My Review Process and Why I Write Reviews

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A friend of mine posed the question earlier this month about reviews. Why do you write reviews of books? What is your process? Why is it important to you?

For me, there’s a few reasons why I review books. Many of them are so I can remember what I’ve read. I even go back to them when I want to recall what I liked and didn’t like. You know that feeling you get after you’ve watched a TV show or a movie and you just have to talk to someone about it? That’s specifically what I feel whenever I finish a book. I want to talk about it and since I’m alone here, I usually talk to myself.

On top of that, I have a really bad memory. I’ve tried different memory games and helping with improving my brain, but I still can’t seem to remember little minute details. For example, I always forget people’s names. I will end up describing characters as “the main guy who killed the other dude.” I hate that about myself and I try to improve it as much as I can. However, some details always fall through the cracks with me and it really bugs me. This is also why I keep a book journal. I might even start ordering my pages to include character names, essential plot points, and other things I tend to forget.

I also started writing reviews because there was a big conversation happening in my head after I’ve finished reading the book. There are unanswered questions or bits of books that I need to possibly remember for the next book. I just want to remember it all, but sometimes I don’t even remember if I read the book this year.

That’s why I started writing reviews. My reviews are part book report and part pros and cons list. It’s a way for me to remember what I read, but also to get out all those feelings I have about the book. If you’d like to know more about my process, read on!

Here’s my rating system

  • Five Stars: It blew me away. I will be talking about this book for years
  • Four Stars: This was a really great book. I will definitely suggest it to others and possibly read other books by the author
  • Three Stars: Decent read. Nothing wowed me, but it wasn’t bad.
  • Two Stars: Meh. There’s a lot of problems in this book and can definitely be better. Lots of potential, but little bit was met
  • One Star: I don’t really rate 1-star books because if it’s that bad then I usually don’t finish reading it.

Here’s what I always look out for in reviews

The Writing Style

Writing style is super important to me. It’s a technical aspect of storytelling and each author has their own style. Some authors like to get into the details of everything like Ian McEwan or Marlon James. Gritty details where you have no room to interpret the space on your own. It’s cool because a lot of people love reading books like this. Other authors are a little bit more efficient and lets you paint a little bit of the world on your own. I prefer to read authors who are faster at getting to the point than waiting around watching the scenery. It’s a personal choice and I try not to fault books for this. However, sometimes the language can be so dry and boring that I can’t help but to note that I nearly fell asleep.

The Characters and Their Development

Characters are obviously important. However, characters are also made up people in an author’s head. What did the author do to make these characters stand out? With all that power to develop a character, you’ll be surprised to read books where the characters are dull or boring or just bleh. I like my characters with gumption; those with a personal style and vibrato you don’t see everyday. I also like my characters to be human. If they’re supposed to be human or emote like a human, then I want to see that in the story. I want elephant tears when the love interest dies. I want gut reactions to things that you’re supposed to react poorly to. I don’t like when characters know everything or deduce too quickly. It takes away from the natural process of finding the answer. Extra props if you’re able to diversify your characters. Why do all characters need to be white? They don’t, which is something we all can take some cues from. I don’t fault a book for not having a diverse cast, but it wins extra points.

The Story

It’s tough to come up with a story nowadays that’s true and original. However, I’m the type of person who enjoys the journey than the destination so if your story is one told many times before I don’t really care. What I care about is that this story that’s been told before keeps me engaged. Is there cohesion? Do all the themes and topics the author brings up move together in an elegant ballet? Is it too obvious that a love story is being forced? Is it painful to read the gruesome battles in fantasy stories? When stories have a natural flow to them, then it’s heaven. I absolutely love it when an author is able to surprise me with a story that moves in one direction and comes out different in the end. And that it makes sense. It has to make sense to me otherwise it’s a nonstarter.

I also try to remember that one flaw in a book doesn’t strike the entire thing as bad. Sometimes authors use social issues like racism, classism, sexual identity, etc as a way to convey a certain theme. It’s hurtful to read, but as long as it makes sense with the story or brings up topics of conversation, then I’m fine with reading about them. However, I know this can be a deal breaker for many and that’s another post for another day.

 

15 thoughts on “My Review Process and Why I Write Reviews

  1. Such a great post! It is always interesting to see how others review and to discover what some people look for in books and what others don’t.👌 The writing is important to me too; I love to review and learn from each author’s style. 🤓

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  2. I love that you keep a book journal! I sort of started one, but it’s not necessarily all that detailed and more of just a record of what I’ve read in a given month. When I write reviews, I usually start with a bulleted list of likes/dislikes that helps me focus my writing around those issues – which is definitely something I could keep in a book journal in the future.

    I definitely write reviews mostly for myself at this point. I don’t have a huge audience, and I also recognize that very few people actually read all of any given blogger’s reviews anyway. Thinking about a potential “audience” for my reviews and my blog in general just stresses me out, so I prefer to think of it as something I do for myself that might at some point involve other people.

    Also, we use the same pens 🙂

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    1. I might beef up my journal and start adding things like the names of characters and my own general plot lines so I don’t feel so blocked when trying to describe the book in one sentence.

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      1. I’m definitely better at taking notes when I’m reading nonfiction, but I’ve gotten out of the habit when it comes to fiction. You’ve definitely inspired me to get back into serious note taking to make writing reviews easier.

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  3. Great post! I can really relate to what you’re saying. Especially this part: “I also started writing reviews because there was a big conversation happening in my head after I’ve finished reading the book. There are unanswered questions or bits of books that I need to possibly remember for the next book.” This is exactly how I feel!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Simone
    I can defiantly relate to the having a big conversation going on in my head after reading a book – which is one of the reasons I also write reviews.
    However I started writing my reviews for two other reasons. I’m part of a monthly book club and if I don’t write down my thoughts I will forget them when I get to the club and then have nothing to talk about.
    It also reminds me of being in English literature class at university. I often think I’m writing mini essays rather than reviews. As its not so much about if I liked the book but what I appreciated or found interesting. For instance I often look at the authors life and how they may have puts elements of themselves or their experiences into their work and what message (if any) they were trying to say

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  5. I finally read this blog post! Been meaning to for months but I just got distracted with other things! I saw myself in all your reasons for writing reviews/having a book journal. You actually inspired me to start one myself! I’m terrible with remember names too and sometimes, even if I rated a book a 5-star, a month later I couldn’t even recall what happened in that book and why I rated it 5 stars. I’m just struggling a bit with my journal because I read multiple books at once and can’t figure out how to write my thoughts down for one of the multiple books I’m reading. Haha. But I’m hoping I’ll figure it out along the way. 🙂

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