Bookish Chat About: How I Structure A Review

I read a post on another blog recently about how that person likes to structure a book review and I found it very interesting. Given that my recent (Slightly contentious!) blog post about When Is A Review Not A Review? garnered some interest and great discussion points, and a few people asked me about the best way to structure a review, I thought I’d do a little blog post of my own.

Now before I start I must say that there is no ‘best way’ to structure a review. I am certainly no expert and still consider myself a ‘newbie’ even though I’ve been bookblogging in earnest for over 18 months now. Some of you out there have been at for YEARS, honing your review skills and nailing it!

I still get nervous before I start a review, what if I’ve lost my knack? I still get a gut churning sense of anxiety when I press ‘publish’ on a post, what if I’m totally off pitch? What if its……..UTTER RUBBISH?! The HORROR!

That said, I do tend to stick to a tried and tested vague structure when I’m composing a review.

When I start reading a book I always set up a draft post with a picture of the book and publisher details. This acts as a kind of ‘aide memoire’ and allows me to see more or less at a glance what reviews I have on the go and when they need to be written by.

A draft post also allows me to add bits in as and when the mood strikes (or I’ve snatched myself some time to write!). I rarely write a complete review in one sitting but it has been known if I’m super pumped after reading a book and fizzing with ideas.

I don’t write notes.

There I’ve said it.

I don’t use those notebooks.

They’re blank.

CALL THE COPS.

I’ve tried, I really have. But I’m just too lazy for writing notes I’m afraid kids.

So when I’ve got my draft post ready, image of the book in situ, book read, I can crack on.

I usually start with a brief description of how I came by the book, what drew me to it etc. I then give a brief overview of the story. I personally don’t use the blurb in any way in reviews. I will use them in ‘haul’ posts because I haven’t read the books yet and can’t summarise them myself. I have nothing against bloggers who use the blurb as part of a full and detailed review. I just prefer to use my own words rather than the words of a book marketer. That’s just me folks!

I don’t give away spoilers and in books where I’ve gone in ‘blind’ I try to give as few plot details as possible if I think my reading experience was made all the better for not knowing them myself.

I tend to then move on to characters and characterisation in general. Discussing my thoughts on them, reaction to them, what I think was going on with them and whether I liked or disliked them etc.

I move on to writing style, what was the prose like? Sparse or detailed? What was the narrative perspective? First, second or third person? Any likes or dislikes of writing style. Pacing is also a good point to mention and I like to give a nod to chapter length if I feel that it had an effect on my reading (I enjoy short snappy chapters).

I then like to mention any over arching themes just to add weight and detail, although I personally don’t give specific trigger warnings, if I’m asked outright I will of course try my best to give details of any subjects that might be considered triggering. As an aside this whole triggering subject is an interesting one. Drew over at The Tattooed Book Geek recently wrote a very incisive blog post about the subject here which you should check out.

I then usually conclude a review with a general final thought and maybe a nod to whether it’s a book I would recommend to everyone (not every book I enjoy is!).

If I have received a proof copy I will thank the publisher. If I use a quotation I will mention that it is from the proof and NOT the finished copy. This is a new thing I’ve started doing and whilst I don’t always use quotes I find them helpful for giving people a sample of the writing style. I like to read reviews with quotes in.

So….is there anything I DON’T include in a review?….

Well I tend not to do any ‘about the author’ detail, because I don’t really tend to read these on the blog posts I read. If I don’t like to read it, I don’t like to write it!

I also don’t tend to include links of where to buy the books from because……well I’m just too lazy! I’m sure we all know where to buy books from.

Contrary to popular belief, size ISN’T everything and I would say my reviews are of average length. Long enough to be considered a detailed review (I hope!) but not too wordy. I don’t enjoy reading extra long reviews, I need succinctness to hold my interest. Therefore, again, if I don’t like to read it, I don’t like to write it.

At the end of the day folks, it’s your blog and your reviews and the best advice I can give is you do you!

I just thought a little ‘what I do’ post might be helpful. And it’s worth noting that even I sometimes stray from my tried and tested review structure.

How do you do yours?…..

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

19 thoughts on “Bookish Chat About: How I Structure A Review

  1. Love this! Always interesting to read about other bloggers’ way of working. Totally agree there is no ‘right’ way to write or prepare for reviews. Tempted to write about this sort of thing myself!

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    1. Yes, that’s it exactly! If I have to break away to write notes it takes my attention away from just enjoying the book. I put tabs in occasionally if I like a quote.

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  2. I don’t make notes either! It feels like a transaction or ‘work like activity’ if I do. It sucks all the enjoyment out of reading for me. But look how fabulous your blog is! X

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  3. I occasionally write notes but I’m not really a fan of them. They take you out of reading and when you are in the zone you just want to keep reading.👍 I do try with the fantasy books I read though to at least jot down the names of characters and places, etc as they are often fangled things that I forget how to spell.😂

    Thanks for the post shout out too.👍📚

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  4. Sometimes if I have ideas of what I’d like to say while I’m reading a book I’ll write quite a bit, with one book I’d written most of the review before I’d finished the book. I always have to keep a note of names, I’m hopeless at remembering names. However the last book I read, I was so completely absorbed in the story I didn’t write down a word til I’d finished it. I do wonder if some times I drone on a bit too much, maybe I should look at giving my reviews a bit more structure.

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  5. I think my style is similar to yours – I don’t bother with notes, blurb, spoilers, about the author. Actually I don’t have a set structure at all except to thank the publisher at the end, and to include an image in the middle. I keep the reviews short, more because I don’t know what else to say. I literally can’t take in long reviews when I see them on other blogs, my brain won’t do it and I have to skim read.

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  6. Interesting to read this as I have only been blogging since June I think as I gain a bit of confidence my review layout may change. I do currently use the synopsis and also say about the author. But I think in time I will write about the story and characters etc. For me characters are key if I like them it sometimes helps read a book. Nothing worse with having a book full of characters and not liking any of them. I like to read other peoples to gain ideas and a bit of experience. I get very nervous at writing them. Also not happy with my site yet still haven’t worked out how to do half of want I want to do had hoped my second son would come and give me a hand but haven’t seen him since May so may have to teach myself. Only time I occasionally write a note may be characters names.

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    1. I’m not very good at the technical side of things either! As long as I can compose a post and publish it I’m happy! My review style had definitely evolved over the past couple of years. It can just take time to settle into a rhythm (and even that can change after a while!).

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      1. Reading this is very encouraging though. It’s very difficult when first starting out, really not happy with the layout etc. It will get better, and I will change how I do things, but really did take on too many books with netgalley and feel really obligated to do the reviews as I asked for the books. But have bought a couple of books that have intrigued me that I have seen you mention. Think I’m going to do an end of month blog tomorrow or Saturday whichever day I have the time, as I have covered quite a few books this month, and have seven that are due out on 5th September, I am just half way through one so far so really need to get reading. I am finding that other things have gone out if the window. So once I get more on top of things I will be more selective on what I choose. As have a huge pile of books here that I really want to read and perhaps review if I enjoy them, or even point out anything I don’t like. I occasionally write names down of characters as otherwise I may forget a surname or something ridiculous. But I do write the reviews as I finish the books, mainly because I have a pretty bad memory due to medication I take and could end up lumping two different stories into one which would be very embarrassing lol.

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      2. Ha! Yes it’s a tricky business! I used to ask for a lot of books when I first started out but I learnt the hard way that it can get difficult to keep up and you feel obliged to review! I’m very selective about which books I accept or ask for to review now

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  7. Great post! I love the way you do your reviews and humour (Call The cops 😂) I never write notes, nor lists. Can’t be doing.
    My posts vary. Sometimes stick to a formula because that’s what I’m used to and it feels ‘safe’ but more and more just write a review.
    I like to read other bloggers ‘about the author’, so include that because it’s interesting (for me) to see what else they’ve written in a ‘oh it’s them’ sort of way because getting older I can forget names and book titles . 🙂

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