Book Reviews: How I Do It
A couple of years back, I started reviewing books but didn’t get very many posted, as I 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?
I decided NO, and left reviews to others.
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, as a reader of other reviews of the same books I’ve read/reviewed has left me feeling like maybe I’m on another planet. Another reason I stopped posting my thoughts, but that’s just cowardly, so here goes another attempt…
First of all, I believe reviews are for readers. A review is to help someone decide whether or not they should spend their hard earned money and invest their valuable time, on a book. Reviews can truly be helpful for this. 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 reviewer’s 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. Inversely, if “we” like something “bad” it makes us stupid. I don’t like this. I must be too nice; not finding pleasure in saying anything that might hurt someone’s feelings, but I will say constructively, why I don’t like a thing and stress that it’s my opinion. My favorite book is someone else’s least favorite.
Many books I’ve really liked, despite feeling they could have been polished a bit before hitting the public eye. Because a book needs some polishing doesn’t mean it isn’t a good story worthy of being read.
5-star rating system
I continue to struggle with what to give 5-stars, versus 4-stars, versus 3. Part of me thinks a 5-star rating should be a rarity. 5-stars is the best, right? 5-stars means there’s very little, if any, room for improvement. 5-stars is for those favorite favorites.
Despite this thinking, I’ve gathered that that’s not really the way most others rate, so doing it differently only confuses things. This thinking came after an author responded to a 3-star rating I gave alongside glowing comments. If reviews are to help convince others to read something I’m suggesting is worthy, maybe my star ratings should be less rigid?
Basically, after all this contemplation on how to best be fair to authors and their stories, I’ve decided on a compromise between my initial thoughts, and the liberal use of the 5-star rating. If I love a story, but genuinely think there should have been a little more development in a major case, it will get 4-stars. 5-stars goes to those with very little missing. 3-stars will still signify a book worth reading, but with some hiccupy things, I couldn’t ignore.
–Goodreads 3 stars = liked it while Amazons 3 stars = it’s okay. These are not the same thing to me- at all. I think I tend to rate more in line with Goodreads, but because I think Amazon is more helpful to sales, I’ve been trying to gear my system to this. —
How, and Why, I Like A Story
Typically, why, and if, I like a book is 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 for a review. I’m not sure why that’s a thing. The reading is to find out the specifics of a story. An essay is something that explains detailed points, and critiques or argues, not a review. The point is to explain why someone else should read the book without making it unnecessary for them to read it.
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): firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Reading! 🙂