How I write book reviews

There’s no right or wrong way to review a book. Every review is unique to the writing style of the reviewer.

So what goes through my mind when I’m faced with a blank blog post, waiting to be transformed into a book review?

I usually write a review soon after finishing the book, while my thoughts are fresh. I find now that a review starts to form in my head even while I’m still reading the book! I should mention that most of my reading is purely for enjoyment and not for the purpose of reviewing (i.e. books I’ve bought or borrowed, rather than been given in exchange for honest reviews).

If I have strong opinions about the book, then I’ll often give them in the opening lines. I just can’t wait until later on to say how much I loved this book, or how disappointed I felt. If I have mixed opinions, I will try to work out my views as I go and discuss how the unsatisfactory elements could’ve been improved.

My expectations have a role to play in the book review. If the book has been lauded by the media, enjoyed by other book bloggers or has the reputation of a ‘classic’, my expectations will be higher, so I’m more likely to be disappointed. Conversely, if I don’t know much about a book before I read it, my expectations will be lower and I could be surprised by how much I like it.

If I’m reviewing fiction, I’ll attempt to summarise the plot a little, without spoilers. I note the setting, the main characters and what the central focus or conflict is in the story. If it’s non-fiction, I’ll say what topics are covered but I won’t reveal any particularly important facts, so that if you decide to read the book, you’ll still learn something new.

My reviews don’t cover everything. I focus on the aspects of the book that seem most conspicuous to me. This might include the plot, pace, dialogue, settings, genre, structure and many other things. The writing style is the most important one for me. If I like the way an author writes, this is often enough to carry me through a book which fails on the other points.

Being a writer has made me more critical of other writers’ styles, so I’m not easily impressed now. If I really dislike a book, I’ll try to find something positive to say about it. I’ve not yet read a book completely devoid of any merit whatsoever. My reviews are always honest but I can appreciate the time and effort the author spent on crafting the narrative.

Typos can significantly dent my enjoyment of a book, along with factual errors and weird formatting. Some of this is obviously the publisher’s mistake, rather than the author’s. I probably won’t mention it for an advance proof copy, which has yet to be finalised. Otherwise, I will mention the mistakes if there are an annoying number of them.

I tend to conclude a review with a line about whether I’d recommend the book, emphasising what I liked or disliked. For an advance copy, I’ll thank the publisher and say when the book will be released. For a book which is already out there, I’ll state (if I remember) when it was first published. I’ll then categorise it as Book Reviews and put some tags in there.

Finally, I’ll add a picture, usually of the cover design. For an ebook, I download a cover image. I paste it on to a coloured background (I try to match or contrast the colours to the image). For a printed book, I take a photo. I resize the image so that it’s not gigantic, but large enough to be in focus when the blog post is synced to my Twitter profile.

When I’ve previewed the post and checked for errors, I schedule it. Currently I’m a few weeks ahead, on the basis of publishing a blog post every two or three days, with around half of the posts being book reviews. That’s why, if we’re friends on Instagram, you might’ve noticed there’s a gap between my current reading and then the actual review being published on my blog.

I hope that wasn’t too boring for you… 

Now, back to reading and reviewing!



21 thoughts on “How I write book reviews”

  1. I have become very interested in how other bloggers approach writing book reviews, so I found this an enjoyable and informative post to read.
    I can definitely relate on several of these points, particularly the first one!

    1. Thanks, Stephen! I’m glad this was interesting for you. Isn’t it fascinating how we all have different styles of reviewing? 🙂

  2. Expectations can easily ruin a book for me. I noticed this mostly since i started following bookish blogs and saw how much some other people loved a book and then when i didn’t it was… well, meh… :/
    I don’t recall having this problem pre-blog becuase i’ve never really looked at reviews at all.

    It’s rare when i can’t find anything i like about a book, but when it actually happens, i don’t wast too much time looking for something nice to say. I’d just rather pick up another book 😀

    1. Totally agree! I’ve become more aware of what other bloggers are reading and which books are much talked about… and then I usually end up being disappointed. Pre-blog, I might look at Amazon reviews, so I was still influenced but not as much.
      I’m sure if I ever fail to find anything positive at all to say, even just one little thing, I will say so in my review 😀
      Thanks for your comment!

    1. Thank you! Somehow I developed this process and it seems to work for me! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Paul! I didn’t have a particular reviewing style when I first started blogging, I have developed it over time, It’s so interesting that people go about reviewing in different ways.

  3. We share a lot of similarities in how we approach our reviewing. But as an editor, I’ve become a lot more critical since starting my blog and rate on a number of criteria, plus my own personal reasoning, as sometimes I just love a flawed book because of the story telling. But then, rate it accordingly. That why we write reviews so others can make judgement calls for themselves.

    1. Excellent point – thanks for your comment. I think it can be difficult to decide whether I like a book sometimes, which is where reviewing it is very helpful. I’m partly doing it to develop my reading and reflection skills.

      1. I sometimes think writing a review is more for me, to consolidate what I thought and felt about a book, than for anyone reading the review! 😉

  4. This was a very interesting read. I’m always curious about how other people write reviews because I know that I have a particular way of approaching the task. One thing you mentioned is summarising the plot (without spoilers). Do you think this is a particularly important part of a review? /It’s not something I’ve ever particularly felt the need to do but am curious as to what the benefits of doing so are

    1. Thank you – I’m glad you found this interesting! I like to say a little of what the book is about, firstly so that my readers will know whether it’s the sort of book they might like, and secondly to help myself remember it! As I read so many books. I usually summarise in my own words so that there’s more truth than copying the blurb, as some blurbs can be misleading.

  5. Very interesting! I definitely like to get into and know how expectations effect a reader’s enjoyment. And I also think it’s really great to get into how much you liked/were disappointed by a book as soon as possible.

    1. Glad you found this interesting! As book reviews are about opinions, it makes sense to start off with those opinions, except when I’m not sure what I think 😉

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