Quandaries of Reviewing with Mihir Wanchoo
The latest blogger guesting today for the eighth installment of this series on the demands of reviewing is Mihir Wanchoo from Fantasy Book Critic.
“Mihir is another terrific blogger I met last year and I follow his posts with quite a bit of interest that’s also due in part to our shared camaraderie and nature as Indians. In fact, he is the only Indian blogger I know of currently. One of the other reasons I follow Mihir’s reviews is because our likes and dislikes happen to match quite a bit and its interesting to see the similarities and differences in our opinions.” ~Shadowhawk
Quandaries of Reviewing
by Mihir Wanchoo
I came to know Abhinav via his blogging activities and twitter. The fact that he’s a fellow Indian also helps in our correspondence when we infrequently talk about cricket and other shared interests. Abhinav was kind enough to invite me to write about blogging and the issues each blogger faces. Herein is my perspective, which I hope might be of interest to at least a couple of you.
Since this series of posts began over questions about a negative review. I thought of writing about negative reviews. I started blogging in early 2009 and I think it was partly fate and wholesome kindness on the part of Robert and Liviu, my editors at FBC who invited me. While reviewing at FBC, I also got to learn a thing or two from them and my fellow compatriots Cindy & Fabio who were especially kind to newbie me. Personally I had no background in writing besides my love for books and fantasy in particular. I learned how to write a review by reading several reviews by the then blogging stalwarts such as Robert & Liviu from FBC, Kristen from Fantasy Book Café, Graeme from Graeme’s fantasy Book review and Aidan from A Dribble Of Ink. I used to often see how they crafted their reviews and what points they highlighted in the books they liked, loved or disliked.
It’s from these fine folks that I managed to learn a bit and tried to emulate as best as I could. I honestly don’t know how I fared as a reviewer and that’s something for the readers to decide. However with each review I try to inculcate certain aspects. At Fantasy Book Critic we have a certain format that all reviewers stick to and within the review is where each of us differs in content and writing style. In my reviews I always try to talk about the plot, characterization and the pace of the story. Beyond this I often try to talk about what other plus or negative factors that snagged my attention. I usually focus on such, as these are the things that interest me in other book reviews. However with such reviews comes the self-doubt. Am I being true to each book, am I being objective? And so on so forth…
However nothing truly prepares you for a negative review, I didn’t find any manual which told how to prepare one or even write about it. I had previously read negative reviews and I recall there was a reviewer called Jay Tomio who used to write tough but fair reviews. I didn’t quite agree always with his thoughts but I had to admire his acerbic wit and writing style. My good friend Bastard has written this epic one about a book that he felt was the absolute dumps in regards to urban fantasy. So believe me when I say there’s a conundrum of information out there in regards to this vital aspect of blogging.
I have so far written only 2-3 negative reviews so far however I like to follow a thought process while doing so. One of things I was ingrained with in my childhood was to be respectful, even if I disagreed with someone or something; I had to offer my opinions in a dignified manner. I took that principle to such reviews and so while I try to point the major flaws in any book, I take care to point it out in as decently as possible. Why do I do this, because I believe every book written is one that is fueled by the author’s time, energy and passion. I don’t believe that just because I happen to dislike it or not like many facets about it gives me the right to put it mildly “shit on it”. Every reviewer has a different approach and so no one can claim any superiority with theirs. Have my methods worked? Both of my negative reviews incensed the authors to some degree, the first asked me to change the wordings and structure to which I politely explained my reasoning and why it could not be done so. The second wrote a very passive aggressive email early on the weekend to which I had to do the same.
Did it piss me off a bit? Yes. Will I change my style? No, because I still like to believe that there are decent people out there writing to entertain and make a living (hopefully). My benefit of doubt always goes in favor for them as I hope that every new person I interact with is giving me the same leeway when I read and review their work. I think that these are some crucial issues we bloggers face and so thank you for taking the time to listen to my ramblings. Also feel free to drop in a comment or two if you feel I’m bonkers or only slightly bonkers, I’ll do my best to allay your concerns.
The next guest, for the 18th, is not set at the moment, but do check back same time next week. You won’t be disappointed!
- Mieneke van der Salm from A Fantastical Librarian
- David Ledeboer from Troubled Scribe
- Ken Wong from The Paperless Reading
- Paul Weimer from SF Signal and The Functional Nerds
- Sarah Chorn from Bookworm Blues
- Bane of Kings