Friday, May 13, 2011

Reviewers, Part 3

So, another in a long line of book reviewers steps into the arena. I hope you will check out Brayton's Book Buzz,, where I want to provide a fun and intelligent review of the literature I read. I do a bit of reviewing at, but I wish to expand a little more in the Buzz postings.

I want to be honest without being overly critical. I mentioned last week about the conditions I must follow for Suspense Magazine. Unfortunately, the first book I read to review was not a good book. I asked not to send in a review. I hope to never read another in the same category, but if I do, I will be honest about it. Yes, I do plan to post a review about this particular book on my site, if only to show you my intentions in regards to the reviews.

I don't just want to vaguely recommend a book or not recommend one, I want to provide the reasons I either did or did not enjoy it or why I think it's either a decent read or not. As an editor for Echelon Press, I loved the fact that after I found mistakes in others' writing, I could more easily discover them in mine. So I hope to provide a point of view from an editor as well as a reader. I want to concentrate on a few areas in the review and comment on each one.

Plot – I'll give not just the basic pitch of the story as found on the back cover or on the inside flap of a book, but how the author presents the story, the surprises, the challenges, the revelations. Is it formulaic? Is it complex? Does it make you want to keep turning pages or hope that the story ends very quickly? Is it complete or leave questions unanswered? Does it set itself up for a sequel? Is it believable?

Characters – Are they believable? Does the reader connect and empathize with them? Are the bad guys bad enough you love to hate them? Do you root for the protagonist even if he/she has personal problems? Is there too much information about the characters it drags down the story? Does the reader care about the characters or feel they are unnecessary to the story?

Dialogue – Is it choppy? Is it 'real?' Do all the characters sound alike? Is the author using too much foul language or not enough? If three or more people are talking, is it difficult to tell who's speaking? Do you know from the dialogue the mood of the scene or the particular character?

Writing – This encompasses a lot. How much detail is included? Is it important? Does the story drag or is it too fast? What is the quality of the sentence structure? Do the sentences and paragraphs make sense? Does the author have point of view problems? Are there editing mistakes? Does the author use a phrase that is unique and interesting? Does the author send you to the dictionary every few pages using words nobody ever uses in real life? (Not necessarily bad, but humorously frustrating at times.) Does the author move the reader through the story in a logical course or jump around? Does the reader get lost or confused by unanswered questions or language not understood by laymen?

I think those four aspects of the story should provide a quality review. With many reviewers (movies, television shows, restaurants, hotels, and books), they will end with a rating. Three stars, two thumbs up, "I give it a six out of ten." I've even seen one reviewer whose ratings are based on cakes sizes. I sort of liked that one. Anyway, since I'm a taekwondo instructor my ratings will be rankings of belt colors. In my organization, there are nine colored belt ranks – White, Orange, Yellow, Camouflage, Green, Purple, Blue, Brown, and Red. After Red there is a half step before Black Belt. (There are also nine degrees of black belt, but that's another story for another time). Now, I don't wish to demean the colors or the organization or the students who train by saying White belt is the worst. White is the beginning rank and as the student progresses in maturity and training, and experience, his/her skills will improve. So, if I ever give a book a White belt rating, I'm saying the author needs to improve his/her craft either with better writing skills, editing, or, in the extreme case, forget about writing in the first place and taking up gardening, which won't improve the writing, but will relieve me from having to read anything else by that particular author. lol. A high rank rating shows the author has presented an enjoyable book, written and edited professionally. A high ranking means I would probably enjoy other books by this author.

So, let's jump into the deep end see if the sharks are lurking beneath the surface or if I'll have visitors over for a chat, shoot the breeze, enjoy a few drinks, something thrown on the poolside grill. What I mean is, if you are interested in having your book reviewed by yours truly, please contact me at I will accept hard cover, soft cover, or pdf file. I promise to be honest and try to have a little fun.

Because if you can't have fun doing it, it ain't worth doing.

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