Book Review Challenge – Writing Book Reviews by Diane Coto from Fictionzeal

Day 4

Today Diane Coto joins us from Fictionzeal and talks about book reviews. Plus a quick look at Shelfari and I go in deep talking more about what you can look for whilst reading a book ready for a book review.

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Over to you Diane.
1)    Where can readers and writers find your blog?
 
2)    Where do you post your book reviews as well as your blog?
I provide links back to the review on Twitter; Facebook; Google+; and bookblogs.ning.com.  Then I provide the review on Amazon; GoodReads; and Shelfari. 
 
3)    What type of books will you consider for review?
Even though my preferred genre is mystery & suspense, I leave myself open to review outside of my ‘comfort genre.’  I also really enjoy romantic suspense; historical fiction (not Tudor); and many YA books.  I tend to avoid horror and sci-fi.
 
4)    What format do you like books to be in for review?
A MOBI file for my kindle is the most convenient book format for me.
 
5)    What’s the first thing you do when beginning a book review?
I actually start the book review while reading the book.  As I see things that stand out to me, I’m already thinking of how I’d want to express it to my readers.  I make notes as well, especially if there are a lot of characters to follow or a complicated plot.
 
6)    How do you proceed after that?
After I read the book, I like to write my own synopsis first.  I don’t want to use the same synopsis as Amazon or Goodreads.  I want it to be my own and I try as much as possible to grab attention with the first line.  I place my thoughts below the synopsis emphasizing what I felt worked in the story and what didn’t.  I’m a hard reviewer; I see a lot of 5 star reviews on Amazon, but a book needs to completely captivate my emotions and make me not want it to end to give it a 5. 
 
7)    Is there an average time you spend reading a book?
Being a blogger has changed this for me.  I no longer casually read a book.  I try to read more quickly considering I’d like to post a new review at least three times per week. 
 
8)    When you’ve finished a book do you write the review immediately? Or wait a while?
I generally start right away while the thoughts and feelings are still fresh.  Once I write it, I tend to give it a day or two before actually posting the review.  That gives me time to add any new ideas or correct any grammatical errors.
 
9)    Do you start a new book before writing up a review? Or do you ever read more than one book at a time?
I will occasionally read more than one book at a time.  On my Shelfari shelf (displayed on the sidebar of my blog), I generally have two or three – a book I’ve read for which the review is not posted; the book I’m reading; the next book I’m likely to start.
 
10)What points would you try to write in a review?
I think readers are interested in how a book will make them feel so I try to build that in.  In the synopsis, I try to include the location and the time period.  I always conclude the review by giving the book a rating.  This is more difficult than it would seem.  I don’t like to give bad reviews, but it does become necessary from time to time.  Remember, that you’re trying to build your blog around your readers who want a fair and honest opinion.  Your review is not to build ratings for the author; however, it should be constructive and not intended to ‘bash’ the author.
 
11)What would you try to avoid putting in any review?
I don’t want to ‘tell’ someone what to read and I don’t want to misrepresent the book.  I want to write the review so that it can help a person decide based on their own interests and desires.  If I’ve done my job, the review will help the reader to make up their own minds. 
I also avoid giving ‘spoilers’.  If someone is interested in reading the book, they want to discover the author’s ‘secrets’ (important turn of events details) and the ending for themselves.
 
12)If you find you really dislike a book, would you write a negative review?
Yes — That’s the short answer.  However, as stated above, I won’t use my blog to ‘bash’ an author’s hard work.  The reviews should contain facts to allow readers to know what the book is about and the blogger’s thoughts about the author’s writing unique to the story.  I’ve had a couple of requests for which I did not want to continue reading.  I contacted the authors to let them know I can’t continue the book nor provide a review.
 
13)Do you work with any publishers or groups who regularly ask you to review books?
Yes, I work with several.  They are within the sidebar of my blog. 
 
14)Tell us about any book which you’ve recently read and reviewed which really impressed you.
I read and reviewed Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio in April 2014.  It received a 5 star review from me.  The author pulled the paths of past and present together – that of Claire Aldridge within the present and Vera Ray from 1933.  
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Thanks Diane.
Book Review Challenge
What’s Shelfari?
1) Shelfari was launched in 2006 and is an online community for book lovers.
2) In 2008 is was acquired by Amazon.com
3) Users can build virtual bookshelves of the books they own or have read.
4) Readers can join discussion groups and send book recommendations to friends.
5) The main feature are the virtual book shelves. These can be linked to blogs to show visitors what books are on the users shelf.
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Writing that book review – Rosie’s own Point of View. **WARNING – we’re going in deep**  Don’t feel shocked, below are lots of points to consider, but only use a selection in a book review. Otherwise you’ll feel out of your depth.
So when I wrote my very first book reviews they were only about a couple of lines long. I would finish a book, think about what I’d read but I only remembered bits especially if I’d read the book over a week or two. I might write something like this ” I really liked the American court room drama. There were lots of twists and turns and the ending really surprised me.”
Looking back, all I can say is that it’s a starting place. My reviews slowly got longer and more detailed. However it wasn’t until I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down small notes whilst I read the book that things really took off and I began feeling proud of the pieces I was writing.
Now when I’ve finished a book, there are lots of details for me to fall back on when I go to write a review. You could look at it as writing practise. Or your own form of Flash Fiction. Ask yourself how can I make someone want to pick up this book to read without giving away too much of the plot? You are in fact creating a unique selling point. You have the potential to make or break a sale. Ever thought about yourself being a salesman? I Haven’t until now.
Here’s something else too. If you are a writer yourself or want to be, reading other people’s work is like taking a free writing course. Make a note of styles you like, how did the dialogue work? Too much?  Too little? Did it sound genuine? What voices did you hear in your head as you read the book? Did they have accents because of the way the author wrote the piece? For me ” ‘eh up young Charlie, me lad, how’s tha’ doin’?”  can only be a strong Yorkshire dialect.
Take a look at the start of a book. Look at the Title, when you’ve finished the book, ask yourself how the title fitted the book. If you have a book cover (Not always so with an e-book) what expectations about the book does it give you? Book covers sell books. If you are in a bookstore, library or looking at an on-line bookstore, book covers sell books! Think about how you make a choice about a book you know nothing about. Book genres: You might want to make a note of the book genre and see if you agree after you’ve read it. Many books will cross genres, you might have a romantic mystery, a paranormal thriller, a historical crime, there are very few set genre lines. However when you read books for younger readers these are often more defined, children, teens, young adult, new adult. Even then books will depend on the maturity of the reader.
Let’s begin reading. Did the book begin with a Prologue? Or were you plunged straight into a dramatic opening scene? Which works for you? Your answer might vary depending on the storyline of the book.
Now have a look at the chapters. How does one chapter end and another start? Does it leave you with a “hook” which has you rushing to find out what happened in the next chapter? Or does it have a natural end, one where you feel you can take a break now, get up and make a cup of tea or switch off the bedside light? Every book is different. It will also depend on what mood you, as the reader are in.  I’ve read books that I can’t put down and have ended up reading long into the night, getting to the end exhausted but on a high from the storyline.
What about a back story? These are used to explain people, places and reasons for the current situations. They can be very useful to flesh out the story and the characters. A Back story can make you have more empathy for a person or a situation. If the book you’re reading has a back story how useful was it? Too much? Too Little? Did it disrupt the main storyline or did it add to the value of the book? Perhaps there wasn’t a back story and you would have liked to know more about the characters.
Book Review Challenge
Descriptive words. There’s a lot of talk about over use of descriptive passages. Should you put them in? Are they just filling space? A lot depends on how the book has caught the imagination of the reader. An author writes a book and all the pictures are in their head as they write down the words, but have they successful transformed those images to the head of the reader? Think about this; “Chloe walked down the stairs” what image did you get in your head? “Chloe descended the stairs” Did your image change? ” Chloe took a breath before descending the formidable spiral staircase”, now what picture do you have? Sometimes an author might over-kill a description. “Chloe walked down the twenty-four evenly spaced steps of the stairway, one step at a time”, do you get my drift? – Descriptive words can make or break a picture in you head and your enjoyment of a book.
Book pace; I love Dan Brown books, but sometimes they frustrate me. All the action is in a very short period, often forty-eight hours. His characters hardly ever eat, sleep or rest for a second. The books leave me exhausted. However the style works, Dan is extremely popular. On the other hand I don’t want to be bored reading about every meal break, cup of coffee and bathroom visit, I want to get on with the story. In real life we do all the boring things like eat and sleep, but in books we often want to escape to a more exciting life. Think about the pace of the book, did it work with the story-line?
The Ending. The all important ending. Was the book a happy ever after (HEA)? Did you guess the ending way before you got there? Was there an unexpected twist which left you gasping? Did the book make you sad? Emotional? Did you need a box of tissues? Did you feel you’d learnt a life-lesson from the book? Was the ending a cliff-hanger which leads you on to the next book in the series? Is there an epilogue? The first three Harry Potter Books all have a neat ending at the end of the school term, yet because there are more in the series a reader might look forward to the next book. Towards the end of the series the books certainly enticed me onwards I wanted to know more and when the last one finished I still wanted more.
That moves me on to my last point. Would you ever be able to read this book again? Ask yourself that question. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read all the Harry Potter series. There is so much in each book that every time I read them I feel like I discover more. The same goes for the Twilight series. In between book reviews I’m re-reading the Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney. These are actually aimed at children (mature readers who can cope with Harry Potter) but I really enjoy them. – So what were your very last impressions of the book?
Now you should have plenty of material to think about for a book review.
Tomorrow we meet book reviewer Ionia Martin who blogs at Readful things, plus The Importance of book reviews by author Adrienne Vaughan, posting a review on Amazon, ARC’s and gearing you up to write your review.

Monday 30th June – The Importance of book reviews by Lizzie Lamb + Authors should walk to the book reviewers side of the fence.

All books have now been sent out and request are now closed.

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9 thoughts on “Book Review Challenge – Writing Book Reviews by Diane Coto from Fictionzeal

  1. Rosie – Thank you so much for posting this! 🙂 Sorry I hadn’t written before but I’d been out of town to a wedding and the internet connection was slow and frustrating there.

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  2. Pingback: Book Review Challenge – Writing Book Reviews by Diane Coto from Fictionzeal | Rosie Amber | FictionZeal

  3. Thanks Rosie and to Diane Cato for this. I liked very much about keeping certain things in mind .. eg use of descriptive words, pace, ending. These posts of yours are extremely valuable thank you and when I have time I will check all the reviewers blog posts.

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