Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why a Book Reviewer?

If you are not familiar with my blog, Reviews From The Heart, it's my own blogging site devoted to finding wholesome family and Christian based products in a market where deception can come in all shapes and sizes. Being a huge book lover since I was old enough to read, I literally inhaled books as soon as I could get my hands on them.

Remember I was raised in the generation where technology hadn't made its debut yet so imagination and physical activity was key for kids growing up. We didn't have 24 hour television or even cable at that point and I still vaguely remember going to sleep when you'd get that colored bar when the programming on the stations had run their course before the song of America the Beautiful would play before signing off for the night.  So for me books were my way out of the world and a chance to see things and be someone I could only dream about at this point.

My beloved favorites were just about anything dealing with horse and dogs and soon those interests too would change as the years passed. I couldn't wait for the book mobile to show up in our local neighborhood because to me it meant more books I could check out as long as I could carry them home. The book mobile was a paneled van that pulled up filled with books from the library for kids who couldn't get out to the main branch. Still wish they operated something like this especially for those who find getting to the local library a bit of a challenge.

Fast forward to today, where for the last 5 years I've become a book reviewer. What is required? Nothing more than love of books, a commitment to follow through on what you read, and a place to share your opinions on the books, thus the creation of Reviews From The Heart that began back in 2009 even though the blog posts begin in 2010, I started my reviews on my personal blog Heart 2 Heart, but was later asked and voted that the book reviews be listed on another blog for those who weren't interested in books and product reviews. Along the way I've read some keepers and the need for my husband to build at least two bookcases a year to house them in. If you haven't notice the local brick and mortar stores are closing and for most the only way to get their hands on a book is through the Internet or library.

I don't have an English degree from college just a desire to share what I find with those who are interested in what I have to say and love books as much as I do. I remember reading something on a publisher's website about blogging for books, a simply notion that the publisher would send you a complimentary copy of the book, you promise to read it and share your opinions. That's it. That is all they requested. It started out with one publisher and one book at a time. But for me, the books were so good, I could finish them in a day, and had to wait about 14 days to get another one.

I felt like an addict with a need for written words. So I began to research more publishers who were publishing books based on genres I love and were also Christian based companies like WaterBrook Multnomah, Tyndale House and Thomas Nelson. Soon other companies saw the value in the program and those major publishing houses like Hachette Book Groups, Simon and Schuster and Harper Collins Publishers were also publishing Christian and family titles under their own Christian divisions. Add to that mix, Book Tour companies like Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, TLC Book Tours and Litfuse and you begin to gain an awful lot of great novels from some talented authors.

I found the more you reviewed and subsequently shared those reviews on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Shelfari, Christianbook.com and Goodreads, the more the publishers and even private authors would reach out and solicit you for reviews. At first I only reviewed Christian books in my favorite genre's like horror, suspense and fantasy and soon realized I was probably missing out on some amazing novels out there, so I began to review everything and anything in the Christan publishing world from Amish Romance, to Christian living and spiritual growth and found out something about myself that I really loved to read just about anything.

So why Christian based books? 

Because for the most part they keep the storylines based on a God-centered life. You don't find profanity or sexual content or even violence in most of them, and if there is violence it is down played without all the graphic details. I don't think books need to contain them to get the message across. I think our imaginations are vivid enough we don't need the explicit details for us to fill in the blanks. These books a wholesome and offer family values and traditions, I would be proud for my daughters to read and thus the desire to be selective in what I choose to review. Although I stick with Christian novels most of the time, I have found some remarkable family books that aren't listed as under the Christian label that I found are beneficial to include as well, thus my reasons for going outside the Christian publishing houses at times.

So how do I rate my books? 

That again is my preference and I have clearly stated my own review system on my blog for those that have read my book reviews.

5- stars are simply the best I will rate a book. It's so good I know I will read it again and again. It is one I can't wait to share when anyone is looking for a great novel to read. It's one that I won't donate or loan out in most cases because they are like family to me. They wind up in my own personal library and the collection is growing..

4 - stars are books that are great but might contain something like one or two words of profanity that one might cringe upon when they are reading it, even if it might seem as if the character might actually say that in real life. These are still great novels but lack something that keeps me from wanting to shout from the roof top, buy this book! It might be a lapse in the writing style, confusing dialogue, too many characters to keep track of but I think you get the idea.

3 - stars is that the book was good but because it contains profanity, sexual content or violence, often times all three, it is not one I would want my daughters to read nor would I really recommend this to a friend.

2 - stars is that I can't recommend this book at all. It contains adult content, extreme violence, graphic sexual content, goes against my religious beliefs as a Christian, a good deal of profanity, and in most cases contains more than one of these in the novel. The characters may be lacking as well as a poorly defined storyline, one where it jumps back and forth, completely confusing the reader. For me, it's the one I have been forced to read solely based on my promise to review the book.

1 - star is the worst of the worst. It was so bad that I couldn't even finish reading it. Would NEVER recommend this book, in fact I would do almost anything to persuade you to NOT read it. I wouldn't even pay money for this one.

Along with my rating of stars I will often times tell you why I rated a book the way I did. Some people however don't appreciate honesty and will stop at nothing to let you know how they feel.

So what do you do when you have to rate a book a 1 our 2 stars? 

Honestly I try really hard to find some redeeming quality in what the author wrote. After all, we are all entitled to our opinions and thus people can chose to read my reviews and make their own decision on whether or not to read the book. The choice is really all up to them, I am simply sharing my opinion. I never stated I was an expert on reviewing and again possess no degree in English but after almost 50 years of reading, how does one become an expert reviewer? I think if people like what you wrote, they may take you up on a suggestion to read the book, or peruse more reviews.

There are authors who don't want anything less than a 4 or 5 star review on any retail sites or even on your blog, but then again, how fair is that? I know they are looking at ratings and marketing, but isn't that what an honest review is? If I really don't like the book, should I forgo posting the review so others can be fooled?

I know for the most part, 90% of the books I review are 4 and 5 stars, because I have been pretty selective about the books and storylines, I choose to read, but then again there are those 10% who find themselves receiving a 3 or less star. It is any worse than people who simply log into a retail site and fall under the anonymous category and simply rate a novel a 1 and say nothing?

In my opinion, I'm simply an honest book reader who is sharing her love of books with those who want to know what I have to say, nothing more and nothing less. Until there is a rating system out there for books like there is for movies and television programs, book reviewing is key. There have been too many books that have passed for something other than what they are, and I think parents who have children or teens who read need to be made aware of them.

The best thing to keep in mind is that I am not a English professor who is going to detail whether the antagonist or protagonist in the story was well written, how the conflict and resolution are adequately illustrated. I honestly don't think people want to be reminded of those English Literature days of trying to find the theme and symbolism in a novel, they simply want to know if it is worth their time, and if you liked it, much like a conversation with a friend or family member would be.

And that my friends and readers is why I review books!

Oh and by the way, NEVER have I received anything more than a complimentary book in the process for reviewing it. I have NEVER been paid for any of my reviews despite what people may think. In fact those publishers that email me with a commission based review, I have turned down 100%. I find it hard to be biased when you are cashing a check from them.


Terra said...

I am like you, and enjoy reading great books and telling other people about them. Also, like you, I usually give books a 4 or a 5 star review, because I research them first and only select books it sounds like I would like.

Sandra said...

I love books, and even though I have a Kindle and enjoy it, for me, nothing will ever beat the feel of a book in my hand and the smell of the pages.

I too am a book reviewer, and really enjoy doing it.

You made me smile when you were talking about the TV back in the day, I remember growing up and also knowing it was bedtime when the colored bars came up :)