Wondering Wednesday #2! Tips for Writing Book Reviews.

Wondering Wednesday

Wonder Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jessica Baker @ A Bakers Perspective (@bakersperspect on Twitter, @abakersperspective on Instagram), who says:

If you go around to different book blogs, you learn lots about books. I mean, that is the point. But what do you really know about the blogger? Not a whole lot, unless you know them personally. This is a place where YOU, the readers, can submit questions to US, the bloggers. This is your chance to get to know us better! Sure, we can answer book questions…but maybe there’s other things you’d like to know as well. Use the google form below to submit your question. And then join me every week as I answer your questions! And if you’re a blogger, I’d love for you to join me every week!

Well… not every Top Ten or Top Five Tuesday inspires me, but some of these questions do, so why not give them a try, right?

This week – June 23 – the topic is: Do you have tips for writing a good book review?

#LetsDiscuss2021 Landscape

This is only my 2nd time doing this meme, so… be gentle, okay?

I think most of my readers already know that I follow hundreds of book review blogs, and I’ve been writing book reviews for many years – long before I started blogging. I think that over the years I’ve come up with a formula for my reviews, and that I might have some ideas that could be useful for others who are just starting out. So here are a few tips that might help you.

Plot Summaries:

I always try to condense the plot summaries of my book reviews into only ONE paragraph. That way, I don’t go on and on about the action of the book, and I have plenty of room left to write about what I did or didn’t enjoy about the book. Lately, I’ve just taken the most important bits I can find on Goodreads or Amazon and use those, rather than breaking my head about how to summarize the essence of the story. All told, my reviews are usually in the 700-800 word range, all things included (but not including the paragraph of where you can buy the book, after my star rating).

Remember Your Audience:

Remember that old adage: “No two people read the same book.” That means that not every person is going to agree with your opinion of any book. Some people will love books you disliked, others will dislike books you loved. What I try to do is think about this, and describe why something worked or didn’t work for me. I never assume that a deal-breaker for me will put someone off of that same book. I also never assume that the thing that puts me into ecstasy about a book will turn someone else on. That’s why I try to be as objective as possible, even though I know that the essence of any book review is my own, subjective view. I’m not sure how to explain how I do it, but one way is to say “I’m sure other readers…” somewhere in most of my reviews.

Make the Review the Star:

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to close a book review because of an over abundance of GIFS and pictures and animations that distract from the review itself. They simply give me headaches, and make reading the review difficult for this dyslexic brain. We come to your blog read about what you thought of this book. I suggest you concentrate the bulk of your review on your opinion of the book. If I were you, I’d keep those bits for fun for posts like these – the memes, book tags, lists, discussion posts, etc. That said…

Seeing is Believing:

There are a few book bloggers I follow who seem to never put a picture of the cover of the book they’re reviewing. Sorry, but I don’t get that. Is there a problem with downloading a copy of the cover from Goodreads or Amazon or some other site – even the publisher’s site would be fine. Yes, I know, we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but… we still do, so don’t forget to add that to your review.

A New(ish) Feature on my Reviews:

Many bloggers open their reviews with basic information about the book they’re reviewing, and I decided to adopt that practice. My readers will notice that after my summary there’s a line where I set out the categories. By this I mean:

  • Age: What age group is the book intended for? Usually that means adult, new adult, young adult, middle grade, or children.
  • Genres: Is it literary or genre? Is it fiction or non-fiction?
  • Settings: Is it contemporary? Is it historical? If historical, what era does it cover? Also, where in the world does the book take place?
  • Other Categories: this is where I include sub-genres like women’s fiction, or biographical fiction, or maybe its a coming-of age story, or if it is a vintage or classic novel – that sort of thing.

I hope that my readers find this line helpful and I make sure put this “above the fold” so that it is sure to appear in the emails of those who read blogs that way. I also hope that if it is a book that is just not your thing, you can easily just delete the email and move on rather than waste your time.

Well… that’s the bulk of it… I hope it is helpful to someone.

What about you? Do you have any tips for writing a good book review?

Wondering-Wednesday-1536x864

This post also qualifies for the #LetsDiscuss2021 challenge and giveaway for June 2021:

https://itstartsatmidnight.com/2021/01/jan-2021-discussion-challenge-link-giveaway/

24 thoughts on “Wondering Wednesday #2! Tips for Writing Book Reviews.

  1. My reviews have evolved a lot in 10 years. Their format is now the fruit of what I enjoy seeing on other blogs. I like to specify the genre right away, and to give my own summary – plus official summaries often give away too much information, especially for thrillers.
    Then I highlight what I liked/dislike. I like summarizing my thoughts then in a short final VERDICT.
    And my personal rating logo
    And yes, the picture of the cover, a map or something else if needed, but no GIF please, I run away from them. My latest review has the typical format: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/07/19/book-review-if-you-cross-the-river/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great tips! I totally agree about gifs. I use them as you suggest – on memes, and TBR posts etc, but not on actual reviews – too distracting. I’d also add to beware of spoilers – there’s nothing worse than reading a review and finding the reviewer has revealed the ending, either directly or indirectly. This is why I can never decide about trigger warnings – I can see why they can be useful, but they do also tend to be spoilerish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Spoilers – well, that goes without saying (which I guess is why I didn’t say it, but perhaps I should have)! I never adopted the trigger warnings thing. I get why people put them in, but… we’re adults, so surely we can figure those out, no?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the suggestions. I am always looking for ways to get the reader to engage with the title that I am reviewing. I think that, compared to some others, I tend to keep my reviews fairly short. I want to put enough for someone to know if they want to take a look at a given title but not so much that they won’t read the post..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the tips! I do include a picture of the cover and the author-I just like to see/read about both. I also try to include a link to the author or publisher’s page after I’ve looked at them to see what valuable information might be interesting to the readers. Since a lot of my reviews are historical fiction I include pictures or maps that will add to the understanding of the time period. This is where I add links to particular websites that help with understanding the history/facts upon which the book is based. My blog is about 2 years old so I’m definitely still learning and trying new ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lots of bloggers add the author info and publisher info, but I don’t usually. I prefer my review to be about the book, not the author or the publisher, but including it is also fine. As for links to websites with history and facts – yes, those are always good!

      Like

  5. Great tips Davida and I totally agree with you on the GIFs. A tip I’d like to pass on to bloggers is to ensure you include the name of the book and the author in the title of your review and the URL of the post. This will help drive traffic to your site. If you’re including an image of the book cover with your review (which I also agree is kind of a no brainer when reviewing a book) make sure you remember to include the title and author in the meta data for the image. This also helps drive traffic to your site if someone wants to download the image you used. Very helpful when reviewing backlist titles or hard to find books. Just a tip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know we should put the title of the book and the author in the URL, but I have too much fun thinking of clever titles for my reviews! Those, together with the title and author would make a VERY long URL. Not sure how to do the meta data bit for the picture, though.

      Like

  6. I should try your approach of a one paragraph summary of the plot. I usually find I am writing far too much about the story arc and then delete most of it. I’ve seen many bloggers use the publishers blurb but I don’t see a lot of value in that – I can easily read it myself. What I want is the bloggers interpretation of the plot, themes, etc

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes! I like to see a book cover and the genre early in a book review, it helps me to decide quickly if it is a book which might interest me.

    For my own reviews, I prefer a short format, perhaps a paragraph or two about the plot and characters and a couple more about what I liked or found difficult, then a small summary.

    Like you, I’m more interested in the book that the pretty post, if it becomes too full of images, but in the end if I think that the review is for a book which I would love to read, most others things fade away.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I totally agree about the GIFs! Maybe it’s a generational thing with me, but, I’m a reader, I want to read the review. Also the book covers! For whatever reason, I really connect a book with it’s cover, so I like to see the cover when I read about a book. I’m sure that’s whey Amazon, BN, KOBO always have a cover by the product.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.