Monday, November 17, 2008

What Bugs You In A Review?

Hey, everyone :) I planned on reviewing a book today but I got sidetracked by this hilarious book I'm reading now so, no time! Must get back! Anyway, a topic's been bouncing around my mind lately and I thought I'd use it for today: Is there anything you sometimes see in other people's reviews that rub you the wrong way?

For instance, I hate it when someone condemns a book solely because of profanity, sexuality and sexual orientation, and drug and alcohol usage. Like, I understand some people get uncomfortable with excessive profanity or a lot of drug use or mindless drinking or inconsequential sex - but I can't stand it when someone calls a book smut because of any of those things. Looking For Alaska had all of that and it was one of the best YA books I've read to date.

(Also it helps that none of those things in a book bother me.)

Once I complained a book had too much swearing. That would be Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, and I said it because it made the book quasi-unreadable to me. I thought people should know and in fact, illustrated it in my review and even had some people tell me they couldn't finish reading the review as a result. But I didn't call the book trashy because of it, see.

And that is what annoys me.

So, how about you?


Alea said...

Yeah that is annoying to me too. I guess that's why movies have ratings with specific offending things listed so people know before they go!

Angela said...

I like to see a short synopsis of the book (if it's one that I don't know anything about), but I get annoyed when the majority of the review is synopsis ... especially if it's giving stuff away.

And I like to know WHY the reviewer did or did not like the book. Excessive swearing? Good to know. (I personally don't care for books like that) Too much romance? Good to know. (I probably would like that book because I'm a sucker for a love story) Realistic characters in a world that felt absolutely real? Intriguing twist on a traditional story?

If I don't like a book, I will say why. ie: I didn't like the book because of _____. This way if my reason for not liking the book isn't a problem for someone else, they know.

Lana said...

What really annoys me is when people compare books they didn't like to "trashy romance novels" without ever having read a romance novel. Romance novels are not the worst books ever written. They don't include every vice known to the writing world. A lot of them are absolutely amazing. A lot of them suck. Just like every other genre.

Anonymous said...

haha, we were talking about exactly that yesterday. I actually giggled out loud when I read that second paragraph.

Anyway, I'm usually pretty lenient when it comes to reading reviews, but there are a couple things that bug me.

1) What you mentioned in your post.
2) When someone does like a one-sentence review of the book after posting the synopsis. Make them even-length!!
3) There was actually one reviewer's blog that I saw where she posted a synopsis and a star rating, but no explanation. How can you call yourself a reviewer if you don't even REVIEW the book?

Amee said...

The one thing I hate is when someone calls themself a reviewer but only gives a summary of the books. There needs to be at least one line why you liked or disliked the book. I can get the summary from Amazon. How do people like that manage to keep getting book offers? It puzzles me.

I don't mind the people who condemn a book for profanity, etc. I feel sorry for them and then never visit their blog again. I don't want to read why they think the book should be banned. If it made them uncomfortable, fine, but just say that. Don't say it's a bad book because *you* couldn't handle the content.

anilee said...

Agreed. None of that stuff really bothers me, either, and I totally get that not everyone wants to read it, so I think it should be mentioned, but seriously. Sometimes it serves a purpose. Like I can't imagine Looking For Alaska without all that stuff. But sometimes, it does have no purpose, and that bugs me. It all depends, and I hate when people don't take things like that into account. Not all PG-13s are trashy, and trashy doesn't make a book bad, you know? It just makes it different.

Mainly, I guess that's what bugs me. When it's like people don't seem to understand the book. Like I know people who don't like my favorite book for like one reason, and I want to yell at them because they're completely missing it and that the book would not be as good if that didn't happen.

And like everyone else said, it's annoying when the review barely says anything about the reviewer's opinion. I don't read a review for the summary; I read a review to see if it's worth reading or worth buying or if I should just check the library.

Jen Robinson said...

For me it's spoilers. I don't mind plot synopsis - some is needed to understand what the book is about. But when reviewers give away key plot points, I find that really frustrating. Laini Taylor told me (we did a back and forth discussion at the Kidlitosphere conference) that as an author, that's her biggest pet peeve, too.

Unknown said...

I can't imagine LfA, without that stuff. It is an amazing book and one of my favorites. I hate when people don't say why they gave a book a score and just say the plot. Your a reviewer, I can go to Amazon and get a similar plot outline. Also spoilers, I try not to do that when I review, but if there is no way to not spoil the book... they I don't review it. I just mention it in a blog.

Carolina said...

YAY! You figured out how to add the embedded comment box! :)

Well, what I don't like about some reviews is in some blogs they just give a star rating, but don't write an actual review.

Another thing that bugs me is if they're too long or too short.

Too short: sometimes not enough reasons are stated to why they loved/hated the book.

Too long: sometimes they ramble or spoilers are given out.

Steph said...

Carol - yup! YAY!

And oops, guilty as charged on those super long reviews!


Carolina said...

Yeah, but there's nothing wrong with your reviews; they're just a tiny bit too long (i still like reading them!). But you are good at not giving away spoilers (and if you do, you warn us).

Ruth King said...

Spoilers without spoiler warnings. I read a review of Brisingr that was very non-spoilery for the first three paragraphs, and the final and fourth paragraph gave away EVERYTHING. I haven't picked the book up since, hoping that I'll forget. It hasn't happened yet and it's been almost a month.

Detailed descriptions of things that have nothing to do with the book. It's wonderful that you ran into your favorite high school teacher in the bookstore when you bought this book. Really, it is. And I would be more than happy to read about that experience in a separate post. But I don't need three paragraphs about it when I'm there to read a review. (This is one of those things that is very hit-or-miss with me. A good anecdote is fine, as long as it's brief and relevant. I love finding out how someone discovered a book, or why this book was interesting to them. But when an anecdote is longer than the review, and someone's gallbladder surgery is mentioned, I have to draw the line.)

Anonymous said...

hey reviewer x!

great post, as always! I think that a point of a review is for the reviewer to judge the book. then you formulate YOUR own judgment based on the review or otherwise. Do I want to read it or do I not want to read it? Your a different individual with different preferences...or at least that's what you seem to be to me. And I know who you are hinting in the 2 paragraph, I read it.

With that being said I don't agree with what you say bugs you (that's my OWN opinion) But I do agree with those who said the reviewer gives a little blurb about the book.

^^ this all may seem like I'm being all snarky and stuff but hey what can I say I'm opinionated. And I know this post will get a lot people defensive. But just know that I respect you as a reviewer and I do come to your blog to read your reviews (sooo...yeah)

Anyways :)

Steph said...

Carol - Hahaha I tend to get a little long winded I suppose. :) Thanks, though!

Ruth - HAHAHA seriously? THREE PARAGRAPHS?? Wow ahaha.

Anonymous - Hey! Actually, I have several reviews in mind when I say this, not just one. It's a cumulative annoyance. Then again, I'm very liberal about this sorta thing. I guess because that's how I was raised. It's a very personal thing, I suppose, how open minded you are about "taboo subjects" but I still *hate* seeing books getting knocked for those reasons alone. But that's just me :)

That said, I don't think many will get so defensive! (Especially not me. Hell, I live for disagreement.) Feel free to post your opinion (respectfully to all those involved) here without fear of retribution or anything. It's a spot to be opinionated - make use of it! :)

Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoy my blog, however you may disagree with me on some points (which is awesome, anyhow!).


Reader Rabbit said...

I totally agree with you there Steph ;)

I hate it when people judge books soley for the content. (eg: swearing like you mentioned)

It also irks me when the reviewer has no opinion. Why are they reviewing if they have no opinion =_=?

Oh well. I just don't read those reviews ;)

Mrs. Magoo said...

Nothing really bothers me when a reviewer talks about what he/she thinks about a book, even if I completely disagree with them, because aren't blogs supposed to be for people to express their personal opinion?

I do get annoyed, though, when a review contains spoilers.

Jacqui said...

I agree about dismissing something just because of profanity, etc. In fact, I tend to disregard reviews that make sweeping "this is no good" statements at all.

Also, I get annoyed when a review seems more like it's written to make the reviewer sound smart than to tell us anything about the book.

Vanessa ( said...

I dislike when reviewers say that they "couldn't put the book down" for like every book they review. Sometimes I catch myself typing it and erase it because it's only a very small number of books that that actually can be said and is true.

Anonymous said...

Steph- It's not just you. I think the same way, as you know, lol.

Mrs. Magoo- While I do think that blogs are for a person's own opinion and they're free to write that, I think that for a reviewer blog (in which you do get free review copies as opposed to just talking about books you own or borrow from the library), you need to be more mature about the stuff you review and not dismiss something as horrible just because it has some swearing and sexual content in it.

In my opinion, I think that if you're going to be easily offended by those sorts of things, which are rampant in teen literature, then you should either not be a reviewer or do a lot of research on books that are offered to you and books that you want to receive.

Vanessa- lol, I'm probably guilty of that a lot of the time.

Khy said...

I don't like it when people do those "with ___ and ___, -title of book- is sure to ____ readers." things. They are so annoying grr.

Steph said...

Sophie - what Book Chic said. It's one thing to share your opinion on a book and another entirely to be like, "Sex is WRONG", "Swearing is WRONG", "Being gay is WRONG", "Drinking is WRONG", etc. My point of view is, if you read a fiction book about a serial killer, you're not reading it to gain morality, you're reading it for entertainment. Hopefully you're not aspiring to turn into one yourself after that. In which case, a reviewer who says "Killing is WRONG" becomes a bit redundant. Readers are smart - they can figure out their values for themselves. (And yes, having sex and being gay et al isn't illegal like killing, but you catch my drift?)

I'm all for the freedom of speech. Say whatever you want to on your blog. But a review is not political propaganda - in my opinion, there should be some diplomacy on that front.

That's all. :)


Leigh Purtill said...

Are no authors weighing in? Well, I will!

I read a TON of book reviews all over the web and in print. And as both a reader and writer, I definitely want to hear the reviewer's opinion but with context. If a reviewer doesn't like sci-fi and he/she is reviewing a sci-fi book, tell us that. And give me specifics please about why you couldn't put that book down: pacing, plot, dialogue, etc. That may not be what I look for in a book or what will drive me to pick it up in the first place.

Even if it's the worst book you've ever read, I want to know why. That may be the exact thing I enjoy in a book!

Thanks for letting me put my .02 in. :)

Mrs. Magoo said...

Book Chic/Steph: I agree with you, in that if a reviewer is getting free books, he/she should at least be able to put together a semi-intelligent review, and not simply dismiss a book because of profanity, conflicting political views, etc.

I just meant that I am not bothered if a reviewer has a different view of a book than I do- maybe I should have inserted "as long as there is an understandable reasoning behind the opinion"? =D

Anonymous said...

AMEN Mrs. Magoo!

Mrs. Magoo said...

Thank you to whoever anonymous is... you just brightened up my day! ;)

Lana said...


I agree with you to the extent that IF it's a free book, the reviewer owes a duty to the publisher to put together a more detailed review. And it's really in your best interests or the publisher probably won't send you any more.

At the same time, I don't think having a review blog necessarily means that you are getting free books. I blog about all the books I read - bought, from the library, and the occasional ARC I finagle. But the vast majority is definitely stuff that I've picked up on my own. So I guess I'm not sure how you would distinguish 'reviewer' blogs from 'not-reviewer' blogs based solely on reading them?

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Magoo- I agree with that. I have no problem with someone disagreeing with me and having a different view of a book, but to dismiss it because it has content that you don't like is not what you should be doing. That's all I (and probably Steph) was saying.

Lana- In my comment, I was specifically talking about one review site that I know is getting at least a couple free books as they reviewed them before they were officially released. So that's how I know they were getting free books- otherwise, you wouldn't know, in which case I'm not gonna condemn someone if they're just reviewing books they bought or borrowed from the library.

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph