Today I have been working on a very in-depth review (or essay?) on Susan Patron's Lucky Breaks which I finished reading last week. While I was taking a break from writing, I decided to see what other reviewers had to say about the book and google brought me to the amazon reviews page. Now, I don't usually read amazon reviews, but I decided to check these out. I remember now why I don't read these: they're not accurate and can't always be trusted.
With reviews, you have to remember that generally they are one's own opinion and are therefore subject to the reviewer's tastes. So you can read a whole load of bad reviews for a book, and then read the book for yourself and end up loving it. The opposite is true also. So, when reading reviews, always take them with a grain of salt.
Now, in my opinion, a good reviewer doesn't just give their opinion, they give a synopsis of the book--without spoiling anyone--and also comment on a few things other than their likes or dislikes. They should mention the flow, the character designs & changes, the style, syntax, strength and continuity of the plot, etc. And you generally can't get that from a review on amazon.
Another thing I ran into was that these reviewers don't always have their facts straight. In a review of Lucky Breaks someone described Brigitte as both Lucky's stepmom and her mother, of which she is neither. She is Lucky's guardian; a woman from France who was once (but is no longer) married to Lucky's father before he married (and left) Lucky's mother. It's all right there in the beginning of The Higher Power of Lucky if you bother to read it. It is also mentioned a few times in Lucky Breaks. I say this only because it is vital to understanding Lucky and Brigitte and their relationship together.
The same reviewer seems to think that Lucky Breaks was only about a quickly formed friendship between Lucky and Paloma and Lucky getting in a spot of trouble (which they spoil, but I will not). Also, that Higher Power of Lucky was simply Lucky trying to figure out what a Higher Power was after overhearing it in a 12 Steps meeting. Yes, these things happen, but they are not what the book is all about. The first book was about survival, trust, and family (even if they aren't blood relations). The second book is about the bonds of friendship, self-confidence, and growing up, with some more about trust and family as well. If you think Lucky Breaks was simply about Lucky and Paloma's "treasure hunt" I seriously question your ability to read a book and fully understand it, as well as question you in your review.
Generally, I don't think there are enough good book reviewers out there, at least not in the places people are looking. Let's face it, people do read amazon reviews as a way of choosing whether or not the book is worth the money. I think it's really unfortunate that the reviews they are reading are of such low quality and are seriously selling the book short. The worse the review, the less likely someone is to give the book a chance, and then a good number of amazing literature gets lost in the shuffle.