Sunday, April 17, 2011

Me, Myself & I - Three's a Crowd

What in the world does the post title have with reviewing?

Let me digress for a moment. George Orwell in 1946 wrote an eloquent treatise on the English Language

** ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.**

I've included a link for you to enjoy at your leisure. What is there to enjoy? I found it humorous that he calls the word ROMANTIC a meaningless word. Not that I agree. lol

But, why have I included this link to Mr. Orwell's writing? Because of example #(iii).
Again, I ask you, "What is a review?"

The answer I'm looking for is, "An opinion."


So, when a reviewer is writing their review, sharing their opinion, would it stand to reason that the phrase, "In my opinion" is redundant? Isn't the whole review your opinion? Think about that.

The following may seem trivial and for many reviewers it's not even on their radar. It ties into the previous point.

A reader knows, for example, that Xeranthemum is writing the review and I'm writing my opinion about the book so anything included are my thoughts, viewpoints, rationalities, justifications, feelings and observations.

Why then would I use "When I as a reader ..." or "I myself..." ? I'm already writing as me, wouldn't the reader know that?

Can someone explain to me why using those terms might be acceptable? Is there another way to express them that wouldn't be redundant? Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Let Me Count the Ways

Let me count how many reviews that are out there on the same book. Ok, I lost count.

I picked Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning. I loved that book and I reviewed it. It was a difficult review to do because so many scenes throughout the book were key to the movement of the plot and were so incredibly specific, mentioning them would have been divulging spoilers and that is what reviewers need to avoid. How did others deal with it? I was curious to see.

This first one is funny. No, not the review. The fact that the reviewer took the easy way out and announced there were spoilers and off she went.
Review #1
Personally, posting actual scenes from the book wouldn't be on my acceptable list of reviewing practices. But that's just me.

Review #2 This was original. This reviewer tackled the audio version. But what is it with posting excerpts from the story in the review? Is this a new trend?

Review #3 I liked this one.

Review #4 I didn't learn ANYTHING reading this review and it actually started with a spoiler. I can't believe that! A reader isn't supposed to find out WHO actually died until they read the book! I remember how I felt when I found out who it was during the course of reading and I wouldn't ever want that feeling diluted. It was powerful and this review casually dropped it la-ti-da. grrrrr

Review #5 This one was alright. Not a lot there but the reviewer respected the fact that spoilers would ruin it.
Like I said, this was a very hard book to review.

Review #6 Wow - um... this was brief. Did you learn anything about how the reviewer felt after reading the book. Yes, I got that she liked it - but exactly what floated her boat?

Review #7 I LIKED this review. I liked the reviewer's voice and her respect of the story and I liked what she shared. I was grinning as I read it. Yes. I liked this one.

Review #8 Okaaaay - I guess she was enthusiastic. I'm thinking the language was a bit- ::ahem::- let's just say, I try really hard not to use those expressions in my reviews. LOL. Did you learn anything from her review?

Review #9 It left a lot of loose ends? Did she even read the same book??? I'm not impressed with this review. What do you think?

Review #10 Um... language people. It's in the book, yes, but does it have to be IN the review? On the whole, the review was OK - and they did strive to take out spoilers which makes me think initially there were some. Like I said, the book was chock full of fun things.

Review #11
I'm not sure how to weigh in on this review. She's unhappy that's for sure. Would the review make you want to pick it up even though she does say some positive things in it???

Review #12 I can't comment on my own review but I'm throwing it in the ring as well. If you compare mine to the others, how'd I do?

I'll stop here. Believe it or not there are MORE reviews of this book out there. It's that popular. And from what I've seen, reviewers are varied. Some will respect the 'no spoilers' rule and others don't care. Some write the way they probably talk and some definitely march to a different drummer.

I realize this post is a huge undertaking. I'd love to find out which reviews you think are better than others and what makes them so? Which reviews do you think would turn off a reader? Why?

What did I learn? It reinforced what I don't like to see in reviews and I will attempt to avoid those practices in my own writing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Beginning of the Same Difference

In talking with a good friend who's mega talented and creative, she asked me if I've ever scoped out other reviews of one book I've read and reviewed, and compared them to my own. Not one or two but many.

Can't say that I have but of course, instigator that she is, it got me to thinking.

I decided to investigate a book that I really liked. It's a series, it's paranormal and I don't think too many people know about her yet.

Silver Zombie by Carole Nelson Douglas. Ever read it?

So, first thing I did was to use my favorite search engine. The initial thing I noticed were the intro lines. Search engines can only post the first line or two of a review. I find that interesting. Why? Because that little window of opportunity is similar to an author's. They have to start their blurbs or even the first chapter with a hook, a unique sentence that grabs the reader. Needless to say, I sort of got mired in those one sentence attention grabbers. I'll compare reviews a different day. Today I thought it would be cool to share what an Internet query would show a potential book buyer.

Also, bear in mind that somewhere in my archives here I covered the intro to a review. Not only does a review not start with a synopsis but that first line should be fresh and unique and not some standard intro like 'Once upon a time...". We've outgrown that, haven't we?

This is what I found:

#1 - What do the Wizard of Oz, zombies and really cool bar drinks have in common? The answer is the heroine of Silver Zombie, Delilah Street, ...

#2 - Silver Zombie (Delilah Street #4). by Kelly Chandler (Goodreads). I think Carole has a winner with this series, the books are getting better as they ...

#3 - Silver Zombie is book four in Carole Nelson Douglas' Delilah Street series. It picks up where Vampire Sunrise ends; read the previous three

#4 - Silver Zombie started in Vegas then took a wild ride to Kansas- to Delilah's past. And wouldn't you know it her past and her present collide

#5 - Review of Silver Zombie. Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator, #4 ... Silver Zombie is book Four in the Delilah Street Series

#6 - In Silver Zombie Delilah and Ric are headed back to Kansas to learn a little bit about why Delilah has some of her... hang-ups.

#7 - :In Silver Zombie, we learn more about the new abilities that Ric gained in ...

#8 - A little bit slow at the beginning but picked up when they reached Kansas. Read All Book Reviews of "Silver Zombie Delilah Street

#9 - Silver Zombie (Kindle Edition). This was a disappointing installment in what has previously been a pretty good series. ...

Okay readers and visitors - here are my questions for you.

WHICH one from the list would have you clicking the link to check out the rest of the review?

What do you think is the best? The worst?

My opinion? You know I have one. **GRIN**

I've come to the conclusion that starting off a review with the title and name of the author in that first line, especially one with a lot of words, robs the reviewer of a chance for their review to hook someone, anyone. Why? Because it leaves no room for anything clever or witty to show up in the search engine query.

I learned something here myself and will strive to adjust accordingly. If I feel the need to mention the book title and author name, I'll perhaps do it in the second line or even the beginning of the first paragraph in the meat of the review.

And this is the other thing I figured out. If a reader is surfing the Internet for a particular book or author, they already know that information. It's how they came to the link in the first place. It's redundant to say it all over again in the very first line. I want my review to be read, not hidden.

What do you think?

Monday, April 11, 2011


I look for reviews to teach.
Sometimes, I find reviews that I wished I had written because they are so well done and it's what I strive for.

I'm going to share a few that I think show and reinforce that there are good reviewers out there. We need more.

First, this is a review for Vowed in Shadows by Jessa Slade
I thought this review provided indepth insight and the reviewer was articulate.

The second:

Inasmuch as the first sentence was ... sort of passive, the rest of the review shared feelings without spoilers and it had an upbeat and positive spin. Maya Banks – Sweet Seduction

This review is short but it has opinion and it's upbeat and I liked the reviewer's voice. All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins

So what do you think? I liked the positiveness and respect they showed. I liked that they weren't synopsis. The reviewer talked about things that were liked, sharing a personal touch on how the book's storyline and/or characters affected them. Opinions are wonderful things when expressed well.

Which review was your favorite?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pinned Down to the Mat

In this case Format issues.

I have a NOOK. I love my NOOK. I enjoy reading on my handy dandy electronic reader. One thing I never gave a thought to is how a review could possibly be affected by the very venue the book is read in.

This past week, I've been searching for review angles and I found something that was never on my radar.

Here's the link: BookBuzzr

Have you ever given a lower rating to a book because of formatting issues on your electronic reader? From the sounds of this post, it's something that reviewers maybe need to turn a blind eye to. What do you think? Ever experience this issue?

I know that my NOOK has had problems with a few downloaded books and I've overlooked it. Imagine my surprise to find out that it bothers some reviewers so much, they mention it in the review.

I won't be one of them. I think it might be a good idea if other reviewers roll with it too.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another Helpful Link

I liked this one.
Yes, I continued my search. What I find truly wondrous is that a lot of the stances I've taken regarding writing reviews are being validated.

Sometimes I worry about being seen as pushing my opinions about how a review should be done whereas there might be a different viewpoint out there. Then I come across a site like this one and I get all warm and fuzzy. I'm on the right track. I'm steering my readers in the right direction and by virtue, I am ensuring that I continue to write quality reviews myself.

What did I find this time? It's actually titled Writing Bad Book Reviews.
That made me laugh. The content however made me sit up and take notice. Writing Bad-Book Reviews By Amy Brozio-Andrews. The one difference that I need to point out regards the site I review for.
LASR/WC does NOT chose the books for the reviewer. Reviewers chose their own so the quandary of trying to review a book in a genre they would normally stay away from isn't an issue. Also, the author mentions a "brief synopsis". At LASR/WC the blurb is posted so a synopsis in the body of the review is not needed nor wanted.

I laughed at the part where she said "...trees cried around the world..." I agree that snark should not be a part of a review. Yes, I know that there are review sites out there that do that and are popular, but as a rule it's best to avoid it.

OK, you've clicked and read the linked site. Did you find any of the information useful? Any questions? Anything you didn't agree with?

Like always, I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What Is a Review?

That's a good question.
So, I used our favorite search engine and put in How To Write Romance Reviews. All I found were romance review sites. Not much help.

So, I decided to make it basic - How to Write Book Reviews. I got a hit.
It's a generic outline in professor speak but there are elements within the body of the work that I have actually touched upon here. Of course, I've tailored it to romance but I was tickled to find it expressed in dry, bare bones prose. Want to see? Click
The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Gee, even the link sounds impressive.

Did you see the Beer example?? Ha! It was synopsis and look what the author said after -- that the reader didn't learn anything from the review. Remember my stand on synopsis reviews? No? CLICK

The last paragraph in the section in Developing the Assessment has this sentence in it.
"What is the book's genre? Out of what field does it emerge? Does it conform to or depart from the conventions of its genre"?
Did you see that? That is another good question that can relate to reviews of the romance genre.

I admit that there is a lot of information to plow through that has no bearing on what I do as a romance book reviewer but towards the bottom where the author has IN REVIEW are four paragraphs that are worthy to take note of.

So that's the conclusion and my input about that link. What cracks me up is the assertion that
"Typically, reviews are brief. In newspapers and academic journals, they rarely exceed 1000 words"
Have you seen MY reviews? I have gone over that amount on many occasions. When I like a book, a reader will know it. When I am ga-ga over a book, I leave a reader with no doubt. I can be a bit...verbose.

So, now I ask you, did you find this link helpful? Do you have any questions about how or where some of the author's points can relate to writing romance reviews?

Let me know. Meanwhile, I'll continue my search for tidbits to assist reviewers.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Another Opinion

Sometimes I look. Sometimes I don't.
And from both ways, I find things to share.

I did find a post that references writing reviews. I want to be fair and share whatever I find to help others. I'm posting this link because I think there is a valid point. That being said:

Enjoy a post on writing reviews by Adrienne Wilder

My reaction?
I don't know much about dogs or dog judging and I think I got a little lost in all of that but in a nutshell, I think she was trying to say that one of the things books should be rated on is their adherence to their genre. If a Regency has 21st century verbage or ideals, and because of the strict rules regarding writing in that period, the review's ratings are going to reflect that immediately.
I think that's what she said.
What do you think?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Hello again!

I have an addendum to my previous post that I want to share with you. In scanning through my Facebook updates I noticed an interesting note entry from an author. Of course, curiosity tweaked, I checked it out. I'm glad I did. Why? Because she illustrated one of the points I made in The Rapunzel Affect

The most important component of meeting that responsibility is to respect the author and her/his work and be as factual, professional and courteous as you can be. There should not be any attacks on the author by making personal references that try to connect the faults in the story with perceived faults in the person. That's ludicrous and unacceptable behavior.

How fortuitous that she wrote about this very subject. I asked her if I could use her quote but I forgot to ask if I could use her name. Since I didn't ask, I can't use it but her words make the point beautifully.

"... When you want to criticize someone's writing, don't say "S/he writes like English is not her/his second language." It is very insulting to those of us who are non-native speakers/writers. IMHO, I don't make glaring mistakes, and false modesty aside, I'm good at English - and this is true for many other non-English authors out there. So without meaning to offend anyone, please consider this when you leave bad reviews."

I would never have come up with this example because opinions like that never cross my mind. I usually blame mistakes on bad editing. When I'm in a rush or in chat I become typo-queen - I can type 80 mistakes a minute. *grin* So for a reviewer to infer that the author herself/himself is faulty and that's why the writing is as it is, well, that steams me. Saddens me too. I want to give reviewers like that an injection of compassion and intelligence with a side dose of the professionalism they lack.

Yes, I understand that reviews are opinions.
However I believe that they are supposed to be opinions on the book/story itself: what it contains, what it tries to say, and whether or not it succeeded. Those are the only 'facts' from a reviewer that readers should see.

Can anyone share other examples of things to avoid in a review?
I would enjoy seeing your input.