Fiction Book Reviews

Tips for writing a book review

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Do you feel as if you’re running out of original things to say in your book reviews?  Maybe you’re just starting out and you’re looking for some tips for writing a book review? 

This article isn’t about how to structure your book review or what you must include.  These prompts and tips for writing a book review may give your creativity a boost or help with your confidence if you’re just starting out.  If you feel your reviews have become stale you may find a tip that will help you get over that writer’s block.  (I’ve included quotes from my own reviews.)

Always avoid spoilers!  Be as vague as you can when writing a book review. Hook your audience in so that they want to find out more and buy the book themselves and continue to read your reviews into the future.

Woman by the beach typing on her laptop used for tips for writing a book review

Plot

Were you intrigued?  Were clues dropped as you read building up to the bigger picture?  What was it that you needed to find out?  What was it that hooked you in?  

Information we’re given in one narration clicks into place in another.  For me, this makes a story a page turner as I’m trying to work out the information I don’t have.  I had plenty of questions that needed answers and I wanted to know the motivation behind untruths.  One of my questions was answered from a character from a previous story. I’m jumping in right now with the fact that Chapter 68 is a shocker.  Brilliant!  Such a tangled mess …

The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick

Pace

Was the story narrated at a steady pace?  Were there places where it sped up and caused tension?  Was a slow burn pace necessary for the story being told?  Did the pace suit the genre?  Why?

I tried so hard to take it nice and slow so that I could savour every second but it just wasn’t possible.  You don’t think it can get any better and then Jen Williams ramps it up another level and I just had to keep turning those pages as fast as I could.

The Silver Tide by Jen Williams

Settings

Did you feel as if you were there with the characters?  Were your senses involved? Is it a place that you have visited before?  Did it bring back memories? Be careful if you’re describing scenes as you don’t want to give too much away.  Be brief and vague.  Focus on how it made you feel.

I experienced the exotic locations ‘first hand.’  Galle, Columbia and Cinnamon Hills – city and country, similar yet different.  The smells, the monsoon, the food and the people are all colourful and full of life.  I love being able to visit different cultures vicariously!

The Sapphire Widow by Dinah Jefferies

Characters

What made you like the characters?  What qualities did they have?  Is it something you aspire to or are working towards in your life?  Did they resonate with your approach to life and challenges?  How did they develop and grow throughout the story?  Did you change your mind about a character?  Why?  How did the anti-hero make you feel?  Do you think there are valid reasons why they act like they do? 

I was determined to keep a distance from the characters.  After all, when evil is on the hunt, inevitably there’s going to be some kind of ending … but I found it impossible to hold myself apart and even found myself wavering towards the evil that’s honed specifically to destroy Mallory and Obe.  So that’s the first thing to be aware of.  These characters are easy to love and will cause you many moments of suspense, worry and tears.  As will Yoda! The characters experience some extreme conditions and you’ll find yourself willing them on, although to what end?

The Silenced by Stephen Lloyd Jones

How I felt about family members changed as the years went past.  They are so complex and so true to life.  Their flaws at times are endearing but others frustrating.  The one character who I felt nothing towards (no redeeming qualities and certainly no empathy) for the majority of the story, is the one who I ended up feeling the saddest about.  Which surprised me.  Totally.  How did that happen!  Such a clever skill for an author to lead our emotions in one direction but then move the story onto a different track.  I don’t like the character, not at all.  But I ended up having feelings about what happened.  I was moved from indifference to caring.

The House of York by Terry Tyler

Chapters

How do the chapters end?  Are you left on a cliff-hanger?  Does it make you want to speed up so that you can find out what happens next?  Or do you get frustrated?  Are all the chapters short?  Does it make it easier to put the book down when you should be doing something else?  Does the length of the chapters have any effect on you remembering where you last read to?

Karl Drinkwater has the skill of leaving us on a cliffhanger at the end of chapters making it near impossible to stop reading.  Expect late nights and longer reading sessions.  And if the story affects you the way it has me, expect your dreams to take place in deep space on a Lost Ship with unknown adversaries.

Chasing Solace by Karl Drinkwater

Sentences

Short sentences build suspense.  Did the author use these to good effect?  Did you find your heart beating faster or find that you couldn’t sit still as you were too tense?  Was there a combination of sentence structures? (Vary your own sentences too when writing a book review).

Deidre Sullivan’s use of short sentences really builds suspense and fear.  In fact, the sense of danger is palpable.  There’s so much closed off and hidden.

Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deidre Sullivan

Timelines

Does the story have a dual timeline?  Is the transition smooth between them?  How does the story move between them both?  Is it an object that’s used for transition?  A place? A memory?  What does this format bring to the story?  Do you prefer one timeline over another?  Why?  How does each timeline make you feel?

The timeline taking us back to the mid 70’s and Martha’s childhood shows us her role models for relationships.  Even taking into account expectations in the 70’s, this narration made me feel helpless and very angry!  And as time moves forward in the ‘now,’ the past builds to an event that changes the family dynamics which had me on tenterhooks.  My emotions were hooked in to both narrations.

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

Endings

Is everything tied up?  Or are there loose ends?  Could it have ended differently?  Did you want it to end differently? Are you left to use your imagination on what happens next?  How does it make you feel?

If I had read this when I was younger and had a more idealised approach to life, I would have hated the ending for Grace.  However, with age, I felt her dilemma and understood her thought processes.  I thought she made the right decision. 

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan

Writing Style

Has the author’s writing style impacted on your enjoyment of the story?  Did they use figurative language?  Personification?   Is there a particular sentence that resonated with you?  Share the sentence (making sure it’s clear you are quoting from the book).  You could say why you enjoyed the sentence.

I enjoyed the author’s style of writing.  My favourite personifications:

“Night had reached the hour when it wraps itself starless in its frozen cloth.”

and

“The bells of a distant church chime midnight, the unforgiving hour when yesterday tips what is best forgotten into the new day.”

The Beauty of the Wolf by Wray Delaney

Focus on your emotions

Is there a takeaway/moral from the story?

It is a story about the unbreakable bonds of unconditional love and how much power and energy that has to transform and heal across time.  It’s about the sorrow of misconceptions and ultimately the healing of emotional pain.  A love story with a difference.

The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman

Mood reading

Do you have your books all mapped out on a reading schedule?  Are you reading to deadlines for book tours?  Try taking a break and picking a book from your tbr that matches your mood or season.  Get your audience involved and give them a choice of books for them to choose your next read. This should impact positively on your writing a book review.

Variety

Change genres.  Get out of your comfort zone and experience a different world.  Take up a reading challenge.  When you go back to your genre you might find yourself refreshed and ready for that murder or love story which will in turn help you when you’re writing a book review.

Note taking

Make notes while you’re reading either using your device or pen and paper.  Note key information to remember and how it made you feel. 

Writing a book review

If you usually type your review directly onto the platform you use (WordPress, Blogger etc) try typing into a word document and vice versa.  Type your review as you read on your device, save it as a file and send it to yourself to edit.  For years I wrote my reviews directly onto the platform but now I find that using a word doc gives me a sense of freedom.  Whichever you use, make sure you save regularly!

Get organised

Being organised might help you organise your thoughts.  Download my free Butterfly Dawn TBR planner sheet and Butterfly Dawn blog tour planner sheet.

Are you a blogger who needs to get organised? 

The Butterfly Dawn Planner is suitable for all niches and has been created to meet every need so whether you blog as a small business, your blog is your business or you blog for fun, this planner is suitable for you.

This planner is a digital download which means that you can organise the pages how you want and print pages as often as you need.

Download your planner today.

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What’s in the planner?  Blog Mission Statement Whether you are new to blogging or an experienced blogger, everyone needs to make plans for what you are hoping to achieve. You will be able to keep your mission at the front of your planner to remind you of the message you want to share with your audience, whether you are on track with what you were hoping to learn and if your goals have stayed the same or changed.  Monthly Editorial Calendar  The place where you can see your month ahead at a glance and plan your posts. Dates are blank for you to complete. Print out one for each month or laminate and use a dry wipe pen.  Checklist Want to see your tasks for the week in one place? Use the checklist for tasks and the day of the week they need to be completed by. Daily To Do List Prioritise your tasks with due deadlines and check whether the task is in progress. Space for you to note anything you need to do before tomorrow. Thought Shower Use this blank mind map to capture those thoughts when you’re spending creative time planning for future content. Print out for each session or laminate and use a dry wipe pen. Content Planner Plan your content with requirements, notes and ideas, preparation and value to your readers. Is this a collaborative post? Sponsored? Affiliate? Deadlines, tags, and categories can be recorded. At a glance you will be able to see where you are in the process of planning your content. Archive Planner Why would you need a record of your archives? The Archive Planner has been included for those evergreen posts from your archives that with a little updating can be re-posted to a new audience. On this page you will be able to record information such as the original date of the post, what you need to edit and why you are re-publishing. Pitch List Have you made pitches to brands? Here’s where you will record the information, including the date you contacted the brand. Weekly/Monthly/Annual Statistics Whether you want to keep a track of your analytics (subscribers, page views, bounce rate, social media etc) on a weekly or monthly basis there is a page to complete for both. From the start of the week/month to the end you will be able to track where you are towards your blog goals. Most stats are on this page but there are blanks for you to add your own too. Transfer your monthly statistics on to the annual page for an overview of the bigger picture. Twitter Monthly Statistics Easy to complete, keep a record of your followers, tweets, impressions, profile visits, mentions and tweets linking to you. Use these statistics to make goals and achieve them. Facebook Tracker Running a campaign? See at a glance the impact of your Facebook post. How many likes, shares, comments and shares did the post you’re tracking receive? What was the reach? Use this to keep your goals on track. Expenses and Earnings In most planners you will find these basic accounting functions on separate pages but in this planner you can track your finances with a running total. Record your earnings and expenses and you will be able to see at a glance the financial health of your blog. Ads/Sponsors Tracker Record on this page the start/end date of the ads on your blog as well as the revenue and if you have been paid. You might not be accepting ads at the moment but you might consider it in the future. Affiliate Tracker Keep a record of the affiliate programmes you have been accepted on and use when planning your content.  Giveaway Tracker (1) The Giveaway Tracker records the purpose of a giveaway funded by you (ie; you may have a goal for increasing your Instagram followers and decide to use a giveaway for entrants to do this action to enter). Use the tracker to organise your giveaway with the title of your post, what you are giving away, start/end date as well as the details of the winner and more. Giveaway Tracker (2) This tracker organises your sponsored giveaways. As well as recording information from the funded giveaway you have the option of adding the company, their website and contact. Linky List If you take part in linky’s regularly it can be hard to keep track on who you are going to link with and when. Use this page to record the linky name/website, what day of the week and the host’s social media information. Contacts Keep a record of your contacts in one place.

I hope that my prompts are helpful. These tips for writing a book review aren’t exhaustive.  Is there anything you could add?  Please share in the comments.

I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 8+ years. My love of reading, crocheting and being out in nature are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school. I'm passionate about early help and sharing strategies with families to empower and help build resilience. I'm a member of of my Local Authority's Early Help Operational Board, working alongside other professionals to instigate change and growth.

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