Yeah, I tend not to trust review sites very much, since a lot of the reviews seem to be written by screaming fangirls. Good manga reviews are particularly hard to come by.***
Anyway, Gankutsuou (The Count of Monte Cristo) is coming out on DVD in North America very soon; I watched Anime-Kraze's fansubs, and I thought it was an excellent adaptation of the book. It's not particularly faithful, in that it's set in the distant future, has gratuitous and tacky CG mecha, and you won't be rooting for Edmond in the end, but for a Gonzo production, it's surprisingly great.
Also, Genshiken is a great parody series -- it pokes fun at otaku culture, and while it's full of obscure references, it's also accessible to the casual viewer (especially if you watch a fansub -- they tend to have detailed notes)
Hmm... Yeah, those are the two I usually endorse when people ask about new series. I'll post more as I think of them. ^_^
***(I even started a blog to make some of my own... I've been writing reviews for several months now, to build up a buffer, and I just launched the site this week.</shameless self-promotion>)