Literary Blogging 101: Writing Book Reviews

Introduction

A book review should be full with nothing but the reader’s honest opinion. Doesn’t matter if you bought the book, borrowed it or got it from the author or publisher. Every writer has a voice, the voice is what determines a review because if a review is honest, it comes from the heart. It’s the writing of our reading experience, the good, bad and ugly.

A review can start off with us loving a book and at the end of writing it, we come to the realization we actually hated the book or vice versa. That is to say, reviews are unique and we should never think we always have to stick to a certain required template or format.

Kinds of Book Reviews

There are many kinds of reviews that we’ll come across, listed below are a few.

  • Balanced Review: This a review that outlines all the pros and cons of a story, an unbiased review. This kind of review helps other potential readers to know what to expect if they decide to read a book.
  • Academic Review: This is the kind of review our language/literature school teacher’s expect us to write about the books we’ve read. The lessons we’ve learnt, the hiding messages, symbolism, the similes, use of plot devices, and making use of smart and bourgeois (bougey 😉) looking words etc.
  • Informative/In-Depth Review: This review covers all the ground. Nothing is left out in this kind of review, subject matter, writing style, character development, pacing, use of language, quotes etc. It’s similar to an academic review, but this time around we take it further and leave no stone unturned.
  • Mini/Short Review: This is a review of a short length. It could be a paragraph or a couple of sentences etc. Words strung together to capture our prominent thoughts about the book. A quick and straight to the point review.
  • Gushing Fest Review: (Yes it’s a totally made up the name) This kind of review is for books we enjoyed reading, when unputdownable-ness level is off the charts and we loved it so much we’re at a loss for words on how to write our review of the book, we just end up gushing about how the story and characters made us feel and urging everyone else to read it.
  • Critic Review: A critic review is like a balanced reviewed, but its main aim is to point out the high and low levels in a book and discuss how it was executed, and if there’s a fault-professionally point it out, professionally in the sense that the words we use, aim is to correct and bring awareness to the flaws so the author can improve on it and not make the author feel attacked, angry, offended and targeted. It’s like nicely letting down a person.

Book Review Template

Like every other non-fictional write-up. All book reviews must include the following below.

Opening

This is the introduction. Our introduction depends on you. It can be anything. A quote from the book that resounded with us, had us rolling your eyes or recoiling with disgust. It could be our journey to reading the book. How the story held our attention or in some cases did not. A story we can relate to the book or our overall feeling about the book in general. The introduction depends on our writing voices and what kind of review we’re going for. As we are just introducing our readers to the book we’re about to review.

Middle

This is the body of the review. The body is the nitty-gritty part of any review, here is where we try to be fair and just about our feelings and how we’ve processed the story. We could take on a particular theme in the story or bits and pieces to discuss. Here we speak about the pros and cons of the book we’ve read. Our favourite parts and characters of the story, how the characters were developed, if all questions the story brought forth were answered, the writing style of the author, the pacing of the story, the climax, tropes, plot twists, how the story elements come together, is it scattered, is there a sequence does it work? etc.

Closing

Finally the conclusion, stating our closing argument or arguments. Our last paragraph or paragraphs. Did you love or hate it? Was it average? Memorable or forgettable? Here we summarize how we felt about the story if we’re excited to read more books by the author or compare it with other books by the author or anything that shows we’ve come to the end of the review.

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Examples of Book Reviews

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Extras

Before writing the book review, it’s always a good idea to include the book’s information, to give whoever that is reading our reviews a basic knowledge of the book. This could include:

  • Front Cover of the Book
  • Book Title
  • Book Series
  • Author’s Name
  • Publisher
  • Published Date
  • Pages
  • Genre
  • Synopsis

Another thing to note about writing book reviews is the rating system. Which ranges from zero to five stars, five stars being the highest of course. Rating a book below three stars is considered to mean the book was poor or horrible and three stars mean it was okay but had many issues still. Please do note it’s not compulsory to rate a book.

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Tips from Book Reviewers.

Funmi: Take notes while reading, talk about something that stood out for you which others might not notice, express how the book made you feel.

Christtie: Honesty. Just be honest about how the book made you feel, the emotions you went through with it with no care for what others will think. People always know when you are being honest about things it helps a lot.

Lara Kareem
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