Yes, I do receive review copies of Christian books. I do definitely review them honestly, be it negative or positive. I have heard so many people talk about how hard it is to write a review of a book that they did not like, or even to finish the book for that matter. For me, I have never felt that way. If I'm receiving a gratis copy book, I review it. If I do not like it, I'll talk about why I do not like it. Whether it is the writing, or the characters, or what. I'm not shy, but I'm not a bash-er either. People want to read my reviews, because they know that I am honest. They do not read them because they are all happy. There are some books out there that are definitely "not my cup of tea", but I always suggest a reader take the opinion out for themselves. Because there are many times when there is something that might rub me a little the wrong way, but others will love it.
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)
Besides God, my first commitment as a book reviewer is to my readers. My family, my friends, and other people who stumble across my reviews either from my blog or one of the other dozens of places I publish my reviews.
My reviews change per the book that I read. Some books touch me in such a way that I will ramble on and on and just cannot stop talking about it either from how the characters touched me, or how I can relate, or how beautiful the imagery or writing was. Sometimes, however, I will just write a short and sweet opinion. Good, bad, to recommend or not and on what scale.
I have never had a negative response from an author about a negative review. As a matter of fact, most of the negative reviews that I have written has received highly positive responses from the authors, thanking me for my honesty and opinions. Usually that has started a good conversation that in a few cases has actually led to a personal friendship with the author.
There have been fiction books that the writing was just poor. There have been religious books, where the theology was completely off. There have been contemporary fiction books that are just too contemporary for me, when I'd rather be reading historical. There have even been books that were so stiff and poorly printed that were just an annoyance to deal with. Plenty of different things can lead to a negative review, but it's not a personal bash against the author or publishing company. And above all, I try to always be tactful and explain really why it is that the book did not fit into my permanent shelf.