Ratings and Reviews Part 2 - The Role of Reviews
Last week I talked about the reality of ratings and why I feel that ratings should not be the only measure of a book's quality. Today I want to discuss the important role that reviews play.
Reviews, like ratings, are subjective. Every reader reads a book through their own personal lens so that is something that will never change. But unlike ratings, reviews allow for a reader to explain what he or she felt about a book and why.
This facet is one of the great things about reviews. Someone with no knowledge of a novel can read another person's thoughts on it, and depending on the reviewer, in various amounts of detail. In fact, they can get on something like Goodreads or search book blogs and read many different views on the same book. When I'm considering whether or not to give a novel a try, I often search reviews to get the good and the bad. This also allows me to get a better sense of the book and find out if it is really something I want to read.
But are all reviews equal? Not exactly. While everyone is entitled to an opinion, sometimes you may question a reviewer's sanity over certain claims. I know I have. But again, all reviews are subjective and that is something to keep in mind. I usually try to read reviews by people I know have similar reading tastes to mine. That means not just reading an odd review here and there, but actually figuring out whose reviews you trust.
Now the question is, what makes up a decent review? For me, statements like "This book is awesome!" or "This book is awful!" are not reviews. A review may have these sentiments in it, but the focus is more on the why. Why is the book great? Why is it terrible? Whether or not I agree with a reviewer, I appreciate when a reader takes the time to explain his or her thoughts on a novel.
The downside of such explanations is they can get long. It takes time to read through an extensive review of a novel, let alone several. I have been known to get long-winded in reviews, but I try to keep mine reasonable. A lot of times, especially if a review is lengthy, I skim for the information I am most interested it in, whether it is about the plot, the characters, or the writing itself. This is where ratings can be helpful. If you typically agree with a certain reviewer, you can use you his or her rating as a signpost. Still, I prefer both a review and a rating.
What do you think? Do you utilize reviews or think they are important? What do you think should be included in a review? Do you have any reviewer dos or donts? Let me know in the comments!
And don't forget to check back for Part 3 of Tell Me What You REALLY Think: Ratings and Reviews for a look at how I utilize and write reviews.