Today, I’m going to take a step back from my usual writing chatter and talk about books and book reviews. I’ve been a reader much longer than I’ve been a writer. My love of books and storytelling is one of the few reasons why I became a writer in the first place. I wanted to create my own worlds and write the stories I wanted to read. Writing my own stories hasn’t impacted my love of reading. In fact, I still love getting lost in fictional worlds, even when they’re not my own. For me, there’s no better way to unwind than by curling up with a good book and a glass of wine.

I enjoy reading a variety of genres. Some of my favorites are Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Contemporary Romance, and Mystery/Suspense. I prefer Adult Fiction over Young Adult (YA), but that doesn’t mean I won’t read a YA book if it catches my attention.

What makes me pick up a book and buy it?
1. The book is part of a series I’m currently reading. I love the characters. I love their journey and need to know what happens next.
2. I’m familiar with the author’s work. If I’ve enjoyed reading an author’s previous works, chances are good that I’ll pick up their latest book.
3. The cover. If I’m in a bookstore or shopping online and the cover catches my eye, I’ll check it out. This is the one instance where I do judge a book by its cover.
4. The back blurb. If the blurb grabs me, I’ll peak inside and read the first few pages. If they pull me in, I’ll go ahead and buy it.
5. Reviews. If I’m unfamiliar with the author and unsure whether I should spend the money on their book, I’ll read the reviews. I base my decision to buy off of what the readers had to say.

Book Reviews
When it comes to book reviews, I read the good, the bad, the ugly, and the in-between. Three-star and four-star reviews are usually my favorite, because they feel like they’re the most genuine and well-rounded. They give the good and the bad takes, which I like. It doesn’t mean that I don’t read the rest, those are just the ones I focus on the most.

I want to note that if a book has all one-star and two-star reviews, I’ll usually stay away, especially if all the reviews are pretty consistent. The same goes for books with all five-star reviews. If no one has anything negative to say about the book, it makes me suspicious and I put it back on the shelf.

My Method of Writing Reviews
Books are products and readers are consumers. Book reviews are just consumer reviews written by readers for readers. When I review books, I review them from a reader-to-reader standpoint. My review isn’t to critique the author, it’s to critique their story and help readers make an informed decision on whether to purchase the book or not. Many reviews are about personal taste and opinion. Just because a book has a few low reviews, it doesn’t mean that people won’t buy it. Some people – like me, might buy a book based off lower reviews, it just depends on the review itself. Variety is a beautiful thing and that’s why there’s a book out there for everyone. So, how do I go about rating books?

My Personal Rating System
Five-Star. I got so immersed in the story that I couldn’t put the book down. I connected to the characters, and got pulled into their world as if I was there with them. I wanted and needed to know what happened next. This is the type of book I’ll stay up all night reading. The book hangover is worth it and I can’t wait for the next one to come out. I’ll definitely be recommending it to other readers.

Four-Star. I was pulled into the story, connected with the characters, loved their journey, but there were a couple of hiccups along the way. Overall, the story was great and I would still highly recommend it to others.

Three-Star. The overall story was good, but I wasn’t immediately pulled in. It might’ve taken a bit for me to connect with the characters and their journey. I could take breaks from reading and not feel the urge to jump right back in. Maybe there were some character issues, or minor problems with the plot, but in the end, the good trumped the bad and I would still recommend it.

Two-Star. I couldn’t really connect with the characters or their journey. I was able to finish the book, but it took me a while time to do so. If I have to push myself to finish a story, it usually gets a two-star review, especially if there are multiple plot holes and the characters fall a bit flat.

One-Star. The characters were one-dimensional cardboard cutouts. The story didn’t make any sense and was riddled with plot holes. It read more like a first or second draft than a final product. These usually get filed under DNF (Did Not Finish). I hate writing one-star reviews. In fact, I hate writing negative reviews, but they are necessary.

When writing negative reviews, I still try to include any positive aspects of the story. Maybe it had potential or the premise sounded exciting, but it just didn’t deliver. I try to stay as positive as possible. It’s not my job to sling insults at the author. In fact, no reviewer should do this. It’s possible to leave a negative review and still remain respectful. Focus on the story and its problems and leave out the name-calling. It’s unnecessary.

Book reviews are important. They should touch on both negative and positive aspects of the book. I always try to write well-rounded reviews. I always touch on the positive parts first, then go into negative ones, before giving my overall thoughts on the book and whether I would recommend it or not. I try to give as much detail as I can without encroaching spoiler territory. If you’re like me, you don’t want to know the entire story before you read it. If I do touch on spoilers, I make sure to warn readers in advance.

Now you know why I work so diligently on my books. My standards are high and I want to deliver the best story possible. If I expect high quality content from other authors, than I need to deliver the same. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t.

In short, all writers are storytellers. It’s our job to write the best story possible. Good, high quality stories don’t get written and published overnight. They take time with multiple drafts, revisions, and edits before the polished product is placed on the shelf. This is something I’m going to continue repeating because it’s important. It’s not about the quantity of books you publish. It’s about the quality.

That’s my hot take on books and book reviews. Until next time.