Bookish Chat About: When Is A Review Not A Review?….

I’m dashing out this little impromptu blog post in response to one of my own tweets that I put out there this morning.

Here it is:

I’ve just got in from a very snow filled day at work and I’m freezing my breasticles off but I think I just need to get a few thoughts out of my head and onto a blog post. (If my poor frozen icicle like digits will cooperate with my typing!).

So……deep breath….

What I consider to be a decent review (in my humble book blogger opinion) may not be what YOU consider to be a decent review. I appreciate we are all different in how we read our books and compose our reviews. Some of us write copious notes, I personally don’t.

I’m loathe to soft soap it and trot out the anodyne phrase ‘there’s no right or wrong way’ when it comes to reviewing a book even though by and large that’s correct. What I’m saying is I think there is a line of what is acceptable, (again in my opinion!) and I have seen quite a few reviews over the past few months from many and varied bloggers which, if I was an author or a publicist I would be disappointed with.

I don’t think that a copy and pasted blurb plus a sentence or two constitutes a full review. I just don’t. It’s even more galling when the book being reviewed is a high profile, much sought after book that myriad other bloggers would ADORE a copy of. Bloggers who would take the time to read it and compose a fully rounded, detailed review.

I see reviews that contain the barest of bare minimum and which could have come directly from Amazon or from snatches of other people’s reviews.

I consider this unfair on the author and a kick in the proverbials for any hard working publicist.

We all review differently and there are times we write posts which wang on and on about a book (particularly if we’ve adored it) and times we find it difficult to assimilate our thoughts or are tied down to how much we can reveal spoiler wise. I would still argue though that even in the worst possible case of ‘ALL THE WORDS HAVE DROPPED OUT OF MY HEAD ITIS’ you could still write more than 3 sentences.

I don’t think there is a direct correlation between the length of a review and the quality of a review. I don’t think there’s a line graph plotting that in any GCSE maths revision book. BUT I think if all you’ve got is literally 2 or 3 sentences then they better be the best, most stunning, erudite, learned musings worthy of some kind of philosophical prize to be acceptable as a review.

What I’m saying is there is a level.

I would say my own reviews are of average length. I personally don’t enjoy reading reviews which are too wordy so I don’t write them either. Nor do I dash off one or two sentences and think ‘that’ll do’.

I think there is a fine balance to be struck. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I feel like I have NO DISCERNIBLE GRASP OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE and really struggle to put my thoughts down. In these cases I step away from the review and revisit it when inspiration strikes…..usually after a few too many coffees and the caffeine hit makes me feel like I could wrestle a bear.

In summing up (because my tea is nearly ready, sausage and mash, thanks for asking) my tweet this morning was not in any way shape or form a direct attack on one person. In fact, it wasn’t even an ‘attack’. If you know me AT ALL you will know I’m a lover not a fighter kids!

I think it’s an interesting subject and has prompted a few thought provoking little exchanges today.

What are your thoughts?…..what constitutes a good review in your eyes?

Should also just say I’m in no way tooting my own horn with this post. You guys know that I often post on Twitter that I can’t find the words for a review or I feel like an imposter. I think my reviews are ok. I would hope they aren’t disappointing to the reader, the author or the publisher but who knows!?

Anyway, peace out. I’m off for my bangers and mash.

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat. Xxx

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47 thoughts on “Bookish Chat About: When Is A Review Not A Review?….

  1. Totally agree. It can be a struggle, but you need to find something unique to say or why bother. I seldom reuse the blurb because I find that my own summary of the book is generally the best springboard for my assessment of it. The blurb can be a good guide eg if it reveals a key plot point I might be more willing to discuss it but it is a poor master.

    Thanks for this post, it’s made me think!

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    1. I don’t use blurbs in my reviews either but I see plenty of great reviewers who do, and then go on to give a full detailed review.

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  2. I somewhat frequently see “reviews” that are basically plot summary. Some of them are quite long…but they’re really just the blogger listing stuff that happens in the book. There might be a couple of insertions of “This is so cool!” or something equally bland. I don’t follow people who post these types of reviews because it’s, frankly, not interesting.

    However, having taught writing at the college level and having read hundreds of paper at this point, I think a significant amount of people legitimately do not realize they are just summarizing and honestly think they’re making some kind of argument or point about the text. In academia, it’s really hard to get people to even realize they’re summarizing in the first place, then try to explain to them that analysis is different, then get them to actually analyze something. My experience leads me to assume people who just write 500 word summaries of the books actually do think they’re reviewing.

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    1. Oh absolutely this could be the case but I do think there are also reviewers out there that are getting away with the bare minimum in order to just bag themselves some free advance proofs 🤷‍♀️

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      1. I’d agree with that, too. There are some people whose reviews are so short and so generic I think it’s fair to wonder if they even read the book at all or just fake-reviewed after reading a bunch of Goodreads reviews to get a general feel for whether most people liked it and why. Though why you would want a bunch of free ARCs you’re not actually reading is beyond me. I guess the thrill of collecting free stuff just because it’s free is too much for some people.

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  3. I completely agree. 3 lines does not a review make and if I wanted a plot summary I would just read the synopsis. If you ask for an ARC I think that everyone involved deserves better than that. My reviews might be considered to go the other way and be too long. I’m working on breaking things down better to make it easier to read. We should all be trying to improve as we keep blogging and I don’t understand the mentality of someone who would be happy with writing so little.

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      1. I find puzzling the notion that a reviewer is beholden in any way to the publisher, their marketing teams, the author or fans of the author. Do amature reviewers see themselves as pets of the publishing industry, trading reviews that create positive buzz for free books and dreams of publisher/author recognition? Who is the reviewer’s first responsibility, the reading public, or the publisher/author?

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      2. If you’ve been gifted a proof copy of an authors work in exchange for a review then you owe the publicist and author that at the very least. You can’t expect to get away with substandard reviews, which by the way is cheating the reader too. Just not cool in my opinion. But it’s just that, my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I wonder how many of us scuttled away to check our reviews after your tweet! I do give a little blurb summary in my reviews, primarily because I want my review to stand up on its own, without a blurb, because I submit my review to other places as well as my blog. But I do always say how the book made me feel and what I thought of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Then that is perfect. I’m not against people using the blurb if they want, (I don’t personally) as long as they then go on to give a full review.

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  5. I don’t so much have an issue with including blurb, it’s the ‘I loved this book, I read it really quickly and would recommend it’ that follows. That’s not a review. You could say that without even reading the book in question! I wonder what authors/ publicists think of it.

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  6. I agree with the whole copying and pasting the blurb with a one line, not being a review as it’s obvious it’s been pasted to look like they’ve written lots. Whilst the blurb does go on my blog post, I only summarise it a tad and then add a detailed, no spoiler review. I’m a chatterbox and can’t help but write long ish reviews. A good review for me would be thoughts and feelings, character likes and dislikes etc, not a ‘yeah was good’ type of thing.

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    1. Yes I always like to include thoughts and feelings, characters, writing style etc. I personally don’t include the blurb but I see lots of people use it and then go on to give a detailed review and that’s fine.

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  7. I’ll just add here, If I may, my continuing admiration for, and thanks to, all reviewers and bloggers, but particularly the ones like yourself, Amanda, who obviously take the time and energy to write articulate and interesting reviews on authors’ books. We writers would be lost without you!!

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  8. Blurbs are important I think as not everyone will know what the book is about and whether they would be interested in it. People generally want everything before them and will not go searching for a blurb.
    Having said that, the review should state what you think about a book. Good or not you can say why. Sometimes it is difficult to express your thoughts – but an effort is made.
    People are not being paid to review. Instead they are using up their free time to support the writer of a book they have enjoyed. And they should be given points for that.

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    1. A blurb is absolutely fine to use when followed by a proper review. A few lines isn’t a review. I’m not paid to review and I have a full time job and two children but I put more effort in than a few lines. I don’t think people should be given points for lifting quotes from Amazon or other people’s reviews.

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  9. So controversial and so personal, I love this!! I really hope I am not one of those days who you describe because I so agree with you on that! I don’t like and I will stop reading when a review is pretty much a synopsis, a retelling, and then…well I don’t know after the first hint of retelling I will stop reading.

    I don’t think a synopsis of a book is needed, you can add a link to it but it shouldn’t be part of the review. I want to know that you cried yourself to sleep or that you almost burn the book up… I try in the most human way possible to talk about what I got, felt, and understand, ask questions if something not clear, and of course a picture haha

    Great post! 🙂

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  10. i agree. Personally I do use the blurb, because I figure the reader should get the chance to see what the publisher wants the reader to know, but after that I try and keep my review to how I felt about the book. Unless you are specialising in mini reviews, I think at least 3 paragraphs is warranted. But, just my opinion. Yours may vary.

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  11. Very much agree. It feels as if some people are in the book community for wrong reasons, as if they know a code that gets them free ARCs etc. Great post!

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  12. I think maybe some bloggers are over-committing themselves to every advance copy they can get hold of, skimping on the reviews because there are too many books waiting. It’s not an excuse but I think it could be a factor.
    Good post 🙂

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  13. I totally agree with you. I have seen some book bloggers writing so little about why the book will appeal to its target audience. It really does not give me any idea as to why I should grab that book.
    As far as blurbs are concerned, many people copy-paste it but then do give a detailed review.
    I, personally, try to summarize the book in my own words and then (try to) write why the book worked for me as briefly as possible.

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  14. Not gonna lie, I don’t even know you and yet I feel personally attacked lmao. The review for the first eArc I ever received was > 1100 words, without blurb. I felt this big burden to just write the most in-depth review ever. Nowadays, I’m around 350 words per review. I had a look at the last few I wrote and (at least I hope) it’s never really a situation of only //a few lines underneath about how the book is a ‘page turner’//, but you did motivate me to go through all the reviews I wrote and possibly rewrite them, but also try my best for reviews in the future! A follow from me, looking forward to reading more from you in the future. x

    ps. https://pagesunbound.wordpress.com/2019/02/01/10-interesting-posts-you-may-have-missed-in-january-2019/ brought me here

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    1. No! don’t feel attacked! These are just my opinions. You write how you want to write. I was just a little fed up of seeing people get great proofs for very little effort in return when I’m spending time trying to write insightful reviews.

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  15. Great post! I have to admit to copying the blurbs for my posts. When I first started blogging, I used to spend ages paraphrasing them and it was driving me nuts. Eventually, I figured someone in marketing had worked really hard on that blurb so it was okay for me to use it! BUT (and it’s a big but!) I definitely think it’s important to follow that up with an actual review beyond just ‘I liked it’ or ‘The characters are great, go buy it!’ or similarly flippant ‘reviews’ of just a line or two. I feel like I owe it to the author, publicist, potential readers and fellow bloggers to do justice to my own thoughts about the book. And if I don’t think I can do that, then I’d rather admit that to the publicist/author who provided me with the book – and maybe offer to host an extract or some alternative content instead of a review. It is really hard – I’ve definitely felt some of my previous reviews have been a little thin on meaningful content because I haven’t wanted to give spoilers or I’ve had a hard time marshalling my thoughts into a coherent review – but I’ve never deliberately ‘phoned it in’ when it comes to my blog posts and I hope I never will.

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  16. What an interesting post and comments. I don’t use blurbs (except select quotes from them occasionally), but like you – as long as a decent quality review follows the blurb that’s fine by me for those that do. I do get turned off by posts that are blurb, single para review, author biog though.

    My own reviews, once I get started tend to be on the wordy side – but finding that hook to get me started writing can be a struggle. I have always have a pile of books waiting for their moment to get reviewed. It is lovely to get review copies of books, but if I felt beholden to the publicists to write nice things about them all within a certain time frame I’d feel the pressure, so I commit to very few blog tours indeed, and won’t commit to review by dates if at all possible. Besides I have too many books on my TBR mountains to read some time…

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    1. Yep, I agree with your comments. I’m pulling back on the blog tours this year, I’ve 2 or 3 booked in for the next few months but that’s about it unless the book is one I’m desperate to read.

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  17. An excellent post. Thank you for taking the time to put it out there. I agree. I’ve cut back on reviewing and blogging. I have declined blog tours as well because, as you say, sometimes the words just aren’t there and I hate it when I am struggling with the review. I never use ‘blurbs’ unless asked to on the tour. I have way too many tbr on my list at the moment and sometimes i feel the pressure to review quickly.

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