How To Write A Book Review

Book Review Phobias

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You’re standing at the Red Box, picking out a movie and there’s a woman behind you, giving you her opinions of various movies. “Ohhhh, Edge of Tommorow was really good.”

“Was it?”

“Oh my God yes, I usually don’t like Tom Cruise, I got burnt out on all his Mission Impossibles, loved him in War of the Worlds and Vanilla Sky AND this.”

“So it was a good story?”

“Yes! I suck at reviews and don’t know where to begin, I just know I was really impressed with it. I know this kind of story has been done to death in other movies, or so I think it has, and really wasn’t expecting to be impressed, but trust me, you’ll love it if you like action. And it’s even funny, I just really enjoyed it.”

****

While she didn’t really give me a whole lot of details, I click BUY strictly based on her enthusiasm. I now need to find out WHAT they did to make her like this movie so much.

But that’s a movie, this is a book! I’m not a WRITER! I’M A READER!

I feel you, I do. And with books, the above may not work so much. For one, others can’t really “feel” your emotions or “hear” them in a written review but that doesn’t need to stop you from trying. One thing you can and should do is:

1. Tell it like you’re telling your personal buddy about the book. You give why you loved it, why you hated it, why you loved/hated it, why you’re conflicted with it, and you mind your spoiler manners. It could even look something like this: Oh my gaaaaaaaaaad oh my gad oh my gad this BOOK! THIS BOOK! I am just FLOORED still, even after waiting a WEEK before writing this. I was like in this DAZE trying to gather my shite together. Okay *deep breath* Let me try to explain why you NEED to read this book!

First:

And then they go on to give some of the details listed below, in the Review Template, only in various orders, depending on what impressed them the most.

It’s Not Easy For Authors Either

Trust me, authors know your pain with reviews because we are required to give a brief plot summary without giving the wrong things away while at the same time making the reader say, “OH MY GOD I HAVE TO READ THIS!”

Well but you’re a writer, you say. That’s easy for you.

Uhhhhh… heh heh. I’m afraid it is the same challenge for me to force 40k or more words into a cute little paragraph that sums up all the right things in just the right way but not too much and just so and thus and… yeah, I feel your pain plenty as do most writers. We’re a long winded species by trade, we take pages and pages to tell all about it, that’s what we’re good at. Not condensing that into one paragraph, THAT takes learning, that takes a formula, that takes a cheat sheet even!

Did I care about that? Yes or no. And why?

Those are the things we want to know, those are the things you want to give.

Below is a sample Book Review Template from wiki-how (before you panic, I’ll mark out what we really DON’T need to include)

Narration

  • Who narrated the story? Did you care about that? Yes or no and why. Ex: This was told in the hero/heroine’s point of view and I absolutely loved/hated his way of speaking and thinking. If it didn’t even matter to you one iota, don’t mention it.
  • Was it first-person narration or third-person narration? A lot of people actually want to know this, so saying so doesn’t hurt. And after that, if the author’s ability to write in said point of view impressed or distressed you, say so and why, otherwise leave it at just “This story was told in 1st or 3rd person pov.  
  • Was the narrator a reliable source of information? Don’t think this is needed.

Setting

  • Note the time period and location the book is set in. Did you care about that? If not, don’t mention it. If yes, mention it and why. Remember, people want to know what YOU liked and didn’t like.
  • How did setting drive or influence the plot of the book? 

Theme

  • Note the overall theme or message of the book.  I think this is important, but it needs to be the message YOU got from it. People get different messages and it’s important to say this from your perspective. It’s okay if it’s different from most of the other reviews, you’re not there to agree with the other reviews, I’d suggest not even looking at them. Just give your honest answer.

Genre

  • What genre of literature was it? Fine to give if you think the genre crosses over and doesn’t really fit with the genre stated; a reader might appreciate that clarification.
  • How did it compare to another work in this genre? Only if this book reminded you of another great book, naturally you’d say so, even why and how, minus anything that would spoil it. This sometimes is a quick way to really connect a reader to the over-all theme of the book. Often you see things like, “Harry Potter meet Gone With The Wind in Back To The Future.” Using the “it was like” feature is a classic and natural way to tell somebody what you thought when you read the book. 

Author

  • Name the author. Unless you’re wrting your review on a piece of paper and dropping it on the floor, or writing it on the stall wall of a public bathroom, I think the name of the author is provided where the review is done.
  • Discuss any previous works. Only if it ties to this one, otherwise not necessary for a review.
  • How did previous works compare with this work? Just… give me your damn opinion on THIS book already! If you want to talk about previous works, do it AFTER I get what I’m reading your review for, which is your take on THIS work.

Plot

  • Give a brief plot summary without giving away any key details. I’m sorry, please see summary of book above for this, why repeat what the poor author wrung his brain out to provide? This is redundant.

EVALUATION

Your Opinion (AHA! THE GOLDEN GEM) After all, this is what people REALLY want to know. They want to know how YOU felt about this book, then why. 

  • This is the most important part of the review. (I would agree)
  • Did you like it? Why? BOOM (minus things that would spoil it)
  • Dislike it? Why? BOOM (minus things that would spoil it)
  • Would you read more by this author? Why or why not?  Who the hell honestly cares what YOU would read unless you’re Mark Whalberg or like a triple A reviewing service? Remember who you are, you’re just a reader, letting people know what you thought without bogging it down with all this crapola that most people could care less about.
  • Would you encourage others to read this book? Why or why not? Again, I find this only good for those triple A rewiew services who make a living doing reviews. People really don’t give a shit if you would encourage others to read, that’s nonsense info for the most part. Your review does that job, you don’t need to formally repeat yourself when your above opinion does that for you. 

If all that above confused you on how to write a review, try writing a review by answering the questions below:

1. Did you like this book?

2. Why did you like this book? It’s okay if you list them out. Whatever you liked, say it, every detail of why you like something is important to those who want to know how it affected you.

3. If you’re not sure about #1 say so, and why. Something like “I don’t know how I feel about this book.” (but in your own words or how you’d say it to a friend. Real readers are real people, drop the formality and be real with them, be yourself.)

4. Follow up with a conclusion. An “All in all I…”

And for my all in all on reviewing, bottom line is, ask yourself: Is my review helpful to somebody looking for a book to read and they need to know about this book?

While reviews that say “I loved it!” with 5 stars does help the author’s rating, it doesn’t really help the reader know what he’s getting. At least tell them WHY  you loved it. Same for “I hated it!” Give a why, please. Be as specific as you can. Saying “I think it was stupid” is no better than you hate it. Why is it stupid. That way I can decide if you and I agree on what is stupid, we may not.

***

Spoilers

Sometimes this is hard, really hard. Because often the thing that will spoil it is the thing that MAKES it worth the read! Big frustration. Now you have to figure out how to tell without telling, how annoying is that? Very, I know. The only thing I have for you here is to tell the gist of the emotions that the spoiler provoked in you. Even saying:

NO SPOILER BUT– what the author makes the hero do to the heroine in this book blew my bloody mind! But in a good way! I laid awake for hours stunned with it. (see, now that right there would make me want to know what the hell they did. So, a well delivered spoiler can be the very thing that sells that book) If you think the spoiler needs to be known, maybe just give the impact that spoiler had on you and that would require, maybe even demand the reader to go find that out.

I hope this helps. If anybody has any other cool easy tips to help readers with the all important and dreaded “review” process, please add them in comments.

Lucian

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  • Note:

    I usually refer to males as the more dominant and females as the more submissive. The intention is NOT to say that ALL relationships should fit that pattern. My relationship experience is with male dominant, female submissive arrangements and that is the only sort of relationship I have firsthand knowledge about.
  • Note:

    Lucian Bane is not a counselor and does not claim to be one. Any information given in these pages is strictly related to his personal experiences, and not intended in any sort of professional advisory capacity. As with any information from any source, the individual must personally determine what applies to their life situation and decide how to use it. No suggestion will fit all situations.