Review Tips: March Bethany House Books

Readers, if you don’t listen to anything else I say on this blog, listen to this: leave reviews of the books you love.

Why? It’s a simple—but effective—way to support and encourage your favorite authors. With so many titles to choose from, people are scouring Goodreads and retail sites like Amazon and taking reviews into consideration before paying hard-earned cash for a book. Writing solid and engaging reviews for your favorite book might convince someone else to start loving that author as well.

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Here are few dos and don’ts to help you write a great review:

  • Do: Be as specific as possible. Don’t just say that you liked it, say why you liked it. Tell us what made the plot stand out from all the other books you’ve read. Describe your emotional reaction to the characters. Explain what this author does best that makes the novel a great read.
  • Don’t: Describe anything in the plot that happens more than halfway through the book. This is just a rule of thumb, of course, but usually it’s better to keep any plot summary to the early conflict instead of revealing later plot twists or, worse, the climax of the story. (For more on avoiding spoilers, read this post.)
  • Do: Compare the book to others that you liked, or recommend it to a particular type of reader. That helps others know if this is the sort of book they would enjoy.
  • Don’t: Ramble. If you want to summarize the plot in a sentence or two, that’s fine, but spend most of the review on your opinion. Someone on Goodreads already has a plot summary in front of them—they want to know what you think of the plot!
  • Do: Be kind. Remember that authors often read reviews of their books. That doesn’t mean that you should say only good things to say about a book, but it does mean you should gracious, and also realize that even if you didn’t connect with a book, someone else might. Trust me: I have seen negative reviews for every single book we’ve ever published, even the ones that you might have loved. Not every book is for every reader.
  • Don’t: Be wordy. On a blog, the review can be as long as you like. Be creative! Do fun things! Include a list of favorite quotes or explain why the hero is just wonderful. On a site like Goodreads, though, keep it short for those skimmers and scanners out there.

It’s release month for four new Bethany House fiction books, so I went over to Goodreads and Amazon and found some readers who did a great job of explaining exactly why they enjoyed each of these titles. Special thanks to the readers who left these reviews…great job!

Love Letters“Death, dementia, special needs’ children, faith and differences in religious practices and expression…these are all some weighty issues and Beverly Lewis tackles all of them in this book. Marlena and her family and friends stole my heart as I read this book… I honestly felt that this book was one of Beverly’s best ever. I appreciated the tender and sensitive way that she dealt with some very touchy issues.”  –Rhonda

Why This Review Works: Instead of summarizing the events of the plot, this review highlights some of the themes and issues found in the book, as well as explaining exactly why the reviewer appreciated The Love Letters.

Harvest of Hope“This book transported me back to a time my grandparents and parents used to tell me stories about. A time when God came first and families and neighbors worked together in times of need to help each other…Blessing, by any means was not perfect, but it was built strongly on faith and Christian values, triumph over tragedy and love for their fellowman. As I read it, it made me wish I had lived in that kind of community. This book will make you fall in love with its characters.” –Sally

Why This Review Works: Here, the reader explains a personal connection with the story and its setting.  It also touches on some of the themes that the author successfully communicated.

Dauntless“Fresh, snappy voice, brilliant dialogue and interesting play with narrative that almost seems omniscient at times while recalling the ballads and tales of yesteryear with a Robin Hood flare….these are only the technical aspects that sew up this competent novel. This will be a sure-fire crossover with the general market due to its fast-pace and colourful characters.” –Rachel

Why This Review Works: If you wondered what to expect from Dina’s young adult novel, you’d know after finishing this review. It’s enthusiastic and specific, both in words of praise and in description of the author’s style.

After a Fashion“WARNING: Reading After a Fashion may cause the following side effects:
-sleepless nights
-depression (you will never be as witty as Jen Turano…face it.)
-random bursts of emotion
-belly-aching laughter
-sudden urges to jump out of moving carriages or join a circus
-aggression towards some rather nasty and slimy villains
-perhaps not-so-unrealistic expectations about riding into the sunset with your happily-ever-after
-an excessive happiness and satisfaction …until you discover that there is more to come in the not so distant future, whereupon discovering this you will not rest easy until you’ve secured those as well.”  –Alice

Why This Review Works: I included about half of the list here, and you can already tell that this was a creative way for the reviewer to explain what she loved about After a Fashion, in a quirky way that mimics the humor of the book.

To all of you out there who leave reviews for the books you love, let me say on behalf of all Bethany House authors: thank you so much! It really makes a difference.

As a reader, what do you love to see in a review?

14 thoughts on “Review Tips: March Bethany House Books

  1. I love original and unique reviews that stand out from the rest. Ones that stand out for me are ones with pictures, fun trivia (especially with historical novels), a personal connection, etc. When someone goes above and beyond like this, I know they take their reading seriously like me and if it is worth their time, it is worth my time. If I could I would give these reviews a special gold star! I also appreciate it when people warn readers if a book is more “PG-13” and break it down, similar to what Plugged In does. Luckily this isn’t so much of a problem for Christian fiction.

  2. Thanks to all the readers who take the time to write reviews! As Amy says, it really does make a difference. Amy, I love how you used example reviews from this month’s Bethany releases. Congrats to Beverly, Lauraine, Dina and Jen.

  3. Thanks for the tips. I hadn’t ever thought about a difference between blog and Goodreads reviews. It’s always been easy to just copy and past my review to other places. But this is definitely food for thought. 🙂

    Maybe because I tend to write longer reviews, I don’t mind reading others reviews that might be longer. For me, when I read a book I’ve been sent for review, I don’t want to copy/paste the publishers summary and type some variation of “this was a good book.” Right or wrong, I want to give it time and attention, and I guess when I read other bloggers who have written great reviews, I find them to be helpful. 🙂

    Thanks for these post.

    • Hi Rissi! Hmm, I wonder if there’s a difference between a longer review and a wordy review. Sometimes seeing one huge block of text in an Amazon review intimidates me, but if you broke it up and had the “main point” of the review early on for anyone who’s just scanning, the word count might not be as important.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

      • True. Always great points and advice, Amy. All of your advice deserves to be remembered with reviewing and I appreciate you taking the time to write this up. 🙂

        Thank you for this program and sending out books to bloggers. Appreciate all you do! 🙂

        • Thanks, Rissi! And I think your comment was on point as well–there are exceptions to every general rule, I think!

          I’m always grateful for your reviews and support of our authors. 🙂

          Amy

  4. I’ve started writing a little longer reviews as I hesitated at first because I did think some people told almost the whole story! But your comments will help and I will try to make it more interesting. Thanks for your help.

  5. I may be one of those that write too much, when I love a story, I want to tell everyone about it so they too can enjoy it. thanks for your tips. I am so appreciative of your books that are sent for reviewing. I send on to my sisters after reading and they pass around too-so they get read by many.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Pauline! And as long as readers are enjoying what you have to say, I don’t suppose any review is too long!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  6. Pingback: Weekly Reading – March 8, 2015 | Building Life's Library

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