Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reviews: A Discussion

Reviews are funny things.

Blackbird Review
Flickr Credit: Abizern
I really like Amazon reviews, especially when I’m buying something like a machine. I don’t wanna buy crappy hardware, that’s a sin I can’t handle. But, book reviews, too. I like seeing what the general consensus is of things I want to buy.

Sometimes I like blog reviews, too. I would feel like I’d be leaving too many people out if I tried to list people, but there are some people who have really mastered communicating their feelings about a book—through words, punctuation, gifs, and so on—so that their review might be just as entertaining as the book they’re reviewing!

But sometimes I don’t like blog reviews. I’ve already mentioned my opinion on how to write a book review, because a five-paragraph summary of a book and a two-sentence reaction at the end doesn’t cut it. There is a sad number of reviewers who believe that people are more interested in what the book was about than their experience while reading it.

I mean, take Shadow and Bone. I love that book. I don’t know why I picked it up; I probably thought the cover was cool. But I opened it, I entered its soul, my heart died, it was brilliant, and come the summer reading program at my library, I picked it out as the book I wanted. Then, when I went to Spain the summer before last, I brought it. I fell in love with it again, and I ended up reading it within a 24 hour period while my dad and I hid from Barcelona.

Now, I haven’t told you anything about what the book is about. If you haven’t heard of the series, you don’t even know the main character’s name, the problem she has to overcome, or whether the story is “gripping” and “will leave readers hungering for more.” But I have told you an experience. On the one hand, my trip to Spain didn’t change the content of the book in any way, but on the other, you know that it was a book I sped through two times. It was filled with slippery words that made it easy to get through and it recharged me when I was worn out from my trip.

Assuming I did end up filling more textual details, I’d much prefer to read a review like that.

With that in mind, I’ve thought about some things. There are people who don’t like reading reviews of books they haven’t read because they’d rather compare experiences and opinions. There are people who just read reviews for something to do. Some people read reviews of books they plan to read, and there are some people (like me) for whom reviews are a major turn-off.

So, in the end, I have to wonder, what is the purpose of reviews? Are we sharing about the book, or ourselves?

Food for thought.

How do you use reviews? Are they for purchases, for recommendations, or for shared experiences?

12 comments :

  1. I personally review a whole lot, but I totally get where you're coming from. I don't read every single review that comes up on my feed - I mostly read reviews of books I read (just to see other people's opinions of them), books I plan to read (to see how high it should be on my TBR List), or books I might wanna read (to see if I should actually read them).
    I don't like it when they explain the story either, but I sometimes tend to do that because I don't want to start naming character names or plot points and confuse my readers because they have no idea what I'm talking about. Yes, I'll admit, there are reviews I wrote where the content is literally five paragraphs of summary and two sentences of thought (although I present my opinion here and there), some of which is necessary and most of which is just me ranting. I seriously should stop that.
    Reviews are also good for fangirling together. I love commenting on reviews for books both I and the reviewer loved and just fangirling our heads off.

    Great post! Lots of thoughts for me, as a reviewer myself.

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    1. Those are three good reasons. I suppose I've never thought of reading reviews of books I'm going to read because I figure I am just going to read them, but prioritizing doesn't seem like a bad idea to me.

      And yeah, that tends to be helpful to explain within the context of the review, but sometimes the details the person shares are SO OVERWHELMING you might as well not read the book because it's been told to you already.

      I also like fangirling. That is fun. :D Unfortumately, I read books about five years after they were popular, so fangirling does not happen as often. :(

      Thanks for reading, Kat!

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  2. I TRY to talk about my feelings and experiences when I review, but I could do better, I'm sure. Reviews make up a lot of my blog, and yes, I do do them. Sometimes I just read them because I'm interested in the blogger and I enjoy the review style, other time I love reading reviews of books I've read and commenting my opinion and comparing it. When I'm buying stuff, reviews are really helpful. I probably would have a crappy flute today if I hadn't read reviews and been like 'this is a $200 'beginner' flute that I DO NOT want to buy' (Now I'm like 'my flute has no B foot and it's totally for beginners and one of my beginning students has a fancier one I need one but anyway I shouldn't complain). So yes, I like reviews, but I'm with you for the less summary more me type (since I'm awesome anyway XD .) Ps. don't worry if you don't get the flute stuff

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    1. Well, reviews for products that aren't books tend to be more helpful because we tend to have a more objective opinion on what a good toaster is, for example, one that doesn't break after two days. But, yes, reviews can be read for a number of reasons, but they are indeed more enjoyable when you put yourself in them, and not just the details about the book. :)

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  3. Interesting points. I know there are some reviews I just won't read because, if I wanted to know what a book was about, I would just read the Goodreads summary or whatever. I know I really like Cait's reviews at Paper Fury because they're always hilarious. I know, for me, I enjoy writing reviews because it helps me process the book better and figure out what I think about the characters and where the plot went and whatnot and it's a way of starting a book discussion with anyone who's interested. (Also, btw, if you have any suggestions on how my reviews could be better, I'm all ears.) It's funny though, I enjoy reading book reviews, but I usually don't like the ones I see on Amazon--so often I find poor punctuation and grammar, and that's a big turn off for me. If I don't feel the reader has really processed the book or is really able to express themselves, I'm not as interested. Anyway, great post!

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    1. Indeed. Reviews and summaries are different! Cait does do really hilarious reviews, which I totally appreciate, and I like that you use reviews as a processing mechanism. I think that's a good way to involve yourself with the text! :) I also like book discussions, but usually I don't read the books other people read, so there is that. *sigh* Amazon does have a little lower-quality review formatting, but that's okay. Usually, I just look at the star rating, and that's all. :P Thanks for reading, Liz!

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  4. Hmmm I like reviews a lot of the time because I enjoy fangirling/complaining about books and sharing my bookish feelings with other people, and I also HAVE been known to read books because one of my (blogger)friends reviewed and loved it and I trust their judgement. So it's mostly about shared experiences for me, because I am an extrovert and I don't think I could read a book and love/hate it without sharing that with people. xD

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    1. *nods* Fangirling is fun, but I do not read enough to have much to fangirl about with other readers. And it is good that you trust people's judgement, which is probably something I could work on myself. And I gotcha. XD Extroverts need that outlet, and that's a good thing! Thanks for commenting, Aimee!

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  5. Admittedly, I used to be the kind of person that wrote summary book reviews with an "I recommend it" at the end, which is probably why I hated writing reviews so much. Then I started reading book blogs and I realized that book reviews don't have to be summaries, contrary to what school taught me. Now I love both reading and writing reviews. I guess I use reviews for a number of purposes. One is for recommendations because if the blurb of a book interests me and/or I read stellar reviews from book bloggers I trust, chances are good that I'm going to look into that book more and maybe even borrow it from the library. Another reason I read reviews is to gain another level of analysis from a book. If I read a book, I can form my own opinion of it, but then if I add onto that the opinion of others it makes thinking about the book so much more interesting and somehow makes the reading experience even better.

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    1. School does not know much about book blogging. That is what I think. I'm glad that your understanding of reviews has changed! Recommendations are indeed important, although not something I do often, and analysis is also important. Taking the time to think about something from someone else's perspective is important, and I love that idea! Thanks for your thoughts, Ana!

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  6. Hmm, this is a really interesting post. I normally don't read reviews unless I've already read the book, because I like to go into stories with no expectations (seriously, sometimes I don't even read the synopsis. Totally judging by the cover here). I write reviews because I like telling people what I think, and apparently, they don't mind sitting through my yammering, lol.

    So yeah, if I read a review, it's to compare thoughts/experiences. Or, in a few cases, because I really respect the person's opinion on books and am willing to read theirs first.

    Again, great post!


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. *nods* I do that too; somehow it feels like reviews aren't very helpful unless you've already read the book or you know exactly what you're looking for. But, yes, it's also nice to share the experience of what we've read with others, which is also important!

      I like that you keep comparing and listening, though. That seems like a great way to do reviews. Thanks for reading!

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