A Few Tips on Writing Book Reviews

 

Writing a book review shouldn’t be a chore. And it shouldn’t take more than five minutes, plus or minus. You either liked the book or didn’t. Maybe you loved it and read the whole book. Maybe, just maybe, you couldn’t get past a certain point and deleted it or put it down. Either way, the author would really like some feedback. 

 

The fact is, good or bad, the more reviews a book has, the better for everyone concerned. 

A few words will do. A paragraph would be outstanding! And more is often even better! You don’t even need to summarize the plot or setting. The author probably knows a bit about the plot, and the Amazon description likely spells out most everything else. 

 

 (Photo by Elaine Howling on Unsplash)

Stick with how the story made you feel. 

…“I really enjoyed this book! The author did a great job maintaining story tension, and I really fell in love with some of the characters. After watching the characters change and grow, I was left feeling…”

…“After reading (title), I can hardly wait to grab (the sequel)! While this was one of (the author’s) first books, I really felt like…”

If you feel like you need to give away the ending, try tossing in the words “SPOILER ALERT.” (I always think that looks cool!) Also, if you’re going for a little more than a very basic review, try to be as specific as possible about what you liked or what didn’t work for you. Doing so will be SUPER helpful to the author and to the book’s next readers!

Which characters were most believable? Which settings were most interesting? Were there enough plot twists? Was there anything funny, thrilling, or bittersweet? Did you “get lost” anywhere in the writing? Did any scene make you feel uncomfortable? Were there any facts that didn’t ring true? Did the book need proofreading? 

Be as objective as possible. Believe me, authors receive all kinds of rejection as our skills develop and most of us learn to have amazingly tough skins. With that said, it’s probably best for your own “social karma” if you play as nice as possible. 

Speaking for myself, I’m always looking for better ways to make my writing as real and as readable as possible. And since reader satisfaction always comes first, I always try to remain focused on adapting, changing and improving my writing to better immerse my readers in the story. (Just wait until you experience all of the virtual-reality versions of my stories!)

 

 

So, what if you want to write a more professional, literary review?

Um, Okay. But guess what? I’m not actually qualified to tell anyone how to pen an academic book review. (I mean, my big-time university degree is in “Planetary Geology,” of all things!) Besides, I’m not even sure writing that kind of review would be fun….

But since you asked, these suggestions may be more in line with what someone might need to write a deeper review on Amazon or Goodreads. 

1. The first thing to take into consideration what someone else might like to know when looking for a good, probably-escapist read at the library, bookstore or when shopping online.  

What is the title of the book?

What is the book’s category or genre?

Who is the author? Is this a first book? Part of a series? Or one of many books in a writer’s career?

I might even add in the publisher, publication date, and the book’s edition if I thought them helpful. 

2. When reading (and writing), I find that character interaction has the most influence on my enjoyment level. Thus, I like to share the name of each book’s point of view character, and I often like to convey the book’s predominant point of view. First person? Third person? If the book is narrated in the third person, I might want to state whether or not I found their perspective reliable. I might then take a moment to relate my thoughts about the story’s antagonist if I can do so without giving too much away. 

3. As for setting, I like to briefly discuss the time period the book is set in or how any primary location may have influenced the story’s plot. 

4. If I managed to detect the book’s overall theme or message, I might describe it. If I’ve taken the time to note a few choice passages, this is where I might share them. 

5. If I decide to offer a plot summary, I don’t want to reduce reader suspense by giving away too many spoilers. With that said, discussing a few plot points generally lets me get back to whether or not I found the book’s characters credible in their roles. Who did I identify with? Could I relate to them?

6. I don’t think it hurts to say whether or not I liked the book. Was it interesting? Entertaining? Memorable? Did it blow my socks off? Did I enjoy the author’s style? If I had a favorite part, I like to say where and why. If something didn’t hold together for me, I might make a note of it but only if I have suggestions for improvement. I often like to say something positive before something negative. I then like to follow up with suggestions for improvement, and again add something positive. But what reviews ultimately come down to is whether or not you or I might recommend the book to another person. Yes? No? Maybe? Never!

7. As far as star ratings go, try to remain consistent and polite. I never post a review of fewer than three stars, because (again) I’m not that qualified. On the other hand, I have been reading for enough decades (okay: more than half a century!) to know when a story merits five stars. 

Just remember, no author expects anyone to give a fake or false review. We are all just supremely thankful for any honest feedback that you take the time to post.

 

By the way, I’m always looking for great reading recommendations! What books have you read lately? 

Thanks!

Scott

 

 (Photo by Eliot Peper on Unsplash)

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