Yes, I said, "art." As a reviewer, I'm painting a picture for a potential reader. Like a canvas or music, the evaluation of writing is subjective. How I communicate my thoughts will affect their perception of an author's work. I try to remember there's a real, live person who wrote those books. They have feelings, dreams, and it's taken everything for them to put their hearts on the line.
Here are some principles I use to review books:
1. I select books I enjoy reading. If I detest history (which I don't), why choose a novel set during the Civil War? If horror gives me nightmares (it does), I leave it to braver souls.
2. I read the descriptions on Amazon. It's irritating to see a review based on someone's disappointment that the content didn't match what they thought the book was about. Even more astonishing is when the reviewer says they didn't read the book.
3. Give a writer some grace. A debut author's book shouldn't be measured with the yardstick of a seasoned professional's bestseller. A child's first efforts at writing are not in competition with a grad student's thesis. Writing is hard, and we're all on a learning curve.
4. My number one don't: I rarely review a book under 4 stars. If I know the author and they trust my desire to help them, I might share my thoughts in a private message on what I observed.
5. Are all my reviews sugar and spice and favorable? No, I'll often point out something that I didn't like. However, I'll also lead and balance those comments with what intrigued, interested, or touched my heart.
Social media and review sites are great when used with kindness and sensitivity. An honest review doesn't equate to trashing an author or their work. My relationship with the Lord affects every area of my life, including how I treat others. It takes a lot to get an agent, a book contract, or even to self-publish. Let's encourage each other to bigger and better things.
Writers: What are your pet peeves about reviews?
Readers: What are some of your guidelines for book reviews?