Poll time! How Do You Read Reviews?

Please help me play with my new Word Press toy, Poll Daddy.

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Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 6:13 am  Comments (12)  
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  1. What do you mean by “trust” in that last poll? I generally assume that reviewers are being honest about how they feel about the book, but I never assume that I’ll feel the same way about the novel that they do. I’ve yet to find a reviewer whose tastes match mine exactly (or even very closely). I like it when reviewers include quotations from the novel being reviewed, because it helps me work out if my tastes match theirs. I suppose I’d “trust” them to transcribe the quotations relatively accurately.

  2. Laura, to me “trust” is more of an alignment of tastes. For instance, I am coming to find that while I like one particular reviewer’s style and voice, I don’t “trust” that her good reviews will be good for me, nor that her “bad” reviews will be bad for me.

    I think it takes a lot of time and a lot of books and a lot of reviewers to find one whose taste is similar to yours and, therefore, that you can “trust.”

  3. I agree with both of you. By “trust”, I mean you think the reviewer is good willed, capable, competent, and there’s a very good chance that if you read the book you would agree with her in whole or in large part.

  4. I assume by trust you mean that the reviewer is one I know. I don’t really trust reviewers I don’t know, but I do take into consideration the review based on the reviewer’s tastes.

  5. “Trust” and reviewers is tricky – as both a reviewer for so many outlets and a person who religiously reads reviews, I’ve found that I more “trust” reviewers whose taste matches mine, when dealing with online sources, blogs and the like. When dealing with print reviews or sources I don’t know, it’s caveat emporium, as Rhett would say. If it seems like a book I’d enjoy I’d probably read it, regardless of the review (if I didn’t know the reviewer.)

  6. Like Laura,

    I like it when reviewers include quotations from the novel being reviewed, because it helps me work out if my tastes match theirs.

    And because there are reviewers whose writing or thought process I enjoy, but whose tastes don’t match mine very closely. In those cases the review may touch on topics that interest me, but it’s often the excerpt that determines whether I read the book.

  7. I take trust as being honest. If they don’t like a book, then they won’t cater to anyone and be honest and say that they don’t like it.

  8. I tend to read reviews word for word, but only if the book is in a subgenre I like or has a plot device I’m fond of. So I guess you could say I skim first and then go back and read thoroughly. I primarily read reviews for plot and character summaries and less because of a reviewer’s voice or style.

    Like Kristie, I prefer reviewers who are willing to say they don’t like a book, but it’s crucial that they explain why. As for “trust”, when I read reviews it’s more a matter of whether or not the reviewer has clearly laid out why or why not they like a book. As to sites vs. individual reviewers, I have to waffle- some sites I only read one or two reviewers, others I’ll read any review that catches my eye no matter who actually wrote it.

    I want to repeat what Laura said, though, I never expect a reviewer’s taste to match mine.

  9. Wow! I didn’t think so much would hang on the word “trust”. Thanks everyone for your nuanced interpretations of the word.

    I was motivated in part to do the poll because I realized that when I am at, say, Dear Author or Book Smugglers, I have no idea who is writing the review, and I don’t even look unless I want to make a comment and address that person specifically. But for some reason it matters at other sites, like TGTBTU. There are some reviewers there that I avoid, because I know what they like I won’t and I also don’t like the way they write reviews.

    Honesty is also important. One of my first posts listed a few websites that I don’t think really are review sites. They are more “enthusiastically informative”.

    But I also realized that I don’t read in detail really long reviews unless I have already read the book, partly to avoid spoilers, partly lack of interest.

    Look like there’s a wide range of perspectives on this, not all of which I managed to capture with these simple little polls!

  10. Have to briefly agree with Kristie and bookworm – if a reviewer or a site gives almost all good reviews of books, I tend to not take them seriously. Perhaps they’re really fortunate people who never read a book they don’t like, and they’re lucky then, but I just see a string after string of good reviews as a sign of a reader who isn’t thinking about what they read.

    Another pet pieve, which has already been mentioned, are the “reviews” that are nothing more than the back cover blurb and a statement like “I read this for my book club and I didn’t like it.” Not a review – I think we all can recognize it – but I’ve seen that recently with a Margaret Atwood book and it just about gutted me. There’s a lot to like or dislike about Atwood and the fact that there wasn’t any details made me realize that this obviously wasn’t a review OR a reviewer OR a site that I’ll frequent for any reason – obviously not a “reviewer” I’d “trust” (excessive use of quotation marks – five yard penalty.)

    Jessica, like you I tend to avoid exceptionally long reviews unless it particularly catches me; I think I just want a concise and informed review more than I want pages of waxing. Concise reviews can be just as informative in shaping my opinion.

  11. Not entirely on topic but I wanted to take a moment to shout about my personal pet pieve since it’s been mentioned here. LONG REVIEWS. This is very specific to the media type, ie. online. So maybe I’m old, but reading long tomes on the computer hurts my eyes and dulls my mind. I like to save my free time for reading paper books, not computer reviews.

    Let’s face it, for the most part (especially mine!) better writing is more concise. I try not to rant much online since it’s hard to have measured discussions in print, but I feel like this is an issue that more of us reviewers need to think about.

    Then again, maybe I’m alone since I’ve seldom seen this complaint out there? Put on your reader hats, how long is too long? How short is too short? (From Jessica’s polls and comments, obviously one sentence reviews/only rating data is too short.)

  12. Heloise,

    Actually, long reviews were one of the reasons I made up the polls. I find that I only read the really long detailed reviews if I have ALREADY read the book, AND am very interested in the book, either because I loved it or hated it. I think the web encourages length, because there is no “bottom of the page”.

    I think Dear Author and AAR and TRR all do a good job trying to keep reviews to a manageable length, something I try, not always with success, to emulate.


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