The Compulsive Reader: Q&A 3: The Reviews

Monday, December 19, 2011

Q&A 3: The Reviews

This one is all about reviews and the functions of this blog:

Q: How many reviews have you written?

A: About 590.

Q: Do you review every single book you read?

A: No, but I do review the majority. I try to cover every YA book I read on the blog, and those MG or adult books that I think would be of interest to my readers. A lot of non-YA books I don't review, but I do mention them in the Classics Corner feature, or in my Adult Books I've Enjoyed posts.

Q: Why are your reviews so formal?

A: It's just the way I write them. I don't consider them formal--I just try to write a review that I would want to read myself. If that calls for neatly formed sentences, a slightly elevated tone, literary terms, and some critical assessments, then so be it. I know it's not for everyone, but that's okay. Book blogs are kinda like books--you're not going to like every one.

Q: I want to review books too, but I don't know what to talk about. How do you know what to say in your reviews?

I'd say it's 80% knowing what you think it's important to know about a book as a reader, and 20% practice and experience. When I started "reviewing," I basically just said what I liked about a book, and it all tumbled out in something that was semi-cohesive. After time, my structure and syntax  got a lot better, but one thing that didn't change was the fact that I focused on what it was that stood out to me. This may be hard to do, so here's what I recommend:

  • Take notes. I now it sounds academic and un-fun, but it does help. I do review notes on every book I review. I grab a couple of note cards and whenever I feel like it, I write down comments and thoughts about the book I'm reading, especially if something sticks out to me. This also helps if I don't get a chance to write my review right away.
  • Ask yourself what you'd want to know about a particular book before starting it.
  • Ask yourself why you liked (or disliked) a book, and then think about those elements that made the book work (or hindered it).
  • Don't be afraid to explore a topic brought up in the book (like suicide, drug use, academic stress, etc.).
  • Remember that writing reviews isn't always easy. You can write 590 of them and still struggle as if it were the first time.
Q: I noticed that you summarize the book in your own words instead of posting the summary from Amazon. Should I do this in my reviews?

A: I'd say it doesn't really matter what you do, but if you're going to re-post an official summary, it's probably a good idea to note where you got it from.

Q: I noticed that you haven't been writing as many reviews lately. Why?

A: Busy, busy, busy. Sorry. I'm a senior in college.

Q: Should I post "bad" reviews?

A: Poorly written reviews should not be left alone on the internet.

But, you mean negative reviews of books, right?

In that case, I'd say it depends on your approach. When it comes to my reviews, I like to maintain a snark-free zone (Twilight and everything else is fair game). The reason for this is that if I don't like a book, I stop reading it. Life is too short to waste on books you have to force yourself to read. (Unless, of course, your grade depends on it. Then you better suck it up.) Hence, anything that I finish and review, I've done so because there was SOMETHING worthwhile to get me through the book, and I'd prefer to focus on that something than about how terrible the dialogue was. I'm not going to ignore it--I want to be honest with you all--but I'm not going to obsess over it. So, if your reviews are going to be negative, but politely so, go ahead and post them. I think they benefit the internet and readers for a few reasons:
  1. Publicists might want to know if they're off when it comes to a trend, and they won't be able to figure that out as easily if everyone's awkwardly complimenting the book.
  2. I've heard that some authors have learned something from constructive criticism. (Hey, it's a rumor--don't shoot the messenger!)
  3. Disagreement can spark some good conversations.
  4. It's okay if you're not cookie-cutter. Admitting that you don't like something isn't wrong. Sometimes it makes you connect with readers even better.
It's okay to not like a book. The only thing NOT okay is being rude about disliking it.

Do you have a question about reviews or just this blog in general? Shoot me an email at thecompulsivereader@gmail.com, or leave a question in the comments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I actually enjoy formal reviews more than casual reviews. I don't usually stay on a book blog longer than 2 mins. if its reviews is dotted with LOLs, incorrect conventions, etc.

Getting better in my review is something I've noticed with myself. I cringe when I read my initial reviews now.

Authors do appreciate constructive criticism. I've worked with some authors who were really nice despite my criticism in my review of their books. They took it really well, and even went as far as to thank me, saying that they are writing their next novel and the criticism is helpful. Of course, not all authors are like that, but I think it's safe to say that authors wouldn't kill a reviewer over a bad review. :P