Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Insider's View on Book Reviews

When Christine asked me to do a post on Book Reviews, I was stunned! What can I say, I’m a complete novice! Then I decided to bring HM&B multi published author Christina Hollis with me and get her views on it as well.

Luckily, it’s not that tough to write book reviews once you hit your reviewing stride. It may take a while to figure out your style, but once you have it, you have it.

Here are the points I try to hit in most reviews, I start by grounding my review with a synopsis. In a way, I offer my own version of a back cover teaser. I want the reader to know what’s going on, who the key players are and what is at stake before I dive deep into analyzing the writing style or the deeper meaning.

Don’t spoil the excitement for future readers by giving away the ending. How many times has a book or movie been ruined for you by a mouthy friend or sibling? If I find it’s impossible to talk about the book without divulging all of the details, I come up with an alternate review style by asking some insightful questions while at the same time whetting readers’ appetite for that particular book!

Overly negative or unconditionally positive reviews suck. They just do. Why bash a writer by attacking her on a public forum (especially when you know how time-consuming and emotionally wrought the entire process is)? Alternately, over-enthusiasm may also come across as bias. “What does this reviewer have to gain?” A reader may ask. I make it a practice to only review books that I like, which means I may sometimes sway to the over zealous side of things. Providing my interpretation of the book’s synopsis definitely provides some balance.

But on the other hand, I try to focus on the positive and fail to discuss areas that don’t work. I don’t lie; just with a little creative thinking, I’m able to figure out a way to provide an honest review.

Christina Hollis is a bestselling author of romantic fiction. She was born in Somerset, England and met her husband on a blind date. After moving to Gloucestershire, Christina produced many articles and photographs for national magazines, mainly about life in the country.

 In 1990 her first full length novel, Knight’s Pawn, was published by Harlequin Mills and Boon under the pen name Polly Forrester. During a career break to raise her family, she wrote award-winning short stories. Then in 2007 her first Mills and Boon Modern Romance, The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin was published. Since then, her books have appeared in lists of best sellers all over the world.

‘As well as romantic conflict, I like my books to capture the countryside in all its moods,’ she says. ‘Reading romance is my idea of luxury - it’s the chance to escape from the pressures of everyday life for a while.’

Let’s see what Christina has to say:
“Many months go by between an author getting the germ of an idea and the day when their book if finally published and released for distribution. By that time we've lived closely with our characters for a long time. Dispatching books for reviews is almost like sending a child out into the world. You can only hope that other people will love them as much as you do!

Reviews are a great way to attract new readers, and I like Nas' approach. There's no point in a reviewer highlighting where they consider an author has gone wrong - when a book is already on sale it's far too late to do anything about it. Speaking as a reader, I'd much rather be guided toward a book that sounds good and that I'd like to read, rather than hear about its shortcomings which, after all, are subjective. Everyone's opinion is different and we're all entitled to our own views.

I also think reviews are vital. Word of mouth is one of the most important tools in the business of bringing enjoyment to the widest possible audience. I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve fallen in love with after a personal recommendation.

Feedback from readers is indispensable for an author, too. Everyone loves good reviews but criticism - as long as it’s constructive - is useful too.”

Christina's latest release:


Now duty is his only mistress!

For notorious playboy Prince Lysander Kahani, playtime is over…Left with a country to run, he draws the line at playing nanny to his orphaned nephew!

Instead he sends for a professional. But one glance at buttoned-up Alyssa Dene and Lysander’s wicked side re-emerges! Wary of his scandalous reputation, Alyssa tries to keep her distance – but Lysander draws her like a moth to a flame.

Lysander is fighting a battle between public duty and private desire, but he is determined to make Alyssa a royal offer she won’t refuse…
Weight Of The Crown, available at:
Amazon                           Amazon UK                   Mills & Boon
Christina Hollis on the WEB!
Website             Twitter        Facebook        Blog     Tumbler       


  1. Hi Christine,

    Thanks for inviting Christina and me to your Blog!

  2. Hi Christine, thanks for this opportunity to visit your blog!

  3. Hi Nas, Hi Christina and Hi Christine this was a stunning post packed with usefull information !


  4. Hello Christina,

    Thanks for your so valuable views on Book Reviews!

    Hello Desere, Book Reviews affect book sales but the question is, what about the negative reviews? Does it affect sales? Thanks for coming along!

  5. Hi Christine, Nas, Christina,

    I love Nas's take on why write positive reviews. Christina i agree, word of mouth marketing is one of the most effective approaches. Many times i have taken Nas's opinions when considering what to read and have never been disappointed.

  6. Hi Desere, it's great to get a reviewer's perspective, isn't it?

  7. Hi Sonali - thanks to you and Desere for posting, btw.
    A good objective review is always useful - whether it's being read by a book's potential reader, or its author.

  8. Hi Sonali,

    Thanks for your lovely comment! I've read some of your reviews on Goodreads and you also have positive things to say about all the romance novels we read! We're similar in our approaches, we enjoy reading and escaping to that make-believe world created by the authors and we like to share our views!

    Friends, all commenters will be entered for the final draw of the WEIGHT OF THE CROWN tour!

  9. Interesting to an inside view on the review process. Focussing on the positives will give a reader an idea if this book is one she's going to like, although I don't have a problem with a reviewer saying what didn't work for her. It's too late that for book, but I have found thoughtful responses have helped me look at things in a new light.

  10. Great post.

    As a writer, I love how some reviewers take the time to really draw on the positives.

    As a reviewer on my blog on the weekends, I try to do the same: give an honest review with the focus on the positive.

    Thanks for a really informative post Christine, Nas, and Christina.

  11. Thanks again to Nas and Christina for posting here.

    From the standpoint of a debut novelist, I agree with Christina's observation that reviews are vital. Well, if you're starting out, how do you get those all-important reviews? For my part, I found it helpful to read book blogs like the stellar blog that Nas produces. I searched for reviewers who read in my genre. Then I sent an e-query describing my novel.

    Yes, there's legwork involved but many reviewers--like Nas--will read your work if you approach them in a professional manner.

  12. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for coming along and reading this post on Book Reviews! I agree with you, honest opinions are valued!

    This is my third try as Blogger has been eating up my previous comments!

  13. Hello Nicola,

    Thanks so much for coming by! And I always read your reviews on weekends and read many a book on your recommendation!

  14. Hi Christine, though your book TREASURE ME was a debut book, it had a thread of mystery running through the romance which was very enticing!

  15. Yes Christina it is greart to get a fellow reviewers persepective , when writing my reviews I always try to be honest and fair and to also nevet let the cat out of the bag !


  16. Nas, I'm sorry Blogger is eating your responses! FWIW I've recently hired PR help--my new author website is under construction and I'll soon switch my blog to Wordpress.

    Yes, TREASURE ME has a thread of mystery, which actually runs through the entire Liberty, Ohio series. Readers will find more clues--and more fun--in the next novel, SECOND CHANCE GRILL.

    Desere: I stand in awe of book reviewers. Without their dedication, many great novels would never see the light of day. And as a reader, I rely on that valuable input when selecting a book for purchase.

  17. You're right, Liz. Nicola and Desere - that's the skill of good reviewing: emphasising the good without whitewashing while giving potential readers enough to encourage them without giving away the end!

  18. Christine, thanks for interviewing Nas. Nas is good about not giving away endings. We get just enough info.

  19. Christina, no one has asked this question yet. So I can't resist: do you read reviews of your books? If so, does the feedback from past reviews influence the writing process as you create the next novel?

  20. Theresa, thanks for bringing up how Nas reviews with integrity--she avoids spoilers. Which brings me to another thought: a savvy author should read past reviews when promoting her upcoming book. Become familiar with a given blog. Get an understanding of the reviewer's process before requesting a read.

  21. Hi Christine - I'm afraid I missed your question when I checked the comments. I *do* read reviews, as it's always good to find out what readers like, and what works for them.

  22. My first visit here... lots of good information about authors, books and reviewing. Thanks!

  23. What a great article! Thank you. New follower, and book reviewer here! :))

  24. Laurie and Melissa, thanks for reading along.

  25. Hi Laurie and Melissa,

    Thanks for coming along to read this!

    And thankl you Christine for having us here!

  26. Nas, I'm still receiving quite a bit of interest in your post. Many thanks for visiting.