Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What are you looking for in a book review?

One of the things I want to do with this new blog is be better about actually reviewing all the books I read, and I'm working on a somewhat standardized format for these reviews. So! I have questions for you!

1. What factual information do you want with reviews? Obviously title, author, genre . . . do you care about publisher? Year of publication? Page count? ISBN? Author's site or blog? Other things?

2. I usually link to Amazon because it's easy and they give an image. Is that good or is there somewhere else you'd rather be linked? (I'm an Amazon affiliate, but I do it mostly for ease of linking and have never really made any money from it.)

3. How much plot summary do you want/need? Is a few sentences describing the basic premise enough to get the gist, or do you need more to help you decide whether you actually want to read the book?

4. Do you prefer to read reviews with thoughts on different elements (characters, writing style, etc.) separated - see reviews at Forever YA for an example of what I mean by this - or do you like to have things integrated into a more essay-like format? (I really prefer the former, so I'm not sure I'll pay much heed to your answers for this one, but I'm still curious as to what you think.)

5. When should disclaimers come in? Obviously if I'm reviewing something by a close friend or someone I work for, I'll mention that. But how about an author I've met a few times, or worked with in some way, or someone I chat with regularly on Twitter? I'm not sure exactly where the line is drawn.

And . . . I don't know, anything else? Please don't feel obligated to answer all these questions - I'm interested in your opinion even if you only have thoughts on one of these topics! Thanks!


  1. I'm so happy you wrote this post because I really want to hear other's opinions on this too.

    1.) I'd like publisher and year of publication. I think that's mostly because I like seeing which publishers choose to publish which authors. As for the year, I just need to know whether it's an ARC or if I can get my hands on it immediately, I guess.

    2.) Amazon is perfect. :D

    3.) A few sentences should be enough plot summary to get me interested and still leave the book completely unspoiled.

    4.) I'd never seen the Forever YA style before, but I like it to a degree. Do you consider the essay style to be almost the same (like separate paragraphs for each topic, but without the headings) or to be completely intermingled?

    5.) Oh, man, I have no idea on that one.

  2. Okay, I think there should be some type of disclaimer for when a reviewer is consistently talking on Twitter with an author. Still, I'd glance over it without much thought and wouldn't consider the reviewer to have much bias.

  3. 1. Year of publication would be good, as well as a link to the author's blog/website. For me, I don't care about the publisher, page count or ISBN. If it's part of a series, the other titles in the series would be great.

    2. Amazon is fine.

    3. A basic plot summary would be fine for me.

    4. Hmm... that's a tough one. I generally prefer the essay style but, having said that, an essay usually breaks its paragraphs down by those elements, so adding a header and breaking it up some doesn't make too big a difference, I guess. If broken into sections, I would like a summary paragraph with the overall impression. For example, if the plot was great but characterization wasn't very good, did you feel it was worth the read for the strength of its plot, etc.

    5. I think it basically comes down to the question of whether the fact that you've met/spoken with/tweeted with the author has affected your opinion of the book. Definitely if they are a close friend you'd want to mention that. Otherwise, if you feel you're able to give it an objective review, then I don't think a disclaimer is necessary.

  4. Under the caveat that it's your review and oftentimes it's the individual approach that hooks me - I don't care about the publisher at all but the year and the page count gives me an idea of how contemporary the writing could be and how long it might take to read it.

    Genre, short synopsis, where the story takes place...

  5. I am looking forward to more book reviews from you! I love that you read such a wide variety of genres!

    To answer your well-considered questions...

    1. Title, year, author, genre, author's site. I also like knowing if it's someone's first or 18th book, or first book in the genre.

    2. Amazon is fine. Images are helpful!

    3. Super-basic plot description is fine. Although, as I think you already know about me, I am fanatically anti-spoiler.

    4. I checked out the reviews at Forever YA - they were more broken up than I'd prefer, but I *did* really like the "Bonus!" aspects that were highlighted at the end. The best suggestion I can think of that makes the most sense to me in my head is breaking it up between stuff about the book and stuff that's your opinion. I don't really think there's a pressing need for a fixed structure, though. (make it easy for yourself!)

    5. I am most interested in this to know how the book compared with what you were expecting or how it surprised you. I think this is equally true whether you've read an author's 3 previous books or whether you've had a back-and-forth with them on Twitter.