My Guest this week is a top independent Book Reviewer who will share the secrets of how to write a superb critique of a novel; comments that will help readers decide whether to read a given book, and that are extremely useful for the authors too. Ladies and Gentlemen...
Crafting Killer Reviews
It goes without saying that we all enjoy reading, and many of us like to leave reviews about the novels that we enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy, whatever the case may be). But how do you start? What should you include? Which of your thoughts are going to be most relevant to those who read your reviews? An easy way to get a feel for reviewing is to read lot of other reviews (just not for the book that you’re about to review). That way you’ll get a feel for what you find helpful and what you don’t.
When writing a review, you should always write your honest thoughts about the book while remembering that a review is about the book and its content. You may agree or disagree with what the book says or how it is written, but being personally critical of the author doesn't offer your audience much value.
I like to think of my reviews in 3 basic parts: the story, the characters, and then my overall impressions & final thoughts.
For the first section I think about what caught and held my attention, if my emotions were engaged, did I enjoy the pace of the story, were the descriptions vivid enough to allow me to picture everything?
For the second section I focus on the development of the characters and if I was able to connect with and engage with them.
The final thought includes my overall impression of the novel, if I’d recommend it to others, would I read more by this author, and if it’s part of a series, could it be read as a standalone.
Make sure to write about the why’s. If you say ‘I didn’t like this character’, as a reader I’m left wondering why. However, if you say ‘I couldn’t connect with the main character who was too self-involved’ or ‘The characters in this novel were underdeveloped and superficial’ then, as a reader, I understand what the problem was and I can make an informed decision as to whether or not it is something that I would have problems with as well. Also, if you simply state that you didn’t enjoy the story, or that you loved it, without giving any basis for your statement you don’t provide anything useful to those reading your review.
For the love of all things book-ish, don’t regurgitate the plot of the story. Authors provide a synopsis on book sites for this purpose. Also, don’t include spoilers. A quote or two to emphasize certain aspects you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy is one thing, but don’t ruin the story for others by giving everything away.
And the number one thing to remember when writing a review? Have fun with it! There are no two identical stories & therefore no two reviews will ever be the same. Just be sure to provide your honest thoughts and feelings on the book you read.
Note from Eric:
I have had several of my novels reviewed by Jonel thus far and always find her observations insightful and helpful. A while ago, in conversations with her regarding how we could provide an example of one of her reviews so you may see the product of her methodology applied for real, I suggested she tackle my recently-completed novel - at all times I stressed (unnecessarily as she is a professional) that the result must be unbiased and independent of the invitation to my blog. I believe in my work and was willing to reflect whatever result she produced. The following is the review:
“I can't stop thinking about it, October 15, 2014
As we’ve come to expect from Gates’ work, this story is complex and multifaceted. Readers are taken on an intricate journey through this one of a kind plot without ever looking back. Gates brings the world that he creates to life in vivid clarity, allowing readers to picture each aspect of the tale without curbing their imagination. The unique concepts not only catch your attention but are fully developed, allowing you to join in with the characters in their plight. The suspense carries through the tale, keeping you on your toes to the very last chapter. He had me guessing throughout, but was always a step ahead of me.
Gates’ in depth characters will leave you breathless. Not only do you get to know them well, but you can identify with them. I found myself firmly placed by the side of the main character, racing through this tale. There was, of course, individuals that I didn’t personally like as people, but Gates set up the characters in such a way that I could always see where they were coming from and how their past and present affected who they are.
This isn’t a light, easy read. It will definitely take more than one sitting, but you’ll be thinking about it throughout. That’s one of the things I like best about Gates’ writing. His story is intense and thought provoking, taking storytelling to another level.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.”
(Please note, Jonel doesn't always give me 5 Stars for a review - she's honest and direct and that's what matters to me as an author.)
Jonel Boyko is the sole reviewer at Pure Jonel, a book blog with 700+ followers, launched in December of 2012, with monthly hits of 6000+ and daily posts including reviews, guest posts, author interviews, giveaways and more. She caters to authors of all types and a variety of different publishers, Indie & traditionally published alike. Jonel has ranked in the top 25 Canadian reviewers on Goodreads for the past year, and maintains a 90%+ helpful reviewer rating on Amazon.
If you are an author, please feel free to contact her at any time to request a review, interview, or guest post. Just email her at email@example.com
or find her on Goodreads ( https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/15432163-jonel-boyko-pure-jonel ).
Jonel also has an excellent blog here: http://purejonel.blogspot.ca
Thank you, Jonel, for a superb practical post which is instructive to both readers and writers alike.
Eric @ www.ericjgates.com