About Writing Reviews

16 Nov

After I no longer write my blog just for myself, I thought I should post my take on reviews and grades again.

Where I’m coming from

I wrote book (and game) comments for a long time in an offline journal. Then I started to write them in English because I started to read more and more books in English and I thought it a good way to practice. At that stage, they were mostly a few sentences long. Then, in 2004 I think, I started to read a few blogs and in August 2005, I decided to get my own blog (with blogger then) but I kept it private. The comments got longer and some day, I added grades (see below). At the end of May this year, I decided to go “more public” with my blog.

How I write reviews

Actually, I think of my posts about books as “comments” rather than “reviews.” Mainly because with the word “review” I think of some kind of “overview” that I have no interest in delivering and also not the knowledge for. You know, compare it to the author’s other novels and other novels in the genre. So I tend to think of my posts as comments. But it’s only this way with my posts. I don’t even blink at amazon reviews (you know, the one or two sentence kind). Anyway, that is semantics and not really important here.

I’m not really big on detailing plot developments, I’m not really good at gushing about characters, and I’m not much for giving “warnings” about possible offensive content. It’s a result, I think, of writing comments for myself so long (I know this so I don’t mention it) and that I’m not really looking for these things in reviews in read myself (= they alone don’t make me buy/not buy a book).

I know I have a tendency to list the things I liked and didn’t like, what worked and what didn’t work, and sometimes even what would have worked better for me. But that’s not meant as me “telling the author how to write” and I hope that’s not the way it comes across. I know I have things to learn about writing posts others might read, so I wanted to say that just in case.

About grades

I’m not really sure about the whole grading thing but in the end, I went with it. I wrote a bit more about grading here. This is the short version.

I went with a 5-points grade system (inspired by amazon’s 5-stars). The grade is my first answer / short answer when asked how I liked a book or game:

  • 5 / 5: wow – there’s something more/something that grabbed me
  • 4 / 5: good
  • 3 / 5: okay/all right (also: flaws and good things balanced; “meh” books)
  • 2 / 5: some serious flaws
  • 1 / 5: don’t bother

My grades are not comparative grades. It’s a grade for just one book. The questions about recommendation/enjoyment are there to give an indication if or how much my grade was influenced by my enjoyment of the novel (the subjective element). It’s never a clean cut (I don’t think that’s possible) although I believe there are things that constitute “good” writing, even though they are highly debatable (and subjective), IMO.

About subjectivity in reading

That’s for a separate post. And I don’t think I’ll ever go there.

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2 Responses to “About Writing Reviews”

  1. Carolyn Jean Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 4:37 pm #

    I didn’t know English was your second language. I assumed you were a native speaker! Wow, you are really fluent.

    I like your rationale here, especially the bit about reviews being more learned overviews. I feel like I’m a commenter, too. And that’s sort of what I like to read.

  2. Taja Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 7:09 pm #

    Oh blush. Thank you, Carolyn Jean. Very kind!

    Well, the differentiation is in my head and I somehow can’t shake it in relation to myself. *laugh* And: I think you are a very fine commenter!

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