Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What Hank's Writing: Book Reviews?!


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Do you write book reviews? As an author, I will admit, I tiptoe toward the review section of every website, knowing I might be poking a landmine, but unable to resist. And every author will tell you how important it is to have a good review, how the dashed off and spoiler-filled and mean-spirited reviews are not only knives to the heart, but ratings wrecking. 

But I have been writing a different kind of review. The fabulous Criminal Element is doing a wonderful experiment, are asking authors to review the past Edgar winners for best novel. There was a mad dash among the authors they asked to pick which books to review, and I must say that I was not among the first, so I did not get Day of the Jackal or Eye of the Needle, two faves.   And turns out,  two of the three I was assigned were books I had never read.  (I might say that I had never heard of them, actually. They won the Edgar, and they were not even in my bandwidth! Whoa. )

However! That was the beginning of a wonderful adventure.

The first book I reviewed is A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine – the pseudonym for Ruth Rendell.  It was the winner in 1987, and  difficult to judge it from the standpoint of someone reading it then, as well as someone reading it now.

As I wrote: 

"I  will admit, I fear, if I had read this book in 1986—when, after all, the best sellers of the year were Danielle Steele, Judith Krantz, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King—I might have given up on this book after a couple of chapters, asking out loud, is anything going to happen soon?
And had I done that, I would not have been treated to the glorious, masterful, innovative structure that Vine uses to devise this disturbing puzzle. Gradually, in her own brilliantly created order, Vine lets us in on the whole story, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, without letting us know where the puzzle pieces fit."
  
In the review, I said: 

"But if a new writer pitched this book today, the agent would toss it on the reject pile after the first several pages. Backstory backstory backstory. Family tree family tree family tree, family tree--to the point of excruciating frustration. Get to the story! The agent would cry.

Too bad for the agent. Turns out, the family is the story."  

  It was fun to imagine the discussion of the Edgar committee, you know? Why didn’t they choose P.D. James for A Taste of Death? Or  Joe Gores for Come Morning, Brian Freemantle for The Blind Run, and Roger L. Simon for The Straight Man?  What was it about this particular book that made it the most special of the special books? When I wrote near the end was:

"I wish I had been there for the final Edgar vote. “It’s fine, I guess,” someone would have said.
“I think it’s risky,” someone else might have warned.
“This one will become a classic,” said the sage one in the back. And that person was correct. "
 And now I'm working on another review which will come out in a month or so. The book--The Red Scream-- is by Mary Willis Walker,  and it won in 1995. It was a perfect book for me to read, because it's about a reporter, Molly Cates, whose true crime book is about to be published. (Lots of parallels to my TRUST ME and to my own real life.)
 Again-- reading it in 1995 would be a lot different from reading it in 2019, right? What was fresh and innovative back then isn’t, frankly, now. And though chronologically that it wasn’t so long ago, in some senses, it was. We didn’t know about #MeToo,  or cell phones, and the Internet was newish.  By the time Mary Willis Walker wrote this book, Sue Grafton was already on L. 

But then, reading, I saw what made it more than a savvy-tough-intrepid-working-woman story. I’m still drafting, but I can share an early bit:

"Here’s the clincher: only Molly herself has the opportunity to tell the truth about this crime, the crime that made her career.

But if her  true crime book is based on her own misunderstanding of the crime--if it's not true--how good a reporter is she?

If Molly diligently follows the clues that may lead to the convicted killer’s innocence, doesn’t that make her guilty?

That’s what makes the story so special--Walker’s focus on the choice devoted reporter Molly must make. Can she be true to her "stand up for the little guy" philosophy? If she does, the discovering the pivotal clues might lead to her own personal humiliation and defeat." 
  
And, parenthetically, my researching to write this review revealed another mystery: Where is Mary Willis Walker? 

She only wrote four books, that I can find, all of which were incredibly well reviewed, and awarded, and lauded, and then, she vanished!  I found an essay she had written in the New York Times about dropping the Walker from her name after getting divorced. I queried the Facebook hive mind, and no one seems to be able to come up with any more than that. How can a successful writer just vanish? Maybe just… Stop writing. But I would love to know. 

(The review won’t be published for a month or so, so make sure you find it on the fab Criminal Element!)

One more thing I’m writing, (actually have written, even better), is the introduction to another book you may not know about: The Bellamy Trial. 

American Mystery Classics asked me to write the introduction for their brand new edition of this 1927 classic, and I leapt at the chance with delight. Turns out, it is such a terrific book, (lookit that cover!) and again, right up my legal thriller alley. In fact, some say, with The Bellamy Trial, Frances Noyes Hart wrote the first legal thriller.

There is a tiny part of that introduction.

"Hart is such a clever writer, and this charming novel –which was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post --is hardly just a legal transcript. With Whartonesque overtones and trenchant social commentary, the world of the scandalous crime emerges:  silver dancing shoes, silver flasks, country clubs, cocktail parties, maids, nannies, and families with day and night nurseries. The reader understands the milieu Hart is allowing us to grasp: the attendant wealth and lack of it, the undercurrent (usually under) of class struggles, and the battle for acceptance in tightly-contained social circles. Passionate love and broken promises, parental manipulation, deceit and gaslighting—results that can only come from the lust for money and greed and control."

This book was absolutely a joy to read, and I cannot wait to share it with you. These new editions will be out in a month or so, but I have one here to give away! 

Tell me how you feel about writing reviews, reds and readers, and one lucky commenter will get an early copy.

(Oh, PS, the third book I am reviewing for Criminal Element is Citizen Vince! Love that book!)

119 comments:

  1. Hank, I really enjoyed reading your review of “A Dark-Adapted Eye.”

    I like book reviews; I like to know what other readers think about a book and I like to share my thoughts as well. But I’ve read some reviews that were just overly critical of a book without anything to back up the criticisms and those are annoying. I think if you’re going to write a review, you must be fair. It’s okay to not like a book, but book/author bashing is not really reviewing the book . . . .

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    1. Oh my goodness, you are so right! It is so upsetting ...

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    2. And oh, Joan, thank you so much! So lovely of you to say… Xxx

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  2. Mom and I both read Mary Willis Walker back in the day. We really liked her books! As for reviews I will write them but I don’t enjoy doing it. I’ve tried to make them short and sweet. Working on it!

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    1. Yes, she is such a terrific Author! What a mystery… And you know, shorter is better! It is a treat to read a good one from a wise and thoughtful reader.

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  3. You got me hunting for Mary Willis in Austin. She was at the Texas Festival of the Book in 2002. She really does seem to have disappeared. So curious.

    Your reviews are stellar, as we would expect. Reader reviews - when I venture down the fraught road of reading them - that rehash the plot but don't really say anything about the book are hard to take.

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    1. Your books are a joy to review!

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    2. Yes, heaven save us from those endless rehashing’s of the plot. On and on and on and on… Depriving new readers of the fun of discovery! I wish people would understand that a book review is not a book report. And that those plot twists they so casually divulge are important to another readers enjoyment . And awwww thank you!

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  4. A mystery about a mystery writer!

    Book reviews are so subjective, and I've read some for books I've already read and wondered what book the reviewer was talking about. Their comments did not seem to relate to the same book I myself had read. And one woman's meat is another woman's tofu, right? What I like might be vastly different from what anyone else does. Otherwise, how do you explain Fifty Shades of Grey?

    And I have to admit, I totally stink at writing reviews. In fact, it's probably my weakest writing skill of all. It's partly because my own reading is pretty nonjudgmental. Unless a book is so, so very well written, or such utter dreck that even I can't finish it (pretty rare), I have a hard time expressing what it is I like or don't like about a book.

    My father-in-law loved food; he used to say he was omnivorous. That's me, only with books.

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    1. I know how you feel Karen. I once was asked to review a book that got a ton of great reviews and won some awards too. I read it and wondered what the hell book everyone was reading because I thought the book was darn near unreadable.

      So yes, reviews are definitely subjective.

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    2. It is a certain skill Karen, and I think you have to be reading with the review goal in mind--evaluating what works and what doesn't. And sometimes that's not nearly as relaxing as simply reading. Which is fine!

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    3. Maybe that's it, Roberta/Lucy: I read because I enjoy reading stories. Reading to write a review would suck all the joy out of it for me.

      But Jay, I'm glad you, Dru Ann, Kathy Reel, and Kristopher Z all enjoy writing reviews. Some I can actually trust!

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    4. And reading a book with an eye to a review is a completely different experience, right? It kind of… Takes away the fun.

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    5. Thank you for the kind words, Karen. As to your points, Hank and Lucy, I personally don't read any differently for review than I do for pleasure, but this is probably attributable to English Degree. I just naturally want to engage with a work, watch how it is structured, see what it can teach me about life. All of that if FUN for me (not really work.) So I guess this is another reason I have found my way into this life of reviewing. If it ever stops being fun, I will stop doing it.

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    6. Kristopher, my husband was an English major, too, and he and I read very differently. This is helping me understand better why that is, so thank you.

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  5. Do I write book reviews? Ummm...yes?

    I mean, I shamelessly self-promote the fact that I write book reviews. I write them for my own enjoyment for Goodreads (which I then usually cross post on Amazon and Barnes and Noble). And then I get the big thrill about being able to say that I write reviews for Mystery Scene magazine.

    Seriously, I loved the magazine before I ever wrote a single word for them but now that the print issues have a review or two in them that (not quite so) little ol' me wrote, I am tickled pink.

    Oh and two of my latest reviews just got posted to their website yesterday for the new C.J. Box and Ellen Hart novels. (Spoiler alert...I LOVED THEM!)

    As for how I feel about writing them, I loved doing it. I know there are those that don't or won't write negative reviews but I will do so particularly if its a book that is assigned to me by the magazine. However, I do try to write a constructive reason why I didn't like the book rather than doing a slightly longer version of "This Sucks!" review.

    I never think that I'm somehow affecting anyone else's desire or lack thereof when it come to reading or enjoying a book that I review. I guess I just like the idea of highlighting something I like (or on the rare occasion, don't like) and having a "platform" to share my thoughts. Plus, I just really like being part of the mystery community even in this limited way.

    To Hank's comment about missing mystery writers, the biggest mystery for me is whatever happened to Karen Kijewski. She wrote the fantastic Kat Colorado series and then just completely disappeared.

    As for my upcoming reviews, I've got new books from David Baldacci, Michael Connelly and Paige Shelton to be read and write up my summary review. I finished the Baldacci yesterday although thus far though I haven't crafted said review.

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    1. Oh I forgot that the new Michael Connolly was coming--yay! I love CJ Box but the last few were so violent and scary I had to take a breather. How was this one on that scale Jay?

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    2. It was his Cassie Dewell series not the Joe Pickett series. Not quite as violent but it had plenty of thrills and chills. Here's my review: https://www.mysteryscenemag.com/component/content/article/26-reviews/books/6609-the-bitterroots

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    3. So funny that you say that, Jay! The main character in MARY Willis Walker’s book is compared to Kat Colorado in the book jacket description. I thought: who is that?

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    4. Hank, you should check out the Kat Colorado books. I've got a couple hardcovers that I can give you if you want. I could bring them to the New England Mobile Book Fair event you are doing on Saturday with Steven Cooper.

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  6. Replies
    1. Happy birthday darling Rhys! We're so glad you're here xox

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    2. Yay! Hooray hooray hooray! Happy birthday, Rhys ! We are so happy you were born!

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    3. Let me add to the chorus and say Happy Birthday Rhys!

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  7. Yesterday's post from Hallie and today's post, Hank, show how engaged the Reds are as writers. In the wider world of the mystery community, with issues that matter to you--thoughtful, humorous (here's looking at you, Julia) takes on everything under the sun. So happy to come here most mornings and see what everyone's up to now!!

    As for reviews, I've done very few. It's time taken from other things that need doing/I want desperately to do, so I don't. I do, however, read reviews--and it's always apparent when the reviewer is being constructive--and you can be constructive even when doing a good review--what was it that worked for you as a reader? Hard to do, as Karen points out. Much easier to be mean--but I'm glad there are reviewers like Jay, who can say what didn't work for them as a reader.

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    1. So agree! Long long long ago, I did movie reviews for television, and it was much more fun to write a snarky review. Once I remembered there were people behind those productions, I stopped.

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  8. I rarely write full-blown reviews, but in the past year I've started a discipline of posting a short review of every book I read on Goodreads. I write them with the thought in mind that some of my friends will read them to see if I think they should read the book. So all I do is tell enough about the story to give a sense of what type of book it is (historical mystery? thriller? memoir?) and then a sense of how it made me feel and/or what I particularly liked about it. If there's a specific thing that ruined a book for me or otherwise detracted from its impact, I will mention that. I try to completely avoid spoilers. I keep it very short -- usually only two paragraphs -- out of deference to the reader but also so that I can keep myself committed to doing it.

    I find that doing that sort of satisfies my need to talk about a book I've just finished. It also has the added benefit that later, I can remind myself what I liked about the book!

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    1. And it’s funny, too, how one person’s annoyance is another person’s delight… For instance, if a reviewer says I just hated this because I hate first person! That may be what someone else absolutely loves. The key would be: is it will done first person.

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  9. Reading all these comments I realize I need to write better reviews. I don't do a rehash of the plot but usually say how much I enjoyed it. I don't write negative reviews but I might comment on something that struck me as "off".
    I recently read a book that was so good and I liked it so much I remember thinking that I felt sorry for the next book I read - it would never be able to measure up. And it didn't, which seems rather unfair, but there it was.

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    1. Yes, that does indeed happen! The order in which you read books does have an effect on your response to them, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that, I fear!

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  10. Great review about a great book, Hank. I miss Ruth Rendell so much. I think I've read all her books, most of them twice, and she never disappointed me.

    I don't think I realized the value of reviews to authors until I started dropping in here for morning coffee. Now I do make a sincere effort to write short ones, always positive ones, because I don't think anyone needs me to tell her how to write. If I don't like the book, I stop reading it way before I get to the review point.

    I also rarely read reviews, never on Amazon because, well just because. I do love the NYT reviews, and I find Kristopher's reviews another good source of what to read next. Other than that, I don't choose my reading from reviews. (I just used "reviews" four times in three sentences.)

    Am I allowed to tout a book here? Of course I am. Last night I started THE SECRETS WE KEPT by Lara Prescott. It's based on DR. ZHIVAGO by Boris Pasternak, and the CIA backed offer to get it published in Russia. It's one of my favorite books ever, read and reread, not to mention all the times I've seen the movie. I highly recommend it.

    Also, side note, just finished THE INSTITUTE, Stephen King's newest. I think it's the best since THE STAND.

    Happy Birthday Rhys

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    1. I have been seeing that book everywhere, and I am so intrigued! And with your advice, I will buy it. See? That’s how it works.
      And I am adoring The Institute. The man is a flat out genius.

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    2. CIA backed effort, not offer

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    3. Thank you for your kind words, Ann. And I second THE SECRETS WE KEEP. I have THE INSTITUTE, but I am saving it for my holiday reading this year as everyone is telling me it is his best in years. I can't wait, because I love (almost) everything that man writes.

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    4. This may be his best ever imho. I read it in about 6 1/2 hours over the weekend, all 600 pages. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

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  11. CITIZEN VINCE! Such a great book. (Ditto Dark Adapted Eye!) Citizen Vince was one of the first books I reviewed when I started my 12-year stint writing reviews of crime fictionfor the Boston Globe. I still remember the opening, a guy making donuts and counting the dead people he knows. I read an advance copy and was completely blown away. It was like reading The Friends of Eddie Coyle for the first time. So original. I'd wish he'd written more crime fiction. And why wasn't the book made into a movie??

    Hank, this sounds like a wonderful gig! I'll be looking forward to hearing about more of the books you review.

    On writing reviews, speaking from experience, it's such a pleasure to write a positive review. SO hard to write one that's not, especially when you're an author and you know what it's like on the other side.

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    1. You know, Hallie, I think I actually remember when you read that! And you were so enthusiastic! And yeah, once you’re an author, it’s impossible to write a bad review. I could think about it :-) and dislike a book madly, but I would never say so in a review. It’s just my opinion, and I don’t want to ruin the book for anyone else.

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  12. You had me at "Sue Grafton was already on 'L'". It's interesting which crime novels withstand the test of time (Iron Lake, Gaudy Night) and which ones fade away, hackneyed, cliched, with omniscient narration. In conjunction with a new project, I re-read several Helen MacInnes novels. The plots and settings hold up, though the characters seem thin. We've moved beyond communism as our political enemy.

    I write short Goodreads and Amazon reviews for every book. I keep them short, mention a plot hook and which character(s) I liked. Always positive.

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    1. Perfect, Margaret! And yes, communism is a dated foe, isn’t that fascinating? But in a good book, we can read around that.

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    2. Communism might be a dated foe, but there are still active foes working to destroy democracy and advance their own agenda/interests around the world. I find Helen MacInnes' novels relevant still. And scary. They remind me of buildings filled with trolls spreading the infection of misinformation among us--just using different tools and technology now.

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  13. I used to write reviews. Then I took a workshop from Dana Kaye where she said as an author I should either rate everything five stars or not rate/review at all. Since I cannot in good conscience rate everything five stars, I stopped reviewing/rating. But corner me in the bar and I'll talk about the books I read that I loved and those that missed the mark for me.

    And while, as an author, I know reviews are important to the algorithms, I hate asking for reviews, too. It feels...slimy somehow. And needy. Ugh.

    Happy birthday Rhys!

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    1. Yes, it is a quandary! Because good reviews are so important these days , do you think people understand how much? And a bad review can be devastating, not only in what it says, but in its placement on the page. Ahhhhhh

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  14. How fabulous, Hank! I love that you’re doing this and I just have to say I love Mary Willis Walker! Under the Beetle’s Cellar stayed with me for months after I read it. Such a brilliant writer!

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  15. I love hearing your take on all of these works! Super interesting. I write reviews often, but not as much as I used to. These days I mainly write them for the ARCs I read. If I read a book I dislike, I purposely don't write a review. I can't find it in myself to bash someone's work.

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    1. SO agree. I mean--why? All that negative energy...and it's only our opinion.

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  16. I write reviews. I think of them as 'promotional' reviews. I want to encourage another reader to enjoy the book as much as I do. As a librarian I wrote critical reviews, i.e would the title be useful in the collection? It honed my skill as a reviewer. It was my joy this year to be able to read and review some of our dear Red's new works.

    I don't think negative reviews are helpful as YMMV. Reviews after all, are opinions not facts. So for me a 3 star review is as low as I go. I hope that someone reads the reviews and finds them to be useful.

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    1. Promotional reviews--that's great. What a good way to put what you do--and SO beautifully! (And hey, Coralee, how are you????)

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  17. I enjoy reading reviews of books I have read. Sometimes it is mystifying to believe that the book is the same one but different tastes and unique outlooks make it interesting. I do write reviews and am always positive about the experience.

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  18. Hank, what an interesting gig! I've read A Dark Adapted Eye, years ago, and all the Mary Willis Walker books. Those were so good. It is really as mystery, what happened to Mary Willis. I met her at a couple of conferences but didn't know her personally.

    I've never written reviews--I find blurbs difficult enough, as I worry about doing justice to a book! I think good, insightful, non-spoiler reviewing is a skill, and I'm very glad that others have it!

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    1. Oh, you've met her--that;s the closest any of us has come to the real person! (and yes, it is quite a skill--luckily out Kris and Jay and Kathy and Coralee and and and have it down pat!

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    2. Deborah, thank you for writing blurbs! That is how I discover many new authors through blurbs on novels by my favorite authors.

      Diana

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  19. After writing reviews for so many years (I started doing it as a serious hobby in 2001, but please don't find those old reviews. They are embarrassing), most of the time I find writing them fairly easy. I know what points I want to cover, and how to do it. I am feeling a little formulaic these days, and need to do something to get me out of my ruts. When I really struggle is when I need to write a negative review. How to do that without being mean is a challenge.

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    1. Mark, that's my problem as well. I want the negative to be constructive not just "I hated it!".

      I also think that writing a constructive negative review helps you become a better writer because you have to work at it. It's probably easier to write a good review but it takes work to do one for a book you didn't like and not come off as a jerk.

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    2. SO fascinating to look at your old reviews! And must be reassuring that you feel you've grown--how wonderful!

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  20. I have hesitated writing reviews after reading books on my Kindle. I rarely do it even though I get that invitation every time. It's intimidating to think others might use my words in their decision to purchase the book I just finished reading. Thankfully I have enjoyed almost all the books I've read, I usually won't finish it it if I'm not enjoying it.. After reading today's blog, maybe I should try writing a simple review again.

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    1. Yes, it's is quite a responsibility--really intimidating. xx

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  21. I'm learning to write reviews, and hopefully getting better at it. Reviews that just restate the book blurb/overview/description drive me absolutely nuts. That's already been done by the author, publisher, or book seller.

    Sadly I have found that it's easier to write a review about books that I didn't really like - usually there are things that bug me enough about it that they are easy to pinpoint. Sometimes it's easy to write about books I really love - it usually has a lot to do with the depth of the characters. Then the challenge becomes (for a series) how to write something different for each book when I've already discussed how much I love the characters. I am not one to just say the same thing over and over. Other times with books I really enjoy, I have a hard time pinpointing exactly what it is that I love so much about it - I just DO.

    I like getting ARC books to read. I was even quite helpful for one author in finding and correcting some typos/errors. :) To get these ARC books, you usually have to agree to post a review, so those opportunities are helping hone my review writing skills.

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    1. Cheryl - about not being able to pinpoint the reason why you love a book: when you have a body of reviews, readers can get a sense of what you like, and why, and if they like the same things. I know there are certain reviewers whose taste I've learned to trust, so that if they say "I liked it," it's enough for me to try the book or movie.

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    2. That "re-tell the story in a huge synopsis" syndrome--I mean, why? It's really heartbreaking for an author to read.

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    3. And by the way, I’m attending my first Bouchercon next month. I sure hope I get the chance to meet you both! It would be such an honor.

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  22. I finding writing reviews very challenging. I don't know what should be included in the review and I have a hard time composing my thoughts.

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    1. Dianneka, I have the opposite problem - I have TOO much to say and wind up writing an English class essay instead of "I liked it, because ____ and ____."

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    2. Well, did you like the book? What kind of a book is it? What was your favorite part? What would readers love about it? That's all you need! xooo

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  23. I enjoy reading reviews in order to understand what others feel about the book which I just read. Otherwise I read for pure entertainment and love this wonderful post.

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  24. Shalom Reds and fans. I don’t like reading reviews if I haven’t already read the book in question. It’s mostly because I’m afraid of spoilers. I suppose it is not so much of a problem when it concerns non-fiction. I have received a few ARCs over the years now that my net-footprint regarding reading and books has grown. I’ve only written a couple of reviews of these non-fiction books both within the last 2-3 years. They were books that I liked. (Like others have said, I usually don’t finish books I don’t like for whatever reason.) For each, I wrote only a paragraph. I named the genre. I explained what the title meant to me and a thumbs up or thumbs down. For fiction, one of the great joys of reading is putting the puzzle together piece by piece. I still remember the thrill and rush of adrenaline that attended the climactic last few chapters of the book by John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy when the fog of cold war, all comes into focus, even as it is still not clear who the winners or losers of the battle are. Spoiler: I still to this day, remember George Smiley’s thoughts on the use of the cigarette as a tool of interrogation. How can you write a review of that without giving away the store? Happy birthday, Rhys!

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    1. Wow, that is some run-on sentence. Sorry.

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    2. Just think of it as stream-of-consciousness writing, David.

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    3. OH, right, that;s interesting--is it better to read the review AFTER you read the book? That;s a whole different experience, right?

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  25. I like to see what other people think but I still prefer finding out for myself, since everyone's tastes are different.
    kozo8989@hotmail.com

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  26. Hank, I often get free digital ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. If the novel is well written and I do not like the story, I try to find something good to say about the book because I know that there are always someone out there who may love a book that I do not like. I prefer to write reviews of books that I LIKE. One book got a bad review from me because it was full of grammatical errors and I was surprised because the author is British and I expect British authors to have an excellent command of the language. LOL. Perhaps it is my prejudice.

    Thank you for this post. Great post and it gives me food for thought in writing future book reviews.

    Diana

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    1. And in those cases, I always wonder if they had a terrible editor, and had no control....or if they pushed those errors themselves.

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    2. Hank, good point! I wonder if it was because of a terrible editor. At my first Malice, I remember telling a new author that I was disappointed by many new books because of the terrible editing and my new friend said that her editor is wonderful! Now her books are among my favorites! Today is her publication day for A CUP OF HOLIDAY FEAR, a cozy mystery set in Ashland, Oregon.

      Diana

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  27. I always try to write reviews of books I read. It seems like the least I can do for the authors.
    I will not give a review if I can't at least give 3 out of 5 stars. Lower than that and I suspect it may be me, not the book, that is at fault.

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    1. One of the things I want to work on this year is posting more reviews. I don't, because I always want to write a "book review" of several paragraphs, etc. I need to keep in mind that one or two sentences is as effective when it comes to encouraging people to read something.

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    2. Yes, three stars is...difficult. I think those are categorized as "critical" reviews, aren't they?

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    3. Libby, I agree. If I did not promise an author or the publisher that I would write a review, then I do not write a review if I hate the book.

      Diana

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  28. Yes, many happy returns of the day, Rhys!

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  29. Reviewing is a skill, let's always remember that. Actually, let's first and foremost remember that a review is an opinion. Some opinions are more informed than others, but how useful a reviewer's work and background are is for the receiver of the review to determine. Some people might only want the opinions of a scholar, so might prefer the thoughts of the average reader. Just like every book is not for every person, every review(er) is not for every person.

    I ALWAYS write my review for the reader. The main reason I only write reviews for books I enjoy is that I don't feel like I have any place telling an author HOW to write a better book - in theory, they already think they wrote their best possible version of a book. My role is to tell other readers about that book, in a way that should help them determine if the book is something they might enjoy. (Hank and I recently discussed in Direct Message a book that both of us thought didn't work - as far as I know, neither of us has reviewed that book publicly. What would be the point? It just didn't work for us - though it did have a brilliant start, strong premise, interesting characters, etc. There was much to admire and I will try the author again in the future, but the ending just made it impossible to recommend.) That said, I don't want to discourage a reader from picking up the book, because they may love it; plenty of people did.)

    Back to my first point. One doesn't write a great review the first time, or maybe even the 50th time. Hopefully just as the authors we love improve, we get better as reviewers (if that's something you want to do) over time. Never be afraid to try to write a review, the shortest and simplest of them (even the bad ones) still help the author gain visibility.

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    1. Kristopher, you are SUCH a rock star. And we so rely on you. (and yeah, sigh, really fun to talk with you behind the scenes!)

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    2. It's rather annoying that not only does Kristopher write great reviews but he then turns around and writes this great response on how he does his reviews.

      I concur with Hank, rock star.

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  30. Our precious darling DebRo is getting better!!! And has very very good news. More to come! xxx

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  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. Thanks for highlighting Crimianl Element, Hank!

    I may be a bit biased, but I think reviews are so important, not only for writers, but for readers too. And speaking of, if anyone's looking to do some extra reviewing, Criminal Element is always looking!

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    1. YAY! I adore CE! ( And you will now be deluged....:-) )

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  33. FROM DebRo!

    romano.deborahm@gmail.com

    I came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon. Earlier in the day, the surgeon gave me the good news that there is no cancer!! Hurray!! Now I work on rebuilding my strength.

    I had every intention of using my recuperation to get caught up on my reading, but it turns out I don’t have much of an attention span right now! I’m reading JRW, of course. I’m grateful to everyone for their good wishes! Thank you all!

    Happy Birthday to Rhys!!

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    1. Wonderful news! Thanks for passing it on, Hank.

      Keep feeling better, DebRo!

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    2. Keep getting stronger DebRo! This is wonderful news.

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    3. Wonderful news, DebRo! Sometimes it's right for it to be all about you, and now it should be, with you working toward getting stronger. I think it's difficult to focus on reading when we don't feel our best, and we all think we will get more reading done than we do when we're down for a bit. So happy for you!

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    4. Glad to hear the good news health update DebRo!

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  34. Happy Birthday, Rhys! I hope you're having a fabulous day. Hank, I'm loving these reviews you're writing. The comparison to how you might have reacted to the book when it won the award and now is interesting. And, the introduction you're writing will be putting that book on my TBR list.

    Writing reviews to me can be easy or hard, with it being the hardest the more I love a book. Since, I feel like I'm using my reviews to promote the books, I want to get it just right, for the readers and for the author. Of course, I always want to get it just right, but for those books that are special to me, I feel that it akin to writing a love letter to the book, the readers, and the author. I want the readers to know what an amazing read the book is, and I want the authors to know how much I appreciate their hard work that went into creating such a work of art. Like many others, I only review books I enjoy, so it's always a challenge to convey that enjoyment. I don't do spoilers, and some books get less description of plot than others because of the surprises that should be discovered only upon reading the story.

    The greatest thrill for me as a reviewer is to bring new readers to a series or an author I love. I have at least a couple of these instances, and I have to say that it is my grandest pleasure talking to these converts about how amazing the stories are and how talented the author is.

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    1. Oh, Kathy, that must be so spectacular! It’s like you have a wonderful secret discovery and then you get to share! And we are so grateful!

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  35. Happy Birthday, Rhys! Hope you are having a fabulous day celebrating your day!

    Diana

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  36. My life: Read ... Review ... Repeat. And I wouldn't have it any other way!

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  37. I read and then review on Goodreads! It's so easy to do and so important to authors! lindaherold999(at)gmail(dot)com

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  38. I really enjoy reading and reviewing books. I know by doing this it helps the authors get better book sales and broadens the horizons for other readers. It is also interesting to read other reviews to see the opinion expressed by other authors. When I read a book and find it is a stinker, I like to contact the author and express my opinion. I do not like to publish a bad review but if it is necessary I will forewarn other readers. robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  39. AND THE WINNER of THE BELLAMY TRIAL is Abby Fabian! YAY. Abby, email me at hryan at whdh dot com with your address!

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  40. sengangat terus ngeblognya mazz..

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  41. Kabar Baik Untuk Para pencinta Game
    Karena di Bulan januari ini Sudah keluar Game RPG Online Terpopuler Se-Asia
    Penasarankan Game nya Seperti apa???
    Kalian bisa dilihat game nya dari link di bawah yaaa

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  42. makasih gan buat infonya dan semoga bermanfaat

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  43. keren mas buat infonya dan salam sukses selalu

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  44. ok mantap sob buat infonya dan salam kenal

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  45. Menarik sekali, perlu saya coba ini..
    kebetulan lagi cara tentang hal ini.

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  46. Mau mendapatkan pelayanan yang baik dan ramah???

    Modal Kecil bisa mendapatkan hasil yg luar biasa...

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  47. semoga sukses terus gan buat usahanya

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