Like any other writer, I live or die by reviews of my books. However, while many people say they love my books or admire my writing, very few write book reviews—even if I ask them.
Perhaps it’s because readers aren’t sure how to write a review. Let’s solve that problem.
Here’s a simple and easy way to write a one-paragraph fiction book review.
1. Take notes as you read
The best way to remember what you liked (or didn’t like) about a book is to jot down your observations as you read, as well as any great quotes you’d like to mention.
I keep an index card handy as I’m reading a book. You can too. Make notes about:
- Characters—Who were the main characters? Were they credible? Properly motivated? Did you sympathize with them? Who was your favorite character, and why?
- Dialogue—Was it realistic? Revealing? Humorous? Engaging?
- Genre—Did this book fit a particular genre, such as horror? Or was it a mash-up of several genres? Do you think the author did a good job of conforming to or breaking out of genre categories?
- Plot—What was the story about? Did the series of events make sense? Any great twists?
- Writing style—Does the writer write like another author you like?
2. Summarize your opinions
Jot some notes about your views (yes, it’s okay to express your opinions about the book):
- Did you like the book?
- What was your favorite part?
- What did you like least about the book?
- If you wish something were different in the book, what is it?
3. Make your recommendation
Would you recommend this book to other readers? If so, what type of readers would like the book? People who dig H.P. Lovecraft? Lovers of ghost stories?
Remember that a writer has spent a lot of time and effort in producing his or her labor of love. Although you may criticize, don’t forget to be constructive and kind. If you mention the author’s name, use his or her last name.
Writing the Review
A book review is not a long summary of the book, rather your brief commentary on it. Here’s the how-to of writing your paragraph review.
- Start with an interesting sentence that grabs the reader’s attention. You could make it a question: “Have you ever wondered…,” “Ever wish you could….”
- Introduce the subject of the book. What’s the genre? (horror, crime, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) “Book Title is a horror novel about…” Then write a one- or two-sentence summary. Be careful not to give away the ending!
- Do you think the book measures up to the goals the author set out to achieve? Be honest yet tactful. Include some examples supporting your opinion.
- Who will enjoy this book? “If you like early Stephen King, you’ll love this book.”
Book review paragraph template
If you’re having trouble getting started, use this paragraph as a template:
Have you ever wondered _______________ (hook). Book Title is a ____________ (genre) novel about ______________ (subject matter). In it, _____________ (main character) tries to _____________ (main story goal) but encounters trouble when _______________ (some complications or opposition). The characters were realistic, and I especially related to ___________ (character name). My favorite part of the book was ________________. [Optional: But the author could have done a better job at _________________ (something that needs improvement). For example…] The dialogue was excellent and moved the story forward. It was fast-paced (or something else you liked). I really liked this book because ______________ (your opinion about it). If you like reading early Stephen King (a comparison), this one’s for you.
Here’s an example book review of Samantha Lienhard’s novella THE BOOK AT DERNIER.
The Book at Dernier is about a young man’s obsessive quest to learn about the dark and mysterious Marcus Phineas and his arcane rituals that led to past deaths in the superstitious town of Dernier.
Protagonist Paul finds a book by the late Phineas full of symbols and secret writing. Determined to crack the code, Paul succumbs to the thrall of bloody rituals. I feared for him and dreaded the results his search would lead to. As he descends into madness and the death toll mounts, can Paul solve the mystery? Will he escape a devastating fate?
Lienhard’s skillful writing drew me in and led me quickly to the chilling conclusion. Recommended for appreciators of Lovecraftian fiction.
That’s all there is to it.
Proof your review and post it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever you bought the book, Goodreads, Facebook, and on your blog.
Be generous with the stars: starred reviews encourage other readers to buy and read.
And why not let the author know you’ve written a review? It will probably make their day. I know it would make mine.