Reading Book Reviews

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Lately  I have been reading a lot more book reviews and I have found a lot of them really frustrating! I wrote a post recently about writing reviews but that concentrated on what other people like rather than what I like, so that is the purpose of this post!

In my other post I said I wasn’t sure if people want all opinion in the actual review or some more recap of the story as well. However, it seems quite a lot of people don’t give an opinion at all in their reviews, they just go over the plot. Yes that can be helpful but is it really right to call that a review? Sometimes there is a bit more of a discussion of the themes of the book rather than just the story but often the reviewer still doesn’t really give an opinion. Saying a book “explores an important topic” isn’t the same as saying “it was well written, I particularly liked…” I don’t need the entire plot from reviewers, that’s what the book is for, I read book reviews because I want to know the opinion of the reviewer, so why aren’t reviewers actually giving opinions? I want to know what they think!

Another issue I have is with ratings. Pros and cons of ratings, with stars etc, have been discussed recently in a bookish Facebook group I am a member of. The main concern seems to be that some of those that actually do give opinions in their reviews don’t match the star ratings accordingly. For example someone will give two stars but write a glowing review, or more often will give four or five stars and give a terrible written review. So there are opinions, but they contradict each other. Another problem that comes up is people giving low ratings, mostly on Amazon,  for nonsense reasons such as packaging when the book was delivered, or stated that they hadn’t even read the book. It seems a lot of people don’t like ratings at all as a result.

Personally I like ratings, I want to know quickly if the general consensus is that a book is good or bad. However, a lot of bloggers seem to use no rating system at all. A lot of these reviews are very long, so from the perspective of reading a review it is nice to get a really quick indication of how someone feels about a book. Am I the only one that feels this way? Most of the reviews I have been reading are on blogs, and not from the more general public, I would assume that those interested enough in books to blog about them wouldn’t fall into the mismatching ratings and review group so I would have expected some kind of rating.

How do you guys feel about this? What do you want from a review and what do you do when you write reviews?

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28 thoughts on “Reading Book Reviews

  1. I generally only gloss over the story in my reviews, give a little bit but no spoilers, also as I tend to read fantasy and lots of books are further in a series I find it hard to elaborate on the story of the book without spoiling what has happened in the previous books.

    In reviews though I do like to know the why of it, why did they like the book, why didn’t they like the book, etc. It’s something that really annoys me when all I read is ‘I liked the book, it was a great read’ or ‘I hated the book, it was crap’ I want to know why the person writing the review felt that way, I think I do it and lots of others do too but the ‘why’ the reviewer felt how they did is important, it’s their opinion on the book and we want to know why they have that opinion.

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  2. This is an interesting post and it’s helpful to reflect on my reviews. I would say that I think the purpose of the blog and/or review will have an impact on how the review is written and presented. It’s a good thing when people put their own spin on it, just some may not fit with what you want personally, though they may work for another person. On my blog I am only writing a review about books that my virtual book club is reading. I have written the post as if we are going to discuss it in person, rather than with the intention of solely giving information, opinion and ratings. So first off I am writing to a specific group of people though I think it may be interesting to others. I hope to inspire people to read ANYTHING not just the particular book; that is the purpose behind my reviews. I am not a book reviewer only and the reading club is one part of my personal blog. I do however think it may be helpful to add a rating and have previously thought that i ought to have a VERY brief description of the plot, which I haven’t always done because as I said, I’m mainly writing to people I know who have read it.

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  3. This is a great post and very thoughtful.

    For me, 5 stars is generally reserved for something that really hits me emotionally or a book that is just beyond amazing. I’ll often give something a 4.5 star rating on my blog if it’s a really great book but just doesn’t have that extra pizazz to kick it up to a 5 star. HOWEVER, I do round up on Amazon and Goodreads since they don’t allow half stars. Then, in the text of my review I’ll state that it’s 4.5 instead of 5 and why.

    I do try to give my opinion on the characters, the settings, the plot line and if it moves along at a decent pace or not. If it’s a favorite series, sometimes I’ll add something more about why I love the series so much. But, I also try to give away spoilers. I think there’s only been one review that I inserted space for a spoiler and it was because I couldn’t figure out a way to talk vaguely about it. I try to give just a little bit of detail of something I really liked or really didn’t and then I’ll say something like “I don’t want to spoil the book for you so you’ll have to read it to find out more about this”.

    It’s always helpful for me to read posts like this tho’ because I feel like even after a year of having my own blog and 2ish years of reading books for review, I’m still learning what makes a really great review. So having a post like this that tells me what someone likes and doesn’t like helps. 🙂

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  4. Good post! I love including my opinion in my reviews and seeing other people do the same; I think that’s kind of the point of reviewing. As for star ratings, I agree, I think they’re a good way to let people know at a quick glance where the reviewer stands. I’ve personally never come across a review that seemed to contradict the rating, probably because I only read blogger reviews and tend to stay far away from those on Amazon! 😛

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  5. I completely agree! So many people literally regurgitate the plot…if I wanted to know what happens I would read it. I want to know what was good or what was bad about the book: not just the plot. I veer away from this and as a result my reviews are quite short but I’d rather they be short and yet have the right substance than have my readers scroll and scroll to the bottom where they’ve just learnt more about the plot of a book…

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  6. Great question there and some of the concerns you’ve expressed are also ones I have.
    I tend not to bother with reviews that rehash the plot without giving an opinion on the story or the writing or anything. I prefer a bit of both. I want to know what happens in the book, but also the reader’s opinion on it.
    When I write my reviews, or anything else on my blog actually, I write for myself. I write what I would like to know if I visited my blog and wanted to find out about books. Sometimes I’ll rehash the plot, other times I don’t and just use the book’s summary that appears on Goodreads or on the book’s cover. However, I always include my opinion, which are sometimes many and cause my reviews to be very long. That’s why I include a short section at the end with my rating and a quick word on whether or not the book is worth a reader’s time.
    I agree that it’s helpful to have ratings in a review, or just a section that quickly sums up one’s thoughts because not everyone has time to sit around reading long ass reviews, especially in a world filled with so many distractions.
    I understand your annoyance with mismatched ratings, but I don’t mind them much as long as the person explains why. My ratings (the star system thing) are sometimes mismatched because I rate books mostly on entertainment value (did it keep me hooked and engaged in some way) rather than how well constructed a story or book is. If a story is written well but didn’t entertain me, it might get a low rating; whereas it’s opposite might get a high rating because it kept me captivated. But I’ll state why because it’s something I’d want to know if I was visitor to the blog.

    I’ll stop here. Sorry for the longass comment. 🙂

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  7. I vary about whether or not I like a reviewer to add their own info about plot. With some books the blurb is plenty but sometimes it doesn’t give any real indication about what the book is about so in those cases I like more info from the reviewer.
    I understand what you are saying about mismatched ratings, I am currently reading a book that I think is good for the genre, but I have realised I’m not that keen on the genre. I’m not sure quite how I will rate it yet but will explain whatever rating I give.

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  8. Very interesting post! I usually talk a little bit about the plot in my review, but mostly develop with my opinion on the book as a whole and on its different aspects such as the plot, the characters, the pacing, writing style and so on. I don’t mind reading a review that talks a lot about what happens in the book, but when I do read a review I enjoy knowing the blogger’s opinion, that’s why I read the review after all 🙂

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  9. I like the points you raise – from my point of view I give a bit of the plot because I don’t find those supplied by the publisher to really give a feel for the book (but never spoilers) and then I mention if I liked something in particular or didn’t. I always give a star rating because my blog is a personal record of my reading as well as for public consumption – that said, I’m not sure that I can claim that they are particularly well base-lined!

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  10. I have mixed feelings on the star system. Some people interpret it differently and some people go out of five vs ten. I took the star rating off my blog because I use it on other sites like gr and even Instagram. So in lieu of that I try to sum up my thoughts at the end of the review. It’s hard sometimes though.

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  11. I don’t rate my reviews – not to say I don’t like rated reviews, just that I’m not particularly good at placing a rating on a book, I also think that the review should make it clear whether you like the book or not. I do tend to include something about the plot, the characters and the setting but I do that as a way to expound on whether or not I like those elements and if not why not.
    I don’t really mind how other people write their reviews though tbh.
    Lynn 😀

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    • I can’t decide if it is better to write my own stuff about the plot or just include the blurb which is what I do now. I like ratings but as long as you give an opinion that’s the main thing!

      Like

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