Monday, September 13, 2010

How I Review

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A couple of weeks ago, Adele of Persnickety Snark asked YA bloggers how they review. Adele posted a very insightful video blog and posed the question to other bloggers. Megan also responded to the topic with  a vlog entry, and I've been really interested in reading the responses to both posts. It made me think a lot about my own reviews - both how and why I review, and I've tried to articulate this below:

Books - I pretty much purchase all of my own books. I am also an avid user of my local library service. I do read a lot (I have a long daily commute) and couldn't afford to purchase every title that catches my eye. I pick out everything I read myself (as in, I do not receive review copies and to date have only read one ARC, and it was a title I had been lusting over for a couple of months) and as you can probably tell from this blog, I predominantly read contemporary YA. I also read a fair bit of crime fiction and non-fiction, but don't usually write about that here.

What to Review - I decided fairly early on with this blog, that I would only write about books I've enjoyed. It's not a review system for everyone, but it works for me. Personally, I would much rather write about something that I've loved, or an aspect of a book which excited or amused or moved me than something that I was just ehhhh about. If I didn't particularly enjoy reading a particular title, I probably won't review it (or at least won't dedicate a whole review post to it). Also, having worked with on the agent end of publishing, I know how much hard work and effort have been put into a novel (especially by the author, as well as the agent, editing team and publisher).

Process - I don't have a really review serious process. After reading and liking a book, I'll make some brief notes about it (I always try to make notes as I read, though it doesn't usually work out. Mostly because I find once I start reading, I get too involved and hate stopping). I make a few notes - usually just in dot-point form and to remind myself of the main topics I want to cover in my review. If I'm super-organised (or if I remember), I'll also write down page numbers or quotes I especially enjoyed - though I often forget and end up doing a lot of flicking through the text).

Reviews - Then it comes to actually typing up a review. Depending on my mood (lazy or creative) I will use a Goodreads or publisher synopsis, or I may write my own. Then, I use my notes as a loose guide (roughly a paragraph for each point) and I have a very basic formula (I usually discuss character/s because that for me, is something I really value) or will just focus on whatever aspect of the novel appealed to me the most (like zombie lore in contemporary culture in Generation Dead and family dynamics in Suite Scarlett). Sometimes I write in dribs and drabs, other times I'll practically write the whole thing in one short sitting, then come back to it and tweak a little. I usually try to remember to spell-check so I don't embarrass myself, then post and voila - a review!

When I started My Girl Friday, I don't think I really set out to be strictly a review blog (as you can tell from my recent activity, I'm lucky if I post two reviews a week - if that!) but I do enjoy writing reviews (mostly) and am always interested in how other people write theirs.

How do you review?


Nomes said...

i dont review books that i dont enjoy either :) although a few people say they'd like to know my thoughts on books i didnt like - but it just seems like a lot of effort for anti-promotion.

i'd much prefer to highlight books i loved and authors i'd recommend on my blog. and it's not like i'm being sent review copies or anything.

i write my reviews differently - but mostly a few days after so i can think about what i really want to say.

books i really love are a lot harder to write thoughtful reviews for - so hard to convey how it made me feel.

kate.o.d said...

i think that it is a good idea to review the books you liked, and leave the others for the people who did like them to review.

however, i find it so frustrating that there's so little debate here in the internet-ether. i'd love someone to come to my blog and be all "you're crazy! graffiti moon SUCKED"* (and give their valued opinion, of course, poss with quotes and references) even just so i can be all "booya! you're WRONG!"

or we could have an honest conversation or something.

oh and spell-checking - ha! without a doubt i mispelsl something everytime and click POST have to go back and edit. every time. yep.

*apologies to cath - she knows i loves her book and pretend it's mine most of the time

Girl Friday said...

Nomes - I totally agree with everything you've said! Sometimes my reviews take a few days (when I agonise about every word and trying to get the tone right) and other times by fingers struggle to keep up with my brain!

Kate - That's a great point - I would love to hear more debate/discussion around titles. I find that people tend to comment on the review if it reflects their own opinion (I know I do - I tend to squee/gush when someone loves I novel that I also adored). Hmmm has made me think about my commenting habits now!

kate.o.d said...

oh i do that too, and that's awesome as well!

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