Bookish Rant: Reviewing the Review

Filed in Bookish Rant or Raves , featured , The Needy Lover Posted on August 30, 2012 @ 3:00 pm 8 comments

You take your coffee with cream and sugar. But how do you take your book reviews?

Judging from the proliferation of book blogs and book collection sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing, it seems like folks love a good book review. These resources are seemingly more earnest and “pure” in their origins and aims—after all, no one pays Goodreads users to record their random book thoughts. I assume that, because such (hobby/informal) book reviewers are in it for the love of reading, the reviews are meant to express honest thoughts about one’s reading experiences, free of clever lines deliberately included for just to be blurbs for book covers.

But when one chooses to share their book opinions in a public forum, I’d also think the opinions of the review readers matter.

SO that brings me back to the original question of what characteristics you most favor (or dislike) in your book reviews. As a reader of reviews myself, I don’t particularly care about the length of a review; I’ve seen some fairly brief ones that get to the heart of what makes the book enjoyable or distasteful. I like when the reviewer’s personality shines through; it makes the review feel more like a chat between pals. In fact, that is partly why I’m such a big fan of the dual/tandem book review; it’s as far from formulaic as you can get. And in general, I don’t mind a low-scoring review…as long as it doesn’t fall into author bashing. Hopefully, there’s always a recognition of an author’s blood sweat and tears in writing any book, no matter the public reception. (And even if there are personal grievances with the author, is a book review the best place to air those concerns?)

But enough about my thoughts; what I really want is to hear about yours:

What kinds of expectations do you have for any review that you read? Do you most often read reviews before or after you’ve read a given book? Do you look to have your opinions confirmed or challenged? What are your feelings on spoilers in reviews? Do you pay more attention to the rating given to a book, or the commentary (reasoning) behind the rating?

Inquiring minds wish to know! ^_^

About Alisha

Alisha, the bespectacled and ever nerdy California girl, simply won't leave home without a book in hand. She loves language learnin' and is working toward becoming a bonafide grammar ninja. On any given day you'll find her haunting local libraries or baking scores of cupcakes and sweet treats.

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  • Susan August 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Basically, I just want a brief summary of the plot/characters and what did or didn’t work for the reviewer (and why). The “and why” part is what provides insight into the reviewer.

    I want the reviewer to be honest, even brutally honest, but not vicious. I’ve bought books with negative reviews–maybe even because of the negative reviews. What doesn’t work for some people is exactly what other people are drawn to.

    Talk about the book, not the author. Don’t make it personal.

    Humor’s good–in moderation–but it’s not a requirement.

    No specified length, but I can sometimes have a short attention span, so a succint review won’t put it in my tl;dr column. (See, I probably wouldn’t read my own post here.)

    I do not want a blow-by-blow detailed account of the entire book. Why read it if someone tells me the whole story? OTH, I don’t usually mind a few spoilers. Ebooks are helping to break me of a lifelong habit of reading the ending first anyway.

    Good grammar, spelling, and punctuation are a must. Likewise, the reviewer’s thoughts must presented be presented in cohesive, comprehensible manner. No stream of consciousness writing. No LOLspeak. No quickie reviews sent form cell phones. You’d think this would be obvious, but it’s clearly not.

    For myself, I only write reviews on Amazon (also a Vine Voice), but I take it very seriously. I want to be fair–mostly to the other readers, but also to the authors. I don’t write as many reviews as I used to, tho, since it takes time to write a decent review. (As you well know.) It’s a labor of love.

    • draconismoi August 30, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      YOU don’t like long reviews? You’re one of our most loquacious commenters. Heheh

      • Susan September 1, 2012 at 3:44 am

        I know! I really need to learn the definition of “succinct.”

  • draconismoi August 30, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Hmmm…I’ve never really considered what I do or do not like in a review. Sometimes I love lots of spoilers, sometimes I just want scathing commentary, sometimes I want a quick-and-dirty review, while in others I want a dissertation.

    Basically, I want the review to show that the reviewer engaged with the book on some level. Even if you really really hated it, that is still a from of engagement.

    I hate the “meh” reviews. If you couldn’t bother forming an opinion about the book, why should I bother with the review? You need to have SOMETHING to say, otherwise, what’s the point?

    @ Susan – ebooks make me terrible at the thorough reads. I am a notorious ebook skimmer. So if I really love an ebook, and then follow it up by getting the paper version, and reading that one, I spend about half the time going “what, what the fuck? When did THAT happen?!”

  • Sheree August 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    I want spoilers. Yes, I have googled books and especially movies in the past for the ending and spoilers. If the ending does not sound sufficiently convincing/worth the angst the hero/heroine goes through, then I’m not going to read it/watch it. Or, heaven forbid, it ends on a cliffhanger (*shakes fist at Jim Butcher*). This is another reason I dislike e-books. Sure, samples are available but they’re never the ending.

    I also want some details. There are many reviews about how much the reviewer like the characters or the setting or whatever but rarely do they get into details. Of course, details may be viewed as spoilers so I understand why they are omitted. After all, what one reviewer loved I might hate and vice versa; I can’t tell without some details.

  • Laura August 31, 2012 at 8:50 am

    I’m the opposite of Sheree – I hate spoilers in reviews and try really hard not to give any in reviews I’ve written. I actually prefer reviews on the short and sweet side. I tend to skim over longer reviews because I worry there will be too many details about the book given and I like to discover those details as I read the book myself. If the review is on Amazon or Goodreads, I don’t need a story synopsis unless there isn’t one in the book description, but I do appreciate it in blog reviews.

  • Leah Weller August 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    I don’t read reviews until after I’ve left my own. I tend to write a review of how the book made me feel, not so much with a beginning, middle and end of the plot of the book. I don’t ever go into it with a thought to how short or long it will be, I just let my emotions roll onto the review and leave it there.

    • Leah Weller August 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      I’ll clarify and say that I do read reviews of books from blogs, but not on Goodreads or Amazon until after I’ve left my own.

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