reviews: tell me what you think

One of the reasons I started blogging is because I enjoyed reading what other people thought about books and decided I wanted to talk about my much-loved obsession too.

I’ve been very interested in the various discussions – and a hell of a lot of criticism – about the review process in recent months and a couple of things have struck me. Foremost amongst these is what I believe the bottom line to be; that is,

a review is the opinion of a particular book by that particular reader at that particular point in time.

Following on from this, there seems to me (and being totally blunt) to be a number of givens: the people who read reviews are going to go away either wanting to read the book or deciding to give it a miss; agreeing with the reviewer or wondering whether it was the same book that was read; be thrilled or devastated by the things discussed about their work; or, pleased or pissed that they can/can’t utilise the material for promotional purposes.

I’m not after an egostroke about my so-called reviews or anything wanky like that. What I am genuinely curious about is if reviews in general actually make a difference to what books you buy and what it is about them that influence you.

I’m too lazy to try and do the mini poll thing and I’m more interested in hearing what you actually have to say about this topic than trying to interpret statistics. So here are my two questions with some points for you to consider:

How much will a review influence your purchase?
* Wait for the review every time.
* Not at all.
* Sometimes, especially if the blurb or excerpt were vaguely interesting.

If reviews do influence you what is it about them that does?
* Ratings.

* The way the review was written.
* Information about writing techniques such as style, writing itself, etc.
* What the reviewer thought about the plot, setting or characters.

* An overall recommendation.

Don’t be scared to share your thoughts. My itty bitty corner of bloglandia is protected (ie all arseholes are told to bugger off *g*).

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
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17 Responses to reviews: tell me what you think

  1. Tam says:

    How much will a review influence your purchase?* Sometimes, especially if the blurb or excerpt were vaguely interesting.If reviews do influence you what is it about them that does?* Ratings.* The way the review was written.* Information about writing techniques such as style, writing itself, etc.* What the reviewer thought about the plot, setting or characters. * An overall recommendation.Can I say all of the above but mostly the last point? There are some books I buy and plan to buy before there are any reviews. Either the blurb really appeals to me or I am familiar with the author so I know I’ll likely enjoy it either way. But there are MANY books (to my bank balance’s dismay) that I have bought based on reviews. I don’t hang out on a ton of review sites (otherwise I would be broke) but still, I take notes of books that had good reviews and I follow them up. Sometimes I won’t buy a book as well based on a review. Things may be revealed that I know won’t appeal to me (not necessarily just a low rating). Very rarely have I been steered wrong. Maybe a couple that didn’t work for me but its usually because what turned me off was not brought up in the review and is a personal issue. Some themes just don’t work for some people.I think its kind of silly for people to expect reviewers to like only the same things they like. If I like m/m/m then EVERYONE has to think its great (or the reverse depending on your taste). No one shares my exact taste and that’s okay. A good example was your review of Vintage. I would NEVER have bought that book in a million years but I read your review and I bought it and read it on the train here. I REALLY enjoyed it and have gotten my daughter started on it now. So there is one example where a review truly influenced my decision. But if that had been your first review I’d ever read I’m not sure I would have bought it. But after seeing that you rated books I’ve read similarly to how I would rate them made me think I would enjoy it. I would never base a purchasing decision solely on the yay or nay of a total stranger. Maybe they HATE something that I would love or vice versa. So I think a relationship with a reviewer is also important, you get to know if they share your taste. I particularly like blog reviews because you can ask questions. An example was James Buchanan’s Hard Fall. I was very nervous about that because of the religion aspect. I have some issues with that but I was able to ask questions and James even weighed in on my concerns and in the end after hearing what others said who had read it, I decided to buy it and it was a good decision as I enjoyed the book a lot. You can’t get that just from a review in a magazine or some other static site. So I think blog reviews like your’s and Wave’s can really make a difference and help lowly consumers like me make wise choices. :-)Damn, long and rambly, sorry.

  2. Kris says:

    Thanks for taking the time to answer in this detail, Tam. I find it really interesting to know what people look for in a review and what they get out of it. When I read a review, I’m personally interested in finding out what parts of the story worked and didn’t work for the reader so that I can decide whether I will have the same issues/responses.Having said that, I found your point about the level of trust/relationship between a reviewee (for wont of a better word) and a reviewer very significant. In many ways it is about coming to learn how a person reviews and how similar/different their opinions are to yours which assists with your decisions about making purchases. I’m very pleased you enjoyed Vintage it is such a fabulous story that appeals to all ages. You know I STILL haven’t ordered my hard copy version of it yet. I keep on forgetting to. Hopeless I am. :)Thanks again Tam for your answer. You are t-rific.

  3. orannia says:

    How much will a review influence your purchase?I’m with Tam, ‘sometimes’. I know that isn’t really an answer, but it does depend on the review, the reviewer, and how my book/genre tastes align with theirs πŸ™‚ OOPS! I’ve kind of answered both questions in one.I have to be honest, I borrow the majority of my books from the library, so if I book ‘sounds’ interesting (from the summary, review and perhaps excerpt), then I add it to my list πŸ™‚ I only buy keepers. A good example is Sarah Monette’s series, which I love and am going to buy :)Plus, I’m quite picky with books, so what some people like I don’t. But then, everyone experiences the same book differently…and I like that :)Sorry, no help whatsoever πŸ™‚

  4. Jenre says:

    A positive review will influence me to buy a book. I’ve bought plenty of those based on your recommendation, Kris, most noticeably A Strong and Sudden Thaw and Uly’s Comet, neither of which I would have bought if I hadn’t read your review.Negative reviews don’t influence me so much if I had already set my heart on a book. If I felt ambivilant towards a book, I may not buy it if it’s had LOTS of negative reviews, but only one review isn’t enough to put me off a book.In the reviews themselves it’s usually a mixture of the last two – writer’s techniques and plot/character etc which I pay most attention to. Ratings are even more subjective than the considered opinion of the reviewer. Even between you and I, we might have the same opinion on a book, but you will invariably rate it lower than me.

  5. Clare London says:

    Great post! It’s a good and sensible summary.*Influence my purchase.Well, I don’t think a review has ever stopped me buying something, unless it’s highlighted a particular topic or event that I know I dislike reading. I buy on the basis of author, topic, excerpt, then blurb.But like someone else said, a review has sometimes encouraged me to buy something I hadn’t previously considered.Also, it brings the books into my view, I’m not always aware of everything that’s out there.*How do I like my reviews? LOLI like reviews which are written from the POV of sharing experience on a book. That’s what attracts me (i) to the book (ii) to the reviewer. I dislike reviews that seem to be all about the reviewer, not the book, their style over substance.It doesn’t have to be written in perfect English or anything – just so as it can express the reviewer’s passion and interest or disappointment or thrill, or whatever. I like to hear their opinion on the author’s style and the flow of the story. It’s important to me to know if the book seemed rushed or ill-balanced. I’m more interested in information about the characterisation than the settings, but I like to hear that a book has painted a vivid picture overall for the reader. Did they care about the characters? Did they come over 2D or well-rounded?I’m not v interested in ratings, but sometimes that’s all you have, if the reviewer doesn’t give much detail in the body of the review. Mind you, then the rating causes confusion in itself, because you have no idea what the relative measures were in choosing it! LOLOne other thing I’d note is that it’s probably naive to think a reader doesn’t ‘connect’ with particular reviewers and their POVs. But I’d say that acts as an additional positive for me – i.e. if I have little sympathy with a particular reviewer’s style, I wouldn’t disregard their review, not at all. But if I liked and respected a reviewer personally, I’d be even more inclined to take their opinion on board.For me, it’s a precious chance to ‘chat’ about the book with someone else – even if it’s only from reading the review, or replying in the comments box *lol*.

  6. LesleyW says:

    I think it’s important to try and find a reviewer who likes the kind of books that you like. For example for m/m I take a lot of notice of what Wave really likes on her blog. And for UF I like KMont’s Lurv a la Mode. But that’s because my m/m seems to tie in with Wave and my UF with KMont.Even so, I still read excerpts and try to find out about the authors – mainly if they’re new to me. Before I commit to buy. Especially as it’s taking me longer and longer to read books these days.When I review I try very hard not to put spoilers in, or at least highlight when I’m going to. And my reviews tend to be more about the emotional response I had to the book. Erm…I’m not quite sure how useful this is to anyone reading the actual review. I know sometimes when I’ve really loved a book and have gone back and read the review it sometimes reads to me a little incoherently. lol I sometimes get caught up in my own enthusiasm.And I always try and find something positive to say. I think it’s important to remember that reviews are subjective and are just one persons opinion.

  7. Clare London says:

    Hi Lesley!I *like* to read the reviewer’s emotional response LOL! I can read the blurb myself and usually an excerpt too. I like something extra from a review, someone’s reaction to it.And good for you, always to look for something positive.

  8. jitterbug says:

    I agree with pretty much everything Tam said. Sometimes a blurb or an excerpt intrigue me but left me a little wary – then I wait and read as many reviews of the book in question as I can find, and after having gathered enough info I come to a conclusion about it. I don’t live in an English-speaking country and if I don’t want to read a translation – and anyway they’re not always available, for example there aren’t translations of m/m romances 😦 – I have only one option, to buy the book online. Shipping costs, waiting for it to arrive etc are a pain in the ass, so I want to buy something I know I’m not going to regret. Of course ebooks are a wish come true, but still there are financial considerations that must be made – I simply cannot afford to go into a click-click-click frenzy, I would probably come to my senses only to find my bank account drained! So reviews are essential.There are some reviewers I trust – or maybe it’s more correct to say there are some reviewers I’ve discovered have (almost) my same likes/dislikes – and obviously their opinions have more weight than the thoughts of those whose views I don’t share. The more in-depth a review, the more I like it – for instance, I find The Books Smugglers’ reviews a piece of art (btw, I happily discovered your blog thanks to them), but your “tasting” format is also great because, even if it’s short, a “mini-review”, you highlight what you have liked and disliked – it makes a reader aware of possible controversial points and the way they’re handled. I’ve found that reviews which include also the “dislike” part are usually very useful, even if I don’t agree with the reviewer – I don’t have to see eye to eye with her/him to appreciate her/his work, or to find a way to “use” it in my general overview of a “potential acquisition” (pompous expession, I know ;). However I happened to read a review some time ago that left me more than a little upset, because I couldn’t shake away the impression that the reviewer wasn’t really just reviewing the book, but there was something personal going on – and these are the only kind of reviews that I never consider or, in a pure knee-jerk reaction, that make me at once want to do the exact opposite of what is recommended.And just to conclude aswering your questions, I don’t wait for a review every time, there is a fair number of authors in my auto-buy list, but I wait* sometimes (quite often), especially if the blurb or excerpt were vaguely interesting;and* information about writing techniques such as style, writing itself, etc.;* what the reviewer thought about the plot, setting or charactersare what influence me the most.Great topic! πŸ™‚

  9. Kris says:

    LOL, Orannia. It was very helpful, and very interesting to see the issue of taste alignment/trust with a review/er come up again.I LOVE to read about the differences in people’s responses to a book. It always fascinates me how people take different things away from a book. I particularly enjoy reading a review seeing a similar dis/like and then the lightbulb going off because someone has told me why I may have responded in that way. It can sometimes be a very thoughtprovoking experience… and I like that.:)

  10. Kris says:

    I’m an unashamed book pimp, Jen. ;)I feel exactly the same way when it comes to negative reviews. The only time they really influence me is if I’m still uncertain and I go on to see what a number of reviewers are saying about the book. See, this is what gets me about some review blogs is this strange (read: arrogant) belief that a reader will only be looking at THEIR site for THEIR recommendations. Yes, there are certain reviewers you trust more than others; however, there just seems a contradiction in there about being able to have different opinions about books but not about reviews. *shrugs*Of course I am right ALL the time. This includes my ratings on Wave’s site. You are wrong, Jen. Just saying.

  11. Kris says:

    For me, it’s a precious chance to ‘chat’ about the book with someone else – even if it’s only from reading the review, or replying in the comments box *lol*.Clare this is exactly how I feel and one of the reasons why I started this blog: for the opportunity to share my experiences – good, bad, okay and the variations thereof – about a book.I use a lot of “I’s” in my reviews because I want to make clear that it is my opinion of a book with the hope it will un/consciously reinforce with the person reading the review that not only is this my POV, but I’m me and they are them – that their response may/will be different to mine (which makes a lot more sense when I say it in my head *lol*).I personally prefer reviews that are heavy on the person’s reactions to a story as a whole and in its parts. It’s really important to me to know about the characters and how they affected the reader because I’m a reader who is, well, an absolute slut for good characterisation. πŸ™‚ BTW, I’m so glad you said that about disliking reviews that seem to be more abut the reviewer than the book. I’m exactly the same way. I read a guest post by an author once who said that to read is just as much a commitment/investment to a book as an author makes in the creating of it. That really resonated with me because no matter if I loved, liked, hated or DNF a book I want to always respect the effort it took to get it into my hands in the first place. I hope that respect flows through to my reviews and I prefer reviews that do the same no matter what the rating is or who writes them.

  12. Kris says:

    I’m with Clare, Lesley. I really like it – actually I generally prefer it – when I get the reader’s emotional response to a book in a review.I’ve read a few criticisms by reviewers of reviewers (try saying that a few times out loud) that finding something positive to say when overall the book is not the greatest is a cop out. I totally disagree with this and think your approach is really important. Whenever I read these type of criticisms I always think, yes, a reviewer should be honest, but there is also an honesty in talking about the things you DID like about the book and why shouldn’t this be included in the review as well. My thoughts anyway. I think it’s important to remember that reviews are subjective and are just one persons opinion. Exactly! I sometimes feel like adding a disclaimer to some of my reviews saying this, but I think I would get a resonse from some of my virtual friends along the lines of “well, no shit Kris”. LOL.

  13. Kris says:

    Hi Jitterbug. πŸ™‚ Thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts.First of all, a moment of silence for the sheer goodness that is The Book Smugglers…..Those girls are simply awesome in the way they approach reviews. Because I live in a pretty remote city in Australia, I also have issues with the cost of books, in particular the shipping fees which are an absolute killer. In the past the freight has ocassionally been as much as or even more than the books themselves so I have to be very careful and also very certain that the books I’m ordering are ones I will enjoy. Finding Ana’s and Thea’s (and through them others) review blog was a Godsend; partly because they review speculative fiction (my passion!), but mainly because through the detail of their analyses I was able to learn their dis/likes and how my own aligned with theirs. They have both saved and cost me a small fortune. πŸ™‚ When it comes to a review, as a reader I really want to know what worked and what didn’t work in a book so that is what I try to do as much as possible in my own (however brief they are ;)). I also try to explain if I thought the dis/like was important overall; ie, if it was a niggle that was quite easy to dismiss or whether it was it a great huge hulking brute of a thing that was difficult to forget.Both you and Clare both made the same points about reviews. How there are those reviewers whose opinion holds more weight in your own decision making because the reviewer may have similar opinions to your own or even their approach to the review itself, but that you also consider the points made by reviewers who you may not always see eye-to-eye with.This has been a very interesting discussion indeed. Thanks again for participating, Jitterbug!

  14. Tracy says:

    Influence by a review: Sometimes. Although if I really want to read the book I’ll see what kind of rating the reviewer gave (and then go: huh) and not read the entire review. I want no spoilers and don’t want to be influenced either way: good or bad.A lot of the reviews I read are for books that either I wouldn’t have noticed before or had even heard of…that’s when my tbr starts getting huge! lolGreat post!

  15. Kris says:

    You know I never really thought about the actual reviews I read, Tracy. I read reviews of books I’ve already read and books that sound interesting, but not books I actually have in the tbr or that I had intended to buy anyway. How strange not to have noticed this before now.Thinking about it I must feel the same as you do; that is, “I want no spoilers and don’t want to be influenced either way: good or bad.”

  16. Ana says:

    I came here as usual to read your posts (and lurk) and then I saw yours and jitterbug’s comment on our blog and I was completely unprepared for them. THANK YOU. : Dthat made my day.since I am here, I might as well, say something about the discussion. I read all s many reviews I possibly can , this why I find many books I would not otherwise. My favorite reviews? the ones full of spoilers. I know, I am probably in the minority here, but I want to know what I will be reading in every possible detail. I try NOT to spoil when I write my own reviews though how is that for crazy? So yes, reviews influence a lot of what I buy. I am most worried about plot, setting and characters and if the writing style is any good. If a reviewer can tell me all of these things, chances are I will be buying that book. I love Katiebabs’ , Lurv a La Mode and Racy Romance Reviews’ reviews. They are my favortie go-to sites when I am looking for new books. But now, our blog got to a point where we receive loads of ARCs and of course there is NO review out there, to help me decide which ones to read. I then go by the blurb and pray that all will be fine. I have found a lot of treasures this way but also lots and LOTS of crap too. Oh well.: D

  17. Kris says:

    We luvs you and Miss Thea, Miss Ana. :)The problem with being popular – everyone wants a piece of you. Well, you only have yourselves to blame. ;)I can’t believe you like spoilers! You read the end of a story too, don’t you? LOL.Blurbs! So good and so, so bad. I think I could write an essay on the does and don’ts of blurbing from a reader’s perspective. Hmm, wouldn’t that make an interesting post. Hee, hee.

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