Monday, July 23, 2012

Writing Book Reviews



Back on June 4th, I wrote a very brief post about Goodreads, the book-lover’s social networking website.  In May, I was granted an author’s page, as well as a page for my book, The Mistaken.  Since then, I’ve had quite a few folks add it to their TBR list.  A few others, who received the ARC, gave my book a ranking and review.  Yay, so far, I’m 5 for 5 stars with all great reviews!  Whew! 

My point here is that Goodreads is an invaluable resource for both readers and writers.  I generally only read books that have been referred to me, and Goodreads helps me with that.  So now, I’ve started to write extensive reviews on books that I’ve read recently.   I wrote a pretty good one for Alex J. Cavanaugh’s first novel, CassaStar


And I just wrote another for Lisa Regan’s debut novel, Finding Claire Fletcher, to be released on December 6, 2012.

I think reviews should be more than just synopses.  They should offer the reviewers gut feelings on the book.  So if you’re interested, here’s my review of one of the best books I’ve ever read, one to which I gave 5 out of 5 stars.  Yes, the review’s a bit lengthy, but it deserves it.  And wouldn’t you want a thorough review for your own novel?  Either way, I hope you add Finding Claire Feltcher to your To-Be-Read list on Goodreads.   


“Finding Claire Fletcher is truly a story of our times, and magnificently told, even in its brutality. It follows ten years in the life of a girl kidnapped off the streets on her way to school at the age of fifteen. We’ve all seen or read those news stories of kids who vanish without a trace. We wonder what happened to them, if they still live, and if so, how? We know the type of monsters who prey on these children, and we can only imagine what they do once they’ve captured their victims. This is that story. It isn’t pretty, and it makes no excuses for that.

Claire Fletcher, though young and naive, fights against her captor, trying her best to outrun the villain who subjects her to daily atrocities. He uses her fear against her to keep Claire hostage as he chips away at the girl she used to be, slowly and effectively destroying any hope of reuniting with her family and a mother who never gives up hope that Claire is still alive.

Even as she ages and becomes physically stronger, Claire cannot escape the torture and degradation. Her captor holds Claire in an emotional cage every bit as much as a physical one. To control her, he not only uses the threat of violence against those she loves most, he uses violence itself, hurting Claire’s family or killing those she asks for help. Knowing she cannot expose her loved ones or even strangers to the kind of cruel fate her kidnapper threatens, she resignedly settles into life as Lynn, the name her captor has given her.

Still a hostage, but allowed to leave her captor’s compound, Claire meets Police Detective Connor Parks at a bar. When she disappears following a chaste night together, leaving behind only an old family address, Connor discovers the beautiful woman he’s come to know as Claire Fletcher has been missing for ten years and is presumed dead. But he knows she’s not, and he’s determined to find her, even as his commander orders him off the case and Claire’s captor targets Connor as punishment for defying him.

Told from alternating points of view, we see the story emerge from both Claire’s perspective, as well as Connor’s. Author Lisa Regan delves into the mind of a sexual deviant, exposing and exploring what drives a man to such desperate acts. But while she alludes to the horrific misery Claire’s captor subjects her to, Regan never stoops to showing the acts themselves, only examining the effect such debased treatment has on his victim.

Those who wonder why women like Elizabeth Smart or Jaycee Dugard never attempted to leave their real-life captors will find the reasons eloquently explored in this well-written, hauntingly brutal, yet sweetly realized story, a story of love and determination to overcome the most heinous of fates.

Though it is superbly written and moves with intense, page-turning speed, Finding Claire Fletcher is not always an easy read in that it probes into the most corrupt behavior imaginable. It’s difficult to feel what the young Claire experiences as she is made to suffer at the hands of a pedophile. But as tough as those parts are to read, the story is balanced by the hope and memories Claire holds as a way of surviving her ordeal. And as much as it is Claire’s story, it is also Detective Park’s story, as well, analyzing the failure of his marriage and his precarious position within the police department following a questionable shooting and his involvement with Claire’s seemingly unsolvable cold case.

But in the end, Finding Claire Fletcher is a love story about a child and her mother, and the man, Connor Parks, who cannot forget or abandon her, and risks not only his career, but his own life to save Claire. This story will frighten you, make you angry, cry, and cringe, but it will also energize your faith in the human spirit and its ability to heal and move forward. Regan deserves every one of these five stars for her original and haunting debut novel.” 

Do you use Goodreads and write reviews for books you’ve read?  If you’re a writer, what style of review do you hope your readers will write for your book?



34 comments:

JeffO said...

That's a very nice review, Nancy, and congratulations on the early reviews of The Mistaken--that's great news!

I do not use Goodreads at all (though I was pulled over there this weekend by the same sort of curiosity that makes me look at car wrecks to witness a rather frightening meltdown-in-progress), and I generally don't read reviews, either.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now my reviews all look short and lame! I rarely mention the synopsis though, other than one word. And hopefully I fixed the snafu with YOUR book's review! (And I was really happy with mine - thank you.)

KarenG said...

Totally agree that reviews should be more than synopsis! I figure people want my response about a book not a book report. I love Goodreads, and review nearly every book I read there rather than on Amazon. I can give a stinker 1 star on Goodreads without the feeling that I'm hurting some poor author's sales.

Clare said...

Excellent review Nancy, the books sounds very interesting indeed, and I may have to put it on my list.

I think you're completely right about good reads, it's an excellent tool for both readers and writers, and a place to share book experiences.

Kelley Lynn said...

I've written a few reviews. (Like two...) on Goodreads. I really have to get better with this. I have to get better at using Goodreads and the internet in general.

Ellis Shuman said...

Nancy - I look forward to reading your book, and Lisa's book as well.

Regarding book reviews on Goodreads (and elsewhere) = it seems to me that only one or two reviewers can lay out the synopsis of the book for readers. Reviewers who come along after this is already done can only hope to add new perspectives on the action/characters/themes and the writing itself.

Carrie Butler said...

I'm horrible when it comes to Goodreads. I only do 5 star ratings, because I only list books I like. In fact, yours was the first public review I had ever written!

Cassie Mae said...

Gah! I'm dying to read Lisa's book! This review makes me wish it came out today!

jamieayres.com said...

I just blogged about Goodreads today too, lol. Like Carie, I started only rating books I liked, meaning a 4 or a 5. Maybe it's b/c I'm not only a reader but an author and I was raised that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it all. I don't often have time to write reviews so I often just star the books. Didn't know I could add yours yet, heading over there now:-)

J. A. Bennett said...

I have a hard time fitting in goodreads with every other social media site I'm working with. But I think if I ever get published it will be my new stalking ground :)

Lisa Regan said...

OMG! Wow!!!! Thank you!!!! Thanks for posting it to your blog! I agree, reviews should tell us what a person thought and how they felt about the book. If I just wanted to know what the book was about, I'd read the description. The review should talk about whether people LIKED it or not! Anyway, thank you SO VERY MUCH again!!!!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

I can't wait until that book comes out! Thanks for telling me about Goodreads too, I'll check it out.

Kathy M.

Southpaw said...

I haven't written any reviews, but I do like to read a good reviews.

Kimberly Gabriel said...

Great reviews! I'm heading over to my Goodreads page to add these!

S.P. Bowers said...

I definitely could use good reads to better advantage. Great reminder to really use the website as a social one.

Alleged Author said...

I'm definitely putting both your novel and this one on me TBR list. Great review!

Michael Abayomi said...

What a smashing review; I would definitely be keep an eye out for Finding Claire Fletcher based on that alone. :D

Heather M. Gardner said...

That is really a fantastic review. Well done.
Congrats on the good reviews you received as well.
Heather

M Pax said...

I do use Goodreads, and leave reviews whenever I can. It's a great tool.

dayner said...

When I read this review, I actually thought about telling you that I wish we could rate the reviews. You get 5 stars from me for your fabulous review. :) It's very detailed and thoughtful.
I strongly dislike writing reviews and I won't write one if I didn't like the book. I don't feel comfortable giving anything less than 3 stars. I just don't like degrading other writers when I know it's usually just a matter of taste. Of course, I say usually, but sometimes the writing is just plain bad. But I also don't think it's my job to tell them their writing is bad. Then again, it is irritating to pay good money for a book that's poorly written. Which takes me back to my original point, I strongly dislike writing reviews. :)

Jaye Robin Brown said...

Wonderful review. For me it just depends on the amount of time I have, which is never much. Sometimes I just give stars, sometimes I'll actually write a paragraph. But it's always my feelings not a synopsis. Since I don't have an author page (yet!) I can't comment on that part of it.

Medeia Sharif said...

I have Alex's book and I added Lisa's book to my wish list. It sounds brutal, yet interesting.

For the books I read long ago, I don't have a Goodreads review up, but for at least three quarters of the books I read today I'll write something.

Al Penwasser said...

I have GOT to get into Goodreads some more. Even though I have a lot of fun here, it seems the smart thing to do.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I don't use it as often as I should, but I'm getting better.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I was asked a few times to do reviews for authors on some of my lists. I did two, but felt so terrible because I gave the books 5 stars reluctantly. I'm still haunted by that decision. It's why I don't do reviews for authors I know unless I do it secretly without their knowledge. I have to love the book.

I've received a 3-star review in amongst many 5-star for my first novel and I appreciated the reviewer's honesty, but it still stung. The reason I never took it down is because we're not friends and having a 3-star in amongst several 5-star draws attention to the book. Sometimes reader want to find out for themselves.

Your review is wonderful, and yet I'm already cringing. I don't think I'd read it for the reasons you mentioned. I can't separate myself from a good book. I end up dreaming about the characters, carrying them around with me for days. I need to know upfront whether she survives. While reading the parts of her being savagely mistreated, I'd be there with her, experiencing what she experiences. Unless the book was poorly written, which it sounds like isn't the case.

I read Fifty Shades of Grey because it was highly recommended. I was greatly disappointed in the writing and the characters. I was also persuaded to read Messages in a Bottle and again I was disappointed. So either I'm hard to please or ...? I'm not sure.

My point is, up until now, I've shied away from offering to do reviews for friends because I'm so afraid I won't like the book and my 4/5-star review will feel blatantly false.

I've only ever done that twice, but as you can see, it still bothers me that I felt compelled to lie.

Great post, Nancy.

LynNerdKelley said...

Nancy, that's one of the best reviews I've read. Sounds like a compelling read. And your book, The Mistaken, sounds so good, too! Congrats on your book, and thank you for letting us know about Finding Claire Fletcher.

Lydia Kang said...

I use GR mostly to catalog what book's I've read and which ones I need to read. I rarely put stars on any books and don't do reviews. I don't have the heart to give less than 5 star reviews to many of my writing friends, but I want to be honest too, so...no reviews from me. :)

Jennifer Hillier said...

That's a great review, Nancy! I, on the hand, am not so great with writing reviews. I don't feel like I ever do the books I love justice.

I'm also not as active on Goodreads as I could be. Truthfully, the place scares me a little... :)

klahanie said...

Hey Nancy,
Yes, it's me, another one of your starstruck fans! :)
You certainly have a given an informative and detailed review. And your book is receiving high acclaim. That heartens me to know this. Now you may have noted shy and humble me linked into your "Goodreads" page.
It is an excellent resource for readers, published writers and aspiring writers.
Although I've never done a review, bizarrely, a number of folks who want to hopefully see their writing get published, send me their manuscripts.
To review any book I write would totally perplex. After all, I write disjointed, rambling, bordering on incoherent musings...somewhat like my comment.
All the best, Nancy and happy writing :)
Gary

Donna K. Weaver said...

Good job, Nancy. I've got your book on my to-read list. =D I do like reading what others have to say about books, and I use Goodreads to keep track of the books I've seen and want to read.

Chris Fries said...

Wow -- fabulous, in-depth review! It definitely makes me want to check out the book!

michelle said...

Excellent review of Lisa's book! I definitely want to read it after this review.

Lynda R Young said...

Writing reviews is not my forte. I tend to keep them super brief. I believe, however, that writing reviews IS your forte. Brilliant, informative review!

J.L. Campbell said...

Finding Claire Fletcher sounds like a good story and an intense read. Your review makes me want to read it.