Sunday Salon: Writing Reviews

bookshelfI saw a post titled Points to consider when writing reviews over at Girl Who Reads, which reminded me that I have my own list of things to consider when writing a review.

I have  a set of questions, cobbled together over the years from various sources (including reading group guides) and I use the “Copy Post” feature in WordPress to create a new draft post and then start building other information into the post. I don’t follow every question (sometimes I don’t follow them at all!) but in summary, here are the subjects I cover:

General Book Information

How would you recognise the book if you saw it in the store? If you picked it up, what do you need to take it further?  Therefore I include the  Book Cover and Book Blurb, both usually taken from somewhere like Goodreads or Librarything. This information therefore is generally provided by the publishers or author – I have had no issues with image rights.

I live in the UK, so don’t necessarily have to abide by the FTC rules, however, I do get a lot of books from publishers, authors etc, so I think it only right that I tell you where I got it, especially if I didn’t have to pay for it. Where I think it appropriate, I will include a link to the publishers.

Summary of the book

This is not a full list of the questions I have, but should give you an indications of the subjects to consider

Characters

  • Are the characters convincing? Do they come alive for you? How would you describe them — as sympathetic, likeable, thoughtful, intelligent, innocent, naive, strong or weak? Something else?
  • Are characters developed psychologically and emotionally? Do you have access to their inner thoughts and motivations? Or do you know them mostly through dialogue and action?
  • Do any characters change or grow by the end of the story? Do they come to view the world and their relationship to it differently?
  • How were the secondary characters? Were they three dimensional?

Writing Style

  • Does the book engage you – do you want to keep turning pages
  • Why or why not?
  • Who tells the story—a character (1st-person narrator)? Or an unidentified voice outside the story (3rd-person narrator)? Does one person narrate—or are there shifting points of view?
  • Did you enjoy the POV(s)?

Plot

  • Did you notice any plot threads that didn’t make sense?
  • Was the plot believable?
  • Did the world building make sense?
  • Is the plot chronological? Or does it veer back and forth between past and present?
  • Is the ending a surprise or predictable? Does the end unfold naturally? Or is it forced, heavy handed, or manipulative? Is the ending satisfying, or would you prefer a different ending?
  • What is the story’s central conflict—character vs. character…vs. society…or vs. nature (external)? Or an emotional struggle within the character (internal)? How does the conflict create tension?

Additional Links

Where I think it will add to the post, I will add in additional media – this could be links to posts on my own site, or someone else’s (I still get traffic from someone else’s review of a book I’d read, so that’s one way to build community within your niche).

For books that are somehow related to TV or Film work, I hunt down some footage that I believe will add some additional context or visual content. See my posts on Versailles and Practical Magic as examples.  Videos should NOT be set to autoplay!

About the author

If I haven’t already written something about the author (e.g. they’re not the ones who gave me the book), I will include details of the Author Web, some spiel (generally from their website or a bio on Goodreads). I will also tend to include their twitter details, either in the text of the post, or when publicising it

 

In the end

Is there anything you’d like me to include that I’m missing? Anything you’d like me to drop?

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Writing Reviews

  1. This is a good list Nordie. I should think about doing something similar for times when I’m struggling to write a review. A couple of other things I like to keep in mind are what themes are evident in this novel ? And what is the author trying to achieve or to say. Neither of these work for books that are heavily plot driven like crime or adventure of course but as yiu sad yiu don’t try to answer every question in each review.

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    • Sometimes there’s a massive spoiler in the middle that makes it difficult to review the book without giving it away, unless you are particular high level. Or there are some books (like the Heide Goody/Iain Grant books) that are so eventful and farcical, that sometimes it’s just a case of “it’s silly, fast, just read it”

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