Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

January 17

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TSS: What Makes a Review Good?

by Ann-Katrina

I read a lot of reviews. They’re how I decide whether I’ll take a shot on something (in the event that the synopsis doesn’t completely grab me and shake me and say you must read me NOW in a really crazy voice).

I’ve read so many reviews that I know what makes a review helpful to me:

  • Overview of the story (beyond the back cover blurb, which can sometimes be deceiving)
  • Overview of the writing style
  • Overview of the plot and character development

And I know what doesn’t make a review helpful to me:

  • Blanket statements, such as I LURVE IT!! or I HATEZ IT!!!1, with no supporting explanations
  • Spoilers with no warning*. EPICFAIL.

Yes, I indeed know what’s useful and less so for me, but I’d like to see this subject from different angles. I ask, what makes a review a good, helpful review? What’s important to you in a review?

(* As a supplementary question, what constitutes a spoiler of the EPICFAIL variety?)

By the way, if you feel compelled to include examples of reviews you’ve loved, I will not stop you. In fact, I will likely thank you and offer you cupcakes.

Comments on TSS: What Makes a Review Good?

  1. # debnance at readerbuzz wrote on January 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm:

    Excellent question. (1) I like to read reviews written by people who like the same kind of books I do. (Example: I don’t read many reviews of horror stories.) (2) I like to read short reviews, a few paragraphs. (3) I like to read reviews that include a favorite quote from the book.

    Just my two cents.
    .-= debnance at readerbuzz´s last blog ..Sunday Salon: I Like Short Books =-.

  2. # Shanra wrote on January 17, 2010 at 6:55 pm:

    I’d cheat, really, if I said my wants in a review are pretty similar to yours. Mostly, I just want to know what the reviewer thought and why they feel that way inasfar as they can answer that question. It’s not always easy to do, after all. As long as the effort is there and I can get a sense of the book, I’m happy. ^-^

    I find it more useful to read reviews by people whose tastes I know and can, thus, compare to my own, but I love it when we don’t have eerily similar tastes. I’ve encountered many fascinating (sounding) books because of that! ^-^
    .-= Shanra´s last blog ..A Note =-.

  3. # christa @ mental foodie wrote on January 17, 2010 at 9:04 pm:

    Good question. I know what I don’t like :) I don’t like reviews that only describe the book, but gave me no ideas what she/he thought of the book. I don’t like long paragraphs, it’s very hard to read on screen. I don’t like it when they don’t give reasons to explain why they like/dislike the book. I don’t mind spoilers – but please let the readers know ahead of time so I can decide whether to read the spoilers or not! If I haven’t read the book, I don’t want to know. If I have read the book, then I want to read it to see if I agree with whatever you were going to say about it. What would I consider as spoilers? Don’t tell me who die or give me any surprise details…

    I am too lazy to write a summary of the book so I just copy and paste from amazon. I like that when a review concludes with whether they like the book or not, of who they would recommend it to. I like seeing a rating – though I usually will take a look at their other reviews to see how similar our tastes are. I don’t mind if we diff in our opinions, but I want to see why – perhaps it’s something I’d missed when I read the book.

    Enough rambling from me :)

  4. # Audrey/brizmus wrote on January 18, 2010 at 5:19 am:

    It’s funny, because to me it’s VERY easy to make a spoiler. In general, I think even just the summary on the back of the book is too much of a spoiler for me. So, in general, if there is an “overview of the story” in the review, I consider it to be a bad review with too much said. At least most of the time people keep these at the beginning so that I can skip over it. I do my best to keep those out of my reviews, since I dislike them so much.

    I do like an overview of the plot and character development, as long as it’s more on a feeling level than an actual storyline level.
    What I look for in a review is how it made certain people feel, what they thought about the writing style and why they thought that, and whether or not the characters and relationships were believable, annoying, or whatever else.

    I also very much like a rating, though I know a lot of other bloggers aren’t into that.
    And after that, it depends, from review to review. There are some things that work in certain reviews that don’t work in other reviews.
    .-= Audrey/brizmus´s last blog ..IMM (5) =-.

  5. # Ann-Kat wrote on January 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm:

    Thank you to every one of you. You’ve each raised some very good points.

    @debnance: I never thought about it until you mentioned it, but I do tend to smile when I see a review that includes a teaser or favorite quote from the book.

    @shanra: we’re definitely along the same lines since I prefer to feel something when I read and I tend to favor reviewers who tell me how a book made them feel (emotionally and physically) while they were reading the book. Nice catch.

    @christa: concluding with a note about who might like the book is an excellent detail. Again, something that I do enjoy, but never really thought about.

    @audrey: you remind me of my friend Marlena–she dislikes knowing anything about a book. Just tell her how well the book is written and what emotions she should expect to feel from it and she’s good to go…she’s even made the comment that back cover summary can sometimes be too much of a spoiler for her too. It’s quite interesting to see it from that perspective.

    Now it’s time for me to start revising my own review process for the new year! :D

  6. # Micro Read-a-Thon Update, Reviews in Queue, and the Week Ahead - Today, I Read… wrote on February 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm:

    [...] an unscientific survey performed a while back, I’ve decided to break my reviews up into two parts posted separately. One part will be the [...]

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