Wednesday, April 18, 2007

To Blog or Not To Blog

There is quite a lot of discussion going on this week about so-called 'amateur' reviewers who blog about children's books and the 'professional' reviewers who appear in print (and/or are paid for their reviews). I was already planning on posting a mission statement/review policy of sorts. So this does provide an interesting reason to do it now instead of putting it off yet another day or week.

To get caught up on the arguments/debates:

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: Leave the Reviewing to the Professionals
Fuse #8's Sillies and Give 'em the Old Razzle-Dazzle
Jess: Lit Blog Wars
Read Roger's: Why I Don't Have A Blogroll or Friends
Jen Robinson's Book Page: Professional Reviews vs. Blog Reviews
Finding Wonderland: The Writing YA Weblog: My Two Cents...Well, More Like Five Bucks
Interactive Reader: I Just Hate it When Hopes Are Dashed
MotherReader's Coziness (Added 4/19/07)

(I have not read the comments below each blog post. There were too many. But I did read most, and scan the rest of the above links.) I am not trying to engage in the above dialogues so much as I am trying to state MY beliefs on what the role of a reviewer/blogger is.

WHY BLOG?
Someone--a snooty someone it sounds like--posted that "Obviously, it benefits the publisher to cozy up under the guise of friendship, to tell the bloggers how interesting and brilliant and important they are. (Bloggers must already be preconditioned to believe this -- why else would they have a blog in the first place?)" I find that insulting and rude. But is it true? Is anyone in the kidlit community really trying to blog their way into fame and fortune and the good life? Is that even possible? People blog because they have something to share. Something important, yes. But it's not "me, me, me." Instead it is read this book. Read that book. Listen to what this author has to say. It's not "I'm such a wonderful person. Look at me. I'm fabulous." If literature blogs were like that--who would read them??? Seriously. And no one begins off a review, "I'm so brilliant. Listen to what I have to say. Don't bother reading anyone else's review. I'm the best. My opinion is the only one that matters. If you disagree with me, you're rubbish." I've never really read a blog whose author had a huge ego and an insatiable thirst for praise and glory. So to say bloggers are egocentric, and attention-seekers is just misguided. They are no more egocentric than anyone else.

WHY I BLOG?
I blog because I can. I have the time and energy to post reviews and ramblings daily. I read books. Tons of books. I find it personally satisfying to write about and discuss the books I read. Therefore I blog. That is not to say I blog for myself alone. I'm always thinking of a potential audience. It could be teens or tweens. It could be parents. It could be teachers or librarians. It could be other bloggers. It might be authors or publishers. But my audience is anyone and everyone who likes to (or loves to) read. My site offers options.

UNDER WHOSE AUTHORITY???
I cannot remember where I read this--but it was something I read this morning--but it was something to the effect that every reader has a right to have an opinion about a book and share it. Whether they share it via a blog or an Amazon review or just among friends. You don't have to be one of the select few 'professional' reviewers in a major publication to have a point of view. All that being said, the more you read...the more informed you are and able to distinguish and discern quality. The more you read, the more you know. So experience adds to your credibility as a blogger. But everyone has a right to an opinion. Same goes with education. I have an MLS degree. My specialization was children's literature. I have numerous course credits in the field. My other degrees include a BA and MA in Literature. So I know reading. I know how to read "big people" books and "little people" books. I can analyze and dissect great works of literature. I can write thesis statements and have a well-organized research paper. Does any of that matter when it comes to blogging? It's debatable.

BALANCING BEING "OBJECTIVE" WITH BEING "SUBJECTIVE"
The great thing about reading is everyone is different. Everybody reads a book differently. One person could love it. One person could like it. One person could hate it. Which person is right? None of them. All of them. Only the reader can decide what is "good" in their opinion. You can't force anyone to like a book. You can't enforce your tastes and opinions on anyone else. Everyone can have their own opinion on a book. That's the only way to view it. If I disagree with your taste in books, fine. If you disagree with my taste in books, fine. There is no right or wrong here. All this is obvious. More than obvious. But here is the bottom line: how does a reviewer balance their personal response from a book with an objective view of the book? Can any book be read objectively? How can the reader divorce themselves from the reading process? Should they even try?
Reviews are opinions. They reflect the opinion of one person--the reviewer. They cannot reflect every opinion. To some extent, you can weed out about 10% of books objectively. There are a few books that you can read and examine and come to the conclusion...I don't know anyone, anywhere who could possibly like this book. But most books aren't like that. Most books have a potential audience. Every book is potentially someone's "favorite" book waiting to be discovered. The world would be a very boring place if everyone had the same favorite book or author. Variety is a good thing. So no review--whether appearing in a journal or a blog--is free from personal opinion. They may try to disguise it. But you can almost always read between the lines and discern whether or not they liked it. They may try to be "professional" and "objective" and try to convince you that they're free from bias. But no one can be completely free. They may have logical arguments. Proof to say these are the reasons why. But there are always other reasons why that may not be quite as logical. Sometimes you dislike a book and you just can't put your finger on it as to why. You just know. Same goes with a good review. You like it and you really don't know why. You just know you love it. Do you have to justify it? It is always better to try to explain it than to just shrug your shoulders and say in your review: "I love this book. I think everyone should read this book. It is great. I love the author." I think we've all seen book reviews like that on Amazon. So somewhere in the middle is the best place to write your review. I think bloggers can share more of their personality in book reviews. But essentially, you should never forget that reviews = opinions. Whether the reviewer is educated or uneducated. Whether the reviewer is young or old. My opinions about a book are just as valid as any review source. And so are yours.

SO WHAT RESPONSIBILITY DOES THE REVIEWER HAVE?
Some people only review books they love. Some review books they love and like. Some review books they love, like, and dislike. Do you have to love a book (or like a book) to review it? No. Does that enthusiasm help the review? Sometimes. I actually find it easier to write reviews of books I am indifferent to or dislike. Sometimes the words come easier. I can always think of reasons why I didn't like something. But if I really, truly love a book. Sometimes the words don't come. Sometimes I'm too emotionally caught up in the book to explain why it was a great book. Sometimes it takes more effort to get the review "just right" to do justice to that new, great book. What I strive for with each review is authenticity.

IS THE ROLE OF REVIEWER DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF A LIBRARIAN?
Many (but not all) bloggers have been trained in the tradition of librarianship. Whether they're currently employed at a library or not. They're familiar with the philosophy that you don't have to personally love the book (or like the book) to recommend it to a patron. When a patron comes to you looking for a new book to read. When they share what they've read in the past. When you know what genres they like. What authors they like, etc. You don't have to personally love (or like) any of the books you recommend. You can even actively hate the books that you hand over to them. That is because you recognize that everyone is different. Readers advisory isn't about recommending YOUR favorite books to every person you meet. It's about actively listening and making recommendations and such based on them...not you. Do reviewers play by the same rules? Should every review be seen as a personal endorsement of a particular book? Every reviewer has to answer that question themselves. I can only say that I have reviewed books that I didn't necessarily like or enjoy. These reviews were not necessarily written any differently than the reviews of books I liked. With one exception. If I say I really loved a book. Or if I go on for paragraphs about how wonderful a book is, you can obviously conclude that I personally liked it. That's a given. But there are some books (and some reviews) that I've written where I didn't personally care for the book, BUT I saw the potential for readers. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this book would appeal to someone. It's a slightly different story where you notice a lack in quality. But judging content is another matter. So is it dishonest to try to be neutral? I don't think so. It's a mood thing I suppose. Some days I review a book I didn't personally care for and I do it in a very neutral way. I never come right out and say that it wasn't my cup of tea. That it wasn't for me. Some days I review a book I didn't like, and I let everyone know I didn't like it. Every book is different. Every review is different.

WHAT KIND OF REVIEW IS BEST?
Every reviewer has their own style. Their own spin on what makes a good review. Some people like to include lots of summary. Some like to analyze style and approach it critically. Some like to point out strengths and weaknesses. Some like to compare and contrast it with other books with similar subjects or themes. Some like to include spoilers. Some like to treat a book review as a commercial. Tease the reader into picking up the book for themselves. To create or generate interest. All reviews share the fact that they are calling attention to a book. Some try to tell you what to think exactly. Some like to leave that up to the reader. There is no *right* way to review a book. One way isn't better than another.

DOES RECEIVING A FREE BOOK NOW AND THEN MAKE US BIASED?
I really want someone to logically explain to me why a professional book reviewer who receives ARCs and review copies of books (not to mention bookmarks and other little trinkets) would have a different (more ethical) response than a blogger receiving the same kind of courtesy from the publishers. If they both receive books from publishers...wouldn't they equally be at risk of writing biased reviews? Who deducted this...and based on what exactly? What logic are they using? Seriously. If both receive free books. If both write reviews. What is separating them? Money. The fact that they're in a printed journal or newspaper? The fact that they've got prestige? I think that is a slightly uppity opinion to assert that bloggers are so unethical and untrustworthy and therefore they must be more susceptible to such practices as bribery and flattery. If free books = bribery, then "professional" reviewers must be scrutnized just as closely as bloggers. Does a free book = a guaranteed 'good' review? I don't think so. I think authors and publishers know this going into it. They know that every book they send out isn't going to be necessarily loved and praised. They know that not everyone is going to proclaim it "the best book of the year." What they're hoping for is that it will find a few people who appreciate it. Who understand what the author was trying to do. That liked it. That will recommend it. That will give it a good review. I think they're smart enough to know that not every review will be glowing. I think all they're looking for is a chance.

And on a more personal (and therefore less interesting) note:

Where do most of MY books come from?

I would say a good 40 to 50% of my books come from my local library. I check out books regularly and read them.
As a participant of Librarians Choices, I have access to Texas Woman's University SLIS Review center five to six times a year. That might equal about 100 to 125 books per year. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. I buy a small percentage of my books. I do not have enough money to buy every book I want. But I buy about five or six books per year. That is I have bought that many new. I frequently go to Half-Priced books and buy books--typically the variety that are under $4 or $5. So my used books would make up a small percentage as well. I have also, on occasion, been sent books by authors and publishers. Not enough to really speak of. Not as many as I would like. But I would never turn down a free book.

Am I open to receiving free books from authors and publishers?

Of course. I would love to review every book I can get my hands on. I love reading new books. I would happily read every 2007 title that I came across. I think it's important to keep up to date. And I would love to receive more books so that I can provide readers with greater variety. The truth? My local library does the best it can. But it doesn't get that many new books. Oh, they might get in 2007 books, but it will be late in the year--or into the spring and summer of 2008. There are very few *new* titles that they've ordered that are even close to being available to check out. And I would love to review books in a more timely manner. Books are always a good thing. The more the merrier!

21 comments:

chrisa511 6:11 PM  

Great post! I hate this new mindset of you can't review books unless you're a professional reviewer. I love to review books occasionally on my blog to express my love (or strong dislike) for the book. I like to send out the recommendations to other bloggers who have similar reading tastes to mine. I in turn love to read other people's reviews. In fact, I'd prefer blogger friends' reviews to "professional" reviews. Geesh...you have to defend everything these days

Roger Sutton 6:43 PM  

I like this post, too, Becky, and am glad to have discovered your blog via this debate. I honestly don't believe professional reviewers should have the Last Word on any given book. But one thing to think about is that while Booklist, Horn Book, SlJ, etc. review from free advance copies, it's advance copies of everything. I'm guessing most bloggers, when they review from publishers copies, are only seeing a select group of books that someone in the publishing house thought the blogger might like, or at least be interested in. It's not that I expect a blogger to review differently because a book was given to them, it's that I think you get a wider perspective when you're evaluating the book in hand against the background of the thousands of others published the same season. I don't think the swag works on any of us, and maybe I'm just not used to seeing the evil jokes we have long made about it in-office to be served up on the blogs! Aw hell, just call me old.

Booklogged 7:28 PM  

Wonderfully written! I totally agree.

Erin 8:13 PM  

Great points, Becky. :)

"I actually find it easier to write reviews of books I am indifferent to or dislike. Sometimes the words come easier."

SO true.

Becky 9:17 PM  

"It's not that I expect a blogger to review differently because a book was given to them, it's that I think you get a wider perspective when you're evaluating the book in hand against the background of the thousands of others published the same season."

So true about the wider perspective. That is why I love participating in the Librarians' Choices project at Texas Woman's University. We get to read hundreds of books--probably not the thousands that are out there that Horn Book (etc) would be receiving--but hundreds. It is only when you see things in perspective--to read the competition that you get a sense of what should be labeled "great," "good," or "average" in a given year. It's important to read and enjoy. But you're not finished there. Sometimes you just have to wait and see if your initial impression lasts. Will your judgement in February about a particular book still hold true in October after you've read a hundred or so more titles? Will it still be among the best? Will it still be memorable?

Lindsey 8:00 AM  

Just to provide an example, Roger, of how the free books don't persuade, I will tell you a little tale. Recently I received two books from a publisher. I have read one of these books. I enjoyed the plot but it was poorly written. I looked at the back of the ARC and was surprised to see there was a quote on the back: ALA Best Books for Young Adults. I was very surprised to see this. As I said, the book was poorly written. I am going to post a review of it soon, but the point is, the free books do not persuade me. It is flattering to be sent free books, 'tis true. But if I give a good review, to a book that is not as good as I say, that would hurt my reputation as a blogger. No one will trust my review if I don't provide sincerity in my viewpoint.

MotherReader 8:15 AM  

Very through and thoughtful response. I like the way you talked about the very subjective nature of book reviews. This is something I was trying to hit on in my post last night, but you've gone into helpful detail. I think that meeting the author or getting a free book can effect the reading experience, but so can having a fight with your pre-teen daughter or wearing too tight pants or being a past member of the Glee club. Reading is personal. In reviewing, the best we can do is be able to pull out for potential readers the heart of the book, some warnings perhaps, and an opinion. Because, really, they're all opinions.

Kelly 8:43 AM  

Wow. That was one great post, Becky. Nice job.

Carl V. Anderson 9:07 AM  

These arguments have been going on for awhile now, generally started by a 'professional' reviewer or someone in the press with a voice who thinks their opinion is the final answer on the subject.

I think most people blog book reviews not to be praised for their great reviews, etc. but to get the word out on books they love, hoping other readers will love them as well and to talk about books that just didn't work for them.

As for publishers courting bloggers, I think its great. Anyone with a lick of sense is going to take any Advance Reading Copy they get and give it an honest review, so what's the harm. Plus you get free books out of the deal! I've gotten some ARC's and I intend to be completely honest about my thoughts on them. I guess I believe my own personal integrity on this is good enough.

In the end I think critics are seeing the blogging world cutting in on their livelihood, and I guess if it was my job I might be all pissed about it as well.

Becky 10:19 AM  

"I think that meeting the author or getting a free book can effect the reading experience, but so can having a fight with your pre-teen daughter or wearing too tight pants or being a past member of the Glee club. Reading is personal."

I just loved what you said, MotherReader. Very true. Some of your response is determined by mood. That is one of the funny truths about reviewing. I think a good reviewer has to take some time and consider how much of their response is personal. Did I connect with this book because I saw myself in it? Did I love this book because it had references to the Beatles in it? Or a favorite book? Did the author capture a time and place that I love--that resonates with me? It's easy not to question a response if you're response is a positive one. But if it's negative, do we as reviewers consider how much of it is personal? Did we have a bad day? Did we want to be doing something else with our time? Were outside distractions always intruding during the reading process? Or my personal favorite referring back to my post on Monster Blood Tattoo...did we not like the book because it actually smelled bad. We could not like a book because it wasn't as good as another we've read that was similar. For example, I had a hard time getting all ecstatic about Vegan, Virgin, Valentine after reading The Truth About Forever. When two books come out so close together about perfectionist teens finding themselves and falling in love and learning to relax...it's hard not to compare them. But I recognized that as well. For me, there was no comparison. The next person, another reviewer, might rank VVV better than the Truth About Forever...or not want to read either of them.

Andromeda Jazmon 11:49 AM  

Great post! Reading is such a personal thing - that's one of the beauties of blogging. I for one and delighted to read such a variety of opinions. Conversations like this just make it all the more interesting.

Anonymous,  2:39 PM  

This is a great topic. I do believe that professional reviewers are a bit intimidated by the fact that bloggers blog about books. I think it's a competition issue more than anything else.

But that's the nature of business. And this business is changing very rapidly. Roger says that maybe he's just old. I don't know if that's so true as maybe the system and the ways that books were reviewed is getting old. And maybe people prefer something different.

Unknown 2:45 PM  

"Will your judgement in February about a particular book still hold true in October after you've read a hundred or so more titles? Will it still be among the best? Will it still be memorable?"

That's a good point, Becky. Many times, I've had a negative reaction to a book, so I shun everything from that author. Then a while later, someone recommends something else, and I go back and realize that maybe I was just having a bad week.

I wonder why professional reviewers are all up in arms about the book blogging community? Jealousy, maybe? I have to admit, I trust the judgment of fellow bloggers, because I "know" them, over some cold, impersonal professional reviewer.

That said, I'd love to get more free books. :)

Mayra Calvani 7:09 AM  

Dear Becky,
I was reading again your interesting and well-expressed post, but I have to disagree with you about spoilers (a well written review should NEVER contain them) and about there not being a right way to review. This might be the case with reader reviews, but there is an 'accepted structure' for reviewer reviews, which usually include:
*An interesting lead or opening line.
*A brief summary of the plot--without giving away the ending or spoilers.
*A well-thought, intelligent evaluation, possibly with quotes.
*And a recommendation (or not).

Becky 10:19 AM  

Mayra:

I don't think we'll be disagreeing as much as you might think. I don't like spoilers either. Never have. Never will. That's why almost all of my reviews are spoiler free. I can think of one or two instances--but I gave the spoiler alert in advance. I don't want to ruin the ending for any book.

The reason I said "some" was the fact that "some" reviewers--particularly on the internet--do spoil endings when they write about books. What I think is unethical is for there to be spoilers about books on the internet before the book is even released. That is completely unethical in my opinion. But even if I find it unethical. What am I really going to do about it? Am I going to go about searching for these reviews and posting comments that they SHOULDN'T have spoiled the ending? That I'm unhappy with the way they chose to review something? I may not like it or approve of it. But I can only control my own writing.

As for the format and structure, I agree with most of what you say. There is nothing wrong with that format. That IS the format used in Librarians Choices. There is a word limit. There is one paragragh for brief summary--no spoilers. One paragraph for evaluation. And we're encouraged to use quotes. The recommendation is a given. We don't do negative reviews. So it's not that I'm unfamiliar with the so-called correct way to review. It's that I'm more relaxed.

Why should that be the only correct way to review a book? That would be like saying that poetry has to rhyme to be poetry. Reviews should be allowed to be unstructured at the discretion of the reviewer. Especially blogs.

Blogging is fun. Writing is fun. Imposing strict guidelines...not so fun. If I was turning in a book review for a class or for publication or writing a book report...that would be one thing. I'll turn all analytical on you. I'll format it differently. I won't use contractions. I'll write a draft, and may change it five or six times before I turn it in.

"An interesting lead or opening line."

I don't know how successful I do this. I do tend to give a LOT of thought to my first few sentences. I know they are key. When I finish a book I automatically start thinking...okay how will I BEGIN my review. What should my first sentence be. Sometimes I'm more relaxed. Sometimes I go with the flow. But sometimes I've spent hours thinking about how to write up a book. I often finish a book at night--11:30PM or 12:30 AM--and try to focus my thoughts before drifting off to sleep on what my review should be like. What I'll say. I want to get it exactly right. Sometimes these come to me. And I still remember them the next morning. Here's how I see it. If I can find a line or two that I love to start a review, it makes the rest almost seem too easy. It sets it up right. It almost guarantees that I won't encounter stumbling blocks.

"A Brief summary of the the Plot--without giving away the ending or Spoilers"

There with you all the way. I do that each and every time. Sometimes it might be four or five sentences. Sometimes I might talk for two or three paragraphs. But I rarely (99.9%) spoil the ending. And I never do it without giving warning.

"A well-thought, intelligent evaluation, possibly with quotes"

Sometimes I feel more like writing 'intelligent evaluation' than others. Sometimes I have a lot to say on the merit or lack of merit in a book. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes this evaluation is a simple "well written characters" or "powerful writing" comment. Sometimes I really get into it. I don't feel guilty for not wanting to write paragraphs and paragraphs of analysis. Does dissecting a book really make a big difference to a potential reader? Sure, if you've read the book...then you might be interested in having a discussion with someone else who's read it. You might be curious as to my views on something. But I'm trying to get people who haven't read the book to be interested in the book. I really think that is a big difference between bloggers and PROFESSIONAL reviewers. A professional reviewer for Horn Book, for example, is targeting public librarians and school librarians. His audience is a librarian or possibly a teacher. He/she is writing in such a way to let that specific audience know whether a book is worth their time and money. Should they add it to their collection? Is it worth the money? What is the reviewers opinion on a book's quality? Does it have oodles of reader appeal? Is it a must have for a collection? Or is it one that can be skipped? Many libraries--be they school or public--must "prove" that a book is worthy of the money by finding a certain number of good reviews or starred reviews in order to justify their purchase. Books are not cheap. Reviews serve an important purpose.

But bloggers are not targeting school librarians and public librarians. That might be a small part of our audience. But not a big one. Bloggers don't have the prestige of PROFESSIONAL REVIEWERS and therefore their reviews and opinions can't really be used as proof to buy anything for a library. Bloggers have a different audience...a different goal. It only makes sense that our reviews be structured differently. That we don't have to play by the same rules. It's an informal community. It's okay to take your shoes off. You don't have to sit up straight. You can have some freedom in what you say and how.

I outlined this clearly in my post Becky's Five W's. My goals are stated.

Mayra Calvani 11:51 AM  

zee said...
"I looked at the back of the ARC and was surprised to see there was a quote on the back: ALA Best Books for Young Adults. I was very surprised to see this. As I said, the book was poorly written."

Awards are another thing I look with suspicion--I have read a handful of books that have received awards and were nothing short of mediocre. This is especially common with ebook awards (I'm sure there are many good ebooks that have merited these awards, but unfortunately this isn't always the case and sometimes the judges themselves are mediocre authors--can a mediocre author jugde a mediocre book??)

Sometimes I've been deeply disappointed with books that received great reviews from one of the top review publications. For my book on book reviews I had to interview dozens of librarians and they also agree that many times they're disappointed with big shot reviewers.

"But if I give a good review, to a book that is not as good as I say, that would hurt my reputation as a blogger. No one will trust my review if I don't provide sincerity in my viewpoint."

Exactly! Most bloggers are aware of this and if they want to maintain their credibility, they have to keep their honesty. Also, we should give some credit to readers--it's easy to tell a good, fair review from a cheesy one laced with facile praise.

Mayra Calvani 12:17 PM  

Hi Becky!

"The reason I said "some" was the fact that "some" reviewers--particularly on the internet--do spoil endings when they write about books."

I would have to think that these "reviewers" need to read a few things about how to write a review. That's the point I was trying to make on one of my earlier posts--there are people who blog about books, then there are reviewers who post their reviews on their blogs. There is a difference between the two. I'm not against bloggers at all! But I don't agree with all who blog about books to call themselves reviewers.

"What I think is unethical is for there to be spoilers about books on the internet before the book is even released. That is completely unethical in my opinion."

I completely agree--this is the sign of an amateur, very unprofessional.

"So it's not that I'm unfamiliar with the so-called correct way to review. It's that I'm more relaxed."

This is why blogging is so appealing.

"Why should that be the only correct way to review a book?"

That question opens a can of worms... Is there a correct way to dance? to act? to write a book report? to perform brain surgery???

Within professional reviews, you have the academic ones, which are usually written for small print publications associated with colleges and which are mainly interested in lterary works and poetry. Then you have the long, in-depth reviews, not as critical/analytical as the academic ones. Then you have the light, short reviews. I don't agree that professional reviewers only write for librarians. A review can be light and short and still be professionally written.

I agree that blogging is an informal community and that it shouldn't stick to rules, but I do think that we should come up with a new term for these people who blog about books, because when they call themselves reviewers, well, that's a bit misleading. Again, I'm not taking here about reviewers who post their reviews on their blogs.

Mayra Calvani 12:26 PM  

On a last note...

All things aside, at the end it's all about literature, books, and geting people to read, and that is GREAT.

One thing blogging has done, is make book "revewing" more accessible to people.

I also think that professional reviewers may feel a little threatened because, due to blogging, they've lost some dominance over the publishing world... and this must hurt :-)

Becky 1:02 PM  

"That question opens a can of worms... Is there a correct way to dance? to act? to write a book report? to perform brain surgery???"

There is a 'correct' way to dance if you want to dance professionally at national or international level. But there are all kinds of dance. All kinds of places to dance. Same with acting. It's silly to think there is just one 'correct' way to act. You may prefer one method to another. But there are all kinds of acting methods and styles. There might be a "correct" way to act if you want to be in a Shakespearian play at a prestigious theatre. But again, there is room for everyone. To write a book report, the teachers set up guidelines. In that case, there is very little freedom. If the teacher says "MLA" or "Chicago" and you turn in "APA" then you deserve what you get. But every teacher, every class, every grade level is different. The expectations placed on a high school student are different than those placed on a doctoral student. But these examples are all about expectations. And of course there is no leeway in performing surgery. That one's just silly.

It is all about labels. I am saying that yes, there may be a *correct* way to write a review for a professional journal or an academic journal. But just because that one medium (journal) requires that *correct* format doesn't mean every other way to write a review is automatically wrong. A newspaper might have a different formula to follow. An online magazine another formula. A web page or blog another choice of how to do it. Why should every review be held to that one so-called perfect standard? Why is a review any less of a review if it doesn't follow those rules so long as it conforms to guidelines of its own?

"I agree that blogging is an informal community and that it shouldn't stick to rules, but I do think that we should come up with a new term for these people who blog about books, because when they call themselves reviewers, well, that's a bit misleading. Again, I'm not taking here about reviewers who post their reviews on their blogs."

Again with the labels. This seems to be an arbitrary distinction. WHO would decide which blogger could be called a "reviewer who post their reviews on their blogs" and which would be the lowly counterparts "people who blog about books" who dare to presume that they can be classified as reviewers. If the decision is based on money, then I think there's a serious bit of snobbery going on. Sure I can somewhat understand a distinction between a blogger who says, "Oh, by the way I finished this book today. I really liked it. The author did this and that. And the characters. Oh, I loved that character. She reminded me of Aunt Sue" and a blogger who seriously undertakes the goal of reviewing the book.

Out of curiousity,and assuming that you're new to the site...that you've found me because of this debate...take a bit of time to explore the site. To read my reviews. To look at what I do. What would you label me? What label do I deserve? Or am I misleading the public by offering so-called 'reviews'?

Mayra Calvani 1:57 AM  

"WHO would decide which blogger could be called a "reviewer who post their reviews on their blogs" and which would be the lowly counterparts "people who blog about books" who dare to presume that they can be classified as reviewers. If the decision is based on money, then I think there's a serious bit of snobbery going on."

It doesn't have to do with money. Also, there are no "lowly counterparts"--it's only that the two are different.

At the end, what matters is a well written review that is honest, objective, fair, tactful and that more or less follows a certain format.

I'm sorry if you were offended--that was not my intention and though you cannot always tell the intonation of a person via email--or in this case by commenting--mine has been totally friendly all along.

I took a look at your reviews--I'm impressed by the quantity of material on your blog and the quality of your writing (some reviews were too short for my taste but this were well written too, your love for books really comes through in your writing).

By the way, the thing about the brain surgery... I was just being sarcastic, in friendly kind of way.

Becky 10:37 AM  

I wasn't offended. I knew it was a friendly debate. I just enjoyed participating and playing along. I'm glad my reviews--assuming I can still call them that--pleased you in some way. I love to write. As to the length, it's a mood thing. I like long reviews too. But I don't want to go to the extreme and be too long-winded. You never know how long someone's attention span will hold these days :)

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I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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