One of the big ideas I had for the Lowdown posts from the beginning was the question of which kind of reviews are better. We’ve all seen the big mix of reviews out there and how vastly they differ from each other. There’s the rant style where someone is tearing apart the author, the book, and anything else within reach. Then there’s the glowing, almost on the border of unhelpful reviews. The ones just stated are still tip of the iceberg as far as descriptions go, but the concept is there. The question is what kind of review is best either for those starting to review themselves or looking for reviews in general. We all need and want them so what makes one better than the other?
To begin with, I think I’m still at the beginning stages of reviewing myself. I’ve stuck to my 2019 goal to review all the books I read, which is continuing into 2020, but there was a period of time where I fell really far behind. This unfortunately meant that there were some details when I was reading that didn’t make it into the review even though I swore up and down to myself that that would be a wonderful point to make. Trust me, I’m kicking myself for that one. Other than that, I’ve made sure I tell more than just hate it, or love it, which is at the center of that argument. We’ve all groaned when looking for reviews on a book, and only found hate it or love it. I know Goodreads encourages people to review books, even if it’s only a few words, but there is a point where we need at least a few reviews telling us the good or the bad.
While I titled this harsh vs nice, it’s a little more complicated than just that. The first element to a helpful review comes with the notion of what does it tell us. If a review can’t tell me what they liked so much or hated so much about the book, I can’t really form an opinion. It’s like telling someone you don’t like another person. Your first question is ‘why’? You don’t just go and agree with them typically. Reviews are the same, it needs to give some reasoning or logic, otherwise I’m just going, ‘well that’s nice’ and moving on. Once that information is there, then it comes down to harsh vs. nice.
So, harsh or nice? I like a good in between overall. I’m very hesitant to go out and tear apart a book, even when I feel it’s warranted. I’ve read some books where I couldn’t finish, or suffered to finish, and still didn’t full on rant (or did and have no idea). It’s a personal preference, but I just don’t feel good throwing that under an author’s name on Goodreads. If you do end up posting a rant review, please don’t go and @ the author or really push it their way. You didn’t like the book, that’s alright, but they’re still people, and that stuff hurts.
On the flip side, writing nice and friendly reviews. These are the ones that sound like they want to be friends with the author, and only have good things to say. I have written these, and I’m not apologizing for it. We’ve all read a book and fell in love with a novel at some point, it’s likely why you are on my blog in the first place. These are the books we all covet, and show off on our shelves. It’s also a little unhelpful if someone wants to know if there are any things that might turn them off. It’s the old ‘to each their own’ concept. While I might love Sarah J Maas’ world of faerie, or Cassandra Clare’s shadow hunters, there are some things in each series that others cannot tolerate. They want to know what negatives are there, if any, and to be fair no book is flawless. Even Lord of the Rings has a big flaw, it’s got the Fantasy slow start.
So, what kind of reviews should I write then? The easy answer is write what you want. Total cop out, yes, but it’s true. If you loved the book, shout it to anyone who’ll listen. If you hated the book, post that review and rating, let people know it wasn’t your favorite out there. For me, it really is about keeping a good in between. Some of my favorite reviews I’ve written point out the awesome points in a book, and let people know what might be some detractors that affected the rating. It’s often what makes a book a four star versus a five star book. That leaves the question; what do you look for in a good review? What do find helpful versus not? Let me know in the comments below!