Friday 21 June 2019

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What Do We Want From Reviews?

What Do We Want From Reviews?

Recently, I have been reading reviews - on blogs, on Goodreads, on Amazon - for specific books and becoming quite frustrated. Which led me to ask on Twitter, "Does no-one else read reviews to find out more about a story?", to which I got more responses than I expected, and I realised that a lot of us actually want very different things from reviews.

A good number of years back, I discovered three Aussie blogs that I absolutely adored; Eleusinian Mysteries, Saz101, and Read Me Bookmark Me Love Me, all of which are sadly no longer running. Run by Brodie, Sarah, and Lisa, these blogs were everything. They're reviews were fun and full of passion, but they also wrote long, detailed reviews that answered every question I could ask. Loving their reviews, my review style changed. I didn't copy their review style, my reviews are very much me, but my reviews got longer, more detailed. The reviews I have from before discovering these blogs are pretty crap, but they're still here, if you wanted to look back far enough.

But these bloggers changed the way I wrote reviews because they solidified what I want from reviews - I started writing the reviews I wanted to read. When I read reviews, I want them to talk about the book. I don't want a review where, take away the description the reviewer has taken from Goodreads, etc., I wouldn't have a clue what the book was about. Yes, I want to know what the reviewer thought of the book, but their thoughts aren't enough. That reviewer isn't me, and whether they liked or didn't like a book or not - because, yes, even negative reviews can garner a book new readers, as it's all subjective - isn't going to tell me if this is a book I should pick up, not if I am not told anything about it.

I want to know more about the story. I want to know who the characters are, what their motivations are, and about their relationships with each other. I want to know about the writing and the pacing. I want to know the themes. I want to know what this book is about at it core, if applicable. Mental illness? Rape culture? Sexism? Racism? Islamophobia? Etc. And most of the time, the blurb isn't enough. Sure, it may spike my interest, but as a book blogger with a huge TBR, I need to know if the book is worth adding to it. So I read reviews. And I do find it frustrating if I'm not finding the info I'm looking for.

But a lot of people don't want the same things from reviews as me. A lot of people responded to my tweet with their own thoughts, both of what they want from a review, and the kinds of reviews they write. And a lot of them prefer to know as little as possible, so the reviews I find unhelpful are the reviews they want. There were a number of points those who responded made that I want to talk about in more detail, because I think so differently.

A number of people mentioned not wanting to read a recap of the book because they find it boring. Which is fair enough. I, however, find just opinions of a book really uninteresting, and even more so if each positive review and each negative review sounds the same. Things will obviously be different if thoughts are given about specific aspects of each book, because each book is different.

A number of people also worried about reviews that went into some detail may spoil the book. There are those who enjoy writing reviews full of spoilers, and they should get to write the reviews they want. However, if there are reviewers writing reviews full of spoilers, and not putting a warning at the beginning of the review, or hiding spoilers under a button, then I think they're being irresponsible and unfair. No-one should read a spoiler without warning. But it's also not that hard to write a detailed review without talking about exactly what happens, without giving away major events or plot twists. For the most part, I write spoiler free reviews - and when I do write spoilers, they're always hidden under a button, and the reader gets to choose whether they read it or not. But you can talk about the characters without spoiling the plot. You can talk about where the characters are and whats happening at the beginning of the story without spoiling the plot. You can talk about writing, pacing, themes, the core of the story, without spoiling the plot.

But the fact is that there are a lot of people who are of the opinion that less is more, so those reviewers who don't give much away definitely have an audience. It does make things a little more difficult for me, though. To be honest, there are very few blogs that I read specifically for their reviews, because most don't give me what I want. There is a smaller pool of blogs to read, and then within that pool there are going to be those who's review voice you just don't gel with, but that's a conversation for another time. There are a number of blogs I read for all other content, but when it comes to reviews, there are only three I read.

Of the 20 people that responded, there were only two who wrote more detailed reviews, and only one who wanted more detailed reviews. And there was one blogger who had been thinking about this themselves, and considering if they should change the way they review in order to be more helpful to their readers. But all review types are valid, and we'll all find our readers, so we should write the reviews we want to write. But it's interesting to think about what we want from reviews.

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Over to you graphic

What makes a good review for you? What do you want from reviews? Of the various kinds of reviews you've read, what are your favourite aspects, and what do you not like at all? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Yes, I read and love reviews. I don't want the entire story but details are important. Is there cheating, rape, pedophilia, is it a dark read. Does it have a HEA, is it a standalone or involve more than one couple. The blurb for the books only states what the author wants you to know but as an avid reader I require more details that don't spoil the book but gives me an idea if its an read for me. Personally, I don't like rape in a book, especially gang rape and some physical abuse (between parent and child and domestic) is hard to read and I like to prepare for it and decide if it's something I can read.

  2. When I think back to each book I've read, I will not recall all the details, but I will remember how it made me feel. Therefore, I am always curious what sort of emotional response a reviewer had to a book. I also want to know if the book was entertaining, because that's why I read. I don't want a book report. I have read reviews, where I feel like they are retelling the entire story - not necessary.

  3. I do enjoy reading reviews. Personally, I love when a reviewer talks about central themes to the novel as it's one of the deciding factors on whether I pick up a book or not.

  4. I'll confess that my reviews used to be more detailed, but as time has gone on, they've gotten shorter and shorter with more general feelings than specifics. Part of this is just what I feel like writing anymore--I never want to blogging to feel like a chore, so I've adapted my style as my perspective has changed.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction