Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Reviews, And What People Expect From One

...Which is a roundabout way of saying, I have no idea what people expect.

I will freely acknowledge that I am terrible at reviewing things.  It brings up awful memories of GCSE and A-Level English book reviews that I casually tried to avoid doing until I was almost thrown out of classes.  Writing a review should be a joy, not a chore, I understand that.  You want to share your experience.  Or, at least, according to the internet, you should.

Am I the only person who finds writing reviews anxiety-inducing?  They're a minefield, or at least they seem so from Twitter, and the mines in question range from things you choose to criticise (more on that later), to whether you should review anything you didn't unequivocally love, with a smattering of "what happens when the author comes along and thanks you / bitches at you / threatens you physically?"

The reason I call my reviews "No-Nonsense" is because I, as I said above, am terrible at reviewing things, and I assume that at least some people, like me, don't really sit down to read long and involved reviews either.  I concluded that by listing things I liked, things I didn't and things that might vary from reader to reader (inasmuch as it all varies because if we were all the same we'd be a hive mind and there'd be no need to read or write stories, we'd already absorb them from the mind that created them) then I could at least review books without driving both myself and anyone who reads the reviews mad.

But when it comes to things you like and things you don't, where do you stop?  What if a book is swimming with typoes--not just the average one or two, but enough to drag you out of the book?  Is that worth pointing out, or will it bring Author Wrath down on your head should they see?

What about the price?  What if a book is worth more, in your eyes, than its sale price--or indeed worth less, or is a free copy you wouldn't have otherwise bought because the price was too high?  Are those worth noting?

I could--and probably would--plunge blindly on if it wasn't for Twitter where, in the last couple of weeks, I've seen an author threaten a reviewer because the reviewer posted a bad review, and another author assert that reviewers who refer to typos as a negative in a book review are somehow deficient and need patronising and gently insulting until they see the author's point of view: that typos should be acceptable in indie novels and the reviewer should only review the plot, not things like spelling.

Faced with those, and various subtle others, I found myself wondering, what actually is the point?  If something irritated me in a novel, apparently I shouldn't ever mention it--but then what is the point of a review?

That, in short, is why I've barely reviewed anything lately.

But I'd rather hear from you guys: what do you expect from a book review?  Should indie books be held to the same standard as ones published by the big names?  What would you like to see commented on, and what would you prefer went ignored?

Or, instead, do you even read reviews, or do you buy solely on the book's blurb?

Incidentally I do have a glowing book review to post, I'm just... building up to it.

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