I learned a long time ago not to waste my time writing reviews of books I didn’t like. Reviews and criticisms are, after all, purely subjective matters of opinion. Other reviewers and readers may see things differently. I write reviews today for personal reasons, not for money as I once did nor for a minor byline in a newspaper or magazine. My main reason for writing reviews is to remind me of what I’ve read that I liked and primarily why I liked it. One of my greatest joys as a public and college librarian was performing readers’ advisory, recommending good books to library patrons. Since I retired as a librarian, I have posted reviews on my blogs and websites as a kind of readers’ advisory. And, because I am an author myself, I write reviews of good books and good short stories because I know how important reviews can be for sales and furtherance of an author’s career. Good writers deserve good reviews. Heaven knows, there are too few good reviews of works worthy of praise.
So I write favorable reviews (usually 5 stars, but occasionally only 4 stars) of novels and anthologies. Anything worth less than 4 stars isn’t worth wasting time to write about. I always read every word of the books I review. If I can’t finish a book, I don’t try to review it.
There are many worthy books I don’t take time to review because there are enough other reviewers who have raved about those works that I don’t need to add my voice to the multitude. I like being first to post a good review. I don’t mind being second or third. If I’m the tenth or twentieth, why bother? I do make a few exceptions. But those are few and far between.
I read widely in all genres. I dearly love a good story. I buy and read nearly everything written by friends and acquaintances, but I seldom post reviews of close personal friends. I don’t want to be asked, “Why did you review his book, but you didn’t review mine?” Since many of my friends are authors, I can’t write reviews of everything my friends write. But, rest assured, I will buy your books and read them. Don’t be surprised if I ask for your autograph the next time we meet.
I was raised in the pulp tradition, and I dearly love a good action story. I am also a trained cognitive scientist and I love psychological suspense that analyzes motives for behavior. When an author allows me to get into the heads of her characters and actually experience thoughts and feelings, I am ecstatic. When an author then shows actions consistent with the character’s mind-set, I’m hooked.