Let’s Talk…On What Makes A Good Book Review

Posted June 15, 2012 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 21 Comments

Click here to see Let’s Talk!

I’m so excited that Melissa at i swim for oceans likes discussion posts because sometimes I get chatty and have things to say. Melissa has opened her Let’s Talk event up to the rest of us and I’m excited to be a part of it. Thank you, Melissa!

This week’s question:

What do you look for in a book review
and what makes it a good one

1. First of all, I’d like to address the fact that I don’t do real book reviews

In fact, those words almost make me draw up into myself and feel all clinch-y. I am not trained in a literary way and am not literary-minded. Some of you awesome bloggers are, and I think that’s supercool. Me – I just like to read, throw some thoughts up here, and I cannot believe people actually pay attention to my words. I really can’t. So, there’s that. 

2. I want to see a bit of the blogger in their review

When I’m reading other bloggers’ reviews or thoughts or blog posts, what I want to see FIRST and before anything else is a little bit of that blogger’s personality in what they’re saying. If I’m reading your stuff and following you, I’m following YOU, and there’s a reason for that. I can read a professional-sounding book synopsis in a ton of places, but YOU are the draw to your blog. Sometimes I follow blogs because I love the language of the blogger, sometimes I follow blogs because the blogger is funny, and sometimes I follow the blogger because they read like I read and they write like they talk (like me!). For whatever reason I read that blog, I want to see the personality of the blogger come through in the review. For ME, that is the most important thing. Is this normal? I don’t know. I’m just being honest. 

3. I want to know if you liked the book or not.
I’m also looking for the book element-stuff, of course.
Because I’m a book nerd. 

I know which bloggers read similarly to me and which ones read a little differently. If I line all of my favorite bloggers up, I know exactly where I fit among them in terms of genre. So if you’re a blogger that reads mostly paranormal and you didn’t love my favorite fantasy series (or whatever), I won’t hold it against you! I’ll still read your blog. Just tell me if you liked the book or not, and then why. (Sidenote: Y’all really crack me up, bloggers, because some of you put it right at the beginning and some of you put it way down at the end – you know, whether or not you liked the book or not. Everybody is so different. I love it.)

For those bloggers that recommend to me, interact with me, read like me, etc. – I’m looking at what they say about world-building, setting, language, all that technical stuff. I want to know why they did or didn’t like about a book. I want to know who they think will or will not like the book they’re talking about, because based on this, it might or might not be a good match for me. (Sidenote: I read some blogs more seriously than others.

4. I want to read more than two super short paragraphs

Length is important to me, clearly. Because I’m wordy

I’ve had a similar discussion recently with another blogger who is not wordy. But I’m cool with that and I’m assuming that if you come to my blog, you are too. You can either read my whole blog post or read the little thing I put in bold print at the bottom. Skim over it. Read only the stuff underlined or in bold – whatever floats your boat! For me, I tend not to read the blogs that are too short and skimpy on their blog posts. To me, this does not a good review make. Just my opinion, guys. I can read Twitter for “I really liked this book!” and if the review is a couple of short paragraphs with no meat, well…yeah. It doesn’t matter how cute the blog is, it just won’t work for me. 


What about you guys?
What makes for a good book review? 

What are y’all looking for?


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


21 responses to “Let’s Talk…On What Makes A Good Book Review

  1. I agree with all of your points! I too like to see the blogger in the reviews. I don't want just the "facts," ya know?

    I also don't particularly care of two super short paragraphs. I guess this makes it easier to pump out more reviews. But obviously, I love words. I love reading every reaction, disappointment, etc. And that usually needs a a handful of paragraphs.

  2. I just love your answer. I think that calling myself a book reviewer is a lie. I'm by no means a professional. However, I do think there is a professional way to get your thoughts across and remain candid. I like to see what a person things, and I LOVE to see WHY they feel that way 🙂

    Brilliant thoughts, Asheley 🙂

    • Thanks Melissa!

      I have some brilliant blogger friends that ARE very literary minded and actually trained, so I just would never ever elevate myself to that level. My training is in nursing. I am a nurse who loves to write stuff about books on the blog she keeps as a hobby. 🙂

      I DO agree with the "more professional way" part, though. I'm not a reviewer by definition, but I can still act professional. Very good point.

    • Hey Patty,

      There are some people that feel that way, and I totally get that. I used to struggle and try to be short and sweet, but I finally just gave up on it because I find myself sounding ridiculous just to cut down on length. So I put lists, bullet points, and boldface – things like that – in the blog posts most of the time and my short-n-sweet blog post-loving friends have responded pretty well to that. They can skim my thoughts easier that way.

      I just am very long-winded, I guess. 🙂

  3. This is a topic that I've wanted to talk about on my blog. Sometimes I look at the reviews and they're a Goodreads description and two or three paragraphs. It drives me batty.

    Obviously, I like to include my experience in the review, and my life, and my opinion, and a short description in my own words. Idk if it works well or not, but I'm certainly never posting a Goodreads description because that ain't me. (there's nothing wrong with a Goodreads description–they're just not for me).

    • I fully support you bringing this up on your blog. I think it would be great. GO FOR IT!!

      I love your reviews. I think they work well for your blog and the people that are following you. Your readers know what to expect when they get to Hitting on Girls, and that is awesome. I kind of file that under my #2. Bonus points because you're a guy with a usually different and always interesting point of view on things. For example, back when we talked about the ever-present "mysterious guy" and how that could be offensive to male YA readers? So, yes, I think your way works very well.

      About the Goodreads summaries, it's so funny you mention that. I've seen stuff about this all over the place, people having opinions one way or the other. And I'm surprised you didn't put it in your manifesto. I always add them because I want to read them on a blog. When I get to a blog that doesn't have one, I always open a separate internet window and pull up the GR page on the book, always. Even when I've already read the book. As far as putting it on my blog posts, which are already long before it, I do it solely for my own purposes. I tend to search my own blog and refer back to my own posts a lot, and in almost all cases, this includes the summary as well. Don't ask; I'm quirky that way. The summary is solely for me. BUT, if I read them on other blogs, at least SOME other people probably read them on my blog. And I always read them one way or another when I'm on another blog, either by the post or another internet window. So, yeah, that's my angle on the summary.

  4. I definitely think a review needs to be on the longer side-I have seen some blogs where it's about a vague sentence or two, hardly enough time to give any information.

    • Yes, and information is exactly what we all need when we're trying to make a decision on buying/not buying or which book to read, etc. I just cannot personally do that on a super short review.

      If they tend to get longer than mine are, I cringe a little bit. The length of my blog posts are about as long as I can handle before I start skimming information, which sounds very hypocritical. But I'm just being honest. 🙂

  5. I agree with all of your answers. I don't need a thesis paper of a review, but I do want to see enough length that it's clear that the reviewer will get down to the nitty-gritty of what they liked and what they didn't. On the other hand, I don't want spoilers, and I don't want a summary of the entire freaking book.

    I also feel a little more at ease if I feel like the reviewer and I have similar tastes. If she likes a book, that's fine. But if she likes a book and seems to find the whiny, broody, pathetic heroine to be charming… that's a problem.

    • I agree on all of these points.

      A summary of the entire book – yes. I wonder about those reviews. I see them sometimes and I'm like "HELLO, WHERE ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?"

      To each his own, I suppose.

      When the other bloggers feel differently than I do, I want to know why or how – and if they support their thoughts well, I love that. If they have a reason to love the whiny brooding heroine, I can handle that even if I don't. But if there is no reason behind the logic, I won't love on that very much. Does that make sense?

  6. I’ve been thinking a lot about this post since you wrote it. It’s a good topic. And I finally had a moment to sit down and organize my thoughts. (I realize that my numbers do not line up with yours.)

    1. I’ve seen lots of bloggers say they don’t do “real review” and I guess I don’t really know what this means? Is there an ‘official’ definition that everyone is working with? I just think that anyone who writes their own thoughtful take on a book they read – what they liked/didn’t like etc. is writing a review. But maybe I’m wrong about this. I also think that the internet has made writers and readers so much more accessible to each other that the Official Reviews don’t matter as much anymore.

    2. I like that you underline and highlight important words and phrases within your long reviews. Because I don’t always have time to read endless blocks of text (plus I get bored by them). And being able to look through a review quickly is important to me. I don’t really mind short reviews – sometimes I actually think they can be quite effective – as long as they are relevant and helpful.

    3. When I write a review, I find that a lot of what I want to say is a spoiler. So I have trouble going on about a book in general ways that don’t give anything away. I admire bloggers who can do this, but not get boring. Even so. I like to discuss specifics of books that I’ve read with people. I guess that’s where comments come in – so I prefer blogs where the blogger actually writes back to me. If I feel like I’m just talking to myself then I stop responding and sometimes stop reading.

    4. There are so many blogs out there that review YA books. So I either like ones by people who are similar readers to me, or ones by people who have a unique take on what they read.

  7. 1. Hmm, you make a really good point here. I guess by definition, if you're giving a criticism of a book in any way that counts as a review – so technically all of us who are saying we don't do "real reviews" are in fact doing them, right? My point, that I guess I'm not explaining well, is that I'm not getting paid for it, first of all, and also I'm not trained in any type of literary anything. I really feel very underqualified to criticize books, even on this blog. So that's why I call everything "My Thoughts" because I've never studied world-building or characterization or narrative styles or anything like that. I like to talk about all of those things, but in all honesty I could be talking to hear my head roar for all I really know to be truth about the elements of literature. Seriously, though, I will talk for days about these things if I can find someone who will talk back.

    I love love love this point.

    2. Thank you. 🙂 This blog has been so many different types of trial and error, and actually I had a different blog before this (which is why all of my old stuff looks so different). I think the longer I do it, the more comfortable I get with what I'm doing, the style of blogging I do, and the type of blog that I have. It might be the total opposite of other blogs out there (long posts vs. short ones, giveaways, ARC's, etc) but it's been a long time figuring out what works for me. I just cannot trim it down to effectively say stuff in a few paragraphs without sounding stupid. So I quit trying. Then I threw that thing at the bottom that is boldfaced and centered, which has a following of its own (believe it or not) – some people read only that part. I'm always trying different things, but I like the boldfaces and underlines too. I like seeing stuff like that in long posts on other blogs.

    3. Me too! It's hard! I'm always super self-conscious about spoilers. Once I had someone email me that I had a spoiler in one of my blog posts but for the life of me I couldn't ever find it, so I had another blogger read it, and they couldn't find it either. I digress.

    I love discussing back and forth the most about blogging. Seriously, it is the best thing about being a reader to me. I've found that when I want to discuss the stuff that has spoilers in it or sometimes if I want to reply right away but am not able to get to my actual blog, I'll reply to the comment straight thru email – the email that the commenter uses thru Google. I sometimes have conversations for an entire day or two about a particular book with people thru email and there may be only one comment and response that shows up on the actual blog (everything else is unseen via email). I love this because in going back and forth, you can discuss particulars and not worry about spoilers.

    I agree about the blogger writing back. I have been the worst commenter ever during contemporary month. I've only visited one blog regularly vs. a ton that I normally visit and comment on regularly. I do love it when there are responses. I know the bloggers read all their comments, but if someone takes the time to write to me, I really want to try and write back. The whole point of this was to discuss books. I find myself more and more gravitating toward the other bloggers that are responsive.

    4. I follow a variety of blogs, mostly YA, but a variety. I tend to read everything, including adult, middle grade, and even nonfiction. There are some that are WAY mostly contemps, some that are WAY mostly paranormal/urban fantasy, and one that is even mostly audiobook. I just follow them for different reasons – sometimes because of the personalities of the blogger, or thru the relationship I have with them on Twitter or email, or whatever.

    I have really said a million words here.

  8. I like you're million words! And I agree. I especially like your blog, because you do read a variety of things. Looking back through your previous reviews, I see that I've read many of the same books. Plus I'm glad to hear that bloggers also like to discuss books (and not just hear themselves talk). I like the idea of offline conversations, too.

    I get what you're saying about Literary Reviews. I have no idea what to say about things like pacing and plot devices. But those details don't matter as much to me. As a blogger, do you ever read a book and think "I liked this, or I didn't, but I have no idea what to say about it?" I guess you have certain things you talk about that prevent this occurring? And do you ever get tired of reviewing everything you read? Maybe you love it? I'm challenging myself to write thoughtful reviews of all the books I read, but sometimes I just want to move onto the next one.

    • Yes, sometimes I DO think I like this/I didn't like it but I have no idea what to say about it. If it isn't a review book, I don't usually blog about it. Those usually end up being the ones I love the most and can't find words for: Chaos Walking, American Gods, etc…or Divergent, which I didn't like that as much as everyone else and never wrote about.

      And honestly, I don't review every single thing that I read. I do at least talk about most of the things I read, because at the end of the day, this is my down-time (we've talked about this) but I don't blog about every single book. I don't want to get burned out. I can always blog on the re-read if I want to. Which I may do for Chaos Walking or American God, or maybe I won't. Who knows!

      I will not make it a chore for myself! I will not! I will make sure it is something that I continue to love, or I'll be in deep trouble. Because I do love it so much and this is my outlet of peace at the end of my noisy days!

  9. Length and seeing a bit of the blogger in the reviews are DEFINITELY high on my list as well! And by the way, even if you don't consider your reviewing style to be "literary-minded," I still think they're fabulous! 😀 Very informative and helpful!

    • Thank you Natalie! You're awesome. I love it so much when you get a chance to stop by! I guess I think informative and helpful is better to me than literary-minded, although sometimes being literary-minded would be kind of cool. 🙂

    • Kelly, my early attempts at doing these things are downright embarrassing to me. Seriously. It comes with practice, or it did for me, and I still change things all the time. I think you can start a blog any time you want to!

  10. I'm all about seeing a bloggers personality shine through in the review!
    I usually start out saying how I generally felt about the book since I'm terrible at introductions 😛 Then I include it in the bottom to. Easy finding!
    Sometimes I find it hard to get a balance in my reviews. I try to keep them under 500 words since I personally don't like to read long reviews (nothing against you, of course;]) but I also try to make sure I actually talk about characters and setting and whatnot.

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