How to Write a (Critical) Review: As Compiled by a Book Blogger
I’m a book lover. I’m also a book blogger. This means that I read a lot of book reviews and see a lot of book blogs. I’ve seen a lot of great book blogs and reviews and I’ve seen a lot of book blogs and reviews that just make me cringe. I’ve been blogging for 2 years now and I’ve revised the structure I use for my own book reviews a couple of times. This post is about what I think a book review should include, should not include, and other such nuances of the book review. This is my opinion based on my own experiences from writing my own reviews and reading others.
Give It Time
Say you’ve finished a really fantastic book. It’s the best book you’ve read all year and you’re all buzzed about how great it is and just want to get to the computer to pound out a gushing review and vomit rainbows everywhere. My suggestion? Wait at least a day before writing your review. Give the book time to settle in your head and for your first rush of excitement and undying love to fade a little. That way you can write a proper critical review and not just one long squeal of delight. Some squealing is okay but people are reading your review to get a good idea if they themselves want to read the book. I’m willing to bet you’ll write a more balanced review by giving yourself a little time to gather your thoughts.
What To Include
Title, author, and book blurb, of course. A picture of the book cover and links to where other people can find the book. This usually includes the Goodreads page and a link to the Amazon or some of book seller page. Perhaps you have a graphic that would perfectly fit the tone of the book you are reviewing? Include that. Pictures draw the eye and will draw attention to your review. It might be nice to include a favorite quote or two from the book. Perhaps a character said something particularly witty or the author had a particularly colorful description. Talk about what worked for you in the story and what didn’t. Think about the secondary characters for a moment. Were they cardboard cut outs just there for scenery or did the secondary characters actually add to the story? Did the main character remind you of yourself in some way? Did you really connect with the characters? Try to really dive into the story and pick it apart. It doesn’t have to be a college thesis paper, but it should have some meat to it.
Speaking of having meat to your review, I want to say that you need to put some effort into your posts. This goes for any type of post. I say this only because I have seen posts, not necessarily reviews, which are just sad. Mostly these are meme posts and posts during hops. I’m not putting down memes and hops. I love them. I use them myself. It’s a great way to drive traffic to your blog. But it’s very annoying when you click a link and find a post with just a sentence or two. It may answer the question being asked on the meme but it’s a waste of a click for me. I click right back out when I see posts like that. I don’t leave a comment because why should I take the effort of responding when the blogger clearly didn’t put any effort into creating the post. If you don’t have time to write a whole post or don’t think you can stretch your answer into a least a paragraph, then I really suggest you don’t bother. It’s a waste of your time and mine.
The Dreaded DNF
Oh no! What if a book was so bad that you just couldn’t finish it? Bloggers handle the dreaded ‘did not finish’ in different ways. Some bloggers don’t put up a review at all. They don’t to waste the time to write a review of something they didn’t like and others want to spare the author’s feelings. Better to say nothing than say something negative. For me, it depends on why I didn’t finish the book. Sometimes, I don’t finish a book simply because I wasn’t that into it. Maybe the book turned out to be something other than I thought. Maybe for some undefinable reason I just didn’t like it. It’s hard to pin down a solid reason sometimes. It happens. For those DNF, I don’t write a review. But for books where I know the reason I didn’t finish it, I write a review. Maybe the main character was just too stupid to live. Perhaps the treatment of certain issue enraged me. But if I can pinpoint why I didn’t like the book and couldn’t finish it, I write a review. If it was just some anomalous feeling or mood that made me put the book down, I don’t bother with a review.
This is a big issue in the book blogging community. There are authors who explode when a blogger gives bad reviews for their books. Twitter wars, email fights erupt and there are supporters on both sides. It makes a blogger very caution about what they post because they fear that backlash from some crazy author or fellow book blogger. That’s why most people don’t post reviews for DNF books. I say, there is a fine line. If I genuinely didn’t like something about a book, I say it. If I hated something about a book, if the whole thing stunk to high heaven, I say it. But this is also the reason I say to give yourself a bit of time after you’ve finished a book and before you write your review. Give your feelings time to cool down so you can write a review that isn’t just ranting and can express yourself in an effective manner. If you can explain yourself eloquently, then you have the high road as far as I’m concerned.
These are just some of the major issues a book blogger needs to think about when writing a review. Of course, how you write your own review is up to you. These are just some suggestions and ideas to help you along. I have two years of review writing under my belt and I’m still changing and evolving my own review technique. I am by no means an expert. I’m just a lady with some books and a blog. Fantastic and terrible things have happened with less.