State of the Blog- How I Review August 29, 2021

Hello, hello! Welcome back to Mentally? A Magpie. I’ve been quiet because Life Gets in The Way. I’ve started a new job that I really love and I am once again trying to figure out my routine around my new life. My field is also wholly chaos some days and that does not leave energy for doing much else. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped listening to podcasts or trying to inhale books at inhuman speeds. It means sitting down and writing has taken a back seat to everything else. This week I finally managed to carve out some time to write out thoughts on how I review. 

A lot of how I approach reviewing comes from watching book to movie adaptations become more popular. When I was in middle school, the Chronicles of Narnia came out – the new ones. I told my homeroom teacher, a lovely man by the name of Mr. Khlee, that I wanted to read the book first. He told me that it was a better idea to watch the movie first. The movie would never be as good as the book, but might help me understand it. My little preteen self scoffed. How dare he think that I should watch the movie first? 

In some ways, Mr Khlee was right. He didn’t change me completely: I still prefer to read the book first. I prefer reading. He rattled a deeply held belief in a good way. Since then, I’ve learned when mediums change, details and perspectives will change. This can be a very good thing. 

Every piece of work has a different purpose. Comparing a book and a podcast isn’t going to work well. Just like comparing a book and a movie will not be successful. In the same vein:  I’m not going to rate a biography I liked and compare it to a YA fantasy. Considering I do ingest a variety of types of stories, I think it’s unfair to the entertaining mindless read if I sit it next to a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that changes lives. It’s same thing with podcasts. I’m not going to compare The Daily to Bridgewater. It’s irresponsible of me, as a reviewer.

I try to touch on a few things when I’m reviewing. I want to let people know how successful a piece of work is based on why I think they are going to pick it up. Here is a slew of questions I think about.

Why would someone choose this piece to engage with?

Is it education, entertainment, meditation, self improvement, or something else entirely?

Who is the target audience? 

An adult fantasy novel will be different than a YA fantasy novel.

How easy is it to engage with? 

Some things are just easier than others, but this also takes the target audience into consideration. 

Are there be roadblocks to understanding, whether education-wise or culturally? 

There are a few books that inspired me to seek out podcasts about cultural elements from backgrounds I’m not familiar with. I didn’t need to, but it certainly helped.

Are there quality issues that are distracting? 

Sometimes a piece has great content without being good quality. At some point, that becomes a distraction. Where is that line?

I look who is producing a piece. If it’s an independent podcast: I take that seriously. I always make sure to listen to more than one episode, especially older ones and newer ones. This way I can see if their newer episodes improve in overall quality. I rarely want someone to stop producing a podcast, but I can say for certain I will root for a good show to get better.

I have a pretty strict rule on not talking about what I don’t like. If it’s a book I can’t finish, or a podcast that is just not jiving with me, I won’t talk about it. I might mention them to someone I may think might like them- but I don’t think it’s fair to review. People put hard work into quality pieces that get ripped apart because of a disconnect in flavor. 

To go back to the book/movie example: A book might be “better” than a movie, but does it mean that the movie was bad? Or are we just looking for the movie to be bad because three hours (maximum) will not be able to hold a six hundred page novel? They can’t be perfect side by side pieces, but they can still have value and quality. 

If we all liked everything it would be a headache. Not liking a medium or a type of thing gives us more space to engage with the things we really love. This also is why I don’t like giving starred reviews. Sure, they’re decent benchmarks. However, I just feel like giving stars doesn’t take into consideration all of the things that make something worth engaging with. 

I will admit: Sometimes something will be bad, a genuine one star if you will. Personally, I keep the “liking to hate” to my close circle of family and friends. I get it. People love to hate these big name big cultural things. Or people and pieces of work that our collective has held close to our hearts. There is a difference between me laughing with my friend about it, and using whatever platform this is to rip it apart. If I don’t agree with a perspective or think something is irresponsible I’ll talk about it when brought up. Rarely will I devote a post to it. “Bad press is still press” or whatever the saying is. 

I hope this gives people that read this blog a better idea of what I want to try and do here. I’m not trying to be positive all the time, but I’m trying to be nice. I think we all need to be nicer in general and this is something I can be nice about and enjoy doing it. 

Recently on the Blog: 

Bridgewater – get your spooky season started with this podcast from Grim and Mild and iHeart. Starring Misha Collins from Supernatural (among other fantastic actors) 

Dead Famous – A book on the fascinating history of celebrity from the host of You’re Dead to Me and Homeschool Histories – Greg Jenner

Coming Up: 

Podcast reviews of She Will Rock You and Firebug.

Book Reviews of: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn and The Books of Ambha Duology by Tasha Suri 

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