With a plethora of book sites comes a million different ways to review a book. And each writer (or reader) has a different opinion on how to review. Not to mention, each person has different tastes. I thought I would explain my process to give you a better understanding of my style and train of thought.
Selecting a Book
Choosing a new book to read can be difficult when there are so many great options. When the bookstore was right down the street, I used to be able to browse the shelves, scanning the backs of books that caught my eye. I could carry them around, maybe even flip through the pages before making a decision. Often, I would leave with a few that piqued my interest. With the death of many bookstores, mine included, I have become more selective on what I purchase. Some would argue that online retailers make the decision to buy much easier. In some respects, the shopping aspect is the same: I can place an item in my cart, read summaries, and sometimes read the first few pages. There are even reviews. And therein lies my problem. Sites like Amazon and Goodreads contain so many reviews, it becomes hard to determine which ones are worth reading, let alone which you should let sway you into reading (or not reading) a book.
I don’t buy books often. With our current financial situation (me staying at home with our son), I can’t justify the rate I used to maintain for buying books. So, when it does come time to purchase, I choose books by my favorite authors or the most recent “big thing” in Fantasy. If I have recently purchased books, I often will read those first, choosing the one that has been on my “to-read” list the longest. I work my way back until I reach my backlog of owned books, which is sad when I remember the reason I started this blog was to read through that backlog. When I don’t have any new books to read, I dig in to my old collection, following this train of thought:
- Previously read and liked author
- Popular author or novel
- Finish a series
If I’ve reached the end of that list and have still not made a choice, it becomes a little more difficult. I’ll consider the last few books I’ve read. If they were long, intense novels, I’ll lean toward a more “fluff” piece. If I can handle something a little more dense, I’ll try and pick a classic novel that I should have read already. I have a hard time getting started on a new series, since I know I will feel compelled to read it to completion, and that is a big time commitment. And when all else fails, I have resorted to a random number generator to pick for me.
Since having my son, my reading habits have changed immensely. I am blessed to be able to stay home with him, but that means my job is essentially 24/7. On the weekends, I could read or game to my heart’s content, but now all of that is relegated to naptime and bedtime, with the former shriveling to nothing. When I wasn’t blogging, I wouldn’t worry about taking notes, I’d just dive into a book, getting lost or trudging as was apt at the time. Sadly, due to issues with my working memory stemming from an accident when I was young, I have difficulty retaining any of that information. It means that not long after I’ve read the book, particularly if I’ve moved onto another, I will have forgotten most of the details of it, no matter how much I enjoyed it. So, any book that I have not taken notes on, I will need to reread in order to give a proper review. And with so many great new books to read, I am not sure I have the time for that.
While running my blog, or just in the interest in retaining the information, I take notes as I read a book. I keep track of all the main characters, and some side ones, scribbling some information about each. I write down the main plot as it moves, marking any side plots as well, all the while keeping track on my feelings about it all. I usually forget to mark any quotes that I really love, but I am getting better about it. Sometimes I can get caught up in the momentum in the story, forgetting to take notes, but I take that as a good sign. At the end of my reading, I put my thoughts and feelings down immediately. How did the book make me feel right as I finished it? Did I want more? Was I disappointed that I wasted my time? Then I’ll sit on it a few days before drafting my review, not too many since I want to retain as much information as I can, and by that point I will have started another book.
For me, when reading a review, I want to know about a few important things that I feel will pull me into a book.
- What are the bare bones details?
- What is the concept?
- Does it sound remotely interesting?
- Are the characters fleshed out?
- Will they tug on my emotions, either good or bad?
- How do the characters behave?
- What is the writing style?
- Is it cliched or sloppy? Note: cliche isn’t always inherently bad
- Is it dense or an easy read?
- Final Thoughts
- How did the reviewer feel about it?
- Would they recommend it or suggest a different book?
- What are some similar reads?
- How does it compare to other other books?
- Why was it rated this way?
Because this is what I like to get out of a review, this is what I focus on. I also like to do fun things like “Summary in one sentence,” listing the first line of the book, and giving details like length and genres.
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In the end, I realize that mine is just one of many opinions. I enjoy the possibility of helping you choose your next book or influencing your decision, but what I love most is starting a discussion. Reading is such a solitary hobby. It is an amazing feeling when we can branch out and share our experiences.