How I Review…(or Sorry for not finishing the book)

Deadly Harvest A/W.inddIt’s been a bit of a hectic time recently. Mostly because we’ve just opened up a new business – Dive Academy in Yeovil. We’ve been building, painting, dressing mannequins, buying stock and learning to be baristas. It’s been very exciting and a completely new way of life. The downside is that I’ve hardly had any time to do any reading or review the few books that I have managed to read. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem. I’m happy to put the blog into periods of silence while real-life takes over. I was however a little over-confident in signing up to a few blog tours, but when there’s fresh blood from the brilliant Orenda Books you don’t want to say no. I managed to read and review Epiphany Jones in time for my blog tour space yesterday but I’ve failed absolutely miserably with my efforts to complete Deadly Harvest for today. So what do I do? Hide? Make something up? Or try to do something a little different?

I won’t lie, hiding had its appeal. As did just making up the review based on the first third or so of the book that I have completed but neither seemed right. So I thought I’d do something a little different and have a wee run through of my reviewing process. I’d love to know how other bloggers go about their reviewing.

I’m not – as you might have gathered – the most organised person. I don’t have lists of books, their release dates and review schedules. I’d like to be that person, but I’m just not. I have vague ideas of release months, piles of books around the house and a tendency just to pick up whatever looks good. I can’t read more than one book at a time and I will persevere beyond the limits of good sense with a book that I’m not enjoying.

I’m not a natural note-taker, I’ve tried it a couple of times but always forget to check them while writing the reviews. I try to store thoughts in my head to touch on during the review – when I do finish and write up my thoughts on Deadly Harvest I hope I’ll remember to touch on how the spectre of AIDS spreads across the entire story, as well as the main focus on muti (the use of body parts in black magic).

I start to make my judgements quite early on. I tend to know within about 50 pages what my score will be – a notable exception was Jihadi: A Love Story, which took me a while to acclimatise to the style. By this stage of a book (I’m 138 pages in, slightly more than a third) I’ve got a base score. For Deadly Harvest I’m looking at a 4 – a good, solid, enjoyable read that I’d recommend. I’m not rigid on scores though, I’ll happily bump ratings up if I find myself more appreciative of the story as I go on. Similarly, if I find myself getting frustrated I will amend the score downwards. Normally by the end of a book I know exactly what thepiphany jonese score that will appear in the review will be but not always – it took me a couple of days to decide that Epiphany Jones would be a 5 – and that was partly because of how much the book stayed in my head.

I start making judgments about the characters and think about how I’ll write them up. This is the first Detective Kubu novel by Michael Stanley that I’ve read but already I feel comfortable with the character and instinctively like him. I also have immediately taken to the new female detective Samantha Khama. On first impressions there’s some fun to be had with the older, conservative Kubu and the younger, more dynamic Samantha and I hope that’s how the story pans out.

I’ll spend a couple of hours reading other reviews of the book I’m writing about. Not to copy anything obviously, but given my lack of note taking I like to just make sure I’ve not forgotten anything. I also like to chime in with my comments on other reviews, it’s fun to talk about a book with someone who has read the same book. I make a specific point of reading reviews of books I haven’t enjoyed. I will always be honest in my reviews and say if I haven’t liked a book but I don’t like just being negative so I will tend to find some positives to offer from other reviewers.

I’m sorry I’ve not finished Deadly Harvest, I’m enjoying being taken away from Somerset to the exotic Botswana (a country I’d love to visit). The muti motivation for the disappearance of young girls is dark and seems very foreign to me as a British reader, but totally believable at the same time. I’m looking forward to finishing the book and actually writing my review – after all this time both the book and the review better be worth the wait.

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