Writing Reviews 101

TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads!

This week's question:

Writing Reviews 101: What's your process for writing book reviews? Any tips or suggestions you would recommend to other bloggers?

My process for reviews usually consists of jotting down notes on a scrap piece of paper (or yeah, sometimes in the book if it's a paperback), procrastinating the crap out of getting my review written, and then rushing to get my thoughts down during the wee hours of the morning, later than I had hoped to get it finished. This procrastinated rush is usually accompanied by some sort of beverage and distractions such as YouTube, ESPN, or Angry Birds. I wish I was one of those people who schedules posts way ahead of time but, alas, I am not. My reviews are a mixture of a critical view of the book and a personal opinion.

Things that I talk about or include in my reviews:
  • The characters: I like to discuss my opinions on at least the main characters - their strengths and weaknesses, whether I liked them, if they were sympathetic or whiny and annoying, etc. Do they experience growth? Do they feel honest and authentic? Are their relationships with the other characters believable? Does he/she, as a character, work to the purpose of the story?
  • The plot: When I discuss the plot of a novel, I like to include information such as: Is it fast, slow? Action or character driven? Is it fluffy, fun, serious, contemplative? What sort of themes are included? How is the setting/world building? Is there an element that is particularly awesome (or horrible) that I want to mention? Is there closure? Is the ending ambiguous? I make sure not to include any spoilers.
  • My thoughts about the merits of the novel or anything that I had a problem with: I don't like to just say that I did or did not like a book. I want to be certain that anyone who reads my reviews knows WHY I did or didn't like something. If something isn't working for me, I want to be sure to explain it. Likewise if something does work well. I discuss the writing. Is it good/bad? Is there something particular about the style that stands out?
  • My rating: A lot of people seem to be moving away from rating books. I like to include a rating, though. I like to have my feelings simplified into something that is quantifiable. Sometimes I'll complain about something in a book, but the complaint won't actually do much to decrease my overall enjoyment of that book. Other times that complaint will do a lot to decrease my enjoyment. The rating helps to clarify that, for my readers and for myself when I look back.

Things that I do NOT like to see in reviews:
  • Spoilers. I don't like to have a book spoiled. I only follow reviewers that I can trust not to ruin it for me. If you do include a spoiler, please give a warning. Though, I personally don't like for them to be there at all.
  • Absence of explanations. Sometimes a reviewer will go on about liking or disliking something, but without ever really explaining why or why not. I need to hear reasons for these opinions. If a reviewer doesn't back his/her opinions up with some sort of explanations, then I won't be very convinced to care about that person's opinion. If someone tells me, "I like character Z. He's cool," then that isn't giving me very much information. I won't remember it or care about it either way. But if someone tells me, "Character Z is awesome because he is obsessed with being grammatically correct and has a sarcastic sense of humor," then I'm going to be all about caring what that person's opinion is, because that person clearly appreciates the important things.
  • Summaries. It's a review, not a second grade book report. If a brief summary is something you like to include, that doesn't bother me. I'll probably skip over it, though, if I'm being honest. My problem with it happens when a review is nothing but a drawn out summary. Don't tell me what happens! Give me your opinions (and back them up, of course)! If I want only a summary then I'll look it up on Wikipedia.

What about you? Are you a scheduler or a procrastinator? What do you like to see included in reviews? What would you prefer be left out of them? Do you like star ratings or dislike them? Comment and let me know!


  1. I'm such a scheduler. I write notes while reading like you (Never in a book. For shame!) The reviews I enjoy reading the most are when the reader is passionate about the book regardless if it's passionately love or passionately hate the book.

    Love star ratings! I often check them first.

    Rie @ Mission to Read

  2. I'm somewhere in between, as I'm learning to schedule my reviews (since otherwise, I would never be able to post much!). I like being organized though, so I do hope it sticks as I continue developing the blog.

    That being said, I totally agree about not placing spoilers in a review AND about explaining why you feel the way you do about the book. It's something that I'm personally working on, and I appreciate reviewers who do try to do these two things.

  3. Excellent mention about the spoilers! I make an honest effort to never spoil anything. However, if I find no way around it, there will be a disclaimer before the review so you're warned.

  4. I agree about the rating. I like them so I know how bad the negatives really are, etc.
    I like how you point out that you like people to back up the reasons why. Why they liked a character, etc. I think sometimes I have a hard time remembering to say everything. Quite often I remember later but can't get on the computer to add in stuff and it drives me nuts! But hopefully I usually remember to back up my reasons :)

    BTW, you are a great reviewer! Even if I don't always comment (on vacation now so I've sucked!) I do always read them in my email.

  5. I forgot about the spoiler thing -- I hate that too. Sometimes I read something in a review and think, "I can't believe you just told me that!!" Great thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. I hate the summaries! I put the summary from either GoodReads or right off the book cover in italics and then I move on to my opinion. I've seen people write a whole paragraph or two in addition the the GoodReads summary. It's so annoying!
    I don't like spoilers if they don't warn you. If there's a warning, it's okay for me. That way I know to skip it.

  7. I agree completely about summaries in reviews! It really drives me nuts, especially when the reviewer posts the summary of the book along with the cover, and then primarily summarizes the book in their review. I don't want to read two summaries of the book, I want to read an official summary of the book (from Good Reads, Amazon, etc.), and the reviewer's opinion. Whenever I start reading a review and it turns out to just be another summary of the book, I exit the page. I don't even bother to finish reading it, or to comment on it. I'm really glad you brought this up; it's good to know I'm not the only one who feels this way!

  8. I will say that I summarize what happens when I'm reviewing children's picture books. I wouldn't consider that a spoiler and I think it's something I would want to know when considering a book for my nephew or something. Aside from that, I agree that there's no point in summarizing. I mean, the publisher wrote a synopsis.

  9. LOL @ summaries :) i can never be bothered to write them myself, feels to much like homework, hey. sometimes i might elaborate a bit on the plot/vibe of the book if the summary is vague though...

    xx Nomes

  10. I seriously wish I was better about scheduling posts. But I have to write the darn things first, and well, I'm always behind. I did it again last night...wrote a review (one of many I need to do) and instead of working on more, I started reading the next book on my list. D'oh!

  11. Ooh thanks for being so detailed about how you do reviews! I don't mind seeing a SHORT summary of the book in the review but anything more than a few sentences and I move on. And I like ratings because like you said, sometimes they are complaints, but overall they might not detract that much from the book.


What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment!

If you like this post, then please subscribe to the RSS feed!