How To Decide What To Read? A Reviewer’s Point of View by Fran Lewis

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As a reviewer I receive numerous requests each week from many different authors to review their titles. However, I do not always agree to review every title that I receive. Panning a book or giving a negative review is not my style. Constructive criticism to a point is valid. Rating books becomes a difficult task at times as everyone wants Five Stars but not every title warrants it. Trying to find some common ground at times is not easy but presenting the author with a fair, honest and straightforward review is my goal. My reviews tend to be detailed but never have any spoilers.

Everyone wants to think that they have the next number one New York Times Best selling novel. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone succeeded! But, let’s be realistic most books are not best sellers but there are some debut authors and less seasoned ones that I can definitely say are on their way. Not every book on the Times best seller list gets five stars from me. Not every storyline is fast paced, cohesive and keeps me glued to the printed page. Not every book peeks my interest and sometimes grammar and spelling errors get in the way of the plot and the flow of the story. In cases where the book does not warrant at least three stars I provide the author with a summary or synopsis of the book and will not post it on Amazon or any site that requires a rating.

Choosing which books to review first was easy at first but became more difficult at the amount of books received increased. At first I would review the titles with the least amount of pages in order to complete them first. That made sense. But, there are few if any titles that have fewer than 300 pages and those that do the font are often small making it harder for me to read. So, I had to resort to a better way of choosing the ones that I felt I wanted to focus on first. Everyone is different and each reviewer has his or her own style of presenting a review and their own turn around time. I love murder mysteries, memoirs, and historical fiction, fiction and have course biographies. I tend to toss aside self-help books, inspirational books and books that are sent to me by publishers that I call surprises or books that show up at my door unexpected and can wait until I get to them. I love reviewing books and there are so many talented authors that have gone unnoticed and whose titles I feel are equal to those on the many bestseller lists.

Reviewing takes commitment, a passion for reading and in my case a private oath that I have taken to present a review that will spotlight every author’s work that I read in a fair, honest and straightforward way. What do I read? What ever I am fortunate to receive? Deciding which to review is often my biggest problem but if I commit to a blog tour, cover reveal of specific site that needs a review within a specific time frame those titles come first because deadlines have to be met and I always meet them. If someone sends me a book in large print it moves to the top of my list. Of course if you are Mark Rubinstein, Ken Weene, Steve Berry or John Lescroart you must might more to the top of my list even faster. But, for those who are not familiar with Mark Sasse you might want to read The Reach of the Banyan Tree. Others who are not familiar with Larry Thompson, Insanity Plea or Jon Land’s Caitlin Strong Series. But, what about authors like Fran Orenstein whose YA titles are first rate or even Christoph Fischer and Time To Let Go! There are so many new authors that have gone unnoticed and authors like Daniel Palmer who should move to the top. No matter what you read or how you choose what you read authors appreciate an honest review. Remember: Not everyone will get Five Stars but that does not mean that your title is not good or that you should stop writing. A mean and negative review is wrong. Reading just a few pages and not completing the novel and reviewing it is not fair to the author. So, how do you choose what you read? What are your favorite books to review? Who are your favorite authors? Success to everyone: Fran

A good challenge is something that I would never shy away from. My sister, MJ or Marcia Joyce dared me to review a cookbook. Now, you have to understand that I don’t cook and have no idea what the knobs on a stove are used for or why they are even there. I am serious. No kidding! My sister thought it was really cool when Martha Cheves suggested that I review her book Stir Laugh and Repeat. I thought it was going to be my first and last attempt at writing a review. But, after reading her book, checking out the cook recipes and then the personal stories she relates about each one, I knew I was up for the challenge. Not only did Martha love my review, but she appreciated my sense of humor when referring myself as a non cook who could just about figure out maybe one of her recipes but the personal stories were priceless. It seems that one review received quite a bit of acclaim and my sister thought after reading and editing my work, which was one of her favorite pastimes, that I just might have a career in this non-paying job and I would make a real name for myself. Not sure if that happened but I have reviewed so many books that I have lost count of the number. My sister then decided to take things one-step further when I told her that I was offered a guest host spot on Red River Writers. Little did I know that I was going to be the host of Book Discussion and Chat Time. With MJ’s guidance and her distinct ability to map out what I should say and how I should say it I managed to get through show one and I guess I must have done something right because I am still a reviewer and still hosting radio shows.

I am dedicating this short piece to MJ’s memory and the fact that it is with her encouragement that I have succeeded today. In her memory I have created MJ magazine for readers, writers and authors and I love interviewing authors on Chat Time on Red River Writers and Book Discussion on The World Of Ink.

 

Bio

Fran Lewis: Fran worked in the NYC Public Schools as the Reading and Writing Staff Developer for over 36 years. She has three masters Degrees and a PD in Supervision and Administration. Currently, she is a member of Who’s Who of America’s Teachers and Who’s Who of America’s Executives from Cambridge. In addition, she is the author of three children’s books and a fourth that has just been published on Alzheimer’s disease in order to honor her mom and help create more awareness for a cure. The title of her new Alzheimer’s book is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey; Ruth’s story and Sharp as a Tack and Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? Fran is the author of 11 titles.

Some of Fran’s reviews can be read at Ezine.com and Lunch.com. Her Internet radio show is on Blogtalk.

To find Fran Lewis’s books: http://www.amazon.com/Fran-Lewis/e/B002F8Z87U

To sample her reviews, visit http://tillie49.wordpress.com/

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8 thoughts on “How To Decide What To Read? A Reviewer’s Point of View by Fran Lewis

    1. Trish Jackson

      Fran, Thank you for this informative post. I absolutely agree with you that it is wrong to skim through a few pages and then write a review. As you mentioned, reviews are important to authors. I always make the effort to write reviews for the books I read. However, one negative review can ruin a writer’s self-esteem and reputation, so if I can’t find anything positive to say, I simply decline to write a review at all.

      Reply
  1. Linda Hales

    I ditto Trish’s comments. Excellent and comprehensive article Fran which reminds us that the review process must be fair and honest and maintain integrity at all times.

    Reply
  2. Micki Peluso

    Fran, excellent essay on writing reviews. My own are up to 106 on Amazon and tend to be long like some of yours since I do a summary of the work. I’ve done vetted reviews when asked to do so from the writer who may be in a hurry. It’s not a bad thing and I do finish the book later. I read about a third, check out other reviews and yes, Ron the jacket blurb and I read the end but don’t give it away. What I hate is when award contests don’t read the entire book. I won several book awards but the one who did not read the whole book I lost. My book has too many flashbacks to vet a review or contest–so live and learn. I enjoy reviewing and wish I had more time to answer all the requests I get—instead, I send them on to Fran or Martha 🙂

    Reply
  3. Martha Love

    Fran, I certainly enjoyed your article and your perspective as a reviewer. It is nice to get to know you a little better. I agree that it is helpful to review books that interest you or in the case of non-fiction, that you have some knowledge in the subject or field. Putting that wisdom aside and having just published a cookbook myself, I loved that MJ guided you as a non-cook to have a new reviewing experience and review a cookbook.

    Reply

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