Saturday, 5 September 2009

Weekly Geeks - Reviewing Books

Following Amanda's discussion on memes last week on her blog, I've had a good think about those that I participate in and how I present my blog. I think, as most people who replied to her have said, when I started this blog I jumped on the bandwagon to do as many memes as possible - what a perfect way to meet new people!

Now I realise that I'm just doing them out of habit more than anything and, to be honest, I'm getting quite bored with them. Not too many are thought-provoking. The only exceptions to this rule seems to be the Weekly Geeks meme and The Sunday Salon. From now on I think I'll stick to just these two. I'm sure there'll be further exceptions and one offs, such as the one Melody tagged me earlier this week, but these two will be the ones I'll concentrate on from now on.

This week's Weekly Geeks question is:

Shannon Hale (author of Austenland and The Actor and the Housewife, as well as many other books) recently posted on her blog about reviewing books. Take a moment to go read her post, in which she talks about going beyond saying simply whether or not you liked a book when writing a review.

For this week’s Weekly Geeks, we challenge you to respond to the questions Ms. Hale asks in one of three ways.

I'm going to be answering the six questions Ms. Hale put on the end of her post. (Option 3).

3. At the end of her post, Ms. Hale posed six questions for those who review books on their blogs or other sites. Write a letter to Ms. Hale explaining your position on each of these questions, then return to her post and leave a comment with a link to your post. And remember her request to speak freely, but kindly and respectfully!

- Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
Yes. I have an excellent memory when it comes to details and whenever I'd watch a film or read a book for review, I'd never take any notes. My mind had a way of remembering everything I was taking in and I could just look back at it later when it came to writing the proper review.

Now that I've started writing my reviews for this blog and The Book Bag, I find myself more and more worried that I'll forget things. I keep quite a few book journals and make sure I jot down everything that comes to mind while I'm reading. If I'm on a train or bus and have no book journal around, I'll write my notes at the front or the back of the book.

- Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
Yes. Obviously like everyone else if I'm reading a book I don't enjoy, I can imagine how I'll feel at the end of it - relieved it's over or disappointed that I didn't get more out of it. Though lately I've realised that I'm rating these books out of five in my head. Half way through reading The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory I realised that it was a disappointing read and if it hadn't been for one particuloar character and for the fact that I usually enjoy Gregory's work, I would have given up long ago. As a result, I already knew that I was awarding it a 2/5 rating.

Of course, you can't really tell what you're going to think of a book until you've reached the end. I found Necroscope by Brian Lumley a very slow start buy by the end, I gave it full marks for how exciting and well-written the story was. I do think it's important to include your initial reaction in a review, though. If you enjoy a book so much but found it to be a very slow start, it's important to tell anyone reading your review that while the pace might lag at first, it'll be worth it in the end.

Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
Not at all. I don't always review the books I read (I've never reviewed The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger because it's my all-time favourite read and I find it hard to break down and put into words just why I love it). I read what I want to read and what I think I'll enjoy. Then I'll make the decision whether to review it or not based on whether I feel I can write a review for it.

Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
Not usually. Most of the time I'll know exactly what I want to write and what my opinion is.

What I do usually find, however, is that I'll look back on a review from a year or so ago and think, 'Surely it wasn't that bad?' or 'I remember it differently' and want to read said book again ... just to make sure.

What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
It comes from my love of films. I'm a film buff to the extreme and love talking about films and what I thought of them and the process the directors, producers, writers, and actors went through to make it. I've always wanted to review films for a living.

When I went to university to study English, I realised that I could also review books if I wanted to - especially as I was already a bit of a bookworm. I suppose my motivation is that I'm a bit of a chatterbox and I'm a big believer in freedom of speech. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, whether you agree with it or not, and I love giving my opinion. :)

If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?
I do rate my reviews because I feel as though it gives the reader a brief glance into what the tone of this review is going to be like. Perhaps they're not in the mood to read someone gushing over how great a read is, or perhaps they don't enjoy it when someone criticises a writer. My rating system gives them a quick insight into what's in store.


serendipity_viv said...

Good answers. I really should keep a journal about my reading to make notes of things I would like to mention in my reviews,as I am becoming more forgetful.

I don't participate in too many memes. I like Monday Mailbox and Friday Finds as I like to share my finds. Also Sunday Salon, which can basically be anything you want it to be.

Amanda said...

I'm not a big fan of Ms. Hale, so I haven't read her posts or anything, but did see the rating one. I like ratings because before I know someone's voice, sometimes I can't tell what they think of a book.

Ceri said...

Vivienne - You can even buy real book review journals in Borders and Waterstones now. They're really useful. :-D Yeah, I like choosing my own for Sunday Salon too.

Amanda - Me neither, I haven't read anything by Ms. Hale. And I agree with you about the ratings. :)

Kerrie said...

Good post Ceri. I sometimes use post-it notes in the book for bits I want to remember to mention in my review. I don't always use them all though. I think there is a limit to how detailed people want the review to be.

Ceri said...

Kerrie - I used loads of post-it notes in uni, too :-)

Melody said...

Memes are fun, and it's a great way of discovering more bookbloggers! ;)

I always review a book after I've read it, since I tend to have a short memory, haha. And I rate the books based on how much I enjoyed them. I think the rating will give the other readers a brief glance on how much I think of the books but in the end, it is still up to them to decide if they want to read them or not since reading is subjective. :)

Ceri said...

Mel - I agree. I think I've decided to do memes when I enjoy them though rather than out of habit :)

Kristen said...

Funny that you mentioned the Virgin's Lover, that was my first experience with Phillipa Gregory and it made me not want to read any more of her books (I did pick them up later and enjoyed some, but not all of them)

Ceri said...

Kristen - Yeah, I'm getting the feeling a lot of people didn't like The Virgin's Lover but liked her other stuff. Funny that.

gautami tripathy said...

I liked your answers. I too did option 3!

Weekly Geeks: Reviewing and rating

Ceri said...

Thanks Gautami :) I'll be sure to check out yours.

Erotic Horizon said...

Loving your answers - especially your reason for not reviewing the TTTW, I have some books like that...

I love them so much I can't review them...

Hope you had a great reading week.


Ceri said...

Thanks Horizon. You too :)