I no longer read book reviews, or reviews of other products, for one simple reason. Most aren’t honest or even good reviews. When you say a book or product is only worth 1 – 3 stars, but rate it as 4 or 5 stars, you aren’t being honest. Either you weren’t honest on your 1 – 3 star comment or you weren’t honest on the 4 or 5 star rating. Why should I take anything you said in your review seriously if you weren’t honest. However, if you are being honest, you need to give a book or product the rating you believe it deserves. If you are not being honest, don’t bother leaving a review as you are misleading potential buyers. For me to classify a review good, it’s not about how many stars the reviewer gave it, but how they reached their conclusions and does the rating match the review. I won’t call a review good if it says the product is only worth 1 star, but they gave it 3+ stars in their rating. If you are giving a scathing review of a product, but then rate it way above what the words in your review indicate it should get, then it’s a bad review.
Also, the review needs to be realistic. If you are reading a book about vampires, don’t ding the writer for using vampires in the book. This is true especially if the writer is using a variation of vampires that aren’t the traditional European vampire. I don’t believe in vampires, but from myths the stories of vampires vary widely around the world. I have also seen a reviewer ding a writer because they weren’t writing about a dystopian world. If your book’s genre is alternate history in a non-dystopian world, then giving a negative review of the book because it’s not dystopian is a huge disservice to the writer. However, if it’s supposed to be a dystopian setting and the writer is ignorant of, or willing ignores, what should be key elements of the genre, that’s fair game. If I am writing alternate ancient history and throw in nuclear power plants that don’t fit, I should get dinged for it. On the other hand, if my setting was an ancient civilization that had nuclear power plants and they are plausible or at least believable, then don’t ding me for it. If you are reviewing unicorn meat (and yes, there is a product on Amazon
I belong to several Facebook writing groups and one theme on book reviews tends to be why so many won’t give honest reviews. They rarely coach it in such terms, but when a writer says they won’t give less than 3 (or 4 or 5) stars, no matter what, then I don’t bother reading their reviews because they aren’t being honest. In some cases, the writers are concerned a negative review will lead to the other writer or their followers leaving bad payback reviews. If anything, reviews on Amazon have become a joke with only a small percentage of people taking them seriously.
Likewise, I don’t read professional reviews of books or movies. After reading a review by a local movie critic on Dr. Doolittle 2 minutes before walking into the theater, it was almost as if I watched a different movie because the things he hyped weren’t there and the things he mentioned as being better from the first movie weren’t better.
Game reviews are often tainted by the fact that many gaming magazines aren’t willing to give a bad review for whatever reason. If a gaming magazine sells ads to company X, then they should have to disclose exactly how much money they get from company X when reviewing one of it’s products. When I review a product, movie, game, book, etc., I am not motivated by money for several reasons. First and foremost, I am putting my name on the line when I give a review. While you may not agree with my review, it shouldn’t be based on the fact that my review was potentially tainted by a free product. If my blog reaches a large enough audience to lead to companies offering me free products to review, I am not going to let that influence my opinion of the product. In most cases, I will offer what I like about a product, what I dislike, and who, if anybody, I think the product is a good fit.