Let's Talk: How to Review a Book

Friday, April 13, 2012

Let's Talk is a new weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, here on the little old blog, I like to host some of my very own discussion posts because, well, I like to converse with you all.

And so, Let's Talk will feature questions or prompts, which I will answer, too. Love it or hate it, weigh in or don't, it's my hope that Let's Talk will at least get you thinking...and maybe even get you discussing with the rest of us!
Question: How do you review a book?

I think that reviewing books is a very personal process that is entirely individual to the reviewer crafting the review. That basically means that I don't believe and can't say that I think there is a true right or wrong way to do it. I've found a process that works for me, but who knows? It might not work for everyone out there. However, my reviewing process is most certainly not a secret, and it has morphed and developed over time into something that is a bit tried and true. When I try to deviate from it, I find myself missing the mark.

Step One - Read the book. I am not the type of person that can take notes on a book while reading. I actually have to read the entire book before I write a single thing down, or I feel a bit lost in the whole process. If I absolutely cannot read the book, which doesn't happen often mind you, I won't review it. If I can, however, I finish the book, then move to step two.

Step Two - Take notes. Before I actually write my review, I make notes on four points. I make note of the summary, whether it matched the actual book, as well as how it differed. I write my thoughts on the writing style, the prose and the author's ability to convey a theme and scene. I elaborate on the plot so I can distinguish between what truly worked and what may have missed the mark. Finally, I decide how (overall) the book worked for me.

Step Three - Write the Review. Once I have my notes, I start with those four points and craft a wee section on both. I create my own summary that details but doesn't tell too much. I thoroughly discuss the writing, then move on and detail the plots strengths and weakness, as well as the characters'. Finally, I offer up my rating. I rate on a five star scale simply because I think it's effective and universal for understanding.

Step Four - Publish it. When I publish my review, it's more than simply publishing it to my blog. My reviews go anywhere and everywhere they can to get the title and author out there. I publish my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Random Buzzers, Barnes & Noble, Netgalley (when applicable) and I always, always send my reviews to publishers and publicists who supply the books.

Step Five - Hype it. When my review has been published, I bring social media into play. I feature all reviews on my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages, and I've even gone so far as to start touting them on on my Pinterest, as well!

Like I said though, this reviewing process is my own. It works for me, but it might not be right for others. Heck, some people can read two books at once! I'd die. I think that if you give yourself the right amount of time and space, any blogger can develop a great reviewing style unique to them.


  1. I really enjoy seeing more behind the process of what goes into a review. As your reviews are some of the ones I enjoy most, it's great insight. I approach reviews like I do all of my writing which is to say that when I've finished synthesising  the ideas I sit down and let it all flow out at the keyboard. I've never been any good at outlining anything (something I wish I could do, especially for university papers) but I inevitably spend more time thinking about what to draft than I do writing.

    I try first to summarise the main theme of the story and then I jump into discussing what worked about it overall (and what didn't) in terms of flow, writing, and any themes present in the story. Then I'll talk about characterisation, though I don't like to discuss *too* much about them in fear of spoiling something for someone else that I thought surprising as a reader.

    I don't do ratings, but if it's a series I'll try and mention if a book has left me wanting to continue or if it's just not for me. If there's something I particularly loved in the story I like to blip it at the end to help build excitement. :) 

    I wish I had more time to figure out how to post things on Facebook, but I can never get the page to stay published. (One day!) This was a lovely and rather helpful post, so thank you for sharing!

  2. Wow, you're much more organized than me. I need to be better. I really need to get in the habit of sending my reviews to publishers. I tend to forget. It's a good reminder b/c I have some of those reviews coming up.

  3. I just can't take notes personally, it messes with the flow. I do not want to stop and analyze or just write things down. Therefore after I am finished I have to write the review at once, cos wait 3 days and I feel lost ;)

  4. I love that you take notes!!!  I really should take notes too but I just ...don't. I read the book and then later after I finished I write my Review and then I post it closer to the Release. This is even more difficult with ARC's because I do not want to publish the Review too early, but I need to remember the book and what I really thought and felt about it. 

    Really I should takes notes, but my Reviews are more "feelings" based, which is just my way to talk about a book, or review it. I am honestly not sure if you could call my "reviews" a review. I don't think so :)) 

    Great Discussion topic this week! 

  5. Oh this is such a cool post, it's always great to read about others review processes, so thanks for sharing. I always find that I have to write some notes when I'm reading a book. I find it much easier if I'm reading it on my kindle so I can highlight text and make notes much more easily. I also have to write my review straight after finishing it and then leave it for a few days and come back to it. I find I can make better changes to it, if I leave my review for a while.

  6. I always love seeing how other people write their reviews! It's helped me to figure out what works for me and what doesn't. 
     Here's Mine

  7. I'm reading three books right now. Lol. I'm close to dying. The trick is to read different genres. I'm reading Game of Thrones (fantasy), Friday Night Bites (urban fantasy), and Defy (YA awesomeness).

    I really loved this question today. :)

  8. I always take notes while reading, I just feel that if I don't, I'll forget to add something in my review once I'm done reading. This was very helpful! I've always thought  my reviews were mediocre compared to bloggers like you, but this might actually help out a bit.

  9. You're much better than I am--I tend to do my reviews on the fly. Because I read so fast, I zip through books and end up with a pile I need to review. Generally, I have to skim back through it to bring forth my recall and take notes while I do it. Then I can write my review.

    I have a couple of different styles in which I write but never really know how I'm going to write it until I get started. Yeah, I'm a weird reviewer. Your way sounds much less stressful!

  10. OH I HAVE MISSED LET'S TALK. The past two weeks have been so crazy and I haven't been able to participate! 

    I am in the "notes-while-reading" camp. Otherwise, I forget. I have to. I carry around a notebook with my book or Kindle and I FILL UP the paper. Of course, that's not my final copy of notes. From those notes, I make a second set of notes which is what I pull my blog post from. 

    OH GRACIOUS, reading that in print makes me sound so...odd. 

  11. I'm really enjoying this new feature - I'm just coming back to blogging and catching up on a month and half of unread blogs and was happily surprised to see this crop up. I sometimes take notes or at least highlight favorite passages (or OMG WTF ones too). I'm really bad about not taking notes right away when I'm done. I come back a few weeks (or even a month) later and then I just sit there staring a blank page totally lost for what to say about a book. I'm going to try your approach (note taking) and see how it works for me. Thanks for the tip! I'm always curious about other people's process.


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