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Thursday, May 27, 2010:
Reviews: vague or revealing?

I love reading reviews. I especially love reading reviews that challenge me to work on improving my own writing. There are some bloggers out there that just totally blow me away with the way they review a book. And a review can definitely encourage me to read a story I might not have had any interest in. Imagine having that kind of power.

But what I'm noticing more and more frequently in that there are some reviewers out there who are heavy on the TMI. Which is fine, especially if I've already read the book, but they don't even alert the visitor that there may be spoilers. So twice lately, I've had books that I really want to read "ruined" for me because the reviewer decided to be very detailed in revealing the plot of the story. Come on people! If you're going to share the book gossip, please wave a red flag first.

Another reason I'm thinking of this is that about a month ago, an author on Twitter discovered that RT Magazine had given away major plot points in her upcoming release, and she was not thrilled about it. Can't say that I blame her. Unfortunately I never did find out what action, if any, the author took about it, but she was extremely unhappy about the reviewer giving such a detailed description of the book, and I will say that I'm a little relieved I got the heads-up before I read the review. Since this author's book is one I am DYING to read, I didn't want to be unpleasantly surprised by a review.

Now when I review, I admit I am vague. I don't want to give away much more than you'd read on the back cover of the book, but when I do post a review more revealing, I try my best to provide a spoiler alert just in case I inadvertantly give away too much. Because sometimes I admit I want to talk about a particular scene or event from a book that affected me in some way, and I want to discuss it further. Case in point is a post I recently did on a book I read that bothered me. I specifically put a spoiler alert just in case someone wanted to read it and didn't want me to give away significant details. I did because I know how I'd feel it I'd read the post and the plot was ruined for me.

So how vague or revealing do you like your reviews?

What portions of a review are the most important to you?

And which reviewers would you recommend for the most effective and enjoyable that you'd recommend?



  1. When I review a book, I NEVER reveal spoilers.

    It's funny you mention this. I had another author ask me if it pissed me off that several Amazon reviewers gave away the ending to Dead. In that circumstance, it doesn't "ruin" the story to tell people how it ends but it does spoil the surprise I intended. Of course, not everyone enjoys a surprise so I suppose it depends on the reader.

  2. I try to keep my reviews vague, because that's how I like them. For the most part, in my plot summary I try not to reveal much more information than what you'd find on the back cover blurb. Then in my last paragraph, I summarize what I liked and didn't like. Sometimes it's difficult when the plot is closely tied to a spoiler!

    For me the most important part of the review is what you liked/didn't like. I don't need a chapter by chapter summary of the plot. I'd rather read the book!

  3. I don't mind very explicit details in reviews or spoilers - heck I'm an end reader. I 'spoil' every book I read *sigh*. But when doing reviews, I'm aware that many readers don't feel the same and the book can be ruined for them. So I try very hard not to give too much away when doing one. Hopefully I've never done it.

  4. LOL. Different Strokes for Differnt Folks.

    I love detailed reviews, so spoilers wouldn't stop me from reading a book. In fact I know in several instances it encouraged me to read a book that I might have been lukewarm to. But when I review, I tend to suck at given plot analysis and tend to rambling on about what I was feeling when I read the book instead of delving too much about the plot.

  5. *sigh* I'm still working on my "style". I tend to put in a summary - up to a point where I'll say something like "and then crazy adventures ensued" so as not to give anything away. I'm trying to do more with my feelings about the book but a lot of times have difficulty expressing it well.

  6. It all depends for me.

    I normally don't read reviews for books that I haven't read yet. I usually just look for the final rating to get an idea if the reviewer liked it or not (this is why I don't like it when reviewers don't have a rating/grade system).

    However, when I do read reviews I prefer to have some detailed discussion. I don't necessarily really like the plot summarized. I can look that up on Amazon/Goodreads.

    When I'm reading reviews I want to know WHY someone liked or didn't like it. And sometimes that means discussing something revealing/spoilery.

    This issue comes up a lot on one of the librarian YA listservs I follow. Some people get angry when people don't post spoiler warnings, but where do we draw the line? Do we not discuss the ending of, say, Harry Potter which has been out for YEARS now because one librarian may not have read it yet? It's a DISCUSSION listerv of YA books. If you haven't read the book...don't open up the email! Good grief!

    Same goes for blogs in my opinion.... new books coming out like Dead in the Family or Lover Mine, sure I would expect people to mention whether there are spoilers but older titles? Meh. Spoil away.

  7. I try to be very mindful of spoilers even in the quotes I include. It's very hard sometimes especially when the blurb of the book spoils for previous books in the series. If it can't be avoided then I put a spoiler warning. Nice post Stacy.

  8. like you said, my guess is people put in spoilers if they are important to their overall thoughts/reactions to the book. personally i like reading spoilers.

    in fact i often google : book title, spoilers just to see if any of my turnoffs are in there.

    i do the same with movies, i had to see if the wolf died in dancing with wolves. when i found out the answer that made my decision for me if i was going to see the movie ;)

    the only spoilers i HATE are ones that reveal the big twist/villain/murderer but ive never seen anyone do that

  9. I prefer a vague review - just enough to whet the appetite. I did have a few reviews early in my career which gave the secrets away. My hubby says "why read the book if it tells everyone what's happening?" Me, I was a little disappointed, but since the reason the reviewers did so was because they were so excited about the story, it was hard to be disappointed with the review for long. :)

  10. I like to think that I don't post spoilers but I'm not sure. I do summarize the book and that's where I find it difficult because I don't want to reveal too much.

    The most important part of the review, which is also the first thing I look at, is the reviewer's rating. Did they give the book 5/5 or 7/10... Then I read the part that expresses how they came to that "grade".

    I enjoy reading reviews about 400-600 words long and this is the length about where I keep my reviews. Any shorter and I'm not getting enough information. I'm not a fan of long reviews because it's just too much information.

  11. I try to avoid spoilers too. I don't like them in reviews either. I prefer reviews that tell me what the reader felt while reading it. And if I have to spoil it I always put a warning at the start.
    I think sometimes it'S hard to avoid spoilers and with some reviews I'm not sure if I did it. Am always afraid to give away to much.

  12. Vague, vague, vague, baby! lol

    I'm with you. I don't like spoilers and will skim a review if I see too much summary. Then I shoot down to the bottom for the "I liked it/I didn't like it" part.

    This is why in my own reviews, I tend not to summarize, and rely on the blurb/back cover description for that part of the review. My reviews tend to focus on my thoughts and feelings about my reading experience. I will describe a bit of the plot only if I need to clarify one of my points.

    I've actually hunted around for alternate descriptions if I think the blurb reveals too much, too. (I remember doing that for Broken Wing, because the blurb revealed too much of the plot.)

    Great topic, Stacy!

  13. Im one of the few who don't mind reading spoilers, i know going into a review there could be things revealed so whether someone has a spoiler alert or not im not too bothered, mostly because i hate to wait and always need to know =P

    Having said that, i do try not to reveal too much in my reviews (im human so im sure i do sometimes) i tend to keep plot to a minimum and concentrate on the characters, connection, chemistry.

    Reviewers have a lot of responsibilty when writing down their thoughts on a book, too little and no-one will want to read it, too much and it might piss someone off. Oh the pressure!! lol.

    Loved this post Stacy, it got me thinking!

  14. I try not to spoil anything in my reviews. A couple of times I've stumble on reviews where the same thing happened to me happened to you-just TMI.

  15. I really try hard not to put in spoilers but as a young child I couldn't even keep Christmas books a secret *sigh*. I'm 'working on this.' That being said I do enjoy reading spoilers especially if the reviewer had issues with the aspect of the book. I remember reading one review where the reviewer mentioned that the main character ends up cheating in the relationship. This actually helped me so I wasn't so shocked because infidelity is a hard concept for me to like.

    PS I'm ascared was it one of my reviews,lol?

  16. I only like to read spoilers for books I know I'll never read. Otherwise? I hate spoilers with the heat of a thousand blazing suns. Haaaaatttteeeeeee.

    I don't give spoilers in my reviews. Period. My rule of thumb is that almost anything in the first 50 pages of the book is fair game. That said, even that I might tweak a bit. Let's put it this way - I know a spoiler when I read it. I remember an older historical where it's revealed within the first 50 pages that the hero is blind. BUT, the way it's revealed, it's meant to be this BIG revelation. So yeah, if I had seen that in a review, I would have been ticked off.

    That being said, I will put spoilers in reviews if I have to reveal something that deeply effected my reading. In which case, I always give a spoiler warning in bright, red bold letters. Give the review reader the option to click away.....

  17. Well, if spoiling something that happens in the book helps me properly express my reaction and ultimate review of the novel, than I will. My blog has a huge spoiler-warning at the very top, and even then if I'm spoiling something at the end I will usually give a warning first.

  18. Excellent subject for consideration -- I think reviews are about comments on the quality of the writing, the way the author has developed the story and its themes, and the whether or not any reader can find the book,short story, or novella a worthy read to which one will give time. After all, it is coming down to the fact that our time is, for most people, one of the most valuable commodities anyone has. A review has to help a reader decide if this is a book to which one can give time and feel it a worthy investment. Thanks for opening up the "conversation."

  19. I love writing summaries in book reviews, but I do try to keep them absolutely spoiler-free. That doesn't mean you can't mention things that happen in the book; you just have to be tricksy with it so that only people who have read the book will realize that it's a "spoiler".

    It's a challenge. :P

  20. I personally don't like reviews that summarize the entire plot...that's what reading the book is for. I love the discovery of seeing where a story is going to go, it's part of the fun.

    The reviews that I admire the most give me a sense of what the book is about w/o spoilers and tell me what you liked and didn't like. I think you can do that for the most part without giving too much away.

    If I were that author you mentioned I would be beyond upset, after all that work to have the secrets of the plot revealed before the people you wrote the book for have had a chance to read it, is wrong!!

  21. I don't like spoilers in reviews. I've only put spoilers in ones I've written if they were essential to explaining why the book did/didn't work for me and I felt there was no way around it. Any spoilers I have put in, I've highlighted as such for those who'd prefer to avoid them.

    If I haven't yet read the book, I only read reviews at sites I trust not to give spoilers without ample warning. I often go back and read longer reviews with spoilers after I've finished the book.

  22. I don't like spoilers if I plan on reading the book. I also prefer shorter reviews over the really long ones. A paragraph or two giving me the basic plot line of the book and a paragraph or two giving me the reason why you liked or disliked the book is plenty for me.

    There a few things that I hate in a review and the number one is the paragraph of questions about the book.

    Will Tom and Sue end up together? Will They discover who the stalker is? Can they put their past behind them and find happiness together? This sounds like the ending to a bad soap opera and does nothing to actually review the book and I find it totally unneccessary. Drives me up the wall.

    Also I do not like reviews that simply say I liked the book or I hated this book and would not reccomend it to any one. Believe it or not I have read ones that only say that. Why did you like it or dislike it....telling me this is why you are writing the review in the first place...duh.

    The reviewer I like best from RT for instance is Jill Smith. She writes short interesting reviews and our reading tastes must be the same because I usually end up agreeing with her views.

  23. I'm spoiler-phobic, so I work hard at avoiding giving away too much of the plot in a review. Sometimes, though, it's pretty difficult to actually talk about a novel without specifics, and in those cases I add the "there be spoilers" warning to the review.

  24. Why would I buy the book (or see the movie) if someone has already told me how it ends? NO, I don't want spoilers and I try very hard to be vague about facts. If it's a series books I even note it if there are spoilers from a previous book as everyone may not have read them all.

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