Newest Review: ... which can be very enjoyable to read, such as information on the author, the time and place this is set etc.... but these are all extras ... more
What I look for in a book review
How To Write A Good Book Review
Member Name: broxi3781
How To Write A Good Book Review
Date: 26/01/13, updated on 27/01/13 (87 review reads)
Advantages: A reputation for well written reviews may help you get more reads.
Disadvantages: This is just my own opinion - others may define a good review differently.
As I am now guiding books along with Malu - I though I would include just what I look for in a book review. Malu has already written an excellent piece on this. If you haven't already read it it can be found in the same category with this review.
This review could be used as a general guideline for how to write well on many other subjects as well - with a few slight adaptations relevant to the subject.
I have a special interest in children's books, and I feel different types of books require some differences in approach so I am dividing this review by type of book.
FICTION - ADULTS
By this I do not mean adults only fiction, just general fiction that one would expect to be most often read by adults. I hope Capt Daniels will forgive me for singling his reviews out, but his style of writing provides the perfect easy to understand format for a good book review. Because of this, when desperate for a new book, I have often clicked on his profile and poured through his reviews - so his quality of writing is certainly resulting in extra rates. I'm sure he will recognise the main format here as his own 'Synopsis of the book', 'My thoughts of this novel' and 'conclusion' although I may call these by different names myself and the opinion here is strictly my own. That said if you want a good example of this style of review at its best look no further than his reviews.
Synopsis of the book : I would call this the plot summary, but in short, this is the main idea or story line. This should be in your own words - not the Amazon blurb. If you must use Amazon's description make very clear that this is not your own writing , and exactly where you have lifted the information. Small quotes are acceptable under fair usage - but only where the original source is credited. Again, Capt pulls this off perfectly -one or two short paragraphs in his own words.
My thoughts on this novel: I would call this my opinion - others might call it the body of the review. This should be the longest section. Quite frankly if your review has less than 150 words of opinion - it really is not likely to get a very useful rate from me. I am more likely to include character descriptions in this section as well as I am describing my opinion of the character as much as the actual facts about them.
Conclusion: I'll admit this is a weak point for me, but a conclusion wraps everything up nicely. The review can then be thought of a sandwich with the Plot and conclusion as two slices of bread and the opinion all the good stuff inside.
We all write differently - a review doesn't have to follow this exact format - but all of these elements should be in a good review. You may wish to add extras, which can be very enjoyable to read, such as information on the author, the time and place this is set etc.... but these are all extras and can not take the place of of these three features.
Spoilers : One of the reason's I value Capt Daniels reviews is the simple fact that he never spoils anything for me. I like to guess at what will happen next in a book. I have read some reviews that ensured I could never read the book - why bother the reviewer already told me everything. I really can't see the need to include spoilers in an adult book - but if you must do so - give fair warning - and if it is impossible to review books in a series without spoiling earlier books please mention this as well - so we can stop reading if we are considering buying that series.
I love sharing books with my children and avidly collect children's books. This category requires a special approach, and I do feel spoilers are in order if this may affect a parents decision to purchase a book. The most common reason I would include spoilers is where an ending is likely to frighten or upset a child. As a parent I would prefer to know these things before buying the book, but I always give clear warning in the form of SPOILER ALERT before divulging spoilers at the end of the review. Personally, I do not rate down for spoilers in picture books, but that is not to say others will not. Just as every writer has a right to their opinion - so does every reader. What one peson finds VU another may not.
I believe a good children's book follows the same basic format of plot summary, opinion and conclusion as an adult book but with a few extras. Wherever possible the child's opinion - or how the child reacts to the story should be given as well. I really do like to know what age the child is as well as it helps me to guess what age range this suits. If this book is especially good to read aloud, I like to know that. I like to know if it has a rhyming text as well. If this is a book a child might read on their own, I also like to know things like reading level, whether the print is clear and easy to see etc... If the book has special features, such as textures, flaps or pop ups these should be mentioned as well. Finally, picture books, or illustrated books, often depend on the pictures as much as the text. No review of an illustrated book is really complete in my opinion without some mention of the illustrations. Even when a book only has simple black and white drawings, these should be mentioned.
In general - I believe those reviewing children's books should have some experience reading these books to children, so they can include the child's reaction. I have some books I think are wonderful - but my sons do not like at all. If I were reviewing these without having read them to a child, my rating would be very different. I have seriously under rated other books only to look at them in a new light when I see how my children use them. However, I do feel there is room for one exception to this. Almost everyone has a favourite book which they can remember nearly word for for word from childhood. When a book has impressed a reader so much that it still remembered with love decades later, I feel it is quite fair for an adult to still review this book. In this case their own opinions as a child should be included as well.
YOUNG ADULT FICTION:
This can be tricky because such a wide range of ages read these books. Over 50% of Young Adult Fiction is read by adults, rather than the teenage market it was intended for. Personally, I really enjoy many of these books as many depend on a good story line and well developed characters rather than just sex or gore. But my son starting reading Charlie Higson at age 6. I read the books first and then gave them to him, with both of us really enjoying the same story.
In general, I feel YA books should be treated just the same as adult books - however I will make exception for spoilers if they are accompanied by very clear warning and there is a legitimate reason parents might want to know about this event before buying for a child - for instance a rape scene. I also feel that brief mention of factors that parents may want to know about is in order. For instance - I will mention if the book contains graphic violence, scenes of a sexual nature, strong language, or drug and alcohol abuse. Personally, where drugs and alcohol are mentioned, I do like to know the context for this as well. Muchamore's books have drawn heavy criticism for including mention of drug abuse and drinking. But having read the books myself, I find his handling of these subjects extremely positive. I would have no problem with my child reading these stories, but I would like to know about the content so I could discuss the matter, and if drug and alcohol abuse had been glorified I might fee less comfortable with a very young child reading this.
In short - would you feel comfortable with a young family member reading this book. Why or why not ? If you can not answer without some some spoilers, go ahead and include a spoiler but warn us with something like INFORMATION FOR PARENTS - INCLUDES SPOLIERS.
This is the most difficult section because it covers so many types of books. In the case of biographies, most of the same rules as adult fiction apply - but some leeway for spoilers can be included for well known historical events. I think we all known Anne Boleyn will not be living happily ever after with Henry VIII. With a cookbook - it's nice to know about at least one recipe you have tried and how it came out. With books used as university texts it might be nice to know if anyone other than students might enjoy this. For instance I have read several books on child development - simply to learn more as a parent. If the book was a required text, I would prefer mention of this - if was an additional text you purchased to help you understand the coursework - did it really help?
With non- fiction I would most like to know:
Who is this book for - what audiences might benefit from reading this? If this is students or any other specific group only - feel free to say so.
What did you learn?
Is the information easy to understand?
Is this book enjoyable to read or something you trudge through to get the facts?
If the book is illustrated some mention of the quality of illustrations is in order.
Is the book believable? This may not always apply - but if the author supports his theories with facts, this is good to know. Likewise if he seems to have little evidence to support his conclusions it would be good to mention, and most importantly of all, if you can find sections where the author clearly has hiss facts wrong - tell us what and why you believe he is wrong.
One final fact that applies to all reviews. Do not cut and paste anything without clearly stating where you have copied this text. Wherever possible, use your own words. All quotes must be sourced and can not count toward the minimum word count of your review. Please see dooyoo rule #1
"If you're quoting specific facts or statistics, make sure you cite your sources. If you're researching your review, make sure you put your research into your own words. In short, make sure your reviews are your own."
I have copied the below text from an American site on Fair Usage- so the law is American but the same general principles seem to apply here as well
http:// www.writing-world.com/ rights/ fair.shtml
"Always fully attribute anything you are quoting or adapting. Attribution will normally limit later disputes to a matter of permissions rather than a copyright infringement suit." In other words credit your sources!
This site also suggests limiting quotes to under 300 words. This may be appropriate for a novel - but not for a review. Direct quotes in reviews should be short - perhaps a line or two. I will also rate down heavily if the review appears to be a rewording of an Amazon description. If I want to read Amazon's descriptions I will go to Amazon. If I read a review on Dooyoo I expect user opinion.
Summary: Avoid the 2 worst sins in book reviews - spoilers without warning and copyright infringement.