The beginner's guide to book reviews

Because I really am a beginner. Who knew that I still have so many things to learn? Book reviewing is a skill that I never expected to need, but between my Kindle app and self-publishing, everything has changed: I usually download fiction now and after every purchase I get a hopeful email from Amazon asking me what I thought.

At the same time, t'internet has made self-publishing a possibility, and a number of my friends are now actual authors, so obviously I feel the need to be able to write a half decent book review in support.  I've probably said it before, but I have huge admiration for anyone who has the patience to write an entire book, as I often get bored before the end of a blog post: which is another reason why I have so many drafts...

Book reviews play a major part in what I read too, and the Book section is one of the main reasons that I buy The Sunday Times each week.  I love all the long reviews about subjects that I know nothing about, but sometimes they tell me everything I want to know, and it's usually the short snappy reviews that encourage me to buy.  In other publications I read reviews that set my teeth on edge. I couldn't even tell you why exactly. Perhaps because the writing style feels unnatural and forced, and often they totally put me off a book, even if they are praising it.

Maybe you can tell that I really respect anyone who can write a book review in a few sentences that both sounds honest and makes you hungry to know more. Can I do that too?  I'm not sure...

So I've been doing a bit of research, and this is my beginner's guide to writing book reviews:

1. Decide that you're going to review a book before you start reading it. Obviously if you have the memory of an elephant, you can ignore this step.

2. Take lots and lots of notes. Believe me, you'll wish you had if you didn't. You'll discard most of them, but it saves reading the book again. Unless you want to, of course.

Make notes about the theme, the plot, the key characters, and anything you particularly like. 

3. Writing a review seems to be a bit like writing a speech: you need an introduction that describes what the book is about and any key themes. A central section for more details about the story, and your opinions, then an ending that leaves the reader wanting to buy the book. Or not I suppose, if you don't like it.

4. Less is more. You are not an author, you are a reviewer.

So here it is, my first proper book review, written according to my own rules. Would it tempt you to check out the book? I'd love to know...

A varied and thought-provoking collection of stories that explores dilemmas faced by those living in societies where life is bound by rules, conventions and violence, and doing your duty is often about minimising the number of people who die.  Some of the societies are medieval in style, all are thinly sketched, the narrative is king here.  Sometimes the endings are brutally clear before you reach them, yet without being gory.  You will be routing for some of the characters, and hoping against logic that things will work out, but even when they don’t, the endings are still satisfying.  Most of all, these stories will challenge your certainties and your beliefs through every twist and turn. A memorable read.


  1. I've written a few books reviews on my blog, and never really thought if they were of any interest! I guess I did a good job on some of them because an author asked me recently to review her new book :-) Having read your own review, I can say you really took time to write something meaningful and informative at the same time. Makes me want to read it!

    1. That's the kind of validation you need isn't it? Hope that means you got a free copy!

  2. Go you! I wouldn't have a notion how to write a book review. Your review definitely makes me want to find out more. XXX

    1. I bet you would, I bet you'd write the most amazing book reviews xxx

  3. Your book review is SO impressive. Well done.... I am off to check out that book! :)