I write book reviews for local and regional papers, and I also write reviews for several online sites. Every time I create a review, it almost seems to write itself. Each book is different and requires a unique approach—making writing the review new, interesting and fun.
I have long been amazed at how few reviews are written about the many books that are published—especially the really good ones. There are numerous ways to construct a book review, and different newspapers or websites necessitate different styles. The truth is almost anyone can write a review if he or she follows a few ground rules, and those basic rules are simple ones.
Of course, a good reviewer must read the entire book and should keep an open mind during the entire reading of the novel. It can also be helpful for the reader/reviewer to take notes as they are moving through the novel. The very first sentences in the review (or the first paragraph) should touch on the plot. Though people who read the article wish to know something about the story, they do not want so many details as to spoil the novel for them, so keep it simple.
After lightly touching on the plot, quickly go to the meaty details in the subsequent sentences or the second paragraph. Now, there are many aspects of a story that can be addressed here—characters, theme, romance, suspense, symbolism, structure and/or style. Don’t address all the particulars in a novel—one, or two or three at the most will do. You may also address the author’s intent, her mastery of story, her ability to engage and move the reader through the story effortlessly or any number of other aspects of the novel’s content or author’s writing ability. Guess what? You are the reviewer, so you get to choose! There is no right or wrong approach here—just use common sense.
In the final sentences or the final paragraph, include your general impression of the novel. Was it a worthwhile read? What would readers like or dislike about the novel? Would the novel appeal to readers of the novel’s specific genre—for example, if the story was intended for romantic suspense readers, would they be pleased with the amount of romance and suspense?
The information in this article is meant to be a simple guide. A reviewer may throw out all the guidelines and may write a review of her own design, and it could still be absolutely wonderful! The important thing is to write.
You may ask, why should you even write a review? Well, it will help other readers to find good novels to read, and the review may caution readers to stay away from really, really poorly written books. When I write reviews, however, I try to find the things in the novel that may appeal to other readers—even if they would not appeal to me; consequently, I would caution you about ever totally demolishing an author’s work. One person may not appreciate a particular book, but another may. Be fair. Another benefit to writing reviews is that they will eventually get you a reputation as a reviewer and may lead to getting you some free books. And finally, it is always great to see your review in print in newspapers and on review sites on the Internet!
A good online place to start reviewing is Good Reads. The Romance Reader, The Mystery Reader, Dear Author and Romance Junkies are also good review sites, and those are only the beginning. You’ve read the book anyway, so why not savor your novel a little more by processing it via writing a review!