Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review Writing Tips with BlookGirl + Giveaway

Last year she won a bloggy award for "Best Reviews." I fell in love with Katie's review writing voice over a year ago when I first stumbled upon BlookGirl and I'm thrilled to have her here today to share her tricks of the trade. Let's hear it for Katie!

"We must remember that literature and the way we connect with it is a very personal and individual thing." 
- BlookGirl

1. I can’t stress this one enough: Take notes! You may think you’ll remember exactly how you felt and what you thought throughout certain parts of the book, but you just won’t. Either make notes in the margins and highlight, or if you’re OCD like me, have a separate notebook for your notes. Jot down page numbers, quotes, and even conversational sentences. It’s no surprise to find that my notes include things like, “Wait, what? Did she really just compare her love interest’s voice to the sound of a meteor?!” (Yes, this is a real note, unfortunately…)

Taking notes helps to lay the groundwork for the final review and makes things much easier. My lack of note-taking is the direct cause of why I have so many reviews waiting in my queue. Let my (temporary) downfall be your lesson, dear reader!

2. Tell the reader what you feel about the book and why, not just what the book is about. That information is easily found via Goodreads, or even within your own review if you post the synopsis like I and many others do. The point of your review is to express your opinion, and by doing so, persuade the reader to read the book (or avoid it!)

3. Include (short) quotes from the book, when possible, to make your point. These will give your readers an idea of the authors’ writing style and voice, which will aid in their decision to read or avoid the book.

4. No spoilers! This probably goes without saying, but if you give away a major plot point, your readers will not likely be very happy. My friend, Jenni, once read a spoiler for a book she was reading, and was so disappointed because the book was actually very good, but once spoiled…

If you are writing a review where you want to discuss important aspects, use a spoiler tag or warn readers far in advance that there will be spoilers within the review.

5. Summarize your thoughts at the end and suggest the type of reader you feel would really love the book (i.e., fans of paranormal romance, young teens, etc.)

Review Writing Tips for Books You Didn’t Enjoy

We’ve all been there: You read a book that just doesn’t tickle your fancy. Perhaps it’s a book that you bought yourself, or a book given to you by a publisher. So many bloggers struggle with writing reviews for books they didn’t like, especially when they are ARCs. It’s like they feel an obligation to review favorably, which is understandable, yet not truly fair to anyone. We must remember that literature and the way we connect with it is a very personal and individual thing. A book I love may be someone else’s least favorite book, and that’s okay. It’s these differences that are fascinating and exciting, and probably what I love most about reading books reviews.

With that said, I have a few tips to offer on reviewing books that you did not particularly enjoy:

1. Review the book, not the author. There is a fine line between friendly snark and taking things too far. Don’t insult the author’s intelligence and don’t make personal comments. If you didn’t like the plot, characters, writing style, etc., tell your readers why. Leave the drama in fiction!

2. State your opinion; don’t cite “facts.” In simple terms, don’t declare the book in question “bad;” state that you disliked it and then follow-up with solid reasoning.

3. Provide context. Just because you didn’t like the book doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. If you’re more of a contemporary fan, you likely won’t swoon over straight sci-fi. Let your readers know where you’re coming from as a reader yourself. Remember, taste is relative! (Just think of Nicki Minaj!)

4. Talk about what did work. Even if the overall book was not your cup of tea, surely there’s something that was intriguing or that had great promise. For example, “…I really like this idea and wish it had played out a bit more within the story.”
Q&A with Katie

Why BlookGirl and not BookGirl?

Ha! The short answer is, “Because someone else already had BookGirl!” What grinds my gears is that whoever owns it hasn’t even done anything with it in over two years! Grrr! ;-)

Seriously, though, when I decided to start a blog and was trying to think of a catchy domain/blog name, I went through a variation of coffee-and-book related names, but realized just how many of them are out there (XpressoReads and BookAndLatte to name a couple.) Then, as I was throwing out book, blogging, and reading-related names and terms, I came up with BlookGirl. A play on words: “A girl who blogs about books.”

I loved it. It stuck :-)

About how long do you spend writing each review?

It really depends on whether I loved the book, disliked the book, or had no strong opinion either way. Sometimes describing why you loved a book is just as hard as describing why you didn’t like or love it. I think the toughest review, though, is when you have an overall feeling of “meh;” when it’s not particularly good or bad. 

I’d have to say that, on average, it takes about an hour to write and perfect a review.

On average, how many books do you review per month?

It’s been much less lately, as I’ve been more into reading and less into reviewing, but I’m getting back in the swing of things :-) At my peak, I was reviewing 2-3 books per week, which resulted in 8-12 books per month. Currently, I’m at 2-3 books per month. Yikes! I need to get on the ball! (You really don’t want to know how many books I need to review >.<)

How long have you been writing reviews? 

I began writing reviews when I founded BlookGirl, so it’s been about a year and three months now. I wrote a stray review here and there before that time, but didn’t really start reviewing books until I discovered GoodReads, and then my first book review blog.  

What do you love most about reviewing books?

I love reviewing books because it gives me an outlet for my fangirling, and alternatively, for my ranting. Even if I don’t physically have someone to talk to about my latest read, I can put my thoughts out “into the universe” (okay, into cyberspace) and know that someone, somewhere, sometime will read them and relate. 

I also love the community that comes with being a book reviewer/blogger. [For the most part] everyone is so supportive and generous, and I’ve met some of my best friends through books and blogging. We all go through our highs and lows, but at the end of the day, no matter our differences, what brings us together is our love for literature. The insatiable desire to share that love is why I love reading, and in turn, reviewing :-)

Big thanks to Katie for guesting here today! You can check out her reviews of Entangled and Duplicity by clicking the title links. And now for the week's last party favor. I saved the best for last!

Win! A brand spanking new Spellbound Journal
*Will be available for sale on Amazon and CreateSpace next month*
Use it to jot down your review notes, write love poems, or even pen your own masterpiece!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to all my guest bloggers and everyone for checking out the posts this week during the Enchantment Release Party. There are still a few days to enter to win Rafflecopter prizes. Hope to see you next mont for the Enchantment Blog Tour! xoxo


  1. Take notes! That is sooo helpful. I always try to type out my thoughts on the beginning and middle of the book so I can compare it to how I felt at the end. Sometimes I forget though, and it makes writing the review harder, since I don't always remember all of the points I wanted to make.

    1. I'm with Katie, trying to write a review without notes is like trying to drive a car without keys... at least for me.

  2. I'm so awful about taking notes. The thing is, I just don't have the time! I also can't seem to stop reading to do so. It's a little different with my kindle, but I haven't really figured out how to do all that fancy stuff. I do sometimes use sticky notes to remember certain passages. But as long as I review as soon as I finish I usually have plenty to say. I always review before I start a new book so nothing gets mixed together. I have had cases where my life was really crazy and by the time I reviewed the books it was hard to remember all the emotions I felt and then the reviews were really blah. That time in my life is past now and hopefully nothing like that happens again!
    Great tips!

  3. Taking notes... i do sometimes take notes especially for a book which do not appeal to me a lot beacuse for me its hard to write a bad rating review

  4. I like the quotes tip. I haven't done this in my reviews usually because I'm too entranced in a book to do it, lol.

    I never take notes though because I usually just write my review right after I've read the book. I've never really needed to take notes.

    If it's a book I didn't like, I give constructive criticism. I never bash the author because that's just plan wrong and mean!

  5. Thanks a lot with this helpful ideas and information..It give me more knowledge about this matters.

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