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Things to Remember while Writing a Book Review

Things to Remember while Writing a Book Review

Two reblogs in two days is not the usual for me, but this post has your humble host featured in it so I couldn’t resist.

The Musing Quill

As book-lovers, most of us readers also love to review the books we read. Reviews not only help to record our experience of the book, but also help the reading community in deciding what books to read and why. But that is only as long as a book review is done right.

The first book I reviewed or rather attempted to review was Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. This was five years ago when I did not much know the technicalities. A reader who was a regular book reviewer then, commented saying,

“This isn’t a review.”

After so many years, when I stumbled past my review again, I know why she said so.

As reviewers, we have our own styles and there are certain things that need to remain consistent, as a rule of the thumb. Today, although I am a professional reviewer, there are things I learn every single day and…

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Posted by on 04/07/2018 in Blogging

 

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Working with Penguin Random House

A while back, I hinted at some good news that I had to share, and now that it has all been confirmed and no jinxes can put a stop to it, I can finally, and with certainty, reveal said news.

The wonderful folks at the Chinese arm of International publisher, Penguin Random House – you may have heard of them – recently reached out to me, concerning my review for Proust’s Days of Reading. Having first expressed an interest, they have since acquired the non-exclusive rights to the review, which I have been reworking into an introduction for the Chinese language version (translated by somebody else) of this entry into Penguin Great Ideas series.

It feels really good to be getting paid for something I love doing and with possible future jobs being hinted at it, there has been much raising of confidence and spirits (as its rainy season in Ph and we are experiencing our sixth straight day of almost constant rain).  I have been working on this blog for years, and working is the right term as well, although it started out as just a hobby to simply chat with bookish folk around the world, it has become so much more than that.  Partly, it is through my own drive to pick up more challenging books, to attempt to read into obscurer subjects, and widen my reading circle.  More than that though, it is because of the standard of writers whom I come across daily and not only provide thought-provoking interaction but also source of inspiration as well as a standard with which to measure myself and keep me on my toes.  This allows me to constantly add to my writing style with new techniques and perspectives, so thank you!  My next iced Americano will emphatically be raised to you!

 

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Logrolling

Do you ever read the cover of a book and see all those great quotes; then after reading, wonder what those people saw in the book that you didn’t?

Now I am not saying either of the above comments are engaging in logrolling (the art of individuals agreeing to promote each others work) but they certainly read a different book to that which I did.

My source for the below examples of blatant (and of course, it must be said alleged) logrolling is the proper journalism and satire magazine Private Eye (issue number 1460, the last issue I got my sticky mitts on before leaving home shores).  It does go a long way to explaining how so many glowing reviews for average – or bad – novels come about.

  • David Krynaston selected Joining the Dots by Juliet Gardiner in The Guardian. The two share an agent in Georgia Garrett of Rogers, Coleridge & White.
  • Debut novelist Sally Rooney ‘loved’ The Idiot by fellow first-timer Elif Batuman, with whom she bonded when they were paired in a Foyles reading.  A fortnight after the plug, Batuman was one of the judges who chose Rooney as Sunday Times/PDF young writer of the year.
  • Hollie McNish picked a book edited by Sabrina Mahfouz – not only are they pals on the spoken word circuit, but McNish and Mahfouz also write a play together.
  • Craig Raine, both a Faber poet and a former Faber poetry editor, chose Simon Armitage’s The Unaccompanied from Faber, and ‘another terrific Faber poet’ Matthew Francis as his sole TLS picks.
  • Little known Bojangles Books seems to have only published two titles, both by the investigative journalist Bob Woffinden.  Both were picked out (and nothing else) in a Spectator contribution by Richard Ingrams.  Ingrams’ book about another righter of judicial wrongs Ludovic Kennedy, (Ludovic and the Power of the Book) was by coincidence praised as ‘an important book’ in the Catholic Herald by…Bob Woffinden.

When you have to research the links between book  and critic to get a clear picture of their affiliations, it doesn’t seem worth the effort, which is where we bloggers come in.  Giving honest feedback with no agenda makes such reviewers much more compelling to read.  I only read reviews on WordPress from my fellow bloggers these days, whose opinion I hold in high regard, and appreciate the fairness with which the subject matter is treated.  Not only are the reviews thorough and engaging but when a book does catch my eye it remains in my mind due to the hard work and no compensation that being a reviewer brings.  Keep up the good work of sharing the love of books and informing potential readers of what’s about. With Amazon’s new review restrictions squeezing the field for honest reviews even more, it would seem we could have a potentially bigger role to play with authors (and maybe publishers) in the future.

 
34 Comments

Posted by on 07/05/2018 in Blogging, Journalism, My Writings

 

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Thoughts on synchronicity, Elizabeth Lesser’s book “Broken Open,” and a poem inspired by two near-autodidacts

As I’m still working on post Bali posts, here’s another reblog from Victoria’s site, that deserves the love.

creativeshadows

Recently, I have been feeling out-of-sorts more than usual, and sunk in a sort of spiritual case of the doldrums.  So, I figured I needed to return once again to my old habits of reading more, crocheting less (though I’m backed way up with craft projects!), and writing poetry again.  As it so chanced, I got Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open:  How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow off one of my library websites.

Now, when I read a self-help book, even a more spiritually-inclined one, it’s a rare day.  I automatically have my critical claws out for grammar and punctuation and style errors, since many such books are self-forgiving in their copy editing.  And as expected, I found a number of mistakes and one nearly unforgiveable error–to an English teacher, anyway–in which T. S. Eliot was quoted or referred to knowledgeably, apparently, but spelled T. S. Elliot.  These sorts…

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Posted by on 02/05/2018 in Blogging, Essays, Poetry

 

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The Value of a Dime

A reblog for Mike, partly because I am still finishing the review of his novel The Singularity Wheel, and partly because his posts are a really good read.

Eye-Dancers

In both The Eye-Dancers and The Singularity Wheel, Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski can’t help but notice how inexpensive things are in the variant town of Colbyville.  In The Singularity Wheel, in fact, Ryan manages to secure a room in an inn for just $5 a night.  Prices like that make the boys think of period-piece movies, Beaver Cleaver, black-and-white still lifes from a bygone era, speckled with cobwebs.

Indeed, I once worked with a woman who, every year, upon receiving her annual “cost-of’-living” raise, would grouse, “Well, three percent of nothing is still nothing!”  Many of the other employees would nod their heads in agreement.  We all notice the increase in prices ($4.49 for that box of cereal?  $10 for a standard book of twenty stamps?) and are caught in the current of escalation as it continues along on its…

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Posted by on 30/04/2018 in Blogging, Book Memories, Graphic Novels, Life

 

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Taking Flight

By the time you read this I will already be in Bali for the week. I will be checking in when I can so bear with me if I don’t get around to your blogs for a while or indeed any comments you are kind enough to leave on my upcoming posts which should be scheduled at decent intervals.  I will bring photos and stories back and hopefully, the odd book too.

 
16 Comments

Posted by on 19/04/2018 in Blogging, Travel

 

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Paid Book Reviews on Amazon? Yes, If You do the Paying

Once again, digressing from my original blogging plans and adding more and more to my nearly 200 drafts, this one needed to be spoken about.  Thanks to Michelle’s post, a reblog of the original post from Barb for bringing this to my attention.

Battle of Greeks and Amazons. Marble sarcophagus. Pio Clementino Museum; Octagonal Court. Vatican Museums.

Rarely do I bother with Amazon, only going there to add the odd book review but now it appears that that won’t be happening; unless I want to fork out £40 a calendar year for the .co.uk, or $50 minimum for the .com sites.  That’s what it takes to be eligible to give your opinion on books (or anything else you wish to review). It will go some way to stopping fake or biased reviews but will put off the honest reviewers but you can still post biased or fake reviews if you like but now you have to pay Amazon for it.  It renders the drive for honesty a bit pointless. Here’s the fine print from the .co.uk site in full:

Eligibility

To contribute to Community Features (for example, Customer Reviews, Customer Answers), you must have spent at least £40 on Amazon.co.uk using a valid payment card in the past 12 months. Promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the £40 minimum. You do not need to meet this requirement to post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries, or to read content posted by other customers.

We’re all familiar with the mix of reviews on the site, from the one star one, one word review, or the one blaming the supplier. The badly written rant that just attacks the author or makes clear to the reader they haven’t read or understood the book; and then at the other end of the scale the blatantly biased and/or overly gushing writes ups.  Rare is the well written, thoughtful review, with which to base your buying on and now it will be as rare as a coelacanth in Slough bus station.
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14 Comments

Posted by on 17/04/2018 in Blogging, My Writings

 

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