It's so subjective, isn't it? Reviewing a book is just so damned subjective. Honestly, that's more a problem for me than you know, because I'm far more comfortable with objectives in life. Grass is green, sky is blue, water is wet, yadda...yadda. That's my comfort zone. And there's almost none of that in reviewing books. But maybe that still helps explain my reviews a little.
It took a while, but I did finally find a format for my reviews that works for me. You may have noticed that they tend to be just a teeny bit long. It's quite a joke among my friends and family, believe me. They are of the opinion that my reviews are longer than the books I'm reviewing.
They're mean that way. And wrong! Wrong!!
Well...there was that novella...
I acknowledge that they tend towards the lengthier end of the spectrum and admit I have a tendency towards wordiness, but the truth is, there's a lot of stuff in my reviews. There has to be, because I've realized that I need both subjective and objective points to have any fun with writing them.
So I approach each review with an eye towards answering the three "W's."
As fun as dust jacket and back cover blurbs or online product descriptions are, I don't tend to find them all that helpful or informative about whether or not I'm going to enjoy the material they're summarizing. In fact, I've read some that were so misrepresentative of the book they're summarizing that the entire tone and content of the book was a complete surprise. That's why I started adding this section to my reviews and started providing a synopsis of the main characters and the book's main plot arc. There will never be spoilers included in this section of my reviews. In fact, I want to assure you now, there will never be any unmarked or uncovered spoilers anywhere on this site. Sometimes spoilers are necessary for me to explain details, but they are kept securely hidden in those rare cases, available to view only if you choose to.
In all my newer reviews, and from now on (with the rare exception that may crop up), this section is the first part of my review and it's delineated from the opinion portion of the review. You can skip it if you want to get right to what I thought and felt about what I read. It won't hurt my feelings.
Answering this question segues into the real meat of the review and allows for both subjective and objective observation. I go beyond offering an opinion on the story and characters to mention any issues I had with the plot, pacing, grammatical issues, character definition, narrative point of view, etc. Not only writing mechanics could be mentioned, but style and substance could also be included. This part tends towards a more technical-natured thought process.
Did I like the characters? The story? Were any technical issues I had with the book lessened or worsened by the emotional impact or aspects of the story? Were the characters believable, sympathetic, or did they piss me the hell off? Were they too stupid to live or did the story grip me to such a degree that nothing else mattered but how it made me feel?
In short, answering this question is absolutely subjective. You can often tell when I'm addressing this question because I tend to use "for me" a lot.
"This/that/whatever did/didn't work for me."
I recognize that everyone has their own opinions and their own likes/dislikes about certain literary tropes or aspects of a story. I'm not at all shy about expressing mine. I'm not, however, going to assume that just because I can't stand weak female lead characters, for example, that everyone else is going to a) also think the character is weak or b) loathe them as much as I do. So I offer my feelings on the matter and admit to my personal preferences and let you form your own opinion should you be so inclined.
Note: At the moment, my star rating system is best described as a visual representation of my completely subjective opinion of the book. It is, at its core, a single answer to a single question, "How did I feel about the book?" Most of the time my reviews explain/justify/expound on that rating...but sometimes they don't seem to quite mesh.
Because sometimes how a book makes me feel has almost nothing to do with whatever issues I had with the content. That's just how it is for me.
I'm trying to figure out a new rating system that's a little more connected to both subjective opinion and objective thoughts on a book, but so far I haven't found one that makes me happy, so I'm keeping the star rating as it is for now.
So yeah, there's much that goes into my reviews, and that sure doesn't make it easy to make them short. I do try for thorough, though.
Oh...one more thing about my reviews.
I know, I know, how could there be anything else to mention, right? I told you...I have a tendency toward wordiness. Still, this must be said.
There are books that are going to piss me off, books that I'm going to hate, or aspects of a book I'm going to so dislike that I want to poke my own eyes out after reading them. I'm opinionated by nature and I'm not subtle about my feelings. That's just how it goes.
But I read for entertainment, for enjoyment, and because I like doing it, so if a book displeases early enough, I'll just stop reading it. If, however, I make it through to the end, I will review it. I review everything I read...and finish. And that's when the one or two star reviews happen.
Here's the thing about those reviews: they may be a little rant-y. Lord knows, I can certainly get a little rant-y (or...well...a lot).
What I strive to never do, however, is be disrespectful of the author or in any way make personal attacks about what I've read. I may go off on content like a roman candle, but authors are off limits. I respect anyone who has put in the work involved in writing a book and appreciate their attempts to entertain their readers. Writing a book is a huge achievement and should be respected. And again, so much of reviewing is subjective that regardless of whether or not I like or dislike something, someone else will love it. That's the nature of the beast.
That beast does not include disrespecting an author or devaluing their efforts. Not in my reviews.