My Friend Amy, who brought us Book Blogger Appreciation Week has a new carnival in the works, the Faith 'n Fiction Saturday.
Each week she will post a blogging prompt, which participating bloggers will answer on their own blogs. Then they head back to the original post and sign Mister Linky! This way we can all come to know each other more closely.
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 goes...do 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)
Yes I do receive copies of Christian books to review. And yes I do review them honestly.
When the situation arises that I have to review a book I don't like, I handle it in this way. First off, I give a book a max of four chapters for me to get into the book. If I cannot get into the book by four chapters, it is highly unlikely I will be able to finish/like the book. Luckily all the books I've had to review so far I've liked. Library books on the other hand are a different story, can't get into by 4 chapters, no more for you! When I do write a review on a book I don't like, what I usually do is sandwich my criticisms. Write about some good parts (even if I have to stretch), then talk the negative, then finish up with another positive comment. That way the blow is softened, I've said what I had to, but I always state the strengths of the book.
My first priority when reviewing has always been about the readers. That is why I started writing my blog, because I wanted to let other people know about the books I read. I would want to let them know what is good and what to avoid. Even if I liked the book very much, if there is something in the book that really irritated me, I would like to tell someone else about it in case they feel the same way.
This is why I don't really like bloggers who only post positive reviews on books. Yes the authors did a hard job writing their books and should be commended for that. But honestly if everything is sugarcoated, that is not how real life is. Christians tend to be very scared to post a negative review on a book. Now please don't think I'm in favor of writing negative reviews, I am not. But if there is something in the book that drives me crazy (unrealistic characters, people doing stupid things, very obvious discrepancies etc) I have to say it. I am not going to like every book that is already out there, no matter how good of a job someone might have done on it. I know if I write something, not everyone is going to like it. Sure I might get mad at you, call you names, wish you to someplace boiling hot if you don't agree with what I wrote, but that is your complete right, choice and freedom.
I have not had any negative comments from authors. Any negative reviews I have done on my blog have actually been for books that don't really need my publicity. They were books by well named authors who have tons of money already from their books. Unfortunately their books weren't all that great. And I felt that I had to tell it like it was. I wasn't mean and ugly but I had to state the negatives.
My final POV: it is ok to not like a book. Authors should know not everyone is going to like their book. If they expect every blogger they send their book to like their book they can expect one of two things -1) someone is lying or 2) everyone must be a clone of them. I'm not saying don't think positive about your work but please be ready to accept it might not be everyone's cup of tea. Bloggers should not be ugly if they don't like a book but it is ok to state what you didn't like about it. Faith should not be an issue when reviewing a book. What I mean by that is just because it's a Christian book does not mean it gets special bias vs a secular book. It all comes down to whether you like it or you don't.