December 19, 2012

no. 10: anatomy of a book review

Blogger's Note: In addition to the sleuth of wonderful authors I have had the opportunity to get to know on this adventure, I have also had a chance to befriend other book reviewers. One of those reviewers is the super awesome and fun Kaley Stewart. Since "meeting" on Twitter, we've become virtual besties, and I'm glad to have her share her perspective as a reviewer and blogger.

No. 10: Anatomy of a Book Review

By Kaley Stewart
Creator and editor of Books Etc.

I was so happily surprised when Laura asked me to take part in her 12 Days of Writing. After all, I’m not a writer so what kind of tips could I provide? Then I got to thinking, well, I have a blog. How do I write my reviews and why do I write them that way? That led me to this post: a break down on how I review books on my blog, Books Etc.

Let me start off by saying that every reviewer is different. Some like to recap the novels, others will copy and paste the synopsis. Some reviews are short and sweet and others are more in depth. Some are only about the book and others include little stories from the reviewer’s life that relate to the book. I’m going to go through how I write reviews but this is by no means the Rules of Book Reviewing. The thing that makes blogging so much fun, and other blogs so great to read, is that each review is different.

So how do I write my reviews? Cue, my beautiful diagram:

I think it’s pretty self explanatory, but let’s break it down. First, you need a title. When I first started my blog I got into doing “Just Finished: Enter Title of Book Here” and it’s sort of stuck. Keep it simple and move on to the next thing… The photo! Who doesn’t love pictures? I always make sure I have a picture of the cover of the book I’m reviewing (or a photo of the author if I’m doing an author post or interview).

Instead of jumping straight into the review, I like to give a short intro sentence or two. I’ll always mention the title of the book I’m reviewing (with a link to Amazon) and the author (with a link to their website or blog). If the review is part of a tour, I’ll mention that as well (and link to the main tour page). Then, I write a line that gives an idea of what I thought about the book. Did I love it? You’ll know right away. Was it only so-so? I’ll let you know that, too.

I don’t like recapping the book so I always include the synopsis, which I usually take from Goodreads. I’d rather not waste my time trying to reword what the book is about. This also helps me stay away from spoilers. If it’s not in the synopsis, I tend not to mention it.

Then we get into the good stuff! My reviews tend to be on the longer side, especially if I have a random story I want to share. As my own personal rule, I’ll always try to have two paragraphs of thoughts about the book. I’ll talk about if I liked the characters, the plot, the structure, or the flow of the story.

Finally, it’s time to wrap up. I’ll do a one line summary of my thoughts (yes, I liked it or no, I didn’t). Sometimes I’ll say whether or not I recommend the book and to what group of readers (romance, fiction, chick lit). I also always mention the title of the book and the author again in this section.

Ta-da! I have just walked you through one of my reviews. Pretty straightforward, right? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. I always find it’s hard to write about a book that I really loved as well as ones that I didn’t like at all (thankfully, that’s rare). Here are a few more random tips that I would like to pass on:
  • Avoid spoilers. Some may disagree but I personally hate having a book ruined for me because of someone else’s review.
  • Make sure you’re enjoying blogging. I’ve heard this from so many bloggers – once you start disliking writing or feeling stressed out by your blog, it’s time to take a break.
  • Be honest. So you didn’t like a book. Big deal, it happens. Don’t make the book sound better than it was just because the author sent you a copy to review. Which leads to a sub-tip: always mention that you received a copy to review. I admit I didn’t do this for a long time but now I include a line at the end of my posts saying where I got the book.
  • Be critical, but not cruel. Again, you didn’t like the book. That’s ok. But that doesn’t give you the right to tear apart the author. There’s been a lot of drama in the blogging world because reviewers are attacking authors (and vice versa). Write what you feel but don’t take down someone else while you do it. 
  • Always be yourself. Write the review how you want to write it. Not how everyone else does.
And that’s it! This makes it seem like there’s a lot that goes into reviewing books, and maybe there is, but we all do it because we love reading and talking about books. It’s as simple as that.

Thank you so much to Laura for including me in her 12 Days of Writing. Happy Holidays, everyone!

About the Blogger
Kaley has been surrounded by books for as long as she can remember. She started off as an avid reader and eventually got her first job at the public library in her hometown. After returning home from her first year of university, she started working at bookstore and continued working there all the way through school. She started Books Etc. as a way to talk about her favourite thing (books) without someone telling her to be quiet or seeing someone’s eyes glaze over because they were bored. After two years, she decided to make a go of it in the book world and began taking some publishing courses while working full time at a nonprofit. This has just recently paid off and Kaley will be a publicity intern at Random House Canada starting in January.

For More Information About Kaley

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  1. Thanks for letting me take part, Laura!

  2. Yay Kaley :)
    I feel bad because I probably don't support you as much as I should...or read your blog. But you're really good at it and I'm proud of you. Even though I may be a bit jealous

  3. A great blog to de-mystify the process. Thanks, Kaley for this peek into your world.

    1. You're very welcome! It was kind of fun to break down my reviews and my thought process on it :)