{Bookish Babble & Rachel’s Reviews} A Change in Reviewing Format – My Reasons, Your Thoughts

Posted March 21, 2016 by Rachel Lightwood in Discussion, Reviews / 32 Comments

bookishbabble

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about reviewing – why we do it, how we go about, styles, #ownvoices, and all that. I came to the conclusion that I’ve lost my reviewing mojo. I experimented a lot last year with different review formats – lists, pro & cons, gif reviews, more ‘traditional’ written, long reviews… everything I could think of, and I found one thing that I loved: mini reviews. I know that mini reviews (or whatever you want to call them) are usually for DNFs or when you read a bunch of three-star books and don’t have much to say about them, but I’ve found that giving a quick little run down of my thoughts is what I prefer. Long reviews just aren’t working for me any more. I’ve read so many books in the last few years – since reading Goodreads, and starting to review books – that I’ve started to repeat myself. I talk about the same things in each review and it feels repetitive. It feels like I don’t have much to say any more, or I’ve just forgotten how to write it down. I’m running out of unique ideas, and ways to phrase “it was a good book, not brilliant not bad, just a generally good read” – which I seem to say all the time!

A lot of my favourite BookTubers have talked about this lately too. They seem to have hit the same obstacle as me this year and a lot of them are fighting it by posting little reading update/wrap ups every now to replace review videos. I love this idea! Essentially what they do post a video for every four or five books they read and talk briefly about their thoughts on each book. They’re short, snappy videos (like mini review posts) but they work. At the end, some of them talk about what they’re currently reading or what they plan on picking up next too.

I’ve decided to adopt this format for a little while, to see how it goes. If it works, perfect. If not, I’ll think of something else – it cannot hurt to try right? I’m not sure how often I’ll do these posts. For now, I’m thinking maybe every three books or so? It depends on how quickly I read and how much I have to say about books. I may put four or even five books in a post. Depends.

And I decided that I may as well starting this idea at full speed… so I have my first try of this new format happening right now, below.

Reading Update: 

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan // ★★★

This was a super fast, easy read that was fun and addictive, but nothing brilliant. I loved the setting and the whole permanent darkness situation. The world itself could have done with some fleshing out though – the political situation and all that. The plot was okay, and the action scenes an admirable attempt. It was easy to follow – although the actual point of the journey was kind of lost on me. Luna, our blind protagonist, was my favourite part of the story. She didn’t let anything stand in her way and pushed herself so she wouldn’t be dependent on anyone. Fowler on the other hand… yeah, I wasn’t a fan. I don’t see the appeal, honestly. He’s arrogant, self-centered and a little shallow. I never came to care for him, and I didn’t like his POV chapter nearly as much as Luna’s. The romance was also just a no-no for me. I didn’t think Fowler and Luna had any chemistry, whatsoever. It was too forced and cringe-worthy. And then the ending made me angry. Ugh! Too much of a cliff-hanger when the sequel isn’t even planned yet. I’ll have to keep an eye on the Goodreads pages. I have feeling the sequel is going to be more devoted to world-building so that’s exciting.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck // ★★★★

I read this for my English class at school, and it’s one of the few classics that I’ve actually enjoyed. In fact, it might even be the only one! The story follows two friends during the Great Depression in America. It’s a very simple story. Made up (nearly entirely) of dialogue, and only about 120 pages. I don’t think it’s the type of book I’d just go around recommending it. It’s not very exciting. The plotline is a little slow and plodding, despite its shortness. It mainly sets out to describe the era and its effect on the population, but also broaches the topic of racism, sexism, loneliness (which we’re studying) and mental illness. One of the main characters, Lennie, is “simple” (the time had pretty much no knowledge of mental illness or intellectual disabilities so that’s how they explain it) so the exploration of his place in society at the time was probably my favourite part of the story. I think it’s pretty powerful in that way, but really only for a specific audience. It definitely affected me emotionally, and got me thinking so that’s a plus.

Boundless by Cynthia Hand // ★★★★★

I was hella nervous to get into this story to be blunt. I hate endings. I especially hate endings to series that I love. It’s too much for my heart… but Cynthia Hand did an incredible job with this finale. Like phenomenal. I have nothing negative to say. It did so much for my heart and feels. The twists and turns were on point – it had me literally gasping out loud at least twice, and I never do that. The characters were the same characters that I fell in love with. Clara is seriously one of my all-time favourite female protagonists. She’s so realistic and loveable. The action had me flipping the pages with a frenzy. The romantic tension… *shakes head with speechlessness*. And then the ending… perfection. For a second there, I thought all had gone to hell. I actually threw the book across the room with outrage and had to pace a lap around the house to cool myself down (the only time this has happened to me!). But then I came back and read the epilogue and all was well. This series is just incredible, and I’d recommend to everyone, honestly.

Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples // ★★★

I was disappointed with this volume. I was a little hesitant to pick it up as it had been awhile since I’d read Volume 4 – my library is slow at buying new graphic novels/comics! – but that wasn’t a problem at all, thankfully. it was easy to remember where the characters were and what they were up to as soon as the volume began. The actual problem I had with this was that the plotline was super flat. It felt like a lead-up to the next volume. Only small events that led to the bigger situation the bind-up ended on actually occurred and now all that will have to be explored next time. Snore. I don’t care about the next volume yet, I’m reading this one! I also really missed Marko. He was weird as hell in this edition, and he’s usually my favourite character. I missed Hazel’s narration – it wasn’t so prominent in this edition. The scene with the pissing/masturbating giant lizard monster has scarred me for life too. *shudders*. Disgusting.

Currently Reading & Listening To: 

currently reading 1

The Ex by Alafair Burke

This is a legal thriller that I have for review (thanks Allen & Unwin Australia!). It’s been blurbed (yeah, I think that’s a made up word but no one needs to know… shhh) by Gillian Flynn, Michael Connelly and Karin Slaughter so it’s pretty well represented. I’m about 120 pages into the story (halfway), and it’s not too bad. It’s not as thrilling as I would have liked. It’s more just Olivia (the protagonist – a criminal defense lawyer) trying to get the charges dropped against Jack, her client and ex-fiance. There’s been a lot of tangents about their history together and it’s a little deterring to be pulled back in time so awkwardly. I think dual narration – but going between Present Olivia and Past Olivia – would be 100% better and flow the story along better. We’ll have to see how it goes.

A Spark Unseen by Sharon Rook, narrated by Fiona Hardingham

I loved the first book, and I’m loving this second book too. The story is taking a very different turn from the plot of the first book, but that’s not a bad thing at all. I love these characters so much and I just cannot wait to see how everything is going to wrap up. I’m listening to half an hour of this a night before I go to bed, but it’s turning into forty minutes or even an hour lately because I’m enjoying it so much. Hardingham does an incredible French accent!

What do you think of my new reviewing format – worth keeping up or a complete bust? Be honest! You’re the ones that have to read my posts if I decide to keep it up. Oh, and have you read any of these books too – thoughts?
Rachel Lightwood

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32 responses to “{Bookish Babble & Rachel’s Reviews} A Change in Reviewing Format – My Reasons, Your Thoughts

  1. I think it’s a great idea to review in WHATEVER format you like. ;D And to just enjoy it, right?! I mean, reviewing shouldn’t have to be a daunting chore or anything that’s done in a specific way. I love that reviewing can be super creative. ^_^ ALSOOOO. I’m going to read Reign of Shadows soon, despite hearing mostly “meh” things about it. *chews nails nervously* But I can’t pass up a fairy tale retelling with a blind narrator. EEEEEP.

    • Thanks, Cait. Everyone’s been so supportive so I think I’ll stick to this format. It works for me, and you’re right – there shouldn’t be a set ‘right’ way of doing it.

      Gah! The blind narrator – Luna – was the best part of Reign of Shadows by far. She’s so, so amazing. Oh, and if you love fairytale retellings with blind narrators, have you read Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay? It’s so, so good.

  2. I, personally, LOVE mini reviews!! I’ve used them often when I just don’t have a whole lot to say about a book. Sometimes I have TONS to say, which is when I ramble on and on. LOL But I prefer minis, myself. Even as a blog reader… I tend to enjoy the mini, right-to-the-point reviews over the long-winded ones. I’m glad you’ve found your reading mojo again!! 🙂

    • I’m so glad to hear that you love mini reviews so much! I love reading them myself too. There’s so short and snappy and like you said, right-to-the-point. And I’m glad I found my mojo again too. 😉

  3. Liza
    Twitter:

    Do whatever works for you Rach! I tend to be wordy, but I think I change my review style depending on the book. Some books I can write 1,000 words about and others I struggle to even start the review. Like others, I feel that I use the same words or phrases and then it takes me even longer to write a review since I keep trying to come up with something new and different.

    • It’s a good idea to write a review depending on what the book suits, but I’m just not in the right frame of mind for long reviews at the moment. I don’t want to be repetitive like that, and I think this is the ‘something new and different’ thing I have to do.

  4. I love writing mini reviews and I totally feel you on not being able to write long reviews anymore. I think when you read 100-200 or even more books a year and that you’ve been blogging for a few years, it’s just hard to find a lot to say on books that you either didn’t hate or didn’t absolutely love. I also love reading mini reviews so I look forward to this change! Great post Rachel!!

    • Yes, exactly! Thank you so much for getting it. There’s nothing bad about reading a lot, but it does not do well for review writing. I just don’t want to be repetitive in my reviews. Thanks for the encouragement, Eva.

  5. Boy, do I EVER feel you on the review-writing front! On the one hand, I’m probably overthinking it MASSIVELY. 99% of reviewers still seem to have no problem discussing the same concepts over and over again. But on the other hand – I just don’t LIKE to do it. I’ve resolved this issue by… not reviewing a whole bunch of books. (So, obviously I’m a pro at solutions.) Which is basically ridiculous and I had no idea what to do about it. But HEY, MINI-REVIEWS! This hasn’t occurred to me until right this second.

    Frankly, mini-reviews are as enjoyable to the reader/viewer as they are to the reviewer. Like you said about BookTubers – short, snappy, to the point. And I LOVED this collection. I wish Reign of Shadows was getting better reviews – my hopes were high – but *shrugs*. I might as well try it and see what I think. It doesn’t sound TERRIBLE, either. But oh, do I EVER agree about Boundless! It could have been SO AWFUL and for a moment it seemed like it went to an AWFUL PLACE… but then! Paradise! (For some, quite literal. :D) Clara is also a wonderful example of a non-cynical protagonist who we can still like and root for. Even in a love triangle!

    • I’m so glad to hear someone else so passionate about this, Lexie! I honestly couldn’t have worded it better. Can I hire you to write my discussion posts? 😉 And don’t worry about avoiding reviewing books, I’m the biggest avoider to ever grace this earth. Honestly. Sometimes it’s just hard to find the write words, and the longer you wait to ‘find them’, the less you remember the book itself. I hope that mini reviews can work for you too.

      I think Reign of Shadows is definitely worth a try. It’s not bad, it just wasn’t as good as I would have hoped for. And YES, A FELLOW BOUNDLESS FAN! <3 The ending was so intense, and just - gah, that awful place. It almost killed me!

  6. Nathan

    I liked your mini reviews. If they work for you, use them, but if you find a book your passionately love, go ahead and write as long as you want.

  7. Becca

    I think it looks great Rachel! At times I feel as though I am being redundant with reviews as well so I totally get where you’re coming from!

  8. I think you should do what makes you happy when you blog, Rachel. I like mini reviews because they tend to quickly narrow down the facts, something I sometimes have trouble doing – or else I do me more myself, lol) and then it’s always nice to see longer reviews when the passion hits for a certain book you love. : )

  9. You should definitely adopt whatever works for you, Rachel and not gonna lie, I love mini reviews, personally!
    Anyways, from your list, I’ve only read Reign of Shadows and I really liked it. So I’m glad to see it was a good book for you though nothing spectacular.
    The Cynthia Hand series is one I really want to read! I’m always nervous about series endings too, but I’m glad this was great! 🙂
    Ooh I REALLY need to read something by Sharon Cameron! Her books sound fantastic! And I do love a good historical (I’m assuming that’s what it is!). And wohoo for a great audio!

    • Good to hear, Nick! I love mini reviews too, obviously. And I think it’s going to be a good change.

      Reign of Shadows was an enjoyable read. I’m hoping that the sequel will make me fall more in love with the characters and the world. Cynthia Hand’s series is incredible! It’s so, so good. You have to read! I know Nereyda loves it too. And Sharon Cameron is great too! I loved the audiobooks of her’s that I’ve listened to so far. And yes, they’re historical fiction – my fave.

  10. I think you should review however it makes you happy. I have friends who do quicky reviews that are even shorter than what you have. I have some that do bullet points (with short paragraphs of a few sentences for each bullet). The only thing that I can tell you is that if you looking at SEO, the experts say that Google dings you if your post is less than 300 words. Outside of that, if you even care about that, then do whatever you want. It’s your blog. I’ve tried writing shorter reviews and it is harder for me to narrow down my thoughts to a single paragraph, so I quit doing it.

    • I think my happiness is pretty important too. 😉 I actually have no idea what you mean by the SEO stuff, but that’s just a comment on my technical stupidity rather than anything! I sorry that it does’t work for you much, but I think it’s going to work for me.

  11. I think that this is a great idea! Let’s face it, anything that makes sense for you and makes reviewing easier and more enjoyable for you is a win. Plus, I find that readers love mini reviews- probably because there’s something for everyone! I say it’s a keeper ☺

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted: Step Up Your Slump
    • Thanks Shannon! I think it’s important that I stay happy and motivated too (if I do say so myself). I think mini reviews do get attention, more than reviews even so that’s a plus. Thanks for the support. I think this might be an idea worth maintaining!

    • Well, I hope it works out for you too then! I think it would be a good way to slip back into the habit anyway. If isn’t for you, you can always go back to the “traditional” reviewing format.

    • Mini reviews are great for viewer I think for that very reason – they’re so short and easy to read. you don’t have to shift through an entire post. And Of Mice and Men was so interesting, I’m glad we studied it. I just finished The Ex and the last bit was a lot more thrilling. A bit of a middle-ground read but if you love thrillers I wouldn’t turn you away from it. And thanks, Grace!

  12. I love the idea of doing mini reviews, I’ve started doing the same thing this year as well! What I’m doing is mini reviews for like majority of the books I’ve read and then normal reviews for like books I LOVED (so I obviously have enough flailing enthusiasm in me to talk about the book for 600 words) and brand new releases. But everything else is going to just be put in mini review run downs. Since starting this I’ve started writing a lot more discussion posts, and I’m finding that I’m loving blogging a lot more.
    I have Reign of Shadows coming in the mail as we speak, and I’m super excited to get to it! To bad it seemed to be a middle ground book for you, maybe I’ll like it better 🙂

    Amy @ Book Enthrall recently posted: Book Enthral Got A Face Lift
    • Well, they say that great minds think alike! Some new releases/books that I just need to flail or even rant about, I’ll probably do larger reviews for still. I think that’s a good idea. And yes, I can feel the creative juices for all these discussion posts already starting to flow. And cutting down my review posts means I can boost my the number of other posts I write too.

      I hope you love Reign of Shadows. Everyone seems to love it a lot more than I do, so hopefully you will too.

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