LitReactor is one of those sites I love when I remember to check it. It is one of many bookish websites worth your time, but what makes LitReactor different is that it is driven by and for aspiring writers who are all also big time readers. From their “take a tour” page:
But back to Bookshots specifically, which I love! What are they? Well as the each review says at the top: “Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review.” And that they do. These are not your mother’s reviews.
Let me explain with an example. Here is the text of the entry for a new book, Bite by K.S. Merbeth, but also click through for the much better web version:
Who wrote it? K.S. Merbeth
Plot in a Box: A young girl runs away from home in the middle of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. She is taken in by a crew of “sharks” (cannibal raiders) who teach her to survive in a harsh world whilst hunted by the various factions that inhabit it.
Invent a new title for this book: Kid Shark
Read this if you like(d): Fallout and Mad Max
Meet the books lead(s): Kid, a young girl born in a bomb shelter after the nukes fell. Although she begins the book dangerously naive, she is quite clever, has a powerful will to live, and learns very fast. She is unsettled by the more extreme behavior of her cannibal comrades, but reserves judgement and realizes that they are her best chance at surviving the wastelands.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by: Oleysa Rulin, who is currently playing Retro Girl on Powers.
Setting: Would you want to live there? A desolate radioactive wasteland populated almost entirely by paranoid townsfolk, heavily-armed sociopaths and would-be dictators. The kind of place where you can meet a gang of a cannibals and think “These guys are all right.” I wouldn’t even want to visit.
What was your favorite sentence? "There’s nothing but empty desert and the ruins of old cities in every direction. Nuclear war can do that to a place, I guess."
The Verdict: Bite is an impressive and fun debut novel, an interesting twist on the traditional “babe in the woods” tale. Kid begins the story as a wide-eyed innocent, who seems to have survived on luck alone thus far. But instead of resisting the depredations of the wasteland to remain true and pure, she joins a band of cannibals who teach her to be the thing people run from rather than the person running. Wolf and Dolly would be just another pair of faceless villains in the typical post-apocalyptic fable, but through Kid’s eyes, uncolored by pre-war notions of morality, we get to see them as complex characters, who actually have real motivations and sympathetic backstories. Although they have done terrible things, they are the only people who don’t immediately try to kill, rape or exploit Kid upon meeting her. The wasteland is a nasty place full of ruthless people, but Kid comes to learn that none of them are monsters by choice. When a would-be ruler of the rubble puts a bounty on their heads, Wolf and Dolly teach Kid survival skills by handing her a knife and throwing her into the deep-end. They can’t seem to go anywhere without kicking off a Miller-esque action set piece that destroys what little was left standing. Bite is certainly never boring, moments of metaphysical contemplation and morbid humor punctuating explosions of insane violence and slapstick carnage.
Every review is like this. Short and pithy with key information about why someone would read this using the same categories so that there is a standardization to the information despite the rotating cast of reviewers.
But compare it to my review of the same book from Booklist last month:
Bite by K.S. Merbeth
Aug. 2016. 304p. Orbit, paperback, $9.99 (9780316308700).
REVIEW. First published July, 2016 (Booklist).
REVIEW. First published July, 2016 (Booklist).
Merbeth’s action driven debut introduces us to Kid a, skinny, teenage girl who has known no world other than this post-nuclear apocalyptic one. Barely surviving alone after the death of her father, knowing she should not trust strangers offering a ride, but too tired and hungry to care, Kid gets in the car with two ominous figures-- the large, dreadlocked Wolf and the bright blue haired Dolly. And so begins a fast paced ride through a barren world where food and water are scarce, “Raiders” and “Sharks” rule the trade routes, and cannibalism is a real survival option. Kid’s first person narration grabs the reader immediately and we hang on her every word as she falls in with Wolf and his gang. The first battle scene comes immediately and is closely followed by another, and then another, strung together and constantly escalating. But in between the fighting there is equally as compelling character development. Wolf’s crew, villains all, but lovable and principled ones, come to be known and loved by Kid- and us. She watches and learns from each, and as a result, comes through the story stronger, both because she now has a “family” and has finally taken control of her own survival. Filled with dark humor, wit, and a realistic post-nuclear setting, Bite plays off the idea of who are the “good guys” in such a harsh world. Think Carl Hiaasen thriller set in a Mad Max world and you have an idea of what to expect.
YA: Yes this story contains some violence (and cannibalism), but Kid’s transformation from young victim of the post nuclear bomb apocalypse to active player in her own survival will greatly appeal to older teens.You should click through to my full post where I shared more on this title than I could fit in the review.
The information within both reviews isn’t that different, but the delivery most certainly is. My review is written to an audience of library workers. Although you can and should use these reviews to help readers, the audience for Bookshots is the reader. The main goal of Bookshots is for writers to think like a reader and spit out the key info a reader would need to decide if he or she should try the book out.
It is about the nitty gritty, the truth about the book and why someone would love it or hate it-- quickly, but it is shared in a fun way. You could easily use Bookshots in tandem with a patron. Look it over together for a book they ask about or one they have already read. It will easily kickstart a back and forth conversation about what kind of book that patron in front of you is looking for. The colloquial but still useful information in these reviews will get the RA conversation going right away.
I am going to try this out with a patron tomorrow. I know just the one to ask. What about you?