Friday, April 12, 2013

How & Why I Review

It is highly recommended that writers should write what they want to read - and, in my opinion, this applies just as much to book reviews as it does to fiction.

I have found that most reviews are a series of unmarked paragraphs in which the reviewer goes over what they liked and didn't like about the book. Most individual paragraphs keep to a general subject, like a certain character or area of the story, but overall they can be like talking to the reviewer in person - but without the instant ability to ask questions.

This is one of the reasons I break my reviews down into marked sections - Writing, Setting, Story, and Characters. While one section may work, another may not, and therefore I think it's good to separate and individually review the pieces that make the whole. There are even some who feel one single aspect can make or break a story, like a relatable main character or intense plot. Personally, the writing is usually my make-or-break aspect - if I can't connect with the writing, the story can be brilliant but I won't be able to stay focused enough to enjoy it. So by separating out each aspect in my reviews, a prospective reader can skip straight to what they feel they need to know without wading through the entire review if they so desire.

Another reason for the breakdown is, as a writer, we are told to read critically - to study the writing of others (both good and bad) to better our own. Breaking my review into sections helps me study each area on its own and see what the author did right, and wrong, and learn from their brilliance and failures.

When it comes down to it though, the "big four" aren't the most important sections for me, personally. Instead, these are the ones I tuck neatly under the Title and Author, namely Series, Genre, Rating, and Told.

Series: I have learned the hard way that if I don't know a book is in a series, it can ruin the book. And I do mean ruin. I hated a book for an entire year because I went into it thinking it was a stand-alone and discovered otherwise when the story didn't end on the last page. A re-read cleared this hatred up (it's a really good book), but after that mishap I vowed to keep on top of it in the future, and wish to keep others informed as well, just in case. If I don't give a series, then it was billed as a stand-alone when I wrote the review.

Genre: This is a bit of very important information I wish Goodreads offered up front - at least tell me the age range, for heaven's sake! While not everyone may agree with the genres I give, since I try to get technical instead of generalizing, they offer at least some insight into what the reader will be getting themselves into.

Rating: This is a big one for me. If there's going to be a lot of language, sex, or zombies nomming on necks, I want to know about it up front. One has to wade pretty deep into the review pool to find this stuff out, so I definitely like to put it front and center for others to find quick and easy.

Told: I've heard people say they absolutely refuse to read anything Present Tense or First Person, so I like to be sure to indicate the book's voice. I can't stand Third Person Subjective Omniscient myself (what I have titled head-hopping in the same scene - *shudder*), so I can sympathize and offer others the opportunity to pass and not be subjected to their version of reader's torture.

To wrap up my reviews, I end with a Conclusion, summarizing my thoughts on the overall book and stating if I recommend it or not, and how highly if I do. While I do give star ratings on Goodreads, I don't on my blog - whether I recommend it or not says enough for me. I leave the rest is up to the individual reader, to take away from my review what they will.

So why do I review? Part is, again, that as a writer I should study other author's work to better my own. Without the requirement of a review, though, I tend to read books without a second thought, enjoying them simply as entertainment and not stopping to weigh their worth or learn from them. Forcing myself to study the book as I read it, and then take a good, hard look at it afterwards in individual sections, teaches me so much. Even if it's only subconsciously, I know I'm becoming a better writer because of it.

But the main reason I review is simply because I am highly opinionated - especially on the subject of books. When I love a book, I want the world to know it - and go out and pick up a copy immediately. And when I don't like a book, I want to let readers know that, with all the other amazing titles out there, perhaps this one just isn't worth their time. But I try to be sure and state just what I didn't like and why, and then leave it up to the reader to make up their own mind in the end.

So that's the how and why of my reviews. What do you think of how I structure my reviews? Are my reviews helpful in your book decisions?

1 comment:

  1. Great post!!! And I like the way you beak down your reviews. I did that for a while but now figured my own style. I always have 3 or 4 paragraphs and give them a catching heading. Somehow that works best for me.

    Plus I always give a conclusion! Seriously, I would love to know how many people actually read my review instead of just reading the conclusion:)

    I like the point you made about the POV! I should include that too :)