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Book review: The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing – Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards

Donna Brown7 comments731 views
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About The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing
The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing – Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards, ISBN: 978-1933353227

Are you passionate about books? Do you have the desire to share your thoughts about a book with readers, yet are unsure about what makes a good review? Are you curious about the influence reviews have on readers, booksellers, and librarians?

If you’re an experienced reviewer, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing will serve as an excellent reference tool and amalgam of resources. If you’re a beginner, this book will show you how to write a well-written, honest, objective and professional book review. It will also teach you:

  • How to read critically
  • How to differentiate the various types of reviews
  • How to rate books
  • How to prevent amateurish mistakes
  • How to deal with the ethics and legalities of reviewing
  • How to tell the difference between a review, a book report, and a critique
  • How to start your own review site
  • How to publish your reviews on dozens of sites and even make money while you’re at it, and much more

If you’re an author, publisher, publicist, bookseller, librarian, or reader, this book will also bring to light the importance and influence of book reviews within a wider spectrum.

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Review: The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing

It’s never as glamorous as it sounds.  That’s the golden rule when it comes to so many things and reviewing is one of them.  I’ve been reviewing for several years now (first books, then games, then back to books) and it’s many things: hard work, sometimes stressful, sometimes rewarding.  Glamorous?  Only if you have a very warped sense of glamour.

In their book The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, Calvani and Edwards pretty much strip away the layers and myths surrounding what it means to be a reviewer, how to get started, how to cope with various complex situations and in doing so they have produced a volume that will likely be an excellent reference to any reviewer just starting out or any reader considering going down that road.

From setting out various different types of review (and – I’m pleased to see – urging potential reviewers away from both the effusively gushing style and the downright mean and snarky style), to listing some of the problems you might encounter (angry authors, missing mail, books that aren’t as they are described) and how to address them, this book does offer lots of good advice.

However, though the blurb claims to be an excellent reference tool for seasoned reviewers, be aware that if you fall into that camp you’ll probably find the list of useful sites/resources at the back of the book the most helpful aspect of it.  The lessons and advice within will probably constitute things that you yourself have figured out during your reviewing tenure.  Not that it isn’t helpful – it is – but if you’re been reviewing for anything from a few months to a few years you’ve probably drawn your own conclusions on these issues.  Please don’t pick up this book thinking it will be a ‘catch-all’ solution to making your blog busier or finding a way for you to reduce your TBR pile from 200 to 20 in the space of a month!

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing raises some interesting questions that have long remained unanswered and probably will continue to cause debate for some time.  Is it ethical to sell ARCs?  Are ‘bloggers’ bringing down the overall perception of ‘reviewers’ because some are too over-the-top with praise?  Should reviewers feel obligated to publish both good and bad reviews?  That latter question was of particular interest to me.  I don’t particularly enjoy writing ‘bad’ (or rather, low-scoring) reviews, let alone publishing them.  Blogging is something I do for pleasure and I don’t want to commit time to bringing down my day or someone else’s.  With 100 books in easy reach, why would I even persevere with a bad book long enough to finish and write about it?

I enjoyed the fact that as an established blogger/reviewer this title got me thinking about my answers to various questions, the way I approach my reviews and whether there’s anything I’d do differently.  If nothing else it was an affirmation that I’m on the right track.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to people considering starting a book blog.  It doesn’t sugar coat the work and commitment involved.  Might I be slightly more hesitant in recommending it to more established bloggers?  Perhaps so – but only in-so-far as making them aware that this is not a book that claims to be all things to all people or offer all the answers.  I would, however, point out the things that make it a worthwhile read for all those interested in reviewing and book blogging, including some wonderful quotes from those ‘in the business’.

I would have enjoyed a little more on the additional aspects that are a necessary evil when it comes to starting a review site – using social media, for example, or perhaps an introduction to NetGalley (fast becoming a ‘must use’ for some book bloggers) but overall this is a pretty comprehensive volume.  Just make sure you heed the message that is repeated more than once during the book: if you’re looking to get rich reviewing books, you’ll be a long time looking!  

Final score: 4 out of 5

Source: I received a copy in exchange for my fair and honest review

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Donna Brown
Avid reader/audiobook listener, fan of podcasts, prone to the odd Netflix binge. Mum to six crazy and incredible rescue cats. Occasional writer of short stories and poetry.


  1. Excellent premise for a book. I am an author, but I am also a retired teacher, and now a reviewer. My blog is filled with reviews of others’ books, almost all “five stars” because I don’t post books that are less than four. Rather, I send that author my review, and often my candid suggestions are well received.

    Interspersed with the many reviews are my reflective thoughts on my new roles in retired life.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Terry. It's an interesting debate, the one about whether reviewers should review books they don't like. As a reader, I'm always looking for books to seek out, not to avoid so I love a 'happy book blog' full of shout outs for great books. I'll definitely have to stop by yours!

  2. Good discussion of the issues. I've taken on reviewing for an publication that reviews indie books. The first book I was given was awful. I struggled to find some good things to say about it. The initial pain was to finish the book. Then to write the review, knowing that the author poured his soul into the novel. That it meant a great deal to him. I would as soon not have written the review. But where self-published novels are concerned, there's no quality filter at the editorial level. The book review may have more importance. Unless, the marketplace is the final judge. Anyway, reviewing books is not always a pleasant job.

    1. Thanks for your comment Paul – though I'm not sure what you mean about the quality filter at the editorial level? I think it's becoming more and more common for self-published authors (certainly ones who take it seriously) to have an editor work on the book and most will point out flaws… though whether the author chooses to act on that is another matter! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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