Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reviewing 101?

I wrote a review today, my first one for 2010. Wo0t! I'm not going to mention the book title right now, because I'm trying to figure out a few things. I've read differing opinions of the same book, but I enjoyed it. This difference has got me wondering about my own reviewing tactics. While I don't review here too much, I've been reviewing for Romance Reviews Today for 7 or 8 years. My "boss" over at RRT has always been very cool about it being ok to not like a book, but you need to be cool in how you list the 'whys'. You can always find something positive in a book is something I've learned and try to adhere to.

But here's my problem...I've only hated 4 or 5 books outright in my reviewing career. Thank God. Anyway, I wrote up my review today and then went back to the first review I'd read on the same book. I liked the book -- it was a great book for me to finish up 2009 with, but that was it. After writing my own review and then reading that first one I'd read two months ago, I felt like I was double-guessing myself. Not that I question their opinion, I think I'm just trying to figure out if I can rationally review a book and give plausible reasons why it worked or didn't work for me. Is it enough to just say "I liked it. I look forward to more books from so-and-so,"? Do authors get more out of that, or do they want the fangirl squeeing moments?

The funny thing is, I felt like I'd written my best reviews for those 4 or 5 books that I hated, or even disliked. I don't believe in trashing an author if I don't like his or her book. But will being super-critical of a book diminish my reading enjoyment?

Just stuff for me to think about. Of course it doesn't help that some people, I feel, write much better reviews than I do. LOL


CindyS said...

I think you are probably doing just fine to have been reviewing for RRT for the past 7-8 years!

I know for me I can write an epic review on all the things that made me want to bang my head against the wall. I do think there is more there when you hate a book.

It's the C range books - books that were good and fine but didn't wow or really upset you. I think it's always good to mention if you would buy another book by the author because it lets the reader know that you were happy with the time you spent with the story.

I'm not reviewer - I ramble and lose track of where I was and then end abruptly ;)

Also, if I know I'm going to read a book I can't read other people's reviews - I always worry that I'll somehow end up absorbing their review and then when I go to write mine I'll end up plagarizing. I know. Only after writing and posting my 'review' will I go and hunt down what others have said much more brilliantly than I did.

I do however, look at the grades of reviews - so I'll know if the latest book I want to buy is being panned or raved about.


Wendy said...

I haven't done heavy-duty reviewing in a while - but yeah, back in the day the reviews for the "bad" books were easier to write. Mostly because by that point, after I had slogged through something that made my brain melt, writing the review was downright cathartic.

The "average" reviews are always killers. The books that were readable but didn't light your world on fire. You just want to shrug your shoulders and say "Meh - it was OK" - but of course that doesn't cut it.

I sometimes have a hard time writing reviews for books I LOVED. I can have a hard time articulating that fangirl squeee (!!!) I experienced while reading the book. I never feel like I do the story, and my reaction to it, justice.

At the end of the day though I tell myself that when I write a review - I'm writing it to share my love (or not-so-love) of a book with other readers. Those are the people I keep in mind. The author is a non-factor in my review writing process. Because really - authors can make themselves nuts over reviews. It's impossible to cater to every single individualistic reader on the planet. Nothing is universally loved. Which is why I think authors should just sit down, write the stories THEY want to write, and the rest will come out in the wash :)

~ames~ said...

I have such a hard time reviewing books I love - I don't just want to gush and I also feel that my review wouldn't do the book justice. It can be tough to overcome your own inner critic.

Amy said...

Cindy, I try not to read reviews of any book I'm assigned before going into it also. I feel like it may color my opinion of the book. I'm not sure how I allowed myself to read a review of the same book! Tsk tsk!

Wendy, I need to write up a review for a sci-fi book I just finished up and I'm totally out of my element. Did I love it? Well, not lurve, but on a whole, it was really really good. This is gonna be a toughie on more than one front.

Ames, my inner critic is constantly shouting "you suck!" when I'm writing a review for the blog. But for the review site? It's cheering me on -- why is that??