How Do You Review?

I have reached a point in my reading life where I do not read books I am not enjoying. I do not see the point in wasting time on a book if you aren’t enjoying the experience of reading it. I adore classics and modern classics, but not all of them are to my taste,  I found the Hobbit tremendously dull. I respect the talent of J. R. R. Tolkien, however, I have no time for his prose. I often find him on ‘must read’ lists, but if you are reading a book purely because it looks good to have read it you’ve missed the point – read for yourself not others.

As I no longer read books that I struggle through it is rare to find me rating book harshly on GoodReads or giving it a less than respectful review here. I know some visitors dislike a blog that has consistently positive reviews, but as I am reading what I am enjoying I am not going to find things to complain about for the sake of entertainment. I often try to balance my reviews, yet, if I love a book I want to share that feeling over any need for objectivity.

My reviews could probably be described as part technical discussion and part a discussion on how it has made me feel or think, percentage dependant on the subject or genre. There are no clear rules that I can see that I may template my analysis to. (If you have noticed a pattern, I would be interested to know.)

To get to the point, I am wondering how you review. What do you think about as you are reading? Do make notes? Do you have a template for discussion, or does it just flow from you? If you review ARCs how long do you make the review, do you include any spoilers? If you are reviewing published novels, do you think spoilers matter? Do you widen the discussion to talk about themes in the novel? Do you chat about how feminist/sexists/racist a novel may be?

Tell me your secrets!

20 thoughts on “How Do You Review?

  1. I try to make notes when I’m reading — I have a very good little notebook for writing down review notes in, if I can get to it easily while I’m reading a given book. I do include spoilers, whether or not I received a book for review (but I mark them, and I don’t review books before they come out). I love talking about gender and race and class themes in books, if it comes up!

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    1. I think spoilers are fine the way you do them – because I’m warned and also because you wait for a book to be published so you not doing an evil spoiler type of thing.

      I tend to note in the book I’m reading, I’m too useless to keep up with a notebook.

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  2. I tried reviewing all the books I read but sadly failed. I reviewed books that I feel like reviewing; the books that I have lot to say. But I always leave brief reviews. I tried not to include any spoilers regardless if it’s an Arc or not.

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    1. I don’t review every book I read either, I’m like you, it gets reviewed if I feel I have something to say. I think if I reviewed every book the quality of review here would plummet.

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  3. I think the whole positive-only review ‘issue’ generally occurs when it’s obvious the reviews are written positively just to please. If you’re giving good marks because those are the books you finished, fair dos 🙂 I got through The Hobbit but the first LOTR… well I’ve the other two but I don’t know if I’ll get to them. Same reason as you’ve said here.

    I make notes if I remember (easier when it’s a bad book), and I guess I work to a semi-template – I let the words flow but I like to begin and end in a certain way. I try not to include spoilers but as my posts are often veer towards discussions I don’t always manage it.

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    1. I don’t know about you, but it depends on the themes as to the spoilers I include – similar to how your discussion may move into spoiler territory I suppose.

      I agree, it is far easier to note when the book is bad than when it is good.

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  4. I just spill my guts. I don’t take notes unless a note pops out at me, like something I either LOVE or absolutely can’t stand, or a quote I want to mention.

    I think you can review whatever you want to review – good books, bad books. . . I review a lot of books but if I don’t want to review a book, I also will skip it. I don’t ever want to feel like I HAVE to do something. I’m not being paid, so reviewing something I don’t want to review is just not worth it.

    Although I do have a personal thought that I do not have the right to review on my blog a book that I did not finish. I can say I didn’t like it, and talk about it, but if I didn’t give the book the full change (aka finish it) then it’s not fair, in my opinion, to broadcast that I disliked it. I might mention XYZ book was a DNF but I won’t review it.

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    1. Reviewing every book you read would be exhausting, I agree that there should be no pressure to review a book you just don’t fancy talking about.

      Interesting thought about not reviewing books you haven’t read to completion. I’ve only done it once, but after that it felt a little pointless – also, there wasn’t much to say other than ‘this wasn’t for me.’

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  5. I agree with Charlie – the main thing is honesty. If reviews feel like publicity, that turns people off, but yours never do. They feel honest. I think most of us write more positive than negative reviews – you tend to write about things you’ve liked and want to share with people. My reviews usually end up with some balance of positive and negative points, but more tilted towards positive.

    I don’t really take notes – I prefer to enjoy the reading experience, and then flick back through afterwards and start looking for patterns and themes to mention in my review.

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    1. Thanks, Andrew – very pleased I’ve not sounded like I’m advertising anything 🙂

      I like your reviews, they always seem fair and cover different aspects inc, style etc… I think being a writer yourself gives a nice edge to what you’re writing. I always come away trusting your opinion.

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  6. I will not ever be a professional book reviewer, that’s for sure. I see no point in tearing down a book (or any piece of media or art) I didn’t enjoy. My reasoning is that if I’ve never successfully created and finished (and published) something like that myself, who the hell am I to judge the effort the author or artist made?

    I’m only ever going to write about the books I loved or the books that at least made me think. I like including an excerpt or two that stood out, discussing themes, etc. I have mixed feelings about spoilers. For some, reviews are about getting good recommendations for books they haven’t yet read, but for others, it’s about reading what other people have said about the book you just finished. So as a book reviewer, you (the general “you,” haha) have to think about who you want to cater to and the role you want to serve when writing reviews. Do you want to be the friend who people come to for great recommendations? Or do you want to be the book club group leader and discuss the revealing details of the plot? I personally would rather be the former in general. And then geek out about the book when someone says, “Oh, I’ve read that! IT’S SO GOOD.”

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    1. I agree being bitchy for the sake of it isn’t fair at all – but I do think you can judge a work of literature, music, art etc… even if you haven’t created one yourself. I think you can have opinions on grammar, form, writing style, eloquence etc… without having published a book. After all, there are some pretty dire books out there.

      Haha, I think I would like to be a mix of the former and the latter, someone who enthuses about a book but can also discuss it critically. That’s the dream anyway.

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  7. That is the right way to do it. Read for yourself not for anyone else (unless like, you have to for school or work haha). I still am caught in the bubble of having to finish books I start, and it’s annoying when you’re reading something you don’t like. It’s silly. xD

    I don’t really do reviews, because it makes me nervous. xD I want to try and write more ‘opinions’ about the books I have read, but I don’t know if I would share them. 😛

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  8. I have a little notebook that I jot down notes and ideas, which I use for every ARC. Sometimes with a non-ARC I’ll pick it up part of the way through the book if I feel like I could write a review for it. And other times I’ll rush through a book (note taking is a bit of a disturbance actually) and write the review or notes straight after =D

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    1. Yeah, I can’t note about a book unless it’s within the book I am reading, it distracts me. I like the idea of an ARC notebook, keeps it all organised for when you come to write the review.

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  9. I sometimes make notes, but not always. I find that there is a better chance for me to review a book if it really made me think, whether I liked the book or not. If I liked a book, but forgot about it in two days, I may never write the review.

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