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Thread: Vicki's Review Thread

  1. #1
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    Vicki's Review Thread

    Username On The Archives: Oregonian
    Current SPEW Rating: Since I'm just getting started, I will be in the Bronze Ranking.
    How Long I've Been In SPEW: I joined on February 16, 2014.
    Link To My Review Page: Here
    Favorite Reviews I Have Left: Avada Crucio by Vittoria, The Most Unlikely Romance by RoseHyperionMalfoy, Mary Macdonald's Healing Garden by SnapeLives, A Death In The Family by GDPeg43, They Brought The Great Alastor Moody To His Knees by The Last Marauder, Shame by Cannae be Kenobi
    Stories Of Mine I Would Like To See Reviewed In Depth: Any of them, although Soraya/babewithbrains has already reviewed Renewal.
    Last edited by Oregonian; 02-18-2014 at 11:15 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Here is my review for A Chance Encounter by dreamscape.

    Hi, Linda. This is Vicki from Slytherin House, commenting on <i>A Chance Encounter</i>, the second story of your trilogy.

    At first, this part of the tale of Snape and Winifred seemed like a story just about sex, and I wasn’t sure what the purpose of this story was. Of course one should read the first part, <i>Snape’s Interlude</i>, and the final part, <i>Winifred’s Dream</i>, in order to understand this one, its references and implications. When one has done so, the function of this episode becomes clearer, even though this story does not have a lot of what we would consider “plot”. Its purpose seems to be to show that Winifred still harbored a desire to re-connect with Snape and a hope that they could have a future together, despite his insistence that it must be over between them, and to show Snape as affected by her but still resolute, and therefore the stronger of the two.

    There is a notable contrast between Snape’s almost instantaneous crumbling of resistance when he unexpectedly encounters Winifred in Diagon Alley and his rock-like insistence at the end that their feelings for each other cannot be paramount over his “important situation”. I loved the way you conveyed the idea that, emotionally, Snape did want this liaison, by having him say “I don’t think I should be seen with you,” and, moments later, “I have a room there for tonight” before he could stop himself. You have made it plain that she wants it too, “coaxing” him, countering his “it wouldn’t be wise” with “we don’t always have to do what’s wise.” Total end of resistance! Conquered with barely a shot fired! But in the morning Snape gets ahold of himself, and you show this transition well in the two contrasting lines: “He looked back at her, then at the floor, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he sighed heavily and said…” and moments later “A few seconds passed in silence, then he faced her again; his dark eyes met her gaze steadily, and he said coolly…”

    Snape seems a little out of character in that he is shown as having, in his later years, a tender, loving side with at least a little openness. We do not see him depicted this way as an adult in the seven books, but it is a favorite premise of authors, perhaps because we sympathize with Snape and see him as a tragic character, despite his unjustified bullying of Harry and the Gryffindors. So there exist many stories which give him a happier outcome: a wife or sweetheart, a child, even a longer life. We authors and readers are to be forgiven for wanting this; his was a tragic tale.

    Your writing style is graceful and fluid, without awkwardness or choppiness in sentences. You provide good details of little actions and surroundings, that make the scenes and events easy to visualize. The only thing that gave me pause, other than the spelling of Beauxbatons, was the initial premise that Snape was in Diagon Alley just to hang around and keep his eyes and ears open for any significant information. That seemed a little improbable, although of course Dumbledore can make any assignments he wants.

    As part of the trilogy, this is an enjoyable little story in that it informs us a bit more about their relationship, but, as you indicated by saying that initially you planned that they should never meet again, it’s not crucial to the story as a whole. Thank you for writing!
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  3. #3
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    Here is my review for Smile by Anarane.

    Hi, Beth. This is Vicki of Slytherin House. I have been reading stories posted in 2013, which is why I read your story, and I must say that it is very nicely written. The sentences flow smoothly, never stilted or awkward or wooden, and there is pleasing variety in sentence structure and vocabulary. The descriptive details make the scene easy to envision.

    Your characterization of Remus is definitely consistent with canon; he is patient and attentive, speaking and acting gently and supportively as Tonks lies in her hospital bed. Tonks is only partially her usual brassy, sassy self, even before she learns that her cousin is dead. Although she is waking up after a three-day coma, I feel that her speech would have been a little feistier.

    It is not easy to guess where this story is going. Book five tells us that Bellatrix felled Tonks at the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, but I am not aware that they ever met face to face again. Tonks and Remus died in the first phase of the Battle of Hogwarts, before Bellatrix and Voldemort entered the fray. So perhaps the plot of this story will turn out not to be the revenge of Tonks on Bellatrix for the death of Sirius, but rather a budding romance between Tonks and Remus. As Chapter One of this story ends, the story has the possibility to go in various directions.

    There were a few missed spots in editing: “tighten” for “tightened”, “quite” for “quiet”, “close” for “closed”, and a few issues in punctuation and, rarely, in sentence structure. It is easy for the author’s eye to skip over these bobbles, and Spell-Check does not flag them if they are real words, such as “quite” for “quiet”. A final slow, careful reading can catch these bobbles before the story goes to the queue.

    I notice that you posted this first chapter last summer. Perhaps your school obligations have prevented your submitting the next chapter, but I hope that we will see it sooner or later because your prose is pleasant to read. What happened between Tonks and Remus after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries is definitely a “missing moment”, and I would like to see what you do with it.
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  4. #4
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    Here is my review for I Would Be Good For You by HPAlison.

    Hi, Alison. This is Vicki of Slytherin House, commenting on your story about the events of Remus’ life after the Triwizard Tournament. Yours is a story that I like very much. It starts off with a “bang” (truly, no pun intended) and goes galloping forward in the missing-moments tale of an exciting point in the Harry Potter saga.

    I like your first-person-Remus point of view. Although this first chapter is mostly action, we see enough of Remus’ inner thoughts to comprehend his character better. He is not a depressed, hopeless, angsty, or self-negating person, as he is sometimes portrayed, but rather a strong, resolute (although hungry) person who is up to the task before him.

    Sirius is also depicted well in character—impulsive, a loose cannon. You show this when you write that he wanted to rush off in the middle of the night to inform other people and was restrained by Remus only with some effort, and that in his dog persona he succumbed to the temptation to chase Mrs. Figg’s cat. I wonder if he had ADHD.

    You tie the story neatly to canon with references sprinkled here and there to established points of canon, and you vary the serious mood with bits of humor, such as the line “Things had to be bad for someone to want to be closer to a werewolf.” That shows a sensibility on your part for how life must have been for Remus.

    Your writing shows a good balance of dialogue, action, and brief reflections or “asides” on the implications of some words and actions. In some stories the author includes so many asides that it is hard to pick out the storyline, but you have avoided this fault, including just enough asides to give the story some flavor. This chapter also has an obvious story arc composed of elements that drive the plot forward; not all authors do this, and their stories risk being boring.

    Your sentences flow smoothly, with good variety in sentence structure and good word choices. They are pretty much free of editorial bobbles that can distract our attention momentarily. In fact, there’s not really anything I don’t like about your story.

    For a long time I chose not to read stories in the romance categories because I assumed in my prejudice that they would all be soppy or mushy or fluffy, but happily, in my recent troll through the romance fics, I have been proven wrong. There are many romance-labeled stories, like yours, that have a lot of merit and are well worth reading. I would like to see you finish this one. True, we already know how it turns out in the end, but the process of arriving there, like Arabella’s backstory, is sufficiently thin in the canon that it affords great scope for us authors to fill in all the missing details. I’m sure that others have tried to write these scenes, but perhaps not more successfully than you. Good job.
    Last edited by Oregonian; 02-26-2014 at 08:49 PM.
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  5. #5
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    Here is a critique for Lori/WeasleyMom’s review of But For Oceans Where Feet May Fail by paperrose, a link for which is here. I’m not sure if I am supposed to post this critique in my thread or elsewhere, but doubtless you will let me know if I am doing it wrongly.

    The tone of this review is very positive and supportive. It includes remarks on the mechanics of the story with phrases such as “..nice flow of your writing…” and “…captured her well in those younger years…”. It also includes remarks, in paragraph 2, about the logic of the story line and an analysis of how this story line exemplifies real-life truths.

    This review also includes extensive remarks not only about the quality of the writing but also about the reviewer’s reaction to the story. Examples of this are “She is actually one of my favorite characters…” and “My younger brother…” and “…the ring of truth,” and “The song…is one of my favorite songs…” It might be debated whether including personal-reaction remarks like these is useful to the writer in helping her learn to write better, but there is no doubt in my mind that a mention of the ways in which the reader feels close to the story (parallels in one’s own life, or favorite characters or moments in time) will assure the writer that his/her work has value and will impel the writer to continue writing. That, in the long run, is more important that technical perfection.

    The comments in paragraph 4, “My only hesitation with the piece…”, are very kindly stated. I like your disclaimer, “It’s not a huge deal, really…”, as you point out that, even though Hannah’s friendship with other ‘Puffs is not the theme of the story, the reader might be aware of its absence because it is such a salient quality of the ‘Puff nature. Of course the author knows that he/she can’t include everything in a short story or expand upon every passing reference without losing the focus of the story, but it is probably useful for the reviewer to mention any omission that particularly stands out.

    I was not familiar with the song that provides the title of this story, so I Googled the lyrics, expecting from your review to see fragments or paraphrases of the lyrics in the story, but instead found that the basic premise of the song was reflected in the story. Without your remarks I would not have known why the title was what it was.

    I noticed that you did not mention something about the story that did strike me—the frequent switching of verb tenses between present, past, and past perfect, not always seeming to be entirely under control. But perhaps this is the responsibility of the beta reader, and if she did not address herself to it, then we should just ignore it.

    A good review, and the author seems to be pleased also.
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  6. #6
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    *reposting this in the right place*


    My thoughts on your review for Smile by Anarane...

    I like that you began by telling the author how you came across her fic. I don't think I usually mention such things but it's a good way to get into the review, especially if the story is off the beaten path. Your description of her style is good and includes plenty of praise and encouragement, which is important. I like that you included comments on a variety of elements, including characterization, style, grammar, and plot (speculation on future plot, in this case). It's a very well-rounded review.

    You mentioned that you thought Tonks should have been fiestier upon waking from her coma, which I thought was interesting. She is certainly an energetic, fiesty character, and we are used to seeing her that way. But in this case, I think either way is a valid choice. Circumstances can make people act apart from their usual selves and I can certainly see her being quite shaken by the fight, the news about Sirius, and her own state. This is not criticism, as I think your view is equally valid and likely as a possible outcome. I just think it's the writer's choice, as long as it doesn't violate something in the character. You used the word "feel" in expressing your thoughts there, so maybe it would have simply been taken as an opinion rather than critique.

    Nice job pointing out the mistakes in the piece and reminding the author how easy it would be to get the story shined up with a final edit. You did this so concisely that it didn't sound negative at all, mentioning how easy those editing mistakes are to make. Well done.

    I think you were mistaken about Tonks and Bellatrix never meeting again in canon after the battle at the Department of Mysteries. They were both involved in the battle at the school the night Dumbledore died, though we don't know if they actually faced one another. And at the beginning of Deathly Hallows, when the Order moved Harry to The Burrow, Bellatrix was the one attacking Ron and Tonks. I think Tonks makes a comment to Remus afterward about Bellatrix wanting to kill her just as badly as she wants to kill Bellatrix. Even without these incidents, it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't have met up in various skirmishes involving the Order during those two years. But of course, we don't know for certain.

    I have to say, making canon errors in reviews is something I worry about. I've definitely done it, and now that I'm leaving lengthier reviews and getting into more detail, it's certainly a hazard. You were wise to add "but I'm not aware" to your comments in that section because in doing so you acknowledge that you aren't sure. I try to do this as well. "If memory serves..." That sort of thing.

    Nice review, Vicki. I like that you ended by encouraging the author to pick up the story again and letting her know you're interested in how she might resolve everything. It reminded me that I need to check out more uncompleted stories.
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  7. #7
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    Hi Vicki. I had a chance to look at your review for Shame by Cannae be Kenobi, and thought it was excellent. When the fic itself is only 1000 words, it can be hard to leave substantial content in a review, but not so when the story leaves such a positive impression. You gave a lot of encouragment, and I liked that you pointed out the lines you felt were particularly good. You offered your own insights about the Malfoy family as well, which seemed to correspond well with the author's take on things, especially Draco. I also appreciated the way you drew out the scene of the Malfoys in the entrance hall, and commented on the author's ability to explore that idea of them not fitting in no matter where they found themselves.

    Honestly, I just thought the review had excellent flow from beginning to end. Your tone was personable and encouraging, and it actually made me want to go back and read the story. Sometimes if I'm trying to decide whether or not to read a story, I will glance through a few of the story's reviews. Had I done that here, your review would definitely have made me to back and read. Which I think is a very good thing.

    Nice that you ended with a suggestion for the closing line, and that you used the phrase "I would have written" to do so. Either way works for the ending so it mainly boils down to a writer's preference, but I think it's important to offer something constructive when it's possible. Really well done.
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  8. #8
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    Hi Vicki. I read a couple of your reviews this month, and though both were good, I've decided to comment on the one you wrote for Pat-a-Cake by Foolondahill.

    Upon first glance at your review, I was surprised to see your detailed account of the author's grammatical errors. But after reading your explanation and looking back to the author's original note expressing her sincere desire to know about anything needing correction, I was much more impressed than surprised. Yes, we are in SPEW and we have these requirements and we are trying to write helpful reviews, but your review in this case was truly, truly helpful to that author. She responded with gratitude, but even if she hadn't, your desire to help her improve was plain, as was the quality of the information you gave her.

    Now, I'm sure neither of us would endorse turning ourselves into betas when reviewing, as we would certainly offend more authors than we would please. But in this particular case, I really thought you went well above and beyond in terms of the time and effort you put forth to be of service to this writer.

    In fact, looking at this review reminded me of two stories of mine that I was able to significantly improve because of constructive criticism I received (in an encouraging tone) from reviewers. In one case, I was brand new and didn't have a clue what I was doing, and so the advice didn't just help with that particular fic, but with every one I've written since. In the second case, there was a glaring canon error that somehow got missed by both myself and my beta. A reviewer brought it to my attention within a day or two of it being posted, and I corrected it on the spot. The fic went on to be very well-received, winning a QSQ. But you can be sure it wouldn't have won squat if not for that helpful reader taking the time as you did in this review.

    I've blabbered on, but you can see this was the main element that struck me. Your reviews are always very well-rounded, with good comments about characterization and plotting and style, and that was the case here, too. Well done on all of that. But mostly, I was impressed (and challenged) by your detailed effort on this one, and reminded what the point of all this is in the first place. Thanks for that.

    Happy reviewing.
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  9. #9
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    Hi Vicki. I'm a bit behind this month due to my own procrastination and then the site being down when the deadline rolled around. Sorry to be playing catch up.

    It's getting more and more difficult to critique your reviews because there simply isn't much to critique. Your review for Memoirs of a Red Headed Witch is really good, and I have no ideas for improvement. You pointed out (from your own experience) that the writer's take on a young girl's behavior was well done, and I think that was important to note. Very often, authors misrepresent the behaviors/cognitive development of young children, so it's certainly worth noting when it's done believably. Your comments about the relevance of the childhood anecdotes were also very useful, and would benefit any author who took the time to read the review.

    It was all good, but what I liked most is your discussion about Ginny's character and what the author achieved in its development in this short story. While my problem with Ginny lies more with movie canon than with that of the book, I see your point very well, and the end game is the same: she's rarely written very well in fanfiction. More often than not, she simply isn't very interesting or likable, and here, you made some very good points describing that phenomenon and how the author managed to avoid those landmines in the fic.

    Really nice, helpful review... I hope the author makes it back around to check it out.
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