Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Reviews and Review policy

There's been a lot of talk around lately about  authors reviewing books, and I am thinking that it's time I articulated my policy and explained a few things about my reviews.

1.  I never take money to review books.  I do at times accept review copies, books (usually e-books) given by authors to reviewers in hopes of getting a review.  The clear understanding is that I review that book as I see fit, unbiased and unprejudiced. If I can't see my way to writing a review that says something kind, or if the book really isn't my style, I don't do the review.

2.  Most of the books I review I pick up at the library, either on a recommendation or because I liked their looks.

3. So what if I hated the book?  This hasn't happened much.  But if I am reading a book from the library, if I don't like it well enough for it to be worth at least 3 stars, I probably don't finish it.  Which means I don't review it. [Side note, regarding Goodreads, since there is overlap between readers of this blog and friends on Goodreads: On my Goodreads shelf, an unfinished book will either get put on my "DNF" shelf or more likely just quietly disappear.  This happens to books that are perfectly good, but just not my cup of tea, so that's not an indication of quality (for example, I don't care for paranormal, and teen romance bores me).  This also occasionally happens to library books that expire before I can finish, if I get distracted with something else before I can check it out again.  So, really: not an indicator of quality.]

4.  Why don't I do negative (one- and two-star) reviews?  Answer: not only is it probably bad karma, but as noted above, if the book is that bad or unappealing to me, I don't finish.  And if I haven't read the whole thing, I don't review.  In any case, I write reviews more to turn people on about books that they might like to read than to warn people off bad books.  I suppose if I read something that was getting a lot of press about being the next new wonderful thing and I thought it was awful, I might go ahead and review it and say so.

5.  So what do my star ratings mean?  I'll start with one star, even though I don't do those reviews, just to give a sense of my progression.
1 star = unreadable.  Story, characters, and editing are all hopelessly sub-par.
2 stars = poorly written, but there are redeeming features and some might enjoy it.
3 stars = decent work.  This is where you will find books with good stories and characters and sub-par editing and proofing, or a  nicely produced book that just doesn't quite grab me due to some kind of flaw in characters or plot.
4 stars = where most books end up.  I enjoyed the book, found the plot and characters engaging, and was not distracted by editing issues.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes to read this type of book.
5 stars = top of it's category.  I don't give too many of these, because, well, how many can be at the top of the category?  (and by category I mean "children's time-travel fantasy" or "historical cozy murder mystery"--i.e., pretty small categories, and a book that's not any work of literature might get 4 or 5 stars because it fully delivered what it promises).

On this blog, I also reserve the right to just give my take on the books and not bother with stars.  That is especially true when I'm reviewing books outside my area of expertise (see recent review of Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life), or books that I just don't know how many stars I should give, maybe because I'm waffling or I need another cup of coffee, or. . . you get the picture.  When I post reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, they require a rating, so I try to come up with one, along the lines outlined above.

And, finally, I will always indicate at the end of my review if I was given the book for review purposes, bought it, checked it out of the library, found it under a rock, or whatever, just so you know.  Not all my older reviews have this feature, though I will try to keep going back and adding it.

And one final word: the contents of the blog are copyrighted and are the sole property of Rebecca Douglass.  When reblogging, please link back here.  If you wish to use all or part of a review or post beyond the blogosphere, please contact me for permission.  Photos used on this site are my own and also protected, with the occasional exception as indicated (most of those are taken by my husband and are his property).

Books.  Don't leave home without one.

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