Book Reviews: How I Do It

A couple of years back, I’d started reviewing books I read, but found it stressful. Most of the reading I do is from self-published, freshman, indie authors who rely on reviews to help get their book read by a wider audience. Was my opinion worthy as to influence the career of a new author? Were my thoughts insightful enough to lead prospective readers down the right path?

Yes, I tend to over-think things.

I’ve decided to start this review thing again, but felt the need to explain my point-of-view to those who may find their way here after (proverbially) listening to my book advice on occasion or two (I’ll be re-posting my previous reviews that can still be found on my Amazon and GoodReads accounts). When finding myself looking over others’ thoughts on a book I read, I feel like I must be on another planet…

Reviews can truly be helpful. I’ve found myself perusing reviews, though more often after I’ve read something then before, though a review or two has helped me decide whether or not to buy a book. There’s even been a painfully negative review here and there that pushed me to read something when I felt the reviewers voice was overly harsh, or seemed absurd to my point-of-view. This latter situation is why I stopped reviewing books myself, and, strangely enough, why I’ve decided to start reviewing again. I think many people believe negativity equates directly to intelligence – that finding the bad highlights a knowledge base above others; that liking something “bad” makes us stupid. I don’t like this. I’m too nice, or something, and don’t find pleasure in saying anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. That being said, I’m not afraid to say things I didn’t like, constructively. So many self-published books I’ve really liked, I feel could still have been polished to smooth things out and catapult the book to an even higher standard. Because a book needs polishing doesn’t mean it isn’t a good book.

I also rate pretty strictly in the 5 star system. Five stars usually only goes to those books that have it all. 5 stars is the best, right? 5 stars means there’s very little, if any, room for improvement. I rarely gave 5 stars. 4 star ratings, in my world, means excellent, and 3 stars is still a very good book. After an author responded to a 3 star rating I gave alongside glowing comments, I re-evaluated my thoughts on this rating system. If reviews are to help convince others to read something I’m suggesting is worthy, maybe my star ratings should be less rigid? Even as I write this, I feel confused about how to use the star rating system. Maybe I should just use 5 or 1, 5 being: read this; 1 being: don’t read this? Any guidance on how to use this 5 star rating system?

Why, and if, I like a book is all based on emotion and gut. Even as I like “smart” stories, and intelligently crafted characters, plots, and themes, my reviews are typically based off first response emotional feelings, rather than logical deductions and comparisons, or deep study of nuances buried (or not) within. If the book made me happy to read, I like it, even if I agree there may have been “better” ways the story might have been crafted, explained, structured, etc. In comparison to other reviews I’ve read, I’m definitely generous when it comes to structure, language usage, and engineering problems that most people are hung up on. One reason for this, I think, is that I read very fast, so tend to skim over “problems” that others, literally, trip over. Secondly, I’m, first-off, interested in the story. Crafting is difficult, and while I can see the argument that if you can’t craft, you shouldn’t be an author, sometimes a story just wants to be told, and we’re too impatient to figure out how to circumvent the world of capitalism needed to learn craftsmanship. If your story is engaging and real enough for me to slip down your rabbit hole, I’ll like your book, even if I can see where an editor, or a critical thinker, might have helped you immensely.

Lastly, spoilers are not necessary in a review. I’m not sure why that’s a thing. Short-and-sweet. The point is to explain why someone else should read the book.

If you don’t like how I present my reviews, well, I have nothing to say to that. I like books. Books make me happy, and sometimes I like to tell people I liked a thing so maybe they’ll find joy in a place as I did.  If you don’t like a thing that I liked, that’s okay. If there’s a How to Review like a Reviewer so You’ll No Longer be a Poser Reviewer memo, I’ll gladly take a look at that 🙂

I’ll review your book! Email me a pdf with a release date (so I can give myself a deadline): cindy_martens@ymail.com

Happy Reading!

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