Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why I'm Proud to be a Gushing Reviewer

I've been giving a lot of thought to who I am as a book reviewer. I blogged this weekend at Romancing the Genres, and I talked about my mission as a reviewer. It was fun to clarify for myself why I review. I explained,
"For me, my mission is simple: helping great books, particularly undiscovered gems, find the right audience for them and analyzing what makes great reads work."
I also talked about how reluctant I've been to do negative reviews.
"If I can't find some redeeming value in a book, some connection to the ideal audience for a book or some insight into why something didn't work for me (but might for others), I'd rather put the energy towards the books that truly captivate me."
Then AAR had this post about how reviewers shouldn't get too friendly with authors and critizing review blogs only offer gushing reviews. Many of the comments on the thread seemed to agree that credibility as a reviewer is tied towards having negative reviews. I spent several days stewing over this before I realized that I don't want to be a snarky review blog (although I read and love plenty!) and that I have no aspirations of being a more literary review blog (although I read plenty of them too). But, I DO firmly believe that my reviews ARE credible.

Instead, I'm Cloudy with a Chance of Books. My whole mission is to match readers with books that will distract them from bad days. Yes, I post tons of four and five umbrella reviews. That's my whole purpose here. I DNF plenty of books. I get angry at books. Things hit my wall. I get disappointed in particular authors. I compose lengthy rants in my head. I don't think it discredits me to sift through what I read and mainly select the books that I did finish and enjoy to review and talk about here.

Instead, it's just a different kind of trust I'm seeking to build between this blog and readers--I want readers to trust that if I'm reviewing a book on here that I finished the book and found something worthwhile in it. If I give a five umbrella rating, I did honestly LOVE LOVE LOVE the book. If I say it's keeper shelf worthy, it is--FOR ME. If I gush it's because I want other readers to love it as much as I do, but I totally get that others may not agree with me. That's why a huge component of my reviews is talking about WHO a given title might work for. Who's the target audience? What authors are similar? What's the tone? These are the questions that get me excited as a reviewer.

Over the years, I've become better and better at predicting whether or not I will love a particular title, and my reading time is so precious to me that I don't waste my time on reads that don't work for me or that make me angry. I find so many books that I love because that's what I'm actively hunting for. I want to improve others' odds of finding books to love. Nothing makes me happier than a winning streak of finding nothing but four and five star books. And nothing is more frustrating than having a stack of DNF books in a row.

I recently went through 14, yes FOURTEEN, DNF books in a row with two small breaks for books that I did finish (but didn't absolutely love) in there. Part of that was me wanting to be wowed by books--I see so many awesome books that my bar is raised pretty darn high. And part of that is simply where I was as a reader right then. After thinking more about it this weekend, I realized that I don't want to spend much time on those 14 books. I'm going to add them to my goodreads feed just because I like to have a record of what I've read in a given year, and I'm working on a thread of short "It's not for me" reviews that focus primarily on who the books might work for.

But having day after day of one and two umbrella posts? That just wouldn't be in keeping with my mission. I'm going to focus on what I love. But, make no mistake about it--the authors that I give those four and five star reviews to? They EARN it. They stand out from the pack of mediocre reads that never get me past the first 25 pages. They make it past my lengthy list of literary pet peeves to earn a spot on my keeper shelf. They make me giddy. I think that part of my mission as the blog evolves is for authors to be proud of getting a review from me, not because I give out so many negative reviews, but because so many books never make the cut for the blog. That's where I'm going with the blog, and I'm proud of that mission.

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