I have been busy reviewing books instead of writing myself. I told myself I needed to read a lot of thrillers to learn more about them, so I set off on a journey to read some current thrillers as well as some “classics”. I focused on those with an espionage/political slant, but I read a number of other forms of thriller as well. I told myself the discipline of writing a review would make me a better reader and eventually a better writer. Time will tell. I decided to review books that I picked up from used book sales that fit what I wanted. I am cheap. I also used my public library, particularly the “new book section” and the digital catalog once I decided to look at certain authors. I accepted a few “free” books from Book Bub and NetGalley. Even this limited, financially prudent, methodology turned up a large number of books I wanted to read. I started writing reviews on a few of them. My own writing suffered, but I read some great books, and learned a little about the reviewing process and the publishing industry in general.
Reviewing is tougher than it looks. You need to write a brief summary of the book without giving away too many details and spoiling the experience for the readers. You don’t want to be too negative either. Making enemies does no good. On the other hand, you need to be a little discriminating, or else the reviews are nothing more than unpaid promotions for an author. Not every book is wonderful, but most are pretty good. They got past the author’s own scrutiny, and if they were published by a major publishing house, they survived a lot of other scrutiny as well. You need to be even more sensitive about independent publishers. The last thing I want to do is crush some other author trying to break into a very difficult game. Reviewing books has its own set of customs that I need to learn about on the fly.