How to Write a Quality Book Review

How to Write a Quality Book Review

Since authors spend a great deal of time and effort on their books, writing a review is one of the best ways to show your appreciation and offer constructive feedback to help them improve their craft. For potential readers, a thoughtful review can mean the difference between purchasing a book or clicking onto the next title in their search for a good read.

But what comprises a quality book review?

First, let’s talk about what constitutes a bad book review. No, I’m not referring to legitimate criticism of characters, plot, pacing, writing, or any other vital aspect of a compelling story. I’m talking about generic reviews like, “I loved the book!” or “Wow, this is excellent!” or “This book is a must-read!” that omit any substantive descriptions as to why the reviewer is offering such effusive praise.

Conversely, the same principle applies to pithy one-or-two sentence reviews like, “Awful book!” “I can’t believe anyone would write this drivel!” or “Don’t waste your time reading.”

Either way, the reviewer does the author and his or her potential readers a disservice by omitting specifics. Whether you love or hate a book (or fall somewhere in-between), here are some guidelines on how to write an effective, useful review for both authors and readers.

  1. Demonstrate You Have Actually Read the Book– sounds counter-intuitive, but I’m not advocating that reviewers should give away spoilers. However, it is possible to mention a few specifics about what you liked about the main character, themes, narration, dialogue, etc. What did you like or dislike about the protagonist or supporting characters? Why did the plot draw you in? Was the book thought-provoking? Edgy? Enlightening? Why?  Even if you select just one aspect and explain why it had an impact on you (either positively or negatively), it will demonstrate your knowledge of the book.
  2. Offer a Balanced Perspective– as I mentioned, a great deal of time and energy goes into the production of a book. Whether you rate it 5-stars or 3-stars (more on that further down the post), point out specifically what the author does well and the areas in which he or she could improve. Is the dialogue stilted but the prose captivating? Say so. Is the pacing too slow? Too fast? Explain why and give an example. Is a character well defined or one-dimensional? Offer a specific example that supports your opinion.
  3. Limit Your Review to One-to-Three Paragraphs– for maximum impact, keep it pithy. Select a few qualities about the book that stood out to you, whether it involves a secondary character, a particular scene, or the overarching themes. Again, you don’t want to give away spoilers; you want to focus on your most indelible impressions of the book. No one wants to read a lengthy, rambling review, and from a copywriting/marketing perspective, such reviews do more harm that good. The objective is to provide constructive criticism/praise to better inform the author and prospective readers.
  4. Give the Author at Least 3 Stars– here I am taking my cue from my friend and author Daniella Bova, who states at her blog DaniellaBova.com, “Authors put their heart and soul into their writing, so I will never give any book less than 3 stars. I just won’t review it at all.” Words to live by. If you really hate a book for whatever reason (poorly written, plot holes, undeveloped characters, etc.), it’s best to heed our mothers’ advice while growing up, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” In such a case, I recommend contacting the author directly and privately (if they’ve made their email public or have a public FB page where you can message them) and sharing your thoughts. By doing so, you’ll be helping them improve while saving them the embarrassment of a 1-or 2-star public review. Do unto others, as you’d have done to you, after all.

A while back I received positive feedback on a book review I posted for the book Soul Mates & Angels. The person who read it complimented me for following the guidelines I’ve outlined above, instead of posting a generic opinion. She even used it in a promotional email she sent out on behalf of the author, Betty RaeI’m posting it here as an example:

This beautiful story drew me in from the moment I began reading. Written in the first person, its tone is at once hopeful, joyful, inquisitive, and thoughtful. Blessed with a supernatural ability to communicate with angels, the main character Anita Lyn Riley struggles to reconcile the mundane aspects of her life — from high school bullies to adolescent crushes — with the knowledge that evil exists everywhere, not just in some far away places.

On a personal level, she knows what it feels like to be misunderstood and feared for being different. When we first meet Anita, she is adapting to her new public high school, having upset the religious sensibilities of the priests and nuns at her former Catholic institution with her tales of reincarnation and otherworldly visions. As the book unfolds, her journey becomes progressively more difficult as circumstances force her to take courageous stands for justice, spurred on by righteous anger.

Filled with endearing characters and thought-provoking insights, Soul Mates & Angels celebrates the unbreakable bond that exists between all humans as children of God, the power of good to overcome evil, and the unseen realm where angels and loved ones are always there to help us.

Happy reading…and writing (book reviews)!

Do you need help with self-publishing, editing, ghostwriting or copywriting?

Contact me here.

Read the reviews of my book, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal, here, where you can also preview and purchase it in paperback or Kindle.

 

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Book Review: Remembering Eternity by Richard Maddox

Book Review: Remembering Eternity by Richard Maddox

Posted on Amazon.com

In Remembering Eternity, gifted author Richard Maddox takes the reader on a sensory journey of self-discovery and enlightenment while evoking nostalgia for the innocence of youth. His enchanting prose and relatable characters draw you in as you follow main character Skylar through his various life transitions and search for deeper meaning. Juxtaposing time zones, the authors switches back and forth from the older, wiser Sklyar navigating his way from the pinnacle of success (as defined by western society) to his spartan new life as a divorced dad – to the young boy who delights in the simple pleasures of his Midwestern childhood until the layers of the illusion of a happy home peel away to reveal the underlying heartbreak and dysfunction. Yet Skylar remains a thoughtful observer and participant in life, savoring the “small things” like the beauty of a sunset over the Pacific Ocean and discovering truths from the spiritual Masters. Beautifully written, Remembering Eternity is a mesmerizing tale with a higher purpose: to impart metaphysical knowledge and an understanding of who we really are. I’m looking forward to reading Richard’s next book!

If you missed my interview with the author a few weeks ago, click to listen.

Preview and purchase Remembering Eternity on Amazon.com.

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5-Star Book Review of Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal

5-Star Book Review of Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal

No matter how much time goes by, it’s always a thrill to check Amazon and see a new book review posted. Many thanks to reader Frances:

Water Signs is a remarkable love story that engaged me from the first page. It is filled with passion, faith, sacrifice and courage, and many life lessons which many of us can relate to. I found it very hard to put down as my anticipation of the outcome for the main characters grew with each page that I turned. I could visualize each person and event perfectly. Beautifully written and very captivating, and definitely one of my favorite novels to date….Frances

Read all reviews and purchase the book in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.com.

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Book Review: Magnetic Love by Jennie Lynn

Book Review: Magnetic Love by Jennie Lynn

Posted on Amazon.com:

Magnetic Love is a magical guide to creating the life of your dreams. Enhanced by the author’s conversational style and courage in sharing her own spiritual journey, it is anchored in real results and timeless truths. I’ve been a student of spiritual laws and an avid reader of personal development books for years. Yet Jennie Lynn’s Magnetic Love resonated with me in new and unexpected ways. I felt as if I developed a relationship with the author because I can relate to so much of her story, from her frustration with doing everything right (or so she thought), only to receive the opposite of what she wanted, to learning how to truly and deeply love herself and appreciate her body.

In easy-to-understand language, Jennie explains the importance of recognizing and shifting paradigms (stubborn belief systems embedded in our subconscious minds) and becoming the vibration of the things and people we want to attract. Throughout, she shares practical exercises and online resources she has developed to help her readers transform their lives. Each chapter ends with a place for handwritten notes, along with prompts to help you glean your most important lessons and insights from what you have just read. As suggested by the title, the book features plenty of practical wisdom, based on spiritual laws, to help you find your Soul Mate, while making a clear distinction between romantic love and other various forms of this multi-dimensional energy — the most powerful force in the world. If you’re seeking to understand and apply the Laws of the Universe to arrive at a true understanding of who you really are, I highly recommend Magnetic Love (and Jennie Lynn) as your partner in manifesting all that you desire!

In full disclosure, I received a review copy from the author and interviewed her about her book on Writestream Radio.

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