And finally, three, book reviewing is just freaking hard. Let me tell you why, in case you don't already know. For starters, when you've been chipping away at your book blog for six years, everything you have to say starts to sound the same as everything you've already said...several times. (ETA: In case you were wondering, this is another one of those posts I like to write with the confused voice where "you" means me but maybe actually you too, and "I" is, well, also me...and still maybe you too? Oh, well, you know what I mean or, um, I know what I mean. Huh.) Also, you will find that not only do you feel like you've already described ten other books with the same words you're using to describe the current victim of your lack of writing prowess, you will find that you're tortured over how you're boring yourself and your readers by reviewing your books with the same overused format and even sentence structure of yesteryear (lots of lists and even more inexcusable parentheses!). You will find that it's a struggle to change any of that too radically without violating your strong conviction about "what a book review is," which is impossible to define much less articulate. You just know it when you go to cross-post your review to LibraryThing and find that it just doesn't...work.
Secondly, there are, all told (at least in my perspective), only three "classes" of books when you sit down to review books, each of which is hard to review for its own special reasons. I give you now the three classes of books and some excuses for why they're impossible to review:
The Sucky Book - This book was really just not that good. It was good enough to finish, but only because you secretly hoped the end would redeem the rest of it. It didn't. Now you have to sit down and say something mean about some author's poor defenseless baby while trying to fair, balanced, and well, not...too mean. So, you sit at your computer trying to divine the good points of a book you didn't like and trying to decide if your negative comments are snarkier than the book at hand deserves. Because I'm a book reviewing freak of some kind, I find that the Sucky Book might well be the easiest to review. As it turns out, I can do a passable job of veiling my dislike in half-compliments without totally selling out and saying I liked books that I didn't. Who ever said negative reviews were hard to write? I mean, at least I did have a feeling about the book even if it was, well, not a very good feeling. Not so the...
"Meh" Book - This book was...well, it was okay. It wasn't earth shatteringly wonderful nor did it irritate you or disappoint you enough to draw your ire. It was passable entertainment for a few hours, but next year or maybe only a few months down the road, you will have forgotten it completely. What does one say about a book which left you feeling little more than apathetic? It had a beginning and an end. It was interesting but not compelling. Its characters were moderately sympathetic. I vaguely cared about what happened to them but lasting impressions are not forthcoming. Also, I lied about the categories as "Meh" Books can actually be sub-categorized into slightly less "meh" and slightly more "meh" books. The slightly less "meh" books are reviewable, you can focus on good qualities and artistic elements quite easily instead of worrying about getting ensnared by the snark monster (see above) or devolving into a babbling buffoon (see below). The slightly more "meh" are nearly impossible to review through the fog of apathy, but not so impossible to review as the...
When I truly love a book it's becoming harder and harder for me to step back and talk about all the
good rational things like plot and characters and writing quality when all I'm thinking about is how the book is soggy with my tears or something because I was all like "sniffle, sob, sniffle, YES THAT! EXACTLY! AUTHOR, I SEE WHAT YOU'RE DOING...AND I LIKE IT!! sniffle, sob, sniffle." How exactly does one break that down into something that is going to sell someone on a great book when they are not you and perhaps do not feel all the same feels exactly the way you do?
This year my plan of attack for reviewing such books was to...wait. Wait until that visceral reaction mellows out a little and then attempt it. Except I waited so long that I then forgot half the book except for that troublesome visceral emotional reaction. Fail. So now, here I am as the year draws perilously close to its end and half of my favorite books of the year I haven't even reviewed! You probably all think that I, like, hate books because the only books, with a few exceptions, that I'm reviewing are either Sucky or "Meh." Not so! As it turns out, it is I that am sucky at reviewing books I loved because when I love them I love them irrationally and it's hard to channel irrationality into a good book review. I've tried, with decidedly mixed results.
So, as I scramble to get all my reviews in under the wire so that I can spam the internet all December with them while everybody's too busy with holiday stuff to read them (er...FAILx2!), tell me, do you share any of these struggles? If so, how do you write good book reviews despite the challenges? Or am I just over-thinking or engaging in the time-honored tradition of productive procrastination in avoidance of all the reviews I have to write? You make the call. ;-)