My rules for reviewing anything

I spontaneously found myself in a book signing at a library. Note: the book signing was not spontaneous, my presence at the library was.

With no hesitation I purchased the book and had it signed by the author.

A day or two later I checked the reviews on goodreads, which is when I reached my breaking point with the reviews and my all caps rage took over:

I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR PLOT SUMMARY.

It isn’t that they are inaccurate, or that they contain spoilers. It is that there are so many of them! I imagine 95% of the web page is dedicated to summarizing the plot. As time goes on the word count of the summaries will exceed the word count of the book.

If two or three people did it I wouldn’t care. When 20 people do it I question why I’m on the site at all. If I think about it long enough I also question why reviewer number 20 has covered the same ground as reviewers 1 – 19.

One particular irritation: Including the characters names in the review. May be I’m alone in this, but I fail to see how knowing a character’s name  helps me form an opinion about a book I may or may not read.

I’m not looking for a book report on the plot. I’m looking for whether the story was enjoyable. Did it put you to sleep? Was that what you wanted or did you want something that made you lose sleep. Was it so intense that you could have read it in a movie theater? Could you only read it in a perfectly curated garden? Did you have dreams about the characters or situations. Was it a quick read? Did you forget to show up to work because you were so consumed with the characters and wound up losing your job? Did you enjoy putting it down and letting the story sink into you (yes that is a thing and sadly most publishers no longer encourage it). Did it take a couple of times to start (I will finish you one day War and Peace).

Which of your friends will you recommend it too? The one who doesn’t read books for fun, or the one who hasn’t watched television in 6 years.

Who will you hide it from at all costs?

What am I getting at?

Tell the world how the story effected you. Share the story of your story with the story.

I looked back at my reviews on Issue 47 and noticed a few unwritten rules that I appear to be abiding by that are worth… well… writing down.

  • Skip the plot summary or say it in a breath.
  • Tell what drew you to the story then share if something else drew you in or pushed you away.
  • Talk about the elements of the story. The craft and methods of the story teller.
  • Don’t pretend to be an art critic. But if something bothered you visually… call it out.
  • Review for people who are curious or new to the medium or genre.
  • Use some of the culture’s existing vocabulary, but make up some of your own along the way.
  • At a minimum, by the end of the review readers will know if I will read it again, and/or read it to my children.

Only time will tell if these unwritten rules should have remained unwritten.

To revisit the book that started this post. This would be my plot summary of the book (which I’m half way through): It is an elfish/orc world political drama.

Still deciding whether I should review it on Issue 47 or not. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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