Saturday, January 29, 2005

Reviewing books

As well as writing historical romance fiction, I read and review books - mostly for the Historical Novel Society, but occasionally for the Ricardian Register, journal of the American Branch of the Richard III Society.

After joining the HNS I decided to try it, just to see if I actually enjoyed it and was any good at it. I knew I could review a book, had learned the process well enough at university. But those were academic works and I had many pages in which to analyse the book or article. Reviewing a piece of fiction in 300 words or less is entirely different. Could I do it effectively? And were there any benefits in doing so?

The answer to both questions is Yes! Though it took some practise, I did learn to summarize books in one paragraph and find ways to give my opinion without being too long-winded. And found the exercise to be quite exhilarating (if a tad frustrating at times).

But there were other benefits. When presented with the list of books to review I started choosing ones outside my own time period and genre, forcing myself to read something different. And have improved my own writing as a result of being exposed to a greater variety of style and language.

So, that's why I continue to review books. Well, that and because I love discovering new authors. Some of my favourite reads of the last year or so have included Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell, A Century of November by W.D. Wetherall, Death in the Age of Steam by Mel Bradshaw, The Hunter's Tale by Margaret Frazer and Nicola Cornick's Lady Allerton's Wager.


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