post on her blog about writers (of all kinds: authors, reviewers, etc.) as readers, and how reviewing changes the way we approach reading. The post and the comments that resulted from it were all quite fascinating, and Shannon left us with some big questions for us to consider. I'm going to talk about how I feel about each question, and feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments section!
1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
Perhaps, but only a little like how someone else's opinion on it would affect me: I have some expectations for what I'm going to get. With review books sent to me by authors and publishers, I tend to give them a little more attention than books I pick up on my own, because I feel they are owed that, since someone went to the trouble of requesting my attention. Similarly, I dive into books that others have raised about with lots of excitement, but also some trepidation. There's always the sad chance that you won't like it as well as the 34098576 people who recommended it to you did.
2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
Surprisingly, it actually only takes a few pages for me to get an idea of how I will rate it, and what phrases I will use to describe it in my review. (Oh yes. This whole years'-worth-of-reviewing thing has definitely gotten to my thinking.) I try to include a "Similar Authors" list for each book I review, so I find myself referencing past reads as I consider the book's style of writing or type of plot. Sometimes I make connections between authors and books that I didn't even know existed.
3. Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
Um, I don't think so. I read a combination of review books, library books (for those recent releases I've heard so much about but don't own a copy of), and books I own that I've either bought or traded for. In fact, I read and review way more books than the ones I post on this blog. I do note that if I have a chance of putting up a positive or critical review of two books I've read on my own, I tend to put up the positive one. Sometimes review books are ones I wouldn't pick up on my own, but I'm always searching for good-quality fiction.
4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
It does sometimes deepen my feelings in either direction. Sometimes I start out writing a critical review that ends up more scathing that I thought it would at first. Other times, my thoughts linger over a particular book precisely because I've written a glowing review of it, when otherwise I would've smiled contentedly for, like, an hour after reading it, and then put it aside, never to be thought of again. Writing reviews helps me reflect on the book, and I figure out what worked or did not work for me, and what elements of fiction I like to read and write about.
I look at ratings; I do. I trust them more when they come from people whose bloggers I consistently follow and read, or from people whose tastes I know are similar to mine. Ratings aren't objective, after all, and you kind of need to take them into context. On my blog, more "literary" fiction usually gets higher ratings, while guilty-pleasure reads--even the occasional ones that I enjoy--are never as high. In short, I strongly consider ratings when they come from bloggers I respect and share similar interests with.
6. If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?
Well, I rate books, so the first question doesn't apply to me. :) As a reviewer, I try to be an informed voice that others can trust for recommendations; this involves reading a lot, in various genres and qualities. I am very aware of myself when I am the dissenter for a popularly loved or hated book, or when I am among the few bloggers who've reviewed a particular book that I feel deserves more attention. I love books, and I dislike books. I try to have depth and breadth (that word has always looked strange to me, for the record), and I try to let my readers know by dropping hints everywhere what my taste consists of, so that they know that my reviews, while certainly subjective according to my tastes, are as objective and fair as I can make them be, while still staying true to myself. Er, does that even make sense?
Shannon also has a great follow-up post to her first post about reviews, which you should also read if you get the chance. In it, she talks about 5-star ratings versus the single star that respected publications such as Publishers Weekly give for extra-strong recommendations, and how reviews are not written for the authors.
Now, I'm curious how you feel about reviews, ratings, and more. If you write reviews, have you noticed if it changes the way you approach reading? How do reading reviews and seeing ratings affect you in deciding to read a book? And for non-reviewers or non-bloggers as well: how much do reviews and ratings factor into your experience of reading a particular book?