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.
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.