I've had regular, paid book-reviewing slots in the past, but not now. But even though I informed the various publishers who had me on their lists for free review copies so they wouldn't waste money sending me books, I still get a few, from time to time. Some, I very much appreciate, because I can't afford to buy all the books I'd like to read, and neither can our local library service. Some are of no interest to me -- I wouldn't want to read them even if I was being paid -- so I recycle them as quickly as I can, hoping they'll find the readers they were meant for in the wider world beyond Torinturk.
A long time ago, I wrote quite a lot of reviews for free -- the book itself was payment enough. And when I was very young, even though I'd bought the book myself, writing reviews for fanzines was a way to get published and join in the wider conversation. I still like talking about books, sharing my opinions with others, but writing reviews gets harder and harder for me. I'm not even talking about serious criticism, just a few paragraphs. Whenever I have to do it, I agonize over every word. Part of this is to do with my awareness that the author will see what I've written -- and knowing how the slightest misunderstanding or negative remark can wound. So if I'm going to say something negative (and even sticking with books I've enjoyed reading, there's usually something that could be improved) I want it to be as accurate, substantiated, and yet as gentle as possible. But I am also thinking about potential readers, not just the author; I want to give them a clear idea of whether or not they might like this book. Is it worth their time and money? People don't all like the same things. I love making recommendations to my friends and to people who come into the library when I'm working there -- I can do that because I know something about their taste and interests, and what other books they like. I'm always suspicious of those books that supposedly "everyone" will love -- that's why I've never read "Captain Corelli's Mandolin", for one.
OK, all the above is me trying to work myself up to writing a couple of brief book reviews, in response to books I was sent for free by publishers and publicists....either that, or to justify why I will never write another review, anywhere, ever....
Which is it to be?