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.
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