We’ve all been led astray by resounding numbers of 5 star reviews of a book, only to discover our own marks would be closer to 2 or 3 stars, or a rarer occasion of upping a 2 to a 4. That’s a large reason why I take reviews with a boulder of salt, sometimes the book is positioned incorrectly for its genre and people have a knee-jerk reaction to take away stars for that or they see the story with rose colored glasses since it fulfills a specific fantasy they have.
There’s another way I judge reviews to figure out if I’ll try the book or not — how articulate are the most highly ranked reviews? Sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have customers vote for the best reviews to make it to the top of the reviews, so it gives a sense of whether the there’s a flood of disingenuous 5 stars when most people feel it’s closer to 2. I use those reviews to determine what kind of writing people that read the book like — if the top review is articulate, precise and well-written, I’m more likely to give it a try than a review that was written clumsily. This isn’t fool proof of course, because sometimes a story just doesn’t strike the right chords with you, or there aren’t enough reviews (I’d say as long as there is at least one extremely low and one fairly high, along with three others, this method works well enough).
So I secretly judge writers by their readers. It’s been a pretty effective method so far, so I’ll keep using it.