How you write a book review

WHAT the world needs now are reviews, book reviews; they’re the only things (apart from fresh water, social justice and quite a bit of other stuff) that there’s just too little of: reviews, book reviews.
Please do not ask! I am not volunteering to review your book. After penning, publishing and promoting the damn things, I have no time to review any books other than ones that come my way serendipitously.
But ask any book lover out there and they will tell you trying to decide whether a book is a wise buy is more important than its price. A lousy book is a bad investment even if it is free.
I am unable to come to the party with extra book reviews but if you want to have a go, you will become a servant of humanity when you learn to do a competent job.
Before we start, check out Ionia Martin’s review of my novel Iraqi Icicle. (Whaddya mean that is self-promotion? You expect me to send you to a review of someone else’s novel. Sheesh, you can find your own example, if you must.)
Ionia is a Top 500 Reviewer so she knows what the task is all about. Check out her review HERE  
Ionia is also a pianist so she can play along to out featured video. (Don’t scroll down to see what it is; I am creating a structured piece on book reviews and we cannot anarchic readings of it.)
The rest of this informative rant is a list of my ideas on your writing a half-decent review.
Make it entertaining.  ­ No cheap shots at the author’s expense are needed, but if you are a lover of books, you should be able to string together a few pleasant sentences yourself.

22. Try to give the reader a flavor of the book you are reviewing from your get-go.
33. Don’t tie yourself in a knot avoiding spoilers. Of course, you will not be invited around to brunch if you announce you knew the butler did it after chapter 3. But neither will you be doing brunch with a grateful reader of your review, if it is so general, that, at the end of your critique, the reader is none the wiser what the book is about.
44. Talk about whether characters are well crafted and whether the plot works for you.
55. Somewhere around the middle of the review, comment on what you liked about the book and what you did not like. You need not mention what you regard as minor faults in some sort of unnecessary notion of balance.
66. Towards the end of the review, you can say who might not like this book. If, for example, you are reviewing a Gore Vidal novel, you might say members of the Tea Party may not love it.
77.  Next, you say who might enjoy the book.
88. You should finish in your own style but there should be some sort of summary, not of the book so much as of your review. As the reviewer, you are entitled to the last words Make them good so the reader will come back for more when they see your name attached to your next piece of excellent criticism.
99.  If there are too many rules above, just have a go. Always aim to select a quality book of whatever genre you are reviewing.
110.  It is your call whether you submit a negative review. Whatever your reasons, you can with-hold a review, but every review you submit should be honest.
 
Three reviews
Walter Kerr on the play I am a Camera: Me no Leica.
Dorothy Parker on Katherine Hepburn in the play The Lake. Miss Hepburn delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions, from A to B.
Leo Robson on Rachel Bradford’s book Martin Amis: The Biography. “spectacularly bad writing — about spectacularly good writing.”
 
Here is our celebratory song: Cheers, Bernie

 

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