A good writer is not, per se, a good book critic. No more than a good drunk is automatically a good bartender. - Jim Bishop
I never thought about writing book reviews until I was the author of a book receiving reviews. I know how nice it is to have someone who liked the book take the time to post their thoughts. Therefore, I decided I wanted to do a better job of writing reviews of the books I’ve read and enjoyed; especially those by new authors.
Writing reviews, I quickly learned, is not as easy as it sounds.
I know what kind of reviews I like to read—short and to-the-point. An example of what I consider well-written book reviews can be found at Straight from Hel. Helen Ginger’s reviews leave me wanting to read the book even if it’s not in a genre I normally select (the disclaimers posted along with the reviews are also thoroughly entertaining). Click here and here to read samples of her recent reviews. Her blog involves many other book related topics, so if you haven’t visited, I recommend a stop.
I also know what type of reviews I don’t like to read—the tell-all style that reads more like a book report and often gives away important plot twists. I avoid these types of reviews (unless it’s something someone posted on The Ride, and then I read every word). I simply don’t want to know all there is to know about a book I haven’t read yet. And, if there is a spoiler alert, I cringe and close the page as quickly as possible.
In my quest to learn how to write good reviews, I ran across an article by Michelle Kerns at examiner.com, titled “The top 20 most annoying book reviewer clichés and how to use them all in one meaningless review.” Gripping, poignant and compelling are samples of the words on her list. According to Michelle:
“The purpose of reviewerspeak is to force every free-thinking book, movie, and art reviewer into the submissive parroting of only a handful of approved reviewer words to describe any item that may come their way. Call it laziness, call it the incessant demands of the ever-wakeful internet, call it fear of the wrath of Harold Bloom, but reviewers -- particularly book reviewers -- spew out these same, tired old clichés with the force and regularity of Linda Blair in a scene from The Exorcist.”
Then I read another of Michelle’s articles “Book Review Bingo: More book review cliché fun than you can shake a riveting, unputdownable stick at,” that takes these clichés a step further. She added a few words, such as "unputdownable," and developed a Bingo game. She says:
“I hardly think there is anything that drives a stake into the heart of a book review faster and with more determined force than a cliché. Book reviews that use clichés mean nothing, say nothing, and tell the reader nothing. They're like eating a cream puff when what you really want is prime rib -- they're unsatisfying and, ultimately, useless.”
After my “research” this week, I am confident about words I want to avoid and the kind of review I don’t want to write, but I am nowhere near being able to sit down and write a review with ease.
Now I plan to spend some time visiting the 100 Best Blogs for Book Reviews at onlinecollege.org. This site looks interesting as it divides the review blogs by genre, so I can concentrate on the types of books I read the most.
It’s important for me to find my voice in writing book reviews soon, because my stack of read-but-need-to-write-a-review books is about to become taller than my to-read stack.
Do you write reviews? If so, do you review all the books you read or only the ones you really like? How do you feel about tell-all reviews? Do you have any hints on how to write the perfect book review?
Before I forget, I want to thank Virginia Grenier at The Writing Mama for bestowing me with the Versatile Blogger Award. It’s quite an honor coming from a truly resourceful blogger, who manages to raise three kids while writing, running a publishing company, editing…oh and blogging. If you’re not familiar with her blog, you might want to stop by to see what you’re missing.
Thanks for stopping here today. I hope to see you again, next Monday.
Tags: Jim Bishop, book reviews, book reviewers, writing book reviews, best blogs for book reviews, Helen Ginger , The Ride,