06 May 2009

Weekly Geeks: Review Stylin’

Weekly Geeks

Courtesy of Care: Do one, some, all or none of the following:

1. Explain your review format - if you have one. Or maybe your rating system?

2. Highlight another book-blogger's review format by linking to a favorite example - don't forget to tell us why they are a fave!

3. Do a review in another book-blogger's format of your latest read. I did this just the other day when I had read a great post discussing what makes a good review and 'borrowing' from a comment by Ramya. That post was one of Bethany's and my example giving Ramya the credit is here.

4. Highlight a past review that you are particularly proud of and why the format or structure may have had something to do with it.

1. I wouldn’t say that I have a review format - more of a review layout. Title, author, and the words “book review” in the title; a picture of the cover; a summary of the plot (or subject, in the case of a non-fiction book); my thoughts on the book; my grading.

I always write my own summary of the plot - sans spoilers. Copying from the back wouldn’t be as much fun; I often find bits and pieces of outline popping into my head as I read. It can be challenging for non-fiction books, but I generally find it easy for fiction (much easier than actually reviewing!). Once I’ve described it, I say what I thought about it. I don’t have a specific list of points to consider, and I’m a little in awe of people like Tasses who do. My mind works in a much more disorganised way - starts with the basic questions of whether I liked the book, what I did or didn’t like, and why, then moves on closer examinations of whatever aspect takes its fancy. Somehow a complete review emerges from all this random musing. The process begins as I’m reading and can continue for days thereafter; some books take more thought than others. (And some books get stuck in read-but-not-reviewed limbo when I get busy with other things, like now - there’ll be more reviews soon, I promise!)

When I put my thoughts down on screen there are three things I always try to do: keep everything in reasonably coherent order, put the positives before the negatives, and not forget anything :-) Then I assign a grade. I use a thirteen-point system - A+ to E - which in practice is a twelve-point one as I’ve never met an E book yet. This method seemed obvious to me; I’m of an academic turn of mind, so grades are things that make immediate sense. A’s are the ones that would be missed on being handed back to the library; B’s I would recommend but don’t mind parting with; D’s I actively disliked. C’s are everything else - the dull, the dead ordinary, the not bad per se but not my cup of tea. Sometimes I know a book’s grade when I finish it, but sometimes it requires more thought. So I devised a numerical conversion system to help out - where A+ is 100, E is 0, C is 50, and all points in between are evenly distributed. Turning grades into percentages can clarify things.

The only time I don’t assign a grade is when I don’t finish the book. I had once assumed that any book I couldn’t read would be an E, but I revised that opinion after recenty failing to finish Lovesong by Elizabeth Jolley. An E, by definition, would be an unbearably atrocious book; Lovesong was simply an unbearably boring book. So I came up with my DNF review variation: marked it as DNF in the post title, and instead of a grade stated the number of pages I’d read before giving up. I think it would be interesting, when reading DNF reviews, to see what fraction of the way through the book the blogger managed to get.

4. I’ve decided to highlight one review from each letter of the grading system. I don’t know that the format makes much difference - it’s so basic it’s hard to imagine that it could affect the quality one way or another. Rather I’ll attribute these to good writing days:

A: Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
B: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
C: The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
D: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


Maree said...

I admire your organisation! My "system" is a lot more chaotic.
Happy Weekly Geeks :)

susan said...

I admire the organized. I like site and the works you cover. I so rarely read literary works now. I focus on YA because of the community library I run. Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Happy Geeks! I love your phrase: "I’m of an academic turn of mind"

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