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Book Review Dos and Don'ts
Sometimes a story is more than about the end. It's about the beginning and the middle. The end can be the beginning of another story.
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There is something disheartening about reviews. Either a whole bunch of negative people review a book, most of whom have no sense of spelling, grammar, or punctuation, let alone story, plot, characterization, or few people write a review. They might email and tell the author the enjoyed the book and try to engage the author in a long, drawn out email conversation, which isn't productive and often means time lost writing, or they come up to an author at a con or book signing and gush about a book, never having taken the time to go online and review the book.

In this cyber age, it is important to put the remarks in writing -- and not just the negative remarks since that seems to be most of the kinds of reviews made. So many people with so many grudges. You can tell the author how much you liked a book, or books, but put it in writing. Amazon has the most visible and oft used review system of all the bookstores, but take the time to cut and paste your comments into B&N, Goodreads, or your favorite indie bookstore, like Powell's, all of which have good review forums.

One thing the online review process has created is a forum for the discontented and disgruntled to write their opinions and be heard. It's best if authors don't check the websites very often. It can be deflating, disheartening, and downright down casting if you've a thin skin or are new to the game. It seems people like to trash an author's work, but there are plenty of reviewers (and I use the term loosely) who have not a clue how to write or score a review, so I'll offer a couple of points.

First, if you liked the book but it had a few errors in formatting (check for an updated copy if it's a free review copy) and the story didn't turn out the way you wanted it to, and was well written, the least score should be 3 stars. Giving a writing 2 stars and saying how much you enjoyed the book is like sending mixed signals on a first date. Good thing the author can't drop a roofie in your drink and have their wicked way with you.

Secondly, if you loved the book and there were no errors or formatting problems, and the story was well written overall, give it 5 stars. The more errors or the more problems you had with the story, down grade by 1-star increments.

Two-star reviews are for those books that had merit but were not particularly well written, had too many formatting or spelling/grammar/punctuation errors and didn't come up to the mark.

One-star reviews are reserved for utter crap, including that the author couldn't write his or her way out of a paperback with a hole it and a sharp knife to hand.

Above all, be fair. Be honest. And don't take out your bad day on the author. It's not their fault.

If the book didn't end the way you wanted it to, don't take that out on the author either. It is the author's view and not yours. If you want a different ending, write one, but don't penalize the author by exercising your fits of pique with a low review when otherwise the book was good, or even excellent.

Reviewing is an art form that professionals learn how to do through years of experience and background in writing critiques. Reviewing in the cyberworld is somewhat different and mostly akin to a group of people talking about a book in a book club or among a group of friends. Keep that in mind. Very few reviewers are professionals on Amazon, but a few pros do slip through from time to time. Learn to write a substantive critique and keep it clean.

It's a tough world out there and Amazon reviews are the currency favored by the market right now. If you need help writing a review, ask someone with some experience, or write it the way you would tell it to a friend. Use a voice recorder if it helps.

Review books, preferably on days you're not having a major case of PMS, haven't fought with your boyfriend/girlfriend/boss/mother/father/siblings, got up on the right side of the bed, and didn't have car trouble or a bad hair day. Reviews are about the book, not your personal perils and petulance.

You can say whatever you like but do it with some class. It makes a difference.

2 Comment count
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Unhurried, casual writing style

I found refreshing and relaxing your unhurried, casual and smooth-flowing  writing style,  and your practical guidelines/tips based on professional experience and   seasoned in appropriate places with folksy wit,  illustrate well several essential elements of the informal essay genre. 

Is this also your preferred format for the review genre itself or do you include  there  elements (introductory thesis or unifying focus, development, etc.) of  the more tightly structured, formal essay style as well? 

 As an aside, an editor named Keizer at Harper's in his essay "Getting Schooled" writes very entertainingly (with wit and fresh insights in a recent magazine issue) of the latest educational trends and related jargon to describe them. Paragraphs, for example are called "structured responses"  and there is a proliferation of new acronyms as well.  His writing is remarkedly clear of all cliche and platitudinal fillers.  Its creativity makes for delightful reading. Your local librarian could help you locate it if you're interested.

That's it for my  structured responses today.



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Unstructured structure

This essay was more for people writing reviews of books on commercial sites like B&N, Amazon, Powell's, etc. I've found the reviews to be pejorative at times and lacking with regard to review and number rating. People just don't seem to get how it works. I offered a little help. Most people won't pay attention or stop doing what they are doing, which is say a review is great or horrid and then rate accordingly, or to write anything other than a jumble of words and thoughts that have no consistency or relevance. This is just me fighting paper tigers.

Thank you for the kind comments. Those are always appreciated.