Reviews - The long and short of them: Which do you prefer?

For awhile now, I've been searching for ways to improve my reviews plus I want to be more comfortable with writing them. I get antsy about writing reviews and sometimes I have a hard time putting my thoughts into the written word. Yeah, in terms of the literary world, I'm a reader and not a writer. Any ways, I've been scoping out other reviews across blogland, trying to see if I can spot a formula of some sort, that will make the light bulb turn on for me. I've also purchased a book on writing book reviews based on J. Kaye's recommendations here. I want to write reviews based on the type of reviews I seek out for book recommendations.

Short Reviews
Short reviews are my preference for when I'm looking to see if a book is one I want to read and if the reviewer recommends the book. Plus I want to discover the nuances of a book on my own and usually the back cover of book tells me enough of the story. Notice I say usually, not all back cover blurbs are created equally. When it's not adequate, I like to see something added in the review to make up for the missing information.

Long Reviews
I like the longer review when I've already read the book and I want to see the reviewer's thoughts in comparison to mine on a book. On longer reviews for books I haven't read, I usually just scan for an overall recommendation. After I've read the book, I may go back and read the whole review.

For My Own Reviews
Since I have pretty much always preferred the shorter reviews, I'm leaning towards writing shorter reviews then I have in the past. Plus, I'm not enough of a word wizard to write a lengthy book review without giving out spoilers. I also think with longer reviews, the odds lean towards a spoiler sneaking in. Even if the reviewer didn't intend to put it in the review. Plus, everyone has their own idea of what they think plot point spoilers are.

Also longer reviews tend to have minor plot points, maybe to most this doesn't matter but to me it does. I enjoy reading for the element of surprise and the excitement of not knowing. A lot of times just knowing one minor plot point ahead of reading it, can lead me to guessing the outcome before it happens. Where as if I hadn't been told the minor plot point, this wouldn't of happened. This spoils the read for me. That is probably the main driving factor for me in wanting to write shorter book reviews. I don't want to spoil a read for anyone.

Your Opinion
I want to know what you all think about short versus long book reviews. Which type of book review do you prefer and why? What do you like to see in a review?

I've also embedded a poll in this post, if you care to vote. I'll let it run for a bit and then share the outcome.

What type of book review do you look for?


Jess (The Cozy Reader) said...

I voted long....but I'm torn and probably should have voted no preference.

I tend to write long reviews and I break each review down into categories and discuss them as needed.

However, I've grown tired of spending sooo much time writing a review. I recently switched to a Pro vs Con list and I liked that.

I NEVER give any spoilers when I write reviews, short or long.

Having read the book already or not influences how much of the review I read.

Michelle Greathouse said...


I am in complete agreement with you!! I like short reviews - reading them and writing them.

I have seen some reviews that were so long - there was no need to read the book. :)

If I have not read a book - I just want to know if the reader liked it and recommends it. If I have read the book then I don't mind a little more info.

I don't want all the 'surprise' parts given away. LOL


Donna said...

Hey Jessica - I like how you break down your reviews. It let's each person pick the pieces they look for in a review. *grins* Everyone says they don't give any spoilers, I even say that.

Hi Michelle - Yeah, I've seen where some reviews summarize the first half of the book. To me that's more of a book report than a review.

Smokinhotbooks said...

It really depends for me. I'm lazy and I hate to scroll, so if I read a and have to scroll for like 10 seconds, it's a little over kill. I've been playing around with the idea of adding a short review then a (+ or -) for people that want to read the more in depth review - like a news story.

Sophia (FV) said...

It was hard for me to make a choice on the poll because like you, I read different reviews for different reasons. I also write long and short reviews for different reasons. Sometimes I'll skim a review for information if I haven't read the book and I want to avoid spoilers etc. It just depends. (I enjoy your reviews by the way) :)

Donna said...

KC - For me, it's also the time factor to in reading long reviews. I think if you like writing long reviews, that's good and you should go for it. This is just an opinion piece on preference.

Fiction Vixen - Thank you on the kudos on my reviews. :) I want to write shorter reviews because I think most people are looking to see if they want to read the book. And it's just a smaller number of folks that read a review because they have already read the book.

Anna said...

I love short reviews myself. But there are a few long reviews I do enjoy. If I haven't read the book I usually stray away from most long reviews cause I hate spoilers.

My own reviews are short and to the point. I have done a few long ones, but these have been books I absolutely loved and couldn't put down.

Amy C said...

Hi Donna,
This question seems to pop up different places from time to time. I prefer short reviews. I must admit that when I see a review that is lengthy I won't even read it, because like you said, even if the reviewer hadn't intended to add spoilers, inadvertently they always do. Like you said, even something that seems minor can lead to much more. And I also like to read with a nice amount of the unknown. I just want to know a basic summary, but most importantly, was it liked. What did you like, what didn't you like? What's the author's voice like if it's a new to me author.

I think I sometimes can get long winded, but I think it's more a focus on my thoughts rather than on the plot rundown. I like to keep mine between three and four paragraphs. One to focus on the heroine. One for the hero. And the last for my thoughts. I think that's how I try to formulate them anyway :). That's usually my intention.

Wicked Lil Pixie said...

I'm all about the short reviews and I will not give any spoilers. I'll talk about the book in my own words, and try and keep it to the point. I hate reading long reviews, just incase someone pops a spoiler in, or they just get long winded.

Donna said...

Hi Anna - I would like to get to where I can be more concise in my reviews. I'm sure it will be a work in process. When I look back at some of my reviews, I feel like I rambled a bit. Or a lot. :)

Hi Amy - I don't think your reviews are long nor do I think they are short. You have a middle ground in yours and I can always tell by your review how much liked a book. :)

Hey Wicked Lil Pixie - I couldn't agree more. I think the key to a good review is being concise and to the point. :)

Chris said...

Back after a detour to pick up that book...

From my blog, you've probably guessed I voted short. :) I know that the ones I usually write are more reviewettes than anything. I want to know the same basic things that I include in my reviewettes - rough idea of what the book's about, anything that really stood out (bad or good), and whether I liked it or not.

I think a huge part of whether reviews are useful or not depends on whether you trust the reviewer. That's what I really like about book blogs - you can get familiar with reviewers/bloggers and their tastes, then follow those that have are going to provide the best book recommendations for you.

Donna said...

Chris - Same here on reviewer trust. I follow a variety of them for different reasons but usually the main reason being whether we have the same taste in books and how they rec books.

Mandi said...

I would rather read a longer review I think...especially after the summary where you get into the reviewer's opinion and what worked and didn't work.

I have tried to write shorter reviews because I know there are many that like short reviews, but I can't. They just turn out the way they turn out for me..LOL. Might check out that book though...

Abigail said...

I tend to like long, and write long. It helps me better understand the reviewers reasons for liking/disliking a particular book.

SciFiGuy said...

I pretty much agree with everything you said Donna (I know how original) and for the same reasons. I am actually thinking of further shortening the reviews I do simply because of time constraints - better a short review than no review at all.

Donna said...

Mandi and Abigail - I think everyone should write the review they are comfortable with and what makes them happy. We've all come together on our blogs because we all like some the same genres represented on each others blogs. Not to mention the authors we all adore. Variety is what makes all our blogs fun to visit.

Mandi - The print book is $16.95 but the ebook is usually between $5 and $6. Amazon doesn't have a Kindle version but you could buy it in pdf and convert to your Kindle. It really has some good points that I hadn't realized or thought of before.

Doug - My time is limited too and since I tend to write, then rewrite my reviews at least 4 or 5 times before posting them, maybe shorter reviews will help me post more of them. And I agree with you, a short review is better than no review.

Unknown said...

Hi Donna,

I voted short. I write short. Sometimes I would like to write longer reviews but it just doesn't come that easy to me. Sometimes I look at other longer reviews and think how did they manage to write all that! If I had a choice in the way I write my review then I would like them to be a little longer, but not too ling. I have seen some that scroll on for ages and to be honest I just get bored and move on. Maybe what I'm trying to say is I probably would like something in the middle.

Great post!

Blodeuedd said...

I voted for no preference. Cos I know that sometimes I will write short ones myself, if I do not have much to say, sometimes I am totally smitten by the way the writer has written and then I write long ones. And sometimes I really like a book but can't find words just like with the ones I do not care for that much.

I like to read short ones, somewhat long ones, but those that are too long I tend to skim

Adele said...

I haven't voted, there are arguments for both but I love a variety. I
would say whatever you feel happiest writing because doing this has to be enjoyable for you too.

Anonymous said...

I like long reviews, but short reviews have their place too. In fact, I sort of agree with you!

VampFanGirl said...

I like long reviews. I write long ones and I enjoy reading long ones. And like you mentioned, I enjoy reading long reviews of books I've already read.

With my own reviews, I've tried to appease both kinds of reviewing preferences. I write a long review but I always bold my own personal thoughts and feelings at the very end. That way for those people that like em long can be happy, and for those that just want to simply read my immediate thoughts and recommendations, they just have to scroll down to the bold.

;) VFG

Anonymous said...

Short reviews

IceJewel said...

I voted for "No preference" .

Long reviews are good if they don't have any spoilers in it.

On the other hand, I always read short reviews.But, understanding what exactly the reviewer felt is difficult to understand.

Donna said...

BCC - I agree with your thoughts. If I wrote longer reviews I would just be rambling, I'm not a good enough writer to write engaging long reviews.

Blodeuedd - Same thoughts here. :)

Hagelrat - Yep, there are arguments for both type of reviews. I'm just leaning towards short reviews since most of the time I'm reading a review because I've never read the book.

TJ - I like the way you setup your reviews. You section it so people with different review preferences can go to the section they prefer. :)

VFG - I like the way you do that with your reviews. That's a lot of work too. Thank you!

Alterlisa - *grins* Thanks!

Icejewel - That's where the reviewer should be clear about whether they liked the book. I know what you mean though, I've seen this. Maybe I should also consider showing the rating I gave my reviews on Goodreads. I use to do this but I stopped. Just in case the review isn't clear.

Erotic Horizon said...

I finally got the chance to chip in here...

I voted for no preferences - because as much as I love short reviews, sometimes it can be too meh - if you know what I mean, it is no better than the blurb...

Long reviews are two fold for me - firstly once I know the path of a reviewer style, I jumped to the bit I want to read just for the fear of spoilers..

Secondly - If the review is one long body of words - I wont read it , short and snappy paragraphs does it for me and it keeps a structure to the reviews that definitely work for me...

I second Haglerat - both have relevancy and it's just how the book made you feel and how much of it you are able to actually transfer into a decent sounding review...


Marissa said...

I voted for long reviews.

For me it really depends on the reviewer's style of reviewing. I find that many reviews have more summary than own thoughts about a book. I like reviews where the reviewer explain her/his thoughts, what worked and what did not work.

I tried to write short reviews, but they always end up long, unless I really have not much to say about the story, that is usually the case when I had no emotions while reading the book or if it is not fast-paced.

Donna said...

Thanks E.H. - I agree long reviews have their place. I see them more as discussion. And I do the same as you when I get to know a reviewer's style. I've read a few spoilers when there shouldn't have been any, several times this year in reviews. Like I mention, everyone has different ideas of what they think a spoiler is.

Marissa - I've noticed that too. I'm trying to write a review right now and shorten it up a bit. It's harder than it seem.

Leontine said...

I voted for long reviews. I want a review that makes me dig inside the mind of the reviewer; what worked, what didn't, which character got your love and which ones didn't? How was the plot, was it edge-of-your-seat or plain meh? Did the book deliver as a whole and so on.

I personally use the summary/blurb from the backcover and sometimes add a paragraph of own summary to the actual review/thoughts in the hope to avoid as many spoilers as possible. There are just very few reviewers where I read the whole summary because at the bottom line this is not why I read a review.

Short reviews often do not give me what I need in terms of details in how a book is experienced.

I write the long reviews, especially when I am over the moon with a book. I just can't write all my thoughts in a paragraph or two long review. I am very elaborate and I understand that it takes a commitment and time to read my reviews. It is a part of the blog person that I am LOL

I think it takes time to find a review voice you're comfortable with. There are so many factors that play a part; time being a huge factor but also, does it come easy and do you take pleasure from it. Reviewing should never be a complete frustration!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I want insightful. I don't want to read a plot summary so much as your thoughts and experience with the book. Not to say that plot's not important. But I want MORE than just a recap.

Donna said...

Leontine it does take time, I'm still tuning my reviews. I'm not a very verbal person so when I write reviews I have to push myself to speak. :)

Susan I understand what you mean, quite a few reviews do recaps. I'm probably guilty of that too. We need a Psych 101 for book reviewing: people talking about their feelings about a book. LOL!

prashant said...

am in complete agreement with you!! I like short reviews - reading them and writing them.

Lingerie Affection

Jo said...

I'm more of a long review fan. A blurb/summary tells you roughly what a books about. This will spark my interest, maybe, but won't tell me if I'll like it. With short reviews, there's only really room for the reviewer to briefly say they liked it or didn't - that doesn't help me decide if I will or not. I need more.

I write my reviews on how I like to read them; I try to focus on things like the action, the characters, the pace, the overall plot, etc. They don't all get mentioned in each review, it all depends on the book.

For example, I find "the characters had a lot of depth and were quite complex" more helpful than "I really liked the main character and his/her love interest". Obviously, neither is the only thing a reviewer would say, but one is more helpful to the reader than the other in my opinion.

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