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Can I Review Chocolate?

The title of this post may sound as though it has nothing to do with books, but bear with me, hopefully I’ll manage to get back to them by the end of this post!

A few weeks ago Lee from Chocolate Reviews sent out a message on twitter asking if anyone would like to review some chocolate. I loved the idea of doing this, but said I didn’t feel qualified to review chocolate as I haven’t reviewed any food before. Lee said this wasn’t a problem, as reviewing chocolate is just like reviewing a book:

The book cover makes you want to buy it, just like chocolate packaging; with chocolate its important to have a good beginning, middle and end and if its a good one then you don’t mind telling other people about it.

I’m willing to try anything once, so agreed to see what I could do. I received a beautiful bar of Charbonnel & Walker’s Pink Marc de Champagne chocolate in the post a few days later:

I was immediately impressed by the fancy box. The Royal Crest is like the chocolate equivalent of a book award to me – raising my expectations before I even try it! I have to admit that I’ve I’ve never eaten a bar like this  – I’m more normally found with something cheap from the corner shop!

I opened the box to review a slightly disappointing plastic wrapper, but inside that was the pinkest chocolate I’ve ever seen:

The pink chocolate was much softer than the bars I’m used to – I could easily cut it with a blunt knife. I wasn’t sure about the colour of it – the pink was too dark to appeal to me.

It almost melted in the mouth, having a rich creamy taste. The chocolate truffle centre had a slight alcoholic taste, but I wouldn’t associate it with champagne, as the flavour was too delicate for me to be able to pin-point it’s origin.

Overall, I found it to be a delicious treat, but I don’t think I’d buy a bar myself. I’d prefer to have 8 bars of cheap chocolate than 1 bar of this!

I don’t think I did the chocolate bar justice. I love chocolate, but I haven’t eaten enough bars of a similar standard to be able to compare them properly. I can tell you that I liked it, but not why. I have found a similar thing with reviewing books. Five years ago I’d have been able to tell you which books I loved and which I didn’t, but I wouldn’t have been able to give you any reasons for my choices.

The more books I read, the more fussy I become, but I also start to work out why certain books appeal and others don’t. I think this is a reason I struggle to review graphic novels – perhaps once I’ve read a few more I’ll be able to do a better job of it.

Do you think it is possible to review anything, or do you need to have experienced a large number of similar things to write a proper review?

How many graphic novels do you think I have to read before I can write a useful review for one?

64 replies on “Can I Review Chocolate?”

Hilarious post! Love that packaging.

I think its part of the joy of blogging that amateurs can have a say and share their opinions/reviews about anything under the sun!

Must go now and investigate the chocolate review opportunities in Australia…

Merenia, LOL! I’m sure there are lots of chocolate review opportunities in Australia. In the past I might have said that being a chocolate reviewer was my ideal job, but now I realise it would be a very dangerous one to have – I think I’d eat too much and then be sick!

That’s so pretty! I love pink things! I recieved 3 mini bars and we haven’t tried them all yet, so I haven’t done my review.

I think you’re right about needing to practise reviewing and writing about things. Perhaps this is an excuse to indulge in more chocolate?!

Verity, I look forward to seeing what you make of your chocolate. It is a great excuse to eat more chocolate, but I think I’ll stick to the books – maybe nibbling a little bit of chocolate on the side :-)

Oh, wow, reviewing chocolate. I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. Chocolate probably ranks as high on my list of ‘things I cannot live without’ as books do. I’m simply a chocoholic book lover.
I really like your chocolate review, I wouldn’t be able to constructively say why I like a certain bar of chocolate more than another. I either like a certain bar or I don’t. And I’m really fussy with my chocolate. I just think that chocolate is something so ‘abstract’ that I couldn’t tell why I like it or not. It’s just that I either do or don’t. With books, however, there are certain things I can pinpoint that I thought were brilliant or not so much – writing style, whether it could hold my attention, the feelings it produced.
And seeing as I don’t think I’ve ever read and graphic novels, I really am no help in that department. Sorry. :)

Susi, Snap! I love chocolate, so just couldn’t refuse this opportunity. I wouldn’t like to be without it. My little nephew is allergic to milk. I think I’d find it very hard to live a milk free life – it isn’t just chocolate – I love cheese and cream and ice cream. Poor little boy – at least he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

Vegan chocolate is quite disappointing unless you like dark chocolate. There is an increasing amount of vegan “milk” chocolate versions out there – you can get vegan smarties now too.

I’m curious what they charge for that pink chocolate! Honestly though, I’d have taken this guy up on his offer any day. Review chocolate? Sure! I’ve probably eaten two tons of it in my life. On your question about experience, I would have to agree. I’ve read maybe ONE graphic novel in my life (yes I’m signed up for the challenge, but have yet to really get to it) so I’m not sure I would know good from bad. I know that the books that satisfied me 15 years ago wouldn’t pass muster now.

Reviewing chocolate sounds like a delicious idea, but then I think I’d feel the same about it in the end: I usually buy dark chocolate at the grocery store and do not have the money to buy the “great & expensive” variaty.

Hm.. I’m not sure about the books. I think as a neewby to book reviewing I do feel that way sometimes, and I do think that practise might make perfect, but I don’t think it means you cannot have thoughts or opinions on a book even if you’re new to the genre. Maybe it’s more of a feeling reviewers themselves have? I know that I am more uncomfortable reviewing books I know others know a lot more about, or because I’ve never read anything by an author or a certain genre before.

Iris, Great point! I do think practise helps, but it is often nice to see someone trying a new genre and reading their feelings of their first experience. The reviews might not be helpful to someone who is really into that genre, but perfect for another person that hasn’t yet tried it either. I think all we can do is to try to be honest about our experience.

Reviewing chocolate, what an idea! I think that theoretically you could review anything, but considering that what we say online can affect buyers opinions it is best to stay to what we know and like. Chocolate, for example, you’ve had before so although you don’t have the vocabulary yet to fully pinpoint exactly what it is that you like or didn’t, you do have something to compare it to. Same with graphic novels – you have reviewed books, just not that type, so it would take some practice but I, for one, would still love to read them! If it came to something like TV, though, which I don’t watch and don’t enjoy, I wouldn’t want to agree to review a show because I already have such negative feelings toward it. Does that make sense?

Amy, I would find TV difficult to review too. I know I have watched programmes in the past and not enjoyed them, but been unable to pinpoint why. I have then seen a review a few days later and the person has explained exactly why it didn’t work. I was impressed by their insight, but would be unable to replicate that on another programme

Great job turning a chocolate post back into a book post. While it’s true that newbies can write good reviews, of course (though it definitely helps if you’re into that genre, as Iris said), I think you make a good point that figuring out exactly what makes book bad or good comes easier with time. Again, not that you can’t do it at all without practice, but that it will become more natural after many reviews.

Before blogging, if I didn’t like a book, I would just discard it and forget about it, which is why I was stunned to realize I had a hard time answering a question about books I disliked.

Lija, I wonder how many other topics I could convert into book ones? Probably most, as I’m well practiced in turning the conversation to books!

I love the way blogging makes you focus your thoughts and work out exactly what was good/bad about a book.

Great post, Jackie! You and I have taken a completely different approach to the task but then I’d expect that as we are different in our blogging style.

I’ve reviewed a few graphic novels and try to treat them the same as I do other books, albeit with some commentary on the art-style. Saying that, I have two graphic novel reviews outstanding and I find myself with very little to say about them. I think you need to review a few more and try not to view them as a breed apart.

Claire, I love the way people take the same topic and then take it in different directions – it would be boring if we all thought in the same way!

I think the main problem I have with graphic novels is that I know nothing about art, so find it almost impossible to comment on that side of things. I look forward to your outstanding reviews – perhaps reading more graphic novel reviews will give me a better idea too.

I do think you need to have some experience before you can write a proper review. For example I won’t be comfortable to review a mystery or thriller book maybe. I can compare it with books in general, but it’s a bit difficult and probably unfair to compare with books from different genre. Like comparing apples and oranges.

How many graphic novels have you read? I’m thinking 5-10 might be a good number before you can get a grip of it.

mee, I’ve only read 2 graphic novels. I found it interesting that you aren’t comfortable writing reviews for thrillers as I am quite happy doing that, despite not being a big thriller reader. I just treat it in the same way as I do all the other books I read. I think the difference is that graphic novels contain pictures and so I don’t know what to say about them, or realise how the layout etc affects the book. I’ll let you know if things get easier after I’ve read 8 more!

I’m currently considering reviewing a chocolate box I had recently, so it was apt seeing this in my feeder this morning.

I think that as long as you have enough to say about something you can review it. As well as books I like to review music and have tried films and food as well. Sometimes you just feel strongly about something and want to share it. Practising writing on the same type of products definitely helps but any reviewing in general is a good background to start on.

I’m not sure if the pinkness appeals to me, not in that quantity at least, but your review was well worth the read!

Charlie, I hope your chocolate box review goes well – I think a whole box would have been too much for me :-)

I haven’t reviewed anything but books and a few book-related films before, but I’m not sure I feel passionately about many other things – perhaps I’ll branch out into other areas as time goes on.

Mmm…pink chocolate!

I don’t think you need to have a lot of experience to review something. I think if you are reviewing something that is new to you it’s useful to mention that it’s new to you so that readers can take your review with that in mind.

My husband and I have always found that we often disagree with movie critics in our newspaper. Often, we’re just looking for a movie that will keep our attention for a couple of hours, and those kind of reviews are often better from everyday people rather than film students who are expected to be critical (nothing against film students, we’re just looking for different things!)

Shannon, Great point! Some of the most cimematically stunning films are the dullest! Film critics may love the lighting/camera angle etc, but I don’t care about that if the plot is good.

I agree with Iris and Mee. Sometimes you can dislike a book, then re-read it and notice things that you were just not getting before because you were an inexperienced reader or new to the genre.

A good book is a good book, however. Graphic novels are basically aiming to provide a solid, compelling storyline, just like any other novel. Experience in the genre may equip you to see the tools and tricks that the writers use and how good a book is compared to other graphic novels, but it probably won’t change your basic tastes.

tea lady, I know when I’ve enjoyed a graphic novel, but I find it difficult to get across the reasons to other people. I’d love to work out which tricks they use to make graphic novels work. I think part of the problem may be that I’m only reading the very best -perhaps I need to find some poor ones so I know what a bad one looks like!

I do think that the more familiarity you have with a subject area that easier and richer your reviews will be, BUT I don’t think this familiarity is a pre-requisite to writing a good review or one that is helpful to others. After all, we aren’t all well-versed in every area of life and a novice’s approach and reaction can be extremely useful to those of a similar mind. Plus, a fresh perspective is always nice!

I don’t think I could go for pink chocolate, myself! But it’s definitely interesting to read your impressions! As a fan of chocolate, you might enjoy the book “The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars” by Joel Brenner. I loved this book! And in fact, whenever I try a new type of chocolate (which unfortunately is rather often), I think back to what I learned in this book about tasting chocolate.

Jackie, now a chocolate reviewer. LOL

I am asked sometimes if I would like to test or review films, but I am just not enthusiastic enough about films so I always refuse because I feel I would not be fair to it.

And chocolate? No, I do eat it now and then, but I never, ever buy any myself. If anyone out there should ask me to review good, Danish liquorice, though …

Dorte, I’m not sure I’ve tried any Danish liquorice, but I have had some amazing liquorice from Norway – much better than the stuff we have here. Australians make good liquorice too – I wonder why it is so terrible in the UK?

I think the secret is to add ammonium chloride – which is not legal in all countries. It makes the liquorice strong and tasty, not like black rubber.

It may not be too healthy, and it raises your blood pressure. Mine is very low, however, so I feel very elated when I have had some :D

Well, your review made my mouth water! I never heard of pink chocolate before and might never have if I hadn’t read your review! I often have the same trouble with writing about books- I know I like or don’t like something, but it’s often hard to pinpoint exactly why…

Jeane, Hopefully you’ll find it easier to know why you do/don’t like something as you read/review more books. I know I am finding it easier all the time.

Good luck seeking out the pink chocolate!

Maybe the solution to the graphic novels review problem is to search for other reviews of the graphic novels you’ve read. They may not have the same opinions as you did, but they might be able to point you at what to look for. Alternately, you could try reading Scott McCloud’s wonderful Understanding Comics, which goes through many different aspects of graphic novels and how they do what they do. That and yeah, read more of them. I know I’ve gotten better at pinpointing what I like about comics I read.

Jenny, Great idea! I have seen Understanding Comics mentioned several times, but thought I hadn’t read enough graphic novels to find it interesting. The reverse might be the case and I should actually read it as soon as possible *heads off to see if library has a copy*

Ooohhhh….chocolate! That said, I think experience helps greatly with reviewing, but I also think it can be very interesting and helpful to “read along” with someone learning about something as well. On my previous blog, Sweet Diva, I wrote about perfume. I was definitely not an expert when I started (nor was I when I stopped writing about perfume), but I definitely learned a great deal and got better over time at understanding things.

As far as the graphic novel question, I wondered that myself! I just read my first one, Asterios Polyp, and I am almost afraid to review it because I am such a novice.

Lovely post! I love love chocolate, why does anyone go for alcohol when they´re down? Chocolate always helps :)
So far no one has been able to convince me that Lindt chocolate isn´t the best.

I think reviews are nearly often helpful. If you thought about the subject and have an opinion go ahead. I think you build your “expertise” by reading and reviewing.

I got a class on graphic lit this semester and we´re reading Duncan/Smith: Comics. History, Form, Culture, which I think is very very easy to understand and great for beginners. I´ve hardly read any graphic novels either but I´m hoping this class will teach me about them.

And now I´m craving chocolate and it´s all your fault ;)

Bina, I’ve never got the alcohol thing either – chocolate cheers me up much more :-)

I haven’t heard of the Duncan/Smith book – thanks for the recommendation!

Mmm, not a big chocolate fan but if you ever need any cashew nuts or pistachios tested do feel free to contact me! Re the graphic novels situation it depends on whether you feel your audience/readership is looking for a specialised/expert opinion or not. I, personally, would feel more comfortable with a review from someone who has fairly eclectic tastes like myself rather than an avid fan as they would see faults where I would not.

Put it this way, I enjoy historical fiction for the way it makes me feel, how it gives me a taste of life in another era, how the characters draw me into that time period and how it educates me (slightly) without making me feel like a dunce. I prefer reviews from folk who seem to have similar tastes to myself rather than “experts” in a particular genre. Life is all about new experiences, embrace them!

It might be interesting to read a graphic version of a novel you’ve already written and that way you can see how they complement each other yet differ in their approach – I did that with Coraline, had very different experiences with each genre but enjoyed both equally.

Teresa, I’m a bit fan of most nuts too! Macadamias are my favourite though :-)

I think you make a good point. Experts in some areas can hate a book because it is factually inaccurate, whereas I will love it for being a fantastic story.

Okay, now you’ve gone and made me hungry with all your chocolate talk. I’ll permit you to continue to review chocolate, but only if you send me a bar of it after every post. ;-)

Why NOT review chocolate?

Funny, in my blogger profile, I specifically mention my love of dark chocolate. :)

I’m a book blogger, too, but how can I get some chocolate to review? :-)

Suko, I think you get chocolate to review by starting a chocolate blog, writing lots of chocolate reviews and hoping chocolate manufacturers like what you do – think it is easier just to buy some ;-)

I’ve been reading a book about book reviewing and she asks pretty much exactly the question you did at the end of the post — does a reviewer need to know much about the thing they write about, or is it better to just share impressions as a lay-person. I’m not sure what the answer is exactly, but I tend to think it comes down to being honest in your review about what kind of background you bring to it. I’m not sure if I trust people with deep background on a subject to tell me whether I might like it or not, but it’s nice to know.

Kim, I think that one of the main benefits of book blogging is that you can follow people with similar taste/ reading experiences as you and by knowing there background are able to trust their reviews more. Honesty is the key to almost everything!

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