Thursday, October 6, 2011

This-n-That Thursdays: Reviewing Books

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?

Dawn

2 comments:

  1. Hi, Dawn... before I was a writer, I was a reader, and got into the habit of trolling reviews in search of reactions. I found these especially helpful because, while book covers and blurbs can make almost any book sound appealing, even a handful of genuine reader reactions will give you a fairly accurate measure of the impact and take-away value.

    Statements like, "This was hard getting into, but after a few chapters, I couldn't put it down..." have often swayed me into taking a chance on a book I might have otherwise passed over, and missed out on. At the same time, several reactions such as, "This was a YA novel that that was a little too graphic and depressing for where my daughter is coming from..." have prompted me to turn down something that sounded like an acceptable read from the outside. Especially when purchasing a gift.

    I have tremendous respect for the common sense of the common readers, because you can almost always bank on them to say the honest thing. My favorite review of all time (which I have often repeated because it just floors me) was written over at Amazon by a 12-year-old boy who had just finished reading Jules Vern's MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. Here it is in its entirety: "After reading this book, I now know I could survive."

    He nailed it, didn't he?

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  2. Hi Lilly,

    Thanks for taking the time share your thoughts and feelings on reviews. I especially appreciate you relating what the young man said about MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. Wow! That's powerful.

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