My reviewing style, schedule, and history: How I got “discovered” as a writer
This post describes my reviewing style and schedule, but first, you get to read a personal narrative about my history as a book reviewer. 🙂
We all know I was born a writer. Remember that story about the fountain pen being grasped firmly in my left hand as I emerged from my (still sore about it) mother’s womb? That’s the truth, and it cannot be denied… But did you know how I got my start as a proper, disciplined, paid writer? I was discovered. That is also a true story. Let me elaborate.
After grad school (that was in 2008), I got a job and moved to Chicago, away from my husband, my family, and everything I knew. At first, I was miserable, but then I found a classics book group and made some friends. About four months later my husband got a job in Ann Arbor, the same place we were both living BEFORE I moved to the big city. Needless to say I moved right on back. Luckily, I was able to keep my position as a linguistic validation research analyst and perform the required tasks as a full time telecommuter. Unluckily, I was miserable yet again.
I decided to start my own book club in an attempt to bring some sunshine back into my life. I’ve talked about my beloved book club in many posts (seriously just search for “Ann Arbor Classics Book Group” on this site). We’re over 450 members strong some 3 years since we first got started. It’s also helped me to overcome my social anxiety, and it’s how I met my best friend beta reader extraordinaire, Ms. Rebecca.
But back to the point, it’s how I got discovered as a writer.
Because of my book club, which was only about 150 strong at the time and no more than 6 months old. The local paper was undergoing a major transition; The Ann Arbor News was becoming annarbor.com, an online multimedia experiment of sorts that combined staff reporters with local experts who would serve as citizen journalists. I was identified as a “local books expert,” me! All I had is a passion for reading and a pretty neat group of people who were willing to discuss this shared passion.
I eagerly accepted the opportunity to work as an unpaid volunteer and immediately fell in love with the gig. It was kind of like glorified book blogging, I guess. In a word, it was awesome. Within a couple months, they liked my stuff so much, they promoted me to “lead books contributor” and started paying me $50 per article. Wowie wow wowza!
Now that I was getting paid, I was expected to write 1-2 posts per week in time for my column. This taught me the importance of deadlines; it turned me into a professional writer. I developed a column called “This Week’s Recommended Read” in which I reviewed books, mostly classic literature because that’s what I was reading at the time. My review style was distinctive, and people really seemed to enjoy it. I provided 2 rating for each books—up to 5 stars for entertainment value and up to 5 stars for depth of meaning. We all know a book can be thrilling with meaning that’s thinner than the paper it’s printed on or it can be a boring trudge of a read that touches you to the soul all the same. To add some meat to my reviews, I offered 3 text sections: a preview (in which I talk about and analyze the plot) and a couple unique sections called “you might like this book if” and “you might not like this book if.”
Writing book reviews became something of a job, and I became quite proficient at it. In writing these reviews, I improved my literary style, found a voice. When the books section got cut from the paper nearly 2 years later, I sadly put reviews aside (well, for the most part) and decided to blog about other topics.
Then it hit me, why am I reading all these great books and not sharing them with my virtual friends? GoodReads reviews are nice, but they can only accomplish so much (besides, book reviews get killer SEO).
And that’s the point of this blog post, to let you know that, yes, I will be reviewing books once again (and, no, I will not be accepting review requests, sorry). Every Friday, I will share a book that I truly loved, my 4 and 5 star beauties. I don’t love everything I read, and you can follow me on GoodReads to see which stories get the dreaded 1-star “could not finish” rating and to check out my okey dokely 3-star reviews (I don’t really use the 2-star option for some reason).
I’m sharing what I love, because, in my mind, the purpose of a review is to make recommendations of books I think people who like what I like might like—that’s a mouthful, huh? To that end, I’ve created a new uniquely me style to share these reviews.
Each write up will have the following 5 sections:
- Here’s a super brief summary of what this book is all about…
- Here’s my knee-jerk reaction…
- You might like this book if…
- You might not like this book if…
- Other books I would compare it to…
The first part is brief, because I don’t want to force you through a lengthy essay that rehashes the plot or stick the GoodReads summary up there. I will give you a mini overview 3-4 sentences in length and link to GoodReads if you want to learn more.
The second part is the off-the-top-of-my-head analysis. This is basically the kind of thing I might post on GoodReads. “I loved X, but thought Y was a bit under-developed,” for example.
Parts 3 and 4 hearken back to my old reviewing style, because readers really seemed to enjoy this. Without giving away spoilers, I’ll give you little heads-ups on whether or not you might like the story. You can check out this review I wrote of Dracula eons ago to see what I mean.
And the last part is another way of determining whether a reader may like the book in question. What’s the best way to do that? By comparing it to other books, of course!
That’s it from me. So here’s the summary of all my rambling:
- I will be reviewing books every Friday
- I will only be reviewing books I really enjoyed
- I will not be accepting review requests from authors
- I will prescribe to my own quirky style of reviewing
I hope you’ll follow my review series and maybe even check out some of my recommendations.