renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
A few weeks ago I read On Reviews by [personal profile] forestofglory and began thinking more critically about how I use reviews online.

I don't read a lot of reviews from strangers unless the reviews are obviously critical, have low ratings that lead me into the review, or are Did Not Finish. I suspect some of this is because it's much easier for people to talk about and explain what they didn't like about a book. I know my narrative kinks and the sort of characters, story beats, and plots that I enjoy, so if they get cited during a critical review without hitting any of my DNWs I'm immediately adding that book to my to-read list. It's been the greatest tool in my book-finding arsenal.

On the flip side, it's really difficult to talk about what a book did right and how much we love it sometimes. This is especially true with me because I worry about devolving into keymashing love and failing to say anything of substance. People need a little to go on, and I'm not sure flailing around and screeching, "READ THIS NOW!" on Twitter is very effective (unless you are [personal profile] spindizzy, because for some reason she trusts my judgment).

With my blogging friends, though, I'm invested in what they thought about a book, because very often I'm really familiar with their taste and their reactions will give me a good indication of whether I like the book or not, whether their reaction is positive or negative. It's harder to do that with strangers. Friends are great! Finding book bloggers with similar taste to yours take some work, but it's worth it. \o/

At Lady Business, we tend to write long, analytical solo reviews that don't really do much for people who haven't read the books in question, especially people avoiding spoilers. I am definitely guilty of it; Jodie is better at doing it than I am. Ana is the The Queen of contextualizing the books in ways that don't spoil the story for readers. I have long envied her skills in this arena. Part of why we review the way we do here is just because that's how we write about things we've read and we're often doing this for ourselves first and foremost. It's work writing about things in a way that doesn't spoil them, because spoilers have such a wide array of meanings to different people.

On Dreamwidth, the culture of book reviewing hasn't really matched the culture of book reviewing elsewhere as far as my own experience. All communities have their quirks, but Dreamwidth's culture is definitely more personal, intimate, and less focused on what I think of as standard review structure, one book to an entry. That does happen, but round ups are much more common. Much of the book commentary I see via my reading list and network comes in the form of reading recaps (a list, with a few books commented on under a cut depending on if the author has anything to say), Reading Wednesday posts (I love these so much and wish I read enough to do them), and a bigger emphasis on talking about the undercurrent of works. For example, there will obviously be discussion of plot but it will dig into more specifics than a review on Random SF Book Reviewer Site would. There's also the very basic formats of Title, 3-5 non-spoilery sentences, simple rating format or a list of book presented and it being left to people to ask in the comments if they want to know what the reader's thought.

It's all very different to what I'm used to over in the book blogger hobbyist space (which is not the greatest description; they don't have a claim to the term book blogger, but I'll roll with it for now). We often model our reviews after that structure. But I wonder how worthwhile that is in the long run. Is it more accessible than the types of book sharing/discussion I see on Dreamwidth? Sometimes I do really wonder if I wouldn't be better off focusing on reading more stories, and then doing column-style summaries like Sleeps With Monsters does sometimes, or like I see in pro magazines or online newspapers. Part of our mission here is to read and talk about women and non-binary folks, and give their books attention so other people can find them in a noisy environment. But this is complicated by the amount of time it takes us to put together a formal review and whether or not people even read the review due to how we structure our reviews and the content we choose to include in them. I wonder if that format is just a little bit inaccessible, and then exacerbated by the fact we don't use ratings.

(I'll never use ratings. Ratings are hard.)

Some of this is also related to feeling very tied to a specific review style, so going back and forth depending on the book(s), the context, and the time I have available will be bad for actually getting eyes on the books I want to promote. This is definitely a weird thing that comes from the Blogger community specifically that I internalized while I was active over there, and it's silly. But I was active over there in a time when BUILD YOUR OWN BRAND AND STICK TO IT was very popular. I have a serious mental block on just doing whatever I want to do and formatting entries whatever way the wind takes me. I would love to just do whatever format feels right for me on the day I decide to throw some words down, but as per usual, I worry.

ME: This'll be fine. It's a little different, but it was fun!
ANXIETY MONSTER: Think about it this way: What if it isn't? What if you change things and people never take your recs again because they liked the old reviews better?
ME: Oh.
ME: *rewrites everything*

Then I also worry about review copy: do publishers/authors expect their books to be covered individually at all times when in comes to fan reviewers on blogs? I'm not sure. N.K. Jemisin does a NYTimes column; there was Dark Visions and Science Fiction. Sunil Patel has launched a column in Lightspeed that's excellent, too. But is this style kosher for non-paid reviewing? In some cases it's way easier, and more accessible to readers, to use 300-500 words each about several books and get the word out, versus using 2000 words about one, which takes longer, covers fewer authors, and may spoil the whole experience of the book if not handled correctly.

This navel-gazing brought to you by a lady who reads S L O W L Y and wants to read more, but knows that means writing less (and therefore not being considered as important as more active blogs by dudes, covering dudes, sob) and continues to be put out by her lack of superhero speed reading powers.

Date: 2015-03-17 08:11 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: A brown-haired girl in a gingham dress looking at the viewer over her shoulder. (Thinky Thoughts)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Anxiety Monster lies. I just wanted that to be the first thing about my comment you'd see, because it lies and is evil. And also it doesn't know what it's talking about. (I know that won't make anxiety monster disappear, but even so. It lies.)

I think another factor to consider is that some people lurk rather than comment. On other sites, like WordPress, you can get an indication of how many people have viewed your site even if they don't comment, but DW doesn't offer anything similar. At least not on its own. So it's harder to tell how many people are actually reading. I often read your reviews here because of how you write them, but I'm only just starting to not-lurk.

That said, there is a difference in community feel, yes. ^_^ I think part of that is down to the kind of site that DW is compared to, say, WordPress. DW is geared towards being a private platform that allows public use, whereas WP is geared towards being a public platform that allows private use. So if the sites attract different kinds of people they'd develop different styles to do things.

I personally end up with a reviewing mixture of "individual post" and "round-up" depending on whether or not I feel a) safe discussing something in more detail, b) like I have enough to say about it and can find the words to say it. Sometimes I don't. I'm still really wary of discussing games, for example.

*good thoughts* I'm sorry. This is probably not helping you with the review quandary, but I wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your reviews even if I (still) usually lurk. ^_^

Date: 2015-03-17 07:33 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: Little bear holding a heart with the text "Sending love to you" (sending love and hugs)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
It is very scary! And it is much easier to remind other people of the lying of the anxiety monster than reminding yourself. I don't think anyone who fights the anxiety monster is good at taking their own advice. Would you like us to think along with potential ways to get past the anxiety monster? I'd be happy to brainstorm along and I'm sure I'm not the only one. ^_^

I miss them too! And thankfully there is, yes. I hope the buffer is working. <3 (I Fail at Tumblr. >>)

It is! *good thoughts* You do a lot of awesome work and I'm in awe of how you manage to do considering this is a small blog on free time. Do not listen to the people telling you that you're not "active" enough or not relevant. THEY LIE JUST AS MUCH AS THE ANXIETY MONSTER. You are plenty active and you are totally relevant! It sounds like the whole thing will crop up no matter what you do? I don't know if that changes anything, though I know it wouldn't for me. It's just... one of those depressing things. Some people will never be happy with what you do for some reason or another. :(

Ultimately, you all should do what works best for you. <3

Date: 2015-03-18 07:03 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: Little bear holding a heart with the text "Sending love to you" (sending love and hugs)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
<3 I admittedly don't know you too well, but I would also be happy to be like that whenever you need people to be like that. <3

<3 I am so in awe by your ability to do that. <3 *is a scaredy cat*

Date: 2015-03-17 08:17 am (UTC)
goodbyebird: Borgen: Birgitte standing in front of the seal of the Prime Ministry. (Borgen)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
At Lady Business, we tend to write long, analytical solo reviews that don't really do much for people who haven't read the books in question, especially people avoiding spoilers.

Writing reviews that are more conversations about books are just as valid, imo. You're in fandom, we want to talk about the stuff we liked ;) Writing about something they way you feel like writing about something is absolutely the way to go.

I don't read most of your book posts here because I know how you approach them, and being a giant spoiler-phobe, they are Not For Me. And that's more than ok! I do know that if you liked the thing, it is more likely that I will as well (hallelujah for finding like-minded people in fandom), and I do keep them in mind so if I ever do read the book, I get to skip back and pretty much walk into an awesome conversation from other people engaging with the same book. How cool is that? ♥♥♥

(In my head, I tend to separate it into blogging and journaling; blogging is designated to be read more widely and will conform to certain rules and formats, while journaling is more of a personal output, and basically the only rule that applies is: is this what you want to talk about/how you want to talk about it? And they are both of course valid choices, and you can do one or the other, or a mixture of both.)

In short: I like it when people talk about stuff. Please talk about stuff however you want.

Finding book bloggers with similar taste to yours take some worth, but it's worth it. \o/ fyi <3

Date: 2015-03-17 10:27 am (UTC)
goodbyebird: Gilmore Girls: Lorelai is drinking coffee, though I'm totally going to pretend it's tea. (GG Lorelai runs on caffeine)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
I would very much welcome some gushing/capslock in the beginning of review posts if that strikes you, especially if it's capslock about a specific thing like OMG TWO LADIES IN SPACE AND THEY HAVE A SPACE DOG AND ALSO SCIENCE, SCIENCE IS A THING THEY ABSOLUTELY HAVE. (ok that started trying to be about Bel and Rowan towards the end there lol. How far along are youuu?)

The why aren't you catering to my exact needs like you're supposed to!!1!! comments can go burn. I'm glad you see that =)

Date: 2015-03-17 07:36 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: Little bear holding a heart with the text "Sending love to you" (sending love and hugs)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
What [personal profile] goodbyebird said. <3

(And also I love co-reviews. I feel like I am terrible at them, but the ones I've done were so much fun. I hope you'll enjoy doing co-reviews if you decide to go that route! Somehow I keep picking books that I end up not liking all that much for them. >>)

Date: 2015-03-18 07:06 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: Little bear holding a heart with the text "Sending love to you" (sending love and hugs)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
This is very true! It's why the ones I did were so much fun to do. <3 And so far (in the three books I've done) it's also really helped me appreciate a book more by trying to see my co-reviewer's perspective. I think that's my favourite part. ^_^

Date: 2015-04-04 05:06 am (UTC)
calissa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] calissa
As a past co-reviewer of yours, you are definitely not terrible! I had a blast writing ours together and you definitely helped me see the book from another point of view.

Date: 2015-03-17 10:08 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bookpunks
First off to speak to your worry of doing a review in any kind of "alternative" format, I say awesome. I get really bored of book reviews always being formatted the same, and I love when something weird and interesting and different in any way pops up. Makes me more likely to read a review of something I might not have bothered to read about otherwise.

That makes me think of From Couch to Moon who occasionally writes these reviews where she "talks" to the author and the author responds through quotes from the book. It is awesome. For an example of a nontraditional style that works really well.

It seems to me (and reading the forestofglory post you linked above) that people's reasons for reading reviews are incredibly varied and subjective and almost impossible to pin down. I know I read pretty much everything written by certain bloggers because I either like their reviewing style and find it interesting no matter what they are writing about, I share taste with them and can pretty accurately judge by their thoughts what I will think, or its of a book that I have already read or am interested in learning more about.

When I think about what I decide to review and what I don't, it so often comes down to time. There are certain things I make sure to review (stuff sent to me specifically to do such, for example, though sometimes even those just get a short review in a round-up because sometimes that is all they deserve or all I can manage). I purposely don't reveiw a lot of the dude author books I read, and make sure to push myself to review the ones written by women and other genders for the same reason you mentioned about wanting those names to get more exposure. But again, sometimes time just comes down on me with a hammer and I don't get to do any of the things I want and hey, oh well.

Somewhere you said something about frequency of posts in relationship to relevance (but now that I want to comment on it I can't find it sorry hope I didnt imagine it completely its been that kind of week) to which I say: I think the relevance of your posts creates your relevance, and not how often they come. The old quality versus quantity argument.

Anyway, that's my 70 cents for this morning. Cheers.

Date: 2015-03-25 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bookpunks
Duuuude. That is fucked up. That anyone would even think they had the crown of book bloggerdom to define "posting enough" as well as to give quantity more precendence than quality makes me feel sad about the world. Just ugh. And while it COULD be a coincidence with that comment and getting denied review copies, it sounds like there is a good chance that it wasn't. Though I am currently rereading The Raven Boys so any time I hear someone say "coincidence" I think, yeah, because it's not.

Couch to Moon is one of my favorite blogs, one of the ones I read everything by because I just like the way she writes and she makes me laugh. I would LOVE hearing about everybody's favorite book blogs because I am constantly plagued by the feeling that I am missing out on some of the most awesome. I go through people's blogrolls from time to time looking for new stuff, but they tend to be out of date with dead blogs and whatnot. Can we make a memey thing of share your five favorite SF blog things? Though at the same time that sort of thing gives me anxiety because I don't like to make people feel bad for not being on the list who I might also read but hey, five is a small number. For years and years on my personal blog I didn't have a blogroll for exactly that reason. ANYWAY.

Date: 2015-03-17 11:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanhatedliterature.net
I agree, the Anxiety Monster lies.
You should review however you think or feel you should review. I tend to go for non-spoiler reviews, but sometimes you really want to talk about something in particular. Once the spoilers are clearly labelled, no biggie.

I think some reviews are meant to give a general feel of the book, others are all about the *feels*, and some all about the what could have been. All are great.
Personally I dont read spoiler reviews, I'll usually have a quick looksee at the opening paragraph to get an idea of what the reviewer thought, and then, whenever I get around to reading the book I'll hopefully come back and read the full thing. (This is why I'm trying to keep track of reviews & why I've added a book to Mount TBR, so I know who to visit and blame ;) )

As for ratings, well I do them, but they are only really for me, and are a rating of how much I loved, or didn't, love a thing. Usually my ratings tend to be around 7-8.

Date: 2015-03-18 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanhatedliterature.net
I've only been tracking since the start of the year, before that I'd been adding books to a mental TBR pile, or tagging them and posting a picture to tumblr, but it is too hard to search. So I set up a google form & spreadsheet with the basics. The form is here : https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Kz-xzK2EenKFbITNh4Nub3oNf961uh1n7qbOFS-Od88/viewform I can add anything there and then later when I have time I go to the spreadsheet & add in other info, like if I've pre-ordered it, or own it, or bought it for the library at work.

As for ratings, I think it is so valid that they change over time and with distance. I tend to stick with the original rating until I reread a book, or if I'm trying to pick favourites I might occasionally change something, but a rating isn't the main focus of a review, imo, its just a guideline and an opinion, and opinions change. So too can ratings :)

I would so read that space werewolves story, we should commission someone to write it!

Date: 2015-03-17 07:57 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
There's definitely a disparity between how I like to write & what people like to read. I always really want to write those collected posts about things I don't have the time or interest in reviewing long form for the reasons you mentioned but, in truth, I really hate writing collective short burst review posts. I actually find it more stressful than writing long form and so I procrastinate it a lot until it's even harder because I'm more removed from the things I wanted to write about (which is why I'm always late on book rec guest projects anyone who has been involved with me on those). But even people who like the kind of stuff I talk about in long form often comment that they don't want to read my posts until they've consumed the media. And that can take a long time by which time they've forgotten about my review or decided they don't want to read reviews about that piece of media or they've just gotten really busy.

This year I've had to keep pushing the 'I'm writing this for myself because I like writing like this' line in my head because otherwise I'd either end up writing reviews which wouldn't make me feel excited about writing and I'd stop writing or I'd just stop writing publicly because of the weight of knowing few people can really use my reviews. It's especially difficult when you want to signal boost stuff you love and you can't generate any reach because the way you write doesn't fit what people want to read. It's the same reason we (I? we?) worry about all the comments you get about how regular our posts should be, and people encouraging us to do more posts, because if our format doesn't fit what people want it undermines our ability to get people excited about stories we love. Book blogging has all this weird informal crossover with marketing and if bloggers want to reap the benefits of the marketing side of blogs (influence, helping stories reach audiences) then they are going to have to accept that either fitting form to audience or uncovering a niche but influential audience that likes a different form is important to achieving those goals. And if you actually feel drawn towards doing some reviews in a way that fits a popular form I say go for it because as far as I can see it's only going to help you get the word out about things you enjoy :)

Date: 2015-03-18 07:17 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: A brown-haired girl in a gingham dress looking at the viewer over her shoulder. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Maybe us posting individual short form reviews wouldn't be that bad in the long run?

I don't see why it should be bad? Especially if shorter individual posts also help against that stupid "Nuu, you need lots of posting to be relevant!" commentary. (As someone else said, it's the content that makes you relevant. In some cases the timing, but certainly not the number of posts you have. But hey if people are going to be complain-y about it and shorter posts would address it...)

For me, posts tend to run the length of what they need to be. Like, my review of The Raven Boys is 3,000+ words in total, but the other day I wrote a reaction post to a half-hour episode that was around 500 (I think) because I had nothing to say.

Date: 2015-03-18 10:35 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
<3 Reading each others words forever :D

I want to see what you come up with for collective reviews because maybe it will show me a path to not being stressed out by writing them. And I think we could absolutely do more short form reviews and feel no guilt for less words (sometimes I have that guilt too).

Date: 2015-03-18 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theliteraryomnivore.wordpress.com
Oh, does the Anxiety Monster lie. <3

Honestly, I can only parrot what people have said above: review however you want to review. Given the goals of lady business, it is important to think about how it can utilized for signal-boosting, but at the end of the day, it has to be something that you find satisfying and useful. That comes before anybody else utilizing it. When it comes to some of this stuff, other people (especially the dudely "establishment") can go jump in a lake, quite frankly!

As for spoilers… everybody's different about spoilers. I'm a spoiler-phobe, but I know people who have to read spoilers. Label accordingly, keep it clean above the cut, and you're good to go, in my opinion.

Date: 2015-03-31 11:01 pm (UTC)
sathari: (A good book)
From: [personal profile] sathari
Hello! I'm dropping in a bit late (like, by two week, ulp) but I just wanted to say that I've really appreciated the in-depth reviews I've read here--- they give me enough information to decide if I want to invest time/energy/emotional attachment in the stories and characters. (I could do a whole riff on how "spoiler" is a loaded term for me, because they don't "spoil" the experience of the story for me, they let me decide if it's something I want in my head at this actual moment--- and the reviews I've read on [community profile] ladybusiness have definitely let me make those decisions and in fact decide to engage with some stories that I might have passed by if I hadn't had the detailed overview and analysis to bring me in.)

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