It’s been one year since I officially became a reviewer for AAR. I worked on my A and F reviews for a long time (the requirement when applying to be a reviewer), but never had the nerve to complete and submit them. Finally, I submitted them in early January of 2008, and within a few weeks, my first review was up at AAR.
If I hadn’t been a pollster at AAR since 2006, I’m not convinced I would have applied to review here. Looking at thousands of ballots for the Top 100 Poll, mini-polls, and favorite books by favorite authors polls let me see just how varied readers are. It also helped me realize there is no “perfect” grade for any one book, there’s just “my” grade for a book.
I’ve found that A , D, and F reviews are relatively easy to write, while I struggle with the C reviews. Assigning a book a grade of C or C+ doesn’t mean I hate it. There is just something about it that doesn’t push it into the category of books that I can recommend. Sometimes there is some single aspect of a book that moves it down from a B to a C.
I’ve gone through a lot of different processes for taking notes on books. I started out by highlighting pages, and writing in the margins. Then I discovered this neat Post-It highlighter pen that combines the wonders of Post-Its and highlighters. Neither of those methods worked since I highlighted too many passages. I now stick three or four pages of paper in each book, and jot down notes, as they seem important. I usually write some sentences describing the hero and heroine as well as key plot points early on. Then I just try to read, only taking notes of factors that reflect what I really like or dislike about the book.
Of course, when I’m reading a D or F book, I often end up with about eight pages of notes, and an initial review of nearly 2,000 words (I can just feel Sandy, my editor, cringing when she reads that). Like all reviewers, I pick books from “The List” of books available for review that I believe I’ll like: chick lit, contemporary romance, category romance, and romantic suspense. I also try to do a mix of authors I’ve read in the past and new-to-me authors. Until I started reviewing at AAR, I never graded a book a D or F, because I would simply not finish them. Having to finish D and F books has been a real experience.
To help with grading, I made up an elaborate chart to guide my decisions.
- Did I like the main characters?
- Was the setting interesting?
- Would I have finished the book if I weren’t reading it for review?
- Were there too many threads?
- Was the ending too rushed?
- Were there excessive editing errors?
- Did sex occur too soon?
Sadly, although I spent hours creating this chart, I have never used it. In fact, I forgot I had even made it until I stumbled upon it by accident last week while cleaning out some old files on my computer.
Reviewing has introduced me to a number of authors I had never even heard of before, authors I will be reading in the future, such as Gemma Bruce, Ellen Hartman, Kristan Higgins, Colby Hodge, Catherine Mulvany, and Nancy Warren. I look forward to discovering many other authors in the years ahead. So, at 56 reviews and counting, here’s on to the next 50!