Let's Talk Books

It’s All A Point of View

Well, I’ve finished rushing around for the morning, doing laundry, buying groceries, and doing various plant watering duties. I’m sat in the office, at my desk, with a favourite cup of Moroccan mint tea scenting the air, and I’m wondering what today’s post should be about — certainly not the humdrum mundanities of most Monday mornings.

So I went surfing the Blog-O-Sphere to see what everyone else was talking about (books, of course) and, as I haven’t finished the book I started late last week (The Fire Court) I have no review to offer. But I did stop in over the weekend at Reading Under the Blankie (which is a great name and I wish I had thought of that) where Norrie had been having something of a discussion, or maybe, non-discussion? About book rating systems and what does everyone use. Of course, anyone that stops by to read her reviews knows she uses hearts instead of stars, which is perfect. Others use 1-5 stars to rate, some prefer to be a little more in-depth, and go the whole nine-yards with 1-10 stars.

But whatever your choice, whether its hearts for contemporary fiction, little rockets for SF, blood-dripping axes or chainsaws for horror, we all have similar categories: A book is either don’t buy this one, bad, boringly average, oh, this was good, or excellent.

There was a time when I got very serious about my book reviewing, I created a blog exclusively for reviews, even bought a theme that allowed me to do detailed reviews with star ratings from 1 through 10. And posted quite a few in-depth reviews until, that is, I discovered no one really cared. It took a great deal of effort to write those reviews, never mind keep the website running and, get word out across social media. And all for what? No one was paying me.

And here in is the rub, and another of the discussion threads I found via Norrie’s blog. People asking the question, why can’t I get paid for doing book reviews? Because insert one of a millions reasons.

Not least of which you can’t make a living reviewing books. Even if you could get in at Kirkus Reviews (or the like). Not while there are websites like NetGalley and Edelweiss carefully placing un-proofed galleys out to willing readers, who are used to generate hype and reviews on their blogs—for free.

The up-shot of all this, for me personally was, I closed the review blog, stopped being so antsy about my reviews, and went for the two-thumbs up system of review: I either loved the book, or I didn’t. And in the review, I’ll tell you why. Because, when all said and done, no two reviewers or readers are the same, and what one might love, another might hate. And while one might rate a book 4 or 5 stars for whatever reason, I know for sure, I probably would not have.

Oh, and as a footnote and if anyone is interested, I grade my reviews base on five criteria: Five Points of Review.

10 Comments

  1. I really like the idea of discussions of books that explain why it’s ‘Thumbs Up’ or ‘Thumbs Down,’ Alex. To me, that sort of review is very helpful. And (at least in my opinion) it allows for the flexibility that’s so important, given people’s differing tastes.

    • La Blonde says

      Indeed, Margot. I think we all want to know what worked and what didn’t, and, for that reader, why. It gives us a better understanding then on whether or not we, ourselves, would like the book. So much more helpful that way given, as you say, we all like different books.

      I know for me, personally, when someone has given me a credible review I’v often found myself adding a book I wouldn’t have otherwise, to my wish list. Because the reviewer has convinced me to go outside my “comfort” zone, and try something different. And, when the reviewer is good, 9 out of 10 of these have been good choices.

  2. Oh that’s a very fair system Alex. I was actually thinking about creating something similar –
    an internal categories system, which would help me decide how to compare different genres, especially if I read predominately books from one genre but not that many from a different one.

    I think I should stop being antsy about my reviews as well as that will probably help too. 🙂 I am a notorious over-thinker and in the end, I do this because I love writing and reading. 🙂 Great post!

    • La Blonde says

      Bonjour Vera, and thank you for stopping by to read and comment. I hope my system will inspire you to either create something of your own, or go right ahead and use the 5-points for yourself.

      And indeed, it’s so much easier to rate different genre because it’s based on those 5-points, rather than comparing apples and oranges. Contemporary fiction and SF don’t need to compete, just rate them based on whether they hit the mark, or not. 😀

  3. My favourite reviews are the ones that are not overly long, but get onto details about what the person particularly liked or disliked. That helps me give an idea whether i would like it or not.

    I did see some reviews that were super long and almost like analyzing the book, but i was too scared of spoilers and skipped the majority of it. Thankfully those are also super organised and have little titles for each section so it’s easy to skip where it says “plot” for example.

    • La Blonde says

      Sometimes I think the best reviews are short and succinct. Especially well written reviews are able to, as you say, get right to the heart of what worked and what didn’t without too much preamble. Longer reviews have their place, but like you, I tend to skip a lot of what’s written in case of spoilers.

      I’m just glad people take the time to review, and those who do it well should be congratulated!

  4. I’ve found your reviews, both past, and present, worth reading because they broadened my perspective on the craft. As someone who studies mainly technical, scientific, and history books, your critiques help round out my reading list. Thank you, Alexandra!

    • La Blonde says

      Thank you for your kind words, Kenny. And I’m glad my reviews help make a difference for you, personally, as it’s always difficult to try and find the right balance. And while I don’t read and review that much non-fiction, am sure, nonetheless, the write-ups would have to follow a whole other critique criteria in order to be effective and or, helpful.

      I bet you would be great at technical reviews, Kenny, with your knowledge and background. You also have such insight into some interesting subjects and topics.

  5. I’ve never wanted to write “reviews” as such; I prefer to write my personal response to whatever I’ve read that has grabbed me enough to want to craft a response. But then, I don’t have a book blog – books appear on it (rather a lot at the moment) because they’re a large part of my life. That said, I love reading other people’s reviews! 😀

    • La Blonde says

      I know what you mean, Sandra. I didn’t start this blog with the intention of it being about books, reviews and or, interviews. It was supposed to be more about my residency journey than anything. But, as these things do, it’s morphed because, well, I read. I read a lot, and I love to talk books with other people who share a love of reading. So naturally, a lot of posts are about what I read.

      Also, I think most reviews are of a personal nature, they can’t be anything less, unless you are writing them for Kirkus or the like. But even then, we tend to make them about how a book or characters made us feel. Rather than being clinical.

      And yes, like you, I do enjoy a good review.

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