Tag Archives: reviews

How to Write a Book Review

It’s a mystery to me why readers are so resistant to writing reviews. I am referring to reviews in Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc. Sharing our opinions on things we either love or hate is intrinsic to us. We love to tell our friends about a great movie we just saw or a brand-new song we just heard or a fantastic restaurant we discovered.
 
We love to “tell.” Everything changes when we have to “write.” There seems to be an innate fear of that five-letter word, even when the writing involves only a paragraph. This creates a problem for authors because reviews are so intrinsic to our success.
 
I have friends who will not read a book which has less than fifty reviews on Amazon. At the rate of one review per month, (the average number for a non-bestseller) it will take a book several years to reach fifty reviews. This is especially frustrating to those of us trying to climb the ladder of reviews.
 
In asking individual readers, I found that most of them don’t like writing book reviews but have no problem writing reviews for other products. Ask them to review the thumb drive or the Ninja blender they just bought, and they go to it with gusto, pictures included.
 
Why then the reticence to review a book? The answer possibly lies in the preconception that a reader is expected to write a literary review. You know, those your English teacher made you write.
 
Authors themselves, when they write reviews for other authors, write such reviews. It’s sad because by example, they discourage regular readers from reviewing. Often, readers tell me they don’t write reviews because they don’t know how. I really must stress that there is no set “how” in reviewing.
 
First, I’m grateful for any review that seems heartfelt and honest, no matter the length. You don’t have to write a literary criticism because my books are not literary wonders written for college professors. No one is grading you.
 
Next, there is no magic formula to follow. Write as if you were speaking to a friend or to someone sitting next to you at the hair salon. The important thing is to zoom-in on what you found most noticeable about the book.
 
A review should be appropriate to the work. I would never give a Christian book a bad review because it sells religion. To give a book a negative review because it has sex scenes, and you happen to be totally against sex in books, is in rather bad form too.
 
Any book with explicit content is required to have a warning. If you don’t like sex in your content, then don’t choose such books. In a fair review, you may mention that the book has sex scenes; however, many readers like sex scenes and would rather know if they were well written. The point: you should review fairly.
 
Finally, a review need not be a composition-length work. A simple, heart-felt paragraph is often worth a thousand words.  The following is a copy of a review written for my book Angel’s Guardian by an Amazon customer. Notice the casual, informal tone, the missing caps, etc. The reader wrote a few lines only, but she leaves no doubt as to how she feels about the book. I loved this review!
 
Review at Amazon from Aliciaann
 
Definitely not your twilight vampire. More like Brick in the Black series, by ms. Andrujiski. This series seems to be comparable to it. I’m hooked already. I expect to be up most of the night reading. Oh darn. I’m suffering from sleep deprivation again. Glad I’m retired and can sleep till 10am
 
If you are nervous about putting your thoughts in writing, try the following formula. Take the last book you read, and write your review following my simple guidelines.
If you address these simple points in your review, you can’t go wrong.
 
1.       This book is (really great, really bad, ok, not my cup of tea, not for everyone).
2.      I really liked or disliked (describe something you really liked or disliked about the book.
3.      I would highly recommend this book (or not) and will definitely read (or not) this author’s books in the future.
 
 
The following are things some reviewers mention, but most don’t. Your review is yours and you decide what to include.
***The book has explicit scenes of sex and violence
***There are many grammatic and spelling errors or the writing is flawless.
***The English used is British English
***There was humor in the book.
***There was too much dialogue and not enough description (or the opposite).
***The characters were believable and likeable (or not.)
 
 
Remember: I’d rather have a short, honest review with misspellings and bad punctuation, that speaks from the heart, than no review at all.
 
 
 
 
 

Review for Owned by the Dragon

As I promised yesterday, I read Owned by the Dark Dragon  by Hollie Hutchins. This is a title that placed in the Kindle Top 100 Free, and part of a genre that emphasizes suggestive titles and lurid covers. The prospective reader will expect highly erotic content. In this case, the reader would be totally disappointed unless he is maybe a high-school student.

I will do my best to be fair to the author while remaining honest for the reader’s sake. A reviewer’s duty is to the reader.

First, this novella (really a long, short story) is in first-draft condition. It seems to be a first writing; it lacks even the most minimal editing. The following are examples from the first few pages.

…hoping to further herself from the chaos.
A correct usage would be …hoping to distance herself from the chaos

Sinome spoke as he titled his head towards her,…
I hope he “tilted” rather than titled.

…regardless of how bazzar it all must be for her.
I think the author meant to use the word “bizarre.”

It would take me hours to correct all the subject/verb disagreements, changes in verb tense, passive voice use, etc. This author should have gotten at least a few beta readers to go over her draft and corrected the most glaring errors.

Next, The story runs like the proverbial bat out of hell. There is absolutely no scene development and less character development. This could have been a much longer and better tale if it was not told in first-person, marathon style. It has a very good premise. I like the Central Park initial setting, and for the genre of fantasy, the storyline has potential.

Probably the most important aspect needing criticism is what the story promises but does not deliver. It’s clear that the cover and title are implicitly promising an erotic read (not to mention the blurb). This is significant in the light that people buying this genre may not be looking for great grammar, but they do want significant erotic content. In this book, there is none.

There is a scene where a dragon (the dark one) does a little light lapping of breasts. Later, the rescuing hero has some very confusing (to the reader) sex with the protagonist. There is something about a “bright pink star,” and a lot of confusion about what exactly he is doing. If you are looking for a titillating, erotic read, this is not it.

All having been said, I must say that the author has potential. She obviously likes to write, and with some time spent developing scenes, fleshing out characters, some proof-reading help, she could put out a good manuscript.

It seems to me that the author may be a  young college student trying out her wings as a writer or hoping to make a quick buck. She definitely handles the sex scenes without insight or finesse.

She could make money writing in the erotica genre even with bad grammar, but she must provide the intense, descriptive, well-written content that erotica readers seek. By failing to provide that, she will not get her customers to come back. I think she would be better served by writing just pure fantasy and using covers that reflect that.

On the Amazon scale, I will give her two stars. Readers looking for erotic content will be far less generous. I do wish she’d get editing help and emphasize the fantasy part of her work. In the future, I’d love to read something by her that showed such growth. Authors are not born. We are made through hard work and the learning of the craft just as other artists are made.

Took or Baggins? Part 4

Chapter 4: A Short Cut to Mushrooms

  -In the morning, the friends awaken to find the elves have gone.

  -Frodo, Sam, and Pippin leave the main road and cut through the

    wilderness  just in time before a Black Rider appears.

   -The group ends up in Farmer Maggot’s house. He tells them that a dark

    stranger on a black horse is searching for Frodo.

   -Farmer Maggot gets them to the ferry crossing in secret.

Wonderful Quote:

Short cuts make long delays.

My thoughts:


There is beautiful imagery and great reading for those readers who actually love the process of reading: the enjoyment of mood, atmosphere, subtle creation of suspense, beautiful and poetic wording. Those looking for action-based, fast reading may be bored.

Chapter 5: A Conspiracy Unmasked
   

   -A short history of Buckland is given.

   -A glimpse of a Black Rider happens as they disembark from the ferry.

   -At Crickhollow, Merry and Pippin disclose that they know all about the

     Ring.

   – It’s decided that Merry and Pippin will join the quest. They all break into

     song for the third time. 

   _Frodo has a disturbing dream that night.


My thoughts: 

This chapter reminds me much of The Hobbit:  when the friends break into song unexpectedly during the bath and later after they decide to go together on the quest. 

It furthers the characterization of  Hobbits as childlike, innocent, natural creatures who are truly out of their depths in adventures. Only Frodo, in his dark and prophetic dream, seems to have a clearer understanding. It seems that maybe the possession of the ring has already affected him in ways that make him different, less childlike.

Chapter 6: The Old Forest

   -The Hobbits enter the forest and find it a hostile, cunning place.

   – The trees seem to watch the group and paths move or disappear, herding the little group

     away from their destination.

   -They reach the Withywindle, a river edged and surrounded by willows.

   -A spell renders the friends asleep. 


   -Merry and Pippin are swallowed by a crack  in a willow.  Frodo is dumped in the river 
    by the tree he fell asleep on.

   -Enter (singing) the ridiculously cheerful and colorful character  Tom Bombadil, 

     who saves the friends!

   -They arrive as guests at Tom Bombadil’s house.

My thoughts: 


Once again, this chapter is also reminiscent of a children’s tale. The dangers and evil encountered are more like those found in the telling of a fairy tale. The forest shows malice, but it does little harm to the friends. Old Man Willow tries to eat Merry and Pippin, but he is easily derailed by Tom Bombadil’s spell singing. It is almost as if the Black Riders and the Ring have been left behind. The appearance of Tom Bombadil itself is rather comic and unexpected.