How to Review Books

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Even though the title of this post might make you think that I’ve got my shit together and I’m going to provide you with a list of 1-10 steps to review a book…you’d be mistaken. I have no idea what I’m doing when (and if) I review a book, and the more I talk to people over on Bookstagram about this, the more I’m learning there is no right or wrong way to go about reviewing books. When I first started this Bookstagram, I spent time only periodically mentioning books, what I was reading, or books I was buying, and that was pretty much it. Taking pretty photos was the name of the game. Then, once I started receiving books from publishers in the mail, I started thinking that I needed to up my game and write more reviews on my blog and Instagram and interact more professionally on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, my blog, or wherever else book reviews are valued. These publishers are reaching out because they want to generate some buzz about a book and we are the ones to do it. I wouldn’t call us smaller accounts ‘influencers,’ but publishers are definitely looking for some buzz when they send you a book and there is some responsibility associated with this. So, after about a year or so of being pretty serious on Bookstagram, I got my shit together and I created a spreadsheet where I itemized books I received from publishers, took note of what was asked of me, marked where and how I shared about the book, gave a star review, marked if I had mentioned it in Bookstagram yet, etc. All was good and I was feeling like I was finally in control of this thing called Bookstagram (PS this is a hobby. No one pays me to do this. Sometimes, I receive a free book in the mail, but that’s it. I think I forget that sometimes). Anyways, I digress…So all felt more organized and less chaotic for this hobby of mine and that felt good. That is…until I received a book in the mail from a publisher that I thought I was going to love, but ultimately, I found problematic parts that rubbed me the wrong way. I was all prepared to create that perfectly honest post, but all of a sudden, I went down a spiral of slight panic (if I’m being honest). Here is my dilemma (also-completely 1st world problems so take this anxiety with a grain of salt but still…). 1, I want to have good relationships with publishers who send me a free book and hopefully, generate more good buzz to get the word out 2, I want to make sure I never dissuade anyone from reading a book they may like and 3, I want to review books in a 100% authentic way for all of you reading my reviews. Is there a formula for that? Is there a way to organize my reading life that will accommodate all of that? The odds of me buying a book I don’t love are slimmer, but being given a book by a publisher that I wind up not loving is more possible. Will I piss off a publisher if I give their book a negative review and that’s it for my time of receiving books to read and review? Will a reader be turned off from a book that I didn’t love but they might?! I’m telling you-I went down a crazy rabbit hole of insecurity and a bit of anxiety with this one. BUT, my best end result from a lot of thinking was this…You do you Boo. A friend of mine on Instagram (@caseythereader) mentioned that publishers know that not all books are for everyone. And that’s so true. We all know that. I might recommend a book to a friend and they wind up reading it and not liking it. It’s a bit of a bummer, but we all move on (hopefully after a good discussion if it’s your friend). Obviously, this discussion doesn’t usually happen with a publisher, but still-I’m positive Casey was right. They know not every book is for everyone. Secondly, I never want to be dishonest in a book review. Or be deceitful in any way just to save face with a publisher and therefore continue to get free books. That was the overwhelming advice I received when I threw this question out to the Bookstagram community. Be honest! Thirdly, find some good things to mention in your review. There is always some good things in every book and they are worth mentioning. After all, this book is someone’s pride and joy that they created and it’s been through a lot of eyes before it got to me. If it’s published, odds are, there are some good things worth mentioning. Fourth, if there are problematic things in a book, they are worth mentioning in a constructive way too. And lastly, I don’t have to review every book I read. That’s probably not even possible anyways, and also-most books I receive from publishers do not mention HAVING to write a review about the book anyways. In fact, they oftentimes say, if you liked the book, feel free to rate and review it. ‘Liked’ being the key word. So there you have it folks! I have come up with a plan for myself in terms of how and when I rate, review and post about books. Here is it if you’re interested:

  1. If I receive a book from a publisher, write the info down and any details I might need (follow ups, emails, pub dates, requests for review, Instagram post dates, etc) and put it in my pile on ‘books from publishers’
  2. If I purchase or get a book from the library-I do me! (it will likely sit on shelf longer than I want it to. Story of my life lol)
  3. Post a photo on Instagram upon receiving a book, purchasing a book, or starting to read a book.
  4. If I enjoy the book, read, rate, post and give it all the love (with details why). Write a blog post too! THE BEST FEELING!!
  5. If I felt meh about a book, just give it a star review on Goodreads and move on. People don’t necessarily care about a meh book. It’s always hard to articulate why I felt meh about it anyways, so just move on (unless of course I made a promise to receive a book in exchange for an honest review. In that case, give an honest review). *this rarely happens
  6. If I personally found something problematic in a book, it might be worth mentioning (but again, I don’t have to). Be truthful, find the positives and be specific. A blog post is optional, but give it a few days before I write it. Time is think is always good 🙂 Same thing as #4-if I made a promise to exchange, do that.
  7. Remember this is not a job, it’s a hobby and I’m usually under zero obligation to review a book. It’s kind of part of the unwritten deal and best practice if the book was from a publisher, but, for the most part, I’m under no obligation.

So that’s my plan from now on. Praise the good, possibly mention the problematic and leave the meh alone. *this may all change tomorrow and I’m okay with that too 🙂 But also-this is a hobby and I need to stop worrying so much about this and start reading! That’s what brought me here to begin with.

What is your method of reviewing books? Do you feel you need to review every book you read? Are you more choosy with book reviews? Is my anxiety at fault for all of this?! 😉 Head over to Instagram and let’s chat! Find me @bookishfolk

bookishfolk…read instead.

The Dinner List

Author: Rebecca Serle

Published: September 11, 2018

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Where I picked up my book: Free from publisher (THANK YOU)

Key Words: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Romance

My Rating: 4 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

For fans of Me Before You and ONE DAY comes a wondrous novel of first love, loss, and the dinner of a lifetime.

When Sabrina Nielsen arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also her favorite professor from college, her father, her ex-fiance, Tobias, and Audrey Hepburn.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Sabrina contends with in Rebecca Serle’s utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as Sliding Doors, and The Rosie Project.

As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together, and as Rebecca Serle masterfully traces Sabrina’s love affair with Tobias and her coming of age in New York City, The Dinner List grapples with the definition of romance, the expectations of love, and how we navigate our way through it to happiness. Oh, and of course, wisdom from Audrey Hepburn.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a modern romance for our times. Bon appetit.

My Thoughts:

This is a magical book that left me thinking long after I read the last sentence. What 5 people would you invite to a dinner party, dead or alive? What would you want to talk about? Would you make it an exciting, fun party full of laughter, good times, joking around and just a purely enjoyable time? Or would you get serious here and try to make some changes, either in the world at large, or in your own world? Or would it be a mix of both? I’ve been putting together my list and surprisingly, it’s bringing up a lot of emotions that I wasn’t expecting would happen after reading this book. First, I’d have Oprah, because duh. And I’d definitely have Obama because also…duh. I’d probably have my parents (we haven’t spoken in almost 9 years. Long story short-I’m gay. They are uber Christian. It’s painful and sad, but I want to definitely be a part of the conversation that my parents, Oprah and Obama would have.) And then I think I’d have my wife there. She’s my rock, a stable person in my life (the most stable), and my grounding force when I get crazy, erratic and hysterical. (shhh…that never happens 😉 ). I could just imagine this scenario and all the feels I’d be feeling. I think I’d want/need her as a grounding force. So there you have it-my 5 people. But can Michelle come too? I feel like her and Barack should count as one. So…Oprah, my parents, the Obama’s, and my wife. Done 🙂 Oprah, Obama’s…if you’re listening, let’s make it happen.

The book looks at various relationships throughout the plot and all are important to Sabrina (the main character) and all are important to us as the reader. The one relationship that I kept holding onto most was the friendship between Sabrina and her best friend, Jessica. Maybe I’m at the stage in my life where friendships are getting harder and harder to maintain as some of us move away, live in different cities in Colorado, get married, start having children, buy houses, get into the meat of our jobs, etc. but it just had me thinking long after I finished the book about my personal friendships. My friends mean a lot to me. As I stated earlier, I do not have family in my life anymore, and my friends have truly become my family. They are my support system and my people I go to for all sorts of things in my life. If you’re close to your mom…picture all the times you go to her to talk, for advice, to pass something by her, to go shopping with, to have a cup of coffee with, etc. This is what I do with my best friends. But similar to Sabrina and Jessica, I feel like it’s becoming progressively harder to maintain those tight friendships like I once did.  Life is busy and the days of hanging with my friends for days a time, talking, laughing (and probably drinking) are over and it sort of feels like adulthood is settling in and we are being forced to find a new normal as we settle into life . It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I just want to make sure to be vigilant of these changes and ensure we don’t lose them altogether. All this to say, I miss my friends, I look at my younger self and good times fondly, and could 100% relate to Sabrina and Jessica in the book.

If you like your fiction with a side of magic, grab this book-you won’t be disappointed. And the best part is…it’s out today for all to enjoy! Let me know what you think after reading it!

HERE is the link to get yourself a copy!

bookishfolk…read instead.