What is a Book Review and Why you Should Care?
A book review is the sharing of a personal opinion. Who’s? It doesn’t matter. It can be your opinion on how you liked, disliked, felt, or were affected by a book you read , or it can be the opinion of a stranger.
Specifically, a book review is:
A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is merely described or analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review may be a primary source, opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review.Wikipedia
Book reviews by ordinary people, like you and me, drive and influence the popularity, sales, and algorithms on different websites. A book with more reviews is obviously going to get more attention, which in turn, means sales.
Let’s face it, books aren’t cheap and you want to get your monies worth. It’s not often you’re asked to share an opinion on products you buy, but to review a book is a gift.
Books are such a powerful and personal purchase that you should tell people what you thought of the book. Your opinion matters.
Do You Read Book Reviews?
A book review is one of those things that you want at your finger tips so you can make a decision whether or not to invest your time and money in reading a particular book.
Reading that the book was boring may sway you not to buy it, while a review that says it was a “page-turner”, may make you rush to the check-out!
The thing is, it’s important to read a book review, but also just as important to give and include your thoughts too. You’ll be glad you did.
How Are You Influenced to Buy a Book?
Why do you buy a book? What compels you to read it?
It could be:
- an appealing cover?
- a compelling synopsis on the back cover?
- maybe you know the author?
- perhaps you’ve read another book by the same author?
- maybe it’s for a neighborhood book club?
- or perhaps a “famous” book club? Oprah? Reese Witherspoon? Emma Watson?
- maybe a friend really enjoyed the book and told you about it?
- maybe the librarian recommended it?
- perhaps the bookstore put a sticker on it saying “staff choice”?
- a positive review caught your eye?
- you wanted to read it before it became a movie?
You don’t consciously think of all these things when you sit down to read a book, but your subconscious registers the thought process.
I recently bought and read a book because it was picked by Reese Witherspoon as book of the month. As a writer, I was curious to know what kind of books she chose for her book club.
I’ll also admit that I often purchase Oprah book choices, and other celebrity recommendations, as a way of keeping up with the industry. I like to know what influential people are reading and of course harbor a secret (shhh…) fantasy of one day being chosen as one of those authors who’s book is selected.
I also like to stay on top of what the best-sellers are so I can see what others are reading.
You can read my review of the Reese Book Club selection HERE. The book was “Lucky” by Marissa Stapley.
I do a review of the books I read each month on my blog. I then transfer those reviews to Amazon and Goodreads as those are the two platforms I use mostly to read reviews.
My November reads are HERE and January HERE.
Why You Should Do a Book Review
Do a Review for Other Readers
If you read or listen to reviews, then you know how important and influential they are for others.
When I go to purchase a book, I always check the reviews. They’re powerful and can sway me both ways–to buy or not to buy. I can also chose to totally ignore the reviews and read it anyway.
If a review is too positive and too gushy then I question it.
Is it real? Was it a friend who did the review? Did the author pay this person to write all that gush?
But if the review is written in a factual tone to relay the message that the reader enjoyed the experience, then I’ll look at it further.
The same goes for a really scathing, negative review, especially if it’s just one amongst a pile of positive reviews. It makes me wonder why. Is it personal? Who wrote it and to what purpose?
You be the judge–you’re smart and can see things for what they are. Sometime you have to sort through the fluff to get to the insight of the readability, style, and voice of the author.
You must remember that it’s all subjective and while someone else may love it, you may not….
Do a Review for the Author
Authors really need reviews because it brings them more readers, which of course means sales, which means, visibility.
Having several reviews for readers to consider could mean the difference between building an audience and not.
Authors, and writers in general, are insecure folk.
I know many who don’t talk about their writing because it flusters them to a point of speechlessness. For many, the power is in the pen. Having someone (anyone) actually read their work and make a positive comment, is very validating.
You’re the One in Charge
Here’s the thing, you, the reader, are in charge.
Leaving a review can be intimidating and overwhelming for some–I get that. Really, I do.
Readers are not writers, but in this case, you don’t need to be.
There’re no rules. It’s your choice.
A book review could be four words: “I liked this book”. Boom! Done.
Some will do more. Some will do less. It’s all good and it comes out in averages.
Reviews are the lifeblood of many authors hoping to sell their books.
Whether it’s on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, your personal blog, doesn’t matter. What does matter, is that you do it.
Friend me on Goodreads and follow my social media (links below) where I talk about books all the time.
So Now What? Let’s Make the Book Review Easy
I’m going to take all that angst away now, and give you an opportunity to simply copy the basic reviews I’ve done at the end of this post. All you have to do is fill in the blanks.
No more excuses.
I’ve also included some templates that you can download and use to stay organized in your thoughts. If you’re like me, you do your reading in batches and your reviews the same way–the templates will help with that.
At no time should you write a review just to tear down an author or his/her/their work. That is counter productive and just plain nasty.
It’s okay to disagree, dislike, or even despise a piece of work, but ask yourself if there is anything redeemable about the work itself. If there is, then mention it otherwise let people know that the review is your opinion. (There’s a sample below).
A Book Review Doesn’t Need to Take Hours to Create. Use these templates for phrases, reminders, and notes on the books you’ve read.
A review doesn’t need to be anymore than 50-100 words. (Heck, it can be four words like I said…)
Let’s face it, you’re busy and flipping through a review of 2,000 words is not going to impress.
The idea is to keep it simple and truthful, while imparting the information you want to share about the book you just read.
The reviewer wields a lot power and needs to keep this in mind.
Also don’t feel like you have to provide a chapter by chapter synopsis, or review, of the book–that is not necessary. I seldom do.
Leaving your thoughts and rating on the work is enough.
Five Steps in Doing a Book Review
First, read the book…
I know that sounds obvious but some actually review before reading. Yes, I know… makes no sense to me either.
Remember, you can also listen to the book on audio if preferred. The thing is to listen/read/absorb the story and the writing.
BUT–if you were unable to finish the book because it couldn’t hold your interest, or it wasn’t what you thought, or bored you, or you simply couldn’t get-into-it, then say that. That can be the crux of your review.
There are books that have been hugely popular that I’ve tried to read and simply found myself unable to sink my teeth into it. I also have problems with certain genres… for me, reading sci-fi or fantasy is difficult. My brain doesn’t work that way.
Some books aren’t for everyone and that’s okay.
Second, ask yourself…
How did this book make me ‘feel’… This can be a tricky question because it can be difficult to describe a feeling. Here are some suggestions:
- Satisfied? All the t’s were crossed and i’s dotted.
- Sad/Happy for the characters? the situation?
- Cheated? Did the author take an easy way out and leave you feeling like it wasn’t completed properly?
- Sad that it ended because you were enjoying it so much?
- Sorry you wasted your time?
- Dirty? Was there something in the story that left a yucky feeling?
- Smarter? Did you learn something new?
- Energized and ready to take on the world?
- Disgusted, but still intrigued? This can happen when we read about serial killers etc.
- Let down? Did you expect something different?
- Upset? Angry? Frustrated?
- Relatable? You were able to understand and feel the characters situational emotions.
- Totally blank?
- It left you numb?
- Did it make you feel stupid?
- Wanting more?
- Confused–something you missed?
- Filled up?
Ask yourself if any of those feelings would stop you from reading the book again or recommending it to others.
This list is, of course, only a sample of what you may feel. Use it as a guide, but make sure you consider how the story made you feel.
Third, do the words linger…
What I mean by words, is the story… the character… the writing…
Do you still find yourself thinking about one of the characters, even days later? Can you still hear the authors words in your mind? Are you adding to the scenarios or thinking of different outcomes? Was the situation something you could relate to?
Or, on the contrary… was the language in the book so academic you needed a dictionary to read it (a personal pet peeve of mine!)? Was it wordy? Too descriptive? Too flowery?
Fourth, chose a rating…
How many stars out of five would you give the book?
Remember, you’re not there to tear down an author, but to be honest on how the book was to you.
1 and 2 stars are pretty negative. I always think an author deserves 1.5 just for writing a complete book. It’s not an easy task.
If you neither liked, nor disliked, then I recommend 2.5-3 stars. Neutral, but not negative.
4-4.5 stars is something you really enjoyed and would recommend.
5 Stars is primo!
Fifth, write a review. You can use the templates included, or the ‘fill-in-blanks’ below, to complete your review. Then submit it to Amazon, GoodReads, BookBub, Bookish… there are many platforms.
Fill in the Blanks…
- I give the book_________ FIVE stars because it was well written and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t want the book to ever end.
- I just read ___________________________ and it left me feeling cheated because the author never told us what happened to ___________________________ .
- I didn’t like the book __________________. There was too much sex and violence in my opinion. I give it a three out of five.
- I just read the memoir ______________________. I admire the strength of the people. I liked it.
- I would highly recommend the book ____________________. The story kept me turning pages and I really enjoyed it.
- This book clearly ended with a cliff hanger to go into the next book of the series. This left me feeling ticked off because things weren’t finished.
- In ____________________ every second word is the F bomb. Just be warned. Good story though.
- Wow. ________________ blew my socks off. I’ve never read anything like it. I will read this author again. So great.
- Meh, _____________________ was okay. I read the whole thing, but kept wondering why. Three stars.
- This book ___________________ seems to have been written for no other reason than to waste paper. There were spelling and grammatical errors everywhere and the story made no sense. Don’t bother.
- I found it ____________________. DNF (did not finish).
- The story made no sense. It’s nonsense really. One star.
- The sentences were so long I got lost. The vocabulary was ____________ and I felt ________________.
- Read at your own risk. I couldn’t put it down and stayed up all night! It was _________________.
- This book was _____________________. I liked (or didn’t like) it, so _____________ stars.
In Conclusion: Remember…
You, as the reader, are the one in charge.
Your book review helps not only other readers, but also authors.
Your opinion does matter!
You don’t need to be a writer to complete a book review.
Using a template or a guide is totally legit! You got this!
Keep reading! Keep reviewing!
Before you go…
Leave me a comment to let me know what you’re reading right now and how you’re enjoying it. I look forward to it!
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5 thoughts on “How to Confidently Write a Fantastic Book Review”
This is really helpful, Faye! Thanks! Do you happen to know, is there a way I can leave a review on Amazon even if I bought the book somewhere else? Also, do I review on Amazon ca or Amazon com? Which is better for the author? Thanks!
Hi Michele. Sure hope it can help. In answer to your questions, I wasn’t sure so I contacted Amazon.ca this morning. They said that the item needs to be purchased from them (yes, even books) in order to leave a review and they said that .ca and .com are separate entities so the review will not carry over to the other.
I know I’ve done reviews on Amazon when I haven’t purchased the book there but I do purchase a lot of books from them. And to solve the .ca/.com thing, maybe do a review on both? copy and paste? I hope this helps. If you’re on Goodreads, that’s another good one. Can get pretty brutal sometimes tho I find.
Fabulous Faye! I think you’ve covered it well!
Hey Carol.Thank you. No excuses not to do reviews, right?