6 September 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-34: Reviewing Books

This weekend Weekly Geeks has given participants a range of options for our task. Softdrink has pointed us to an excellent post on squeetus blog in which Shannon Hale asks readers to consider various questions about why they review books on their blog.

I've chosen the third Weekly Geeks option which in effect asks whether knowing that I will be writing a book review affects my enjoyment of the book.

* Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?

I think that knowing I will be trying to write a review of the book (I always write a review, either a full blown one, or a mini-review) does make me read a little more carefully. However I try not to include any spoilers for other readers in my review, so I am unlikely to mention any plot points that occur past page 50. I will talk about characterisation, credibility, pace, and sometimes even topics or themes.

* Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?

I rate all the books with a 0-5 rating. Even as I'm reading, particularly in the last half of the book, I am thinking where this book lies in my rating spectrum.
My general benchmarks are

5.0 Excellent
4.0 Very Good
3.0 Average
2.0 Poor
1.0 Did Not Like
0 Did Not Finish

However I do not actually assign a rating until I have written the review, and in that process I can change my mind particularly in the granularity of the rating.

* Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?

There are two sorts of books that I review:
  1. ones that have been sent to me for review - I try to read one of these a month, and they can be an unknown kettle of fish.
  2. books that I have picked up because I have seen them highly recommended, or I know something about them. That doesn't necessarily mean that I will assign them a high rating, but I guess it increases that possibility.
I should also point out at this stage that I read only crime fiction. That genre addiction does determine which books I pick up anyway.

* Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?

Part of the reason why I decided to write reviews in the first place was to help clarify my ideas/impressions of a book. At the drafting stage the rating I finally assign is fairly fluid. Sometimes when I think about what the author has achieved, I will convince myself of a higher rating than I had previously intended to give it.

* What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?

I guess part of the answer to this is that I think there are readers of my blog who will enjoy the books that I enjoy. The rating system also allows me to recommend books in a sort of comparative fashion.

My lists of books that I have reviewed in the last 20 months are available on Smik's Reviews. If you look at that site you will see that I have them listed in various ways:
One of the great challenges of my system is trying to place a book in its "correct place" on the ranked order lists. i.e. when I am adding a book that I rated at 4.7, where does it go in relation to other books that I gave 4.7 to?

However, I am very aware that my system is very subjective, and my ratings can be affected by a number of other personal factors.
I also know that just because I like or dislike a book, that will not necessarily be another reader's experience. I am always ready to believe that I could be wrong.

My Book Review Policy & Guidelines


Uriah Robinson said...

Kerrie were you this systematic when you started your blog or has your method evolved over time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the way you decide which books to review and how to review them. Your system may be subjective, but it makes a lot of sense :).

Kristen said...

I don't assign ratings to books. I know I would struggle on a 5 point system and want to give books 3.5 or 4.6 ratings, which kind of defeats the purpose for me. I'm glad it works well for you.

gautami tripathy said...

I agree about that spoiler bit. I never write spoilers!

Weekly Geeks: Reviewing and rating

Kerrie said...

Quite often you will find out more about the plot, past the first 50 pages, from the publisher's blurb, than I will reveal Gautami. I think the review should provoke interest, but then some reviewers like to go on to demonstrate that they've read the whole book, and have an opinion about the lot. Newspaper reviews in particular are often guilty of that, particularly if the reviewer seems to want to pick holes in the plot or whatever. I guess we have the luxury of just saying that we didn't particularly like or enjoy the book.

Erotic Horizon said...

Loving the answers you gave - I really am impressed with your organisation of your reviews and your attention to detail...

I personally don't rate but I do like your explanation of why you do...

Hope you had a great reading week..



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