Friday, January 14, 2011

Writing a Book Review

You're a writer.
You have a blog.
You have an outside life, paying job and other's who depend on you.

All eat up chucks of your time.

You want to hone your writing skills, be a better storyteller.

So you read. Lots. In your genre and even spread your wings to gnaw on other works outside your writing realm. But that takes up time, too.

Combine the two: Write a Book Review. But how?

There's no right or wrong way, no tell-all process for writing a good book review. But there are areas one should stay true to and probably avoid.

Now, I'm no expert but I've been reviewing books for about six months. My main purpose for getting into reviewing was simple. Condense my actions with my limited time, equaling productivity. I did, however, decide on my goals for reviewing: to give my readers a view into a book they may have not read, yet, to offer my well-educated opinion, and remain as unbiased as possible.

That can work both ways. When you love a genre, sometimes it's hard to read with unclouded judgment, and when you're not as fond of a genre, it's easier to find flaws.

Stay neutral. 

1. When you begin to read the book have note cards available. I usually insert a few between the pages, so I can jot down elements of the book that jump out at me.

2. I pay attention to word choice, flow and pace, character development, structure of scenes, plot and sub-plot plausibility, and overall storytelling. These are what I note on my note cards.

3. Find a sentence that moves you or gives the overall feel of the book. I highlight that as my favorite line.

4. Set yourself in the story, either as a character or simply yourself. Does the story stimulate you? How? I'm always sensitive to how a story/character moves me internally, makes me look at myself. You can ask yourself a million questions. (I'll fiddle with those in another post.) 

Writing Up the Official Review
(Like I said, these are not set in stone. Just the way I do it.)

~ Include the book cover/artwork. I list title, author name, genre, publisher & date released, and number of pages. Some folks include the ISBN, too. I don't.

~ State official description of the story. I use the blurb on the back cover.

~ Give your HONEST opinion. That can include positives and negatives. Be fair, but kind. Some reviewers include spoilers. I don't. But if you do, please make your readers aware in advance of the review.

I always try to offer a helpful opinion. Meaning, I don't go into great detail but explain why I enjoyed the read or why I didn't. I list strong points and what I felt was weak.

REMEMBER YOUR PURPOSE. You're giving your readers another book to ponder, another book they may choose or pass on reading.

Lastly, I usually offer links where to purchase the book. If I was asked to review by an author or publisher, sometimes I can offer a book giveaway as well.

I could go into greater detail, but I think I've made this post long enough. So instead, let me ask you: Do you review books? Can you add insight into this discussion? Love to hear it.

Happy Weekend, Everyone!!


  1. I used to review novels on my blog but I don't do that anymore. Though I might do a review in the spring for one book I'm excited to read.

    I stopped writing them because I only reviewed books I loved (with one exception) and felt bad if someone bought the book because of my review and hated it.

  2. Yeah, Stina, that was one of my points. I elaborated on it, but took it out to shorten the post. I plan on revisiting this issue in the near future. I think book reviewing can help authors, readers, and the industry as a whole as long as it comes from a helpful place.

  3. I have guest book reviewers (my daughter) which is the age group that most of the book I like to read is for. I post reviews that she and I come up with together. She also vets her reviews with her reading buddies.

  4. I only review books I have a personal connection to. I think it'd be hard to write something about a book that either left me cold, or one I thought was written badly. That said, I think it's really good to do the occasional review. I'm reading Camo Girl, by Kekla Magoon, which I'll be reviewing soon. Thanks for the reviewing tips! I'll be thinking of them when I do the review.

  5. I think "remember your purpose" is a great thing to keep in mind in reviewing. I'm very reticent, as an author, to publicly review other authors' works, unless I love it and can wholeheartedly endorse it. My purpose for reviewing books is to highlight books that would be good for advanced MG and young teen readers. In other words, I'm trying to steer them to good books, not away from bad books. So, I only have positive reviews - recommendations really. If people want positive and negative reviews, they can find those from reader blogs, or reviews on Amazon. I try to be up front about my purpose on my blog, but keeping it in the front of my mind has helped me navigate this tricky issue.

  6. Those points about knowing your purpose are very valid. I've found that I will not do a review of a book I didn't like at all (because I didn't finish it, probably), but I review more than just the superlative books too. I found that when all I read from a blogger are gushing reviews, I stop trusting their opinion as much, because not everything they read can be amazing. IMO, fwiw. :)

  7. This post is very timely. I just completed my first book review last month. I think I'll refer to this post moving forward. Thanks!


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