Reading Reviews

Here’s a fun post at Kill Zone Blog, about reading reviews — really about types of reviews.

The Bad Review

The Good Review

The “Meh” Review

The Irrelevant Content Review

The All About the Reviewer Review

The Actionable Review

Now, this post — by Laura Benedict — is fun to read, but let me just mention that when she says “bad review” she means “negative review.” And similarly, “Good” means “Positive.” That’s fine, but I wanted to clarify, because actually there is all the difference in the world between a bad review and a negative review. Though from the author’s point of view, both might be maddening and certainly neither is welcome.

A bad review is actually one where the reviewer seems not to have read the actual book, but possibly a weirdly incorrect plot summary. Every now and then you do read a review that makes you scratch your head and say, Now, listen, are we talking about the same book?

In contrast, a negative review is, well, negative.

In some ways I think the most offensive one-star review is the Irrelevant Content type. The book arrived with a torn cover, so one star! I actually have seen that. *Rolls eyes*.

Of course the most *useful* review is not a type at all. It’s a review written by someone who shares your general taste in books.

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7 thoughts on “Reading Reviews”

  1. It took me way too long to realize that that “synopsis” of LOTR was purposefully bad, instead of just terrible. Haha, wow.

    And I definitely agree about the most useful review.

    The thing that maddens me about many reviews on Goodreads, for example, is either 1) the mostly-GIF-filled reviews that don’t help me decide if I want to read it, or 2) the overly literary critical review… Reading is such a joy-filled activity for me that while I can think critically (*cough*Shannara*cough) I’m reading the review to see if I *want* to read it, not if I want to read a term paper on it.

  2. I’m glad you clicked through to the LotR “review” — fun, isn’t it?

    I like the gif reviews because they’re clever and funny, but yeah, they’re also pretty much useless, granted.

    Very good point about how a review can perhaps try too hard to reach the heights of erudition.

    One other type in dislike: the Plot Summary Review. Honestly, the back cover tells me enough about the plot. I want the reader’s response, not a summary.

  3. RE plot summary–I think these are an important part of a review, if they are the reviewer’s own thoughts. The things I include in the plot summaries I write are the things that struck me, for good or ill, so they shape my response to the book. Also the back cover isn’t right there at hand when I’m reading an online review. And also the back cover is what the publisher provides, and it’s there to convince me to read the book, not necessarily tell me what the book is really about….(and also I think I write good plot summaries)

  4. From a marketing perspective, they’re good or bad according to how they sell your book. . . .

    Though there are certainly reviewers whom some readers rely on to point out some books as trash, which means those are exactly the ones they want. (There was a time when I could rely on a certain magazine reviewer; I would rush out to buy any book he described as too sweet.)

  5. Mary, granted, any review which sells the book is good in that sense. I’m like you; there are some phrases that aren’t meant as compliments that nevertheless attract me toward the book rather than pushing me away.

    Charlotte, yes, some reviewers write a better plot summary than others! Personally, what I want from a plot summary is the reviewer’s own response to the plot rather than a recital — and no important spoilers!

  6. I get really annoyed with reviews where they complain about things not being explained, when they clearly were. If you have bad reading comprehension that’s not the book’s fault.

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