah, there’s a difference between a review and a rating. That’s why sometimes you can’t really trust only someone’s rating on the book because their review might be saying otherwise 😅

        Ahh yes. I also have the same issue (am currently facing this dilemma as I wrote this comment). I haven’t written my review yet, just have the points, but I still need to decide on what my final rating is for that said book.

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  19. This is interesting! I normally feel fine chatting about things on my blog & over on goodreads but the guilt part for me is always rating on netgalley – since that’s going directly to these lovely kind people that have just given me a free book so sometimes I might round up a bit 🙈

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    1. I guess for me, since I only review books that come from NetGalley, I don’t have different discussions on my different platforms. I write one review that goes on my blog, Goodreads, and NetGalley, and my rating is the same on all 3 platforms as well. And when I have a 3.5 or 4.5 star review, I write that rating in my review, but round up or down in the same way on both Goodreads and NetGalley. (On my blog, I’m able to display the actual star rating).

      But I’m always very chatty, and I try to talk through how I reached the rating I did. I even usually explain why I chose to round up or down! But I definitely understand the desire to want to be kind to the people who provided you with a free book, however I always remind myself that they end up benefiting from honest reviews, even if they are negative. After all, one negative review that points out specific problems, can keep others who would feel similarly about that problem from ALSO rating that book negatively! Which is the whole purpose of reviews after all! To help readers make educated decisions about whether or not a book is right for them!

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  20. This is such a great discussion! I’ve never officially requested ARCs and don’t want to as of right now, but I’ve reviewed a couple ARCs a few years ago and I definitely felt the bias. It’s especially hard when you know the author will be reading your review (for the ARCs I did, the authors emailed me so I knew there were going to be seeing my review which was stressful).

    I love what you said about even if you did like the book and you’re not lying about how you felt about it, there’s still bias! It would be impossible to remove the bias from the situation and it’s always in the back of your mind as you make decisions that normally could be made with no bias. I think I’m just repeating what you already said in the post so I’ll stop now- but this is really amazing, loved reading it, Malka!❤️

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    1. Thank you so much, Olivia! 💕 Honestly, requesting and receiving ARCs can get very stressful, so I applaud your decision not to officially make any requests! And it’s definitely really tough. For me I mostly dealt with publishers, but even so I wanted to love the book for their sake. I can only imagine how much tougher it is to review a book you got directly from an author! (Especially given how some authors react to negative reviews!)

      Yes! That was honestly the main point I wanted to get across! Bias is literally always there! You can be as honest as you’d like, but you still are influenced by a variety of factors!

      Thank you so much! I’m so happy you loved it so much! 💓

      Like

  21. I love this discussion post! I love how you dive into the psychological reasoning behind an honest review. Having done Psychology at university, the idea of bias and the different kinds of bias humans are susceptible to have long engraved in my mind. An amazing discussion post! Can’t wait to read more posts from you.

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    1. Thank you! Yup! I think that people don’t realize exactly how much bias effects every aspect of their lives, which is why I wanted to write this post! There are so many factors that go in to how we rate and review books, and I thought it might be fun to take a look into some of the subconscious factors!

      Thank you so much! 💕

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  22. What a great topic! While I’m a fairly new blogger, I have been reading ARCs much longer. I’ve never been comfortable saying it didn’t influence my opinion, so my disclaimer is simply to thank the publisher for the advance copy. However, I’m very picky about my ARCs and know pretty well what I’ll enjoy. I try to be as honest as I can without giving spoilers. I also try to keep in mind that just because I don’t enjoy a book, it doesn’t mean others won’t. 😊

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    1. Thank you! I like your version of a disclaimer! And even though I’m pretty picky about the ARCs I request, I’ve still written one or two negative reviews, because even though a book sounded like everything I’d love, I just didn’t love it!

      And I do the same thing! I try going through all the aspects of a book that worked or didn’t work for me! That way people can make an educated decision about whether or not a book would be for them. Because after all, the things that bother me may not bother someone else! I always try to do my best to recommend a book to its proper audience, even if the book wasn’t personally for me!

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      1. Yes! I’m still always surprised when someone hates a book I thought was perfect or loves a book I couldn’t stand. 😃 But in the end, our differences are what makes life more interesting, right?!

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  23. This is such an interesting post! 💕 I’ve always struggled with this aspect of reviewing ARCs. While I try to be as honest as possible in my ARC reviews, I think I tend to rate them on the higher side so that they look better as the book is being released. For example, I recently reviewed a book which I thought was okay, but since it was a debut and most of the things I didn’t like were just personal preference, I gave it 3.5 stars because I felt like a lot of people would still like it, and I gave it 4 instead of 3 stars on goodreads. My review was honest, but I think my star rating could have been more accurate.

    I also try not to request anything I know I wouldn’t like. I am genuinely interested in the ARCs I request from NetGalley, so that at least I know it’s not a book out of my comfort zone! I want to give the book a good rating, so I guess I lower my expectations so that it feels like it deserves more stars by the time I finish, if that makes sense! Like tricking myself into liking it more than if I had read it on my own? I don’t think that’s dishonest, but maybe a bit biased. 😅

    Like

    1. Thank you so much, Xandra! I can definitely tell you that you’re not alone! I think that a lot of people struggle with exactly how to rate ARCs. I’ve definitely had those moments where I want a book to do well and so I round up. I think for me what’s important is disclosing how and why I rated a book, including why I chose to round up or down, if that happened. That way people reading my review can make an educated decision about whether or a not a book is for them!

      And I’m the same way! Ever since I realized how much I dislike reviewing, I’ve been a lot better at not requesting everything I see on NetGalley. In fact, right now I don’t have any pending requests, and only have 4 unreviewed books, one of which I’m participating in a blog tour for, while the other 3 are super backlist books from around 5 years ago! So I’m definitely doing a good job of not requesting anything new, and being very picky with what I choose to request!

      But even despite all my pickiness, I never know how much I’ll enjoy a book until I read it, no matter how wonderful a synopsis sounds! And try as I might, I can never lower my expectations for books that I’ve been anticipating. And since I pretty much only requests books I’m anticipating greatly, that means there’s lots of room for disappointment! But sometimes I rate higher because I wanted to love a book so much, even if that level of love was never achieved! Like you, I’m biased, but I think I’m also always honest!

      Like

    1. I definitely hear that! I feel the same way about debut authors as well!

      I also find that it’s also hard for me when it’s a book I expected to love, but didn’t! It’s difficult because in my heart I want to give it a high rating because of how much I was looking forward, but the rational part of me knows that it didn’t live up to my expectations and therefore doesn’t deserve a high rating!

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  24. You bring up some really valid points! I can admit that as a new blogger when I first started, I might have rated it a bit higher because I didn’t want to ruin relationships. Now though, I’m a bit more… not so lenient? Critical? Picky? Mainly because the relationship of sorts has been established already (but also considering that I’ve been blogging for awhile, there’s also quite a bit of personal growth going on.)

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    1. Thank you! I think that happens to most bloggers! At the very least I know that’s what happened to me when I first started receiving ARCs! And while I know that I still have biases even now, I believe I’ve gotten better at handling them! As you said, there’s a lot of personal growth that occurs as you continue to blog!

      What I do now when I write a review is I try to break down why I gave the book that particular rating. That way those reading my review will be able to figure out if this book is for them, whether or not it was for me! In a way what I’m doing is revealing my biases. Because I might give a book 5 stars after listing a number of things I disliked, while some books that get 3 stars have nothing that particularly stood out to me as being bad! But my hope is that by providing the details about what did and didn’t work for me, I allow potential readers to make a better decision about whether they want to read the book I’m reviewing, despite my personal biases!

      Like

  25. A lot of interesting thoughts, Malka! When I receive a book as a gift, I would definitely say that it makes me want to like it more, but my review and rating is always honest even if I don’t. I do include a short disclaimer in my blog tour posts, mainly because I saw that other bloggers did that ☺ But I wouldn’t say it makes much difference to how I write my review.
    You raise some really valid points, though. Great post as always 🥰

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    1. Thank you! As I mentioned, I don’t think that any blogger is being dishonest in their reviews, no matter what their disclaimer says! I just think that bias isn’t something that you can get rid of easily, and therefore different factors are going to impact how and why you rate a book the way you did. You can disclose your biases, as is the purpose of a disclaimer, but it still impacts you in some way, no matter how slight.

      I know for me, my biases actually do influence how I right my review! Since I know that my rating is likely to be influenced by my emotions, in order to provide an honest review, I try to break down exactly why a book got the rating it did. That way someone can decide whether or not a book is right for them, no matter what my rating may be!

      Thank you so much, Stephen! 💕

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  26. Interesting… Not sure I totally agree. I mean, I get gifts ALL the time that I don’t like, honestly dislike. Getting something for free can not influence if I’ll like it or not. Yes, I appreciate the gift, but I promise you, I have told Edelweiss and NetGalley and even authors “thanks, but… I’m not going to finish this book because if I do, you’ll get a review I don’t think you’ll like.” Mind you, I don’t participate in many blog tours so I don’t feel obliged to finish reading every single ARC I get. Perhaps if I did, and got a book I didn’t like, I’d ask to back out, or do an excerpt instead of a review.

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    1. I too have gotten gifts I haven’t liked. However, I usually try to thank the person that gave me the gift, because I know that their intention was to get me something I’d like and to make me smile. I think it’s similar with getting a book for free, there have been books that I gave 1 or 2 stars to, but I always try to be kind because I know that an author worked hard.

      But while I won’t give a 1 star book 5 stars, I may round up a 3.5 star book to a 4, if I know that the issues I had with a book are personal to me and other may still enjoy the book. In that case, using your gift analogy, I’m passing on a gift I disliked, to a friend that will love it in a way I never will!

      And I definitely have DNFed books I got from NetGalley! I’m mainly talking about subtleties here, not outright hatred for a book!

      I also assume you’ve been blogging for a while. Bloggers who are new to reviewing may feel more pressure, and may lack the confidence to provide a publisher or author with negative feedback, right from the start, especially if the book in question is one of the very first they have ever received. I think that older bloggers have it a little easier, because we don’t have to worry as much how our feedback will influence the entire rest of our blogging careers!

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      1. Yes, I’ve been blogging since 2013, but I’ve been writing book reviews for many years. There was a time when I was writing for an online site that was not only helping me get the ARCs, but also paid me for my review. However, that site is for libraries and book sellers, and their policy was that unless the reviewer could honestly say, that “hand to heart” they would give that book at least 4 stars, then we didn’t get paid for the review. The incentive to like a book to a 4 star level was high, and yet… I did have to tell the site several times that I couldn’t give the book 4 stars.
        You are probably right that newer bloggers getting their first ARCs are probably more generous then veteran bloggers. But once we get over the initial stars in our eyes at getting something for free, we learn to remember that our reputation is at stake if we aren’t honest with our readers.

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  27. Again, such an interesting discussion!
    I’ve never gotten a review copy from a publisher so I can’t speak about that, but I totally agree that there are exterior factors that can influence how you perceive the story. When a book is too hyped, for example, or when it’s by one of my favorite authors. It’s very clear to me that those can change how I would normally go into a new book, and of course, they affect my rating. When it’s written by a favorite author, I’ll go into it expecting to love it and give it 4 or 5 stars. That’s an advantage that other books don’t have.
    I think it’s so crazy how people try to make reviewing books an objective thing when it’s so clearly affected by our emotions and perceptions. And that’s totally ok.

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    1. Thank you so much, Juli!

      Yes! There are so many different factors that can influence your rating! With a favorite author or hyped book, it can also impact the book negatively, if a book doesn’t live up to our expectations! That’s bias coming in to play as well! Bias doesn’t just have to be a positive thing!

      And I think that while no review will ever be objective, there are some ways to be more honest in your reviews. If you exclude the things you disliked from a review, that’s dishonest! A review should cover the good and the bad, no matter what your rating is! (Unless of course it’s a 1 star review, where you can’t find anything good in the story or a 5 star review where you feel a book is perfect. In those cases it’s still something subjective, but you have a reason for only mentioning the bad/good elements!)

      I totally agree! Reviews will always be subjective and influenced by our emotions! I’m more worried when people claim to be subjective, because I feel as though they don’t fully understand all the factors that go into forming the opinions that end up in their reviews, and therefore they can’t express their thoughts well!

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  28. Oh, I love this discussion! I’ve never given much thought to the disclaimers I put in my reviews, but this is just so interesting and true! I say that my opinions aren’t affected, but I wonder if I would have reacted differently towards the book if I wasn’t going to forward the review to the publisher. Even small things like sugarcoating the bad parts or sounding more enthusiastic about a book because of word choice probably have a bigger effect on the person reading the review, omg. 😭

    While I do think my reviews are honest, I think that they are a bit biased. I’m less critical, I think?
    Anyways, this was such a wonderful post, Malka! ❤

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    1. Thank you! I overthink most things, so I’ve given a lot of thought into the different ways disclaimers are worded! There are lots of factors that influence feelings and opinions, and therefore ratings, which is why I don’t feel comfortable saying that I wasn’t influenced!

      And that’s exactly what I’m talking about! You can mention the bad things but not go into depth about how badly you think something was handled. You can be overly enthusiastic when in reality you think a book was okay. While the content of your review might be entirely honest, there are little things that you can do that allows you to be honest, yet biased at the same time! But I’m sorry if this is making you overthink every review you’ve ever written! I really hope that isn’t the case! I just want people to be more aware of the factors that influence them the next time they write a review!

      Thank you so much, Sara! 💕

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  29. I don’t think this post was picky at all! It was very well written, Malka. I agree — there are a lot of factors that can influence one’s opinion of a book, and rating without bias can be very difficult to do. Bias is quite common, and sometimes, it’s not necessarily a bad thing — it’s just been influenced by too many out-of-the-person’s-control factors. I really appreciate your honest views and eloquent points in this post, thank you for sharing it with us!!

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    1. Thank you! It took me a while to work up the courage to publish this post because I was wondering if I was just overthinking things! So I’m glad to hear that you don’t feel that’s the case! 💕

      Yes! There are so many little things that can influence a rating! I would say that it’s practically impossible to rate without bias! Even your mood while you’re reading impacts you eventual rating, and forms a sort of bias! I think the best case scenario is just to address your biases, instead of pretending as though you have none! Because as you said, bias isn’t inherently negative. It’s just another factor that needs to be considered while writing a review!

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad that you enjoyed reading what I had to say!

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  30. What a terrific topic! I have thought about this over and over again as I read reviews. I do believe that some reviewers are influenced by receiving ARC’s and although they write in their review that they are not, I feel this statement in their review is a copy and paste job. Perhaps they think, they only request or accept books that they know they will like, but in reality this can’t always happen. I’ve seen a reviewer give one glowing review, after another glowing review, never addressing any issues with the books they have read. And I have to wonder, are they that lucky to find perfect books all the time?
    I feel that when I get ARC’s, I try to address the positives and the negatives. Sometimes though, I get so wrapped up in the book, I don’t see any negatives as I’m sailing through the book, barely able to breathe. When I write my reviews, I think about someone who might be purchasing the book, what they might want to know about it. I think being honest in your reviews, tells a lot about yourself.

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking deeply about review disclaimers! I totally agree, I think that all reviewers are influenced by receiving ARCs, each to varying degrees. But as you said, I don’t think most people take the time to consider the wording of their disclaimers, and instead just copy and paste one from a reviewer they follow.

      Even if you only request books that you think you’ll like, you’ll still be disappointed by at least a few of them! I mean, I practically only request my most anticipated books, and even so I’ve been let down! I think that people that only have glowing reviews are doing one of two things. They either are only posting positive reviews on their blog, which is a bit strange, but that’s their choice. The other option is that they’re leaving out the parts they disliked from their reviews, which I find dishonest. I believe it is statistically impossible to love every book you receive. Even if you have three 5 star review books in a row, chances are that despite the 5 stars you’ll still have some sort of issue with something in the book!

      I try to do the same thing when I review a book. I like listing all the things I liked and all the things I disliked because I feel it helps those reading my review make an educated decision about whether or not a book is right for them. Because after all, even though something didn’t work for me, that aspect may not bother someone else! But I definitely understand how sometimes books are so good that you can’t even formulate coherent thoughts. You just love the book so much. And I think that’s okay! I think it’s also okay when you can’t pinpoint anything wrong with a book, but you just have an overall feeling of mediocrity. I feel as though as long as you convey why you’re giving a book a particular rating, how you reached that rating doesn’t matter as much!

      I think that’s a really great mindset to have while writing reviews. I only go so far as to think about people who might read the book, since I don’t purchase most of my books. But being honest in your reviews is definitely important, and I hope that people recognize that!

      Like

  31. This is a really interesting post! For me, if I don’t like a book I’ll DNF it and not review it on my blog, sometimes if I read a book I know wasn’t personally my cup of tea, I’ll review it with no ratings, especially as I mainly review diverse books by marginalized authors. But one thing is that I’m 100% honest when reviewing a book I received for review and I’m such a picky reader at the best of times 😂

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    1. Thank you! It’s so interesting to hear the different ways people handle reviewing books they don’t like!

      I personally have never written a DNF review on the blog, but in my NetGalley bio I mention that my policy is to only review DNF books on Goodreads, and no other platform. But when there’s a book that I dislike for personal reasons, I’ll rate and review it and use my review to explain my issues. That way people will understand why I gave the book the rating I did, but can decide for themselves whether those factors bother them or not!

      And I think that being picky definitely helps with honesty! After all, if you can’t bring yourself to finish a book, there’s no way you can say you enjoyed the book!

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  32. You know I had never really considered the wording on my disclaimer for reviews. I mean, we put it in there for transparency reasons and we want to be clear that it doesn’t affect our opinion, but maybe it does. I mean, there is nothing better than getting a book early and reading it before someone can create a load of hype for it. I mean, I always round up when it comes to goodreads reviews regardless of it if it’s an arc or book I purchased just because I like to give that tiny boost my review might give on goodreads. But I hadn’t even though about something as stupid as terrible formatting of an arc affects my reading… to be honest I normally end up buying a copy of the book if the formatting is that bad or don’t read at all but there are a number of little things which can affect our review. Feeling a strong urge to go check out what my disclaimer says now.

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    1. I tend to overthink things, which apparently extends to disclaimers, so I’ve spent the past few months paying particular attention to the disclaimer whenever I read a review! I think it’s necessary to have a disclaimer to disclose the fact that you got a book for free for the very reason that receiving an early copy/free book might influence your review!

      Although, that being said, there are so many different things that can affect a book’s final rating! Something as simple as the mood you’re in, or how distracted you are that day can all make an impact! In my eyes, all reviews are biased reviews, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just something I’d like to see talked about more!

      Like

  33. What a fascinating discussion! I definitely agree. I haven’t exactly jumped onto the ARC bandwagon, and I’ve only even been to Netgally ONCE. But I did do an ARC review for an author at their request. I really enjoyed the book, but not as much as the author’s first book. But in my review for the book I only really talked about the things I loved (which, granted, was a lot), which is not my normal operating procedure. In the end I don’t regret this decision, because the author is struggling and his books don’t get *any* attention, and I don’t feel like the promo I did for his book was in any way dishonest, it was just a tad out of character. I hope that makes sense.

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    1. Thank you! I totally understand that decision and get what you mean! It’s highlighting the good without focusing too much on the bad! I think that when someone ONLY reviews that way, it bothers me, but when done every once in while for specific cases, I understand. Especially because it’s possible to see a book’s flaws but ignore them and give a book 5 stars! Just like it’s possible to see some good in a book or what a book was attempting to do and give a book 3 stars! Rating is super subjective!

      Usually what I try to do in my reviews, is to mention both what I liked and disliked that way people can make an educated decision about whether or not a book is right for them. After all, it doesn’t help an author if I provide a misleading review, that leads to people who wouldn’t like the book reading the book and leaving bad ratings and reviews! I try not to be harsh, and to be as clear as possible that I take issue with aspects of the book, but never the author, and I always hope that comes through! But sometimes, I just don’t like a book, and so I have to be honest about that!

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      1. I usually do the same thing in my reviews.

        But this got me thinking of the podcasts I listen to. In general they have a policy of only reviewing/discussing books they enjoyed. So if they didn’t like a book, they don’t say so. Since the purpose of the podcast is to promote books people *will* like, I see the point, but at the same time it might help to know “hey, so-and-so HATED this book, so maybe I won’t like it either”.

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  34. Very interesting post! I don’t think I’ve ever been influenced by the fact that I got an anticipated book early/free but I have been biased when reviewing a book by an author I have a relationship with. It’s so difficult to give a truly honest review when I will actually be interacting with the author so I stopped reviewing books that way.

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    1. Thank you! I totally understand that! There are so many different things that can influence a review, some of which we don’t even recognize most of the time!

      And I think that was a smart decision that you made! If you know that you can’t give an honest review or that your review will be extremely biased, taking a step back and deciding not to review books from authors you formed a relationship with sound like the right call!

      Liked by 1 person

  35. The thing is, you really need to disclose somewhere on your review if you received an ARC for free since that is the FTC guidelines regardless if your review is biased or not.

    I am honest with my reviews but I agree that there is some bias to all reviews. For example, do you interact with the author on social media? Do you actually know the author? etc. This is mostly why I try not to be too friendly with authors on SM because I am afraid that it would affect my reviews on their books. I’ve actually chosen not to review a few authors that I know because of this because I wasn’t really loving their book. I just rated them with stars but never wrote a full review.

    I honestly look at a blogger’s review track as well. If all their reviews are all gushing 5-star reviews, I tend not to believe their reviews. It’s virtually impossible to like all books. I do understand that some bloggers only post positive reviews, but it’s really hard to believe someone with all positive reviews, right? I am also wary when reading reviews on Goodreads for books with all 5-star reads. I prefer to read reviews with a variety of star ratings to get a picture if I would like a book or not, especially for new to me authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, of course! This post wasn’t saying that I think we should abolish disclaimers! I just overthink things, and I don’t think that the inclusion of “this in no way influenced my opinion” is an accurate statement, so I wanted to discuss bias in reviewing. That being said, I don’t think that receiving an ARC is the only thing that can influence a review, which is why I tried to make this a broader conversation! The disclaimer was merely my starting point!

      Yes, exactly! There’s no way to escape bias! And how you deal with authors you know definitely makes sense! I don’t think I’d feel comfortable reviewing a book from someone that I knew either. I’m not on Twitter, so I don’t interact much with authors, but I think that if I did I’d have a policy similar to yours!

      And while I also don’t fully trust bloggers that only post 5 star reviews, as you mentioned, I know that it’s possible that they just don’t review books they don’t like. But I agree. I’m much more likely to trust someone that puts out a negative review every once in a while. I believe I’ve reviewed books with every star rating on this blog, from 1 to 5! Although 1 and 2 stars are rare from me, so it’s less likely that I’ll review a book with that rating, since I don’t review that many books to begin with!

      And with Goodreads I care more about the average rating and what my friends thought of it than individual reviews. But I don’t really like reading reviews before I read a book because of spoilers, so that also factors into things! But when I want to read a review before deciding if a book is for me or not, I usually try getting a mixture as well! And of course, I prioritize the people that I follow and trust because I already know how well their taste in books matches mine!

      Like

  36. Oh this is such an interesting point you’re making, wow. I never really thought of that statement until today ahah, actually, I just automatically include it whenever I get a book, because that’s the rule and… well. I’m trying my best, of course, to be completely honest with my thoughts on the book, if I love it or not, what bothered me with it…. It’s true though that if something annoyed me, I tend to maybe do my best to phrase the things a little less harshly than I would in another kind of review? I don’t know, maybe it’s because I just want to be kind ahah.
    I think I’m lucky enough not to question that statement too often and my honesty, either. I’m scared to feel like a goody-two-shoes all the time because I enjoy, really enjoy or love the books I got lucky enough to read early, so…. i’m completely honest and happy about it all, gift or not.
    I feel like I’m rambling here wow. I just really loved this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I think that most people include the disclaimer without really thinking about it. I just noticed that there were different versions, and started overthinking the differences between them, which eventually turned into this post!

      I think everyone struggles with their biases in some way or another, and everyone has their own way of managing them! I totally understand wanting to be kind though! But I think that sometimes, my dislike for a book becomes too strong, and I have to round down, or be a little more harsh in my reviews. And I think that’s where bias comes in as well. What was it about that particular 3.5 star book that got a 3 star instead of a 4 star? Was I in a bad mood that day? Did I notice lots of typos in the ARC? There are so many little things that influence our reviews!

      And I think it’s fine if a gift makes a book feel a little more special to us! That makes sense! But I think it’s important to discuss the fact that a book was a gift, and that’s WHY the book felt special, so that someone who won’t be receiving the book for free can decide whether or not they want to spend their money on a book. That’s always my goal with my reviews. I want to help people make an educated decision about whether a book is right for them or not! As long as I helped with that decision making process, I’m happy!

      Thank you! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  37. I think you’re absolutely right, and it’s hard to see if you’re being influenced or if you genuinely enjoyed the book — especially for new bloggers, as you stated. Being trusted with an ARC is such a proud thing! Of course, you want to do good and give it a good rating, and that’s honorable, but as you wrote it, there’s a lot of little details that can influence us without us even realizing it. Your post gives us much to think about!
    And personally, I’d said I can get influenced pretty easily, even if the book is not an ARC — like if it’s a super hyped book, loved by everyone in the book community, I’d say I’d be a bit influenced by that: if everyone loved it, surely I must too! I’m trying lately to distance myself from all that, but it’s sure is hard work.
    Anyway, thank you for your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely hard to untangle all your emotions over a book and where they came from! But I also think that it’s a skill that one gets better at over time, and with practice, which is why newer bloggers struggle more. There’s so much that influences us, and I feel that the more influences you can explain in your review, the more clear and useful a review becomes!

      Yes! Hyped books are a super easy way to get influenced! It can even work both ways, because sometimes all the hype makes you set up your expectations unreasonably high, and then you don’t enjoy a book as much, which is a negative influence, but an influence none the less! And it’s definitely difficult to distance yourself from the hype, but it’s possible. I think it helps when you know your reading tastes well, because then you can judge whether a hyped book sounds like something you’d enjoy or not, instead of just hearing a book is good and assuming you’ll like it, even though you know nothing about it!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  38. i really think that there’s no such thing as an unbiased review—that actually defeats the entire purpose of one! our internal biases allow us to form our thoughts on a books, whether good or bad, and how we got the book, prior reviews of the book that we read, etc. could easily influence our thoughts. like you, i don’t believe that “unbiased” reviews exist, because we all have our own preferences and ways of critiquing, so i think that calling reviews honest instead of unbiased is way more accurate. great post, malka! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree wholeheartedly, but apparently not everyone does!

      But you make such a wonderful point that reviews are only useful because of how subjective they are. If everyone just based their reviews on objective aspects, if that was even possible, then all reviews would sound the same. But since people use their emotions as they read, mentioning how you personally felt about a book is really important! But I think that it’s even more important to explain why and how you got those emotions. Was it the writing? Was it the fantastic characters? Different aspects compel readers differently, and so it’s easiest to know if a book will be something you like, if you know the details of why a reviewer gave a book the rating that they did.

      There are so many things that influence us and therefore create bias! Even if you don’t have a bias in one area, doesn’t mean that you are unbiased! Like you mentioned, there are so many factors that end up seeping into how we feel about the books we read. I think that honesty can easily be subjective, which is why I see no problem with saying a review is totally honest, even when it’s obviously biased. If I say I loved this book from my favorite author, yes I’m biased because I loved their previous works, but I honestly do love their newest work as well!

      Thank you so much, Caitlin! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

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