*When you’re not a professional reviewer.
Out of 62-plus million reviewers on Amazon, I’m ranked 5958th. That puts me in the top 0.000096 of all reviewers. For every review, I have more than double the amount of “helpful” votes. So I feel confident in writing this post.:-)
An easy formula
I use the same format for almost all my reviews. If I were a book blogger or wrote reviews for Kirkus, I wouldn’t be so formulaic, but my reviews are aimed at potential readers who are just browsing. The formula I use is:
1. A short sentence or two that orients the reader.
Don’t copy the book blurb. Readers can and probably already have read the blurb.
2. State positive things you liked about the story.
Don’t give away spoilers. A potential reader wouldn’t want to buy a mystery story if you tell them whodunit. (I’ve seen that, and ugh, it bothers me!)
3. Respectfully state negative things you didn’t like about the story.
Don’t complain about the pages being wrinkled, the book arriving two weeks late, or other things out of the author’s control.
4. Close with a sentence or two that expresses your overall impression.
Keep reviews short in case potential readers are in a hurry. You wouldn’t want to give them any TLDR ideas.:-)
Allow lots of white space rather than big, block paragraphs. Snippets of information surrounded by white space allow people to easily scan your review.
Yeah, but WHAT do I say?
You don’t have to sound elegant or anything; just make it sound like you’ve read the book. Think about what you remember after you finished reading. I liked this book because it’s set in my hometown of Springfield, Oregon.
- the little boy in the story is a lot like my son.
- it’s really bloody, and I like a gory story.
- the romance is realistic.
- the style of writing is easy to follow.
- the author makes the dog a big part of the story.
- it’s got a lot of zombies, and zombies are cool.
- it’s scary with an eerie ghost.
But not, Oh my God, I loved this book so much. It’s the best book ever! (That doesn’t tell the reader anything about the story. Sadly, I’ve seen too many reviews like this, and they make me wonder if the reviewers actually read the book.)
Likewise for the negatives, pick something you remember from the book. I didn’t like this book because there are way too many characters to keep track of.
- it is too long, and the story could have been told in half the words.
- the author uses a lot of fancy words.
- there is too much dialogue and not enough action.
- I got distracted by all the typos.
- it’s yet another vampire story with no new spin on the genre.
But not, This book was a waste of my time. (That tells potential readers nothing about the story to help them decide whether or not to read a book.)
Okay, as promised, here are two examples:
Whiteout by Ashton Macaulay
Whiteout is the first book in a Nick Ventner Adventure trilogy. In Whiteout, Nick hunts the Yeti!
Nick is a greedy drunk, but I found myself cheering for him anyway. I’m sure it’s hard to write a lovable-despicable protagonist like Nick, but Macaulay pulls it off.
Kudos to Macaulay for describing the Himalayan setting so well. In a few of the scenes, I actually felt chilled while reading.
The scenes with monster violence are gory and tense. (And the Yeti isn’t the only monster!)
The visit to Shangri La about two-thirds into the book is over-the-top for me. Maybe it’s because the brand new setting and all its dreamlike descriptions delay the impending “final battle.” I wanted to skim past the Shangri La stuff and get back to the monster on the mountain.
Whiteout is a fun, bloody, exciting book. Four stars.
The Unsuitable by Molly Pohlig
Set in Victorian England, this novel is about a spinster, Iseult, and her hateful father, Edward. Literary, Gothic, full of psychosis (or is Iseult actually haunted?), and self-mutilation with dread on every page . . . I loved it!
Iseult’s solitary musings are incredibly real and full of pain. I found them captivating in a voyeristic way, like peeking into her private diary.
I was puzzled by the scissors on the book’s cover at first because Iseult isn’t a seamstress or anything. Then about 20 percent into the book, I understood the cover art. It’s genius.
The absurd courting rituals and quirky potential husbands for Iseult provide comic relief in an otherwise bleak story.
This book has the vibe of other fabulous stories like The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, and The House on Cold Hill by Peter James. If you like any of those, I think you’d enjoy The Unsuitable.
If you don’t care for slow burns with disturbed characters and little action, this isn’t the book for you. (On the other hand, if you like character-driven stories full of rich, poetic language and symbolism, you’ll love this book.)
Five brilliant, captivating stars!
One last thing
It’s okay, really it is, to leave something other than a four- or five-star review. If you’ve listed the reason(s) why you don’t like the book, it may be another potential reader’s favorite kind of book. For example, if a reviewer says they didn’t like a book because it was told from the viewpoint of a crazy person, I’d want to get my hands on that book. (I love me some unreliable narrators!)
As always, happy reading, happy writing!
Feature image by Markus Winkler on Unsplash.
Over 62 million Amazon reviewers: https://www.twincities.com/2019/06/03/meet-the-small-town-north-dakota-man-who-is-amazons-no-1-reviewer-he-gets-a-lot-of-free-stuff/