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Reading reviews

We've been discussing reviews over at debut2009, which has got me wondering how readers feel about reviews.

Do you read reviews (at actual review sources--like Publishers Weekly or School Library Journal, or those posted by fellow readers at Amazon or GoodReads--not just a friend talking about a book in their blog, which I'd consider more word-of-mouth than review) when you're deciding whether or not to pick up a book? How much do they influence your decision? What sorts of things do you look for in the reviews?

I quite frequently consult Amazon and/or GoodReads when I hear about a book from a source I'm not completely sure has the same tastes as me. (This is my way of keeping my to-read list of getting completely out of control. If I added every book I heard anyone say something good about to it, it would take me a year just to scroll through it!) More often Amazon, as they usually have "official" reviews posted along with the reader reviews.

When I'm reading the reviews, I look for two things. Mostly, I skim the good stuff and look for the criticisms. People tend to be much more specific about what they didn't like about a book than what they did. Every book has flaws. Does this book have one that's a particular peeve of mine, or makes it likely that I won't be able to get into it? Or are they things I don't really mind, or may actually see as a point in the book's favor? Everyone has different tastes, and I know I'm much more likely to enjoy a book that people say has amazing characters but a slow plot than a book with cardboard characters and a plot that just zips along.

I also sometimes have some idea that I might not like a book, based on the book description or other comments I've heard about it, for one reason or another. Maybe it sounds derivative of other books I've read, for example. When I'm skimming the reviews, I also look for indications that these potential problems are not actually there--e.g., if people are saying what a unique take it is on the idea.

I don't give every review the same weight. I trust the professional reviewers more than the average reader (though not completely). I trust a well-articulated and thoughtful review much more than a hasty, grammatically-challenged one. And it's also about numbers--the more often I see the same complaint, the more likely I am to believe it's a real problem and not just a matter of someone's taste.

And like I said, this is assuming I've only heard about the book otherwise from people whose tastes I don't know that well. If several trusted friends say great things about a book, I don't even bother checking reviews.

How about you?


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 9th, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
I usually browse all sorts of sources when I hear about a book, especially not that I'm really developing my taste in urban fantasy ETC.

I hope people read reviews and consider them or I'm out of a job XD
Jan. 9th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
Yukiko! (sorry Persona 4 has taken over my gaming life)

Tales of Vesperia formally ruled my life
Jan. 13th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
Yes, I find reviews particularly helpful when I'm starting to get into a particular genre--or even a particular author, to figure out which books I'd want to start with. :)
Jan. 9th, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, you know when I read reviews?? After I've read a book and I hated it. I seek out reviews then, because I want to find out if I'm crazy, or if other people think the book sucked, too.:D
Jan. 9th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
Me too!

And I sometimes read reviews written by friends to get book recs.

And now and then I just enjoy reading an intelligent and fairly balanced reviewer totally shred a book she hated, usually the type of book I've never read or will read and therefore feel justified in not reading. That is why I like Reviewer X... though if she ever shreds a book of mine I will no doubt curl up in a corner and cry. :)
Jan. 13th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
I totally do this, too! It makes me feel so much better if at least a few other people had the exact same problems I did. Especially if it's a really popular book and I was going, what is wrong with me that I don't like this? LOL.
Jan. 9th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
On amazon, I'll read the four star reviews and the one star reviews. I try to pick out items that I care about. For example, if a critical review mentions cardboard cutout characters or an anti-climactic ending, I will consider that, since those are things I dislike. However I never take any review to heart until I've read the book. James Fray, who wrote a Million Little Pieces recently came out with a book called Bright Shiny Morning. There was a lot of discussion, and a lot of the negative reviews came from people who hadn't read the book, or their reasoning for disliking the book made no sense to me. I bought it, and it was one of my favourites.
Jan. 13th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, if a book sounds interesting enough to me, I'll put it up regardless of what other people say. You never know! It's all about taste. :)
Jan. 9th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
I look at the Amazon reviews, but only really glance at them to see the reactions. normally speaking I will buy a book regardless of how many negative or positive reviews its gotten

the one and only exception to this is the meta essay books I obsessindulge in when I have a job and money. Some of those get pricey at $30 and more (they are technically academic books) so I can't just spend that sort of money willynilly and hope I enjoy the book.

I sometimes read the reviews in Time or Publishers Weekly, but more often then not they aren't really talking about what I care about in a book so they don't help me.
Jan. 13th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
I would rather be in a position where I could pick up any book that sounded interesting regardless of reviews... but even with narrowing it down by books I've seen people rec that also have decent reviews on Amazon and sound like my kind of thing... I have at least 50 books here in the apartment that I haven't read yet but want to, plus at least 150 more on my to-read list, and I'm adding to that all the time. (Hi, my name is Megan, and I am a book addict.) Since I only read about 100 books a year... I've got to narrow them down somehow, in the hopes that I'll have a better chance to liking the ones I do have time for.
Jan. 13th, 2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
(Hi Megan, my new is Lexie and I'm a Book Addict to.) For a book challenge I actually went through my books (that are out on my shelves at least) and thought 'I'll just list however many books I haven't read yet, surely it will reach at least 50! 100 is an awful lot to not have read!' and then I get the list done and its somewhere around 178! To be fair I have a lot of series that I started, decided I liked and won't continue until I have at least another 5 books and/or the complete series.

But I was astounded. Now when I get giftcards or have some spare cash I try to only buy books to continue series or finish them off. Though if I'm at the thrift store its hard to say no to a book that looks interesting and only costs like $1 or less...
Jan. 9th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
I've checked out Amazon reviews a couple of times, but I usually turn to friends' opinions first. I like those who are specific (and I'll push, if they've been vague in an online review) -- and that tells me what I need to know (generally speaking).

Sometimes, though, you just don't know. One of my friends read a book recently and told me she thought I wouldn't like it. Her reasons for that were valid (and things I'd actually said to her before about other books) -- but I ended up loving the book. There were aspects to it which touched me in unexpected ways...so I don't always give a lot of weight to reviews. :)
Jan. 13th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, you never know for sure until you read it! And I've found that I have friends who love many of the same books I do, but will love one book that I'll pick up and just find so-so. I definitely prefer friends' opinions over Amazon, but I see a lot of one-off recs on message boards and stuff, from people I don't really know, and in those cases I like to see what others have said on Amazon first.

Edited at 2009-01-13 02:41 pm (UTC)
Jan. 11th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
Hmm... generally, I just read reviews to learn more about the book. Many times, I hear about books on fellow reviewer blogs and go "hmm..that looks good!" then look it up on Amazon. It intrigues me when people are talking about a book, whether it's good or bad, and that makes me want to pick the book up.
Jan. 13th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I do that to--hear about a book and then look it up on Amazon to see what it's all about. And as a writer I feel I need to check out any book lots of people are talking about, especially in my genre, whether their saying good things or bad. Market research! ;)
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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