How to Write a Book Review

December was definitely an up and down month for me. Some of the greatest things happened and lots of annoying things happened, but such is life and I powered through, and I couldn’t be happier to see 2020. It is a new decade! Scary. But with it comes new goals, new books to read and many more blog posts to write!

I still have a lot of learning to do about writing and with all of these books I plan to read and all of these reviews I plan on writing this year, I thought I should learn how to write a solid book review. The more I learned, the more I realised I have done everything “they tell you” not to do. This is what I will be using to put together my book reviews this 2020 in ten easy steps …

  1. Keep notes as you read
  2. Introduction
  3. About the author
  4. Genre and themes
  5. The storyline
  6. Characters
  7. How did the book make you feel?
  8. Conclusion
  9. Rating
  10. Publish

You can mix the points covered to suit the flow of your writing and the book you are reviewing.

1. Keep Notes as You Read

As you read, make note of anything you may think will be useful when you are writing a review. I like to make notes of any parts of the book that I like or that grab my attention for whatever reason. I might like the way the author has described a character or their surroundings. Or it could be a quote from the book that I can relate to. Whatever you decide to jot down can become useful and you can use these quotes in your review. You can use post-it-notes inside the book, bookmarks or write it in your writer’s journal.

2. Introduction

We always need an introduction, even if it is a rambling one like mine above. In the introduction, answer the following questions:

  • A quick summary of the basics: title, author, is the book a part of a series? Date published, price, ISBN, special features, rewards and/or acknowledgements
  • What made you pick up this book? – had you heard a lot about it? Were you entranced by the cover (like me with The Night Circus)? Was the blurb mind-blowing?
  • Can you briefly describe what the book is about (going into more detail further into the review)?
  • Can you briefly describe the genre (going into more detail further into the review)?
  • Upon first impressions, did you think that you were going to like or dislike the book? Why? Did your mind change for the better or for the worse as you continued to read it?

The Hook

When I write book reviews, I sometimes forget that I am not writing a school report and that personality is appreciated by readers and is what keeps them reading and keep coming back. The introduction is your chance to get the reader hooked. You can do this with something conveniently called the “hook”.

A “hook” is a line that grabs the readers attention and read your review word for word rather than simply scan through it. Including a gripping statement such as,

Bella Ellis brings The Brontë Sisters back to life in a mysterious and empowering story of adventure, curiosity and the unbreakable bond between sisters.

Or a question . . .

Have you ever thought about what would happen if ann author combined His Dark Materials with The Fallen?

Remember that yes you are writing about another piece of literature, but your review has to be engaging to readers. Remember the following throughout your review:

  • The audience are you writing your review for and what your readers want to know about the book
  • Make your honest opinions clear – readers will come back to you for your honest reviews
  • Find your own voice – people will come back to your blog not only for the genres or types of books you read but by the style of your writing and the personality that you put into it
  • Remember other bloggers reviews that you have read, and what you liked/disliked about them
  • Avoid spoilers (I have certainly included spoilers in the past)
  • Do not bring up any plot twists
  • Generally, try to avoid writing in detail about anything that happens from about the centre of the book onwards
  • Try to write equally and honestly about good and bad points

3. About the Author

Write about the author and answer the following questions;

  • What is the author’s name, date of birth and birthplace?
  • When was the book written? Does this affect any of the views and beliefs in the book? Has it stood the test of time, or does it appear dated by today’s standards?
  • What was his background/upbringing like? Does this seem to impact his writing? Does this influence his point of view?
  • What is the author’s usual writing style? Is this book unusual for him?
  • Had you heard of the author before? Does he have a previous best seller?
  • Do you know why the author wrote the book?
  • Were any of the characters based on anyone from his real-life?
  • What is the author’s writing style like? Look at the flow of the text, the use of precise words, the atmosphere he is trying to portray and the way he does so. Look at the author’s descriptions and narrations.
  • How well does the author create mood and set scenes?
  • Was the author better at creating certain scenes or moods than others, for example, tense scenes, romantic scenes?
  • Does the author use humour in the book? Does it work?
  • Does the author share any similarities with other authors? For example:

If you’re a fan of Sophie Kinsella’s gal-pal/teenage-you vibe, you’ll adore Gemma Burgess’s latest novel about the adventures of five girlfriends living in New York.

4. Genre and Themes

  • In detail, what is the genre/subgenre?
  • Did it focus on a specific theme or subject, for example, money, cars, travelling, relationships?
  • Was it set around a certain style? Such as gothic, lighthearted, serious?
  • What era was it set in?
  • What location is the book set in?
  • If the book is fantasy, you can ask questions about the world and what differs it from reality.

5. The Storyline

  • Briefly describe the storyline without any spoilers. How interesting did you find the plot and the general storyline?
  • How unique is the storyline?
  • Are there any parts of the story which may be considered as clichéd? Does this detract anything from the story at all?
  • Is the plot confusing or easy to follow?

6. Characters

  • Who was your favourite character and why?
  • Did you find it easy to believe and relate to the characters?
  • Did you care about what happened to the characters?
  • Were the characters easy to distinguish from one another, or do they all sound similar (often noticeable in dialogue)?
  • Was there an interesting combination of personalities?

7. How did the book make you feel?

  • Overall did you enjoy the book?
  • What did you particularly like about the book?
  • Was there anything you particularly disliked about the book?
  • Were you affected by the book and were any of your feelings, thoughts, or opinions changed as a result of reading?
  • Did the story make you laugh or cry?
  • Did the story grip you and keep you turning the pages?

8. Conclusion

To conclude, write the main points to take away from the review:

  • Your overall thoughts and opinions about the book
  • Is the book easy to read or was it challenging? Why?
  • Did the author achieve what he had intended to do?
  • What were the books intended audience and did it suit them?
  • Is the book better or worse than books of the same genre and style?
  • Are there any books that are similar to it? If so, you can recommend it to readers of a certain style of literature. For example:

If you love The Chronicles of Narnia, and you love Harry Potter, you have to read The Book of Dust.

  • Would you recommend the book? Who would you recommend it to? Age, genre, theme . . .

9. Rating

Give your book a rating out of 5 or 10 and you and your readers will be able to easily compare it to books you have previously reviewed.

10. Publish…

Now all you have to do is proofread and publish! What are your tips for writing book reviews and how do you find you need to adapt reviews to different genres?