Have you heard about the Weekly Geeks challenge yet? Each week Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf will post a theme or idea for a blog post. If you want, you can write a post in response to the challenge, and at the end of the week Dewey will collect them all and write up a carnival-like post about them. A lot of people have signed up already, and I think it’s gonna be fun! If you’re interested, you can sign up here.

This week’s kick-off challenge is to find five blogs from the Weekly Geeks list that you’ve never visited before and spread some link love. I am excited about that not only because it’s a great way to start things off, but also because it dovetails nicely with something else that’s been on my mind.

In her recent Sunday Salon post, Bethany posed the question “What makes a good book review?” I’ve been pondering this question a lot recently, especially since I’ve been reading so many great new blogs lately (thank you Sunday Salon!) And I’ve been wondering why it is that some reviews send me running to the library, whereas others don’t. Is there something about the review that sends me running over there? Or is it just something about the book itself (e.g. I’ve read others by the same author or it’s a genre I love)?

Long story short, it occurred to me that while I’m browsing the other Weekly Geek blogs I could pay special attention to posts with book reviews in an attempt to answer the question of What Makes A Good Review. Two birds with one stone, you know.

So, here are my discoveries, in no particular order:

Bibliolatry. Not only is she hilarious and slightly snarky, but she tells me exactly what I want to know about a book. I was immediately hooked when I read her review of Jonathan Lethem’s Amnesia Moon (which I have not read). She says, in essence, that it was a great idea but he didn’t carry it out very well. I have had that same criticism of so many books that start out with a great premise but then aren’t able to follow it through. (Moral: snarky negative reviews can be a great way to gauge whether another reviewer is on the same page, so to speak, as you.)

A High and Hidden Place. All right, I admit it. I was sucked in not by Heather’s book reviews, but by the stunning photos of her totally adorable children. 🙂 However, she does have plenty of interesting book reviews on her site. One in particular that resonated with me was her review of West With the Night, by Beryl Markham (which I haven’t read). Heather tells us it’s a memoir about growing up in Africa, and it’s beautifully written. To prove her point, she quotes a couple of paragraphs from the book. Short and sweet. And that’s all I need! The quotes are indeed beautifully written, and I’m totally eager to read this book. (Moral: quotes from the book, just enough to give a sense of the writing style, are very important.)

Reece Bauer. I liked this blog right away, especially when I saw that she makes a point of reading banned books. You go girl! I also see that she likes historical fiction, and has links to Metaxu Cafe and Slaves of Golconda in her sidebar. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to see if she’d reviewed any books that I had already read. Ha ha! She didn’t like French Lieutenant’s Woman; I did. She loved Shadow of the Wind; I hated it. Oh, we agree on To Kill a Mockingbird, but who doesn’t love that one? Regardless, I am now dying to read Pillars of the Earth after reading her review. (Moral: thoughtful reviews are useful even if you don’t agree with their conclusion.)

Table Talk. I actually met Ann a few weeks ago via Sunday Salon, not Weekly Geeks, so I guess technically her blog shouldn’t count for this. But I like Table Talk so much that I just have to mention it. Ann’s reviews are thoughtful and interesting, and she reads a wide variety of books. Her most recent post is a review of a children’s book, Crusade, by Elizabeth Laird. While reading her review, I was (I swear!) taken from elation to despair in two succinct paragraphs. Elation at first, because of her description of the book (historical novel about the Crusades) and her wonderful characterization of it as a “rattling good tale.” Despair in the next paragraph because of her very believable complaint that the book is too polemical. She finishes off by saying “I suspect its place in the shortlist and will be disappointed if it wins.” (Moral: reviews can be good reads in themselves, even if the book itself isn’t so hot.)

Everyday Reads. What a pretty design, first of all. And she seems like a real kindred spirit. I love it that her top post is a review of a book she’s only read half of — something I’m guilty of doing a lot. I also love that she has a favorite author (Terry Pratchett) that she obsesses over as much as I obsess over my own pet (Patrick O’Brian). Scrolling down a bit further I discover her post about an old favorite that I haven’t thought of in a long time: The Martian Chronicles. I will always have a special place in my heart for Ray Bradbury; clearly she does too. (Moral: can’t think of any more morals. But it’s sure been an interesting exercise to read all these reviews and think about what makes them so appealing and useful.)

Boy, this turned out to be a long post! And what a challenge it was to choose just five out of so many great blogs! I’ve subscribed to a bunch of new RSS feeds, my TBR stack has tripled in size, and I am looking forward to the next edition of Weekly Geeks.