The past couple of days there has been a big flare-up in the broader book blogging community regarding review policies and a blogger's obligation to an author once they've received a review copy. For those of you who belong to the blogging alliance FIRST, we've also discussed this issue a little bit.
I decided to make today's question about this, because I think this is an even tougher situation for Christian reviewers who review Christian books. So here goes...do you receive review copies of Christian books? If so, do you review them honestly? How do you handle it when you don't like a book but are obligated to provide a review? Who do you see your first commitment being to in book reviewing (besides God)? Yourself? The author? Your readers? Does your review change based on the spiritual content of the book or is it solely based on technical or artistic merit? Have you ever had a negative experience with an author after giving them a negative review? (please don't name names)
As an avid reader, I am thrilled to be able to review books and post my thoughts about them for all to see. I want to endorse and promote Christian fiction as much as I possible can because I am a firm believer that God can speak to us through fiction as clearly (if not clearer) than He can through non-fiction. I try and be as honest as I possibly can in my reviews without being a negative influence on the author's life. I understand that this book is their baby, they have worked with an idea, thought, prayed, written, edited, revised, written, critiqued, edited, worked with their agent, edited, worked with their publisher, edited, edited, edited... you get the idea. And I have also come to the conclusion that every book has an audience, it might just not be me. I reviewed one book that I honestly thought - "This is awful! It is horrible and shouldn't have been written! I could never recommend this book to anyone I like and wouldn't recommend it to most people I don't like either! Why was this book ever published???" So as nicely as I could I wrote my review (though I actually volunteered not to if it would be more beneficial to the author), and tried to pull out any good points I could and sandwiched my dislike between the good things and posted it. I then read other people's reviews of the same book and was amazed that the same book I thought was horrible received rave reviews from others - God even used it to heal hurts in others - so I decided who am I to say something shouldn't be in print (can you tell I didn't like the book?!?) - it is in print for somebody.
I feel my obligation to the publisher is to post a review if I committed to the book.
My obligation to the author is to be as gentle as possible if I don't like it and to be as enthusiastic and sincere as possible if I do.
My obligation to my readers is to be as truthful as possible so they don't spend their hard earned money on a book they turn out to hate.
My favorite thing is to give away copies of the books that I enjoy so that others can enjoy them too. Speaking of which this week I hope to do a bunch of drawings - I was just keeping them open until I could pay to ship them out to the winners :-)