Magaly’s Angle on Book Reviews

Do you like talking about yourself in the third person? I went through a phase of loving it—high school, I think— then I spent months in Marine Corps Boot Camp calling myself “This Recruit,” and all of the sudden talking about myself as if I didn’t know who I was no longer seemed as appealing. This post is not about point of view choices, at least not exactly; it is about perspective, approach or more specifically about my angle on book reviews.

This is also a long reply to several short emails. The senders—a few authors and one reader—asked why my book reviews didn’t include my precise thoughts on the writer’s grammar, spelling, plot, worldbuilding, character development, genre, number of pages, available formats, book prices, how I got the book… the list went on and on.

If you have been reading Pagan Culture for a while, you’ve probably noticed that these individuals’ questions are not unfounded. I tend to focus on specific sections when I review a book. The answer to the previous questions is very simple: I’ll rarely write about the technical aspects of a book because I prefer to focus on characters, themes and specific scenes that touch me. Simple. See?     

There is one question, however, I wish to address separately. It comes from someone who asked me to review her novel. I said I didn’t think I was the best person to analyze her book. She asked why. I said because I found “most of the content would offend at least 99.13% of Pagan Culture readers, me included.” She replied: “Your reviews are biased, your choices suspicious…” and I won’t include the rest because it was not polite.

All right then…

I immediately thought about a question my friend LJ, the author of Not So Serious, asked me while commenting on “All magic was inherently wrong…” Where in… hell do you dig these people up from?!

I didn’t reply to the woman’s last email, but I wish to answer her question and final comment right here:

Dear lady, I refused to review your novel because it was unappealing, absurd and cruel. Like I mentioned on the private review I was nice enough to send you, there were so many typos, overreaching allusions, and unjustified plot swings that it took me three weeks to read—way too many weeks in Magaly reading time. I’ve never written an intentionally biased review; nevertheless, I am set on my own ways, I know what I like and I tend to support common sense. My “choices are suspicious”? You are so right; I’ve been secretly conspiring to get people to read books I think they will enjoy. I hope my master plan influences tons of readers to rush into bookstores and purchase every copy. I’m wicked, wicked, wicked and your book is… well, I think you already know. 

Back to more pleasant things… I enjoy reading, and I’ll continue writing my reviews whenever I have time. And look into my eyes, my Wicked Darlings, *are you looking? Good.* Now go buy lovely books; then tell me and the rest of the world about them, so that we can buy them too. Muahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!


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15 comments:

  1. Oh my my my. Where to start.

    Writers and movie makers need to understand what makes good reviews. It's not comments on grammar and spelling, unless those are overly shitty.

    Her comments about biased reviews and suspicious choices are stupid. Since reviews are written from the perspective and personal opinion and interpretation of the material, ALL reviews are biased, I'd say. All the well written ones, anyway. The only way to remain UNbiased is to remain unattached to what you're reading or watching. And, that makes for boring reading, boring viewing and probably a really boring review.

    Suspicious choices(o'rly?!). That one just gets me.

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  2. Magic isn't wrong.It is the people who use it wrong.Just like the pushy people out there who insist you do for them.Magic is better used for the good of all.So are your reviews,thanks for giving them on books we will enjoy.

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  3. She asked you to review her book and when you politely declined she attacked you? All righty then.

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  4. I'm with Ellen. Don't ask me and I won't tell :). I pay attnetion to and love your book reviews because they are real, just like I will sooner pay attention to a persons' opinion about a movie than one from an *expert* who probably hasn't enjoyed a movie since 1940.

    Moving on from hater station....

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  5. Biased? Suspicious? Um hello...does she even read your blog? Does she have a clue WHO you are or how high her intelligence runs? Clearly not. She obviously had a tantrum because you did not behave in the manner she expected, because you chose to continue only providing your wicked darlings with top rate, intellectual writing that you could stake your word on. Pshaw! Thank you for not compromising, my sweet.

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  6. lol - yes you are so wicked and we all love you like that! :D

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  7. I've been writing book reviews for a decade now. I totally support what you're saying, and I'd just like to add my own notes based on my review experience, and my experience giving writers feedback before publication.

    First and foremost, there's a massive difference between the two.

    Spelling and grammar commentary is for before the book is released. Having at least the basics covered is a sign that the writer has the professionalism to craft their baby a little bit.

    Book reviews should focus on a)content, or if it's really good (even if you disagree with its premise) b)the questions that the content raises. Category B books are extremely rare, but they do come along.

    Keep on keeping on; email filters were made for some folks.

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  8. I love ya Magaly ;o) You kicked ass!! ;o) Never change ;o)

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  9. LJ - My scientific opinion is that some people are just weird like that.

    Danise - You've put a smile on my witchy face ;-)

    Ellen - She actually sent me a follow up email after I published this post. I deleted it without opening it.

    Zombie Goddess - I'm all about keeping it "real" lol

    Mina - You've brought a good point, my dear. People usually ask me why I don't want to review books of writers who don't follow Pagan Culture, well, this post says it all. If you don't know me, then I have to explain things to you. I really don't have a whole lot of time for explaining.

    Lilac - Bad to the bone! ;-D

    Diana - Exactly.

    Magic Love Crow - You are too sweet ;-)

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  10. I was under the impression that the whole reason why there are so many different people reviewing things was because different people have different tastes, and different styles of writing the reviews. I mean, sure, it's interesting to know if the book is well written (e.g. free of the huge stack of typing and grammatical errors several have these days), but if it has a strong enough plot then you wont notice that so much anyway. And what difference does it make to us where and when you brought the book?

    The review is yours, therefore it should be written in the way you feel is best. Simple as that!

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  11. Toriz - The comment about where I got the books from was one of the things that bothered me most; what an idiot.

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  12. *Nods in agreement*

    I wonder why the person (people?) consider that so important? I mean, what difference does it make if you brought the book at Borders, had it for your birthday from your aunt, found it by chance at a bookstore, or whatever? That makes no difference to what you'll think of the contents of the book, does it?

    I really don't get some people!

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  13. She is an idiot; no other way to put it.

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  14. Magic isn't wrong.It is the people who use it wrong.Just like the pushy people out there who insist you do for them.Magic is better used for the good of all.So are your reviews,thanks for giving them on books we will enjoy.

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  15. I'm with Ellen. Don't ask me and I won't tell :). I pay attnetion to and love your book reviews because they are real, just like I will sooner pay attention to a persons' opinion about a movie than one from an *expert* who probably hasn't enjoyed a movie since 1940.

    Moving on from hater station....

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