How I Found My Own Style for Book Reviews
Writing book reviews can be difficult, balancing the storyline with one’s opinions and excluding spoilers is often a sharp course to navigate. If it’s too gushingly positive I worry about the hype and disappointing someone who chooses to read it based on my review. If it’s too negative I might give the impression of being a picky b*tch. (Which I am, but I don’t want you to know it!) And doesn’t it seem that books that have one problem actually have many? It’s difficult to determine if the things that bother me in a book will bother others enough that I shouldn’t recommend it, so if I really was annoyed and wouldn’t pick up anything else by the author I write something polite about the problem and give the qualifier, “It’s not for me, but.” When I am looking for new books for myself, there are about ten blogs I read where the blogger and I have very similar taste, so I rely on them, even if the review is extra gushy or negative.
Like most people, I don’t want my reviews to look and sound like everyone else’s. Many people are using the Ultimate Book Blogger plug-in which is great, but can make your review posts look the same as those at other blogs. I often revise the synopsis, cutting out spoilers or comparisons to other books and authors the publisher thinks are similar. I also played around with the layout of the basic book info to fit it into the smallest possible space instead of being one long column. I also don’t do stars or other forms of ratings like most reviewers and I try to have images that enhance the story to give readers a stronger vibe on the book.
Doing Some Research
After reading Mishma’s post about discovering her reviewing style at Chasing Faerytales, I started really reading reviews critically, not just as a source of possible books to read. I also looked for posts about the process other bloggers went through for their reviews. Shannon from It Starts @ Midnight shared her process, which is very funny and similar to mine, but tends to not get a lot done. She recommended a post by Kaitlin @ Reading is My Treasure, and I was able to get a few ideas from her. Brittany from Book Bumblings had a great post breaking down ideas for creative reviews, which gave me an idea. She suggests writing what she calls a “listicle” writing about “5 scenes that made me laugh” or “3 things I learned from this book.” I liked the idea of doing this with quotes from the book, and since I was now highlighting and taking notes thanks to Kaitlin I often had a lot of thoughtful passages to share without giving away spoilers.The Evil Overlord has found her style for book reviews. Have you? Come by & pick up some ideas. Click To Tweet
I didn’t realize when I wrote my review of Sweet Forgiveness by Lori Nielson Spielman that I had stumbled upon what would become my review style. Sometimes I write a lot of opinions and give a lot of story within the review and only have two quotes, and sometimes the entire post is quotes with brief explanations, like I did with Laura Dave’s Eight Hundred Grapes. Sharing quotes worked well with The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows because I didn’t want to give any spoilers but wanted to be sure my enjoyment of the book came across. The same with A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan, there was so much in that book I didn’t want to give away.
Since that first quote-tastic review, 1/3 of my reviews have been choc-a-bloc with quotations. It doesn’t always work, especially with books that are formulaic like cosy mysteries, poorly written or that I just don’t like, but it’s nice to feel like I have discovered a way to make my reviews stand out a little bit, without rambling or giving away spoilers. So thanks to Kaitlin for her “listicle” idea which gave me the jumping off point I needed.