Favorite part of writing a review?

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Rachaelamb1
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Favorite part of writing a review?

Post by Rachaelamb1 » 25 Mar 2015, 00:55

What is your favorite part of writing book reviews? What is your least favorite?
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Post by claire13berger » 25 Mar 2015, 15:02

My favorite part would be the challenge of communicating to a large audience the intricate ways a book effected me. Coincidently my least favorite part would be that same challenge as sometimes I feel that my vocabulary is not developed enough to convey what I am trying to.

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Post by LivreAmour217 » 25 Mar 2015, 15:47

My favorite part of book reviewing is getting the opportunity to share enjoyable books with others. In my everday life, I don't often get to discuss books, and reviewing allows me to do just that. My least favorite part is having to write negative reviews for those not-so-great books. I believe that honesty is the best policy, but I still feel bad for the author when I have to give a book a low rating.
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Post by zeldas_lullaby » 25 Mar 2015, 21:23

I generally just write reviews for fun on my blog--it's not something I take seriously, although I certainly would take it seriously if I were doing it for this web site.

A lot of what I enjoy is the outlet for my disappointed feelings after reading (or trying to read) a published book that's just awful. You expect mistakes from the self-published among us. But I just expect more from well-known, published authors. So I was reading Don't Look Back by Jennifer Armentrout recently. I had not read anything by her, but I'd heard good things from my fellow bloggers.

The book is touted as a mystery, and it is--complete with the main character opening the story in a hospital with amnesia. I should've known it would be downhill from there. Someone was writing her sinister letters about the amnesia-inducing night (I knew who it was), and at the 1/3 point, I knew who the "bad guy" was too and what the "secret" was. I wouldn't say I'm smarter than anyone else (although I may be smarter than teenagers--the intended audience, being as I'm 37), but the answers were GLARINGLY obvious.

That wasn't the only issue. There was no atmosphere, no sense of magical or mysterious location. (I often enjoy a teen mystery. The suspense, the twists and turns--none in this book.) There was no characterization that was well-developed. The characters seemed flat, especially the heroine's parents. I had a hard time picturing them in my mind because they ... had no personalities. And the story was entirely unoriginal. Amnesia? At least take it in a different direction. Waking up in the hospital is not a good start.

Plus, I found a mistake: "worse" instead of "worst," as in, "That was the worse thing ever."

This frustration--it's getting harder for me to find a good book, and my focus issues make me often unwilling to tackle an adult, gen fiction novel--is vented on my blog, which I suppose is why I enjoy blogging.

It gives me an outlet which, as you can see, I clearly need.

Least favorite thing about writing a review? Uh, probably my irrational fear that angry authors are going to hunt me down with pitchforks and torches.

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Post by ALynnPowers » 27 Mar 2015, 05:57

I like getting free books out of it. 8)

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Post by moderntimes » 29 Mar 2015, 08:52

I write reviews for a mystery website and so I review maybe 2 dozen books a year. I try to write my reviews in the classic "New Yorker" or NYT style, not the "high school" mode. When I say "high school" I mean the sort of reviews we see a lot: the review describes the plot and then says "I liked this book" (or not). But that's the limit of the review.

Instead, I try to create a small essay on the themes, the subject matter, or the tone of the book I'm reviewing. I only describe the plot briefly because I don't want to list spoilers, and I also want to talk about some side issues that the book brings up. This creates a (hopefully) interesting small article to read that's somewhat entertaining on its own.

So what is my fave part of the review? Trying to find something in the book that nobody else might be talking about. For example, a recent mystery I reviewed is based in Victorian era San Francisco. I discovered that the book's narrative was intentionally written in the Victorian style, and I mentioned how charming this was. The author said that I was only one of two reviewers who had spotted this and that he had worked hard to show this. So I discovered something that most reviewers skipped. This is the sort of thing that I try to focus on -- unique aspects of the book.

Worst is when I find an awful book and I have to read at least half the book just to be fair, and then try to write a review that's not too harsh. If the book is really terrible, I might write a humorous poke at the book and wax satirical in fun, rather than just damn the book flatly.

On rare occasions, I come across a book that I'm supposed to review, and find the book distasteful (crass, rude, predatory to women, etc) and I refuse to write the review (my editor supports me on this). The book goes in the trash and I just skip over that garbage completely.
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Post by zeldas_lullaby » 29 Mar 2015, 09:30

moderntimes wrote: damn the book flatly.
Let's all say this at least once today. "Damn the book flatly."
(I'm sorry. I'm not awake yet.)
"Damn the book flatly."

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Post by bluemel4 » 29 Mar 2015, 14:06

I my favorite part of writing reviews is getting to share my opinion about the book with others. I find it extremely rewarding to be able to tell people about a wonderful book. I also like being able to warn people if a book is not up to par.

My least favorite part is trying to be tactful in the review if a book is poorly written.
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Post by Katherine E Wall » 01 Apr 2015, 00:26

My favorite part of writing a review is that moment, just before I put my fingers on the keyboard, when I have the perfect way of stating everything I intend to say. It is steeped with wisdom and philosophical musings. Then the pressure of the keys takes that all away from me, and I end up with the a mere shadow of what was in my brain.

I can't wait until they invent the gizmo that can translate the brilliant thoughts into typed reviews. Until then, I guess I will just continue with my gibberish.
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That's right, I have a muse. It is spelled MusE. My writing is influenced by the interactions of people I meet - us and ME.
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Post by moderntimes » 01 Apr 2015, 04:17

Practice makes perfect, Katherine. As you continue to write steadily and often, the images gradually are more coherent when transferred to the story. I often create whole sentences in my mind and have learned to spew them into the keyboard with reasonable veracity.
"Ineluctable modality of the visible..."

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Post by Katherine E Wall » 01 Apr 2015, 11:42

I wish that was true for me, MT, but I have tons of practice. I think the problem is getting my fingers to let go of their independence. It might also be due to the amount of time I put into editing the work of other writers. Yes, yes, I will go with that excuse.
"We awaken the muse with the spirit of creativity. We entomb it with the ghoul of self-doubt."

That's right, I have a muse. It is spelled MusE. My writing is influenced by the interactions of people I meet - us and ME.
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Post by Tumi91 » 06 May 2015, 02:08

Just having that freedom of expressing yourself without boundaries. Giving honest but uplifting criticism with conviction. Just like the author or writer pours their heart and soul into their pieces as should the reviewer.

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Post by moderntimes » 06 May 2015, 13:17

Well, regarding the freedom to express myself without a boundary, I do that in my own fiction. A review constrains me since I'm of course writing about the specific book.

Right now, I'm facing a tricky task -- the 2nd novel of someone whom I've gotten to know via email and Facebook and such has come under my scope to write a review. His first book was superb and won a few big time notices, such as from the NY Times and all.

His new book, which I finished reading last night, is good but not that awesome, compared with the first. It also has some narrative flaws. I'll however be fair to him and write an unbiased review. But I am duty bound to mention the book's flaws too. Sigh. My editor expects nothing less.
"Ineluctable modality of the visible..."

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Post by Tumi91 » 11 May 2015, 07:05

Just be objective. Research the author's background, interests etc. Then you will have a better understanding and conviction of the essence of the book. Then your review will be unbiased and truthful.

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Post by moderntimes » 11 May 2015, 09:39

Knowing a little about the author helps, of course. But a book has to stand on its own. If the author, for example, is a physician and writes a medical thriller, and in the book, the blood type is "A-positive Rh-negative" (a laughable gaffe I once heard on a TV medical show) then I have to give that egregious error a checkmark in my review. Just because the author knows better outside the book, I can't let him get by with a stupid error in the book.

Likewise when a mystery writer puts an external safety on a revolver (they don't have 'em) or makes other silly gun mistakes. If you're a mystery writer, hey, you need to know your subject. And knowing your subject, you then have to include that knowledge in the book.

But we cannot expect the reader who buys the book to research the author's background and weigh the book against empirical knowledge about the author's real life. The book has to create a fictional universe unto itself. External elements cannot be a factor, because the readers buy that book and expect it to be "true to itself" and can't filter the book via the author's real life.

Of course, in a fantasy or SF novel, the author creates a special fictional universe that encompasses the actions within the book. Same for a police procedural mystery. If for example in a regular TV cop or crime show, maybe "Criminal Minds", and the FBI team discovers a "real" supernatural vampire, then that breaks kayfabe (as pro wrestlers say) and disrupts the "real world" aspect of the show. On maybe "Lost" that might be acceptable but not on a "realistic" crime show.

Likewise the author owes it to the readers (they after all shell out their money to buy the book) to create a logical universe within the scope of the novel. And therefore the author must "follow the rules" of that fictional universe, and not put safeties on revolvers, any more than he'd put wings on pickup trucks and let them fly.

As with not allowing my friendship with the author to influence my review's impartiality, I also cannot let my knowledge of his own lifestyle or experience factor into my review, because I've got to examine the book from the standpoint of the paying customer, who may know nothing about the author and really doesn't need to.

At least that's how I see it. And my editor agrees with me. Whenever I've submitted a less-than-lauditory review and have pointed out flaws in the novel, I've occasionally asked her whether my comments were justified. She's said that she trusts my judgment and knows that I'll give the book a fair review.

And remember, I'm not reviewing books written as a hobby and posted willy-nilly on the internet for pals to read. I'm reviewing real published books that are sold hardcover in bookstores by writers like Stephen Hunter or Robert Crais or James Patterson.

I don't know whether your editor requests other from you when you write your reviews, and asks for example that you take into consideration the author's background and interests -- which you list as influencing your reviews. For my editor, it's not a factor.
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