I enjoyed a fabulous discussion somewhere (where?! – do you know?) about reviewing styles and touches on the professional reviewer vs. the casual ‘reader’ reviews. I copied/cut&pasted this format. I regret to say that I did not copy the link of the source post where I saw a comment from Ramya on what makes a good review… Please, if anyone knows, I would appreciate the information. Thank you Ramya for commenting this (her words in blue) – I give you full credit as my inspiration.
1. A picture of the cover. I go a lot by first impressions and most of the time, I am right.
Reader Review & Opinion A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, Vintage Contemporaries Vintage Books 1993, 256 pages
2. A short summary of the book. This is very important for me. There are certain books I usually don’t like and I am not going to read further if this is one of them.
A young uneducated black man is accused of murder and sentenced to hang. The young man’s elderly godmother encourages his cousin, the Negro teacher in town, to persuade the young man to go to his death with dignity. The book asks the question, “What does it mean to be a man?” and explores how both men are changed by the experience. Set in the deep South, late 1940s.
3. What the reviewer liked about the book – the cover, the writing style, the length, the characters.
I don’t often select books by their covers, certainly not this one. I read this because I had heard the title as one being ‘important.’ I knew it as one that could be genre-fied to be African-American and the title definitely implies deep and heavy material. (Yes and no – heavy but not difficult.) I liked the book, the style was just fine – – ugh, I am not good at critiquing style; If it was not distracting and pulled me into the story = wonderful. The characters were believable, the action and ideas interesting, the descriptions exact, real and not distracting. The mood was not maudlin nor melancholy and not really angry exactly but reluctantly/resignedly hopeful – a book about death and futility yet with the realization that we are what we think we are and that dignity is personal.
4. What the reviewer didn’t like about the book (in many cases, this is more important than (3) but these days, with the advent of ARC*s, reviewers shy away from writing what they didn’t like about the book:(
I am rating this book THREE PIEs but I know that over time, I will like this book more and more. I can’t find any faults with it. I just didn’t experience that over the top emotional pull. SPOILER? Maybe once the connection happened, it transformed too quickly? and yet, cerebrally, I don’t think it could have been played any better. But, yea, maybe I didn’t quite buy the ending in that I wanted more about what happens to the teacher and that wasn’t the main point of the story.
5. Personal tidbits – I love a personal review. Most of the bloggers I visit often are my friends now and I love to read some personal detail about them in their review… my way of getting to know them better!
Why did I read this: Because I saw in on a shelf at the discount store and love a bargain? I allow books to call to me. I do think that it is an important book. I think it would be an excellent book discussion book – I know that I missed BIG THOUGHTS and would appreciate a few clubs over the head to ‘think about THIS’ and I know that I don’t have enough connections in my life to not be uncomfortable with the concept of race relations and don’t quite have an idea how to work that out. [Whoa – that was an awkward but accurate sentence.]
I really want to see the movie. I might have to have my own African-American Film Festival and watch this (starring Don Cheadle – one of my all time favorite actors, AND Mehki Phifer AND Cicely Tyson ) and Their Eyes Were Watching God with Halle Berry.
“I also believe that you are what you have to defend, and if you’re a black man that’s always going to be the bar against which you are judged, whether you want to align yourself with those themes or not. You can think of yourself as a colourless person, but nobody else is gonna.”
– Don Cheadle, from his profile on imdb.com
* For your information – I never read *new* ARCs – sometimes I’ve read discarded old ones… The only publisher-sent book** that I did read was so incredibly awful and offensive that I’m scarred for life. I usually read books after the buzz and sometimes decades later. I bounce around genres and themes and often fail my challenges because I read whatever and have a hard time sticking to a plan. I felt the need to state this since the hot topic these days is free books and requests for positive reviews. I’ve got so many books I want to read, I am boggled you guys sign up for this ARC heartache. ARC-ache!?
** I didn’t even record the title but Raych read it and gave it the scathing review it deserved.