I write reviews of other people’s books. I write reviews under my own name and as part of a group using a “generic” name for the reviews. I do this for many reasons. One, I love to read – pretty much any book, any genre. Two, I feed my reading habit by getting free books (in most cases) to review. Three, I like getting “first dibs” on a book – you know, reading it before the official release date. And finally, I do reviews because when I’m finally published, I want someone to review my book.
What do I write in these reviews? Well, I NEVER give any spoilers and I resent those who do. Tell me what the story is, but don’t ruin it for me. I had a friend in high school who was the world’s worst at giving away the ending of the movie. I love her dearly, but would never ask her about a movie. By the same token, I wouldn’t want to read a book review she’d written. I’d be afraid that she’d tell me more than I really wanted to know!
A good review should tell you about the main characters, give an overview of the plot and the conflict, but should never tell you the resolution of the plot – that’s for the reader to figure out on their own. Opinions on whether you liked the book or not are also okay – just don’t pan it completely.
As a result of the various writing workshops I’ve taken over the years, I’ve found out all about Themes, Scenes, breaking books down into Acts, the Hero’s Journey, and how to recognize Turning Points, Plot Points, Red Herrings, MacGuffins, etc. Some writers can’t read for pleasure any more because they are too busy analyzing the story line and plot points. I’m not one of those writers. Sometimes it is obvious to me where the writer is going, but I never take anything for granted and I am occasionally surprised by what I’m reading. Sometimes I am thrilled by the twists and turns an author takes to get to what I knew would be the ending.
That’s another reason to write a review of a book you’ve just read. Even if you know what’s going to happen, even if you’ve broken the book down into the various acts/turning points/big black moments, whatever – sometimes you are surprised by where the author takes you.
Sometimes, even when you KNOW how the book is going to end the author will surprise you by taking you in an entirely different direction before getting to that ending. Sometimes that doesn’t work, and those are the books that many people refer to as “wall-bangers.”
If a hero or heroine disappoints, if the plot fizzles, if the story just doesn’t make sense – that’s when I am unhappy with a book, but I’ll rarely write a scathing review. I figure if the author has taken the time to tell his/her story, I can take the time to find something good to say about the story. I might tell you that I didn’t care for it, but I will always find something good to say about it (case in point, Reviewball on this blog – April 2006).
So read a good book. Write a good review. Post it somewhere that people will see it – just remember the immortal words of Thumper in the movie Bambi… “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothing at all.”