Thursday, September 29, 2011

How Do You Review?

Do you review books, articles, curriculum, movies, or websites? How about art, restaurants, stores, sports or other events?

What is your review criteria? Do you approach a review the same way no matter what your opinion is? Are you game to review anything, or do you tread carefully, thinking you might not like it?

I review for publishers, fellow writers, the Coffeehouse for Writers blog and the Amazon Vine program. Most of you have read my reviews here, so are familiar with my style.

A writer/friend and I were discussing reviews recently, and it got me thinking about my review methods and policy.

I do:

  • Try to be objective and lay aside preconceived notions. It can be hard, but I figure it builds character. :)
  • Look for the positive, particularly if I don't like it at all - any smidgen of something that can be highlighted as a good thing. 
  • Wrap the negative with positive when possible, and place myself in the author's shoes. I aim for constructive rather than scorching input.
  • Write the kind of reviews I like, those with a brief overview of content with enough hints to whet the appetite. I think a review should have take away value.
  • Offer reasonable warnings when necessary. For example, I reviewed a great Young Adult/Adult fiction series set during the Civil War. Because of the realistic content, I cautioned parents that they might want to preview the books before reading aloud to the whole family. It was fine for bigger kids, but a tad strong for little ears
    • Read every book through the eyes of a writer. I can't help it! But it does sharpen my observational skills and make my writing better.

    I don't review everything offered because:

    • I might not care for the genre or topic. Although I do try and branch out when I can.
    • Time limits. I only have 24 hours in the day, and laundry must get done sometimes...
    • If I know it's something I can't embrace. I'd rather decline than hurt someone's feelings.

    So, that's my two cents. Tell us, how do you review?

    Have a great weekend!


    Photo credit: Stock Exchange


    1. These are really good points. I try to use them when I write my reviews. I know it's hard to turn down books, especially by blogging friends but I'm trying to make sure my writing gets done...oh yeah, and my laundry.

    2. I think I have just about the same guidelines.

      I was just commenting to my crit group that when I review a book, I say very little about the actual book (I don't do a recap), but my impressions of the book moreso.

    3. I only review books on Goodreads and I'm willing to read something outside of my favorite genres. On my blog I review movies though and there I am really open to any kind.

    4. Thanks Karen, I'm relatively new to reviewing and appreciate this post and the good points you make. Enjoying your blog!!

    5. Clarissa,
      Thank you! Your reviews are always good and informative. I hate to turn books down too, but like you said...there's always the laundry. :)

      Your reviews are always helpful; you do a good job. Sometimes I think maybe I need to add more of my impressions, but it kind of depends on the book too.

      I like your movie reviews. I know I can count on an honest opinion - with humor too! :)

      I wish you the best with your reviews! Glad you found this helpful. Thanks for the kind words!

      Happy weekend,

    6. Great post, Karen. You always write such helpful reviews.

      I think my guidelines are pretty similar to yours. Being positive. Pinpointing a target audience. A book may not be "my thing" but other readers might love the genre, theme, or style.

      Thanks for the post!

    7. I don't do many reviews anymore, mostly because of the time factor. But I like how you've narrowed it down to these points. That's a good reference for beginning reviewers. And yes, it's so important to balance the review if you find things that don't appeal to you so the response is totally negative.

    8. Your methodology looks great. I've tended to do more film reviews than book reviews. Maybe because I love introducing my readers to offbeat indie films they've probably never heard about. My reading tastes are very peculiar too. :-)

    9. Susanne,
      Thanks for your kind words. :) I agree, your style is similar to mine; I always enjoy your reviews!

      I kind of run in spurts with reviews b/c of the time thing. Somehow, though, I always have a little time to read. lol

      I think that's a great idea - introducing readers to new things. There are so many great films out there but time is limited to check them out. So your advice is helpful!

      Happy weekend,

    10. Karen, this is a great post and I'm bookmarking it. I've only just started being serious about reviews and have been pretty informal about it up to now. But as my time gets shorter and my TBR pile gets bigger, I'm going to have to be more efficient. My sole criteria so far has been - did I enjoy this book, but to give good reviews, I have to start doing more than that. You've given some good pointers, thanks!

      Judy, South Africa

    11. I like your list Karen. I only review on Goodreads and if people specifically ask me. I simply can't read that fast ;)

    12. I enjoy reviewing but have not done much, since I work a day job and can only write at night and on weekends. Mostly I review books that are out of this world great, so others will know about them.

      I try to keep my reviews short and tell how I benefitted from the book. I don't review books I can't brag about. I hate dissing someone's writing online.

    13. Judy,
      Thanks so much! I'm flattered that you are bookmarking it. You are right, efficiency is the key. Easier said than done sometimes! :)

      I go in spurts with reviews, and it just depends on what else is going on at my desk. :)

      Yes, I don't know where you find the time to accomplish as much as you do! I know what you mean, I prefer to brag. :)

      Happy weekend,

    14. I have a core group of people I review for, and I pretty much review anything they give me (and it works in reverse).

      Beyond that, I rarely offer to crit and unfortunately have to turn others down.

    15. I have reviewed a couple of books strictly to showcase a style or point of view. I review coffee and new food products with my office mates just for fun.

    16. Thank you for the tips. I found it very hany to bear in mind. I am often asked by a friend to review his reviews on food before it is published and sometimes even visit an eating place to review it with him. He's from the food/hospitality industry, and reviews restaurants, hotels and writes food blogs.

      At times it needs conscious effort to be objective!

    17. Hi Karen .. as I'm not an author per se .. the books that I will be reading and want to review - I'll put up as a post in a similar manner to the posts I write now - ie giving some more background/ historical elements etc

      I've done one for Judy Croome's books - and as she said it's my personal perspective .. I haven't posted it yet .. will do soon perhaps and see what reaction I get ..

      Cheers - Hilary

    18. I do review but I approach it not as a reader but with what the author intended. I'm very nice and very giving.

    19. I review for FIRST--which is all Christian books but I only pick up the books I think I'll enjoy. I really really try to see the positive things IF I don't like a book, but I'm honest too, making sure anyone reading that my preference is that.
      I like to think I review like I critique--using the sandwich method: something positive--something negative--something positive. :-)

    20. Hi Karen..first let me tell you I love the reviews you carry. I just wish I could do them as well as you. Sigh.

      You have given us some good points to keep in mind. Thanks a lot for this post. Have a lovely weekend.

    21. This is an area I've not really ventured into. It's a number of factors, really. But I know this - you're very good at it, and I appreciate what you've done for me in this regard.

      Happy fall, my friend.

    22. Thanks for sharing your review style, Karen. I'm in the process of reviewing a work and will definitely keep these tips in mind! Have a wonderful weekend! God bless!

    23. Lydia,
      It's nice to have a good group of writers like that. I wouldn't feel bad, though, you have quite the busy schedule!

      I think reviews for something other than books are fun. I have my teen writing students do them for one of their assignments. Good writing practice! :)

      So you are a review accomplice! lol Sounds like fun, especially if he treats to the meal!

      You may not be an author but you have a wonderful way of looking at things and expressing yourself! :)
      Will look forward to Judy's review.

      That's a good way to look at it. I like your reviews and how you highlight things I don't necessarily think of, like character development and such.

      I'm with you, with time so limited I head for ones I think I will like. And yes, honesty is so important. Would hate to think I steered someone wrong!

      Thanks so much for your kind words and support. It is such a blessing!

      You are welcome! Will look forward to seeing the review. :)


    24. I'm thinkin' I wish I'd had this sooner. You know what I mean, right? From now on, I will never forget this lesson, amigo.

      <3 you. Happy weekend!

      Don't forget about our plans for next week.

    25. I don't review so much as highlight books on my blog that I liked. :-) Most of the time, I've read them independently and then decide to do a post about what I've read.

    26. I do review . . . but generally just on my blog, and just books I want to recommend to my friends and family, and fellow blogger friends.
      I try to stick to the positive - easy when I choose books I want to recommend - and wrap the negative with positive language, and include a few alerts if possible. Some families I know find Christian fantasy to be offensive, while others find it acceptable, so I want to definitely tell genre and amount of adult themes.

      Great Post Karen!

    27. Robyn,
      Yes, I do know what you mean! This whole lesson makes me think, you know? :) Hugs, amigo!

      I think that's a good approach - no pressure that way!

      Good points. Upbeat is good! Thanks so mcuh. :)

      Happy weekend,

    28. I enjoyed reading your list of how tos for reviewers. I love the way you find the positive and if you don't feel that you can support it, you decline. It all sounds great to me.
      I enjoy doing very unofficial reviews now and then.

    29. Nice list and very fair to readers of the review, the books and the authors.

    30. Nancy,
      Thanks so much! I try to be fair and objective, sometimes it can be hard to be creative and not sound too harsh. :)

      Thank you! Appreciate your two cents. Is that pink hair I see...?


    31. I review to support other authors primarily. That means I only say the positives - but generally, I've been very lucky that there hasn't been a novel I've been vehemently opposed to! :)

    32. Talli,
      I love to be able to support authors too. I think it's such a great thing to do!
      Happy weekend,

    33. Hi Karen -

      I don't review books as much as recommend them. Word of mouth is important to authors, and I try to pass on those works I personally enjoy.

      Susan :)

    34. Well, apparently read this one too late:) I'm actually reviewing a genre now that's a bit out of my realm & I wish I hadn't agreed to. I will give it my best and honest shot.



    35. Hi Clara,
      I dislike being in that awkward spot. There are a few that I was sorry I agreed to. Oh well, live and learn, huh?
      Have a good week,


    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!