I am paid to review inspirational fiction for Romantic Times Magazine, paid to write literary anaylsis of African American literary titles for Mosaic Literary Journal, gospel fiction for Gospel Today Magazine and non-fiction AA titles for Spirit Led Woman magazines. And for free I am a Christys Book Awards Judge, reviewed for Romance in Color, Anointed Magazine, AALBC, You-name-it-I review it, and also on this blog.
I love reviews...reviewing
Needless to say, I have a discussion at Novel Journey on how to craft a decent Book Review. http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/2005/11/book-review-format-for-you-by-davidae.html
In my experience I have learned to build my book rating on a five point criteria(for RT we use a 4.5.) Each point fits an element of great storytelling: (1) character, (2) plot, (3) theme(big voice/little voice,) (4) style/flow and the last point or .5 I reserve for voice. Voice is the cherry on top for me.
When I write my reviews, however, I don't tell my readership how the book stacks based upon my point system. What I do is craft a review that a book reader can understand, then point out the flaws in a way that the book reader understands. For example. If the character's story arc falls flat. I know a reader won't understand what I mean. Instead I say that for me I couldn't get into this character. I wanted to put the book down because I didn't care if she had a happy ending. I didn't care about her at all. The reader understands that.
Now when I write a critical analysis I break those points down in detail and then show inside the book where the challenges I found are. As well as point out the best points to the book.
I wish our Christian literary circle encouraged more critical reviews and more honest book reviews. I say honest because I've heard on more than one occasion writers saying that they read a novel and didn't write the review because they didn't want to offend or hurt the Body of Christ.
That's ridiculous to me.
As I said in my response to Chip's Andrea's post about reviewing friends books reviewing and writing a novel are two different things. Writing reviews will not get you a book contract. A headache, a little pocket change, but not a novel. The only way to become a published novelist is to write a publishable novel.