Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What is a Good Book Review?

Pete Hautman, one of my favourite authors, has a quick blog post about a review of his book How To Steal a Car, and he talks briefly about what makes a good review...and a bad review. He says these two things in particular about the review that caught my attention:

"Even “good” reviews can be maddening when the writer fails to “get” the book. Or rather, when my book has failed to have the desired impact"

and it is: "more of a commentary and analysis, really"

What is interesting about the review at Daughter Number Three, is that she approaches How To Steal a Car through her own experience. She pulls in books she's read, and she sounds like she is either a mother or educator of teens. Her review is more analytical than "feeling-tone". And it is unique. I got a sense of this woman and also the book. Which I also like to see in a review.

When I started this blog my reviews were brief and clipped; I was just getting to know my own reviewer voice. Now I love sitting down to talk about a book I've read. It always comes from a breaking-down-the-parts wish of mine to showcase a book rather than dismiss it as either good or bad. I want to share my experience of reading a book. For that reason I eschew the rating-star system, because when I see a rating on other blogs and the book has 2 stars, I dismiss it. And I hate that I dismiss it.

I guess I just want to know exactly what you love and hate about a book review on a blog. Do you want to hear more of an analysis of its parts? Do you just want to know if the reviewer liked the book or not? What do you look for in a book review? What do reviews DO for you?




Tales of Whimsy said...

Cool post ;)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I want to know if the reviewer did or did not like it and why or why not? Recommend or not? MG/YA/Adult?

Good post! :)

Donna Gambale said...

I like a fair, balanced review. No book is perfect, but I want to know why a book spoke to the reader -- or didn't. In my own reviews, I don't include negatives (karmic writerly thing, but I say this in advance), so I just point out the strengths that make the book worth reading. I like to review as a writer -- characterization, pacing, world building, etc -- and not just as a reader. But I LOVE books that make me stop reading like a writer for once! I love the co-reviews Frankie and I do at First Novels Club -- they feel more natural to me because they're conversational.

Unknown said...

Usually I'm not picky about bloggers book reviews. I don't like spoilers because I want to be able to read and enjoy the book myself. But if the reviewer didn't like the book, I want to why so if I decide to pick up the book, I can watch out. I think there should be good reviews and bad reviews because there are good book and terrible books out there.

yuan said...

Lemme see... I am a big fan of long, detailed reviews that points out both the strengths and weakness of the story, personally. Also, comedic reviews of bad books make me laugh as well. =D Andddd I'm finding that I'm preferring reviews that provide some sort of quote from the novel itself.

Unknown said...

It takes some time to settle into a review style, I think. I'm coming up on one year of reviewing books on my blog and I'm still searching a bit. I'm certain I've said this before, but I'll say it again ;) If I like a book, the review tends to be shorter, especially now as I've started to worry that I gush too much. If I don't like the book I tend to write a longer review as I try to figure out what went wrong for me.

I hate doing negative reviews; luckily I've yet to come across a book that has nothing good about it at all! Well, one that I finish, anyways...

The reviews I like to read tend to be short on synopsis (a paragraph or two at the most) and long on analysis. I like a good thoughtful post; and as long as the writing is engaging, it can be as long or short as the blogger needs it to be.

I think I've mentioned to you before, too, that I like how you often incorporate the author's words or ideas into the review, even without doing a full interview. I think it adds an interesting dimension to your reviews.

Daughter Number Three said...

If I'm looking for something to read, I mostly want to know if the reviewer liked the book or not, and why. For fiction, I tend to not want a lot of detail from the book because I want to have my own reaction to the text. Nonfiction can have more details; possibly the more details the better.

If I've already read the book, however, I definitely like more analysis and discussion. So I am a difficult audience for a reviewer -- I don't read fiction reviews in detail until I've read the book.

In writing my own post about How to Steal a Car, I wasn't necessarily thinking of it as a review, but more of a loosely structured essay connecting the novel and current thinking on teen brain development as discussed in Po Bronson's Nurture Shock (a great book that is fun to read).

I was aware that I was putting in spoilers without warning, but I couldn't help myself (kind of like Hautman's car stealer Kelleigh!).

Mandy (Edge of Seventeen) said...

Wow! Thank you to everyone for the feedback. Very helpful. And thanks for the visit Daughter Number Three, and for your response.


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