About Me # 2: Writing Reviews

January 15, 2013 Lola's Ramblings 2

Those of you who follow me for some time already, probably know a bit about how I write my reviews. In this post I’ll explain how and why I write my reviews. I also explain how I started writing reviews.

Why and how I started writing reviews
I wrote my first reviews on a dutch site where you can buy books and write reviews of them, called bol.com. These reviews were just a few sentences of what I thought about the book. I thought it was nice to help other people decide whether this was a book for them or not. In august or september 2011 I joined Goodread and then I came in contact with other reviews and reviewers. At first I just kept doing what I did before, write short reviews that included my thoughts about the book. I also didn’t review all the books I read. My reviews got longer, but  I never used spaces between the different alineas (which I now think is terrible, because they make your review harder to read). About half a yearlater I reviewed almost all the books I read and started thinking more about how I write my review. In february 2012 I started as a co-blogger at K-books and since then my reviews have only improved more.

How I write my reviews now
I gradually developed a system for writing my reviews. When I think about it, it does sounds strange to have rules or a system for how you write reviews, but it works for me. I usually start my review with a few short sentences of what come in mind when I think of the book. Mostly this makes clear whether I liked the book or not. The next part of my review consist of my opinion of the book based on story, characters and world building. I use these three things because they are for me an important part of if a book is good or not. I talk more in dept about these three things later. Then the last part of my review is the conclusion, I actually started including a conclusion in my reviews quite early. I think it is handy to summarize the main points of my review in a few sentences. Also nowadays many people are quite busy and probably most don’t have time to read my whole reviews (which sometimes are quite long). So the conclusion is also for those people, so they still have an idea what I think about the book without having to read my whole review. I also use many white spaces in my review, because I think this makes it easier to read. My reason for writing reviews stayed the same. I want to share my opinion of a book with others and hope I can help them decide whether this is a book for them or not.

This may seem an obvious point to include in a review. I mean the story is a huge part of the book. When I talk about story in my reviews, I usualy talk about things like the pace of the book (fast or slow), if the story was interesting or not, if the story was original or not, if the story had that keep-reading-feel or not etc. I think the story is very important for me in a book, because if a book doens’t have a good story it has nothing to stand on. A book does have to excell at the two other things to compensate for not having a good story and I think that writing a book with good characters and world building practically is impossible without having a good story. I always start with the story first in my reviews, not because I think this is the most important point, but because I think it feels natural to start with it (okay and maybe also because I love to organize things and I just want to keep the same sequence in every review).

Characters are my second point in my reviews. I think characters are an important part of what makes the book good or not. In this section of my reviews I usually talk about whether I liked the characters or not, if their actions are believeable, whether the romance was done well or if it was insta-love. I also sometimes talk about who was my favourite character, not often because I am not that good at choosing favourites. But sometimes I think there is a specific character that just needs to be mentioned here. Another thing that I find important is whether the bad guy is believeable and if you get an idea of his or her motives. I think characters are important for me in a book, because if you don’t like the characters in a book it get’s difficult to read on. If the characters are annoying or make stupid descisions this can ruin a book for me.

World Building
I think that world building is not the thing that comes to mind as one of the first things when most people think about books, but for me world building is really important in a book. I read book to immense myself in the world of that book and if that world isn’t described well then this really irritates me. In this section of my review I talk about whether I think the world building is doen well or not, did the world seem real/ alive to me or where there obvious gabs in the world that weren’t explained? If the books is about magical powers or anything else supernatural I also look at whether this is explained well, for example is there an explanation for why people change into werewolves? And does this explanation sounds reasonable? I hate it when parts of the world aren’t explained. I do like some mystery, but at the end I want to know how everything works. In my review I also often will mention that I wanted more world building, I think that generally speaking I prefer more world building than the average person. So if I do mention I wanted to know more, then understand that this is because I just love world building so much that I want to understand every aspect of that world.

In the case of books that take place in our own world without anything magical, like most contemporary books I do have to scrap the world building part of my review. In contemporary books world building isn’t relevant, but in books where there must be world building, it better be good.

I also hate it when authors break their own world building rules, although sometimes when this is done subtle enough I don’t realise it. Or when the explanation is very well I don’t mind it that much. For example when in a book it is explained that X can’t happen, you have to come up with a very good explanation if later on there is a situation in which X does happen.

I do want to mention some book that really excell at world building (in my opinion at least):
– The Dwellers series by David Estes
– Delirium by Lauren Oliver
– the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
– the Kara Gillian series by Diana Rowland
– the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
– Unbound series by Rachel Vincent
(and yes I did use this to have some covers throughout my post, because I don’t like posts wihout any pictures and I think people are more likely to read all these text when there at least some pictures, because then it seems like there is less text)

To conclude
In this post I talked about how I started reviewing by only putting my thoughts on paper. And how later I started to organize my reviews starting with a few thoughts and then continue with story, characters and world building. I always end my reviews with the conclusion. I always end my reviews with a conclusion, because I think this is a nice way to wrap up my review and people who don’t want to read my whole review can still get a sense of what I thought about the book.

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