The fourth installment of TFF’s new guest post series on the demands of reviewing welcomes Ken Wong from Paperless Reading.
“As Ken goes on to say in the guest post, he writes some of the most well-written and critical reviews, with an eye to considering as many angles as he can. I’ve enjoyed reading his reviews for nearly a year and he is one of my go-to recommendations for books. Much as with all the other posts so far, he too takes a different approach to the topic at hand.” ~Shadowhawk
Complexities of Reviewing
by Ken Wong
I love talking about books and have discovered many great books through various online book club discussions. So in the summer of 2011 I decided to create my own blog to catalogue my reading progress and my growth as a reader. Even though I’ve been doing this for a year and a half, I still find it hard to write reviews for books.
What makes it so hard is that there are so many elements to a good book. Just because I enjoyed a book it doesn’t mean there are no flaws within it. Even if a book is winning awards and getting praise all around for its execution, I might still find something that I hate. So when I write a review I try to consider all the different elements and take into account how they affected me as a reader in order to give a balanced review.
I decided long ago not to give scores to my reviews on my blog. If I scored a book 5 out of 5, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best book I’ve ever read, just that I enjoyed the hell out of it at the time. Similarly if I rated a book 3 out of 5, it doesn’t mean I view it in the same regard as another book that has also scored 3 out of 5. I also tend to rate the second book in a series more harshly than the first but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I like it any less just that I’m more critical this time round. I just hope that my review will reflect clearly my view of the book so that some other reader or I can look back and understand my feelings of the book.
My blog isn’t big enough to attract trolls or the diehard fans so I can afford to be more critical and not get flamed. However I’m still reluctant to let the authors know on social media that I have written a negative review of one of their works. Who am I to tell them that the plot sucked or the pacing had issues? They are the ones that have spent years on their craft and I’m only doing this reviewing gig as a hobby. I can sugar-coat it but at the end of the day I have to be honest about how I feel. Just like a book can’t please everyone, neither can a review. It’s merely a snapshot of your view as a reviewer at that moment in time. People do and will change. Like Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. Even though I have negative feelings for a book at the moment, after a few years I might come back and appreciate it on imagery and levels that I have never realised before.
Writing a book review is a subjective activity and the life experience of the reviewer will obviously influence how the piece is written. You can criticise me on my writing style or jumbled thoughts and you might even disagree with me on the book but you can never say that my feelings are wrong. As long as I am being truthful in my reviews then as a reviewer I have no regrets.
Ken Wong/Paperless Reading on , and Web.
The next guest on for the series will be fellow reviewer and friend Paul Weimer from “SF Signal“, on the 14th of March .
Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.