March 10, 2018

Five Things I've Never Said in My Reviews (and Probably Never Will)

Hello sweeties! and thank you Goodreads for giving me a discussion post idea (...wait, am I really writing my SECOND discussion post of the year? what's gotten into me? 😲).

Your daily David Tennant gif (you're so lucky I don't actually post daily 😝)

So, after five years of blogging and reading other people's reviews, I finally realised that there are things they mention from time to time (or even often), but never seem to occur to me when I speak my mind about a book. Please note: I'm NOT saying that those things shouldn't have a place in a review. I'm NOT saying that those kinds of reviews are wrong. This is meant to be a humorous post, and more than that, a chance of discussing the different approaches we have when reviewing a book. With that in mind, enjoy the Five Things I've Never Said in My Reviews (But Other People Say from Time to Time)! 😉



It's not like I have anything against this statement. I just honestly don't know what it's supposed to mean. I often happen to read reviews that state such a thing...and I'm puzzled. Was the book too slow or too fast for the type of story it was supposed to tell? Was it both too slow and too fast alternatively? Was it, so to speak, coming to a screeching halt in the middle of nowhere? What I do know is, the realisation that the pace was off has never hit me while reading. But sometimes I see it applied to the same books I've read without (as I said) any pacing concern. I'm genuinely curious about what people mean when they say "the pace is off", and I would be forever grateful if any of you can enlighten me. But it's clear that I'm not particularly sensitive to pacing, so even if you manage to make me understand what that statement means, I can't see myself using it anytime soon 😉.



Apparently, I'm not big on book structure either 😟. My friend Carrie from Bright, Beautiful Things (who also reviews books on Goodreads - that's how I met her, since her blog is a Tumblr) does mention structure now and then in her reviews, and when it's a book that I HAVE read, I DO see what she means - and I'm in awe of her ability to see the larger picture when I...simply can't seem to, unless someone points it out to me 😳. I told her once, and she said she's been interested in structure since high school...if I remember correctly. I do remember being impressed though. Anyway, another thing I will probably never be able to put in one of my reviews LOL. Read hers instead - they're really thorough and lively/funny at the same time!
(Side note: I do mention the "format" of a book sometimes, but it's not the same as talking about structure...).



Don't get me wrong, I'm NOT saying whiny characters don't exist. But I do think the label is overused. (Plus, only applied to female characters - gender bias, anyone? 😡). Maybe it's just because I'm so picky about my reads that I've never encountered a really whiny character so far...but then again, someone on Goodreads called the lead in the Cold Awakening trilogy by Robin Wasserman "whiny", and I was like, JUST. NO. Her life got totally FLIPPED, for goodness sake. Her brain was downloaded into a mechanical body. I suppose you would be a tiny bit UPSET about that if it were you, and not just for a week or a month. Plus, she DOES a lot of things in the series, apart from thinking woe-is-me - among which, searching for creative (even if questionable) ways to hang on to what little humanity she still retains...or to give "humanity" a whole new that so bad? So, what I mean is...I read teen books. And I tend to cut those teens a lot of slack, unless they're being totally unreasonable or sluggish. And I don't know what this says about me, but even if I've not been a teen for decades now, I hear them when they're angsty and lost and they don't know what to do, and when they vent out their pain. Even as an adult, I feel helpless about a lot of things. I get that people want to read an adventure, with a heroine/hero doing stuff and conquering things and turning the world upside down or something...or simply taking matters into her/his own hands. But are really all the characters (well, girls *cough*) who muse on themselves and their situation "whiny" or "angsty"? I daresay not...



Haha, this one is pretty self-explanatory, if you know me a little. I do my best in order to read books with the least possible amount of romance involved (better if none), so it's very unlikely that I can comment on chemistry and stuff. But I do listen when people say this kind of things, because should I be so interested in a book that I'd be willing to stomach the romance (like with Cristin Terrill's All Our Yesterdays for instance, which I actually liked all around), I'd want it at least to be done right...



Again, don't get me wrong - there are books that ignite a flame in you and probably call for this statement. There are books that, in this day and age, still promote (sometimes obliquely, which is even worse) all kinds of discrimination. You're totally entitled to hate them. But I can't seem to "hate" a book just because it's not good enough. And I don't have it in me to use the word "hate" in a review. I can state a million reasons why "it didn't work for me" while secretly thinking it's just an utter failure that shouldn't have been published in the first place, but here's the thing: someone out there probably loves it. Its author loves it. And while I may be harsh about that book in private, I can't bring myself to hurt their feelings by using the word "hate" just because it's poorly written or has got a poor content. Sorry, I'm such a gentle soul 😉 😂.




  1. Hmmm. Generally if I talk about pace it's when the book is, say 500 pgs long. And it opens with 150 pages of setup. OK. and then it spends 325 pages with the m.c.s doing stuff over and over again when it could have happened once or twice and gotten the point across. And then a rushed ending because people think rushed endings with absolutely no denouement = acceptable cliffhanger

    Hmm, what do I not talk about? *wipes brow nervously* I think I talk about everything???

    1. Haha, I think you were able to make me get that pesky pace thing.

      Quote:"because people think rushed endings with absolutely no denouement = acceptable cliffhanger".
      Totally on board! Thank goodness, the series I've read so far are not big on cliffhangers of any kind. Some writers thinks that cliffhangers are lazy...and I couldn't agree more.

      Your reviews are some of the best I've read, even if they don't necessarily follow a pattern. I hope you go back to reviewing after the YALSA year!

  2. I honestly don't say any of those things either. Well, except that I hated a book. It's very rare that I hate a book, though. I've only ever hated 5 books in my lifetime. Other books are just eh or okay or not my cup of tea. I also don't ever say anything about instalove or tropes (unless it's a love triangle). I like books even if there's instalove or tropes as long as I like the characters and/or story.

    1. Sometimes there are valid reasons for us to hate a book. It's just that, personally, I can't bring myself to type the word. Then again, maybe I've never read a book that I hated with a passion, even the ones I rated 1 or 2 stars.

      Some tropes can be fun if the author is skilled enough to make them work, or give them a new spin. As I said, I tend to stay away from romance, but I understand that sometimes a good story can make you overlook a few things. The trope thing is just a "me" thing, you know 😉. But love triangles have to go LOL.

  3. I'd rather not review a book than say I hated it. I also understand the problem with pacing. It should probably be specified what sort of pacing issue is happening. Structure? Dunno.

    Also, if you want to do David Tennant and Grey's Anatomy gifs daily, I'm thoroughly okay with that. ��

    1. I think you nailed it! I often read the phrase "the pace was off" and then...nothing. It's become sort of an umbrella for...pretty much any issue one can have with the writing (unless we're talking about bad writing per se). For instance, maybe the book was too slow in places for somebody's liking - but maybe somebody else would like it that way. Just say "why" the darn pace is off for you LOL.

      Haha, I must confess I'm not a fan of GA, but I'm always on the hunt for gifs that match my posts at their best. It's curious how there seems to be a David Tennant gif for everything...😉

  4. I feel attacked about the character Roberta. 😂 I can handle most characters, but when they complain about everything and anything every two seconds, well...

    That's too much?

    I don't think I mention any of the things you mentioned except MAYBE pacing... though probably in a different way, haha. 😅

    1. LOL, of course characters shouldn't spend all their book lives complaining. But sometimes it feels like people who read books with teen protagonists don't understand that they're not little adults (or adults with more chutzpah than me - wait, am I allowed to use "chutzpah"? It's just that it sums up my feelings so well...). Especially when they're girls...they just have to fight or die trying, if you know what I mean. Maybe, the day someone will call a male character "whiny" I'll be more OK with it LOL. And honestly, I don't remember you using the word "whiny" in your reviews. Have you ever? Did I miss it? 😲😉

    2. I've used it ONCE. In my And I Darken review.

      But she was a whiner. Vicious, but complained about every little thing. 😪

    3. You are forgiven then 😜.
      Seriously, I think the only reason why the word grates on my nerves is because it's more than overused...But some whiny characters have to exist somewhere.

  5. I have definitely talked about pacing. I think Pamela explained it well - for me it's when things move sloooow, then all of a sudden gain speed and maybe rush through plot points or the other way around. For me I guess it would be more...uneven pacing that I would comment on.

    From your description - maybe your problem with that is that they aren't expanding on the why so that term means nothing to you without context?? That might be a review style preference. I know you like detailed reviews whereas I like both styles but prefer a shorter ones that leave out a lot of detail. If I know the reviewer, I understand what they mean and would rather go in with less info until after I read it and am ready to discuss. But I digress...that's a WHOLE other topic lol

    I think I need to read Carrie's reviews to understand what you mean by structure before I could comment on that one. lol

    I may have called characters whiny. I'm reading a book (non fiction) that's making me think that right now lol but I'm trying to be more aware of how I use any descriptor of characters. They may seem off handed and just because *I* have never felt or behaved in a certain way doesn't mean that applies to everyone. It's still ok if that doesn't work for me as a reader but maybe not be so judge-y.

    And I read a lot of romance so chemistry is a factor for me. I don't really care about OTP's or ships though. I'm not too into fandoms or hype at all these days anyway so I don't think about any of it all that much past whether I enjoyed the book or not.

    I don't think I've ever specifically used HATE to say how I felt about a book. Angry/disappointed maybe??

    And look at you! Blogging and stuff! Again - now that you're posting. I have nothing to say on my blog lol

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. "Uneven" is the word! Thank you! Because you see, if they say "off" the message I get is "the pace is wrong", and I don't understand HOW or WHY - let alone it sounds too judgmental. But "uneven" I do understand - so I may overlook it or not when I make up my mind about reading a book, but at least I know what we're talking about.

      As I understand it, structure = seeing the bigger picture, how the various parts on a novel fit together, if it has a central trunk the various branches sprout from - stuff like that. I don't think my vision goes that broad LOL.

      Quote: "Again - now that you're posting. I have nothing to say on my blog lol".
      I think our pace is off 😂😂😂.

  6. I love this post, even though I do talk about most of these. AND NOW I WONDER IF YOU WERE INSPIRED BY MY GOODREADS REVIEW(S) OF CERTAIN BOOKS FOR THE "PACING". I do mention pacing, and have had various books where it felt off, and, when writing a tiny goodreads commentary, I don't always mention why. It is kind of hard without spoilers in most cases, tbh. There was this one book I read that was sloooow and boring through 95% of the time, and then EVERYTHING important was happening towards the ending. And then there was another book where the pacing was all over the place - slow for the most part, and then incredibly rushed scenes happened, then slow again etc. So annoying.

    Structure, I rarely comment on. I do talk A LOT about ships/otps when I love or hate the couple. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned bad chemistry, though. I think I may have in certain cases where the romance felt forced, where the characters feel like FRIENDS, who are only pushed together by the author, because that's the "norm" in YA. That makes me angry.

    "The protagonist is whiny" can be a valid commentary, as you pointed out, and I think I must have used it at some point. But (!!) people waay overuse it, and, yes, I've only ever seen it used for female characters smh.

    1. "All over the place" is another valid alternative to "off" that I do understand LOL. I agree, the longer the review, the greater the risk of spoiling something (*looks guiltily at her own reviews*) - plus most people prefer to write shorter ones. But "uneven" or "all over the place" is a great substitute for "off" that explains things much better. Anyway, now I know what "off" means for most reviewers, I think, thanks to you guys!

      Quote: "certain cases where the romance felt forced, where the characters feel like FRIENDS, who are only pushed together by the author, because that's the "norm" in YA".
      AAARGH YES. I noticed you never fail to highlight this in your reviews (*high-fives*).

    2. I forgot! No, I wasn't hinting at your reviews with the pace/pacing's just that I see it used so often that it stuck.

  7. I think it's good to explain what you mean (general "you") if you're going to talk about pacing. But if someone says pacing is off, I feel like that usually means it dragged in some parts, but then too much happened too fast in other parts, etc.

    Not sure what you mean by structure? I do get annoyed though when a book doesn't have a goal and a climax and then a coming down part after wherein the protag has either failed or succeeded at the goal. Cuz then it feels like half a book, and I feel like I'm being milked for more money by having one story arc spread out among multiple books.

    I do think people are harsh on protags sometimes though. I try to cut teens slack as well and try to put myself in the character's shoes if their life has really been affected or something, you know?

    I don't think I've ever said I hated a book in a review either. Like you, I don't want to be that harsh, and I recognize that just cuz I didn't like it, others might. But yeah, in private I might hate it lol.

    1. The pesky pace (pacing?) riddle has been officially solved...thank you!

      Quote: "I do get annoyed though when a book doesn't have a goal and a climax and then a coming down part after wherein the protag has either failed or succeeded at the goal."
      Ah, yes, the darn cliffhanger. It also, you know? in TV series too. I love my series, but there must be some closure at the end of each book/season. As for structure...if I understood correctly, in short it should mean "seeing the bigger picture", and specifically for the writer "making sure that the different parts of a book harmonise", something that maybe the average reader doesn't always notice/cares for when they're really "into" a particular story.

      Quote: "But yeah, in private I might hate it lol."
      The shady society of secret book haters 😂.

  8. A nice article and show that you are a very reasonable and respectable blogger. I don't really complain about structure and pacing either.
    A thing I'd never say: Hm,this story could have usd a love triangle!

  9. This might make me look foolish, but I have absolutely no idea what a SHIP or OTP is. 🤷 I've seen the terms around, and I think I've Googled their actual meanings once upon a time, but I don't use them myself. If I don't use something, I don't usually retain the information, lol.

    I don't think I've said characters don't belong together, but I have said something about not understanding their romantic choices. It doesn't always make sense to me, but I'm also not that character. He/She probably has different tastes, so I'm not going to judge.

    Plot, pacing, structure... not really things I comment on either. I only mention a book seeming slow if I feel bogged down by the information.

    I do believe I'm guilty of calling characters whiny. I can't remember a specific scenario, but I'm sure it's happened. I try to always list my reasons, and I like to picture myself in their shoes first.

    I think hate is a very strong word to use when you don't like a book. I get that you didn't like it, but that doesn't mean someone else won't. Also, someone worked really hard on that story, and it means something to them, so saying you hate it is a really crappy thing to do. That's why I try to emphasize what I didn't like and why, and make sure to say that it just didn't work for me. It might work for you, but you'll never know until you try!

    Do You Dog-ear?

    1. Shipping two characters together = wanting them to become a couple; OTP = One True Pairing (soulmates).

      LOL, now everyone feels guilty for using the word "whiny". I'm sure there are characters who deserve to be called that way, but probably much fewer than the ones who are awarded the title 😉. Sometimes I wonder why some people read book with teens in them and expect them to behave like "reasonable" adults...though some adults are "whiny" too, but you know what I mean.

      We have a similar stance on reviewing. Of course, if I happened to read a book that is racist, homophobic or something along those lines, I would allow myself to use the word "hate"...but otherwise, it's just unnecessarily harsh. There are also people who say something along the lines of "this book was terrible" etc., as if their opinion was a fact...😒

    2. OH! Totally forgot... I did say I hated a book. KING by T.M. Frazier (I believe I got that right...) casually let rape happen and acted like it wasn't a big deal. I stopped reading right then and there and refused to continue. I understand there are books about rape and people learning to live with it, and those are different. THIS BOOK just let it happen not once, but TWICE in like three pages. The poor girl was unconscious and couldn't have consented even if she had wanted to. #EndRant

      If I read a book with whiny teenagers, I try to remember that I was probably (most definitely) the same when I was their age. It's just something you have to put into perspective.

      People confuse fact and opinion all the time, lol. Thanks for clarifying the abbreviations.

    3. IMHO, one is entitled to hate a book if it's harmful in some way...and it sounds like the case here. I actually remember you talking about this one on your blog and...well, I hear you.

      Quote: "People confuse fact and opinion all the time, lol."
      Absolutely...of course it's not easy to be objective in one's reviews, and I for one always give the extra star to books that make me feel something as opposed to being "good" books but less my thing...also, some things may be indisputable (like, bad writing is bad writing, regardless of one's preferences; a slow book is still slow, even if you like it that way), but at the end of the day, it's all about opinions and "to me" and "IMO" and "I feel"...

  10. Well, I have done four out of the five things you mentioned and I am not sure if I should be proud or guilty...

    I talk about pacing quite often in my reviews since a pace that is too slow (or even too fast) can ruin a book for me. I can love the characters, setting, and structure of a book, but if the action is too slow that I will inevitably get bored. Regardless of how well the world is set up or the characters are developed, I need action and a plot that actually moves in order to stay interested. So, yes, I will call out a book for slowing down to a snail's pace or hurling events at my rapid-fire.

    Also, I probably describe characters as whiny too much. I am not sexist in my complaints of whining (there have been many guy love interests who I called out for being needy and whiny), but I do assign the label rather liberally. I guess that I have high expectations of fictional teenagers that don't exactly match up with reality. I guess patience is something I have to work on.

    Also, if romance is important to a story or it just really annoyed me, I will definitely bring it up in my review. We have slightly different reading tastes in the fact that I love a good romance and most of the books I read feature romance in some form. However, I really love some romances and really dislike others. There are few things I have less patience for (besides whiny characters, apparently) than a forced, half-baked romance that I am supposed to buy into. There are a lot of stories that are amazing without romance, so I don't like it when authors insert romance just because they feel they have to.

    Despite all of my particular tastes and lack of patience, I NEVER say that I hate a book. I cannot even remember the last time that I rated a book only one star. I try to always find something positive to say about a book (unless it is overtly discriminatory and offensive). Also, I make a point to never judge an author on the basis of a book. There are reviewers who say that they hate an author or think that they are stupid/naive/terrible based on a single book. To some extent, I think that authors and their books should be separated. A bad book does not mean that a bad person wrote it (again with the exception of racism and other discriminatory practices).

    1. LOL, as I said, I didn't mean to judge anyone by saying certain things (and of course you know that 😉).

      My problem with pace was only a matter of "what the heck does off means". All the commenters above agreed that, when people say "off", they probably mean "uneven", which is a totally acceptable descriptor.

      Quote: "I guess that I have high expectations of fictional teenagers that don't exactly match up with reality."
      Ha! It may be a matter of books, in the sense that for instance, I'm so picky with my choices that I've never encountered a character whom I can call "whiny" just out of luck. Having to work with a limited budget, and with Amazon purchased ruled out (which includes ebooks), I research the books I intend to buy so much, it's less likely that I find one that I regret buying (though it happens from time to time). Then again, some of the characters I've liked (see post) I sometimes see reviewers call "whiny" on GR. But I do believe there's a lot of truth in your sentence above. Some of us probably hope/need to see exceptional teens (or characters) in our stories, so we have less patience with them when they don't match the criteria all the way. This been said, I'm sure there are whiny characters around - only, they're not all female (so YAY for calling the male ones out!).

      Your take on romance pretty much sums up the feelings I would have if I read books with it (or where it plays a central part). Of course, I can't comment on it in my reviews because the books I read are usually romance-free, LOL. But seriously...more and more people seem to be annoyed by the "required" love story. More and more people are sending the message that a book doesn't necessarily need one. If only authors listened, instead of throwing those half-baked romances in the middle of a story that would be perfectly fine without them....

      Quote: "I try to always find something positive to say about a book (unless it is overtly discriminatory and offensive)."
      Absolutely. Sometimes it's hard, but then again...even bad books, more often than not, spring from good intentions - I mean, they have a good point about something, only they aren't able to take it home. (Of course, to get published, books SHOULD be able to take it home...but, well). Of course, discrimination of any kind in a book spews hate, so it calls for a "hate" review.

      And wow, I know you don't have a lot of time on your hands, so thank you for the long and thoughtful comment!

  11. Well, this was a very interesting read!I tend to talk about pacing at times when I feel the book is overly long and draggy at points because well, the pacing DOES feel off, I'm sorry xD Like things are sometimes happening too fast and then they go too slow's just that I like when things are happening at a consistent pace, you know? This happens when the author gets very descriptive too.
    Structure, yes, I don't talk about that either while I do talk about format.
    So right about the whiny characters, though! I may have used it a few times but I do agree that it's usually only the female characters that are branded as such!
    Chemistry, well, I tend to talk about that a lot since I like my romances a little too much :D
    I never say I actually HATED a book too- I might have used the word "hate" once or twice when I felt a little too feisty in conversations lol, but I don't think I ever did in any of my reviews. I usually just point out if it was problematic and how, and in most cases I just say it wasn't my cuppa.
    Loved this post, Roby! You've clearly given this a LOT of thought! <33

    1. My, that pace thing did stir a conversation LOL. It was just the "off" thing - I wasn't sure what it meant, so I felt frustrated when people used it. But now that all of you sweet girls and ladies have agreed on its meaning, I will simply substitute "off" with "uneven" in my head and I'll be good 😉.

      Quote: "I might have used the word "hate" once or twice when I felt a little too feisty in conversations lol".
      Haha, feisty - I love that. Totally agree - review should be balanced (now, I don't say "objective" because it's impossible not to have FEELINGS about a book, either good or bad).

      Thank you darling! But I can't take so much credit - the post pretty much sprang from my head already formed, like Athena from Zeus 😂.

  12. LOL. I think you feel about pacing how I feel when people talk about "the flow" of a book. WHAT IS THAT. Like... in my head, I guess I kind of know what it is, but since I can't explain how to fix it or even what makes it work, I don't even want to hear about it. If the "flow" is bad, it's probably something to do with the way ideas transition, and transitions are a fixable thing. "Flow" and "pacing" seem like placeholders for more specific problems--although I am totally guilty of referring to pace in my reviews. I'll try to remember that it needs clarification! (Too fast? Too slow? Too choppy?)

    Thank you so much for the shoutout! That was such a nice thing to say! <3 <3 <3 I got interested in structure in college, and it was one of the things I studied for my Master's degree, with weird authors like David Foster Wallace and Lance Olsen and Mark Z. Danielewski (ick) who do all kinds of STRANGE stuff with structure. It made me a lot more sensitive to it in my regular reading. My nerd brain loves thinking about how parts of a book fit together to make it work (and why does it work HERE but not THERE), but it is definitely not everybody's cup of tea.

    I think you're totally right that there's a gender bias against whiny female characters, like it makes them less tough to actually feel their feelings. Again, though, I'm guilty of it. I can't with characters who sit and cry for good portions of the book. Juliette from Shatter Me comes immediately to mind. (Also a semi-interesting book structurally, but pretty unbearable for its angst.) You're right AGAIN though, because we read a lot of YA. I was an emotional wreck from like 12-18. It's not a nice time to be a human.

    "That doesn't work for me" is such a better phrase than "I hate it." I've only actively hated one book since I started blogging (you know which one), and I still tried to be fair even as I was ranting about how offensive it was. "I hate it" isn't that interesting; it's only a place to start, and it says probably more about the person than it does about the book.

    Wonderful post! :]]

    1. That structure thing threw all my friends/readers above for a loop LOL. You're clearly a step ahead of all of us! 😉 Anyway, I saw my recommendation brought you a new follower on GR. I feel kind of overwhelmed LOL.

      If a character spend the vast majority of a book sitting down and crying over their own misery, I understand the need to label them as whiny. But when they muse on themselves or their situation, or feel helpless for a reason, I can't stand to see them bashed for it. Maybe it's just that some readers want their books full of action as opposed to thinking and musing and stuff, but what I know is, throw in the word "whiny" and that book will probably lose half its potential readers...while it might have appealed to them. It just doesn't seem fair 😥.

      Quote: "'I hate it' isn't that interesting; it's only a place to start, and it says probably more about the person than it does about the book."
      So true!

  13. Lol! I saw that too. I'm a little nervous now. I hope I don't disappoint. I appreciate all the kind words so much though. <3

    "But when they muse on themselves or their situation, or feel helpless for a reason, I can't stand to see them bashed for it." I think that's completely fair. I actually prefer characters who are introspective. And you're right that it's tossed around unfairly.

    1. Don't be nervous! I'm sure she will appreciate your reviews both for their insight and their brilliance 😉.


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