Discussion: My Recipe for Writing Book Reviews


My Recipe for Writing Book Reviews


It has been a while since I’ve written a discussion post so today I want to talk about book reviews and how I write mine.  Let me preface what I’m going to write with this:  I don’t honestly think that there is any right or wrong way to write a review.  It’s not an academic paper and there are no rules to follow.  That’s one of the great things about blogging. It’s your blog so you write your reviews any way you want to.

My formula is pretty straightforward and is probably similar to what many other bloggers do. I always start out with a brief introduction to the book. I want to give my reader a little taste as to what the book is about, but I try not to give away too much.  My goal is to hopefully entice but not spoil.  I pay careful attention to the synopsis because I don’t want to accidentally give away some important detail that isn’t already stated there.  I may also use my opening paragraph to talk a little about my previous experiences reading the author’s other books, especially if it’s a favorite author.

I’ve thought about just skipping that opening and just jumping into my reaction to the book, but it just doesn’t work for me, even though I’m totally fine reading other bloggers’ reviews that do exactly that.  I just feel like having that teaser in the introduction provides my reader with some context for all of the comments I’m going to make in my reaction paragraphs.

So what do I talk about in my reaction paragraphs?  I of course want to share everything I really enjoyed about the book but that said, I tend to stick with a few main areas of discussion – First, I like to talk about the characters, how well they’re developed and whether or not I find them easy to connect with.  In addition to characters, I also like to talk about any themes/tropes that really stood out for me.  In historical fiction, for example, that might include me talking about whether a dual timeline was effective or not. Lastly, I also like to mention the writing style. What about the author’s writing kept me reading (or what didn’t work for me since I also like to write balanced reviews and not sugar coat things if there were areas that didn’t work).

And what don’t I talk about?  Well, while I do like to write balanced reviews that are my honest opinion about books, I tend to only mention little things that bother me, especially if I think it’s a case where it just wasn’t a book for me but many others will love it.  If I truly hated a book so much that I have nothing nice to say about it, I’ll usually just skip writing a review and will just jot a sentence or two on Goodreads as to why it didn’t work for me.  I’m just not a big ranter so going off about how awful a book was just isn’t something I’m drawn to do.  It doesn’t bother me at all when others do it; it’s just not for me.  I also try to steer clear of spoilers and of anything that could be considered a personal attack on an author.  I’m reacting to an author’s book, not to the author themselves, so there’s no place for anything like that in my review.

Once I’ve talked about everything I want to talk about, good and bad, I close my reviews with a statement about what kind of reader I think will really enjoy the book.

Is my formula perfect? No, of course not. But it does work for me and I’m comfortable with it for the most part.  One area I’d like to improve on when it comes to writing reviews is writing more informally.  I recently read somewhere that the best reviews are very conversational in tone and sometimes I can be a little too formal or borderline academic in what I write.  I blame that on having been an English major in college.  I feel that pull to analyze everything about the books I’m reading rather than just reacting to them.  I’m working on it though!




So, how do you write reviews?  Is your method similar to mine or do you do something completely different?

22 replies
  1. verushka
    verushka says:

    I think I am a mood reviewer — if a book makes me wildly ecstatic I will gush about anything and everything, and even though I try to focus on characters and plot, I often think they’re an incoherent mess mostly bc the book has left me an incoherent mess. With reviews of books I don’t like, I will focus on the things that annoyed me — mostly bc I would have finished a book I hated bc I wanted the author to redeem it somehow. For those books that fall inbetween, and that’s most books, it’s a matter of characters, plot and pacing, and I like to focus on the thing that makes the book work for me. (Mind you, this might actually all be in my head and not actually what comes out to everyone else lol)

  2. Angela
    Angela says:

    Great post! I always love reading your reviews – you have a wonderful writing style (even though you think it’s a little too formal!) and I know I’m always going a great overview of the book.

  3. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy
    Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy says:

    I also have a formula although mine is slightly different. But I think it makes it easier to write reviews when I have a road map. I wish I could just write rambling, gushing reviews sometimes, I admire bloggers whose reviews seem to just burst out with very little effort, but I’ve never been able to do that convincingly 😁

  4. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books says:

    I agree that when it comes to reviews there is no right or wrong. Everyone has their own style and I appreciate the styles of different bloggers. Like you, I tend to start with a brief synopsis (without giving anything away) and then move into my feelings about the book. But I’ve found that sometimes it depends on the book. For some books I follow a more structured style, for others I flail and word vomit and it’s practically stream of consciousness. LOL

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I babble a lot too when I really enjoy a book and sometimes have to backtrack and shorten some of what I’ve written so that it’s not a novel in itself, lol.

  5. Sophie
    Sophie says:

    I would say that 70% of my reviews are like yours Suzanne. The other 30% are very …passionate and sometimes disorganized like : writing a letter to the author, filing a complaint to the author, lamenting on “why oh why” is there a cliffy or being amazed at hom this book opened my eyes and should be read by everyone. I know that I am informal, maybe because English is not my mother language but I think it’s just me: passionate and vocal LOL.
    Very interesting post! Thanks for sharing your recipe with us 😉

  6. Sam@wlabb
    Sam@wlabb says:

    I agree. Maybe it’s my training from school, but I need an intro paragraph for my formal reviews. I feel like the reader needs some sort of context, you know?

  7. Amber
    Amber says:

    I have to write a massive list of bullet points before I review a book and then somehow join them all together in a coherent fashion XD I always want to do an intro paragraph as well but at the same time they tend to come out a bit awkward!

  8. ShootingStarsMag
    ShootingStarsMag says:

    I do want to switch up how I do book reviews sometimes, so it’s not always the same thing over and over. Makes it more fun for me! I’m also someone who could probably try and write a bit more informally as well. haha I think the way you do your reviews is great though, and I appreciate that you don’t dump on a book!


  9. Jennifer Tar Heel Reader
    Jennifer Tar Heel Reader says:

    This is so helpful and well-done, Suzanne. I am the same way about much of this. I follow the synopsis closely and I need to write that intro part because it adds context but also because it gets me going on what I want to write about. For whatever reason, it sets up my flow. I always love your reviews!

  10. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction
    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    I find that my review strategy and format varies a lot more now than it used to. I think I’m getting bored with myself. LOL! (I don’t think a more formal approach to reviews is necessarily a bad thing, by the way. Some people like that approach better—it’s just a matter of preference, I think.)

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