Russell J.T. Dyer

Writer & Editor

the works and musings of a writer in new orleans and milan, italy • Updated: Jan 27, 2015 - 4:33AM • hits: 3121 for site today; 1 for page this week

A Writer’s Book Reviews

Book reviews of novels are typically written for readers in general or are criticisms of the novel from an artistic point of view. As a writer, my interest in a novel is not only of its literary merits, but of its effectiveness in winning readers: getting them to buy the book, to start reading it, and to read it all the way through after having started. I also admire how a book can affect readers, make them see the world differently, maybe change their lives, tell their friends about the book, discuss it, remember it for years to come. This ability of a great novelist to do this is of interest to me. To that end, for my web site I will be writing book reviews from a writer’s perspective.

A writer’s review can include several components besides general information about the novel being reviewed. Below is a quick list of these components that I will be including in my review. I will probably change this list as I write my reviews and publish them, and I may deviate from this list for some novels.

Opening Lines & Paragraphs

Many great writers win readers by with surprising opening lines or intriguing opening paragraphs to their novels. This gets the reader started reading the book and, if they’re well written, the reader will keep reading.

Plot Material

The setting of the story--an interesting country, a specific time in the past, during a war--these are significant decisions for a writer to make. What materials a writer uses for a plot and how he manages to use them effectively and to give the reader enough details to appreciate the setting, is another aspect that I will focus on in my reviews. I will also be looking at the complexities and details that the novelists feels are important to include: how much of a scene he describes, how much of smells, sounds, colors, and mannerisms he feels necessary to include are all things that I will be watching to appreciate the novels better and to improve myself as a fellow noveslist.

Character Choices

In my stories, I have been experimenting with different types of characters. Some are similiar to myself, some to people I know. It’s difficult to write about different characters with which I have no experience. In my reviews, I intend to discuss the types of characters the novelists chose and how the novelist developed them, presented them. I’ll be looking at how believable and interesting the characters are.

Plot Appeal

I’ve noticed that some plots are more appealing to me and to the general public. You can see this in movies: a christian story, a cinderella story, a damsel in distress theme, and many others. I don’t tend to try to adhere strictly to certain types of plots, but I think that I need to become more conscious of them and to try decide on a general plot to follow.


Just as I have an interest in the beginnings of a novel, I’m also interested in the endings. How a writer ends a novel can determine if the readers will recommend it to their friends, if they will continue to think about it long after having finished, whether their lives will be affected by what they read. A bad ending can ruin a good novel. I will be commenting on the endings of novels that I review and will try not to ruin the novel for those who read my review first. When there’s a chance that my comments may spoil the plot for those concerned with reading stories and being surprised by them (which I’ve never understood this obsession), I will give warnings.

I’ve only recently begun writing these book reviews. You can see a list of them in the right margin of this page. My plan is to write and publish on my site at least three reviews a month. I will review at least one newly published novel each month, and review two classic novels. Since I want to learn about writing novels from these reviews, I will probably only review somewhat modern classics. I think there are things to learn from older novels, but I feel that as a modern writer, I need to learn to write as a modern writer should. I will attempt to write reviews of all of the novels of Graham Greene and Franz Kafka. I will review several novels by Henry James, James Joyce, Italo Calvino, and a few other favorites of mine. In time, I hope not only to improve my writing skills from these reviews, but to build an interesting resource on my site for other would-by novelists.

Literary Criticisms

This is the start of something new on my site, book reviews of novels. For an explanation of these, see my page on Literary Criticisms

The Heart of the Matter

My second literary review, it's about another of Graham Greene's novels, one of my favorites. It discusses a few aspects of the novel, focusing on the opening lines and the ending. Mainly, it discusses the interesting plot and includes some personal reflections related to writing.

The End of the Affair

This is my first literary book review for my web site. It's a review of the first Graham Greene book that I've read. It discusses the book from a writer's point of view, admiring his work and trying to learn from it.