I've been thinking a lot about book reviews lately, since I've been on both sides. As an author, we always WANT book reviews to help spread the word. As a reviewer, we're deluged with requests. With the holidays coming up, books are a great gift to give, but with all the books out there, you want to give something you know they'll like. Do you stick with the tried and true or do you take a chance on a new author? Cover, blurb, chapter sample, and reviews are all helpful to me in helping me make up my mind.
I have to muzzle my inner editor when I try to watch a movie or read a book just for fun. As a beta reader or a reviewer though, it comes into full play. You want to give an honest assessment for other people to use to make their own call. I know a lot of reviewers use aliases so angry authors don't hunt them down in the streets--it IS hunting season after all--but I use my real name and I stand by my opinions, with the disclaimer that it's JUST my opinion. Other people might have an entirely different take on a certain book. I hate those "reviewers" (esp. on Goodreads & Amazon) that seem to be professional "trashers"--you know the ones I'm talking about.
We're told to never respond to reviews, good or bad. Especially to the trash talkers, since they're looking for a fight and some of the tales of author-burning are EPIC and sad. (Some people really need to get a life--again, just my opinion.) I've had 1-star reviews and 5-star reviews of the same award-winning, bestselling title. We all have. Because it's just someone's opinion. Not every book is for every person--the variety is infinite for good reason. Something for everyone. And the best books are entertaining and make you feel and learn something new about the world in general and yourself in particular.
Even bad reviews can be helpful--IF the reviewer takes the time to say what they DID like ans why, and what they DIDN'T like and why. Those one-liners that just say "waste of money--sucks" don't tell anyone anything. Try to read the genres you LIKE to give the book a fair shake. Comments like "world-building and research well done, but the characters were predictable and not all the loose ends were tied up by the end so it left reader hanging" at least gives the next potential reader a chance to maybe know what they're in for. What you DON'T want is to give away the whole plot so the reader knows everything that happens AND HOW IT ENDS. That's so mean! NO SPOILERS, please.
BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS - as gifts for others, and yourself. In this age of electronics, almost everyone has some kind of reading device--and lots of us still like to curl up with PAPER books. (Yeah, remember those?) If you read a book, review it. If you read a LOT of books, it might not be possible to do them all, but try to do the ones that really moved you one way or the other. They don't have to be long. Short, sweet and to-the-point. Help spread the word about what's out there--everyone's always looking for a good read--and a new author when their favorite one just can't write as fast as you read...