What Do You Look For In A Review?

JournalingIf you are wondering where the reviews have been around this place, I can tell you that my review writing muse has taken a pretty extended vacation. I have built up a healthy list of titles that have inspired me to say things that I don’t know how to say. It’s had me thinking a lot about what I should say and what I like to see in reviews.

The number of reviews that I read has taken a nosedive as well as the number of reviews that I write. Correlation? Maybe. But, I have become extremely sensitive in past years to reading reviews and cover copy of books and getting information about things happening 100 pages or more into the story. Reading is about discovery and unfolding for me. Anything happening after page fifty shouldn’t be included in any synopsis/summary/review that I want to read. I go back and read a number of reviews after I have read a book.

The main things I want to know about a book is the style of the writing and what it might evoke (just a tad) who the characters are, where they are, and some glimmer of what they might encounter throughout the book (i.e. hardship, new love, lost love, drama). I never want too many concrete details.

I strive to write the type of reviews that I want to read. I want to communicate the joy or frustration ofΒ  the reading experience, who you might meet within the pages of the book, and why you might want to get to know them, but still leave the majority of the book to be discovered. I am curious to see how I talk about books after the muse returns because I suspect that my style is going through a bit of a shift, something which may or may not be noticeable, but still there.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Long Gone, by Alafair Burke   Book Review

What kind of reviews do you like to read?

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  1. I also don’t like reviews that contain spoilers, and try to write reviews that leave a lot to the imagination. I sometimes miss the mark when a book inspires me to talk about various plot points, but mostly the kinds of reviews I like to read are much like the ones you like. I like to be told about how the book makes the reviewer feel, and what emotions it plays upon. I like a little bit of speculation, mixed with opinion and conjecture, but I hate reviews that spoil the magic of the book in question. I guess there are a lot of types of reviews I enjoy, but the one thing I am totally against is spoilers.

    1. I know that some have said they can read reviews and hold others’ opinions away from their own experience of reading and then compare and contrast their opinions, but i am not that talented. I don’t read reviews of most things that I already have on my shelf to read at some point. I do read reviews to get ideas for what to read, but if after the summary I get the feeling that I really want to read the book, I either skim the rest of the review or save it to read after I have tracked the book down and read it.

  2. I’m just a blog reader, but I think you hit the nail on the head as to how to write a good review! So, in my book just keep doing what your doing!

    1. Thanks Elisabeth! I want to give readers an idea of if they might like something bust still leave the discovery part intact.

  3. Ahhh I hate spoilers in reviews as well but then I hate knowing anything about a book before reading it. I try to avoid reading anything about a book – which means any reviews until I’ve read the book… at which point I want to know all about what people thought about everything! My reviews do give some away so I wouldn’t read them if I hadn’t already read the book, which is an odd situation. But then, I try to write for those who want to discuss the book as well as give disclaimers to issues that are in the book…

    1. I am with you. I really don’t like to be told much of anything. There have been a few times that I had a lot to say (like Jane Eyre), and I just said upfront that people should skip the review if they wanted to remain unspoiled. The need to have more of a discussion about books led to BOOK CLUB, which has been really fun.

  4. You wrote, “I strive to write the type of review that I want to read.” This is something I struggle with and need reminding of! I have written more than a handful of reviews that I’m not sure I would read myself had I stumbled across my blog. Self-serving writing? Probably. When I finish a great book, there is so much I want to say, but do my best to hold back. Not only do I want to keep my reviews spoiler-free (always a must) but I also need to keep my readers’ attention. I have a bit of ADD in me (don’t we all?) and I should remember that my blog is not always a one-sided book club! πŸ™‚

    1. When you really love a book it’s hard to strike the balance and not share every little bit that you love and gush all over the story, but it is nice to see a little of that enthusiasm. I think when I look at something I have written and decide that it may be too vague I just own up to the fact that it’s to hard to discuss without spoiling the story and concentrate on some of the experience of actually reading the book. Some well written mysteries really present that problem because to tell anything is to spoil how the mystery unfolds.

  5. The focus of my reviews is typically how the book made me feel – what emotions it brought up, how I related it to my life, how the characters ‘felt’ to me. I hope that my thoughts and reading experience will help my blog readers decide whether or not they would like the book. I’m sharing a little bit more of myself than a typical book review, but hey, the review is my own!

    And like other commenters, I also hate reading reviews that share spoilers. The fun of reading is allowing a book to unfold, without having a lot of prior knowledge. Usually the book’s summary is just enough for me.

    Hope that you find your muse!

    1. I think the muse is slowly working its way back. It has been gone for awhile. I like hearing how reviewers felt when they read they story. It’s a good way to get a little of the flavor but still having the surprise of the story.

  6. I agree, there should be no spoilers. On the other hand, I struggle with reviews that are so vague, I have no idea if it is something I really want to read. Often if a review doesn’t at least give me a flavor, I will pass the book by for something else. I also like an opinion! Tell me if you loved it or hated it, and don’t dance around the subject just to coddle someone’s feelings! (I’m not saying that directly at you, just at reviews in general!) If I finish reading a review, and I’m left wondering how the reviewer felt, then it has been a big fail in my opinion.

    It is hard to keep inspiration for review-writing, especially if you write hundreds in a year! The muse comes and goes. After being on vacation for three weeks, I have a huge pile of them to write and I just sit here and look at the computer and go “UGH”.

    1. I think vacations are where review writing goes to die. It is so hard to get back into the groove. I blame BEA for throwing me off. My blog hasn’t been the same since, and I think it was that way after BEA in years past.

      I agree that reviews can be too vague. You need something to grab onto, just as long as it’s not something that would have been a surprise halfway through the book. I really don’t like when I spend the time I should be enjoying the unfolding of the story waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I do love a strong opinion even if I don’t ultimately agree.

  7. I’m right there with you. I hate spoilers and just like you I do NOT read summaries of most books. Some are so bad at reveiling the entire plot it’s disgusting.

    I believe my method of writing my reviews helps me avoid doing any of that. You might even say that my reviews lack in substance but I don’t care. I think my reviews do exactly what a review should do. It doesn’t give any plot details only how I felt about it and what sort of format the book is put together in.

    Check out my reviews if you haven’t yet.

    1. Lately I have gotten really good at just skimming the first few sentences so I get a sense of the characters and the time and setting. That’s usually enough too tell me whether I will like a story or not. I rarely read the entire summary. I agree that some jacket copy can go way too far. I took a peek at your reviews and I definitely don’t think there is any danger of you giving away too much!

  8. I would like to read reviews that has just overview (like the back-flap has) and the readers feelings about the book in general. I do not like reviews that just go on and on about the story and stop just before talking about the climax. πŸ˜€

    I liked your reviewing style but I do myself want to change mine πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Veens! I steer clear of reviews that discuss everything but the last few pages as well. There is no sense of mystery if you know so much of the book beforehand. Why bother to read it yourself?

  9. Hahaha, I always forgot what a weird relationship I have to books until I start reading about how little other people want to know going into their books. I like to know a lot going into the book — like whether I should prepare myself for characters to die, and which characters are going to be deliciously nasty, and what sorts of secrets are lurking about and waiting to be uncovered. Going into a book blind just sets me up for disappointment. However, I try really hard not to be too spoilery, because (as I’ve been reminded by all the other comments!) I know readers don’t want to know all the same stuff I do.

  10. I like reviews that get me excited about a book or tell me to steer clear. As long as it’s honest it’s good to me but if I haven’t read a book yet and I know I want to, I’ll skim it for the main points.

  11. I actually don’t always mind spoilers, unless it is a mystery or something that is truly unexpected and shocking. That being said, I don’t want to read the whole book in the review. Like others, I often read reviews after reading the book to see what other people thought. It is sort of a less interactive version of a book club. I also read reviews to get suggestions of what to read next. I love reading the reviews here (and at a few other blogs) and much prefer them over reviews in the NY Times and the like. Not that I dislike NYT, but I want to know how a book made a person feel or what it made them think about, and more formal publications tend to be more distant and formal.

  12. I want my reviews to have exactly what you posted!! What I don’t want to read is a book report!! Tell me if this book moved you but beyond that don’t go into too much detail. I’m actually working on making my reviews shorter!! I’ve been trying to add a personal note if it pertains. I think you do a great job!!

  13. I often read a book and create my own review than reading other reviews about that certain book. I am not satisfied of how other people express their own understanding, that’s why I don’t like reviews!