Writing and planning book reviews

Here’s a post on planning and writing book reviews. I’d be interested to know how you all plan and prep your blog posts and if you have any top tips to share with us…
review wordleSometimes I can knock out a review in half an hour, others can days that I have to keep coming back to tweak and it isn’t necesarrily based on liking and disliking, it’s more “what have I got to say about this book”.

I’m sure we all read books that we like/love/dislike that others feel the complete opposite about and then I think mmm was I missing something?

So how do you compile your reviews? Do you make notes as you go along, have certain criteria that you like to include? Or a set of questions you ask yourself for each book?

book notesI try and make notes as I go along but sometimes forget if I’m a bit engrossed in my reading and then it’s not always convenient to put the book down to jot downs notes or a page number, sometimes I’ve found myself losing the flow. I haven’t got a special notebook or anything, I tend to use any old scraps of paper I find lying around. Maybe I should invest in a nice notebook so all my notes and comments can be kept together.

Occasionally I’ve found it really hard to not give away spoilers, if I’ve felt really strongly about a plot line in a book and no-one else I know has read it…I have to talk about it!

I try and base my Goodreads star ratings on other books I’ve read – if I thought something was a 5 star, other books have to reach this benchmark to also be a 5.

There doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast rules with reviewing, we’re all different and like to shape our reviews accordingly but here are some good tips from the Booktrust:

1) Start with a couple of sentences describing what the book is about

But without giving any spoilers or revealing plot twists. As a general rule, try to avoid writing in detail about anything that happens from about the middle of the book onwards. If the book is part of a series, it can be useful to mention this, and whether you think you’d need to have read other books in the series to enjoy this one.

2) Discuss what you particularly liked about the book

 Focus on your thoughts and feelings about the story and the way it was told. You could try answering a couple of the following questions:

  • Who was your favourite character, and why?
  • Did the characters feel real to you?
  • Did the story keep you guessing?
  • What was your favourite part of the book, and why?
  • Were certain types of scene written particularly well – for example sad scenes, tense scenes, mysterious ones…?
  • Did the book make you laugh or cry?
  • Did the story grip you and keep you turning the pages?

3) Mention anything you disliked about the book

Talk about why you think it didn’t work for you. For example:

  • Did you wish the ending hadn’t been a cliffhanger because you found it frustrating?
  • Did you find it difficult to care about a main character, and could you work out why?
  • Was the story too scary for your liking, or focused on a theme you didn’t find interesting?

4) Round up your review

Summarise some of your thoughts on the book by suggesting the type of reader you’d recommend the book to. For example: younger readers, older readers, fans of relationship drama/mystery stories/comedy. Are there any books or series you would compare it to?

Do you have any top tips you’d like to share?


  1. 10th August 2014 / 10:27 am

    I’ve decided I’m going to have to keep a notebook from now on. I use the note function when reading in iBooks, but I hate marking ‘real’ books, and end up forgetting things I wanted to say! This is a really useful post. I find when Im reading that a hook, or a starting point for my review will come to me and I start from there…..

    • 12th August 2014 / 2:03 pm

      Isn’t marking books in any way one of the seven deadly sins? 😉
      I’m on the hunt for a lovely new notebook for my notes too. But sometimes they’re just too lovely to use!
      Thank you for your comment. Come back soon!

  2. 10th August 2014 / 1:24 pm

    Currently I’m not posting a lot of reviews. I had a busy first half of the year. I didn’t have so much time to read or review. I’m still a in a bit of a lull tbh. Hence, my planning is pretty non existent. I do try and make my weekly poetry feature and the end of month round up. But reviews and other ad hoc posts are just that – ad hoc and unplanned at present. I am sure this will change once I get back into full swing. Great post btw 🙂

    • 12th August 2014 / 2:01 pm

      We can only do what we can do.
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I do like to hear what other bloggers are up to!

  3. 10th August 2014 / 3:51 pm

    The using scraps of paper method rang very familiar to me! And I have several beautiful notebooks I could be using instead. I don’t have any set rules really. I start with why I chose/how I found the book and a quick plot summary/set-up but other than that I just write whatever struck me about the book. Sometimes it’s easier than others and sometimes I feel I had some real insights while other times I feel that I haven’t said anything of interest, but I don’t think it would work for me to follow a set formula. I’m sure it does work for other people.

    • 12th August 2014 / 2:09 pm

      I have a beautiful Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s notebook, I just can’t bring myself to use it! I’m looking for a new one at the moment which I will be able too 🙂

      I’m like you too, I don’t have any set rules as I want to say different things about different books and don’t want to feel constrained and tied to a list of questions. Although with book club, we do tend to have specific questions for each book so we can get a really good discussion going and this often helps with my review.

  4. 11th August 2014 / 1:18 pm

    In the beginning Lindsay I never used to make notes but then I used to write my reviews not long after I had finished reading.

    What works for me now though is writing notes – it can be a sentence that shows writing style or something that really ‘got’ to me. Mostly though it’s my thoughts. I do have gorgeous journals/notebooks I buy to write in and they last for ages! Oh and gorgeous pens too! I’m a stationery geek 🙂

    Actually writing the reviews – can take me a couple of hours because I’m forever editing and copying/pasting a paragraph so that the review flows. I’m trialing writing more on Goodreads (which is where I first rate) instead of a couple of sentences so that I can then fill that out to go on the blog/Amazon and edit my review on GR.

    I find it hard not to include something re: spoilers but try to work my way around it by not actually saying it but alluding to it!

    I guess at the end of the day, I want to give my reviews the attention out of respect for the blood, sweat and tears that the author has put into writing the story …

  5. 12th August 2014 / 1:59 pm

    Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I really do appreciate it and love to hear what everyone does and how you plan or don’t…!

    I’m keeping my eye out for a lovely new notebook, I think it might be nice to keep all my notes in one place and will be something to look back on 🙂

  6. 20th August 2014 / 8:52 am

    Some good tips here on what to include. Your approach is very like mine – I think for a few days and then start with a rough draft of incoherent notes. I do take notes as I go along, sometimes. I bought a lovely notebook for this – but never have it to hand at the right time, so am still using the back of old envelopes or whatever other scrap of paper is to hand. I don’t like writing in my books but I wish I did.

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