Random Chat: What Is a Good Review?

What makes a good blurb?

Step up, take a seat, make yourself at home and let’s chat!

Thanks to Chris, I came across this post. The author of it writes about what it is like to be on the other side when dealing with a review – as an author instead of a reader. I have often wondered what that would be like, so figured it was time to post about it and see what you fine folks think.

Today’s random chat is:

First of all, regarding the post I linked, I agree with most of what the author wrote, except for his ‘golden rule’:

One last thing (and this is a “Golden Rule,” as far as I am concerned): If you can’t give at least a 3-star rating for a book, on a scale of 1 through 5 (or, in academic parlance, a C), then it’s best not to post a review at all. My rationale for that is that anyone who devotes anywhere from six months to a couple of years writing a book, deserves, at a minimum, a passing grade of C, or a 3-star rating for their effort alone. Anything less is an insult, and that violates the “no personal attacks” thing.

I have to say that, as a reviewer, I found it difficult not to take offence when reading this. As far as I am concerned, everyone is entitled to share their opinion as long as it is done in a civilized manner, with no intent to offend or hurt anyone. Every single time I have given a 1 or 2 star review, I can honestly say that is what I have done. At least tried my best to; obviously I will be annoyed at wasting my time, but it is never personal. To me, reviewing a book is exactly the same as reviewing any other product. I will state what I liked, what I did not like, and why – period.
So reading that what I take such care to do – so thoroughly explaining why I did not like a book -, putting me in the same bag as all those This book sucks!!! sort of opinions and whatnot is insulting and constitutes as a personal attack is incredibly disappointing, to say the least. I can honestly say I have never tried to hurt an author’s feelings – on the contrary, more often than not I will say that just because this book did not work for me that does not mean other people won’t like it -, and I can surely say the same for the incredible amount of fine reviewers I have met since I started reviewing the books I read.

Now I would like to stress that I am not posting this with any intent of bashing this author; as I said, I did agree with most of his post and I think he makes great points. It’s just that I believe several people may agree with the part I quoted, and so I wanted to both have my say and find out what other people think about this.

While I can understand why an author would say something like this, as far as I am concerned, two main things:

1) Not everyone that takes 6 months to a couple of years to write a book should have done it. Not everyone can be a writer. Just because you put a lot of effort into something does not mean it is good. If it’s your passion, fine, go ahead and do it, and always try your best, but you should have no expectations. That goes for pretty much anything in life, in my opinion.

2) You are never going to please everyone. While another person loved a certain thing, someone else will hate it. That happens with every single thing in life! I am not going to feel offended because, say, someone did not like my cooking. Should I make it personal just because I put so much time and effort in it? Hell no. I may be disappointed, but so what? I know some people will say that is not the same, and they will be right, but the principle is the same: take it and move on. That’s life.

Let me start with the obvious: Personal attacks are pointless and only speak ill of the reviewer. However, a low rating does not mean that a review is bad, if it is well explained and justified. As far as I am concerned, all authors need to be prepared to receive 1 and 2 star ratings as much as 3, 4 and 5 ones. Giving a low rating is not a matter of rudeness or lack of respect, but of honesty. If we didn’t like the book, then we will not give it 3 or more stars just for the sake of not hurting the author’s feelings. It is a matter of respect towards the other authors whose work we have read and thoroughly enjoyed.

Now, onto what makes a good review.
Again, this is a matter of personal opinion so, if you think differently, please don’t be offended.

I see a lot of reviews where roughly 80% of the text describes in detail what happens in the book. That is not a good review in my book. I don’t want to know what happens in the book, I want to discover it as I go. If the blurb does not give a good idea of the book, then summarize it. Briefly. Only enough to get a clear picture of what one can expect from it.

I do, however, want to know what feelings and thoughts the book awoke in the reader. Did he or she like it? If so, why? What did they think of the writing? Was it easy to follow the story, did it flow well? Were the characters multi-dimensional, and could you see them grow throughout the narrative? Is the world well-developed? Were the plot twists predictable? Did the reader experience any emotions? If so, which?
I want to know those things in detail so that I can know if I would enjoy the book or not. Often times, the issues that the reviewer had with the book are things I would find annoying myself, so that’s when I know if I would like it or not and that is what will ultimately help me decide if I will get the book – not because I know the story beforehand.

Something that should be obvious – NO SPOILERS!!. The very least people can do is clearly tag them (I do that by changing font and background colour, so people who want to view spoilers will have to highlight the text). Please, don’t give away major plot twists. It totally ruins the experience.

And that’s about it, other than not writing something too big, but I am guilty of that myself. I do proofread and edit my texts several times before posting, but everything seems important for one reason or the other. Because of what I wrote above, I think some things will appeal to one reader more, other things to different readers.
I guess low rating reviews will naturally be longer, since I try my best to explain why I am giving it.

Anyway, I try to do these things in my reviews, though I will be the first to admit I may not always succeed. Not on purpose, though!

With which points of this post do you agree and disagree with?
What do you feel makes a good review?
What do you think I should do differently in my own reviews?

Please share your thoughts in the box below!

26 thoughts on “Random Chat: What Is a Good Review?

  1. There are a lot of book reviews on WordPress that I do not “like” (meaning actually clicking the star) because the person spends the whole space summarizing the book, which you mention. The last paragraph is typically a list of what they liked/didn’t like, e.g. believable characters, fun story, good dialogue. Well, as a writing professor, I’m not going to believe something just because a person says so. Give some evidence and explain how the evidence matches the criteria you’ve established. If a blog states that they are just throwing out thoughts and don’t consider themselves good or “real” reviewers, I don’t follow that blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So 3 stars to me is a book that is readable, meaning I didn’t die of boredom and I am sure even though I didn’t love it, a lot of people will. I just won’t read it again. I can’t and will never say that about each and every book just because the author worked a long time on it. To me that would be a lie. Reviews should be honest and fair.

    Good reviews… I want to know what the reviewer liked, what they didn’t like. If I wanna know what the book is about, I’ll stick to the official description.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a great way to describe it, but it begs for the question: should we rate the book according to how other people may or may not enjoy it, or just our personal experience? I try to do the latter but have found myself doing the former on a couple of ioccasions. Tricky business.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think people being so different is the true beauty of it. If you thoroughly explain why you did not like a book in an objective manner, then people should be able to assess whether they would like it or not. Like, when read in a review that the main character is a rebellious teenager who instantly falls in love with a guy I know I won’t like the book even if the rest is great (writing, world creation, etc) because those are a couple of my pet peeves. However, another person may enjoy stuff like that, and that is perfectly fine.

        So yeah, being objective in such a subjective thing is the way to go in my opinion eheh

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with basically all the points you made in this post!
    In response to the ‘golden rule’ I think that’s not a good golden rule by my opinion. I mean, if that was to be the rule? Why is there an option to give one or two stars? Plus, it can be misleading for other readers if we all simply rate it 3 out of respect even though we hated or disliked the book.

    And it really gets on my nerves when a reviewer spends so much time explaining what happened in the book too. My eyes glaze over the entire thing! What’s important is what aspects of the book were great and not so great and the ideas and feelings the reader had towards the book.
    This was wonderful! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! It’s a matter of honesty in my book as well. There are ways of saying things that are not offensive or even hurtful but that does not mean the reviewer should not be fully honest both in the text and the rating.

      Hehe I find myself skimming those reviews as well, trying to get to the ‘juicy’ bits. I have to admit sometimes I just quit. So many reviews, so little time!

      Thank you for posting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very true. Now, from an author’s perspective, I always take into consideration a fellow author’s hard work. I will give less than three stars to a book if I can see that the author spent no time (and money) into editing, has a horrible cover, and clearly did not do his job right. Now, if the story is not appealing to me, I will give it a three star rating, because it’s a subjective business. The only exception to this was Winter’s Tale.I absolutely did not click with that book in any way possible -_-

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Golden Rule is a byproduct of ego. Author’s have a lot of their identity tied up in their work, and anything less than “3” is taken as a personal attack.

    As to getting personal in reviews I think it is fair game to respond in kind should the author derive opinions that to me, personally demand a response. This goes for other reviewers that I think may have done the author a disservice by writing a tainted review that is not accurate with regard to content, story line logic and characterization. When the content of their review is one primarily derived from skimming or a grandiose sense of self, I will write a review on their review in order to give prospective readers a counter to consider.

    I think good reviews are ones that don’t ramble, seek to entertain (where appropriate) and cover pertinent aspects of: story-line and character development, world building and movement. They should also seek to help author’s look at their work in a constructive fashion.

    I often think that in some cases I go a bit over board with regard to works that are just plain bad, especially authors I have enjoyed in the past. It almost feels like a betrayal of trust. I am also guilty of rating a few novels higher than they should have been and lower than they should have been. I think this is a normal part of the subjective process. I often read other reviews and reflect on my choices to rate it as I did.

    As always another great post, Ana!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Your reviews are amongst my favourite. I have yet to figured out how you manage to be so concise and informative at the same time. I truly admire your ability to convey your assessment of the book in a few words, and I enjoy as much reading your longer ones. I have noticed you also take the time to justify why you did not like a book and appreciate it.


  6. I always wondered what those blue lines were doing in the middle of your reviews! Now I know, lol. Excellent points about people pleasing for the sake of an author’s ego. We should not do that if the book was awful. Some people are a square peg in a round hole–they just don’t have any writing ability.I didn’t realize just how much people dislike spoilers…better watch my step in future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aha you too? Guess no one bothers to read my ‘Books’ page at the top. I explained all that there :)

      Well, do you appreciate knowing major plot twists before reading a book or watching a movie? Wouldn’t you rather discover them on your own? Wouldn’t that be more enjoyable?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Completely agree! The whole point of reviewing books is to be honest about them. It’s not personal to attack a book- even if authors view it as “their baby”. I get that they’re sensitive about it, but you can’t just censor opinions you don’t like.
    And I also liked what you said about synopses. Too many reviews give a reallly long synopsis. I usually just skip that out- but I don’t know why they bother writing it in the first place. I mean, if I’ve read the book, I know this already, and if I haven’t, I don’t want to know.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • THANK YOU! That is exactly the point I was trying to make. If you are trying to get people to do something that is not how they actually feel, then you are telling them not to be honest and it is outright censorship.

      And I mentioned that about synopsis in my topic Good Blurbs, as it is definitely one pet peeve of mine.

      Thank you for posting, it’s great to know you think that way as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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