Reviews and Being Two-Faced

Years ago, before I decided to plunge back into fiction writing, I was just a reader. I read when I had time and usually books that came highly recommended from friends. There were no book blogs or Goodreads back then.

Unless friends had pestered me to read a particular book, I made my choices on back-cover copy, after the cover attracted me, of course. I never read reviews. Then, reviewers were paid critics in the media and just as I don’t trust critics’ reviews of movies, I don’t trust them for books. These things are too subjective to take some stranger’s word that I should or shouldn’t read or watch something.

Things have changed now, of course. With blogging came reviews by people who are just readers. People like me, not some talking-head in the big-name newspaper. People’s whose reviews I’d take much more seriously. However, by the time book blogging took off, I was shoulder deep in writing, which has changed my perspective on reviews anyway. Sort of.

This is what I’ve been thinking about this weekend – how the reader in me perceives reviews differently than the writer. How two-faced I am about these.

The reader in me still doesn’t want to read a bunch of long reviews that give everything away. As a reader, I prefer to scan the Goodreads ratings more than read each and every review. When I do find myself reading reviews for something I haven’t read yet, I kick myself. I don’t want to go into the book with too much knowledge or too many expectations. The longer and more detailed the reviews are, the more I stay away from them.

HOWEVER, after I’ve read the book, I like to go back and read the reviews and the more I enjoyed the book, the more reviews I read. Because I want to know what others thought about it, in details. Did we share the same reaction to a particular scene or line? Did others get something out of it differently than me? Is anyone else swooning as much as I am with that hawt hero? Add in comments and it’s like discussing the book with friends. I love that! So it’s only after I’ve read the book that I really get anything out of book blogs and reviews.

On the other hand, the writer in me loves to read book blogs and reviews because I learn so much. Whether it’s a review of my book or someone else’s, the longer and more detailed the review, the better. I love those that are like the book reports we had to do in school – what happened, summary of the characters, what the reader liked most, what the reader liked least, overall reaction, thoughts on certain scenes and then a recommendation. These give me insight into what readers like, what they’re looking for, what turns them off, how everyone takes something different away from the same book, etc.

My two-facedness creates a dilemma. I find myself sucked into a really well-written review about something I haven’t read yet, but want to read. It’s inevitable. There are so many good book bloggers and reviewers out there – and they read so much faster than me – that nearly every day I’m bound to find a review I can learn so much from, even when I know that it could change the reading experience for me.

Ah, such is life. I’d rather have this dilemma than go back to only talking-head, paid critics telling me what to read.

So…do you read reviews before reading a book? Do they influence your reading choices? Are you like me and read reviews after reading? What kind of reviews do you like – the quick ones or those that provide details, even if they’re a little spoilery? With your answers, let me know if you’re a writer or “just” a reader and if that affects your perspective.

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4 Responses to Reviews and Being Two-Faced

  1. Jackie says:

    To me it depends. Sometimes I read some reviews, not all of them. I read them when their isn’t much said on the back of a book. Or if the cover is nice but the description isn’t all that great. Other times a book looks so interesting that I just buy it without looking at the reviews. I use to write for me and for fun but now I just read.

  2. I’ll glance at reviews, more so the ones posted online than appear on the book jacket. For my own book, I prefer the shorter reviews. Just get to the point and tell me what you did (or didn’t) like.

  3. I never read reviews until I became an author! It’s funny, because we want those good reviews so badly, and yet half of the reading public never pays attention. It’s a catch-22.

  4. I don’t read reviews… but I do look at the *stars* if I am trolling amazon for a good book. Although 99% of the time I read a book by word of mouth! So this *star* thing doesn’t even come into play!

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