Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | March 26, 2019

Are Book Reviews Useful?

I used to buy a book based on the cover and story description but lately I’ve been adding Amazon Kindle reviews into my decision mix.  It’s been an interesting exercise.

Some reviewers write more TO THE AUTHOR than to the READER using their knowledge and high standards. An author could improve his manuscript with their advice. A reader / writer could get a better understanding of what creates a good story if they read the book with the review in mind.

Some write more to the potential READER and then the advice is about what they liked or didn’t like. They are warning the potential reader or gushing over an enjoyable story.

So what have I really learned from reading these reviews?

  1. Spelling, punctuation, correct word use and a sentence structure that doesn’t confuse are important.
  2. Endings are important. Is the ending satisfying or is it a “sorry you don’t get an ending unless you buy the next book” kind of an ending?
  3. Characters that are likable and who act with sense, but whose movements I can’t predict are important.
  4. A good story is important, one that makes the reader curious about the ending.
  5. Not even the writers I’ve enjoyed best get all five star ratings – so I try to take critical reviews with a grain of salt.
  6. I’ve noticed that even a half star can mark the difference between a pleasant book and a book that I love.

The book description is still most important to me. If the story doesn’t pique my imagination, I don’t bother, and truly, I’m not sure how important reviews should be in choosing a new story. I’ve read enough books that received “lower” reviews that I’ve enjoyed enough that I’m not sorry I’ve read them and some “higher” reviewed books that I haven’t bothered to finish.

The greatest thing I’ve learned from book reviews is how to look more critically at my own writing. The thing I hope to learn from book reviews is that criticism (imperfection) doesn’t mean something is all bad. It could mean there’s something to learn. It could also mean we all are different and not everyone will love every good book.

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