April 5, 2015

How I Does Reviews

After a semi-short hiatus, I decided to start doing reviews of both music and books again. For books, I review what I check out of the library, both fiction and non, and for music, I review what I purchase on Amazon (which reminds me I have to do a review of this c.d.) or used.

For each type of medium that I partake in, I have two slightly different but also slightly the same criteria that I follow. Yes, I know that preceding sentence doesn't make sense, but hear me out on it just the same.

Books

I'll give anywhere from 2 to 4 1/2 stars. I don't believe in giving one star because that is unnecessarily cruel. Every book has a redeeming quality to it, badly written or not, so to give it a one is just plain stupid. So the lowest star I'll give is a two, and for a book to earn a two from me, all it has to contain is a well written inside jacket blurb and nothing else. If it has a well-written jacket blurb, that is the basic minimum needed that will get me to pick up a book. Click here for an example.

To get a three, it must have the aforementioned blurb, plus when I open it to a random page, the prose has to blow me away just enough to get the book out the door in my hands. Then to keep earning the three, the story doesn't grab but I'll either keep reading it to the end in the vain hope that somehow it'll get better or I'll simply find a stopping point and give up. If I give up, I'll try to find some redeeming quality to the book or to the writer (no bloody pick axe job on the writer, just a clean  hatchet job). Click here for an example or here for an example.

To get a four or four and a half, the book basically has to blow me away. The writing, the plot (for fiction) or the content (for non-fiction), the pacing, the fact that I couldn't put it down, everything that you could possibly think of that goes into the creation of a good book. The bulk of the reviews that I've written over the years fall into this category. Click here for an example of a four star or here for an example of a four and a half star.

I used to give five star reviews early on, mostly as a proponent for a new writer (note, I myself have been the recipient of half dozen five start reviews, either for the reason mentioned or because my book actually blew people way), but I found over the years, especially after reading a slew of five star reviews that other writers had thoughtfully posted on their FB wall, it got be harder for me to take a five star review seriously. If I come across a writer, new or old, who writes a book that absolutely blows me out of my shoes, then I'll leave a five. Which for me, averages about two a year. Click here for an example.


Music

I'll give anywhere from 3 to 5 stars for c.d. reviews. I don't believe in giving anything lower than three, because I believe that no matter how bad a piece of music might be, someone took the time and effort to produce it, so at the very least, they get a three, and that's basically for getting me to pick it up and pay for it.

Roughly 75% of my music purchases are used, with the remaining 25% being from Amazon. This is directly due to the fact that I either heard the artist previously on a used c.d., on vinyl, on the radio or live in concert, and was persistent enough to search them out.

As I previously stated, a three star review is the lowest I'll go. This is usually reserved for c.d. from a band that I either heard on the radio or on used c.d., and while the c.d. gets purchased for the radio hit, the rest of the c.d. is a hit and miss concept. A good example of this is the review I left for AWOLNation's Megalithic Symphony.

Four to four and a half stars make up roughly 95% of the music reviews that I leave. These are for c.d.'s from artists that either I've never heard of (see this review for Sammy Kershaw) or for artists that I've heard of and once I got the c.d. and was able to go beyond the radio hits and found a very entertaining c.d. (see this review for Everclear).

Five stars is something I rarely give to a c.d., simply because up until a few months ago, I never came across a c.d. that would absolutely blow me away and out of my shoes. Fortunately, I had the recent pleasure of listening to a c.d. by Fil Campbell, a fellow blogger and Celtic folk singer. This c.d. blew me away and out of my shoes. Please click here for the review.

And that my friends, is the logic I use to write book & music reviews. How 'bout you? If you write reviews, do you have specific set of criteria like I have, or do you simply wing it?

(c) 2015 by G.B. Miller. All Rights Reserved.

14 comments:

  1. Your system is really fair. I won't give ones and so far, I haven't given any twos. (If it's that bad, I stop listening/reading.)

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    1. There have been a few over the years where it's been so bad that I've given up within the first 20 pages (in the case of Robert Jordan, gave up after volume 9 when there seemed to be no end in sight).

      Frankly, a c.d. has to work exceptionally hard for me to give it a 2.

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  2. I do give 1 star reviews, to books I feel are really lazily written, or those that I think are pretentious. I'll give 5 stars for those that I really enjoy and don't have any big obvious errors.

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    1. Pretentious? That's an interesting concept. I don't think I've come across something like that, although the book that I gave up reading because the narrative voice had a smug attitude might qualify.

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    1. I've done that from time to time, although I find that my mouth is at its sharpest when I do.

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  4. I have never tried to write a music review. My listening ear is too rusty to be of much critical use. I'm much more picky with books. I probably wouldn't finish a no-star or one-star book. I have put a few books down partway through because they were so crappy. However, I usually try to select my reading material more carefully, because reading time is previous time - why waste it on stuff I don't enjoy?

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    1. I don't listen to music with that much of a critical ear, but I do try to pay attention to a given c.d., no matter where I'm listening to it.

      With books, it's more of a free-for-all. I always like to experiment with what I read, which can lead to an abnormal amount of misses from time to tiem.

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  5. I've never written reviews for anything really. I give recipes I try at home "yums" - the highest yum review gets three yums. :)

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  6. I'm not a big fan of the 5 star method for reviews, but I understand why we are stuck with it. A scale of 10 stars would be better. Sadly, I have to disagree on the one star issue. I bought a "book" from Amazon with a few 5 star reviews as research material, and what I got was a badly written pamphlet that didn't take 20 minutes to read. This wouldn't happen in a library or bookstore, so you're probably safe from this particular experience.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by to comment. I can definitely understand why you would give something like that a one star, and if I came across something like that, I might be tempted to leave a one. Perhaps the lowest I would go would be a 1 1/2, but that's still being cruel in my book (I've gotten hammered with noxious comments and zero-to-one star reviews on my early stuff that wasn't published professionally, so I have a soft spot for people who really try but don't know how to write very well).

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  7. I used to write reviews for an online site and I always just winged it.

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    1. Winging it is what I do about 5% of the time.

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