Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What I include in my book reviews

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I got the idea to write a post about what I include in my book reviews from two sources. The first was a blog post from Anna Reads' blog. The second was from a comment inducing status an author put on facebook about comparisons to a fairly popular teen novel about insta-love.

Compared to a few other reviews I have read I wouldn't say that mine are badly written, but, I think, are highly unconventional. It seems that a few people who comment on my reviews even seem to get confused about what I mean or how much I enjoyed the book, but even after reading this, I'm not sure that those individuals can be helped. Hopefully this post will be some sort of insight or guide to those who want to know why I write about the certain things in my review and how I show that I really liked the book.

THINGS I WRITE ABOUT THE MOST:

-TYPICAL PARANORMAL YA STORY LINES / INSTA- LOVE:
One of the most common things I write about in reviews of YA Fiction is "insta-love" and "typical paranormal romance story lines". I tend to compare the novel I'm reviewing to novels that reek highly of these two components. If the novel in question is both interesting and unlike the reeking novels I consider it to be a good novel, but if it is very similar, with highly original details then I will mark my observations and pass the novel off as "OK" or recommend it to those who enjoy teen movies.


-THE MAIN CHARACTER:
You are supposed to deal with the main character throughout the whole book. If the main character is no good, then the story doesn't matter.

-HOW REALISTIC IT IS:
Even in Fantasy novels. There has to be some sort of believability about it. The mythology has to make some sort of sense and the characters have to act in a way that seems natural for them. Ultimately fiction is fiction, but I think it's more enjoyable if the novel is believable, at least as believable as it can be.

-THE WRITING QUALITY/STYLE:
I guess this is part of believability. I don't go too far into it, because I don't know as much about writing as I should, but things like pretty similes and adjectives are definitely good.

-THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS:
I tend to read at least one or two reviews of the book before I actually read the book. Depending on what the reviewer said I feel inclined to write why they were wrong/write about the book. I don't tend to mention the identity of the reviewer, because I don't want to publicly humiliate them/myself. People are entitled to have different opinions.

THINGS I SOMETIMES WRITE ABOUT:

-SETTINGS/ATMOSPHERE:
A blogger once said that it was the atmosphere that makes or breaks the book. It's true. It's the atmosphere that sucks me in. Obviously this ties in with believability and writing quality, but sometimes I like to actually dwell on the details. Sometimes I like to write about what I actually liked about the settings.
 
 
-THE MYTHOLOGY:
Again, it comes down to believability, but sometimes I like to dwell on details and talk about what I thought was cool. Maybe I liked the "history" included in the novel or one of the rules the supernatural characters had to follow.

-FAMILY/FRIENDS RELATIONSHIPS:
Sometimes I like to discuss the family or friends of the main character. The bit I write often starts of "I liked to read a book where..." and then I mention something about friend/family relationships that I think are original and very realistic.

-CHARACTER GROWTH:
I guess it depends on the novel, but sometimes it seems appropriate to write about how much the character changed over the course of the novel.

WHAT I DON'T WRITE ABOUT (OFTEN):

-SPOILERS:
I try not to include these. It's not the reviewer's job to read the book first and tell everyone what happened. It's the reviewer's job to talk about the good and bad things in the story and develop an opinion about whether or not it was a good read, who they'd recommend it to and overall, generate publicity for the novel regardless. I know that sometimes what you want to critique or praise may have something to do with a spoiler, but that's what white text is for.

-THE AUTHOR:
I like to talk about "the author this, the author that" in regards to the novel in question. "This author has a really nice writing style" etc. I don't care about what the author looks like, where they live or what they do in their spare time. I might mention something the author wrote in the 'Author's Note' if I think it's appropriate to.

-THE USE OF SYMBOLISM, IRONY, LITERARY DEVICES... BLAH BLAH BLAH
While I do like to talk a little bit about the "lush-ness" of the author's writing, the cute analogy used to describe the cute guy or the tincy-little-bit of symbolism in the story, I'm not about to write an essay on it. I think the ability to "feel" the story is more of a gage on quality than the author's ability to write effectively about a social issue. If the author does both, than that's great, but my reviews will always focus more on the feeling part.

HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT I LIKE IT (OR NOT):

I would have thought this would have been quite obvious, but according to some it isn't. The three things in my reviews that could indicate that I liked a book would be: the rating, the use of words such as "awesome" and what I say in the conclusion of the review. I've got a glossary of my ratings on the right side-bar.

What aspects of a novel do you find to be the most important? What do you think is different about your book reviews?

Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie

3 comments:

Candace said...

I have not read any of your reviews yet, but I'm off to check them out cause I'm curious. However, I love how you broke it down in this post and those are the important things to me as well.
I agree especially about the believability. The book can be completely outrageous, but the author needs to convince us. We need to BELIEVE that it COULD be possible. (Even if it isn't.) Sometimes it just doesn't happen. I don't always think to include that particular part in my review unless it's something that stands out, either good or bad.

Renae said...

This is such an interesting post! It's a great idea, and I love how you've analyzed your review style. What a nifty idea!

For my own reviews, I focus on characters primarily, as that's what matters most to me in a book, and then probably plot structure next. I've never actually taken the time to think about my reviews—I'll have to do so straight away, haha.

Anyway, thanks for this post! It's really interesting and though-provoking.

Tabitha said...

This is such a great post, I love that you broke down how you write your reviews... To be completely honest I haven't read any of your reviews yet, but I'm definitely going to read one now!

And I've never really thought about how I structure my reviews, but I guess I focus on the characters, and then how realistic the story is.