Do You Trust Book Reviews?


Much of my reading over the past year has been influenced by #bookstagram, the beautiful bookish corner of Instagram our likeminded friends hang out on. In the past couple of years, publishers have caught on to how beneficial bookstagram can be for new releases and have helped turn the hygge vibes into influencer and book stack central. This means new releases are getting LOTS of hype, whether people are reading the books or not. This can be a great thing because it brings awareness to books people might not have known about. As a bookstagrammer myself, it’s always exciting to have my hard work recognized by publishers, which allows me to sometimes receive free books.

However, lately, I’ve noticed many of the hyped books which have boasted exceptional reviews from many of the big named reviewers have been subpar reads for me. It’s made me question if the reviews are authentic or if the reviewers are worried the publisher might drop them from their mailing list.

It seems the advance reviews of books are mostly glowing, then once a book releases and through a bit of wading, one begins to find the “unpopular opinions”. Naturally, it’s difficult to judge whether someone truly loves a book based on their review – it is an opinion after all. But, I do believe the numerous ARCs, publisher relationships, and author pushback recently regarding reviews have all placed pressure on influencers to shine a positive light on most books they are reading. This obviously leads to more readers picking up the book, and in my case lately, feeling as if I’ve wasted precious time on what should have been a new favorite based on popular opinion.

This raises the question – are reviewers compromising their integrity to save face?

Do you trust the reviews you read or do you prefer to make up your own mind?


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31 Comments Add yours

  1. Joanna @ TheGeekishBrunette says:

    I definitely feel like this happens often! I know that all readers have different tastes but sometimes I really question the reviews done by other authors or well known bookstagrammers. I usually take those with a grain of salt and try to read more 3 star reviews or unpopular opinions to help determine if I would like the book.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I definitely think authenticity is lacking in a lot of reviews I see. I like to check out those 2 and 3 star reviews too. I think a lot of people undervalue the importance of those lower ratings. I don’t want to read a book that only has 5 star reviews and I don’t want to read a book that has only 1 and 2 star reviews.
      But mostly, I just want to know that people are being real and I feel like that’s becoming less and less prevalent.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Joanna @ TheGeekishBrunette says:

        I agree! Even if I feel uncomfortable writing a not so great review I still do it because honesty is the best policy. I wouldn’t want someone to take my word and then not enjoy it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Absolutely! I feel the same way. I always try to say what worked for me, and respectfully, what didn’t in my reviews.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great discussion to have! Personally, I find that it really depends on the reviewer. While it’s entirely possible that hyped books just aren’t always for me, I have to admit, I have found some less-than-honest reviewers over the years (which I can only identify by the fact they’re the ones with very solid criticisms from the reviewer, but that still get 5* for instance. Although, even then it’s hard to tell because some people just naturally like to give higher ratings). So, for me personally, I just like to see if I trust the individual reviewer/if we have similar tastes and make a decision from there. Also, as hard as it is, I try to avoid books that don’t really sound like they’re for me, even if they’re super hyped (which, is admittedly almost impossible sometimes 😉 )

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for weighing in. I’ve enjoyed reading your take on it. I decided to write this post after examining a variety of reviews of books I’ve recently read on Goodreads. I was surprised by the number of reviews that only gave a summary of the story or didn’t say much more than “Read this book. It’s good.” Ratings for the sake of ratings are incredibly annoying.

      I evaluate individual reviewers in the same way as you do. I’ve found a few that I unequivocally trust.


  3. I don’t typically read reviews for books I haven’t read yet but sometimes I do. But even then if the synopsis sounds intriguing to me no matter what people are say about it I prefer to read the book and make up my own mind about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s usually my go-to method too. However, sometimes due to the nature of Instagram, I get sucked into wanting to read the books I’m seeing a lot of or that are consistently being raved about by fellow readers.

      I usually don’t read the full Goodreads reviews until after I’ve read the book myself. But upon closer inspection, I’ve realize a lot don’t seem all that authentic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lilyfae says:

    This is hard because I’m genuinely a positive person, an enthusiastic reader, plus I read and review children’s literature which sometimes requires being able to judge that what may not be a 5 star for me personally would be for my daughter and her friends etc So I tend to star higher on review sites where others may be like ‘this is a bit ‘young’ but keep my own blog star free but focus on themes rather than just gushing I love it and repeating the plot? That way the reader can decide from the themes explored & characterisation whether they may like it rather than just a positive spin on the plot?
    I dunno it’s probably way more different on YA and adult book sites, though if a book is awful I’m just not going to review it on my blog because that’s my choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I see where this can be a difficult issue for you, especially as you read more YA or children’s lit. It seems you are handling the reviews in a way that feels completely authentic and comfortable for you, which is totally respectable.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol says:

    I’ve encountered a few reviewers who always give glowing reviews and I truly have learned to discount their reviews….but this is tricky because you could accuse me of only giving 4 and 5 star reviews because on my blog I don’t review books there that I haven’t been a good match for me. So it appears I might be only giving glowing reviews. You’d need to look at my Goodreads account to get an accurate picture of my reading life! I rate it all over there! When I’m researching my next read I always head to Goodreads and check out the 2 star reviews! I’ve experienced what you have in that my experience with hyped books doesn’t always match the glowing reviews I’ve read. Such a can of worms you opened up here!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for weighing in, Carol. I’m always anxious to hear what you have to say. I agree, there are plenty of reviewers who choose not to review books they don’t enjoy, that way their site only shares recommendations. I think that it totally respectable. I think the issue for me comes with the false positives. I actually received messages from people today telling how other readers confided to them about lying in their reviews so they wouldn’t upset the author or publisher. To me, that is incredibly disappointing and disingenuous. I thought this was an important discussion to have for that reason alone.

      Reading a variety of Goodreads reviews can usually give a decent depiction of what to expect of a book though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Carol says:

        That’s amazing! I don’t think I could make myself lie in a review……but I can cite instances of working really hard to craft kindly worded negative reviews on Goodreads! That’s why I like the star system… matter what I’ve said, the stars reveal the truth if used honestly. Maybe that’s why so many bloggers have stopped using the star ratings on their blogs! Perhaps lying about Stars is harder to do than writing a fake few positive words. Good discussion Ashley!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know! I was kind of blown away by that.

        That’s a good point and that could very well be why many bloggers don’t use stars.

        Thank you!! I’ve enjoyed the discussion! Lots of valuable insight.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is why I don’t give a shit LOL. I say whatever I want. If that means publishers won’t work with me – fine. But a few have stuck around, McMillan for instance. In my mind, I write reviews for readers and that’s it. I don’t care about anything outside of that, so whatever the consequences of that are, so be it. At least I know readers trust me.

    I’ve seen some discussion on book twitter about this in the past, and it’s actually shocking to me how many people say “I only post 4 or 5 star reviews. I don’t like being negative. I won’t post anything negative.” And that to me is like, well then how is anyone supposed to trust you, if all you ever do is heap praise on stuff? I mean you don’t need to be HILARIOUS like me, but there are ways to be honest and negative without being rude.

    Honesty is one the most important aspects of humanity to me, and I can’t bring myself to bullshit anything for the sake of politeness. Hellooooo, that’s literally just lying. But a person says, “I’m just trying to be nice, or trying to be polite” they think that somehow makes lying a good thing. Whatever. ON TO THE NEXT NEGATIVE REVIEW hahah. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is why I LOVE reading your reviews. I know I’m always going to get an authentic opinion and I appreciate that. I also think your reviews are hilarious and always feel like mine are dull by comparison. 😀

      One of my issues is that people heap the word “negative” on reviews 3 stars and under, as if that somehow discounts the review. Just because a reviewer doesn’t like a book, doesn’t mean they’re a negative jerk. I always respect honesty, even if I don’t agree with a person’s opinion, more than being lied to.

      I guess I can understand if a person doesn’t want to share their negative reviews, but I agree, it doesn’t help anyone out in the long run. I would rather post a 2 star review and have people know I’m not lying than rave about everything. To each their own though.

      As you said, honesty is one of the most important aspects of humanity. I can’t stand how everything eventually gets corrupted by money and status.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting post. I do trust reviews but after six years I’ve gotten pretty good at picking out which ones are legit reviews and which ones are yeah, I have an arc and it’s so pretty and amazing and just the best book ever. Booktube was the worst for that but I don’t use Bookstagram so I have no doubt there’s issues there as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m disappointed to see the fake reviews from Instagrammers are making their way to Goodreads. It’s becoming a pain to wade through the fakes to get to the real opinions.

      That’s interesting you’ve noticed it on Booktube. I haven’t been big on the video scene, so I wasn’t aware. Thanks for sharing your point of view!


  8. I don’t haven an Instagram account so I only look up reviews on goodreads or on here. So far most of them didn’t disappoint me and only a few of the hyped books actually weren’t my cup of tea. As for my personal experience with ARCs or review copies: I always write what I think. There was an author once who offered me a review copy of her first book and even though it was okay there were some things I didn’t like which caused me to give it a 3 star rating. I pointed out the flaws and explained why it wasn’t for me. Funnily enough the author actually offered me her second book as well. *lol* And yes, it was better than the first and actually got 4 well deserved stars from me. XD


  9. Ola G says:

    Interesting discussion! I do relate to your conundrum, I’ve found myself in a similar situation more than once. I usually take the gushy reviews with a grain of salt – or a whole jar of salt 😉 and I always check the 3star reviews as well. I also have some reviewers whose opinions I trust, and tend to check their reviews first 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I do the exact same thing!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I often read reviews after I’ve read the book so I can see other peoples thoughts on it. If I come across reviewers that absolutely gush over something I found truly awful I mentally note that either they are positive-powerpuff types or we just have very different tastes so their recommendations won’t be fit for me personally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I usually only read reviews after I’ve read the book as well. Sometimes I fall in the rabbit hole of getting sucked into a review under a pretty picture on Instagram. I suppose those have influenced me too much lately.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!


  11. Darina says:

    This is an excellent discussion topic and definitely one that has been very relevant in recent times in the book community. I don’t have bookstagram but I have noticed books which I though were average very hyped by other bloggers and praised on Twitter a lot. Over the years I have discovered some wonderful bloggers who give excellent reviews with their honest thoughts on books so if they have found a particular book great then I tend to believe them and sometimes add it to my TBR list. However, I also know that there are too many bloggers out there who for many reasons always give positive reviews and that to me isn’t very useful when deciding if a book is worth reading. I guess also because it is so subjective it is difficult to tell if they genuinely loved the book or if they found it just ok but are writing a positive review because they are worried about their relationship with the author/publisher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You seem to have noticed the exact same things I have. It’s sometimes very hard to tell if people are being honest. Sometimes I will comb through certain people’s reviews to get a taste for how they rate books, then I can generally form an opinion. Obviously that’s too much work for every book, but it helps me get an idea of who to trust.


  12. This is a really interesting question to ask!

    On a personal level I always take reviews with a liberal pinch of salt anyway because I know that my opinion isn’t always the same as others and vice versa. I’ve read hype reviews and hated the book but have also read 1 or 2 star reviews and ended up loving the book. No accounting for personal taste I guess!

    Do I think that some reviewers review against their *actual* viewpoint just to make sure that they get likes or stay on the publishers ‘golden list?’ Considering as there is abundance of us reviewers now I would say yes.

    I say yes because statistically you know some people are fudging their reviews and yes because for some there is a pressure to remain as a standout blogger voice among the others and if they’re able to get the much lauded books etc. then they probably don’t want to rock the boat.

    Then there are always those who just want to be polite and who believe that if you don’t have anything nice to say – than don’t say it. To be honest I don’t follow bloggers/ reviewers if they *only* ever provide positive reviews because I actually don’t trust they have a balanced opinion. But hey, I like a rant review!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m not always trustworthy of reviews but only because I have very specific tastes and I know that many reviewers don’t care as much about the little things that bother me. I appreciate the fact that these reviews bring books I never heard of to my attention though. Because then I do some more intense research to see if a book does in fact sound like something I’d like. Even when it’s a reviewer who I do trust, 99% of the time I first go on Goodreads to check out the synopsis and some other ratings and reviews before I add a book to my TBR or request it from the library.

    But if a reviewer only has never given a review book a bad rating, then I do not trust their opinions. It’s possible that we can have different tastes in books, but it’s impossible that someone likes *everything* they read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with what you said wholeheartedly. It’s definitely unrealistic a reviewer would love everything they read.

      I suppose I’ve gotten lazy with my research of books prior to reading them and it led me to this horrible funk. I definitely will be perusing Goodreads a bit more!!


  14. carhicks says:

    There are some bloggers out there that I trust implicitly. I have read enough books they recommend to know they are true. That doesn’t mean that I will like every book I read that others love. Each of us comes from a different place at different times. I have found that some highly hyped books have disappointed me as well as others that were panned were some of my favourites. So, having said all that, is it because reviews are not honest, or just that book is not for me? Interesting question.


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