I've always been an avid reader and in the last six months, I've become an avid reviewer. Part of my love for reviewing is my innate joy in sharing my opinion about anything. And, confessionally, as a reader I highly depend on reviews to influence my reading choices -so in reviewing, I feel I'm paying it forward to future readers of all the things.
While Amazon's review system is clean and interesting, I find myself comparing the star rating (and then grittier reviews) with what's found on GoodReads. I've ended up giving more clout to the reviews that I read on Goodreads because the reviews are more specific in their critique and more bold with their adoration. Engaging with a HUGE social network of readers has allowed me to see how every reader is different, every book is included in life's context and that all the kinds of context are important.
But what kind of reviews are my favorite? Well, there are five things that make book reviews stand out and especially influential to me.
1. Honesty about expectations for the author and book.
When I pick up a book, I've often checked out the reviews for it. I've definitely read the blurb on the sleeve. I've probably heard about the book from a book blog or podcast or friend or my mom and so, I know it's going to be good. This means the moment it is anything but good, I grow frustrated. It took me months to realize this and to identify that my expectations are SO important in determining my impression of a book.
2. Identification of what the reader likes in books.
For example, I adore plot. Minimal character development is okay with me as long as the plot moves, twists, and reveals more about the characters as they are interacting with one another through large narrative events.
3. Realize the context and circumstance in which you're reading said book.
You have to be honest with yourself about what you need from a novel when you pick it up. Are you up for another WWII historical fiction novel or do you need a simple beach read? Can you handle the heavy heartbreak of a grieving memoir or would it be better to read through a wild thriller that leaves some mystery for you to obsess over? Honor your feelings, know your circumstance, and then pick away!
4. Specifically name your struggles.
I've never read any of the classics (besides what had to be read for class in high school). I've always wanted to say I've made it through Little Women. But I dread the book every time I make it to page 150. I am not a classic reader -much to my own sadness. I've come to terms with this fact and have stopped trying to force myself and hallelujah!
5. Point out what would make you love the book.
So the book was boring but you trucked through it. You've thought all the things to think and realize that all you needed from the main character was a brave face at the turn of the novel rather than a serious dependence on her vampire lover. Say that and then some because people desperately want to know exactly what would make the difference in your stars.
What, specifically, do I
look for in GoodReads reviews?
A score of 3.75 or higher. Getting lower than that ISN'T a deal breaker entirely... But I'm picky and every reader knows there's nothing worse than spending time with a book that sucks when there are so many amazing books out there in the world waiting for you to read them.
You know the one thing that's a review killer for me:
There is no -I mean NO- reason you need to spoil ANYTHING when writing a review. There are many ways to reference different places in the novel -the closing, the opening, the turning point, etc. - without specifically saying Harry Potter is a wizard and Albus Dumbledore dies. SO MANY WAYS to share your opinion without breaking the literary tension that we all love and adore.