7 Tips to Write Stellar (& Stress-Free) Book Reviews
By Cici Ford (@therusticwindow)
This is going to be quick and painless I promise. To all my fellow book bloggers and book reviewers, it sometimes is a struggle writing book reviews, am I right? It can be difficult figuring out where to start. Maybe there is some worry about how it will read to others or how long it should be. I know that I’ve struggled on numerous occasions figuring out exactly what I wanted to express and how I wanted to express it. It has been incredibly difficult for me, because in all honesty, I sometimes don’t remember what I read. It can take an incredibly long time writing a review, so imagine having to crack the book open again, just to flip through it to remember the names of characters or where you saw plot holes. I couldn’t possibly be the only one, but I will share with you how I cured that in a moment. I enjoy reviewing the books I read, and I think authors want you to review their work. It’s so important for them to know what their readers thought was lacking or what they absolutely loved.
No one outright expressed to me that they didn’t enjoy reading my reviews, but I didn’t enjoy them. When I first started writing reviews, I thought I needed them to read a certain way. In a nutshell, I was trying too hard by throwing in super big words, so the reviews sounded ‘smart,’ but what I wasn’t doing was really expressing how I felt and attempting to do more dissection. I was trying to be philosophical, which is okay but it wasn’t always necessary. Then I realized people would probably enjoy my reviews more if it was MY own voice they were reading. I now write my reviews as if I were sitting and having coffee with a friend and either gushing over or really not loving a particular book. I’ve come to find that people want to know how the book made you feel. What parts did you love? What parts made you angry? Did you or didn’t you connect to the characters?
Here is a sure-fire way to write stellar book reviews. Ok, “stellar” is probably a stretch, but here are a few tips that worked for me!!
1. While you’re reading take notes or annotate
Jot down the parts of the story that stand out for you no matter what it is. This is how I cured my forgetfulness with what I was reading. I can refer back to my notes quickly. One of my favorite bookstagrammers @bookishsmaug actually sticks Post-it Notes in her books, which I adopted and it has helped me immensely.
2. Start your review off with a backstory
For example, “I really wanted to read this book and was so excited when __________ sent it my way.” Or “I was in the bookstore and….” or “I saw this book floating around bookstagram, and I was intrigued.” “When I read the synopsis I felt or thought….” I think you get the idea. I always find starting off with a brief intro and/or quip about why or how the book ended up in your hands sets the tone for my review and creates a flow.
3. Don’t repeat the synopsis
Most book bloggers/reviewers provide the synopsis either from Goodreads or the back of the book. Synopses are easy to come by, but a review is your personal and unique take on a book. When you begin to discuss what you’ve read, focus on what’s not in the synopsis — that’s what is going to draw people to your review.
4. Talk about how it made you feel
It’s not necessary to get caught up in an academic analysis of a book if that’s not your thing. Instead, focus on how you feel. Emotions are a big part of the book reading experience. Being able to discuss the emotional rollercoaster a book took you on will help readers relate to your review.
5. Don’t stress about length
I used to think my reviews needed to be lengthy. I promise things will be easier for you once you take this pressure off. If you start thinking your reviews need to be long you’ll over think it. Length will be your focus and not your actual emotions about the narrative. REVIEWS CAN BE SHORT!!!
6. Close your review up by summing up your experience
Be honest without bashing the author, as it takes time an effort to write a book. Also state why you think it’s one to grab or one to leave alone.
7. MOST IMPORTANTLY - Write your reviews in YOUR voice
Try not to force it. You may be tempted, but your voice matters whether you’re speaking philosophically or you’re talking about book boyfriends and insta-love. Let YOU shine through your reviews.
See, I told you, quick and painless. I hope this short list of tips helps you to never stress about writing a review again. Happy reviewing!!
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About the Author
CiCi is currently a book and lifestyle blogger. She has a masters degree in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago and has written for both digital and print publications as well as floor directed a national children’s television program. You can find her chatting books or hopping around to the best coffee shops. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org
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