Monday, August 2, 2021

Reviewing the Practice of Reviewing Books

Today's review is not a book review but rather a review of the practice and art of reviewing books in general. I will focus not on professional reviewers but bloggers such as myself and the myriad readers (including me) who offer reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub.

Shopping venue in the "good ol' days"

In certain instances, a book review requires a star rating; a short synopsis of the book; and a narrative of likes and dislikes. The point of this review is to give potential readers information upon which to base their decision to read or not to read a particular book.

The star rating may be influenced by any number of factors and categories, including
1. book cover attraction
2. genre faithfulness
3. character development
4. plot progression, and
5. editing level

First, some hypothetical questions about this list:

A. How often have you heard that a cover design can make or break a sale? But also that you can't judge a book by its cover?

B. Should a genre book stick to just one category: Mystery. Romance. Sci-fi? Or is a mixed genre story more appealing?

C. Can characters make or break a story if the novel is character driven? Must they all be likable protagonists and despicable villains? If the story is plot driven, must the action be non-stop?

D. Editing level - this, now, is the impetus for my post: a novel I read yesterday. What if a book doesn't conform to standard punctuation rules - of which there are many? Should the book then be avoided? After all, life is short. The world is filled with an abundance of classics and best sellers and award-winning tomes.

Austen, Lee, Orwell, Brontë, Hemingway, Melville, Lewis, London, Woolf, Shelley, Marquez, Stowe,
Tolkien, Twain, Dickens, Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky, Stoker, Hugo, Dumas, Stevenson, Doyle, Fitzgerald, Poe . . .
Why waste time on a rule-breaking story that doesn't conform to an acceptable level of editing? I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to proofreading, but for me, the answer is easy.


Because, if the story/plot line appeals to me, I will read the book for its entertainment value, regardless of missing punctuation such as end quotes or the Oxford comma (don't get me started); skipped words; and unique sentence structure or dialogue format. And my review will reflect the high points of the book that held my interest. 

Because there are many diamonds-in-the-rough with interesting story value that receive discouraging reviews for reasons unrelated to story content when, to me, the story is what reading is all about. (Besides, can you even hear that Oxford comma on an audio book?)

Some believe it is important to let other readers know what foibles or foul-ness they may encounter in a book so they don't enter into a reading experience unequipped for the situation. 

But isn't reading meant as an adventure best experienced "through one's own eyes"?

What is your criteria for choosing a book to read, and whether to submit a review?


  1. I do judge a book by its cover!

    The blurb is the deciding factor, but the cover is usually the first thing that catches my eye at a bookstore.

    1. I am so guilty of that, Veronica. Most egregious example: rejecting a book for the color of its cover. With ebooks, it's easier to move on to the blurb for a second chance.

  2. I am a big fan of mixed genre novels - perhaps because life is mixed genre (or mine is). Woeful editing does my head in. I have often put a book away because of it.
    I like to read few pages before I make up my mind whether to delve into a book. A cover rarely attracts me - but can assuredly turn me away without a second look.
    And, to my shame, I rarely write reviews. Perhaps it is a confidence thing, as in 'why would anyone pay attention to what I think?' but laziness also comes into play.

  3. Interesting that you say a cover can turn you away from a book, EC. Extra long titles usually do that for me - suggesting the author tends toward wordy sentences also. As for reviews, I write plenty with no expectation they will be read.

  4. I review almost every book I read but I'm definitely influenced by things like book covers and my mood before I chose to pick them up. Character and plot development are super important for me when reading! Great post.

  5. Anika, mood definitely plays a role in my reading choices also. It's not always a conscious decision though. Thank you for visiting.

  6. Thank you for writing this post Gail.

    I laughed at the mention of 'the Oxford comma' and then its place (or lack of) in an audio setting:)

    I'm with you on letting the story sweep you but if the lack of standard punctuation hinders its smooth flow, then I may not want to carry on.

    I'm a big blurb fan. Recently,(after a gap of 17 months) I visited a book shop and behaved like a kid in a candy shop! Picked up 10 books: 8 of which were titles I had never heard of. If the blurb and the cover and the print (not too tiny) is to my liking, I'll pick it up.

    Friends' recommendations is the other method. I've been introduced to some amazing authors and books by my friends.

    1. Oh, you visited an actual book store, one of my favorite pastimes in days gone by. My main purchases were always of favorite authors, then to whatever captured my eye. Finding a new author with an unusual take on an interesting topic is always a win-win situation.

  7. I'm definitely influenced by the cover when I'm choosing a book. Also, when I write reviews, I rate books based on how much I personally liked them, rather than on how objectively 'good' I think the book is. So I recognise that other people might rate the same book much higher or lower!

  8. Sophie, I rate my book reviews the same way - according to my personal reaction to the story. If a book is totally unappealing to me, it doesn't seem fair to give it a bad rating, though.


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