What Makes a Good Review? Let’s Bungle in the Jungle!

The Lovely Lisa of Silently Correcting Your Grammar had a very timely and to-the-point post the other day called Bully Pulpit, in which she reminded us that reader/reviewers need to act like sane adults and behave themselves, just as authors are expected to.

I personally read A LOT…by my count, probably over a hundred books over the past year (I read extremely fast, and usually have two or three going at any given time) and I try to rate, if not review, each one.  Right now, my review rate is around 50%, either because I genuinely didn’t have time, I don’t have anything new to add, because my feelings about the book are so vanilla that I don’t want to bother, or maybe I figured my (extremely rare) 5-star rating stood for itself.

So as I sit down and stare at a blank text box, trying to formulate a readable, informative, yet honest review, what goes through my mind?  First off, did I OMGLOVE it, or OMGHATE it?  Because that’s an automatic 5-star or 1-star rating right there.  I very rarely do either.  Usually, any book I do not finish (DNF) gets a one-star, and I do try to explain why I couldn’t force my eyeballs to read another word on my poor Kindle.  Not because I hate the author (I can count on one hand how many authors I’ve met personally, and on two hands how many I’m truly friendly with online), but because OMG HONEY NO.  GET THEE TO AN EDITOR STAT.  Or whatever the problem happens to be.

Next, I try to be concise and useful to potential readers (and to an extent, the author if they’re lurking).  I never bother with rehashing the blurb which is about three clickity-clicks above where my review will end up.  Then I get down to it.

I’m a sincere believer in the Oreo Cookie method, so unless a book is really THAT BAD, I try to start off with something positive or neutral.  Then I explain (usually with bullet points or numbers) exactly why I enjoyed or did not enjoy any given book.  If there are typos or other spelling/grammatical/formatting/factual errors, I mention those immediately, since they are a personal pet peeve and ought to be corrected ASAP.  If the characters and/or the plot was/were unlikeable, I say so (I personally can handle either/or, but unlikeable characters AND plot kill it dead for me).

Then, for the last layer of the Oreo Cookie, I do try to say something nice.  Maybe it had potential, maybe it could improve exponentially with the help of a good honest editor.  Maybe I regret that I had to leave such a rough review, but I wish the author well in their future endeavors.

Wow, so Kate pretty much leaves two-star reviews for everything, can we ban her from NetGalley now?”  Honestly, I genuinely like the majority of the books I read, but much like bad dates, the awful ones stand out in my mind!  So when I read a book I love, I still might mention a sticking point or two (such as unresolved plot points) but I don’t gush and squeal and do the *insert sparklepony gif here* thing.  I outline all the things I loved…twists, the author forcing me to admit I loved loathsome characters, me howling/crying/dropping my Kindle in shock at the end.  And I sincerely hope my genuine admiration for the author’s work comes across through that.

As I mentioned in my reply to Lisa’s post, the Amazon review-jungle* is a scary scary place, and Goodreads can also be for different reasons.  Lest you think I sneer at “sparklepony gifs,” some of those reviews are quite clever and have given me endless amusement.  Is that what we want, though, from reviews?  As authors AND as readers?  Let me know in the comments, and PLEASE feel free to disagree with anything I’ve said…thoughtful discussion is always welcome!!!

-Kate

*I swear by all that is authorly, as I was writing this post, my iPod randomly shuffled up Bungle in the Jungle by Jethro Tull.  The line “He who made kittens put snakes in the grass” seemed especially appropriate there.  😀

 

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  1. HollettLA

    My BFF calls it the “sandwich” approach, but yes, the premise is the same. Good on the outsides and critical info in the middle. Thanks for the link and now I have to figure out how to do the same. Gee, thanks. 😉

    But you’re so right. Thoughtful, honest reviews are the key to everything.

    I envy you all the books you’ve read. Gah! I’ve been trying to make it through one all week. Life, man.

    xo,
    Lisa

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    • Kate and Britt

      Oooooooh, does that mean I get to make requests??? I’ll go dig through your archives, but I’d love to see an “each others/others’/other’s” post because yours truly has been a horrendous offender!!!!! Off to dig dig dig now!!!! -xo Kate

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  2. rachelcarrera

    It’s funny you should post this because just the other day I was thinking that as soon as I’m done with the poetry month stuff, I wanted to touch on this very thing as well. I like your candor and your approach. Even if I don’t care for the story, I can always find SOMETHING nice to say in the “Oreo method.” (Though naming it after an Oreo may imply the beginning and end are not as good, and the middle is better – but I guess that’s only if your favorite part is the filling. LOL!) This was a great post! 😀

    I have a question for you ladies… I have just been invited to participate in a Blog Tour. It consists of creating a post, answering four questions, and then asking three other bloggers to participate. I wondered if you might be interested in being one of my three? The four questions are very good, and they give you the opportunity to talk about yourself and your writing, what you are working on, your genre, why you write, and your process. So, I would like to extend an invitation to you. I you would be interested, please let me know if and I will give you more of the details. Thank you! 😀 (Plus it would be a good follow-up to your interview which will be published soon.) If you are willing, I’ll email you the questions and instructions.

    -Rachel

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