Book reviewing – how I do it.
Today we have the pleasure of welcoming Donna Trinder to Romaniac HQ, who has given us invaluable advice about book reviewing. Thank you, Donna.
The first review I wrote was a simple few lines for The Diary of a Mummy Misfit by Amanda Egan, I found I had really loved the book and wanted to leave a few words on Amazon as a recommendation to other readers. I have always read, and even as a child found myself analysing a book for a long time after finishing, I used to find if a book didn’t end satisfactorily for me I would simply make it up, that came in handy at GCSE level when we had to study Stephen King, I do like a conclusive and happy ending and found these did not come readily with the genre that I chose to study.
As time went on I found myself writing more and more reviews on Amazon, I had never realised before that just how much they do help the author and equally readers browsing in search of new reading material. In time I found myself composing more in depth and concise reviews which led to me developing my book blog.
When I started to review ‘properly’ I began by taking notes as I read, it enabled me to write a detailed account of what happened, but that also made me consider if what I was writing resembled more of a book report than a review. I found changing tack by pausing every few chapters or after an important event and noting my feelings on this worked as a better way to create a more natural and flowing review when I had completed the book; less than a breakdown of the story and more analysing the bare bones.
I prefer to stick to giving a brief synopsis of the plot now, still detailing the characters, the relationships, the holistic development.
My big issue is description. I have a good imagination, but it is a lazy one! I like a vivid description of a character, it’s environment, it’s personality. I hate to reach the halfway mark in a book and still not be able to picture the character fully, not know what hair colour he or she has, what accent they speak in, how they dress etc… this helps me build a stronger link to he or she. I find Joanne Harris a master of this craft, I feel readily transported into one of her novels with ease.
For me the very worst crime to commit as a reviewer would be to give away spoilers. If you have read and enjoyed a book, why would you want to deprive other readers of the ‘will they won’t they’ of a long awaited kiss, or the page turning suspension that will keep them reading way past their bedtime?
My top tips –
1) Accuracy. Always make sure you get names correct! Authors, characters, places…the actual book! Not only is this the height of bad manners, but it also undermines the review/reviewer (or hints at extreme tiredness on the part of the reviewer – a trap I have unfortunately fallen into!)
2) Try not to add too much detail. As I have said, it is best that a review should not be written as a book report, more as an indication of the plot and writing style. This is a common problem for me, especially if I loved a book, I find myself wanting to ramble on about it. Much self editing and restraint needed!
3) Give an introduction, details of the development and a conclusion, then evaluate. Describe what you loved, and possibly what let the book down for you.
4) On the terms of being disenchanted by a book – try not to be too negative if possible. Remember the blood, sweat and tears that the author put into it and that even if it wasn’t a winner for you, someone out there will probably enjoy it. Be constructive, explain why it wasn’t great for you.
5) Never, ever, EVER give away the ending, any plot twists, or anything that may ruin it for other readers. It’s fair to say that the plot was full of unexpected twists and turns, but don’t elaborate on them, no-one will thank you for that!
Just remember, if you can spare five minutes and you have enjoyed a book, always try to leave a few lines on Amazon. It’s a massive thank you to the author and a great way to introduce readers to a book that you have loved!
Twitter – https://twitter.com/donna_trinder