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The Compulsive Reader: Can We Step It Up A Little, Please?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Can We Step It Up A Little, Please?

So I just read an interesting article over at Huffington Post about blog reviewers. You can read it here. In it, the author claims that blog reviewers don't go in depth enough to really take the place of professional reviewers--we're too short, too informal, and not as analytical as professional reviewers.

Well, I have to kind of agree.

I'm going to make a confession here: I hate reading reviews of any kind really. Just give me a description of the book, maybe throw in an accompanied , "It's really though provoking!" or "It really analyzes such and such." But other than that, I generally don't care what others think. Is that mean of me? I know it's pretty hypocritical, seeing as here I am writing reviews myself.

So that's why when I started doing this reviewing thing, I realized that I had to write reviews that I myself would want to read--and that is, short, easy to follow, and above all, professional reviews, like that's found under the book at Amazon.com. Anything else I can't really stomach. No personal pronouns (a teacher I had once told me, "No one cares what you think!"), and please, for the love of God, do NOT write "This book was so adjective, adjective, adjective. The characters were so adjective, adjective, adjective. This book will appeal to anyone who likes such and such." Boring. (And just to cover my bases here, yes, I probably have been the creator of such reviews...but we all need to work a little harder at being better than that.)

And, I am deathly afraid of a spoiler. I hate spoilers with a passion. Lots of blog reviewers inadvertenly give away spoilers, and don't think they're doing so, which drives me insane.

So, for those reason, I pretty much had to agree with the article. For someone who is looking for in depth reviews, maybe blog reviewers aren't the best place to go. Now, before anyone goes and bites my head off, here's the other side of the arguement:

Blog reviewers are totally powerful. I get hundreds of views per day on my website, a lot of them teens looking for something to read, and many teachers and librarians just looking for what's cool and will appeal to their students/patrons. I've also been on the receiving end of many comments such as, "I read your review and bought/pre-ordered the book right away!", which I am sure the publisher and author appreciates. There's a difference between "book reviews" and selling books, and I believe blog reviewers fall into the lattter category...something that article didn't really give us credit for. And let's face it: In YA, word of mouth is everything.

As for me...I'm trying to find a happy medium between the two. I enjoy writing reviews, and helping publishers sell books. I know that my writing had improved, and that it still has a ways to go. I also think that blogs could step it up a notch and write better reviews without becoming boring...it's just a matter of how willing and passionate you really are.

So what's your opinion? (C'mon, I know everyone has one!) Chew me out, tell me what you think, or just comment.

9 comments:

Hayden said...

More readers I know prefer to read non-professional reviews, largely because they're less intimidating (in a manner of speaking).

I write reviews a lot, and while I don't necessarily adhere to the "no personal pronouns" and "no adjectives" a hundred percent of the time, I do make sure to post a lengthier analysis of the books compared to the summary. Nothing irritates me more than a "review" that's nothing but a series of paragraphs that summarizes the plot and then devotes a mere sentence or two of vague analysis or reader's response at the end.

I've had several people thank me for directing them to books, but I tend to attract a pretty quiet crowd, so the numbers might be off.

Hayden said...

Oh, and I don't like it when reviewers refuse to post non-positive reviews (I know one girl who does that). It doesn't make sense. Is it the fear of hurting or offending delicate artistic egos? Most likely.

Bad reviews are helpful to writers (at least to me, they are), and saying nothing but positive things all the time really skews expectations in readers (and not to mention lessens the validation of one's opinions among those who're looking for more than just gushy praise).

The Story Siren said...

thanks for bashing every review i've ever written! ha!

i did read the article and i have to say that she does have a point. but i didn't start doing what i do to be a professional reviewer. can i even call myself a reviewer now? i just wanted a place for my family and friends to see what i was reading and what i thought about it. i never intended for my blog to grow like it did.

at the same time i don't feel like i should have to defend what i do. i love to read! and i like to know what other people think. who's to say what is right and wrong when you're just doing something that you love! i admit my reviews could be better, and i'm more than willing to try to improve them! i just don't think that everyone should have to abide by a set standard, that's boring.

YA FOR GREAT JUSTICE! said...

I agree with your statement of writing the kinds of reviews you want to read. That is excellent advice. The book community is huge and sprawling, so if you write the kinds of reviews you want to read, there will probably we someone out there who embraces your style and uses your reviews to find books.

I'm more of a critic than a reviewer, and I like to analyze, so I guess I include spoilers. I'm one of the ones you would run away from, screaming in spoiler terror. ;)

The problem with all these articles that keep popping up comparing book bloggers and pro reviews is that they treat book bloggers as some monolithic entity. We're not this seething mass of sameness this coverage makes us out to be. We're a community with niches and many, many types, and there's space out there for all of us, because there are millions of reader "types" and theoretically, a reader for every type of review available.

But I can envision a day when blogs do for books what books have done for people: challenged us, made us think in ways we never would have.

I've been challenged and had thoughts I never would have without this community and I know I'm not alone. Her good points are lost in a sea of grudge against reviews that don't conform to her view of what reviews should be.

Book Chic said...

I never like reading these sorts of articles about how book review blogs are horrible and not doing a good enough job or whatever.

We aren't here to take over newspapers or anything at all. I don't think any of us think we're professional; I know I certainly don't. I review for the fun of it and therefore my reviews don't have to be professional-looking. Taking on the questions she posed in her article are quite honestly not questions I want to answer. To me, those are boring questions. If I were getting paid, I would think about and answer those questions, but I'm not.

Plus, like Hayden said, readers, especially teens, like the short reviews because they're less intimidating and more conversational.

Liv said...

I didn't start my blog for anyone but me. I did it so that I could go back and look at what I thought about different books that I've read. That's the only reason. I don't want to be professional. I just try to write short and sweet reviews that explain what worked in the book and what didn't. I don't think any of us book bloggers are trying to make a living out of what we do. It's a hobby; something to do for fun, and nothing more should be expected. If people don't like that, then don't read our blogs, but I think there are plenty of others that will despite our uses of personal pronouns and an abundance of adjectives.

I think people like the more amateur reviews as they are easier to read and relate to. But to each their own.

The Compulsive Reader said...

Hey,

These are some great comments, and I feel bad about not mentioning this earlier, but since some of you are bringing it up: I understand that many of you are doing this for yourselves, and I think that is great, and no one should be telling you how to write your reviews if that's the case.

However, for people like myself, who want to use these reviewing blogs as an asset to help get a foot in the door of the publishing industry, I think that it's important for them to realize that you need to learn to compromise between the laid back style that attracts teens, and the type of professionalism that's going to catch the eye of future employers.

That was the rather hazy point I guess I was trying to make, and I certainly don't mean to offend anyone by telling them that their blogs or reviews aren't worth anyone's time, and I'm sorry if I ever gave anyone that impression.

TCR

The Compulsive Reader said...

Hey,

These are some great comments, and I feel bad about not mentioning this earlier, but since some of you are bringing it up: I understand that many of you are doing this for yourselves, and I think that is great, and no one should be telling you how to write your reviews if that's the case.

However, for people like myself, who want to use these reviewing blogs as an asset to help get a foot in the door of the publishing industry, I think that it's important for them to realize that you need to learn to compromise between the laid back style that attracts teens, and the type of professionalism that's going to catch the eye of future employers.

That was the rather hazy point I guess I was trying to make, and I certainly don't mean to offend anyone by telling them that their blogs or reviews aren't worth anyone's time, and I'm sorry if I ever gave anyone that impression.

TCR

Em said...

Totally off topic...I love your new profile icon. Did you make it yourself? :)