Ahh book reviews! How I (occasionally) loathe thee. In the next installment of Bookstagram Tips and Tricks, I’ll walk you through my process for writing a comprehensive book review! Writing reviews is an important part of Bookstagram! It helps provide recommendations, helps you log your own reading, and maybe even will help you get Advance Copies of books from your favorite authors!
*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase through them, I earn a small (very small) commission at no extra cost to you!
First, let’s get into how I structure my own book reviews. Keep in mind, there’s no right way to write a review. You can do it however you want. This is just how I’ve developed my formula to help me quickly write a review that hits all the high points.
My Book Review Formula
I read a lot. If you follow me on any of my social media channels, you’ll know this. I also like writing (as this blog will proclaim). So I like writing book reviews! It’s fun to me, but it can also be daunting. One of the first things I did when I got more into doing this was create a “template” book review formula that I can follow every time. It allows me to write the review more quickly, without forgetting any important elements.
First, I start with an intro snippet/synopsis of the book, so people know what the book is about. I like doing the synopsis or summary straight from the back of the book or from a site like Amazon or Goodreads, so as to avoid any spoilers by writing my own summary. I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, as a lot of people will read reviews to see if the book is something they’d be interested in reading. If you plan to include spoilers in yours, and that’s completely fine, make sure to put a spoiler warning near the top.
Next, I like to start the review with a quote – this can be your favorite quote, a funny one, or just one that resonates with your vibe that day. It just helps set me in the mood for writing the review, and I find it helps people connect more with the book and review. It gives an idea of the writing style and dialogue.
Then, I include any content warnings, if applicable. This is so important. I know some people consider content or trigger warnings a spoiler, but they are SO important to include in a review, especially if a book has darker themes. People are responsible for their own content consumption, but as a content creator, you’re responsible for making it easier for people to avoid triggering content.
It takes 2 seconds to write out some content warnings. The most common content warnings I use are violence, explicit sexual content, depression, suicide, sexual assault, and death. Again, these depend on the book. Some might have a ton of warnings, and some might not have any.
Getting into the meat of the review, I start with something positive, usually my favorite thing about the book. Then I go into what else I enjoyed about the book, focusing on plot, character development, pacing, and world building. These 4 areas are the main points of a book, and by focusing on what I liked about each of these, it results in a well rounded review.
Then, I’ll go into what I didn’t care for or what didn’t quite hit the mark for me. For me personally, this is usually pacing. Slow books just don’t do it for me, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy them less, it’s just something I mention that didn’t quite work for me personally. A caveat here: make sure to not be super gloomy about this, spin it. Authors read these sometimes, and you don’t want to be a jerk. You can say you didn’t like something politely and respectfully.
However, be honest. If you didn’t like a book, that’s fine. You’re allowed to say that. Just don’t be an asshole about it and attack the author or the work. Additionally, if you’re writing a negative review (usually 3 stars or less on a 5 star scale), DO NOT TAG THE AUTHOR IN THE POST. Authors are humans too, and how would you feel if you got constantly tagged in posts of people shitting on your creation. You can write it, just don’t tag them in it. Save the tags for reviews of books you loved.
Next, I’ll close out with another thing I really liked or the author did well with. For example, I recently read A Witch Out of Time by C. Rochelle, and she did an amazing job of including multiple POVs that had their own distinct voices. As this doesn’t fall into the 4 main areas I covered before, I included it here. So really, just another thing you loved that maybe doesn’t fit anywhere else in the review.
Finally, I finish with a closing statement summarizing your overall feelings about the book, if you’d recommend it, and if you’ll be reading other books in the series (if applicable). I also like to do an “if you like X, then you’ll like this book” type statement. Try to use general themes like (if you like paranormal urban fantasy…) or popular books/authors (if you like JLA…..) This helps people relate to your content and decide for themselves.
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This got a little long, but this is how I write my reviews for my blog and for Goodreads and other review sites. I will say, I try to shorten my reviews for Goodreads, Amazon, and other retailers, as people on there are usually looking for quicker reviews, and not another novel. I’ll do a sentence for each element I listed above, and then go on a rambling spree here on my blog and link the longer post in my short reviews.
For some help, check out my Review Planning Printables over in my shop. They have a page for full reviews, and a page for Instagram or other social media reviews!
Developing Your Rating Guide
Now that you now how you want to structure your reviews, let’s talk star ratings. These are soooo subjective and different for everyone. So before you go off and start rating books, sit down and think about what each rating means for you. By defining it up front, you can be consistent and people will know what you mean when you give something a certain rating.
I use a typical 5 star rating system. But you can use anything you want. 10 star system? 5 hearts? Would re-read v. will not re-read? Own or check it out from the library? However you want to do it, that’s fine. Just think it through so you can be consistent and know what each rating means.
In the Shop: My Bookstagram Planning Printables features an entire page on planning out your rating system!
I polled some friends (shoutout to the Smutty and Nutty girls!) to get you several different ideas of how people develop their rating guide.
First, let me walk you through my star rating guide, which is a 5 star system:
5 stars – OMG SO GOOD, loved this book, will definitely re-read
4 stars – this was good, maybe one or two things I didn’t love, might re-read
3 stars – this was okay, will continue the series, but probably won’t re-read
2 stars – meh, won’t continue the series or re-read
1 star – not quite sure how I finished this, but I did, and I didn’t enjoy it
DNF – was not able to finish this book due to various reasons
Now, let’s go through my spice rating:
5 chili peppers – I need a cold shower and a fan after that; multiple explicit sexual scenes that are beyond just regular sex (think Lady of Rooksgrave Manor)
3 chili peppers – One or two explicit scenes, a lot of tension and hinting, still very hot (think this book, or the A Touch of Darkness series)
2 chili peppers – Mostly sexual tension, maybe an explicit scene that’s pretty vanilla. May or may not include P in the V (think From Blood and Ash)
1 chili pepper – Mainly just sexual tension, could include fade to black but maybe some steamy makeouts. No explicit scenes, but it’s still steamy. (think Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood)
Unless there’s a super problematic reason why I rated books 2, 1 or DNF, I will not post these on social media or retailers. I might post them on Goodreads, depending on why I rated them that way (just solely personal preference is not a reason to post them on GR in my opinion, but if there’s a huge issue that people need to know about I will post there).
From Ash (@awellreadwolf91):
* 5 stars means I loved it, I cannot stop thinking about it and want to reread it immediately! It was all I could hope for in a book and the characters will live rent free in my mind for years to come.
* 4 stars means the world building, characters, and plot were amazing. I will most likely be rereading this at some point in the future and if it’s a series I’m really* excited about the next one. Only had slight issues with the book that kept it from being 5 stars
* 3 stars means while I enjoyed the books there is things I find problematic. The story wasn’t intriguing enough to keep me completely and thoroughly engaged. Will maybe reread because it was an easy read and I enjoyed it. It’s not a book that will stick with me.
* I won’t do a 2 or 1 star review. It just feels mean if I go down that road.
From Lexi (@readsbylexi): From Lexi, we get both a star rating guide and a spice guide! This is another example of how you can really make a rating system your own.
SPICE METER – Details, kinks, edge play, long detailed scenes, enough build up to get on this chart… 🌶️/🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 – Crescent City, ACOTAR 🌶️🌶️ – ATOD, FBAA, Shadows Spark 🌶️🌶️🌶️ – ATOR, GOF, KOFAF, All The Pretty Monsters 🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️ – ATOM, ACOSF, TCOGB, Madison Kate, Hades, ROTW, WOOT, Shadows Smolder, Shadows Scorch, IPB 🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️ – DOV, Violent Tendencies
HEAT METER – Fade to black, nondescript, no p in v… 🔥 – An Empress of Air and Chaos 🔥🔥 – Kingdom of the Wicked 🔥🔥🔥 – Wicked 🔥🔥🔥🔥 – Bridge Kingdom
STAR RATING ⭐️ plagiarism, major spelling and grammatical errors , no plot, historically incorrect, misogynistic, and trash. ⭐️⭐️ not impressed, but maybe there is a character I connected with, maybe 20-30% of the story was not all that bad. Would not recommend to a friend and may donate this book. I will not post 1-2⭐️ reviews but I will tell my friends. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ neutral, not ecstatic but didn’t hate it. Maybe not my cup of tea and had some holes in the story. If it is a series, I will continue reading. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ freaking loved this book and pulled an all nighter. There was some slowness or something missing, I would definitely recommend it to anyone and will read it again. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ this story spoke to my soul! I was fully taken out of the real world and into this amazing book. I love the characters, the author is a GOD, and I read it in one sitting. This book is why I read and will force anyone I know to read it.
I will still give a 3-5 rating on books with typos or some grammatical errors.
As always, this is just an example of what other people do. Make it your own! This is your review criteria, no one else’s. I hope this helps you start writing your own reviews! If you have questions, other review writing tips, or if these work for you, drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you!