Sunday, 16 November 2008

Faith and Fiction Saturday: Reviewing

The delightful Amy from My Friend Amy has begun asking a question on her blog every Saturday regarding books and such for anyone to answer. I can't promise I will answer every time but I thought this question deserved a response from me :)

The past couple of days there has been a big flare-up in the broader book blogging community regarding review policies and a blogger's obligation to an author once they've received a review copy. For those of you who belong to the blogging alliance FIRST, we've also discussed this issue a little bit.

I decided to make today's question about this, because I think this is an even tougher situation for Christian reviewers who review Christian books. So here you receive review copies of Christian books? If so, do you review them honestly? How do you handle it when you don't like a book but are obligated to provide a review? Who do you see your first commitment being to in book reviewing (besides God)? Yourself? The author? Your readers? Does your review change based on the spiritual content of the book or is it solely based on technical or artistic merit? Have you ever had a negative experience with an author after giving them a negative review? (please don't name names)
Here are my thoughts:~

As you all know I receive many books from publishers and/or authors to review. It is a privilege and in most cases a fabulous experience. My blog only reviews books written from a Biblical world view (Christian fiction, if you like!). I strive in my life (not always with success!) to honour God and in my reviewing likewise. That being said, I am committed to providing an honest review which will include the things I enjoyed about the novel and also anything I felt detracted from the story.

I recently responded to a question put to me about reviewing and this is part of my response which is relevant to the question -

"If I don't have anything positive to say about a book I will not review it as my aim in reviewing is to encourage rather than damage. There have been numerous books over the last couple of years that I haven't written a review for because the book was not good at all, even ones from very well known authors!

What I look for is something that engages me, touches my heart, entertains or challenges me. I review the story rather than the technique. I also review for the genre a bit. So if the book is a fun and lighthearted read, I rate it compared to other light hearted reads - I don't mark it down because it doesn't have deep substance, if it is not designed to."

I have not had a negative response from any authors - they have been gracious to a fault and a number have even actively sought my constructive criticism. My experience has been that authors wish to improve their craft and are often open to what their readers think.

I welcome any thoughts on this topic you might have!


Tracy said...

I really admire the authenticity and loyalty with which you review Rel.

It is no doubt a tangled issue in terms of who the reviewer is responsible to in their reviewing and to whom the owe the great debt of loyalty.

Given that I've not ever been approached by an author or publisher it's a lot simpler for me. You can bet I'll be coming to you for advice if I ever get stuck LOL.

C.J. Darlington said...

This puts into words the way I feel, too. If I hate a book, I probably won't review it. Not because it's bad to write negative reviews (some folks do it all the time), but it doesn't fit my purpose for reviewing. I try to keep my negatives to one or two sentences, if there are any.

Dawn said...

Someone else may hate a book that I love because we're all different. I would never want to hinder someone from purchasing/reading a book that might speak to them in a more meaningful way than it did for me. I had a girlfriend that turned her life around after reading a book that I didn't care for at all. So, I will not review a book that I intensly dislike. And for books that are not as good as others, I can usually give a fair review. I really find my joy in reviewing books that I LOVE!

Unknown said...

I agree with you in that I don't want to post a highly negative review, and if I was given a review copy of the book, I would be more likely to contact the publisher or author to let them know why I didn't like it and ask if they still wanted the review posted. That said, there are times where I don't like something about a book, but it is still a good book - I try to leave constructive criticism with plenty of things I liked about the book.

:) Wendi

Rel said...

Thanks for commenting everyone :) Sounds like we are all on the same page, so to speak - hahaha!

I know, very poor humour but it is late at night here :)

Amy said...

I like that you say you review to encourage. That's so nice and such a great way of thinking of it. It's been really fun to read Christian reviewers take on this topic (and quite honestly refreshing) and thanks for calling me delightful. :) I think you're tops!

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