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Angury

What are your thoughts on Book Reviews?

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Since I started using Goodreads I've relied heavily on book reviews. When I come across a new book to read the first thing I do is look through the reviews people have written. If the reviews are awful - not just one or two but a consistent pattern - then it's unlikely I'll pick up the book.

 

Likewise, if I come across a book that's not really 'my thing' but notice a lot of excellent reviews, I'll probably read it. 

 

It's only recently I've noticed how detrimental this can be. I've become quite interested in Northern Irish authors and bought a collection in Waterstones. The minute I read through the reviews I was disheartened. Not a nice word to be said about the novels. Despite this, I continued with the reading and was pleasantly surprised to find that the novels were actually well-written and a joy to read. 

 

I am curious to hear other peoples' thoughts on book reviews. Do they skew your opinion before you've even read the book? Do you use them when you're looking for a new novel to read? Or do you avidly avoid them?

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If it's an author new to me, or not something I might normally read, then I do sometimes look at reviews and like you have sometimes been put off by them!  However if the subject matter does still appeal then I might give the book a try anyway, but when reviews differ wildly from either good or bad, but nothing in the middle, then I tend to get either a bit wary of reviews. I do quite often look at reviews once I've read a book though, especially if I have a strong opinion about the book, and want to see what others thought.

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I might take a glance at the reviews on Goodreads or Amazon but generally I don't put a lot of trust in them as they are both really open to being fixed. One of the first places I check is this forum as people give pretty clear reasons as to why they like or dislike a particular book. They also tend to focus on the quality of the writing instead of just the story itself. Despite this, if I like the premise of the book I will always give it a go regardless of reviews and I am always trying to expand what kind of book I read.

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I don't ever look at reviews to determine if I am to read a certain book or author. I find a few books I have read which I disliked have been highly rated on goodreads and have constant 5 and 4 star reviews.

 

Reviews are good to see what other people's thoughts are. Like Madeleine said I look at reviews whilst reading the book. 

 

I really want to read The Catcher In The Rye just to see why it is so unpopular. 

 

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8 minutes ago, Brian. said:

I might take a glance at the reviews on Goodreads or Amazon but generally I don't put a lot of trust in them as they are both really open to being fixed. One of the first places I check is this forum as people give pretty clear reasons as to why they like or dislike a particular book. They also tend to focus on the quality of the writing instead of just the story itself. Despite this, if I like the premise of the book I will always give it a go regardless of reviews and I am always trying to expand what kind of book I read.

I didnt see your post before I added mine.

I agree so much with this! 

 

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This is a really interesting topic! 

 

If I see a book synopsis that sounds amazing I would likely get that book without checking reviews first, I’d only go and search for reviews if I was unsure about a book and trying to make my mind up.

One of the things about goodreads though (although it’s very useful for finding reviews) is it’s really easy to end up looking at reviews you didn’t intentionally seek out. For example I might be completely convinced about a book, go to add it to my ‘to read’ list on goodreads and notice it doesn’t have many stars, which does make you sceptical before you’ve even read the book.

Something that I’ve noticed recently (mainly via twitter) is the opinion that people shouldn’t post negative reviews of books. I understand where that opinion’s coming from, because not everyone likes the same books and it you could potentially influence a books sales with a bad review but... I just can’t quite agree with it. As long as you say why you didn’t like it, I think it’s far better to be honest!

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I've never looked at reviews when deciding whether to read a book.  Everyone's got different tastes and I figure I might like something others don't.  The only reviews I read are the ones people post on here, and If a book sounds interesting I'll add it to my wish list.  

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Outside of the forum I will usually only read reviews of a book if I am dithering about whether or not to make a purchase. I am however regularly influenced by people on here making positive mention of a book - joining the forum all those years ago sure increased my book buying! 

 

When I do read (non forum) reviews I will look at the most negative reviews first to establish whether they are justified. On amazon there is always the danger of someone posting a 1 star review because the book arrived late and had a bent cover, rather than the quality of the writing was bad. :rolleyes: 

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Outside the forum, if it's a writer I'm not familiar with, I will go on Goodreads or similar and take a look at the over all score, just to give me an indication. Bitter experience has taught me not to read the actual reviews till after I've finished the book. One is because people can inadvertently put spoilers in ,and sometime I find my own thoughts can be coloured by others.  The worst review I've ever seen (for a murder mystery  book) consisted of one line "Book was rubbish. [character name] was the murderer".  I mean, why? 

 

On the positive side, I can find other people's reviews really helpful. Sometimes I find insights I hadn't considered or worded far better than I could hope to do.

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Some interesting points raised.

 

21 hours ago, Hayley said:

 

Something that I’ve noticed recently (mainly via twitter) is the opinion that people shouldn’t post negative reviews of books. I understand where that opinion’s coming from, because not everyone likes the same books and it you could potentially influence a books sales with a bad review but... I just can’t quite agree with it. As long as you say why you didn’t like it, I think it’s far better to be honest!

 

I've noticed this in general on forums that I visit. There has been more of a drive towards reducing negative feedback to a topic, even if it is well-meaning and offers some discussion. 

 

I find reviews are helpful in giving me a general idea of whether the book is something I would enjoy - it's accurate quite a lot of the time. Rather than focusing on one review, I tend to look for a pattern. So if I notice several negative reviews mentioning 'too many details' or the writer 'going on and on' I know it's a book I'll probably like because I enjoy writing that is detailed. 

 

More recently I've been trying to widen my reading - particularly writing styles. Many of these are books that I find difficult to get going as it's not a type of style that I'm used to reading. But once I read through the reviews and understand what other people enjoy in these types of novels, I become more appreciative of the author, the writing style and the book as a whole.

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For me, I get book recommendations not just through this forum, but also through BookTube and some book blogs I read. Sometimes I look up book reviews before purchasing a book (if I'm ordering it online), usually I mostly look at what the people I'm friends with on GoodReads or those I follow on GoodReads, have said. Only on some occasions I look at GoodReads reviews by other people (ie. if no one in my friends and followed people have read it). If it's an author I've read something of before, that I've liked, I don't tend to look at reviews much, because I think I'll liked it based on the other book(s) I read. I tend to look at reviews a bit more if the book is written by an author(s) I don't know.

 

If I'm out and I see an interesting book at a lower price at ie. a library sale, the charity shop, or the book fair or something like that, I'll decide to buy it there and then, or not. I don't whip out my phone to look up reviews (I have to pay for using 4G anyway, and for many Dutch books there aren't many reviews on GoodReads, anyway).

 

Interesting idea for a topic! Great to read everyone's thoughts on this :).

Edited by Athena

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I sometimes look at reviews as well, mostly on Amazon as that is where my books inevitably come from. I must admit that I tend to use the look inside feature as more of a guide though, as reviews can be so subjective - you either like authors writing style or not. and the best form of review is always your own judgment. 

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15 hours ago, Talisman said:

I must admit that I tend to use the look inside feature as more of a guide though, as reviews can be so subjective - you either like authors writing style or not. and the best form of review is always your own judgment. 

 

I find the 'look inside' feature pretty useful too! It's nice to see if an author's writing style is something for you :). I use the feature now and then :).

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I do look at Amazon reviews - I check the 1 star reviews first, no matter how any 5 stars there are. If they're full of 'damaged copy' or something fautous or unhelpful like 'worst book I ever read/boring etc' without saying why I ignore them. i do pay attention to the 'badly written/huge plot holes/goes to pieces near the end/ needs cutting by a third.'

 

Then I look at the 3 star reviews as they're generally the most balanced since they won't be written by the wuthor's friends or those who have a bone to pick.

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A review is only of any use if you know where the reviewer is coming from.  And then you need to know how you relate to them.  Thus there are people in my book groups who I know have a similar mind to me - if they have liked a book, then more likely than not, I will too, whilst there are others who I just know that if they've liked a book, I need to avoid it like the plague (and there are people who as soon as they say they've disliked a book, I know there is a good chance I will like it - depending on what they've disliked about it of course!).  I've hated far too many bestsellers to go along with the mainstream of Amazon of Goodreads reviewing (Gone Girl? Girl on the Train? I Am Pilgrim? Man Called Ove? The CircleBen EltonDavid Nicholls? Tim Moore?  Four out of five Man Booker prize winners? Ugh, you get the idea!).

 

Having said that, I will sometimes check out a non-fiction book, particularly history, before reading - these are generally less about personal appeal and more about their quality and rigour.  But fiction reviews I tend to ignore until afterwards, when they can be very entertaining.

Edited by willoyd

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9 hours ago, willoyd said:

x

 

It's interesting that you mention Man Booker prize winners. 

 

I've recently started reading some of the prize winners and those shortlisted. There are a fair few (although not as many as I first thought) who I just don't 'get' and can't seem to understand why they marked so highly on the judges list. But this is where I find reviews quite helpful. People who did enjoy the book will talk about why they enjoyed it and why, in their opinion, it deserves all the publicity. 

 

I've noticed that not only has my breadth of reading grown, I am also now more appreciative of different writing styles and can admire works which I would have previously put down. In a way, reviews have given me a new pair of eyes.

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