Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones -- “First, then, we warn thee not too hastily to condemn any of the incidents in this our history as impertinent and foreign to our main design, because thou doest not immediately conceive in what manner such incident may conduce to that design. This work may, indeed, be considered as a great creation of our own; and for a little reptile of a critic to presume to find fault with any of its parts, without knowing the manner in which the whole is connected, and before he comes to the final catastrophe, is a most presumptuous absurdity.”
Scuttlebutt has it that Kirkus Reviews, along with Editor & Publisher, are folding now that Nielsen Business Media are getting out of the trade publication business. The general response, among those of my Facebook friends who've been reviewed by Kirkus, is nostalgic waxing about snarky reviews past.
Susan Wise Bauer notes here that "as an author, I’m less than devastated. Not because Kirkus was known for snarkiness (although it was), but because Kirkus, to me, was always irrelevant.” She adds that in her experience her books sell almost entirely by word of mouth.
Generally the only way I can tell whether or not I'll enjoy a book is to start reading it -- however, if I am going to try and make this prediction based on reviews, I find skimming through twenty reviews by random people more informative than reading one traditionally-structured review. How about you?