Musing Mondays #14: What I Look For in a Review

Posted May 5, 2014 in Discussion, Musing Mondays / 2 Comments

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! 
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!
My Musings:
What I look for in a review
 
Today I realized that I never actually look at my own reviews from my audience’s perspective, and I vowed to begin doing that. At the same time, it made me think about how I read other people’s reviews, and the effect those reviews have on me buying the book.
 
I admit, I tend to judge quickly. If a book looks like it might be good, but a few of the bloggers that I follow haven’t given it a good rating, I’ll write it off without actually reading any of their reviews. Just the rating. Or I’ll look at the average rating on Goodreads. But if the top five reviews on the Goodreads page are all 5 stars and raving about the book, chances are I’ll give it a chance even if I didn’t think it was really for me. Sometimes this works out, sometimes not.
 
But when I actually read the review, it can have a big impact on me buying the book. So here are some things I look for:
 
  • First of all, no spoilers. I myself tend to be bad at that. I don’t like including spoilers, but if I really have something to say about certain plot points that cannot be ignored, I will include them, but I’ll white them out so the reader has the choice whether to highlight them or not. If you’re going to have spoilers, include a big warning beforehand or make them optional like I do. I actually don’t mind spoilers much in a review or in a summary because I tend to completely forget about any prior knowledge I had of the book when I begin reading. Even if I know what happens toward the end before I start reading, it will be a complete surprise when I get there. That’s kind of a good thing because nothing gets ruined. But still, spoilers are considered pure evil by a good deal of the population. So be careful.
  • Write to potential readers, not to the author. If I think an author did well on something, I will say ‘___ did a great job with the characters, plot twists, etc.’ I won’t say ‘hey, great job on the ending, props to you, I’ll totally be reading more of your books.’ It makes it less geared towards the readers and while the author might enjoy it, that’s just one person versus the many potential book buyers. Put the masses first. Usually reviewers do pretty well with this. Also, if there is something you don’t like, don’t attack the author about it. Don’t say ‘that was a really stupid thing to do, I can’t believe he/she did that.’ Even if you’re really angry and just want to rant about the book. A lot of people do that, but when I’m reading a review, I personally prefer it to sound calm and collected and reasonable rather than outraged and belligerent. 
  • Find both the good and the bad. You know how when you have something not so nice to say, in terms of criticism, you’re supposed to sandwich it with positive things? As in, ‘I love how you did this, and perhaps this needs a little work, but this part over here was great.’ It makes constructive criticism less critical and more constructive. People love to hear what they’re doing right. And we as the potential readers want to know all sides of the story. Now, if a book is truly terrible, you might not be able to sandwich every criticism, but at least find ONE THING you liked and try to expand on that as much as possible before delving into the bad stuff, and then circle back to that one good thing at the end.
  • You don’t always need a super organized review. Be natural. Write your reviews in whatever format you think is best. Everyone has a different style. Some people just sit at their computer and write whatever comes to mind. Others, like me, have specific sections and make sure to have a comment in every single section on every aspect of the book. Some people overload their reviews with GIFs or have short and sweet mini reviews. Don’t feel like you have to conform to a certain style. It will show in the review if you’re out of your element. If you’re used to writing long and wordy reviews, if you try to cut it down, you may be too vague and deprive the reader of important information. That’s just one example. But the important thing is, be natural.
  • Analyze, don’t summarize. This is actually something I learned in English class when we were learning how to write essays based on literature. We would pull quotes and then have to have ‘commentary’ on those quotes. We couldn’t just paraphrase them and be done with it. And the same goes for books. Don’t just tell us what happened. Say what you thought about it, what you expected, how you felt, how others might interpret it, if it was important (and how much), etc. Really think about it. Try to put yourself into the story and see what happens. What would you do if you were this character? If you wouldn’t know where to start, then maybe the author didn’t do a good enough job with the setting, or the character depth, or something else. Find what’s missing, and analyze what’s there.
That’s it for now! So what do you look for in a review? Do you notice me doing any of these things (good or bad) in my reviews?
 
Also, don’t look at this post as me telling you how to write your reviews. Everyone has their own style! But these are just some things I’ve noticed that have a large impact on whether I will consider the book or not after reading the reviews. Most of you are already wonderful and have found your own reviewing style and everything. These are more like tips for beginners or something along those lines.

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2 Comments on "Musing Mondays #14: What I Look For in a Review"

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bookmammalmusings
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I don’t write formal reviews on my blog, but I do like to read reviews. I guess I’d rather read the reviewers opinions rather than just a straight summary–and if the reviewer liked the book, I want to know why! Just telling me that the book was “great” or “the best book I ever read” doesn’t really help me too much! I don’t need a long review, but I do appreciate reading thoughtful opinions about a book.

Alicia the Awesome
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I agree about elaborating. I like longer reviews, but sometimes it’s hard to go on that much about a book without spoilers. Thanks for stopping by!

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