Tuesday 12 January 2010

What makes a good review?

This kinds of carries on from my question about review ratings. Thank you for your responses on that - it was really interesting to read and helped me decided to keep the ratings for now. But it did get me thinking about my reviews in general and what makes a good review.

Looking over all the reviews I've posted, baring one (For Thirteen Reasons Why) they are all really positive. I seem to write about all the things I like about the book and rate it accordingly. Which means I am giving each book a star based on how much I enjoyed it rather than for how good it necessarily was. Is it better to do this and let you get to know my tastes so you can work out if the book will be for you or is it better to take a step back from my enjoyment of the book and review it from a distance so I can include all the positive and negative points?

I'm not sure if I am just easily pleased as a reader or if I'm just a good judge on which books I'm going to like but it is very rare that I really 'hate' a book. Even for this post I can't think of a book that I've hated or even really disliked. So far I have been lucky that I haven't had to decide (or feel guilty) for posting a negative review (although my review for Thirteen Reasons Why is probably the closest I've come to this). But I am wondering if this makes me less credible as a reviewer?

How do you aproach your reviews? Do you try to be balanced and include both the positive and negative or do you, like me, just focus on the things you enjoyed? Do you think about your review while you are reading the book or do you think about it once you've finished? Do you look at other reviews before writing your own or does this affect what you might write about the book?

I would love your input on this - I read other people's reviews in awe most of the time wishing mine were even half as good:)


Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

While I read other reviews before I write my own, my reviews are entirely my true thoughts. I hate giving bad reviews, but I'm not afraid to (see Witch & Wizard and Generation Dead). I look at the positive, of course, but I do have to weight the negative, as well. Whether my reviews gauge other reader's reactions or decisions to read...I'm unsure, but still...I do my best to be completely fair and honest when writing my reviews :)

Helen's Book Blog said...

I tend to concentrate on the positive in my reviews unless it is a book I just really had trouble with. That said, I realize if I really don't like a book, I don't finish it and I don't review it.

Raíla said...

Alright. I started to do reviews on books a few days ago. 2 if I'm not wrong. And I feel like I've already improved them by reading other blogger's reviews. I mean, I've never had a blog before, you know? So, I think they definitely improve my reviews. I try to see what other people write about the books, like, the author's writing, the ending of the book, the character, etc. I hardly 'hate' a book, too. I usually love all of them, because if I pick up a book that I think is good and while I'm reading I realize it's not, I immediately put it down. If it's good, I keep reading, but obviously every book has negative points that I'm currently trying to recognize on my reviews. i consider my lastest review as my best (on Evermore). I think it was more honest than the other two I have did. Since I've started doing reviews, I only think about it when I'm done with the book.

Natascha De Marco said...

Hmm what I think is that you have to look at a book from every perspective, the good, the bad, and the ugly. People want to know why would you read a book true, but they also want to know why not. When I look at reviews I almost always look for why not to read the book instead of the whys. Why? Because it gives me an idea of what I wouldn't like, or if I would like it at all.

Luisa at Chicklish said...

I really admire the reviews on this site, and I love the way you mostly focus on the positive and what works for you in a book. I think I have got to know your taste, and I've added a lot of books to my wishlist as a result of reading reviews here. I think your reviews are wonderful.

I don't think negative reviews are necessary for credibility as a reviewer at all. I'd rather read about what works for a reader in a book than what doesn't. I definitely try to focus on the positive when I review, too.

I suppose Chicklish has the advantage of having a team of reviewers, and we try to match reviewers to books they'll like whenever possible. (It doesn't always work, though!)

To answer some of your other questions: I think about reviews after I've finished a book. I do read other people's reviews but I don't think it affects what I write.

I'm looking forward to reading other responses. Thanks for another fascinating discussion!

Patricia said...

I have the same thing. I rarely ever pick a book that I don't like. I base my reviews on what I feel and my opinion of it. I'm more likely to pin point what I didn't like than what I did.

Raíla said...

Something that I forgot to comment: Your reviews are simple and amazing, and I love it. Congrats.

ninefly said...

I've debated myself often with whether my reviews are too long and whether I should cut them down
but really, it always comes down to the fact that I'm writing the reviews for myself too, as proof of why I liked and disliked different parts of a book
usually I write reviews after I've read a book and put down what made the most lasting impressions...I only skim through the books again if I need to confirm something or I want to reread it
I don't really like reviews that just reiterate the summary or say "it's good kthxbai" in totally ambiguous ways =T
some people could do simple reviews really well though =)

Lauren said...

I really don't think there's a 'right' or 'better' way to do reviews.

When I write a review, I do tend to focus on the positive too. I want to give the reader a feel for the book so they get an idea of whether it's for them. If I don't like a book, I don't really feel inspired to write a review of it. I do admire reviewers who push themselves to the end of a book they don't like just so they can give readers an honest account, but I'm not that kind of person. If I liked a book but there was an aspect that troubled me, I will mention it but I still prefer to celebrate what I did like. After all, something kept me reading. I also try to match my style to the style of the book: so, light-hearted book gets a light-hearted review.

The truth is that bloggers all write such different style of review and I don't think one is better. I'm sometimes envious of those who write succinct, to-the-point reviews like you and those who write ten paragraphs of discussion. You can't be all things at once and you don't need to be.

Nayuleska said...

Everyone is different for reviews. I don't look at reviews of the same book before I write them - sometimes I don't even read what the press release says, because I don't want to influence my own review.

I usually like all the books I review - I guess I judge what I like. I just chat about the book, picking out the highlights for me as a reader. I always feel that other people review better than me, but we're all different, and that is okay too.

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I like reading your reviews. They're personal and I really get an idea of your reading taste and often use that to judge whether I would enjoy a book or not. It's good that you focus on the positives.

When I write reviews, I only include the negative if they really stand out from the positive. But like you, most of my reviews are largely positive.

Unknown said...

Firstly, let me say that I love reading your reviews. They really explain the premise well and I feel like I know what the book is about from reading your review rather than another blogger.

I guess I always say some not so positive things about a book if I feel there are some. Take House of Night for instance, how could I review that and not mention the seriously annoying teen speak. I pick out the things that would put some people off. But I don't set out to balance both sides.
This is the corniest thing in the world but I just write from the heart. I write whatever I feel about the book - good or bad. I mean, I still do not get what people like about Swoon but I accept that they must see good things in it. I get annoyed by the fact that I had no idea of the explicit sexual content before I'd read it. I would have appreciated it if the five or so reviews that recommended it to me had mentioned that. Now, I am certainly more reserved about the recommendations of those reviewers because our tastes are so different. But some reviewers I trust completely like you!
I don't feel like I can advise on how to write a review. As long as it has a beginning, a middle and an end and by the last sentence I know what it is about, then I'm happy. I would also say that I review books for review and books that I read for myself slightly differently. If it is for review, I try to mention the other audiences that would enjoy it.

I Want To Read That said...

Thanks for all your comments:) It's been really great getting some feeback and reading all your thoughts on this:)


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