This post isn't an attempt to tell anybody how they 'should' be reviewing works, but just thoughts on the matter, and my own preferences. For your warning, it's mostly just blabber and speculation.
Please post replies; I'd like to get an idea of what other people think about this topic.
What 'should'/'shouldn't' be in a review?
Pros and Cons section.
I think for the sake of ease (for the person reading the review), it can be good to have separate sections on the pros and cons. But I feel that some comments can come across too strong, as they are usually shortly written, listed or bullet-pointed.
I find when reviewers include pros and cons, that often the 'cons' section is a lot more crowded than the pros, even if the book has received 4 or 5 stars. Is it easier to focus on the 'bad' things than on the 'good' things in a book? Are people naturally more inclined to talk about what they hated than what they loved? Or do the few things that they love about the book heavily outweigh the many less significant parts they disliked?
I hate spoilers. Although once I've read the book, I like to read spoilers (because they are no longer spoilers, of course!) and it's fun to read about someone else's take on events that you've just read about. I know some people aren't bothered about spoilers, and others also don't plan on ever reading the book, so they are hoping for spoilers.
On Goodreads it is really easy and simple way to hide spoilers using HTML code, and it is explained by Goodreads when you leave your review. I wish more people used this formatting, because it is sooooo frustrating when a spoiler appears in a review and slaps you in the face! Do people get gratification out of ruining the plot for others? Or satisfaction from showing that they've already read the book (and you haven't!) and they know everything that happens? Or are they just inconsiderate?
What is considered a spoiler? Is saying 'There's a really gory scene at the end of the book' a spoiler? It's extremely vague, but it also builds up an expectation in the readers mind that quite likely someone could die at the end of the book, and they might even figure out who and how, and that can be frustrating.
Even the tiniest thing can be a spoiler to some people, so I do like it when reviewers are considerate - and using the HTML code on Goodreads is the perfect solution, because then the reader of the review has the option to hide/show spoilers. It caters for both!
The reviewer's personal opinion - how strongly should it be stated?
I like when the reviewer puts across their own opinion on the work (I suppose that's what a review is to some people), because it's always interesting to know how somebody else interpreted a piece of writing. But I dislike when reviewers write statements as if there are no two ways about it.
Saying 'To me, the main character felt unrealistic.' seems totally reasonable, but it irritates me when I come across something like this: 'The main character was completely unrealistic - ridiculous!' Maybe this is just a personal annoyance of mine and I should automatically assume that it's only the reviewer's personal opinion, but I do wonder how someone can make a statement so definite as that, as if the character absolutely IS unrealistic.
Comments aimed at other reviews.
I don't really feel either way about reviewers agreeing with, disagreeing with, or adding to what other reviewers have said. Like this: 'Like some of the other reviewers, I was pulled in by the suspense ...'
I suppose it can be useful to get an idea of what the 'popular' opinion is, or what's a debated subject for the book.
Should reviewers avoid repeating what's been said, avoid openly disagreeing, and just post a completely original review without even glancing at what other people have written? Other reviews could influence what the new reviewer is about to write.
Criticism on service, postage, packaging, etc.
I get annoyed when I see reviews on Amazon (for example) that are really complaints about the service. Like this: 1 star: 'The book never arrived' This doesn't help anyone, and the book is being unfairly rated lower.
This isn't the same thing, but would you rate a book down if it had a unattractive book cover? Or is it the writing that matters?
Who should post reviews? Should authors post reviews?
Should authors review other books? - I feel torn about this one. On one hand, I feel like saying yes, because authors are people too and have a right to their own opinion and a right to share it. On the other hand, if an author criticizes something about another writer's work, then I would expect that the reviewing author's writing must be absolutely perfect (at least in the areas that they criticized).
For example, if author Joe Bloggs reviewed a book, saying 'The writing style was wordy and difficult to read.', then when I get around to reading your books, Mr Bloggs, you better impress me with your superior writing style!
I've written reviews for books in the past, but I because I feel contradictory about it now, I no longer write them.
What star rating is appropriate?
I find rating on Goodreads difficult, because the rating seems harsher on there. I've seen 3 or even 2 star ratings with reviews that praise the books like mad, and then I think, 'Huh?!' I know 3 isn't a terrible rating, but I've never considered 3 stars as good either.
'Not my genre'
What are your thoughts on this?
Following the crowd/Jumping on the bandwagon.
Cliffhanger ending - 'I feel CHEATED!'
Coming across this does annoy me. The word 'cheated' is quite strong. I'm going to talk in terms of my own writing now, as an example. I write because I enjoy it and because I have a story to tell. I would love to do it as a full time career and make a living off of it, but not by cheating people.
When it comes to price, I set my book at what I feel is fair, based on many factors. When it comes to promoting, I try to describe and market the book in ways that are true to its contents, so if it is a series, this will be clearly stated in multiple places where possible. I'd imagine that most people would see the world 'series' and assume that maybe not every plot line will be resolved in that one book, that they may have to read the next one.
I understand the annoyance, especially if you have to wait for the release of the next book, but I highly doubt that many authors are intentionally setting out to cheat their readers.
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading!