Writing an MWSA Review (past guidance)
As a reviewer, you are given the awesome responsibility of evaluating a member's book. Reviewers are not to discuss books they are reviewing with anyone beyond the Director of Awards prior to the publishing of the review to the MWSA website.
Your role is to score the work against MWSA established standards and write an honest assessment that the member can use to market his/her book. You are also responsible for complete the comments section of the score sheet in a gentle way so that it can be used by the author as a critique to help him/her learn from the process.
These are the recommended guidelines for writing an MWSA review. The asterisks denote required fields. The remaining items should to be covered somewhere in the body of the review.
Reviewers are encouraged to post reviews to Amazon and B&N etc. but not until the review is published on the MWSA website AND awards have been announced.
* Book Title:
* Reviewed by:
* Genre and Sub-Category:
Write a short (3-4 line) synopsis of the book. What is the book about? Where does it take place? This would be similar to what we call the “elevator conversation” in marketing. Make it short and interesting.
Write a short evaluation of how the book fits criteria 1 although don’t make any mention of scoring on the review itself. (2-3 lines) Example: This book discusses the relationship between Marines and the Corpsmen who take care of them. It’s easy to read and moving.
Write a short discussion of any issues you discovered as related to criteria 2 without making mention of scoring. For both criteria 1 & 2, you are actually analyzing the book with respect to the issues associated with them. (2-3 lines.) Example: I really enjoyed the cover of this book, but I can’t figure out what it has to do with the content. Also, the maps are too small to be useful.
Comment on the elements of the book that make it believable or unbelievable. Example: While the image of Yossarian sitting in a tree eating chocolate-covered cotton is amusing, I personally have never been tempted by that particular snack. However, the famous passage where Yossarian screams “they are trying to kill me,” followed by his fellow airman’s response, “they are trying to kill everyone,” followed by Yossarian’s “and what difference does THAT make?” rings true and makes me chuckle every time I read it.
Comment on the elements of the book that typifies the genre. Example: At the climax of this novel, I was almost afraid to turn the page lest the scar-faced Viet Cong soldier who had been following the protagonist might leap out of a tree and cut my throat. Breathtaking to the end, this book is filled with chills and thrills.
If you feel the book is worth recommending to a specific audience, say so. However, most books delight certain audiences and leave others cold. So say something that would endear it to the audience it was written to reach. Example: If you are looking for a strategic military book, look elsewhere. However, “The Wizard of Oz” is a charming allegory that will move children everywhere.
Issues to avoid:
Dishonesty: if you can’t find anything good to say about the book, write a summary. If you can’t do that, then tell the Director of Awards who will reassign the writing of the review to one of the other reviewers who scored the book. Do not praise a book that doesn’t meet MWSA standards or compromise your own sense of integrity.
Hypercritical comments: this is a marketing review, not a critique. Focus on what it is, not what it isn’t. Tell the reader what to expect from the book honestly without embarrassing the author. Reviews are not the place to “teach” new authors. The comment section of the score sheet will be used for that purpose. Careful scoring can help us identify the educational needs of our members.
Over praising: whether you like the book or not is immaterial. The question is, does it live up to the requirements of its genre? Does it live up to the requirements of MWSA?
Personal comments are okay, but be wary of making the review about you and not about the book.
Here is an example of a written review.
Title: The Military Father: A Hands-on Guide for Deployed Dads
Author: Armin A. Brott
ISBN: 978-0789210319 (paperback) / 978-0789210302 (hardcover)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Reference, Children
Reviewer: Pat McGrath Avery
An excellent reference for dads, The Military Father covers issues pertinent to men. Much broader than the title implies, the book covers military and civilian fathers who face a long-distance relationship with their wife and children.
The book encompasses a wide spectrum of possible reactions to deployment – from the view of the dad being deployed, the spouse, children at various age levels, single dads, dual military families and the dad at home when the mom is deployed. It covers active-duty military, reservists and civilian/government workers.
What makes this book exceptional is Brott’s attention to the details of family life. Written is an easy-to-read and easy-to-follow format, the author lays it on the line. His advice ranges from telling fathers to record their voices for their unborn children and planning online games with teenagers to comforting and preparing spouses.
He deals with fathers from pre-deployment through coming back home and facing PTSD. Appendices cover a wide aspect of issues including a pre-deployment checklist, stages of childhood development and available resources.
Brott writes with respect for all family members, their emotions and the problems they encounter. He is straight-forward and specific, addressing tough and personal issues. He never assumes that all dads, marriages, children and situations can be “buttered with the same knife.” He speaks of regret, guilt and loneliness as well as independence, commitment and love.
Dads will relate to the preparation, feelings, and problems addressed. Mothers and children will better understand that deployment is as hard for the one far away as it is for those waiting at home.
I would recommend this book to every person facing the deployment of a spouse or partner.
Review by Pat McGrath Avery, MWSA Reviewer (July 2010)