I was supposed to write a blog on Easter. Instead, I went to the movies with my family. We saw Zootopia and BamBam liked it so much that he began dancing in his seat as the credits rolled. He got up and danced down our aisle and then made several laps around the theatre. It was awesome, though not for Zoo Keeper, who was not amused that we had to stay until the credits ended.
Then we did an indoor Easter egg hunt. Because rain. When the boys ran off to enjoy their candy comas, I tried to write and ended up working on taxes instead. That’s how much I couldn’t write that day.
In truth, there were spreadsheets involved, so I was all in anyway. When I couldn’t even do that anymore, I switched to what I’d wanted to do all along: read more of The Saints of the Lost and Found by Toni McGee Causey (writing under the name T.M. Causey). It’s a new genre for her, hence the name change, and it’s fabulous. The mystery is gripping, the characters complex, the love story dark and foreboding, the backstory rich and free of long flashback scenes. I can’t decide if I enjoy them more than her Bobby Faye stories or just as much. Probably I should not compare and just resolve to loving them both.
Looking at Toni’s page on Amazon, I see that I have missed a couple of Bobby Fayes, which makes me happy because now I get to go read them. Yay!
Comparing Toni’s books, along with a discussion going on in a Facebook group (comprised of wonderful and amazing friends), got me thinking about what I enjoy in books and movies. I already knew that I need a story that arcs, though I’m flexible about genre. Today, I learned that I also need an antagonist with intent. Man or science against nature doesn’t work for me because nature doesn’t have a motive. Nature just is. And, while a story of triumph over nature can be inspiring, it can’t hold my attention for very long.
I LOVE both Chris Pine and Ben Foster, but I will likely never see The Finest Hours because there’s no one to blame for their situation. You could argue that the Coast Guard is to blame, I suppose, but it looks to me like Chris Pine is just doing the job he signed up for. While heroic and potentially tragic, it’s his job. I hope he and Ben are able to rescue Casey Affleck and his crew, but I don’t want to watch it. I guess it comes down to me not wanting to endure the anxiety if there’s nobody to receive their due justice in the end.
When I started this site, I intended to review books about autism and related disabilities. I bought a lot of books, but mostly let them sit on the shelf until I bought some more to join them. Now, all this talk about what I like in a book has me thinking about reviews again.
Since I will be reading for content rather than style, I’m talking Amazon-type reviews, not critical reviews, though I don’t read much of either. On Amazon, I look at them to help me decide if I would enjoy the book or if it would be helpful to me, but I don’t generally find them helpful in either respect. In my experience, these reviews either have no real information or way too much information about the book.
Too little: “This book is so interesting I just couldn’t put it down,” or “I don’t find this author funny at all.” or (on Amazon) “The packaging was all torn and dirty!”
Too much: “OMG! So sad when the heroine dies at the end!” or four to five paragraphs summarizing the book.
None of those give me any idea of whether I would like the book. Unless I personally know the reviewer, I have no idea what he or she finds funny or interesting; I don’t mind a sad ending, but I don’t want to know about it in advance; and, If there is good information in the reviewer’s summary, I’m not going to find it because I’ve bailed after the first paragraph. I would rather read the book than a random person’s summary of it. I guess I’m a purist that way.
So, I know what I don’t like in a review, but I don’t really know what I would like in a review. I’m not sure what I would find helpful, which is likely a big reason I haven’t reviewed any of the books I bought for the purpose of reviewing on this site. I don’t know what I would find helpful, so how could I presume to know what anyone else would?
Which is why I’m asking you all. Y’all.
What would you find helpful in a review of a book? I’m asking particularly about non-fiction, a book on hygiene for autistic teens, for instance, but I’d love to hear your fiction review preferences as well.
While you discuss that in the comments, I offer the entertainment stylings of BamBam: