Book reviews! How do they work?

 

Hey look! My first Saturday post! *throws confetti everywhere*

I’m sticking to my initial idea to write a post on how to do/how I do book reviews (or plan to do them in the future).

Most of the book reviews that I’ve ever written were for school and had a required minimum word or page count. I have a few on my blog but I noticed they weren’t as neatly formatted or consistent as many book blogger reviews I’ve seen.

That’s no surprise–after all, those are book bloggers, of course their reviews will be gorgeous!

As a result of book review envy, however, I set out to make my reviews more consistent and more in line with what readers are looking for. Here’s some of that general advice and my less-general spin on it.

Step 1: 

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Read a book AND TAKE NOTES. I have to reread Snow Like Ashes for The Wandering Penguins because we’re discussing it in the next meeting and I no longer remember many of the things I wanted to say.

I have a terrible memory. I should know better by now that I need to take notes on stuff like this. Guess I just keep forgetting…

Anyway, many reviewers take notes and it’s a helpful way to jot down initial impressions and gain a better understanding of what you really thought of the book as a whole.

So you’ve read the book and written your notes, then what?

What kind of review are you going to post?

Maybe book bloggers are more in the habit of posting any kind of review, good or bad, but, as a writer looking mainly to support other writers, I have some self-imposed limitations.

The reviews I’ll be posting on this blog will be 1) positive reviews and 2) spoiler free/restrict spoilers to the end of the post. 

BUT WHY?

  1. Positive reviews ONLY: it’s bad taste for a writer to denigrate another writer’s work, especially when that writer is published and I’m not. I may have varying levels of enthusiasm about the book, but if I really didn’t like a book I will NOT review it. This is why I won’t promise to review a book or review in series.
  2. Spoiler free/restricted: The purpose of my reviews is to spread the word about a cool book you may not have read–not to validate the opinion of someone who has already finished the book.

After you’ve figured out what kind of reviews you want to post, there seem to be a few formatting decisions to make.

Formatting

Standardization. It’s one of a few golden words in corporate America (where my day job takes me 5 days a week). In this case, it means that every book review will use the same basic template to preserve consistency across the reviews.

I like the bold header, short paragraphs, and bullet points that I’ve used in the past. When I think about book reviews, though, one big question sticks out at me:

Will you use a rating system?

I am not a big fan of rating systems for something as subjective as book reviews. They’re all the rage for any kind of review as an easy way to quantify your appreciation for this complex storytelling that took years and tears and lots of money to bring into the world. And we’ve reduced it all to a 5-star rating system.

Actually, I don’t like rating systems because they aren’t quantifying anything! My 4 stars may be your 5 stars or your 1 star!

Anyway, ask yourself if you want to use a rating system. I may bend to the pressure of the star-system simplicity sooner or later, but I’m going quantification-free for now.

Content. AKA: What are you going to talk about??

FINALLY. The good stuff.

Obviously, you need to include a summary. I like to paste the Goodreads summary and a link so that people can check out the book on that site (I know many people use Amazon but I like Goodreads’ functionality for storing a title away as to-be-read instead of pressuring you to buy it now).

Apparently, because of copyright issues, any picture of the book’s cover should probably come from a website where you can also buy it, like the book’s Amazon page.

But then what???

It depends! Most book bloggers cover the basics:

  • What they liked
  • What they didn’t like
  • Favorite characters
  • Favorite moments
  • Romance
  • Pros and cons

You know, what was in the book! The length of the review is up to the writer but, as a new reviewer still trying to build my readership, I’m sticking with short posts of 1000 words or less (think of it this way, we’re already over halfway there).

Again, I’m a writer, so I will probably bring a bit of a beta-reader’s eye to a published book. I might point out that the structure is superb, the plot points are well done, and the character arcs. I want to learn from the books I read and part of the reason I started this blog was to pass that learning on to others. So, my reviews will likely be by a writer, for writers.

Last but not least… meet my my new reading buddy: Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All!

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He shines so bright, he leaves a glare. 

And, yes, I did seriously consider naming him Reader. 😉

He’s gorgeous, he changes color from blue, to red, to white depending on how the light hits him, he’s very active and playful and he’s pretty funny for a little fish. As his tank is in my little office area, I expect many a long night working with my dog and my fish at my side. As it should be.

 

Is there anything I missed that you expect in a book review? Do you have a different style? I’m always excited to learn what others are doing, so leave a comment below!

Author: JA Goodsell

I write YA fantasy, blog about it, and then take my dog out for therapy. My current manuscript is INNATE, a story of two sisters caught up in a war between the gods. Find me on Twitter at @JAGoodsell or Instagram at books_and_dogs

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