I've been reading book reviews in some form or another as long as I can remember. I always skim the ones in our local and state newspapers and my monthly magazines, and the "end all be all" of periodical reviews, the Sunday NYTimes Book Review. With pen in hand I also pick up BookPage each month, either at the library or BooksAMillion, and treat it like the old Sears Christmas toy catalog.
When I worked in a bookstore during my jr. high and high school years, I took home the Publisher's Weekly that came to the store after the owner finished with it; I don't have access to Publisher's Weekly now because the subscriptions are quite expensive, but I curl up with Bookmarks magazine every other month like most people do novels.
Once I started blogging and reading book blogs, I was introduced to another form of review...and among book blogger book reviews there is quite a bit of variety. Some bloggers have short and sweet reviews without much detail while others have long drawn out reviews in which every aspect of the story is analyzed from every possible perspective. In some blog book reviews the story elements are analyzed without any attention to the reader, and in some blog book reviews only the reader's personal opinion is taken into consideration. Some book bloggers rate the books they read with cups of coffee or shots of tequila (tee hee) and others keep track of where they got the book, why they decided to read it, whether or not they would recommend it, etc. And, then there are all the others out there that fall somewhere in between...
I think I'm somewhere in between...
The more book blogger book reviews I read, the more I knew I needed some structure for my own book reviews, but I was not sure where to even start. I'm an English teacher, so I'm paranoid about the possibility of accidently copying someone else's ideas...and more importantly, I don't think there is one right way to review books...I think each blogger should stay true to himself/herself no matter what he/she is writing.
I'm a talker...so I am never going to be able to write a short review. Period. I also have lots of trouble controlling SPOILERS...this is why I like ReadAlong posts so much; I don't have to have so much self-control ;) I write with very long sentences, and my summaries are really short retellings :/ I think this is my way of rebelling against my students whose sentence structure or lack of frequently disappoints me and whose summaries are sometimes just one or two sentences...Oy :(
I have also read a book or two that I have not liked and have struggled with how to best review them. I want my reviews to be honest and I'd like to have a more critical stance...every book I read shouldn't end up being the best book I've ever read. However, I'm a firm believer that just because I didn't like a book doesn't mean there's something wrong with the book...different readers like different stuff...I get that. I'm also just Southern enough that hurting someone's feelings (like any of the authors would ever see my comments), is just not my idea of fun...I'd rather bless their hearts :)
I've been working on a structure over the last couple of days that includes a "Short and Sweet Summary," "My Initial Response," "What I Liked," "What I Didn't Like" and the "Overall" recommendation. I wanted a structure that would work for books I loved, books I liked, books that were ok, and even books that I did not like or heaven forbid, did not finish. The "Short and Sweet Summary" should keep me from telling the entire story and has proven to be the most difficult part of the new structure to write. The other difficult portion to write is "What I Didn't Like" - even in books that I like, there are parts, characters or other elements that I might not like, that disturbed me, etc. I don't intend for elements listed in this section to be necessarily strikes against the book...I wouldn't be surprised if I change this label as soon as I can figure out exactly what it is I'm trying to say :) The last section, the "Overall" recommendation covers who I think will like the book and/or why anyone might want to give it a try. I've completed my reviews on The Good Earth and The Hunger Games using this structure and will be posting those this week.
While I'm not adding a 1-5 point system yet, if I stumble upon an original little widget related to the theme of my blog, I might jump on that bandwagon as well.
We'll see how it goes :)
Have a great week, everybody!!