Writing Reviews Isn’t Easy

Writing reviews isn’t going to be as easy as I thought it would be. Since I wrote my reasons for writing reviews, I’ve read two novels and didn’t like either one of them.

The first one, Strawberry Tattoo by Lauren Henderson, I refused to finish, which has happened only once before in my life (I threw a Jackie Collins book away because it was too pornographic. She is one author I’ll never read.)

Usually when I start a book I must finish it just to see how it ends. But not this one. Ms Henderson is from London. If her writing indicates how Londoners speak, I won’t be going there. They chat too much and say very little. I got the feeling she enjoyed writing so much she added narrative after narrative to entertain herself but not enough action points to entertain me. Nope, didn’t finish the book. I kept hearing one of my professors telling me to ‘write tighter’. Ms. Henderson could have used that course.

The other novel I just finished is The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose. I enjoyed the premise, and the twists and turns, but, granted I’m recovering from a case of the flu, but I had a hard time keeping up with so many characters and so many sub-plots.

In the past I’ve selected reading material based on the author and the genre. But this time I selected novels based on subject matter. I’m interested in art history and mysteries so I key word searched those two topics. It’s an experiment to expand my reading … we’ll see. I thought I was ready to venture out and read other authors but I’m not sure I’m ready to leave Stephen J. Cannell, Robert Peterson, Tess Gerritsen, John Grisham, or Janet Evanovitch.

In the first place, I don’t want to spend the time writing about a novel I didn’t enjoy reading. Why should I?

In the second place, it wouldn’t be fair to the author, other readers may enjoy their style. Just because I didn’t care for it wouldn’t be a fair assessment.

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Why I Write Reviews

For several reasons I’ve decided to start writing reviews on books I read.

The main reason leads to why I’ve been reading so many books lately, compared to my previous behaviors.

My cancer scare in March 2011 made me stop and think about what I REALLY wanted to spend my remaining years doing.  On a side note: I have a non-aggressive, stage four type of carcinoid cancer and am expected to live a natural life expectancy. I am blessed. Having said this, my scare made me realize that life does have an expiration date and it is up to me to cherish my remaining years — not just go through the motions.

From 2004 to 2011 I had been breeding purebred Nubian goats and making goat milk soaps and lotions.  This passion began because I fell in love with goats and wanted to justify having more of them. While I enjoyed a moderate success, I no longer wanted to spend my years milking every day. It’s hard work. Besides, I  would have ‘aged out’ anyway.

Eleven retired ladies, who have been given us wonderful babies and milk, will live out their lives comfortably here at the ranch. Now they bless us with garden fertilizer. While I still love my goats, making goat milk soaps and lotions is NOT what I want to spend my remaining years on this planet doing.

I’ve wanted to be a novelist since 1989 when I first started figuring out how to create novels. I wanted to see if I could maintain the thought process long enough to create a story that lasted the length of a novel. Sooooo I enrolled in the local college and took every writing class available. I quickly caught on to the nuances of writing,  the accepted techniques of writing, and the differences in writing well. Some of the techniques stuck, some didn’t, some never will.

For years and years I subscribed to Writers Digest and still have most of that collection in the attic somewhere. I even purchased most, if not all, of WD’s  suggested how-to texts on writing novels and I’ve read every one of them.

Over time, between full-time jobs, collecting a couple of graduate degrees, and moving across the south I’ve amassed several beginnings, several middles, and several endings. For quite some time now, all of these scenes have been in the same file drawer. I’m letting the characters duke it out. Eventually, I’ll see what the winners have to say then take it from there.

In the meantime, I’ve returned to my longing of writing novels. Only after reviewing my library did I realize the number of how-to texts it contained. Having read all of them, with none inspiring me enough to generate anything beyond an outline, I decided to follow an old adage I learned when studying art; that of ‘learn from the masters’.

First, I identified my masters. Since I enjoy suspenseful movies, I began reading suspenseful novels. Mystery, criminal, legal, and detective stories filled my reading list. Now I read anywhere from two to three novels a week and have gained immeasurable knowledge and experiences in reading these books. Clearly the adage of ‘learning from the masters’ works; but, then again, so does repetition and depth. Goodreads.com has an accounting of most of my reads.

While I may be an expert in goat breeding, soap making, ah … hummm as well as several other careers I’ve enjoyed over the ages, the world surrounding the craft of writing is my newest, and perhaps my greatest, challenge.

Writing reviews is part of the business of learning about novels and since I’m going to read novels anyway I might as well write a review about them. Besides, this experience will be me insights as to what a reviewer may say about my work.

Be on the lookout for my reviews and I hope you like my reviewing style.

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