Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Reviews - What Do You Look For in a Review?

I've been thinking about book reviews lately. I'm trying to figure out what makes a really good review. First and foremost, I believe that a reviewer should express an honest opinion about a book. Second, I want to know a bit about the book, but not too much. I don't like spoilers.

I also think that certain basics should be included: 1) story POV; 2) main characters, and 3) genre or genres.

Is it necessary to have a rating system - 1 to 5 stars, for example? Should the covers be mentioned?

What do you think? What do you look for in a review?

And because I'm in a good mood, I'll give away to one commenter the first 2 books of Diana Rowland's Kara Gillian series:

When Homicide Detective Kara Gillian finds traces of arcane power on a body, she quickly realizes that this is no ordinary murder. The serial killer known as the Symbol Man is a nightmare that Beaulac, Louisiana thought had ended three years ago, but now he's back for an encore and leaving every indication on the flesh of his victims that he is well-versed in demonic lore.

However, Kara is a Summoner of Demons, and may be the only cop on the city's small force who can stop the killer. Able to see and interact with a world most people can't, Kara must draw on her skills as a police officer and master of the arcane to stop the Symbol Man from killing again and possibly summoning something even she can't control.

But with a demonic lord of unearthly beauty and power haunting her dreams, and a handsome yet disapproving FBI agent dogging her waking footsteps, she may be in way over her head....

The serial killer known as the Symbol Man has been dealt with, the demonic lord Rhyzkahl is no longer invading her dreams, and Detective Kara Gillian is doing her best to get her life back to normal after being kind of dead for a while.

Unfortunately, there's little about Kara's life that is ever normal or simple. As a skilled summoner of demons, she's hoping to use her arcane abilities to retrieve her aunt's essence and restore it to her body. But when Kara discovers that FBI Agent Ryan Kristoff is somehow known to the demonkind--and not in a good way--old doubts surface and new problems emerge. Moreover, her investigations into the deaths of several seemingly unrelated victims reveal disturbing links to the arcane, with unsettling similarities to her own situation.

But matters get more complicated when she discovers other links between the victims, leading her into a morass of political corruption. And it doesn't help that Rhyzkahl has asked her to be his own summoner, a commitment that could have quite a few advantages and plenty of pitfalls. Politics--whether among humans or demons--is a dangerous game with very high stakes, and Kara is learning that lesson the hard way.

The particulars - The giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth. Get your comments in by March 16, 2010 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time. If you tweet the giveaway, we’ll put your name in for the tweet as well. You can tweet as much as you like, but it only counts once. If you also mention the giveaway on Facebook, we’ll add your name again. You can mention it on Facebook a zillion times, but you only get one extra entry. Mention it on your blog and you get another entry. So you can get your name placed in the receptacle a maximum of 4 times (comment, tweet, FB mention, blog mention). Provide us links in the comments so we know that you tweeted or Facebooked or blogged about it.

And for the curious, here is a picture of the receptacle that we use:


  1. In a review? Well.. I like to know about the characters and how the story develops. I like it when the person who is reviewing it gives personal opinions about the book. And also, I want to know about the writing: is it understandable? Dragging? And about the plot. I do not need a complete summary, but just the basics. And nope, I do not think that the ratings are necessary, at all.

    Oh, I have been dying to read Diana Rowland's "Mark of the Demon" for the longest time! =)

    Oh... Tweeted about it [@alebodden11]

  2. I like to see some details but not spoiler type. I also like to know HOW the book read. Was it long, hard to get into was it too wordy, did you have to read something else before you finished it? That is what I want to know. Ratings maybe only for sex thought, ie hot sex 5 heartbeats or not so much sex 1 fizzle.
    Tweeted @ rayna @naugthyeditions and facebook'd raynascherer.


  3. I primarily look for honest comments. You need to convince me you read the book, as well. I've seen some reviews that seem to have been done from the inside-cover synopsis.

    A rating system is nice, if it's a reviewer I follow, but doesn't mean as much for a one-shot.

    I gave your post a mention on my Twitter account: @mmcgreger

  4. Let's see if I can remember what I told Diana Rowland on her twitter.

    My favorite reviews are those without "personal taste". I want to know about the main plot of the story. I don't want to know if you liked the book or not, because I may not have the same taste as you.

    My favorite reviews are by Barbara Vey (PW) because she gives you a taste of the book, but never ever says this book sucked or this book rocks. She lets the readers form their own opinion.


  5. What I like to see in a review:
    1. Was their a plot? Was it good, bad, how well did it flow, etc.
    2. What about the characters? Was their good chemistry, were they likeable, etc.
    3. What's your opinion. Did it work, did you like, would you read another one.

    I'm also a fan of seeing what didn't work for the reader. Could something have been explained better? Was something over explained?

    As for ratings, not a fan of them. They are too subjective and can mean different things to each person. One person's rating system may not be the same as another.

  6. I agree, no spoilers. I don't use a rating system, but I find that when reviewers do, I don't read the review and just go for the score.

    sidebar post


  7. I tweeted here:

    I posted on my facebook here:

    I also posted about it here - - in my contest section.

  8. I like reviews to focus more about the authors writing style and the main characters. I want to know what the reviewer thought of the book. Did they like the characters, the settings, did it hold their attention. Was the book slow, feel too long, end too soon... I do not need a recap of the story as the blurbs usually do that just fine.

    I too do not pay much attention to the rating systems. Though the different rating designs are fun to see.

    Tweeted here:


  9. I like a short summary or introduction to the book that I can skip over if I have read the book. I don't like reviews that mix the summary/introduction within their comments.

    I want to know what that person thought of the book and WHY. I like knowing why someone enjoyed or didn't enjoy the book. It should be stated without spoilers so that those who haven't read it don't have to worry about having something revealed in a review.

    Rating is optional but I do want a clear statement of "I enjoyed this book" or something the shows how they felt about it.

    I rarely comment about writing unless I noticed something about it. I'm not an amazing writing so I only comment if something about the writing made the book easier/harder to enjoy.

  10. When I read a review I like to know about the book and characters but I definitely don't want spoilers. It helps to know which genre the book is. I like a rating system since it can help especially if I have read other books by the reviewers it helps to see how they feel about a certain book and if I agree. :-) And if we kind of agree it will give me a feel for the new book I might be interested in and if I would enjoy the book.

    As for covers I never really thought about it in a review. I tend to read the review more than anything. :-)


  11. I like to read in a review the good and the bad points of a book. I also like to hear about the salient points of the book without giving the whole story away. Point system such as 5 stars ratings, for me, just makes things simple and easy. I am a visual person and cover is important to me. I sometimes buy a book simply because I like the cover art without even reading the synopsis. Bad habit, but there you are.

    Re-posted about your contest at:

    Re-twitted at:

    Posted at Facebook:

    mischivusfairy-warrior [at] yahoo [dot] com

  12. In a review I want to know about the characters. Does the story flowand fit the characters. Idon't want it long a wordy. I like it to bestreight to the point.

    Absolutely NO Spoilers. I don't agree with the raiting system though as everyone has different likes and opinions.

  13. I agree with your basics in a review: honesty, summary, story POV, characters, genre and No Spoilers. It isn't necessary to have a rating system, but if one is used, please include a key for readers to understand the ratings. It's nice to show the book cover--a visual helps us connect with the book. I'd like to know if the book is part of a series, and if so, what number is it? I want the reviewer to be straight-forward about what worked or didn't work in the book. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  14. Before I start, I just have to point out that my word verification is "suckest"

    I like a review to give a teaser of the plot with enough detail to entice me to cross genres if this is not something I would normally read.

    The reviewer should support both their positive and negative opinions. I may not be as concerned about whether the police procedure sounded technically correct, so I want to know if that is why you did not like the flow of the story. (or if you did)

    I also appreciate a heads up about graphic violence and/or sex scenes. I will still read some things with those themes, but I get Angry if I pick up a book to cheer up and it kills people in weird ways.

    A review should not suckest.

    It suckest to put in spoilers.

    (and yes, this is Diana Rowland's sister)

  15. Personally, I can do a google and find out a brief summary of the plot. That doesn't tell me you read it, so if the review is the same information or slightly more than what you get from the back of the book... I can take a pass.

    Did you like it? Love it? How much? Do you suggest checking it out from the library? Borrowing it from a friend? Or is this a book you have to rush out and buy? And why do you feel that way? Are you a fan of the author in general? Is it part of a series? If it is part of a series, will I be lost if I read it out of order?

    Personally, if it takes you awhile to get into the story, that is what I expect to read in the review. If it dragged out a bit at first, tell me. If it grabbed your attention and you couldn't put it down to the point of losing sleep, burning dinner, letting kids watch too much tv or skip out on homework... tell me. Otherwise, I'm going to assume it flowed along nicely.

    Is this an author you usually read? How does this book compare to other books you have read by the author. Are you familiar enough with the genre that you can compare the author to other authors within it?

    As far as a rating scale... the closest I really care for is borrow, check out, or buy. But if there is one there, I'll check it out.

  16. By the way, put something out about this on Facebook.

  17. I don't put too much faith in reviews unless I have read previous reviews and then read the book reviewed and found that the review was accurate.

    The review should cover the story, whether the author writes well and builds characters and if there is anything original about the book.

    I dislike ratings as I find them too variable.


    Carol (International entry)

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  18. for me honetsly i readthem for the blurb and what someoen els ethinks about the books if it has a lower ratingthen what i think it should i normally will pick it up at the book stroe can a couple page smy self to see if its something id like since well our opinions could be different but i love when they give the point of view and how they like it and why it addes perspective of the review and the book its self and if a spoiler is adde di like to be warne dso i dont read the revie wi dont like when boks gettold what happends and such

  19. I like a quick summary of the plot, characters, setting, POV and genre and then the reviewers opinion on whatever impressed them most about the book.
    I do like a review to be energetic rather than studious.

    And I am concerned about the writing so a mention of both the technical aspect - sentence structure, grammar, use of vocabulary- and the feel of the
    writing - light, heavy, eloquent, pretentious - is important.

    Oh I tweeted

    and I sidebar-ed

  20. I like to a review to be helpful, informative with a subtle personal, subjective flair but still trying not to be biased.

    When readinga review I like to reada short recap of the story, just enough to wet my appetite, then the most important part of the review for me is reading the reviewer's thoughts on the characterisation and writing style. I prefer a review to have a rating, because sometimes when I'm in a hurry and don't have time to read through a lengthy review or when I'm just sneaking a peek to a book I like to see in one glimpse the overall grade the reviewer gave to the book. I also like to read about the reviewer's personal reading experience: did he/she enjoy it, was it a fast read or was it dragging? I also like reading the reasons behind the negative criticism.

    On the other hand what I don't find necessary is to have a sexual recap/rating of the book, I don't need to know in advance the level of sex scenes, sexual thoughts to pick up or discard a book.

    I tweeted here:

    stella.exlibris (at) gmail DOT com

  21. In a review? I have to say I like to know a little more of what is in the book along with the books synopsis. I also like to hear what you liked on the book and your opinion. I DON'T care for raging on a book, big time raging. But if there is something that didn't click with you I want to hear it. Someone may leave a comment on it to help clear it for you, you never know. I don't have the need for a rating scale. I think everyone likes and dislikes the same book for different reasons. So what are you rating the scale on? You liked it or didn't like it, writing style, story line without bias? Its hard for me to put a number on a book.

    +1 For commenting
    +1 For Sidebar of contest -
    +1 Tweeting of the contest -

  22. I like to see what the reviewer honestly felt about the book they read. It's nice to include the back cover summary and/or their own synopsis of the story without giving spoilers.

    I like a rating system just because if it's a reviewer I watch regularly, said rating system may make me more open to checking out a book/series I normally might not check out. And sometimes it has the reverse effect, but that's just a risk I'm willing to take ;)

    A picture of the cover is a must. I love seeing covers when I check out a review. They definitely make me more open to checking out a book too if I think a cover looks nice lol!

    But yeah... honesty is a huge thing for me. I'd rather the person mention what worked and didn't for them. Maybe something about which characters they enjoyed, or even adding a short snippet that's later into the book.

    Sidebar post (on the right):



  23. I like honesty in review. I want to know what you thought about the characters and how quickly the story moves along.

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

  24. I would like a non-lengthy review that gets to the point. I would like to hear opinions but not necessarily all aspects on characters, plots, etc if the reviewer doesn't have any for certain ones. Love to have picture included and rating gives me a better decision on the book.

    faked_sugartone at hotmail

  25. These books look very interesting!
    I posted about the contest on my blog here:
    +1 for commenting
    +1 for blog post!
    I'll come back after I tweet too!
    Thank you!

  26. I think the best reviews mention what stood out most for the reader. I think they should probably touch on characters and plot for sure. Grammar, and covers are things that I think can be mentioned if they stood out for being either really good or bad. I don't care about rating systems because some people are really easy with the stars and some people tough. I care more about what they write.

    I really dislike spoilers.

    These sound like interesting books and they have very high ratings on Amazon.


  27. I like to know about the plot of the story , about the main characters, but I do not want to know the whole story before I even read the book . I want to know if the story is fast-paced or if it slow -paced . I want to know the flaws and even with the flaws if its worth reading . A review should always be honest .The picture of the cover of the book is also helpful ,to get a greater feel for the whole book. I do like the rating system , but it is not necessary .

    Thanks for the giveaway
    Tweeted -

    Posted on Facebook -

  28. For a review, I like to read the general plot of the book, but don't give away too much. Who is the main cahracter, how quickly the story develops. If its a series, do I need to start with book 1 to understand or can I pick up any book. I do like a rating system to be able to compare past books to new books. If you rated something 4 stars, and I've enjoyed another 4 star pick by you...I might be more inclined to try another.


    tweeted -

    facebook -

  29. I'd like to know the premise of the book, whether its well written, if it has any deeper issues woven into the story. Thoughts on characters are great though not necessary because if I'm intrigued by the premise, I'll read the book anyway and find out for myself.


  30. I like to know an honest opinion of the book, not sugar coated. I like to know if there are certain nitpick I have in it, like clumsy writing or a slow pace, or rape-as-romance or a TSTL lead. I will not buy, or buy used, books that have these elements so it's nice to know when considering my purchase.

  31. I realize I forgot to comment on reviewing. A blurb usually tells a bit about the story. In the review I like to learn a bit about the characters. Are they strong, shallow or quirky. I like to know if there is a good plot or twists to make it more than just a nice story. I like to know if the writing/reading flows. Finally, I like to know if there is graphic language so I can take that into consideration. I will look at ratings but I rely more on the written review than the rating.

  32. I like to have a good idea of what the reviewer's tastes are, so I guess I'm going against the grain of wanting something more objective. What we enjoy is so inevitably subjective, but I find it most useful to know what someone thinks if they've got similar existing tastes to me. I often look for reviews/suggestions online to fill my insatiable desire for new books, and reviews by people like Felicia Day I find most helpful, as I can see what else she's read.

    On the same line, I like comparisons between authors, i.e. if you like x, you'll enjoy y. I like to know about the tone of the book, what rough genre it is, p.o.v, how much the person enjoyed ("unputdownable" or just "fluffy marshmallowy read"). I can see the blurb on the book, so don't necessarily think book reviews should include more than a cursory summary of the plot (with no spoilers), but sometimes books are marketed into certain slots which can put you off (gleaming, oily man-chests, for instance, on the front cover...) so it's really helpful if the book review takes the fit between the look of the book/the blurb and what the book is actually like to read :)

    Re-tweeted via Diana Rowland - @schmoobrain

  33. I read books for the characters and awesome details, not necessarily the plot - just my preference. So I prefer to hear about those things. Tell me why the protagonist is incredibly awesome and why I will fall in love with her. Tell me how dazzling and creative the setting is. Just don't give too much away. ;D

  34. I want a basic summary, what genre, was it "suck you in good" or "bore you to death bad", ratings do not matter to me. I don't want spoilers at all!

  35. Like it has already been mentioned before, honesty is key. Personally I prefer a rating system, however that rating system should also have a break down of what it means when a book is rated 4/5 or 3/5 and so on just to keep it consistent. But I also prefer that the reviewer include why it got that rating. Some reviewers say overall positive things about the book in the review but only give it a rating of 3/5 with no indication as to why and I find that confusing. Also when someone says they absolutely love the book it also helps that the reviewer mentions why they loved it(interesting characters? engaging plot? etc.) because what the reviewer liked about the book might be something I'm not particularly into and so on. Sorry for the rambling and hopefully what I said is somewhat coherent!


    spettolij AT gmail DOT com

  36. I look for brief summary of plot (without spoilers)and the reviewer's honest opinion of what they liked or disliked about the story.
    Thanks for the great giveaway.

  37. This comment has been removed by the author.