Reviewing Books

Tom_Bont_-_Author_Photo_300_dpi.pngWe authors are some of the most arrogant people in the world. We tell you what we’re thinking without being asked by scrawling our thoughts onto paper and publishing them. Then we sit back and wait on your approval. And if that approval doesn’t shine like the Egyptian Sun God’s golden disk during a summer solstice, we hide in a closet all weekend drawing pictures on the walls with our box of broken crayons

Then we do it all again.

Approvals of our work usually manifest as Book Reviews. Authors not only covet Book Reviews, we live for them. We all want Five-Star reviews but will grudgingly settle for Three-Stars. Anything lower than that, see my comment on crayons, above. Bad Reviews are important, too, though, just as long as they contain useful information. Simply writing, “My dog won’t even pee on this book,” is not helpful. You need to explain why your dog won’t pee on it, thankyouverymuch.

The only thing worse than bad reviews, though, is not getting reviews at all. It took me years to figure out why family members and friends wouldn’t review my books. “Tom, your book was awesome!” they’d say over dinner. “When’s the next one coming out?”

“Well,” I’d drawl, “as soon as you review the last one.”

Crickets.

For months.

Why? There are two main reasons people don’t write reviews:

  1. Readers are shy. The vast majority of people in the world keep their opinions to themselves. Remember, we’re the arrogant ones.
  2. Readers don’t know how to write reviews. Remember, we’re the writers.

It is my firm belief that if we can resolve Item 2, Item 1 will take of itself. In fact, I am going to fill your toolbox with a reviewing tool that is so simple, you are going to want to review everything you read from now on.

To start with, immediately jot down your ideas after reading a book. Strong emotions always accompany that last page and range anywhere from “Thank God this is over” to “My firstborn shall henceforth be known throughout the four lands as Tom Bont!” But a review should contain more than how you feel about it; it should also contain a logical description of your thoughts.

Once my opinions have percolated for a day or two, I use my jotted-down notes to compose the review. If there was a particular item I liked or disliked, I’ll talk about it. I might even include a short plot summary. Some authors don’t mind plot summaries. Some hate them. However, beggars can’t be choosers. If I do include a plot summary, I’m kind; I put Spoiler Warning at the top.

Next, I summarize the entire book into three categories:

  1. Writing: Spelling, ease of reading, plot creation; did you get lost when you read the book, and if so, how many times? Did the author take the time to hold your hand and lead you along your journey? Did the language make you wish that you talked that way or did it remind you of a bully from high school? Is the writing style formal, informal, or conversational?
  2. Background Information: This is more objective than subjective. Does the setting seem real? Do the secondary and tertiary characters react in a realistic manner. Is California still located on the left coast? The world must make sense! An example for me is a Peter F. Hamilton book. I tend to look up after an hour or so of reading and wonder where I am. I get lost in his world building.
  3. Character Development: Are the main characters real to you? Did you fall in love with one? Hate another? Note that some characters you are meant to hate.

I give each of these categories a Poor, Average, or Good rating. You may choose something more cinematic such as Sucky, Adequate, and Bloody Awesome if you wish.

Most authors would be tickled to get a review that covered these areas. If you want to put more into it, visit the following website: http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/asenjo.shtml

Here’s an example of an Amazon Review I did.

“Age of Heroes” by James Lovegrove

I’m not even sure where to begin with describing this book. The Greek demigods are alive and well and running around Earth? And now someone is killing them off? Hell, that’s a 5-star rating just on the idea.

And the book itself lived up to the hype.

Read this book.

Ratings: (poor, average, or good):

Writing was good.

Background information was good.

Character Development was good.

Five out of five stars.

Note the last sentence. Yes, you have to come up with a star rating.

At this point, the review is complete. But if you’re an over-achiever, you might write:

Craftsmanship was good. The book was of standard design, 6”x9”. I carried it around Scotland while on vacation, and I subjected it to rough carry-on bag usage. It held up great.

Eye Candy was good: The cover was exiting—a Greek god fighting a man with two machine guns. That’s what drew me to the book to start with.

Organization was average: There weren’t any indexes or dictionaries in the book. It would have been nice to have a listing of the pantheon of the gods in question.

Genre matching was average: I’m not sure what genre this book truly fits in. It spans from fantasy, to mystery, to science fiction. I would put this under Science-Fantasy. Amazon lists it as Military/Science Fiction.

Point of View was good: The points of view shifted from character to character, but the main protagonist, Theseus, is the main point of view. It was easy to follow what was happening.

Writing Style was good: The author’s writing style shifted from stilted conversation to informal description. In spite of that, I was able to follow along without any problems.

Wrap Up was good: This author closed all the threads. The book does beg for a sequel.

Thanks for reading this! I hope this article gives you the incentive to write those reviews. And remember, there is no perfect way to write a review. Use all of my suggestions, or just keep some of them. Either way, Write On!


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