If you’re looking to sink your teeth into reviewing books, Atticus Review is a good place to start. You can hear from their book review editor, Sam Slaughter, at Citizen Lit. He offers up a few thoughts on the art of the review and his approach to guiding writers in the process. Listen to the whole thing here. Excerpt below.
You have to be able to show if something is working, how it’s working. If something’s not working, how it’s not working. And doing that in a way that doesn’t come off as just being a jerk about it. You have to be able to advance the dialogue about literature in some way.
When you’re struggling with a book, and you know you don’t like it, if you can put into words and put into some sort of critical manner how it is not working for you, that is a much stronger review than just saying “This is a terrible book. The characters are flat. The plot is non-existent. Whatever.”
You also need to be able to understand that what you’re doing is, you’re giving readers a chance to understand the book maybe before they buy it. If they’re on the fence about something, understand the pros and cons of the book.
It’s not a chance for you to flex your vocabulary, it’s not a chance for you to show all of your hot similes off. You’re here to really show the voice and the work of another author.
You can have your voice come through, but you have to be cognizant of where to draw the line on where your voice is and where your voice takes over the content of the book you’re reviewing.