Ah, the power of a review. We rely on reviews quite a bit in the internet age. Whether buying an appliance or deciding which movie to see, the opinions of others often play heavily into our decisions. Books are no different. We have to hear about it one way or another. Friends, relatives, television, forums--they all provide reviews of a form.
Lately, I've seen a lot of people say that a writer can't honestly review another writer. My question is "Why?" All writers first started out as readers. You can't be a writer unless you read. My favorite phrase to describe myself is "Reader by nature, writer by choice." I was born to read. While I enjoy writing, I can do without it if I have to. I can't go for very long without reading. It's too important a part of my life.
So why shouldn't I review the books I really liked (or really hated)? Just because I may have chatted with the author through Kindleboards or Twitter, it doesn't mean I view their books any differently than I would have had I found them through a friend or in a bookstore. Reviews are important. They're not meant to boost a writer's ego or tear them down. They're meant to inform the readers whether a book is worth their precious time. When I write reviews, it's from a reader's perspective. And that's the way most writer/reader/reviewers work. Just because someone wrote a book, it doesn't mean they have an ulterior motive in doing so. And if they do, they're abusing the review system and should be dragged out into the street and drowned in their own pudding.
On a side note: I'll rarely review a book if I can't give it at least 3 stars. First, I have a horrible powerful guilty conscience that won't let me be that mean to someone unless the book is really really awful and I feel I have to warn the public. Second, if I rate a book a 1 or 2, I likely either didn't finish it, or I remember so little about it that I can't rightly justify giving an opinion.
How heavily do reviews play into your book-purchasing decisions? And do you take a review less seriously if you know it was written by an author?