To Be a Better Reviewer

One thing I hope to do in this new journal is to become a better reviewer.

I’ve been writing reviews for some years now, and lately have felt like I’m stuck in a rut. My review format is pretty standard:

  1. One or two sentence introduction.
  2. One-to-three paragraph plot summary.
  3. A few paragraphs of what I thought about the book.

After a while this format has made me start feeling as if I were Harriet Klausner, only slightly more insightful and a lot more cynical. (For those who don’t know, Klausner is the #1 reviewer at It’s been conjectured that she’s actually a pen-name, perhaps for multiple reviewers. I don’t know that there’s any evidence for this, and there’s some evidence against it. In any event, her reviews are invariably positive – 4 or 5 stars – and have the consistent format of 2 paragraphs of plot summary and one paragraph of opinion. In other words, I find them bland.)

For me, the challenge in reviewing is that I both want to urge people to read books I enjoy, and discuss books I think are interesting. The former suggests that I keep my reviews spoiler-free, while the latter often requires that I include spoilers. (And both suggest maybe I shouldn’t review books I don’t like and don’t find interesting.) The solution to this, I think, is to write a review using the former approach, and then put any comments in the latter vein behind a Read More tag. (For the most part I hate it when people use things like lj-cut tags, but I think spoiler info is one of the very few legitimate uses of such things.)

And I’d like to break out of a standard reviewing format and get a little more creative.

Anyway, that’s the goal. I think it will take some thought and practice before I can properly execute it.


Hi there! I’m Michael Rawdon. Welcome to my new journal, Fascination Place.

I imagine that most of you reading this have come over from my old journal, Gazing Into The Abyss, at least at first. Fun as that journal was, I was getting tired of living on my little home-brew software which powered it. I wanted categories, and comments, and a domain name, and a format in which it would feel more comfortable to write small posts, and more often. And I wanted to stop feeling like my journal was living in 2001.

Over the summer I started casting around for what to use instead, and to my surprise it was just about unanimous that WordPress was the state-of-the-art blogging software out there. So that’s what I’m using, having spent most of September learning the languages that drive WordPress and customizing my set-up to get it the way I want.

Is it worth it? Time will tell. I’m pretty happy with the result, but no doubt there are some kinks to work out. You can comment or e-mail me if you see anything serious that needs attention.

I’m a little self-conscious about the title, “Fascination Place” (with no “The” – it’s like a street name), as I’ve always thought that I’m terrible at coming up with titles for things. Someone once pointed out to me that “Gazing Into The Abyss” seemed like a poor title for my journal, probably because my “abyss” is about two feet deep. So I wanted a title which was descriptive but not cynical, and that’s what I came up with. (It was hard. I told you I was terrible at coming up with titles…)

That aside, I’ve been chomping at the bit to start writing content for Fascination Place, and I set a deadline to launch this thing by this weekend, because spending any more time preparing it was just spinning my wheels. Like any new commitment, it’s a little scary (even if it’s replacing an old one which was just about the same), but it’s also kind of a relief to get started.

I hope you enjoy it.  Welcome!