Discussion Post: Say What You Want to Say and Let the Words Fall Out – or Is There One Right Way to Write a Book Review?

Posted July 11, 2017 by Lisa Mandina in / 17 Comments

So, let’s see.  My goal was to do 4 discussion posts for the year. That’s one every 3 months.  So far in 2017, I’ve done a big old fat zero discussion posts.  Oh sure, I keep thinking of ideas to do, but then I run out of the time to actually sit and write them out.  Or I have so many other things I want to write, like my novel, or other blog posts to do, or books to read to actually review for my book review blog.  Anyway, I participated in the Mini-Blog Ahead in June, and so I decided to get some of my discussion posts done during that.  Also, I’m posting it this week because I’m getting ready to go to Orlando later this week, and I don’t want to worry about my blog while I’m on a family trip.  Also, it’s always fun to try to go out and find fun GIFs to add.  So enjoy those as well!

A reminder that the 2017 Discussion Challenge is hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight.

Today my post is a kind of personal one really, and the title refers to the Sara Bareilles song Brave, the video that I've shared above.  Earlier this year I lost a friend.  In the email she sent me telling me why, she said that she didn't want me to write any more "book report" reviews on her books.  I was a little hurt at this.  In the past I've always done a recap of the story as my review, partly because it is how I would do a book talk for my students at the library where I work, in order to get them interested in a book.  It's also something I do occasionally to get customers interested in books at the bookstore where I work part time when they ask for recommendations.  At first I decided to kind of just ignore her little dig, as I have had many people comment that they liked how I wrote my reviews.  
via GIPHY But then, just recently, I got sent a form to join another blog tour group, and one of the things on their application was about not writing a summary of the book.  Then this past week, I even saw an author say something about how a review was not a summary of the story.  Now because of how far behind I've been on reviews, I've just been sharing the synopsis of the book from Goodreads, and then what used to be the last paragraph of each of my reviews, where I tell what I did or did not like about the book.  

So I guess the question I am asking you, my fellow bloggers, is what you think about the format of someone's reviews.  I mean, I know that everyone has certain types of reviews that they prefer to read, as well as they have a certain way that they choose to write their own reviews.  But do you feel like it is anyone else's job to tell a blogger/reviewer how to review a book?  I feel like it should be up to everyone to review how they want. And as long as it is their own work, they haven't stolen any other reviews' words and passed them off as their own, and maybe no spoilers, why shouldn't they do it their own way?  What do you think?  Do you have a certain way you like to review?  What types of reviews do you prefer to read?  Am I being overly sensitive about this subject?

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17 responses to “Discussion Post: Say What You Want to Say and Let the Words Fall Out – or Is There One Right Way to Write a Book Review?

  1. A reviewer should be allowed to review how they like. I also recently got had a tour host say not to add the blurb into the review. They don't want that. For me I prefer to read reviews that tell me what a person liked or didn't. I don't like to read reviews that repeat the blurb/synopsis in them (at the top or bottom is ok if they are featuring the book, but not in the review it's self). Many reviewers do this and I don't get why, when you can just find it on the buy page or goodreads, and so I avoid those reviews. For me when I review I've never added the blurb or synopses in my review. I try to get to what I liked or didn't, characters how where they, and was the story engaging, action-packed, or emotional. I also try to avoid spoilers.

    Angela @ Angel's Guilty Pleasures

    • Yeah, I get it. I didn't used to do the blurb from Goodreads but give my own little synopsis. Often I felt it was different from the original blurb. When people did that though, I found myself skipping to just their thoughts,so I have quit doing it myself. Thanks for joining in!

  2. I think everyone develops their own style of reviewing. I think finding your style is up to each reviewer. I have seen a few reviews that give way too much of the book away and I can understand why an author might be upset about that but I know that is not what you do. I am sorry you had this happen.

    • Yeah, I may have done that in the past. I'm trying to do better about it, plus not really doing the synopsis anymore. Thanks for stopping by and joining in!

  3. I typically just share the Goodreads summary because I noticed I don't like a review if it doesn't have any mention of what the story is about. I need a little plot summary to put the review in context! No reviewer does a review the same and I think that's a good thing! Plus if the description does get a little long that's what skimming is for. That email is crazy! That would have really upset me.

  4. Okay, so this is a subject I've debated with myself about. In my own reviews, I will write a 1-2 paragraph summary of the book (and put it in a blockquote at the top) and then I go on with my thoughts on the book. I do this for one reason: Sometimes the summaries on Goodreads aren't very good. They don't summarize the book very effectively. So I'll often go to a book on Goodreads and scroll right on down to the book reviews and find a summary from another reviewer. I find the summaries to be much more to the point. Does that make sense? So I do the same in my reviews because I appreciate it so much in other people's.

    But with that being said… I've seen other people complain about reviewers including summaries of the books. That you write book reviews so that people can read your thoughts, not so they can read the summary of the book again.

    This makes me nervous, a little bit. Like, will they be so annoyed if they come across my review that they'll pass right over it? Maybe. But right now, I'm just approaching this in a "You can't make everyone happy" kind of way.

    I hope people who don't like summaries will scroll back the blockquote onto my opinions, but if they don't… Oh well? :/

    • See, your reasoning is exactly why I used to do my own summaries! A lot of times the ones on the book or Goodreads, etc., didn't actually tell much about the story. And the summarization I did was more to help explain what was good about the story. So glad I'm not the only one who feels that way. Thanks so much for stopping by and joining into the conversation!

  5. There are expectations out of things, like blog tours, so I think the author or publisher could ask that people not include a summary. But this is your blog. You are not obligated to change how you review books, but it might mean that you miss out on some things. Don't sell yourself short. Do what you want to do, and don't let anyone make you feel bad about how you review books. This is your blog.

    • That's kind of how I feel. If it is for an author or a blog tour, then I do things their way, if it is for me, then I can do it my own way. Thanks for visiting and joining the conversation!

  6. I sometimes include a short summary of a book, but I typically try to keep it to only a few sentences and then move on to what I do and don't like. I honestly don't love to read reviews that mostly give a recap because they're more likely to include spoilers and they tend to be slim on the part I really want to see—why they did or didn't like it. BUT, having said that, that's just a personal preference. If you're concerned about it, maybe you could try to balance it out a bit by making your recaps shorter—but if you like the way you do it, then I'd say don't worry about it unless you're on a tour or something. I'm sorry about losing a friend over such a petty thing, though!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    • I think when I started realizing that I don't necessarily read summaries by other people on their blogs, and that I skip to what they liked and didn't like, I realized maybe I didn't need to do the summaries myself and have stopped that. But it makes me feel like my reviews are really short, because I think I did add anecdotes when I did the summarizing. Oh well. And I didn't lose a friend this time, it was just a tour group that I don't know if I'll participate in because of that. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I think there are different ways to do it. If a blog tour or author has a preferred format, I suppose one should follow that (but it should be given up front with the review request and not in retrospect as a criticism of your review, geez). I see all kinds of formats from copying the Goodreads blurb, to lengthy self-written summaries mixed with commentary, to briefer content summaries and responses, to leaving out summary altogether and just giving reactions.

    My personal way is to do a brief summary of the content, balanced by at least as much about my personal reaction. The latter is the point of doing a review, I think, but the reader needs some context to put it in. And I write it myself rather than pulling a blurb because that already starts to give me a chance to reflect on the story. But that's just me – I'm not judgmental about how other people do it.

    • I've started feeling like when I don't write my summary that I am not really reflecting as much in my review as I would otherwise and I end up saying a bunch of the same kind of generic things, like the characters are fun, snarky dialogue, etc. Your post here totally makes me think that is something I need to consider before completely cutting out my own summaries in my reviews. Thanks so much for commenting! It actually gave me some ideas!

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