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message 1: by Ann, Supreme Overlord (new)

Ann Andrews (annliviandrews) | 687 comments Mod
There have been so many debates and threads started about this that I felt the need to begin this discussion thread:

What makes a good review?

Be it a positive one or a negative one, what should the review consist of?

I'd really like to see everyone's thoughts on how reviews should be broken down.

We'll call it "Anatomy of a Review."

message 2: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments I think a review should be simple. What you liked about the book, or did not like about it, and why.

I dislike spoiler laden reviews from people that feel as though they have to explain the book to everyone.

message 3: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
I think Charles pretty much nailed it in my opinion

message 4: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Critical reviews are a different beast though. Reviews by publications or even blogs should be a step up from reader reviews.

message 5: by Igzy (new)

Igzy Dewitt (IgzyDewitt) | 148 comments Charles got it in one for me. I like to hear what was enjoyed about the book, not read a book report that summarizes the book for me. 3 sentences will do it in most cases.

message 6: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments I wrote one earlier tonight. I hope I did it justice. It was my very first. (The author deserved it. But I wasn't really a jerk, or was I?) :P

message 7: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Add my vote for what Charles said. When I review, I like to summarize briefly what the broad concept is, point out what I liked, and if applicable, what I didn't like, then end with what type of reader I would recommend the book to.

message 8: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments When the blurb is a bit vague, I like to summarize too, but I try not to give spoilers. Why I do this? Simple. Because when I want to read a book and the blurb doesn't tell me enough, I search the reviews to see if I can find it there.

Like Christina, I mention what I like and what I didn't like and end it with what kind of audience should love the book. That said, sometimes my reviews take other forms. I don't follow a strict mold.

Also, usually, if I have something I didn't like, that I feel I should mention, I'll try to soften the blow by incorporating it between good things. A trick they teach us in a writing course to use when critiquing our classmates' work so we don't hurt anyone's feelings.

message 9: by Rachael (new)

Rachael Eyre (rachaeleyre) | 194 comments I love writing reviews, but avoid leaving them for books I actively detested. If I feel a book was flawed but interesting, I will outline my reasons, in (hopefully) as constructive a way as possible. If it's impossible to do this without spoilering, which risks ruining it for other people, I'll make sure the review is hidden.

Reviews should serve two purposes: to express your view, certainly, but also to give other readers the opportunity to see if they would enjoy the book. This is why reviews that amount to "The worst book ever" or "It was great" are so unhelpful - they don't tell you anything new.

message 10: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments I agree with what Charles said, and I usually don't get much from reviews that spend several paragraphs on plot summary, with this caveat: if the review off the product, that makes sense because the reader does not yet have access to the blurb so, they need to know something about the book. Also, if there are elements -- not plot details -- in the book that are not apparent in the blurb, and or the sample, it us useful to mention them.

I do think it helps a lot for the reviewer to make their criteria clear: what about a book matters to them. I really appreciate it when the reviewer makes the distinction between what did not work and what they don't like. Per what GG said, this helps accentuate the positive.

I've read a few reviews that anatomize the book, commenting on characterization, plot, and language separately (even rating them separately), but as a reader that hasn’t helped me much, as I don’t know basis of the reviewer’s judgment. This tends to violate the “keep it simple” dicta Charles mentioned.

message 11: by Kay (new)

Kay Botha | 31 comments I dislike sugar coated reviews. If a reviewer points out positives AND negatives I would be more interested in reading the book, because I'm not going to be disgruntled when I'm happily reading along and a flaw jumps out in front of me. The reason I made it through the first chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite book, was because the reviewer warned me of the long description. If I had gone into it expecting perfection like the hype then I would have closed it by the third page.

message 12: by Virginia (new)

Virginia | 142 comments Opinion that includes an explanation: I liked ___ because of ____ or I disliked ____ because of ____.

Positives and negatives (no book is perfect, and most have a plus side even if you hate them).

No spoilers.

Only a small dose of plot summary.

message 13: by Ariel (new)

Ariel Alynn | 2 comments In "reader" reviews, I like to outline what I did and didn't like.
In my more critical reviews, I go into a lot of detail. I try to say something about each aspect of the book. I feel this is important to new writers for an outside perspective or for discussion purposes.

I like to use the same method. I analyze the style and tone that the author has, the idea and how I believe the audience would be effected by it, the organization/order of the storyline, and whether I noticed any mistakes in the writing. Complexity tends to be my favorite aspect. I love when a character has a lot to them or experiences life in an odd way. Connections between characters as well as the connection between the narrator and characters is also important. Often I'll write of my own connection to characters or the narrator too.

Plot is the last thing I take note of and I always put in a huge *spoilers* note to make reader's aware. In this location, I like to make references to lines that I adored or specific controversial subjects for discussion.

message 14: by Peter (new)

Peter (74765525) | 19 comments Excellent question and interesting responses. There are two kinds of reviews IMHO--reviews for writers and reviews for readers. A review written for the author of a book should be sent to that person and not made public. It should cover in detail with examples what worked for you and where the author could improve, including plot, character, language, grammar, etc.

Reviews for readers should briefly summarize the story. As a reader I want to know the story's theme without spoilers, such as who 'done it' in a mystery. Then the review should help the reader decide if it is a book they might like to read. How can the reviewer do that?

One way is to place the book in the universe of books in that genre. You might compare the book to others you've read, suggesting this book is like so-and-so or doesn't come up to the level of xyz. If you've read other books by that author, you can compare it to their other books.

Finally, I tell readers the best parts of the book--fast paced, realistic dialogue, intriguing characters, etc., but I also mention anything that might detract from the reader's enjoyment, such as 'gets bogged down in the middle' or 'the ending is anticlimatic'.

As a reader I don't particularly care if you liked or didn't like a book. Like is a word we should all agree not to use in book reviews because it tells the reader you haven't thought hard enough about the book you're reviewing to tell us why you liked or didn't like it.

If I may, I'd also like to suggest that too many reviewers are afraid to give books less than four stars. Giving someone four stars and then pointing out several serious defects in the book, which some people do, isn't helping the author or fellow readers. My theory is that only 1 in 5 books deserves 5 stars and maybe 2 in 5 deserve 4 stars. That means 2 in 5 will only get 1, 2 or 3 stars. Remember trying doesn't count when it comes to measuring quality.

message 15: by Quoleena (new)

Quoleena Sbrocca (qjsbrocca) Charles wrote: "Critical reviews are a different beast though. Reviews by publications or even blogs should be a step up from reader reviews."

I had a reviewer give away ALL my book's secrets, and another who gave away the major one. In the past, I've read reviews that did that to books I wanted to read and was like, well great, they ruined the book for me. Now I'm careful when reading reviews when deciding to read the book. I tend to avoid the long ones, because those tend to have the most spoilers. The spoiler html is a wonderful solution to that, but even still, some reviewers don't seem to understand that spoilers can spoil the joy of discovery.

Everyone's made some great points, so I'll say ditto on a bunch of these comments.

message 16: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 3 comments I don't read any reviews that have spoilers. Depending on whether or not I liked the book, I will go back and read the reviews with spoilers to see why people did or didn't like it.

A good review describes why you kept reading the book or didn't get through it. This includes why you liked or didn't like the characters, plot, writing, etc. I do take into consideration that what someone else likes I may not. For example, the character was whiny. People have different definitions of whiny. Also, as a reader, I have to think about what mood I'm in when I'm reading a book. I may be more sensitive to certain things depending on my mood and that isn't fair to the author. If I find that's the case, I'll find something else to read and come back to the book later.

I only give five stars for books that are extremely well written, I don't have to skim through, and are so good that I will reread it. I have read some really bad books that I couldn't get past the first few pages, but I didn't leave a review because I really didn't know if I should or not.

On a final note, I can't help but wonder how many of the good reviews were by the authors friends and relatives.

message 17: by Quoleena (last edited Apr 24, 2015 08:54AM) (new)

Quoleena Sbrocca (qjsbrocca) Barbara wrote: "On a final note, I can't help but wonder how many of the good reviews were by the authors friends and relatives."

When I first joined GR, I quickly learned from author groups that friends and family reviews were a no-no, and readers could spot a family review from a mile away. Because of hearing all that, I told the people in my family who read it that they weren't allowed to leave a review. I told them word of mouth would be more helpful. My mom was hard-headed and left one on Amazon, and I made her take it down. It was so obviously written by a parent. Outside of family, no one I know has read it. Guess they don't want to hurt my feelings given the public stigma attached when I told them I self-published it.

message 18: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 3 comments Quoleena wrote: "Barbara wrote: "On a final note, I can't help but wonder how many of the good reviews were by the authors friends and relatives."

When I first joined GR, I quickly learned from author groups that ..."

I didn't know there were rules that family and friends couldn't review the author's work. I don't see anything wrong with a friend or relative giving a review if the reviewer is being honest. It is when the reviewer is posting great reviews for a book that isn't so great with the sole purpose of trying to sell books for the author.

message 19: by Quoleena (new)

Quoleena Sbrocca (qjsbrocca) Barbara wrote: "Quoleena wrote: "Barbara wrote: "On a final note, I can't help but wonder how many of the good reviews were by the authors friends and relatives."

When I first joined GR, I quickly learned from au..."

From the opinions I heard, a book that has a bunch of high family marks makes readers question the validity of the other high ratings for the book. Or if family-seeming reviews are all high, but other non-family reviews are low and say how bad the book is, then a reader will likely listen to the bad reviews. So in these cases, family reviews aren't helping the author to gain readers. I'm sure others will have better points to make on this. I know there's also varying opinions on it, too.

message 20: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Peter wrote: "My theory is that only 1 in 5 books deserves 5 stars..."


That's very lienient.

I think of 5 stars as "a truly emblematic example of [insert genre], a must read example of the genre's best, a masterpiece, or an amazingly groundbreaking and influential work."

As such, there should probably only be 1 in 1,000, or 1 in 100,000, or even 1 in a million (of all books published).

However, we all filter out books when we're buying them. I'm pretty good at it because I rarely feel like a book I've read deserves a 1 or 2 star rating. I'm fairly accurate at finding works I like and I almost never buy books on a whim, or on the recommendations of others without looking into the book prior to taking the plunge.

Consequently, I've rated 25% of what I've put on GR as 5-star, and only 5% I've given 1 or 2-stars.

To me, a 3-star rating is "Yeah, it was OK. I'm not sorry I read it, but I might not suggest the book to every reader." 4-stars are "Hey, this is a really good book! If you like this genre, you owe it to yourself to at least consider it."

message 21: by Micah (last edited Apr 24, 2015 12:41PM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments But reviews...It's easier for me to say what makes a bad review. A bad review is one that gives you no indication of why the reader liked or disliked it:

"A real page turner! I couldn't put it down! Grabbed me from page one and didn't let go! You have GOT to read this book!"

"What a piece of rubbish. Save your money, this isn't worth reading even if it were free. Whoever rated this 4 stars must have been paid by the author. There's no excuse for pieces of #$#% like this."

Both of these are pointless, worthless reviews. They don't tell me anything other than one random person liked or did not like the book. Are my tastes going to match there's? How can I know unless I look at every single thing they've ever rated? I'm not going to do that.

message 22: by Micah (last edited Apr 24, 2015 12:49PM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments So, Charles has this one right.

Most books have good and bad points. What are they in your opinion, and why? Be as specific about it as you can without spoilers.

Don't summarize the whole book, I can get that info from the blurb or from other dumb reviews that summarize the plot...there are always those.

In my reviews I tend to focus on things like characterization, plot pacing, world development, command of language, etc. I don't go over all that for every book, rather I tend to focus on those element that either stand out, or fall flat.

It's far more important to let people know what you want in a book, why you liked or disliked something, than it is to tell them how much you enjoyed or disliked the book. Because for a review to be truly helpful, you need to understand where the reviewer is coming from.

The most helpful movie reviewers I ever found were ones who I often disagreed with. But I got to know their tastes. When they said X bothered them because Y, I often times would perk up and think...that sounds awesome!

message 23: by Peter (new)

Peter (74765525) | 19 comments Micah: You make some good points. I agree we try not to read books that deserve 1 or 2 stars. If I happen to start one, usually at the request of a fellow indie writer, I stop, write the author with the reasons I can't finish the book in concrete terms, pointing out the problems with examples from the book, and move on. I also agree with your points on the need to be specific and to explain your viewpoint to the person reading the review.

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