Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Ramblings of a Fledgling Book Reviewer

I have had some lovely feedback on my reviews. Indie authors in particular are pleased to have their work recognised and promoted on Twitter for free by someone who read their work and loved it.

As I was writing a review recently, it struck me how the tables are turned once the review is written, at least for me. If I have liked a book enough to review it and put it on my blog I also want the author to be pleased with the review and there is often a nail biting moment while I wait for them to see the review and let me know what they thought.

I suppose I am not a typical reviewer. I don't give a book review unless I like the book. I talk about emotional responses not style, voice or POV. I write reviews the way I do because reviewing is subjective, what one person will hate, another will love. No amount of picking the books structure apart is going to change that. I have read a few books by published authors, and thought they were pretty dire, yet they have had literary prizes heaped on their work. Equally, I have read books others thought were below par which I have absolutely loved. Of course, I am sometimes in agreement with the majority too, so I am 'in the club' on occasion! This is why I write about how a book made me feel because human emotions are far more similar than human ideals.

We all have emotions, I read to exercise mine. What I choose to read depends on my mood at the time. I have what I call 'Holiday Reads', those books which aren't taxing in their style, which are suitable for lazy days when you almost want a story read to you. I also like to have a more 'wordy' book on the go. My current one is written by someone I follow on Twitter and it is very heavy going but the story is keeping me interested and that is what counts. Then there is my review list, a mix of genres which I read in order of submission. I love that list, it's like a treasure dip where I put my hand in the bag, not knowing what I am going to pull out next.

Have you read any books which you had been told were the 'next Big Thing' and found yourself wondering what the fuss is about? I have, plenty of times and I know I am not alone. When I was much younger, I felt perhaps I ought to like these books. Perhaps I was lacking in my ability to appreciate a fine piece of creativity when I saw it. I went through a stage where I read books which I 'ought' to and it was an expensive and frustrating experience sometimes. I quickly realised it wasn't a lack of intelligence on my part of perhaps failing to understand the finer nuances of the text or the beautifully forged prose. I just didn't like some of these books, it was that simple and no amount of flamboyant reviews from internationally acclaimed sources was going to change that.

Book snobbery on the whole is something I don't have time for, I lose respect for an opinion very quickly if all I see is the need to sound superior. Recently I have read some truly horrific and venom based reviews of books on Amazon. Some have been written by people who seem to delight in telling the world how much they hated the book and why. There are those which are written by people who feel a sprinkling of 'wordy' literary phrases will make them be taken more seriously and those with the well-worn phrase along the lines of 'keep ya £1.50' at the end. You know the types I mean. In my opinion, if you don't like a book then don't review it if you really can't find anything nice to say, there is never a good reason to get personally nasty to the author. Never. If a book doesn't work for you then please move on. Don't launch a mouth foaming attack as if your eyes are bleeding and you are seeking monetary compensation for emotional distress...or at least ya £1.50 back.

Books are for sharing so if you find a book which left you feeling a bit of a glow then write a review and let everyone else know too. Authors will thank you for it and so will their potential readers. Don't be afraid to keep it simple. In my opinion, a review doesn't have to be high brow, just honest and respectful.


  1. Great article and so true! I've heard some of the 'Booker Prize' winners are unreadable. Well done!

  2. I actually don't mind bad reviews, not even my own, because I see the sole purpose of reviews (not just for books) as being to advise the public about what to read/watch/buy next. I think if a product is bad, then the person who made the purchase has every right to say what they think. However, I know I am in the minority in this! I really like your take on it, which is also the take of many book bloggers, i.e., wanting to tell others about books you've loved - this is book reviewing at its best. Really good, sincere and beautifully written article :)

  3. Thank you both :) I agree everyone is entitled to have their say on their opinion of a book, I just like to see it done with respect and consideration.

  4. I tend not to read "the next big thing" because most often it seems they're not all that interesting to me. My taste is different than what you find on the NYT Bestseller list - except for when the occasional vampire novel makes it.
    Nice post!

  5. Very enjoyable article. I think there are as many opinions about reviewing as there are people who read books! I don't take too much notice of reviews when I'm choosing a book (just read 'Never Let me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro, which has around 200 five-star reviews and around 100 one and two-star) but I do like to read the free chapters on Amazon before I buy. I do review and, like you, I only review books I have something positive to say about.

    1. Thank you :) Yes, I like to make my own mind up too and often read the sample if I'm not sure.


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