Do you write book reviews?
Do you read them?
Do they influence what you purchase?
I read and write reviews, and I’ve learned that they are definitely subjective. Not everyone has similar tastes. Some have gushed over a novel that I found rather boring. I’ve thought, “Did we read the same story?” There have also been times when I felt books/authors didn’t deserve the beating they received.
Some reviewers focus on the author’s writing skills: the story’s pace, plot holes, descriptions, and characterizations.
I focus on the spiritual takeaway. I still enjoy stories that don’t contain a faith-based message; I still read non-Christian books. But if it’s going to be labeled Christian fiction, I believe there should be something within the story that relates to my faith—even if subtle. There should be something that causes me to think about my personal relationship with Christ or challenges me to grow in my faith. So in my reviews, I relay what I believe is an underlying theme that people can relate to.
To write a valuable book review takes time and thought, but I’ve found that the exercise helps me become a better writer. It makes me look at what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong in my own manuscripts. Writing reviews is also a great way to give back to the publishing community and build relationships with authors.
How do you pen a review? Provide a description of the main characters, and give a brief summary of the book without sharing details that reveal important plot points, surprises, or the ending. Be honest about what you like in the story and also what you may not like—without being cruel. Even if you don't love the book, try to point out some positives.
Your turn. What do you look for in a review?