A few years ago I had the opportunity to replace departing columnist
and book reviewer Susan McBride here at Myshelf.com. Fellow author
and friend Nancy Mehl recommended me for the job. Back then I had
just had my first mystery novel, The Unreal McCoy published and
figured I was on my way to becoming the next Elmore Leonard. My
reviewing experience had been pretty much limited to the reviews
that I wrote over at Amazon.com. I’ve learned a lot since
became acquainted with book reviews as a young boy growing up in
post-war Detroit when my mother would send me and my older sister
out every Saturday afternoon to the newspaper stand at a busy intersection
to pick up a copy of the New York Times. I don’t know what
the newspaper cost back then because I was way too young to be trusted
with money; that was my sister’s job. Mine was to carry the
heavy newspaper. The only part that my mom read was the book section
and she generally made notes about the best sellers and then waited
for them to hit the local library. I believe that’s when I
first became aware of reviews but hadn’t passed the “See
Spot run,” stage of my personal reading development. I always
knew I wanted to read one when I grew up. I think that’s why
I’m having so much fun here at Myshelf.
I have the chance to interact with other reviewers I find that the
approach to writing reviews varies greatly from one commentator
to another. I recently shared a panel with four other book reviewers
at a writer’s conference in Chicago and was quite surprised
at the different viewpoints. One fellow who wrote reviews for a
medium size newspaper said that he tries to balance amount of positive
vs. negative reviews he writes. I was rather taken aback by that
viewpoint. That type of thinking demands that you find something
negative to write about someone’s work simply because it’s
time to hammer somebody. Another reviewer said that she would never
say anything bad about any book no matter how she felt personally.
at Myshelf we have many book reviewers with many different inclinations.
I guess that’s one of the reasons that I am so comfortable
in the Myshelf family. I have started to read some books that simply
didn’t appeal to me and rather than write a review tainted
by my personal taste I put out the word over at Myshelf and someone
else had a second look at it.
of the things that I consider to be flawed in the collective thinking
of many reviewers is that they write their reviews with an editor’s
eye. In other words they use the same mindset that they would in
evaluating a manuscript for the publisher, noting things like sentence
structure and point of view.
begin with, many of the books that we review are ARCs, uncorrected
proofs and may not represent the finished product so I never comment
on technical details. But in my opinion the most important things
are uncomplicated flow, a good story, and solid characters. I think
it’s the reviewer’s job to evaluate a book with the
reader in mind. Will the public like it? All I can hope for is that
a substantial number of people share my leanings.
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