August is “Write a book review on Amazon” month and I’m helping support this with a series of book reviewing themed posts.
Most author’s understand the value of book reviews, our real challenge is reaching the average book reader, for whom writing a book review is not a high priority.
Writing that book review – Rosie’s own Point of View. **WARNING – we’re going in deep** Don’t feel shocked, below are lots of points to consider, but only use a selection in a book review. Otherwise you’ll feel out of your depth.
So when I wrote my very first book reviews they were only about a couple of lines long. (Good news: Amazon now accepts really short reviews) I would finish a book, think about what I’d read but I only remembered bits especially if I’d read the book over a week or two. I might write something like this “I really liked the American court room drama. There were lots of twists and turns and the ending really surprised me.”
Looking back, all I can say is that it’s a starting place. My reviews slowly got longer and more detailed. However it wasn’t until I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down small notes whilst I read the book that things really took off and I began feeling proud of the pieces I was writing.
Now when I’ve finished a book, there are lots of details for me to fall back on when I go to write a review. You could look at it as writing practise. Or your own form of Flash Fiction. Ask yourself how can I make someone want to pick up this book to read without giving away too much of the plot? You are in fact creating a unique selling point. You have the potential to make or break a sale. Ever thought about yourself being a salesman? I Haven’t until now.
Here’s something else too. If you are a writer yourself or want to be, reading other people’s work is like taking a free writing course. Make a note of styles you like, how did the dialogue work? Too much? Too little? Did it sound genuine? What voices did you hear in your head as you read the book? Did they have accents because of the way the author wrote the piece? For me ” ‘eh up young Charlie, me lad, how’s tha’ doin’?” can only be a strong Yorkshire dialect.
Take a look at the start of a book. Look at the Title, when you’ve finished the book, ask yourself how the title fitted the book, what expectations about the book does it give you? Book covers sell books. If you are in a bookstore, library or looking at an on-line bookstore, book covers sell books! Think about how you make a choice about a book you know nothing about.
Book genres: You might want to make a note of the book genre and see if you agree after you’ve read it. Many books will cross genres, you might have a romantic mystery, a paranormal thriller, a historical crime, there are very few set genre lines. However when you read books for younger readers these are often more defined, children, teens, young adult, new adult. Even then books will depend on the maturity of the reader.
Let’s begin reading. Did the book begin with a Prologue? Or were you plunged straight into a dramatic opening scene? Which works for you? Your answer might vary depending on the storyline of the book.
Now have a look at the chapters. How does one chapter end and another start? Does it leave you with a “hook” which has you rushing to find out what happened in the next chapter? Or does it have a natural end, one where you feel you can take a break now, get up and make a cup of tea or switch off the bedside light? Every book is different. It will also depend on what mood you, as the reader, are in. I’ve read books that I can’t put down and have ended up reading long into the night, getting to the end exhausted but on a high from the storyline.
What about a back story? These are used to explain people, places and reasons for the current situations. They can be very useful to flesh out the story and the characters. A Back story can make you have more empathy for a person or a situation. If the book you’re reading has a back story how useful was it? Too much? Too Little? Did it disrupt the main storyline or did it add to the value of the book? Perhaps there wasn’t a back story and you would have liked to know more about the characters.
Descriptive words. There’s a lot of talk about over use of descriptive passages. Should you put them in? Are they just filling space? A lot depends on how the book has caught the imagination of the reader. An author writes a book and all the pictures are in their head as they write down the words, but have they successful transformed those images to the head of the reader? Think about this; “Chloe walked down the stairs” what image did you get in your head? “Chloe descended the stairs” Did your image change? ” Chloe took a breath before descending the formidable spiral staircase”, now what picture do you have? Sometimes an author might over-kill a description. “Chloe walked down the twenty-four evenly spaced steps of the stairway, one step at a time”, do you get my drift? – Descriptive words can make or break a picture in you head and your enjoyment of a book.
Book pace. I love Dan Brown books, but sometimes they frustrate me. All the action is in a very short period, often forty-eight hours. His characters hardly ever eat, sleep or rest for a second. The books leave me exhausted. However the style works, Dan is extremely popular. On the other hand I don’t want to be bored reading about every meal break, cup of coffee and bathroom visit, I want to get on with the story. In real life we do all the boring things like eat and sleep, but in books we often want to escape to a more exciting life. Think about the pace of the book, did it work with the story-line?
The Ending. The all important ending. Was the book a happy ever after (HEA)? Did you guess the ending way before you got there? Was there an unexpected twist which left you gasping? Did the book make you sad? Emotional? Did you need a box of tissues? Did you feel you’d learnt a life-lesson from the book? Was the ending a cliff-hanger which leads you on to the next book in the series? Is there an epilogue? The first three Harry Potter Books all have a neat ending at the end of the school term, yet because there are more in the series a reader might look forward to the next book. Towards the end of the series the books certainly enticed me onwards I wanted to know more and when the last one finished I still wanted more.
That moves me on to my last point. Would you ever be able to read this book again? Ask yourself that question. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read all the Harry Potter series. There is so much in each book that every time I read them I feel like I discover more. The same goes for the Twilight series. In between book reviews I’m re-reading the Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney. These are actually aimed at children (mature readers who can cope with Harry Potter) but I really enjoy them. – So what were your very last impressions of the book? Would you read it again? Or perhaps you could recommend it? Often I’ll end a review with, “This book would suit someone who enjoys….”
Tomorrow I’m talking about bad book reviews.
There’s still time to join the #AugustReviews campaign.
1) Write a review for a book you’ve read,
2) Post it on Amazon,
3) Tweet the URL of the Amazon review and add #AugustReviews and @TerryTyler4
4) Not on Twitter? No Problem, send me the link using the contact form above and I’ll send it on to Terry, she’ll get it up on her Halls of Fame.