Mine is simple: I only post reviews for titles I really like.
Books that I find mediocre, boring, or even terrible, I merely leave an average to low-star rating without writing a review. This way, I remain honest, but provide a boost for authors whose work impressed me. Those writers who didn’t, well, there is always someone willing to post negative comments. There’s no shortage of that on the web, and I’d rather not contribute. Plus, if I found the book that bad, I don’t waste time writing comments—I’ve already paid money for it, and spent time reading it, so why use more resources on something I didn’t enjoy?
When I do write review comments, I have three rules: don’t give away spoilers, say positive things about the book, and describe particular aspects of the work that stuck out to me.
Why no spoilers? Because I loathe them. If I’m writing a review at all, that means I liked the book. So why would I want to rob prospective readers—readers who might be influenced by my review to buy said book—of the story’s secrets, or its ending, when I was able to enjoy these things myself? So I hint at what may come in the story, but that’s it. I try to write my own blurb for the book, actually. That’s more or less what most web reviews are—and blurbs don’t have spoilers.
Positive comments highlight the reasons I’m writing a review in the first place. Remember, I only do this for books I rate 4 or 5 stars. So if there are a few issues I had with a novel, they aren’t worth mentioning. This is a title that left me satisfied, was though-provoking, and left me emotionally moved. So I’m not going to bother with nits.
And finally, I always point out names, situations, or details from the book—information I can only get from actually reading it, instead of copying other reviews. This way the author will know I really did read the work from beginning to end. As an author myself, it’s always gratifying when a reader recalls a character name, a scene, or a snippet of dialogue from my own work. It shows that they read it, and enjoyed it enough to remember details afterward. I do this as a compliment to the writer.
I don’t go into literary analysis or in-depth critiques. I leave that to the professional critics, the ones who write reviews for a living. See, I don’t write reviews for a living. I write fiction. Leave the analysis to the experts and to those who think they are experts. Plus most people who is scan over a book’s reviews aren’t looking for a scholarly deconstruction that touches on theme or symbolism—they want to know if the title is worth their time, effort, and money. There are always plenty of other books out there to read, after all.
A final word: if I bothered to leave a 4 or 5 star rating, and I wrote review comments, that means your book captured my imagination. It held my attention from beginning to end. It’s a title I’d recommend to fellow readers and authors. It is a book I’m proud to display on the shelf next to my other favorite books. And I keep what I consider great books for life (I still have titles I read when I was ten years old, and I’m near forty). So that means I’ll be passing your book on to my children, the next generation. That may be the best endorsement of all.