Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shedding the Reviewer Lenses

By Melissa Amster

I recently had an epiphany. It came up slightly when I was telling a friend how it's hard to really "enjoy" a book when I am constantly looking for stuff to say in my review. Then a situation came up recently that involved me becoming too overzealous with my "reviewer lenses," as I like to refer to them. It really made me evaluate how I review books in general.

Backtracking a bit...I have been reading books my entire life, ever since I had them memorized at age three. Until I started this blog in 2010, I read books for the sake of a relaxing and enjoyable experience. If a book didn't give me that experience, I lost interest rather quickly. (There was a time when I was reading a book early into my first pregnancy and the writing style made my "morning sickness" that much worse.) I mainly read chick lit, with a few drama novels and autobiographies interspersed. These days, the only time I read non-chick lit is for my community book club. Even then, I sometimes can't muster up enough interest for the non-chick lit novels. I feel that life's too short to read something that doesn't hold interest for me or that I have no desire to pick up after a few chapters. The last non-chick lit novel I truly enjoyed was "Lone Wolf" by Jodi Picoult, which wasn't for my book club. (And even then, I reviewed it for the blog!) I still have yet to read her previous two novels. Anyway, after my second child was born, I read books to keep awake during middle-of-the-night feedings. I taught myself how to book multi-task, as the library had these tight two week deadlines and wouldn't renew current bestsellers. This is a skill that comes in handy nowadays, although sometimes the books blur together. (I've been writing down my thoughts as I read the books to keep them fresh in my head.) There are times when I am enjoying a novel so much that I just forget about the book multi-tasking. (However, multi-tasking a paperback with my PC kindle is a different story.)

When I read the reviews that our associates post for Chick Lit Central, I feel like they're getting an experience out of reading that I have forgone in my attempts to be a reviewer. I've decided that it's time to start taking that experience back for myself. I need to shed the reviewer lenses when I'm reading and just enjoy the book at face value. I want to capture the feelings I got from reading the book in my review as opposed to saying what worked and didn't work in terms of story-line and structure. I've been reading some wonderful novels lately and I want to relay that experience to our readers instead of being all cut and dry. I'm hoping I'll be able to do this and get back into just reading for the sake of reading, prior to sharing a review. I will still be honest with my feedback, but I want my reviews to show what I experienced while reading each novel.

I know that taking off my reviewer lenses will be a hard habit to break, but I hope I can do this over time. I know there are reviews where, looking back upon them, I've made myself cry (good tears) because they brought me back to my feelings while reading the novel. The last review where I truly did this was for "Home Front" by Kristin Hannah. I want ALL my reviews to be that way...not necessarily to make me cry each time, but to really remind me how I felt during that reading experience.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on reading for reviewing purposes vs. reading for enjoyment. Feel free to comment on this post.


Lori Verni-Fogarsi said...

I've had similar struggles and have also had to make a concerted effort to read "as a reader" instead of "as a writer." For a while, I wasn't enjoying reading books at all because I was too focused on storyline, character development and my automatic tendency to proofread. I actually took a break from reading altogether for about a month (which for me is a long time!), and when I went back, I've found that I'm able to enjoy books more at face value.

I've also returned to my old habit of not forcing myself to finish books I'm not enjoying--like I used to do. In more recent years, I suppose out of feeling a loyalty and respect for other authors, I've been forcing myself through to the end because I "feel sorry." Now I've gone back to my original mantra... "There are too many good books in the world to force myself to read one that's not holding my interest!"

Good luck in your new perspective!
--Lori Verni-Fogarsi

Kerry Ann @Vinobaby's Voice said...

I am forcing myself to get back into reading for pure enjoyment. I'm currently try to read mostly books similar to my genre/style (aka women's fiction and no thrillers or horror) but I am doing my best not to pay too much attention to the details. If a book is well written, the reader shouldn't notice the details. I'm relegating myself to just a post-it for jotting down things to remember.

I've also realized there are far too many amazing books to waste time forcing myself to read a novel I don't like. I may not like it for a zillion reasons (and it may be highly praised by other reviewers) but it's just not for me. And that's okay. Time to move on.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Melissa, first, I must say that I love reading your reviews as you provide sincere insights to each novel, with that, I also agree with you to just enjoy the books and not go on reviewer mode constantly.

As you may know, I too am a book reviewer and just lately after having our son I made it a point to read a book that I really want to and not write a review about it (last book was 50 Shades of Grey.. haha!). After posting 2 more reviews I plan to read Gone Girl Gone and J.D. Robb's In Death Series, both totally out of the chick lit genre.

I am a follower of Chick Lit Central's blog, fb page, in twitter and in pinterest, not to mention that I pester you personally on email if I have a question. :)

So thank you and read books for the fun of it and feel free to put it down if it doesn't interest you because you will not post a review about it :)

Kristilyn (Reading in Winter) said...

Definitely hard to shed those glasses! I think the important part for me is to choose books to read that I want to read, not books I feel like I should be reading. I limit my review books and try to pick ones that I'm super excited about because then I really do want to read them!

The hard part for me is finishing books ... or, NOT finishing books. Too often I feel like I should be finishing a book, even if I'm hating it. Definitely something I need to work on!

Good luck!

susieqlaw said...

What a great post! Recently, I have become more active in writing reviews. Along the way, I have made a few changes. First, I do not read the book in the order they arrive in the mail. This step has allowed me to slow down and enjoy the book. Second, I do eventually read all the books! Third, I post reviews wherever possible such as goodreads, amazon, Barnes and Noble, and smashwords. Fourth, I try not to read other reviews about a book before I read it. (If I am buying a book for the pleasure of reading...of course, I read the reviews first.