Book Reviews: Too Harsh?

Are my book reviews too harsh? Some might say that they are, especially since a lot of the books I review come to me free, directly from the publisher(s). Knowing this, I thought I would take a few minutes to outline how being a book reviewer works, and my thoughts on why I review books in the manner that I do.

How It Works:

Authors and publishers allow book reviewers and bloggers the opportunity to read (many times in advance of the actual publication date) these books in exchange for giving an honest review of the book, either on their own blog, or in conjunction with other retail and social media outlets such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This gives the authors extra advertising for their books, as well as allowing them to have reviews posted by the time of their book release date.

How I Review:

To begin with, yes … many of the books that I review here on my blog are given to me free by different publishing companies through various programs that they run. Most of the books I review are from Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Publishers through their TNZ Fiction Guild, but I also receive books to review from other publishing companies such as Bethany House, Barbour Publishing, Tyndale House, Harvest House, and many others. Some of the books I receive are in traditional paper format, and others I receive directly to my Kindle in eBook format.

The way that I review a book follows the basic format …

  1. Did I enjoy the book?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Were the characters relatable?
  4. Did the book hold my interest and make me want to continue reading?
  5. Was it written well, or was there something (such as repetitive phrases) that drove me crazy?
  6. Did the book come to a tidy conclusion, or did it leave me hanging?

If you have read any of my book reviews, you know that two of my biggest pet peeves are repetitive phrases – I only need to be told once! – and being left on a cliffhanger. I am being 100% honest when I tell you that if I find either of these things in a book, it will irritate me to no end, and I will give the book a lower rating.

On the other hand, if the story is great and I don’t find either of my pet peeves, I will give out a higher rating, and will definitely recommend the book to my friends, family, and blog readers.

I always do my best not to make personal comments about an author, regardless of how I feel about a book, simply because I know that writing is super hard work, and I have great respect for the time and the effort that authors put into their “babies”.

Writing is tough! I’ve had a few articles that I have had published over the years in different Christian magazines, and let me tell you, I was thrilled! I can only imagine how a novelist must feel once their work has been picked up, and if they are then personally attacked because someone doesn’t enjoy their book, it must be like a slap in the face to them. I don’t want to be that person.

I have spoken with other bloggers and book reviewers over the years, and some of them feel that since they receive the books for free, that they shouldn’t leave a review unless it is a good review. I personally do not agree with that. I feel that since we are asked to give an honest review, that we should give that review, whether we enjoyed the book or not. It gives other people who are interested in purchasing the book differing opinions, and helps them to make a more educated decision about whether or not they want to spend their hard-earned cash. I’ve been disappointed many times myself by reading reviews, making the purchase, and then finding myself thinking, “Did I read a different book than all these people did?!”

I am an avid reader, and I would love nothing more than to have an actual library in my home where I could go to escape for a few hours a day. A few years ago when we were still in a small apartment, I gave away almost 300 books that I had, simply because I didn’t have the room to store them anymore. Now that we have purchased a home, part of me regrets that decision, but the other part of me hopes that the individuals who received them enjoyed them as much as I did. I can always refill my book shelves.

So, yes … I am very grateful to the publishing companies for sending me their books for free! What could make a true bookworm more happy? lol With that being said, just because I receive the books for free does not mean that I am only going to review them if I can give them a high rating, nor am I going to be dishonest in my reviews. I think I review each book fairly, and I hope that my reviews will help give others insight as to what they may or may not like about the book. I also hope that my reviews never offend an author, and that instead, maybe they will see my review and possibly pick up on certain items that may irritate us (as readers) when writing their next book.

Lastly, I want to say that thanks to all of these wonderful publishing companies and programs, I have found many new-to-me authors that I thoroughly enjoy and I make it a point to go in and purchase some of their books to help support their craft. I feel that since I am given so many books for free, it is only right to also purchase some of their other books when I can; this is how they make their living, after all!

Obviously, all of these things are simply my own personal opinion on the subject of being a book reviewer. I am sure there are other reviewers who may have differing opinions, and that’s ok! I just wanted to let you all know where I stood, and how and why I review the way that I do. I hope you find it helpful, and if you have any thoughts on the matter, leave a message below in the comments so we can chat!

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