Disclaimer: I don't think I'm the bestest review writer ever. Hell, most days I fall in the marginally good category, and that's if I'm lucky. But given that everyone is talking about Amazon reviews again (seriously, who reads these?) I thought now would be a good time to offer Wendy's Helpful Hints of Reviewing. Oh, and you authors who like to bitch about Big Fat Meanie Reviewers? Pay attention, I'm spelling it out for you.
In Order Of Importance (as I see it):
1) The Characters. If you have time to kill and cruise around my TRR reviews for books that got less than stellar ratings 99.9% of the time you'll notice I harp on the characters. Seriously, they make or break a book for me. In fact I would say a good 90% of my enjoyment of a novel hinges on how the characters are working for me. Is the heroine a dumb ass? Is the hero a Neanderthal jack ass? I'm going to hate the book. Just am. No amount of fantastic plotting, delicious word play or superior editing is going to help one iota.
2) Plotting. Really all I'm looking for here is how the story flows. Does it bog down? Is it too frantic? Are there gaping holes you can drive a city bus through? That said, if I love your characters, I am kinder on the plot.
3) Writing. I know, this should probably be higher on my list. I like my writing clean. Give me show, not tell. And for cripes sake, I hate purple prose! Silly sex euphemisms and flowery description make my eyes roll back in my head. I did not pick up your novel to read 25 pages on a beautiful rain storm. I picked up your novel to read about the characters and conflict.
4) Editing. I barely notice this, which I'm sure would lead many readers to burn me at the stake. The only time editing in a novel becomes in issue for me is if I'm having obvious issues with 1, 2 or 3.
5) Packaging/marketing. At this stage in the game I try not to let cover art influence me. I've read great books with shitty covers and crappy books with fantastic covers. Marketing gets me a bit more. A good example of this would be last year's In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond. I'm sure Avon pushed it as a romance because that's where Bond built her audience - but I really think the book would have been better served had they concentrated on the cozy/humorous mystery market. It worked a lot better as a mystery than it did as a romance. It's my job to tell the reader - well the romance is lackluster but the mystery is very good. Then of course it's up to reader to make the ultimate choice. Seriously, I still think Avon dropped the ball on this one. Is this Bond's fault? Of course not. It's a fun book. Just targeted to the wrong market in my ever so humble opinion.
You'll notice nowhere on this list do I mention the author. This might wound some egos, but frankly authors are a nonfactor me. I think about authors the same way I think about the Wizard of Oz. Please don't pay any attention to the man behind the curtain! The novel is there for me to consume. I don't think too hard about the guy who makes my cheeseburgers (unless the health department shuts him down!) I know authors are people to, but thinking about them gets in the way of my entertainment value. So rarely (if ever) will I mention in author in a review other than to say, "SoAndSo's latest for Harlequin puts a new spin on a well worn plot device" or "SoAndSo's sophomore effort features a petulant heroine determined to prove her Daddy wrong." I won't say, "SoAndSo wouldn't know her ass from a hole in the ground, her politics suck monkey balls and her children are ugly." Why? Because chances are I've never met SoAndSo. Maybe she does know her own ass. Far be it from me to make sweeping statements.
Also, authors really need to get off this kick that Big Fat Meanie reviewers are all frustrated writers who couldn't hack it. Not all of us have aspirations of getting published. Frankly that shit is hard work and a lot of us are too lazy. I can appreciate that it is very hard to write. It's even harder to get your work in print. I know you all worked very hard on that book. Doesn't mean I have to like it though. Just another joy of living in a democratic-based-consumer society.