Okay, so you can actually find me on Goodreads and over there, I do, on occasion, review books. In fact, I’m about to finish up a series by an author I particularly like and I’ll probably do a giant review of it over there.
If you’ve read my reviews at Goodreads, you’ll know whereof I speak.
I bring this up, friends, because I learned how to write book reviews first in high school, then again in college, and I honed the skill again in graduate school. There are slightly different styles for different fields and genres (I was writing reviews of mostly academic and other nonfiction treatises in the social sciences), and there’s also a bit of formality (sometimes stiltedness) that goes along with reviews like that, but nevertheless, I still use the infrastructure.
I’m thinking a bit about reviews. I know a lot of authors think about reviews. Sometimes incessantly. And yes, reviews can be helpful in terms of sales, both long-term and short-term. They can also be really harmful, but if you engage in this writing pursuit, guess what? That’s part of the territory.
In the world of books, reviews have a long and tortured history, as this 2012 Atlantic Monthly piece points out. Yes, friends, no matter the era, there are invariably complaints about reviews, reviewers, and what they ultimately accomplish. There are also always complaints about whether someone has the expertise in a particular genre or subject to do a review, and whether someone has a background in writing.
None of this is really new, friends. Certainly technology gives us the ability to post things quickly and create “buzz” (whether negative or positive). It also allows people to mask their identities and post whatever they want about a writer’s work. Which, again, isn’t necessarily new. It’s just a lot easier now than it was a couple decades ago to do it. The Interwebz have created an arena in which anyone can voice an opinion about a book (or any other product) and even develop reputations for reviews, and become kind of a reliable source for others about particular genres. You might, for example, find that you seem to like the same types of genres that, say, “pinklady998” likes, and you start following that user and find that you trust her/his reviews about certain things, which might in turn guide some of your own purchasing habits.
So reviews can also be tools. They’re a “word-of-mouth” kind of thing, in this crazy Internet age. So rather than hanging out with your friends on Friday night talking about the latest reads you got at the library (or at the bookstore), you post a review of a book online and that then becomes part of a larger conversation about the book/story that anyone else can engage in. Which is kind of neat, actually, that you can engage with other people from all over the world about a particular work.
I posted this link to an article about book reviews on sites like Amazon on my Facebook page today, and it generated a bit of a discussion. I decided to offer it here, as well, because I think it raises some good points.
I’m totally going to pimp one of the funniest freakin’ blogs I’ve come across. That’s Smart Bitches and Trashy Books, where the object of the game is to review and discuss romance novels, publishing, generalized awesome topics, snark at dickheads, and just flat out make me glad I’m not on their bad side. I was practically holding my sides at this review of a particular book that was so overburdened by metaphors and similes that the reviewer could not even finish the book.
The opening paragraph stopped me cold. Mostly because it is two sentences long, but oh, what sentences they are. Here is where I resolve never to use another metaphor or simile again, because clearly I don’t know what the hell I am doing.
Honey would sometimes think of Dusty, and it was like she twisted a dial and opened a steel door to a safe in her heart where she kept her grandest jewels—bittersweet memories, surrounded by a poignant moat. Some were vivid as fallen red bougainvillea petals, while others drifted by aimlessly, as vague and faded as old photographs in a dark flooded cellar.
I feel like I’m watching one of those informercials about educational programs guaranteed to improve your memory. Safe! Jewels! Poignant moat! Petals! Photographs! Flooded cellar! French drains! Homeowner’s Insurance! Flood Policy!
The awesome-ness continues from there. Check it out. And FOR SURE check out their “Greatest Hits.” It will leave you achy with TEH LAUGH.