Why do you read book reviews? Is it to assist you in buying decisions? Or Not? What elements do you want to see in reviews? I don’t use a predetermined format, I just cover certain areas. I weigh the good and bad based on my criteria – characterization, plot, prose, world building, pacing, dialogue, conflict etc. Did the book move me? Did these elements work in the book being reviewed? And since I review mostly erotic M/M books – did the sex advance the plot or was it gratuitous, in my opinion? OK I love the sex but sometimes don’t you find that it’s too much? Some books are just too short for a full analysis or they’re ho hum (in my opinion) so I compromise. I have reviewed for other sites, some of which had standard formats for how the first part of the review should look but no standards for the review itself (a few did) – it’s a crap shoot out there. Do you care about all the elements covered above or do you just want to know if the book had a HEA or HFN and whether or not I liked it? Apparently that’s all some readers want.
Over the past couple of months there has been quite a bit of discussion on many blogs about the value of reviews because of the way books are reviewed on different sites. Some who commented on reviews felt that the reviewers personally attack an author when they dissect a book and other readers like those types of reviews and don’t feel that they are personal attacks. Every reviewer has his or her own style and you can check out any number of review blogs and see different opinions about the same book. Reviews are a matter of opinion from one person’s viewpoint and we don’t go to the same “Reviewing School” so we develop our own criteria of what makes a good book review. Most reviewers do their job with integrity and garner credibility because of that. In other cases it’s hit and miss – and is used an opportunity for the reviewer to demonstrate his or her proficiency in the language or tout his or her credentials. Sometimes we think we’re experts after taking a writing class or two, some reviewers regard writing reviews as a vanity gig because we all like to think we’re important in some way, while a large number of reviewers are published authors who do a great job as reviewers. In some situations a reviewer may even take the opportunity of reviewing a book to make derogatory personal remarks about an author or totally destroy a book – OK, I admit I have read a few that I thought needed to be burned but I viewed my job as one where I provided constructive rather than destructive criticism.
We all bring different skills and mindsets to the art of writing book reviews – and I consider reviewing an art because reviewers walk a fine line between trying to tell the reader/potential buyer what aspects of a book worked for them or didn’t, and why. Sometimes a book moves me and my review reflects that. I write book reviews because I love to read, and for me reviewing is a natural extension of my love for books. I do like some genres more than others (like you couldn’t guess) *g* but I’m gradually going to be reviewing other genres where I find an author whose body of work makes me sit up and take notice.
I could continue in this vein but that is not the main purpose of this post. A couple of months ago I did a post because my virtual friend Emmy questioned why I didn’t post negative reviews on books I didn’t like and I responded by saying that starting this year I would go back to posting more negative reviews where warranted because I thought she had a valid point. Sometimes when I read someone else’s review I wonder if the reviewer is talking about the same book I read – which proves the point that reviewing is one person’s opinion. In addition, coming back to Emmy’s main point, the readers deserve to know if I thought a book was not up to par and why, rather than just not reviewing the book because it wasn’t “good news”. So I will stick to my promise and review the majority of books I read, whether or not I liked them (can’t review them all because I have to sleep sometime.) 🙂
There are a few authors (very few) whose books I have not reviewed on this blog because, for personal reasons, I did not feel I could review their work in a fair and unbiased manner. This is a personal failing which I recognize and I’m working on it. I know that a number of reviewers can totally divorce their personal feelings from their work but for others it’s not as easy. Ideally, I should be able to review the book and not the author. Hey, at least I recognize my failings. On the flip side there are some authors whose work I really like and when I find a book of theirs that I can’t relate to for whatever reason it’s just as difficult to write a tough review. Most of the time I do it but on other occasions I take the coward’s way out and not review the book. In one case I told an author that I found the premise of a book totally illogical and unbelievable and gave her the option of me not posting the review or going ahead with it. To her credit she said that she didn’t want me to compromise my integrity and that I should do what I felt was right; she went up 100% in my estimation. I posted the review.
Coming back to my original question, why do you read reviews?
Looking forward to your comments.