Australian Women Writers Challenge Round Up: General Fiction (#AWW2017)

 

I am glad to have this opportunity to promote the Australian Women Writers Challenge (@AusWomenWriters #AWW2017) by writing round-ups of reviews of general fiction titles with Katt at Coffee2Words. A highly rewarding task indeed – to know which emerging and established authors have published their books and what readers and critics are saying about them.

Writing can be a lonely profession, so it is good to work with a team and experience how other writers approach book reviews. As this is a group endeavour, everybody contributes ideas based on their own reading, writing, editing and formatting experiences in order to map out those territories previously unexplored in a literary campaign. Runways are paved and flight routes planned, and we gradually take off after a few bumps and scratches. The journeys are generally smooth but thrilling as we spread our wings to explore what is out there in the sky.

To me, the most exciting aspect of this voluntary work is to get to study the many book reviews published each month. As reviewers link their book reviews to the Australian Women Writers Challenge website, they are encouraged to fill in details such as the type of their response (e.g. review, interview, give-away, etc), the genre to which the reviewed book belongs, the form, sub-genre and special interest area of the book (e.g. short stories, literary, indigenous author/issues, genre bender, diversity, poetry, etc), the book’s target audience (adult, young adult, children and younger readers, etc), the year of publication, and the publisher (including self-published titles). All these answers help to open a window to what are being written, published, read and critiqued every month.

Specifically, upon writing my round-up of reviews of general fiction titles in February 2017, I studied the 79 reviews of 62 books by 57 authors in six ways. (Note: Thanks to Elizabeth Lhuede for the statistics.) Firstly, I looked at the number of books published before 2000, between 2000 and 2012, and after 2012 (i.e. within the past five years). I then explored the diverse cultural and/or ethnic backgrounds of these authors, as well as whether issues relating to diversity are discussed in these books. Thirdly, I found out whether these books were published by small/independent publishers or their Big 5 counterparts. After that, I wanted to know where these reviews were published, i.e. via GoodReads, Facebook, the Australian Women Writers Challenge blog, individual blogs, and/or book-themed, promotion-oriented websites. I was also interested in finding out how common it is for authors and/or their publishers to send out free copies of their books, in digital and/or print formats, in exchange for honest reviews.

Finally, I read the reviews – all 79 of them – to get an idea of what readers and critics are saying about the books. I am interested in knowing how a reviewer’s perception of life has been enlightened or challenged by a book, instead of her summary of the book’s plot or who her favourite character is. What matters to me is how a reviewer can help readers better understand a book, instead of the number of reviews she can write in a month. It is even more impressive if a book review can inspire readers to explore more about the author, her other books, and/or books by other authors that are related to her writing in some way.

Here is a personal “thing” about reading: I tend to read as many of the books by the same author as possible in order to better understand her, i.e. how she perceives her time and society. I also like to read as many books about the same subject as possible in order to better understand its nature and significance in our world today. More importantly, I enjoy reading as many of the reviews about the same book as possible, not only to better appreciate the book’s style and theme, but also to explore how different reviewers approach reading as an art and craft. Hence I was delighted to introduce two reviews of the same book in my round-up, both of which are honest and in-depth and serve as examples of intelligent and graceful writing. My personal view: “That is the pleasure of reading book reviews – not only do we learn about the books, but we also get to know how these books are comprehended and critiqued by readers and writers alike.” Book reviews, after all, should also be good writing. Which is why they are difficult to write.

I hope you enjoy my round-up for general fiction titles in February 2017, which can be viewed here. Please support the Australian Women Writers Challenge, as well as reading and reviewing of books by emerging and established female writers across the world. I look forward to reading book reviews by you in the near future. Yes, you read that right – YOU.

 

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