Monday, July 21, 2014

5 Do's/5 Don'ts When Writing Reviews of Historical Fiction

If you've logged on to Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or other sites that review books, you might be there for the sole purpose of telling the world about the novel you've just read. Chances are you want to be helpful to other readers. Here are some tips for doing it right, illustrated with some actual review statements about my books. (Reviewers will remain anonymous, and I do respect their right to their opinions. They are only used here for illustrative purposes and it is not my intent to argue about ANY of these reviews.)

5 Things to Do:

1. Give a short summary, but be brief. The reader can look up the blurb. Just hit the highlights giving genre, theme, something about the main characters.

Annie Gallagher has a problem with trust, but after her father's death her trust in others severely damaged at the hands of those she should have been able to put it in. Fortunately she was rescued from the situation in which she found herself, and Ireland is far away from New York. But home is also far away, but not just because of distance. Can Annie ever find "home" ever again? After all family means home and Annie's parents are gone.

2. Give your overall impression. You either liked it or didn't, and the star rating is not enough because  it's so subjective. Three stars might mean not so good to some readers and good just not excellent to others. And do let readers know what you didn't care for if you think it might be helpful.

I loved reading all the history, especially the inclusion of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It makes me want to pick that book up and read it since I only ever saw the movie version.

This was a pretty decent book. It wasn't the most amazing book I ever read, but it was a pretty good storyline.

3. Would you recommend this book, and if so to what kind of reader? Those who like suspense? Those who are looking for a quick read? Those who want to immerse themselves in the time period? Readers find this kind of advice very helpful.

If you are a lover of books, history, genealogy and good historical fiction then I believe you will love this book.

If you enjoy historical fiction and Christian fiction, Annie's Stories is a must-read for you. 

4. What made you decide to read this book? Was it the time period? The cover? The fact that you wanted to learn more about a topic the book explored? Did a friend recommend it?

A friend recommended this book to me. After visiting Ireland last year I was eager to read anything that took place in that beautiful part of the world.

Seriously -- you say Irish and story in one sentence and I swoon so it was a shoe-in that I'd want to read this book. 

When I first saw the cover of this book, for whatever reason, Anne of Green Gables came to mind. Then I looked closer and noticed that the girl on the cover is reading The Wizard of Oz. While I’ve never read the book, I’ve been enchanted with the movie. These two things together made me pick up the book.

5. Where did you get the book? Today's FTC guidelines insist that you reveal if you received the book for free in exchange for a review, but beyond that if you purchased it, received it as a gift, bought it because you are a fan of something the book explores please say so.

My thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I love history so when I saw this book featured a heroine from Ireland, my favorite country to read about outside of the U.S., I jumped at the chance to review it.

5 Things Not to Do:

1. Do NOT give away the book's ending. For most people that goes without saying, but apparently some could use a reminder.

(No example here because...I don't want to give away the ending! But it has happened to me.)

2. Do not attempt to judge the writer's motivations. You cannot presume to know why he/she wrote the book or why he/she made certain decisions such as how the book would end, which characters the writer identified most with, if the writer was pushed to finish a book on deadline...those things are not helpful so skip them.

It seemed like the author was needing to finish the story to meet a deadline or something, so it all came together rather quickly.

3. If you are a writer too, resist the urge to judge the book based on the last writing workshop you attended. Let the book stand on its own merits, not what you were told should not be done if you read a book in which that writer has broken that "rule." Go back to asking yourself if you enjoyed the book or not. Don't over analyze.

I did like the parts where the Brownie camera came into play, however I felt it wasn't used to the full potential. The gangster matter also wasn't as predominant as I thought it could be. Ultimately, I feel the story would be stronger if it were trimmed and tightened up.

There are places where Thomson chooses to tell rather than show what readers need to know or see, and in other places, the descriptions of Irish life are a bit too sparse for those who are unfamiliar with the time period within which they exist.

4. Don't be too brief.

5. Resist the urge to be overly critical as well as overly flattering. Remember that above all you want to help guide your fellow readers to the books they will love.

*We all get these kinds of reviews, and I don't take them personally. Just pointing out how it's not helpful.

This book was not entertaining, boring. I would not waste my money on it. Not worth downloading for free, just a waste of valuable kindle space that could hold a good book.

*But likewise too much praise, while nice, doesn't contribute much either.

I absolutely LOVED this book! 

**A note to authors. If you get down reading your reviews, focus on the contrasts, such as the last example I gave here. Some readers get your work and others don't. That is the plain truth!

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