The Rusty/Ropey Reviewer…

Earlier in the week I mentioned that I am keen to get back to doing some book reviews/thoughts on lots of titles I have read over the last few months. Yesterday I got down to it and blooming heck this book blogger has become a bit rusty to be honest. Whilst I have admittedly written some reviews of the Graham Greene’s I read last month, yesterday I was really struggling to write anything cohesive or comprehensive about Anthony Marra’s amazing debut ‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomena’ and it took me about four hours which is just over double the time it normally takes on and off.

I sat and tried to work out where the block was coming from. Was it a) because I admired the book so much I felt I couldn’t do it justice b) that the author was living so I cared more about if they should happen to read it (which I don’t assume authors will do) than I would have if the author had croaked it (which makes it highly unlikely they will ever see the review) or c) I simply didn’t have anything intelligent to say. These are all the normal doubts that I have when I review, especially books I love and therefore want everyone to read yet don’t want to just gush about. I think the real reason was that I was out of the loop and therein lay self doubt.

I don’t mean that I am arrogant about my reviews, because I don’t think they are the dogs proverbials and more times than I would like to admit I read other reviews and think ‘why oh why can I not be as prolific and profound as that swine’. In fact I did this reading some reviews of Anthony Marra after I had posted mine – I could have wept, especially over this one though admittedly it is a little bit long which can look a little bit self indulgent. This then led me to the question… what do I want my ropey old reviews to achieve?

The instant thought I had was ‘who gives a toss, this has always been my personal diary of the books I read’ which is true and the back bone of why I write this blog. Yet it is also slightly naive to have that attitude as now, without sounding like an utter tool, this blog does get millions of (ha, ha , I am joking it is really just thousands) a fair few readers which is lovely and whilst I don’t want to feel I am writing a blog that is for an audience I do want to leave readers with something. Even it is to scoff at my ridiculous thoughts or grammar.

Hopefully though the aim I think every genuine book blogger, not book blagger, has is not to make the reader dash off and read the book in question (which is beyond lovely when it happens), or to never touch the book or author again (though I think any visitors are intelligent enough not to only take my word for it, you also shouldn’t touch authors without permission anyway) but to get people enthused about books and (ironic considering I haven’t caught up on comments, it is on my to do list) have a conversation. And not just a conversation where everyone says ‘oh yes I completely agree’, I mean a proper natter – that is my new aim.

For it is reviews, blogs, podcasts and vlogs that have an unwavering enthusiasm for books (even ones they might think are a bit shit), create interesting discussion, have emotional reactions to books (as unlike Mr Peter Stothard, who was on Woman’s Hour last week saying emotions don’t count in criticism, I believe books should be emotive even if the emotion is simply enjoyable entertainment – rant over, though I will now never work for the TLS) have their own identity and personality and don’t take themselves too seriously which are the ones I myself turn to. It is also those clever sods who I also read and make me want to claw my own eyes out with jealously, until I cleverly realise this would severely hinder me in reading. I will be updating my ‘blogs I love’ with a fresh new list of these clever clogs in the next week as I catch up with them. I will also find a better name for this than ‘blogs I love’ – I am currently thinking ‘Brilliantly Clever Bookish B***ards’, ha!

Anyway, that it seems is the answer! Simply write what I want to whilst also being a teeny bit aware of what I love to read review-wise. In fact, it seems I have sorted my problem out in my own head using this blog as a sounding board – thank you all so much for your help even if you weren’t aware of it until this sentence.

Though whilst we are on the subject of reviews/book thoughts/critiques… What are your favourite book reviewers styles and why? Do you like longer or shorter? Personality or plot? Which are your favourite reviewers (link to them) and why? What is an absolute no-no for you if you read a review which may make you never return again?

13 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

13 responses to “The Rusty/Ropey Reviewer…

  1. My favourite book reviewers are basically the blogs I follow and the groups I belong to on LibraryThing. I don’t want a paid reviewer in a newspaper or whatever who’s not necessarily interested in what he/she is reading (certainly not, after reading George Orwell’s essay on book reviewing). I like a personal response to the book that tells me something about the book and what the blogger who read it thought and felt. And enthusiasm and discssion – as you say, these are the important things!

  2. Diana McDougall

    I can’t bear a reviewer who simply summarises the book….I so do not want to know all the ins and outs of the plot. I want to hear an opinion…some reviews are so bland it is tough to work out whether the book was loved or hated. Shorter is better…but most of all….did you like it: why? Did you hate it? Why? Please do flesh that out with erudition but erudition minus opinion….pointless

  3. I like book discussions to reflect the personality of the reviewer/writer. I like to know how the person felt about the book, what they enjoyed and what they didn’t in a balanced format. Not so damning it puts me off but not too giddy and pushing me to buy it. A very long review will not get read to the end. Keep it short to medium length and above all else have fun talking about it. Makes me feel like the blogger is at my table and we’re having a good old chinwag. Writing and reading blogs should be fun.

  4. Louise Trolle

    I get my reviews from you, goodreads, books on the nightstand and Danish newspapers.

    As for no-nos – plot spoilers obviously (why oh why do many adult news paper reviewers think it ok to spoil YA literature in reviews!!), and then articles where it’s clear that the person writing it really doesn’t like the genre/author in general (which makes you wonder why they’re reading / reviewing it in the first place…)

  5. Sarie

    Apart from your good self I always read Dovegreyreader Scribbles, Cornflower Books and Me and My Big Mouth. It’s actually really dangerous cos I end up buying most of what they (and you) recommend!

  6. I read your blog, Gav’s, For Winter Nights, Gaskella, Dovegreyreader… And there’s a lovely YA blog run by a teen girl called Queen of Contemporary – she’s brilliant! The thing that unites all these blogs is that the person writing them is sharing a personal passion in an engaging way, and I feel like I can get to know them from what they’re writing… I just hope the same is true of mine…! x

  7. Brevity is the soul of wit. I think your weblog is absolutely one of my favourite literary stopping-off destinations. A few others I am happy to mention (and they won’t surprise you) are Cornflower Books, Tales from the Reading Room, Stuck in a Book and Harriet Devine. It may be worth saying (especially in the case of SIAB) that very often I have no desire whatsoever to read the book being enthused over but the quality of the writing makes these weblogs worth reading whether or not I act upon their enthusiastic recommendations. As you know I like thoughtful and well-argued negative reviews too.

  8. I just have my own style have read books on reviewing but mine works in my time frame of time to blog which is short these days ,all the best stu

  9. I hate reviews that are primarily plot with a few lines scribbled underneath to justify a title like ‘best book ever’ or ‘great chicklit’. Opinion is vital but should be substantiated – I want to know whether or not I might feel similarly so need to know how the writer’s feelings were created. Equally, I don’t need to know how the reviewer felt about every individual character without very good reason.

  10. Jo

    It is a difficult one and I am still trying to find my way with it. Perhaps I never will. I try an summarise the plot but encompass my opinion in that but also what sticks out for me in the book. I go and read other reviews and they will have picked up on other stuff and I think ‘oh I never mentioned that’. It is all personal interpretation.

    My main struggle is not reviewing the book after reading it. I can’t get back into the voice of the book weeks later to review it, I think those are my weaker reviews.

  11. What don’t I like in a review? I think it’s when the review does little more than talk about the plot. I enjoy reviews that go further and think about what the author is trying to convey, what is their world view if you like. It’s much harder to do but more rewarding

  12. What I don’t like in a review, or what I specifically do not like in a blog review, is a lack of personality or emotion – because I expect that from the professional reviewers and rarely do they get me buying books. I don’t really mind on length as long as it is engaging a.k.a not full of superfluous or irrelevant rambles.

    My favourite bloggers say something about themselves without actually relaying much; about how they think, what they enjoy and how they feel about something.

    Rory from fourthstreetreview.com/ does this so well – I love her posts. Charlie from wormhole.carnelianvalley.com is another one, she discusses interesting topics mainly about the way we read.

  13. I definitely prefer some personality in reviews. And overall feelings and thoughts rather than a plot synopsis. In fact I follow a few book bloggers whose taste I hardly share at all because I just enjoy reading them and chatting with them.

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