I know reviewers are supposed to help make or break a book, and that good reviews are considered very important. I have to say though, as reader, I find reviews not very helpful at all.
They seem to fall into two categories. One is ‘all other books are bad and therefore this is good’. For example, if a book has a child as hero, you can guarantee that reviewers will say ‘better than Harry Potter!’. Usually it isn’t. Or it is such a different kind of book to Harry Potter than comparing it is like comparing apples to oranges, simply because they are both fruit. Crime books will say ‘better than Cornwell’,romance will say ‘better than Cookson!’.I find this kind of review quite nasty. It’s promoting one author at the expense of another, and is very negative.
Or the review is of the ‘best book of the 21st century’ type. As this is only 2011, this seems a bit ridiculous. Besides, I’ve read Victorian reviews of books that call them ‘best book of our time’, and almost invariably, that book is utterly forgotten.
I have to say I always end disagreeing utterly with reviewers (that tends to go for music, film and TV too). As a reader, I’ve found I prefer to make my own choice (and note to publishers – please replace that list of ecstatic reviews on the back of books with some hint of what the book is actually about). As a writer, I’m not going to worry what the reviewers think. The people who buy my books will be the important ones.