Explaining How I Do Things Around Here (A Manifesto)

When I started this blog just about four years ago, I had no idea it would evolve into anything like it has. I began it with the sole purpose of having a place to put my personal thoughts on books, primarily because people love to ask me “what do you think of X” and I can never remember. Over time, and much to my (pleasant) surprise, I’ve managed to accumulate a whole bunch of readers, write for two e-zines, and am getting sent ARCs right and left.

Because my blog has evolved in the direction it has (and because of a recent email exchange), I figured it was probably past time for me to put down in writing what I’m attempting to do here, and elsewhere, with the reviews I write.

The basic principles guiding what I do around here:

  • I review everything I read: the good, the bad, the didn’t finish. I do that because I, at least, want to know whether I liked a book or not, or whether I managed even to get through it, and, if so, why I abandoned it. I know that when I don’t like a book, I can come off as mean sometimes, because I like to be honest. I also know I have offended authors in the past, because I have said that I haven’t liked their books. Know that this is just my opinion. I know I am able to change them (or not) with enough discussion, because I have in the past. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to go back and change what I wrote about the book, because I want to remember what I thought when I read it initially. If I choose to reread a book, and my opinion of it has changed, I’ll put up a new review.
  • Here on Book Nut, I try to only review books I obtain myself. That means: gifts, library books, books that I either bought or won. I don’t do author interviews here. I don’t (usually) review ARCs here, though I have a few times in the past. I think I have noted in my review that it was a book not obtained by personal means; if not, it’s something that I will rectify in the future. I may change my policy in the future, but for right now, I’d rather not review books given to me by publishers, publicists and authors here.
  • The ARCs that I am sent (whether by publishers, publicists, or authors), I review in one of two places: Estella’s Revenge (ER) or The Edge of the Forest (TEOTF). Generally speaking, ER gets all the upper-YA and adult books, TEOTF gets all the lower-YA and middle grade (and some picture books, when I get those; I don’t usually do picture books, though). I am also more than willing to do author interviews for ER.
  • I try not to accept ARCs that I have no interest in, or I don’t think I’ll even remotely like. However, generally I am only going off publicist blurbs and cover pictures when I make those decisions, and so I’m going to invariably get a few that initially I may think I’m going to like but end up disliking.
  • That said, I can only read and review so much a month for those two publications (averaging about 3 a month for each), and so it’s easy for me to get behind. But I do read everything. Eventually.
  • My reviews for ER tend to be similar to what I write at Book Nut. I do try to be less chatty, and more descriptive (and longer), but if I didn’t like the book, I’m going to say so. For TEOTF, however, I tend to range from cautiously positive to adoring. Even if I didn’t like the book, I’ll try and write something that isn’t completely negative. Yes, that may not be completely honest, but that’s the way the publication treats books. I’m just writing for the audience there.
  • When I read a book, I am influenced by: the previous book I read, the mood I’m in, my stress level, whether or not my kids are climbing on me while I read (or write!), my religion, my age, my situation in life, my political beliefs, and a whole host of other factors. I don’t apologize for that. As I said before, I’m interested in my initial response to the book. I do try to say, in the review, if there are any cirumstances that could have affected my reading of the book (like I read an excellent book previously, or I read the graphic novel version/saw the movie first, or I was having a bad day, or I was annoyed at the narrator/characters/copy-editing) so that my readers will know what my opinion is shaped by. I would like to think that makes my opinion still valuable to my readers, but I don’t want anyone to think that I am conciously trying to be especially “objective” or “professional” or “balanced” in my reviews; they are my opinion, first and foremost. As I said before, my attitudes may (or may not) change with time, and from time to time I do revisit books.
  • Authors: if you do have an issue with what I write, leave a comment or write me an email at mmfbooks AT gmail DOT com. PLEASE remember that it’s just my opinion. I’m not out to vilify you or destroy your career.

I think that’s about it.

9 thoughts on “Explaining How I Do Things Around Here (A Manifesto)

  1. I agree. Honestly, do authors run around trolling the internet for negative reviews to complain about? If so they need to spend more time writing. Anyone who thinks that every person who reads their book is going to love it either has a monster ego or has rocks in their head. I don’t love everything I read and sometimes wonder why everyone else seems to love something I didn’t. That’s just how it is. What I like others may not and vice versa.

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  2. I second what you say on authors who run around trashing people who say bad things about their book. Seriously, it’s not as though I’m trashing the author, I just happened to not like something they wrote. And if an author is going to be so sensitive about criticism, then they should publish in the first place!

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  3. Wow, I guess I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve only received a few author comments and they’ve been on books I liked. But I love everything you said, IF an author had an issue with something I said that’s fine. But I’m not going to like every arc I read nor am I going to pretend I do.

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  4. Hey people, I didn’t mean for this to be an author-bashing forum. I do understand how they can be defensive of their work — I would be if someone didn’t like my book, too. I just wanted to say that the author’s feelings about my review isn’t something I take into consideration when I write it. I didn’t mean to come off as saying “hey deal with it authors!” Maybe I should rework that part…

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  5. I appreciated reading your manifesto, because I agree with a lot of it! I also like to be frank about what influences my reaction to a book, and talk about all of them: be they good, average, poor or ones I quit on. I’ve only reviewed a very few books received from authors/publishers on my blog, because most of the offers don’t look like something I’d be interested in- over half the ones I got, I ended up not liking, and then felt kinda bad about saying so. But I did it anyways.

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  6. I appreciate bad reviews just as much as good ones. And I’m still willing to read something someone else hated, because I might love it. Everyone’s taste is different, so, while I can be somewhat guided by other’s recommendations, I won’t know for sure what *I* think about a book till I read it for myself. Thanks for posting your reviews here. I enjoy getting the straight scoop on books, rather than someone just pandering to an author/publisher.

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  7. Good job spelling things out. I think I approach things in a very similar manner for my personal blog, ER (though I write for it less lately because of work), and Bibliobuffet. I need to post a “review policy” of sorts over at my place at some point.

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