“A good, sympathetic review is always a wonderful surprise.”
I am very pleased to feature Memoir Writer Sherrey Meyer in this guest post about writing book reviews. I met Sherrey through her blog when I became intrigued with her “Letters to Mama” series. We have been online friends ever since. I am so impressed with her ability to write insightful, thought-provoking book reviews, I asked her to share her wisdom with us.
Welcome , Sherrey!
Loving books and reading them has been a part of who I am since childhood. The only thing that has changed is that now I review books.
When Kathy invited me to talk about how to review a book, I mentally stopped in my tracks.
How does one explain the process of reviewing a book?
There are many online sites where you can review books — on a blog, at Amazon, Goodreads and other book outlets.
Recently, author Jody Hedlund shared some “creative” reviews of her book, Noble Groom. Take time to look at these – they are interesting and unique. Although I tend to stick to standard reviews, you may find something that is a perfect fit with your blog or a book you’re reading. And one day I may step outside the box and try a new method. For today, however, I’ll just stick with explaining my standard method.
HOW TO REVIEW A BOOK IN EIGHT EASY STEPS:
- You’ve turned the last page, and the story or narrative has come to an end. Now, it’s time to share your reading experience with not only other readers but also the author and publisher. The reader of your review is entitled to a short summary of the book’s content, what you believe the author’s intent to be in writing it, and your opinion of the author’s success in conveying that intent or communicating the purpose.
- A strong lead-in sentence in the first paragraph is essential to grab your reader’s attention. You want the reader to want to read your review. A powerful first sentence draws the reader in.If reading nonfiction, think about any provocative words or statements describing the tone of the book. Don’t hesitate to refer to them in this opening sentence and paragraph. If reading a novel, poetry or short stories, describe for your reader why the book or collection is unique and worthy of special note and take care to describe what makes the material so.
- Next it’s time to introduce your reader to the author or editor of the work. A short introduction is all that is necessary here (we’ll talk more later about this). This is also an excellent place to include a brief narrative about the work and whether you feel the author or editor has told the story well or completed the theme of a collection as intended.
- One of the most important elements in your review is supporting your assessment of the work. Use any arguments you may have in your storehouse and explain why your comments and/or criticisms are credible. Were the characters developed fully, or were you left to wonder about the actions of one? Did the story line move fluidly and cohesively to its ending? Are there any holes in the plot? Did certain matters remain unresolved that bothered you? Is there something that seemed lacking in the book’s organization?
- If the book includes graphics, maps, sidebars of commentary, tables, charts, photographs, i.e. elements to support the book, include your opinion on their placement, use and effectiveness.
- Offer a restatement of your general impression of the work, including a precise statement of recommendation, endorsement or rejection of the book. If you are careful to choose books which are in genre you enjoy, hopefully you will never feel the need to reject anyone’s book. However, there are times when we, the reviewers, are disappointed. When that is the case, carefully state the reason for disappointment and what troubled you. Using a respectful tone here is important. As an example, read my review of Impossible Odds. Following this review, I exchange emails with the authors’ agent and enjoyed a pleasant discussion of why the book ended as it did
- I do not use star ratings on my book blog because I find them confusing from site to site with Amazon, Goodreads and all the rest having different definitions for the number of stars.
- If you choose to use star ratings, be clear in your definitions for the number of stars given and attempt to be consistent in your ratings.
- Of course, Amazon, Goodreads and others use a star system for you to rate the book, but you have the right to rate or not on your blog.
- Finally, introduce the author or editor of the book or collection in greater detail here using a bio from the writer or publisher’s site. Include a photo of the author or editor. Supply links to the writer’s website, social media links or any other information that will allow your reader to learn more.
- Additionally, the FTC requires anyone who has received a book, video, or other published material to clearly state in their review how they acquired said materials and for what exchange or compensation. Example: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
REMEMBER, as a reviewer, it is your job to be reasonable and honest. Try to remain impartial and allow that partiality to show through especially if you’re reviewing a book by a favorite author or if you’re reading a book and find yourself disagreeing with the author’s politics or philosophy. Book reviewers are here not to champion or chastise any author but to give an honest assessment of the merits of the author’s work.
Sherrey’s Bio and Contact Information:
A retired legal secretary, Sherrey Meyer grew tired of drafting and revising pleadings and legal documents. She had always dreamed of writing something else, anything else! Once she retired she couldn’t stay away from the computer, and so she began to write. Among her projects is a memoir of her “life with mama,” an intriguing Southern tale of matriarchal power and control displayed in verbal and emotional abuse. Sherrey is married and lives with husband Bob in Milwaukie, OR. They have three grown children, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Their tuxedo cat, Maggie, rules the roost.
Contributions to Anthologies
Thank you ,Sherrey, for sharing these helpful tips on how to write effective book reviews. In addition to influencing readers, one the best ways we can support one another as authors is to take the time to post honest reviews of each other’s works. I appreciate your suggestions for handling unfavorable reviews, always” maintaining a respectful tone.”
How about you? Do you have any tips to share on writing book reviews? How are you influenced by book reviews?
We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~
ANNOUNCEMENT: Congratulations, Diana Cruze! Your name was selected in a random drawing of commenters to receive Sheila K. Collin’s memoir,Warrior Mother: Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss, Rituals that Heal.
Please Note: For the next two weeks, I will be offline. I will be posting previous posts during this time:.
9/9: “Finding the Target Audience for Your Memoir”
9/16 “Remembering Kindergarten Wisdom
I’ll be back 9/23 with new stories!