What is a Book Review?
A Book Review is intended as an expression of a critical and honest opinion of the review writer about the book. In no way is it just a brief summary of the book or just presenting the author’s view/intent in writing it. The review is written to evaluate the contents of the book and make a recommendation to promote it’s value to other readers. Accuracy should not be lost in your personal sentiments and the analysis should present your assessment in a unique POV.
One comment that I get often is that I read some fantastic books and where do I even hear of them. The answer is simple – I check out book reviews of other reviewers. The entire idea of writing a review is to be able to recommend a book so that other readers can make informed choices before investing in a book.
Next comment I get is which reviewers do you follow and why. Well it’s a bit of trial and error actually along with how their reviews resonate with my reading patterns. I trust the reviewers I follow as they are the ones who read similar genres/authors/settings as I tend to gravitate towards. Plus their reviews are succinct and always fair and reasonable.
Now you know why honesty and accuracy is so important 🙂
Alright, now let me get into the nitty gritty of writing the review. Please note that these are not set in stone but just the formula that I follow and works brilliantly for me. By the way, I would advise reading the entire book first before attempting the review writing 😉
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12 cool tips to writing a Book Review
The best way to begin is with an accurate summary of the book for your readers who might be interested in picking it up after knowing what the story line is all about. I pretend I am telling a story to my friend when I do so as it lets me bring my thought process to fore. I embellish what I have loved and gently work my way around bits that didn’t seem good to me. Mention the “hook” of the book to, well, hook your audience 😉 Every author has a favorite hook that they try and incorporate into their writings and as often as they can.
* Hot Tip *
If you are anything like me, then make notes as you read the story. I tend to forget bits that jump out to me and then spend time in flicking through the pages to get to it. These bits are critical to your review as they form the basis of your personal touch of the book’s assessment. Making notes while you read lets you keep your review crisp and accurate, something a future reader will benefit from.
Try and avoid spoilers as that “spoils” the fun for a lot of people who would then shy away from buying the book. If you must include one, then that should be mentioned in the beginning of the review.
Synopsis can be further broken down, and again this is not a hard and fast rule, though I would recommend it as being vastly effective in making an impeccable argument:
It could be a first-hand account or maybe there is a parallel narration like in case of The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. Sometimes the narrator is so quirky that it is the hook of the book, case in point The Book Thief by Markus Zusak where Death is the narrator.
The setting of the book plays an important role in outlining the story. It might explain the colloquial references, traditions, mannerisms of characters, etc and is very important in setting the tone of the story.
Sometimes the Genre covers this bit but many times just saying it is a love story is not enough. So a theme is central to your synopsis as it lets you describe the tone of the book – politics, war, religion, futuristic, ideology, etc. The reader gets a clear idea what they are getting into with this book when the theme/setting is presented clearly to them.
Mention the Genre of the book and age group at which its aimed to let your audience know early on whether this is a review they should be getting into.
3. Introduce the author
A brief word about the author would be great, especially if you have read other works by them or planning to. You could mention interesting trivia about the book like whether its based on someone the author knows or perhaps the town mentioned in the book is their home town.
Add awards/ nominations won by the book/author. If you have found some great praise for the book that perhaps tempted you to pick it up, include that. It would lend credence to your selection.
* Hot Tip * In fact introduce the book by mentioning how you selected it for a read – you’d be amazed at the connect readers find with this little tit-bit.
4. Include Quotes
I love quoting from the books as there are always sections that have punched me in the literary gut with their zaniness – I find this adds depth to my reviews as it give my readers a peek into the writing.
Very often, the book reminds me of a character from another book or a TV series perhaps or maybe it completely resembles another literary work. I try to include such comparisons to create a connect for the readers
6. Your impression
I have further broken this down into three sections for an easier understanding. This is the main body of your review and needs to be just right to strike the perfect tone.
Analyse the writing for the flow, vocabulary, grammar and overall quality of language. There have been books with fantastic writing but no defined plot lines and poor character sketches. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion as its your unique perspective that will shape the review.
A book that has been debated over on my Insta timeline is the Book jar by Slyvia Plath. I am in love with her writing and was hooked to the book like anything. Others have found it to be dull and depressing with no clue as to where is she going with it.
The dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood had me tearing my hair in frustration over the flow of writing. But so many of my trusted book influencers are in awe of this book that I have often wondered if its just me.
You are presenting a case in argument which could be in favor of the book or against it. Over time, this POV is what your readers will recognize and value and trust your reviews to make their selections.
Be honest and open in your personal opinions about the book as you are in a position to influence others to pick it up. There is no need for harsh criticism for do remember that every book is a labor of love; regardless of how it read for you. Do add some positive bits in such a case, as I am sure not the entire book would be so awful. Word your criticism gently and mention why you think so and what (according to you) could be better.
Talk about symbolism in the book if you have found it of worthy note. Maybe you have a favorite character with whom you empathized the most – talk about that and the why of it. Or maybe there was something/someone you could not relate to in the setting/plot – that should be part of your discussion as it brings credibility to your review with your audience.
7. Paid reviews
BTW if you are writing a review that you have been paid for, PLEASE mention that in the beginning of the article. It has happened to many times to me that the PR/Publishing agency wants me to not mention this fact as they probably want to show that the book is popular. But I have been firm in letting them know that this is non-negotiable. Don’t change opinions to suit author/publisher if you are being paid. I always get back to them and let them know what my review/rating is. Sometimes they have asked me to not post the review as its unfavorable to the book.
Make a special mention for illustrator, translator , etc if there are any associated with the book. You could talk about how their work was relevant to how the book reads for you.
Finally a Conclusion that lets you tie up the review with all the Good, Bad and the Ugly of it with an overall view. Be succinct and fair while doing so as this is where your readers will make the choice.
10. Rating system
Have a star rating system for your reviews and mention the rating at the very end to enforce your overall review of the book.
11. Affiliate Marketing
Added tips – Its okay to include an affiliate link for buying the book (which could earn you a commission, if books are bough through your link) or the author’s website which would let your readers know more about them.
Publishers/authors work very hard at designing the book cover and it would be great if you would include a graphic of it in your review. It also brings visual appeal to your review which is a win-win scenario.
To sum up, authenticity in your review should be upmost as its your opinion about the book that the audience is depending on before making their selections. It is also the reason why you have been invited by the Publishing house or the PR agency or the Author to do so. Reviews help in pushing visibility of the book and also provide valuable feedback to the author about their writing. So it’s not just your readers but the writers too who benefit from your review.
Hope this post will guide the book reviewer in you to write the perfect one. I would love to hear your feedback on my tips and if you have any that I can add to this, please do share that with me.
Check out my best and worst reads of 2019 here
If you would like to have an honest review of your book by me; please drop me a mail on firstname.lastname@example.org with :
- A sample section of the book (about 25 pages)
- Your social media handles
Please note that I would require a physical copy of the book for the review and will take 100% advance of the fee.