So you’ve accepted a free copy of a book in return for a review. Or maybe you’ve finished a book you want to tell everyone about. But now that you’ve read it, that next step seems daunting. So here are some tips to help you decide how to write your review. Though I’ll concentrate on my own novels, these steps can be applied to anyone’s work.
First of all, don’t let the word “review” scare you off. I’m sure you’ve seen those long ones that give a complete recap of the plot, or have paragraph upon paragraph dissecting the writing style, the theme, the tropes. Many of these reviews are written by book bloggers and professional reviewers. As a reader, you don’t have to go that far.
Speaking strictly for myself, I love getting reviews from anyone—each one gives me something to think about, maybe even a way to improve my craft. But what I prefer is a short, simple statement that tells me what a reader liked and/or didn’t like about the book.
Any story essentially breaks down into three unique (but hopefully interlocking) components: the characters; the plot; and the world or setting. No one needs to address all of these; feel free to focus on the component that you had the strongest reaction to.
1.) The characters:
Did you love them? hate them? What made you feel that way? Did they act in a way that was consistent with your image of them? How would you like to meet them in real life?
2.) The plot:
Did you find the story believable? inspirational? boring? Did something in the story impress? dismay? surprise?
3.) The setting:
Did you find the details overwhelming, or was there just enough to pull you in? Did you feel the characters lived in a real world? Did anything stand out as not belonging in the story?
To demonstrate how much you can pack into a few sentences, here are samples from some reviews of WHISPERS IN THE CANYON:
– I couldn’t help but feel the love, joy, pain, and sorrow as I read and was pulled back into the 1800s. (Plot & Setting)
– A fantastic story of highs and lows. I loved getting to know the Donovan family. (Characters)
– An enjoyable story about love, hardship, sadness and strong family ties. I found this story somewhat drawn out. (Plot)
From THE WINDS OF MORNING:
– Although this is a relatively short book, it is well-paced, and the characters are believable. I did have a bit of trouble though, believing a man would marry a poor girl he has just met to save her from starvation. (Plot & Characters)
– Molly was an excellent character who grew into a formidable woman, wife and mother. I look forward to future books about this family. (Characters)
From THE WOODSMAN’S ROSE:
– It successfully immerses the reader in 1880s Arizona and is a great reminder of what life used to be like not too long ago. For me, the opening was a little too slow. (Setting & Plot)
– There is enough swoon-worthy romance to melt even the coldest of hearts, and there is plenty of action and adventure for those who enjoy novels that keep them on the edge of their seat. (Plot)
As you can see, each novel drew both positive and negative comments. I don’t expect everyone to love my stories, and I know that there’s always something I can learn to do better. That’s why a reader’s honest opinion means the world to me.
By the way, if you’re interested in reading and reviewing any book in the DONOVAN FAMILY SAGA, I’d be happy to send you a digital copy of any one you choose. Just send me a note through the CONTACT form naming the book and the format you’d like: Kindle, EPUB, & PDF formats are available for every volume.