I’ve read that reviews are some of the least liked posts in the book-blogosphere. I’m not terribly surprised, after all, I’m following a few blogs and the reviews are, statistically, the posts I skip the most, but it’s not because I don’t like them, it’s simply because I’m less interested in reading a review of a book I don’t know, or a book I have no intention of reading. So, maybe that’s what people mean when they say they don’t like reviews. In the end, which reviews do I read ? Reviews of books I’ve already read to know what the blogger thought about it (and how their views may differ from my own) and reviews of books I plan on reading (although I generally skim through the review to avoid spoilers).
But despite this general consensus, I still think reviews are really important.
No matter how you structure your review, the ultimate goal is always to give an honest opinion of a book, and eventually influence others to read it too. We live in the age of social media, and participative audiences are ruling the internet, so it’s a given now that every opinion matters and is worth sharing. You’re not force-fed ready-made concepts, you’re more aware, and you have more power (I’m still amazed at the whole Dylan Saccoccio debacle). Of course, you could say that reviews are good for those who read them, but I think it’s especially good for those who write them.
Long can be good
I studied literature for a while : first in high-school – things work a little bit differently in France, and you can sort of choose a “major”, a speciality at least, when you’re in high-school – then in college, so I can say that I’ve had my plate full of really in-depth book analyses. Except that my general problem was that I had trouble expending my ideas, everything I had to say was a little too concise (for a literature major). But then, I started to write reviews. A lot of it was rambling at first, still kind of is, but it definitely helped me structure and develop my ideas. They were a sort of free trial for all the essays I’ve had to write. And more fun too. So, in addition to being clearly therapeutic – because you need to get all those thoughts and ideas and feelings out ! – I also benefited from all this added practice. And, it also worked the other way around !
How things have changed for me now
I’m still technically a student now, but also not. At least, I’m not studying literature. I’m following the professional route, meaning that I’m working part-time for a job I’m also studying for. Anyway, the methods are different. You have to be able to explain your idea as concisely as possible, use simple, easily-understandable sentences, not ramble. Professional writing. And for those who’ve had years of “the more thorough, the better” battered into their brains, the transition can be a bit difficult. But, just like before, as a consequence, my reviews are getting shorter. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point when they won’t be over 300 words, but I’ve made some interesting progress so far.
The deleted scenes
I actually like the way I do things on this blog. Since I have the option to put a “read more”, it’s really useful for my review posts. The goal is to provide all the necessary information on the first part of the post. You see this format everywhere because it works : title, author, publication date and publisher ; an easy access to Goodreads because it makes you save time ; a summary ; a rating and, I personally added a short comment basically summing up what I thought about the book. But you can also add as many link-to as you want, the number of pages, mention if the book is part of a series, the genre etc. All this information can usually be seen at a glance when you scroll down the blog. I consider the “my thoughts” section, the actual review, a little bit like a director’s deleted scenes : not completely necessary to the plot, but those things that the die-hard fans will probably want to see. Hence, why I only read reviews of the books I know : it’s obviously more interesting to know what the blogger is talking about.