For the most part I’m a discerning devourer of books, though to be fair if a story is promoted as having: a. aliens; b. space ships; c. sarcasm; d. guns; e. dogs; f. baking and/or g. magical realism, chances are 95% and rising that I’ll be checking out a sample chapter.
Though it’s the FINDING these works of bliss that has tended to be problematic, especially with the dross and magic flooding Amazon (self-published for the most case) demanding attention and often 99 cents. I’m also put off Amazon reviews when “This book arrived 10 days after I ordered it, which is why I’m giving it one star but the story was good.” Thankfully, the internet has given me a pool of reviewers whom I have come to rely on for recommending books I’d like – it has taken time (years) but right now I have seven tabs open with my favourite review sites/blogs, and I very rarely go to any others.
But what makes you want to read a book that has been reviewed? Is it the style of the review: strictly factual, Harvard referencing and no advertising anywhere? Chatty, casually mentioning three other similar books and flooding enthusiasm? Genre specific? A literary dissection, discussing the thematic elements, symbolism and political motivations? Or is it the website of someone you know (or know only online) who you’ve worked out likes and dislikes the same sort of books you do?
One of my favourite books this year – Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos – found its way onto my phone simply because of the review from one of my favourite writers, Larry Correia:
I really enjoyed this one. Marko was in the German army, then emigrated to America. The thing that I enjoyed about ToE was that it was this really cool mil-sf, from the grunt’s perspective. Personally, my favorite parts where in the main character’s backstory, about his crappy upbringing, his enlistment, and the basic training. The character has a good evolution, and then we’ve got war, and space aliens. So what’s not to love? Check it out.
Short blurb, summative, war and aliens = WIN! Add to that the fact that Marko wrote a very clever, engaging and downright fascinating story and I’m now more likely to have a look at other books Corriea recommends.
One of my sons’ (and my) favourite picture books came from a review column of an online science-fiction magazine, which has featured many columnists and genres. Of the original post, this is the section which intrigued me:
Before I go, I want to mention one more book that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. Every so often, a picture book crosses my desk that makes me want to email the author and gush and gush about it. (Adam Rex is still wiping off my gush overFrankenstein Makes a Sandwich.) I’ve just pulled up Amanda Noll’s website (www.amandanoll.com) and am about to do the same. Howard McWilliam is next. This is their first book. You’re going to want to own it.
Here’s the story: Ethan goes to bed one night and finds (*gasp*) that his regular monster has gone fishing (Gabe left him a note). Oh, no! What is Ethan to do? How will he sleep without a monster under his bed? So Ethan does what any intelligent boy with a purpose would do: he begins the process of interviewing prospective monsters for the position that Gabe has left vacant.
I’m a member of Goodreads, and while I’m rather lackadaisical about updating my status, I always read the reviews of my Goodread friends. Two friends specifically review books on their blogs (both of whom read widely and use star ratings, though Shelah’s also rates them for content, and Tracey’s often has author interviews too), and I’m constantly adding titles to my lists thanks to their reading and winnowing efforts.
Reviews also come as a result of a competition win. Through another review blog I follow (by a mother and son, which adds fun variety and opinions) I recently won a review copy of a Deseret Book title and while I was delighted to have an e-version on my phone, I was a little hesitant about how to review it. Mostly because most reviews I’ve read on Deseret Books read less as reviews and more as testimonials or missionary fireside proclamations. In the end I wrote an honest (and I think definitely un-DB style) review of the book, because if I read a review I want honesty, not nice-so-I-don’t-hurt-anybody’s-feelings pandering.
I was a little concerned when I read the blurb that this would be so sweetly pious it would make my teeth hurt (and my spirit grow dejected in comparison), but I really should have known better.
(The rest of the review is here, and includes peanut butter cravings, a prophet and happiness.)
Overall, I want a review to pique my interest, give me just enough details to work out if I want to hunt the book down, and also entertain me. Just like a book, really, only shorter (and with zero spoilers!)
So how do you choose your next read? Word of mouth? Trusted friends? Oprah? Eeney-meeney-miney-moe? Specific websites or publishing emails? Genre specific sites? What does a review(er) cover or omit to help you decide what to read? Read any good reviews lately?