What Do You Look for in a Review?

Today I am part of a group of virtual friends who are answering the question:  What do you look for in a review?  The Reading-Romances blog asked over 40 book reviewers, readers, authors, and book bloggers to share their thoughts on this subject today.  I’m looking forward to seeing the answers from this widely varied group.  Book Reviews blog hop

I blogged about book reviews in February, discussing the mechanics of book reviews and some tips on writing them.  If you are interested in that kind of information, please see “On Book Reviews.”  I wrote that article hoping to encourage people to write reviews – all people – not just book reviewers.  As an author, I greatly value official book reviewers’ reviews and have seen first-hand the correlation between good book reviews and sales.  (Thank you book reviewers!)  But as an author, I also have to admit that when I receive reviews from readers who don’t regularly write reviews, that means a lot to me.  When someone takes his or her time and puts their thoughts out there to tell someone else about my book, well, that touches me emotionally, and I always appreciate these reviewers’ insights.

I thought at first that my perspective would be different as an author than as a reader, in what I wanted to see in book reviews, but turns out, it’s really the same.  I won’t repeat the information from my previous book review blog post, but will boil it down to the top three top things I like to see, whether in a 100-word Amazon.com review or a 500-word dedicated book blogger’s review.

  • A FEEL for the book
    • I like to hear the reviewer’s reaction, agreement, disagreement or thoughts on the book, not just a rehash of the synopsis.  For example:  “Although supposedly a dystopian romance, I found the book to be a suspense thriller, which I hadn’t expected.”  I want to know if a book is going to make me happy, sad, scared, thoughtful, etc.  I know reviewers can’t always make this prediction for others, but it is something I like to see.
  • DETAILS of what the reviewer liked, or didn’t like
    • Characters, setting, reality, plot, writing?  Each review does not have to address all, but when I read a review that says “You must read this book!,” I want to know why.  What stands out?  Why is this book different than others?
    • Okay, this may sound simple, but I’m astounded by how many reviews I see that don’t include a recommendation.  Even if the book isn’t exactly what the reviewer likes, if he/she thinks that others who do enjoy that book’s genre might like it, say so.  Or, if there’s something a reviewer didn’t like, but thinks could have made the book better, make a recommendation.  For example, a book reviewer suggested I more fully develop the role of one of my male characters in my book if I created a sequel, and that was valuable advice for me as an author.  As a reader, when I see recommendations such as this (as long as they are not spoilers!), I like to think about those recommendations, too, while I am reading the book.

So, my answer to the question of the day:  I like to see a feel for the book, details, and a recommendation in a book review.  If you’d like to see the other participants’ answers, please visit them here.  As a reader, valuable book reviews have saved me the time I may have otherwise invested books I wouldn’t enjoy.  And who out there can’t use more time?  As an author, good book reviews have provided me important perspectives from different points of view.  Personally, I like to hear what more than one person has to say about most everything, so please speak your mind!


  1. I very much agree with you, Valerie!

    It’s my dream to have an equine related library on my property and encourage kids to read and dream horses when the weather won’t let them be outside! Another criterion for me is: is it child friendly?

    • Christine,
      Good point – I even like when reviewers let people know if their review will be rated child friendly! I’m growing my equine related library, and as I tell kids during book talks, the more you read about horses, the more you will know about them (Dr. Seuss said something similar about the world.) 🙂 Good luck with your library!

  2. Definitely in agreeance with you, Valerie! I write more informative reviews for an article site that I write for but when it comes to putting a review of the same book on my blog it becomes a bit more casual.

    I also look for child friendly in mine – there are some horse books I wouldn’t like to see any child read!

    • Christine,
      Thank you. I love your website, and from someone who spends a lot of time on the web, I’m surprised I hadn’t come across it yet. I get so many questions from people in the horse industry wondering about the different job possibiities, and your site has much to offer. For those who may not have seen it, Christine writes for “equus-blog.com
      Equine related education and vocations around the world. 112 Vocations discussed so far.” Thank you for sharing!

  3. Very interesting post! I do agree a review should be constructive where possible. As reviewers, it’s not up to us to ‘fix’ a story but if we don’t like something, we probably have an inkling of what we would have liked better. Sharing it helps the author and hopefully makes our review clearer too.

  4. A feel for the book – Yes! So many are just retold plots…I already can read that from Goodreads!

    The Brunette Librarian Blog

  5. The funny thing: When I wrote my post in response to this hop, I was only thinking in terms of reviews. Not in terms of how my work might be reviewed. You make good points here, the best of which is: as an author I’m looking for the same kinds of feedback about what I can do better and what really grabbed folks as would cause me to recommend someone else’s book. 🙂

  6. What Do You Look for in a Review? Part of a blog hop today – come see. http://t.co/0uCgoxdD #reviews