Well, well, well, what have we here, a post we haven’t had in a while – that’s right, let’s discuss some things. Specifically, let’s discuss the struggle that is reviewing favourite books. Maybe not everyone has this struggle but, in an Internet full of book bloggers, I highly doubt that I am the only one who genuinely finds this such a difficult thing.
Here’s the thing: if I LOVE a book, I have no problem telling everyone I love the book. I’ll post updates about it on Goodreads and Twitter as I read. I’ll rave about it how good it was on Twitter using gifs whilst recommending it to friends and family offline too. I’ll mention it very enthusiastically numerous times on my blog in response to tag posts. I’ll wholeheartedly rate it 5 out of 5 stars and include it in ‘best books of the year’ lists. But, I sometimes struggle to write a review for it.
Case-in-point: one of my favourite books in recent years has been The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s not exactly an obscure book and quite a few people very much enjoy the book in the online book community. But I struggle deeply to articulate WHY I love this book so much, I just know that I do. It’s the same with Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – in fact, I still haven’t been able to write a coherent review after recently re-reading it for the very purpose of writing a review. I can flail about it until the cows come home but, apparently, I struggle to just articulate why I love it in an actual review post. It’s still in the works, months/years late by this point.
In some ways, I find it less of a struggle to write reviews for books I didn’t like; in fact it’s almost a pleasure to write those kind of reviews because it’s strangely cathartic. All in all, it’s actually quite easy to be negative and to list all the gripes I had with a book. In my own head, whenever I’m deciding what to rate a book, I work from the basis that every book has the chance to be a 5-star new favourite book – anything that annoys me, or that didn’t quite work for me, or that I find problematic, deducts stars (or half stars), and then I end up with a final rating. But the point still stands that I find it so much easier to talk about books I didn’t like because they practically write themselves, all I have to do is list the gripes. My case-in-point is my review of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses – the review practically flowed out of me in an uncontrolled rant shortly after finishing the book, and I then had to try to marshal it into something than more so resembled review than rant.
On the other side of the coin, there are two books this year which I enjoyed very much – The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, definite 5-star reads for me, extremely engrossing and thought-provoking, and I totally loved every minute of reading both of these books. And yet, I still haven’t been able to marshal my thoughts into a prompt and coherent review. At first, I tried to let my (many) thoughts percolate, so that I could write a better review than the one that I could have word vomited promptly after closing the final page of each respective book. The problem is that the longer you leave these things to percolate, the more likely you are to lose the specifics of the book in question – I remember the sense of reading both of these books, but I’ve forgotten large portions of the plot already. Given that I read these books in March, and it’s now July, that’s not altogether surprising, but it is a massive shame.
I sometimes have review backlogs, it happens, life gets in the way like that, or I have other blog posts I need to write before a review, or I finish a lot of books at once because I’m doing a readathon. The result is that I forget to write prompt reviews (or else I want to ‘let reviews percolate’ before finalising them), and this has often happened with books I’ve really loved, and then I feel sad that I don’t have an accurate post detailing exactly why I loved a book as much as I did. All I can do (until I manage a re-read) is to include the books on my ‘favourites of the year’ lists and mention them in response to tag questions and recommend them to other readers online and offline. Advocating for the book whenever I have any opportunity takes the place of a positive review. It’s not the same, but it is the least I can do for my favourite books.
Do you have the same struggle to write positive reviews? Like me, do you find it hard sometimes to talk about a book you loved? Do you find it easier to talk about a book you hated? Do you have any favourite books that you haven’t managed to review and, likewise, do you have any most hated books that you have reviewed? Let’s chat in the comments, I’m really curious to know if other people struggle with this – and, if you do, maybe you could share some tips for getting past the struggle.