Some of the most recent forums have me thinking about this.
Frame of Reference: If I'm looking at my backyard from my bedroom window I get a different picture than if I'm standing on my back patio. The window and patio are both frames of reference.
So a frame of reference for book reviewing could be the core elements that any book should have- setting, characters, plot, climax, resolution. To make my reviews consistent, I need to use those core elements every time. I need to maintain the same frame of reference.
Other things about recent reviews I've read that have me thinking:
It's important to remember the book's audience. It seems to me that sometimes reviewers of children's book in particular forget the audience. They review the book from an adult viewpoint forgetting that the book was written for 8 year-olds. I think this does the author and the book a disservice.
Author's experience. If this is a first-time author, shouldn't that be taken into consideration?
Shouldn't a review be as objective as possible? That's where the frame of reference can help.
Anyway, what do you think? How do you go about reviewing (judging) a book?
RYCJ and Shawn: It's so important that reviewers recognize the audience for whom the book is written and review it acccordingly. Can you imagine a person reviewing a picture book and saying something like: The illustrations were beautiful and really helped to tell the story, but I was disappointed in the simplicity of the text. The author talked down to the reader by using pre-school vocabulary!!! That would be ludicrous, but I feel that some reviewer do just that with books written specifically for elementary and middle-school children.
Shawn: In another forum, you talked about how frustrating it was when an author's work is critiqued by someone who isn't familiar with the trade. It's vital that reviewers understand the elements of good, clear writing.
I wonder how Charles Dicken's or Jane Austen's novels would be perceived today if they were published under a psuedo-title and author with a contemporary cover?
This is an interesting question. I have been having a hard time lately with reviewing some books that I thought were bad. I try to judge first on writing - does it makes sense, does it flow, is the tempo right, etc. After that, I try to base it on if hte storyline is believable and likable. Does it suck me in. I try to be objective and realize that different people like different characters. Hence I try to focus on if it was a well written book rather than just if it appealed just to me.
At the end of the day though, it is the reviewer's opinion. That's why the desire by authors should be to get as many opinions out there as possible.
I don't think too much about the "review" when I read a book. Sometimes I make notes but mostly on dense non-fiction books. After I finish reading I try to gage my enjoyment of the book and why I enjoyed it.
Writing my thoughts about books I enjoyed are much more difficult than writing them for ones I did not like.
I review a book by how the plot and charaters are formed. Whether the book is fast paced, grabs you in its pages. I don't judge a book by its cover. every book I've read so far has its own way of exspressing what the author wants you to see. It up to them to make it worth your while to read. When I write about it, I find that its easier to tell what its about and how I feel about it. I never tell the ending. It spoils the book. Short and sweet sometimes is better as will.
Come check it out and see how I'm doing thing, Not every book is reviewed the same because each book is different.