Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Girls Don’t Cry: Writing Reviews

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Book Girls Don’t Cry is a weekly feature where we each discuss/vent/advise on the chosen weekly bookish topic. Don’t miss Jenni on Mondays, and Amy on Saturdays:


All Those Reviews That I Write!

A few weeks ago we posted our habits for reading reviews, this week we decided to do one about writing reviews. We all have our own styles and habits, and I actually find it very interesting how others go about writing reviews so differently, too. Like, I’m in awe when someone can read a book and write a review months later. Or how some have the most difficultly with 5 star reviews.

Let’s start with that, actually: reviews that are the hardest to write. The most often I hear is people who find it hardest to write reviews for books their really loved, and for those they truly hated. This is actually the exact opposite of me. Books that I truly loved or hated have me passionate on either side of the totem pole. It’s when I can find the most to say about a book either by gushing or complaining. I have all of these emotions stirring in me and it gets my review juices flowing so easily. My love/hate for the book needs to be shared urgently! RAWR! For real, I even get all giddy when I write 5 star reviews! When it comes to writing 3 star reviews, however…. meeeh. I wasn’t blown away by anything in particular, it just was, that is all. Those reviews are the most difficult to come up with things to say for my review. Most of the time I feel like they’re robotic and repeat a lot from my other reviews of the same genre/rating. They don’t have a caused-by-passion motivation, if you know what I mean.

When do you find yourself writing a review for a book? Does it need to be immediately after turning the last page? Do you let it sit for a day or 2? Or do you wait so long you’ve forgotten the minor details? I prefer writing mine right away and in most cases I do – at least within 3-4 hours of finishing a book. If I let it sit more than 2 days, I find my reviews suffer. Not only does my terrible memory get the best of me, but the emotions that the book brought to the surface are long simmered down. I also usually have at least 2 books on the go, a 3rd when I have an audiobook, too, so if I wait too long some books tend to blend together – especially when the genres are similar (it’s why I try to mix up the books I read together). Only once did I get lazy and kind of forgot to review a book, then when it got time to get it posted on the blog for the release day I could not remember a single thing about it. Even after a long chat with someone who had just finished it, it was as if I hadn’t even read it at all. Ironically, the book was called Unremembered.

As far as actual content, I add in mine what I’d want to know if I was a reader checking if a book would be to my liking. This varies from book to book and genre to genre. For instance, with a contemporary I’ll talk more about the emotions and relationships, but a zombie book will have me talking about plot and pacing/suspense etc – what I deem important for fellow readers to know. I’m personally not a fan of reviews that reads more like a very long synopsis – it’s fine if that’s your review style, I just prefer to know very little about the actual story beforehand. As such, I try to include no more than a quick sentence or two about the story-line; just enough so that you can situate yourself for the review. Then I will do a break down of the character and world building, the writing, the pacing, the plot as a whole, and anything that stands out or feels important to formulate expectations. As for length, I’ve noticed mine are normally 500-700 words. I try to get to the point and keep them in that range because I feel an overly long review would cause more skimming and might become a little overwhelming. Though I rarely notice the length when I read others’ reviews – I’m just anal when it comes to my own I guess >.<

The hardest part about writing a review – the very first, and the very last sentence! Those suckers don’t always come easy!


How do you go about writing reviews?


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XOXO, Book Girl

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

Latest posts by Giselle (see all)

32 Responses to “Book Girls Don’t Cry: Writing Reviews”

  1. Bethzaida (bookittyblog)

    I’m so lazy when in come to writing reviews! But if I really hated the book then I have a lot more to say about it. It gets a little bit more complicated when it comes to books that I loved. I sometimes get a little bit intimidated and feel I won’t do justice to the book. I agree with you about 3 stars books! It’s so hard to write reviews for them! Great post Giselle!

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’m exactly like you too. I find it easy to write reviews for books I love or hate (there are exceptions), but writing down my feelings for a 3 star book is the worst. I never really know what to say and I’m pretty sure all my 3 star reviews are like the same thing repeated.
    As for when I write reviews, it usually depends. Sometimes, I’ll take a couple of days to write it down because I need to think over what my feelings are but sometimes, I immediately need to start it after I finish writing it. Then there are times I’m super lazy and will wait at least a month to finish a review.
    I mentioned this in Jenni’s review, but I have a huge problem with the lengths of my reviews. I try making them short, but I always feel like I left out stuff, so I keep on adding stuff. That’s one thing I really need to learn.
    Anyways, fabulous post, Giselle! 🙂

  3. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    Hardest: It’s books that bored me that are hardest to rate. All I want to say is ZZZZZZZ, but I have to dive into just why the book was so boring, which is boring and I just want to move onto a book that is not boring.

    IMMEDIATELY AFTER is when I write it. Sometimes I finish an audiobook when I’m not home, but I write the review the moment I get back. You read very similarly to me, with two books on the go and maybe an audio! Bahaha, Unremembered. That one was so boring.

    Lol, you and Jenni with your 500-700 words. Mine are probably 700-1000 usually? A few are shorter and a few are closer to 2000, because sometimes I need to have an epic rant. *glares at Sever and Wasteland*

  4. Wendy @ Escape Into Fiction

    For the most part, I write similar reviews. I find that by adding the synopsis (from goodreads or something), it’s usually enough of a recap without me adding more to the recap. I like to focus on things I look for in a review as well…what’s going to entice me to read that book. Characters and plot development are my biggies, so I tend to gush or complain more about those than anything else. 1-star and 5-star tend to be the easiest…fortunately I’ve not encountered many 1-stars and those usually end up becoming DNF’s for me. It’s the 2-star to 4-star range that is usually the hardest because with 2-star I’ve really got to come up with evidence of why I just couldn’t get into that book and with 4-star, evidence to show why I liked it but didn’t like it enough for it to be 5-star worthy. 3-Star is a nightmare because it’s so…in the middle…that it’s hard to express why I rated it there.

    Great post, Giselle! 🙂

  5. Ayanami Faerudo

    It’s also the same with me. I also find it easier to write reviews for books that are on the extremes of the ratings scale. There are just so many things to rant or rave about.

    Furthermore, I recently found that it is easier to write reviews right after you read a book since all my feelings are still raw. When I let time pass (hours or days) then I get lazy and just come up with “asdfghjkl@#$%! – in a good/bad way.” LOL

  6. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    I used to write my reviews right away, or as soon as possible after finishing, like the next morning. I don’t always do that anymore. I also used to be a note taker, then stopped. I tried to get back into it, but I find it disruptive to my reading. I am fortunate to have a good memory so it’s easy for me to write a review a week or two after reading a book. I also like to sit and think for a few days because sometimes my opinion will change when I think about it. Great post babe!!

    AHHHH OMG!!! 2 DAYS!! ONLY 2!!!! SQUEE!!!

  7. Chene Sterckx

    I usually make a note or 2 while I am reading the book, either on my phone or draft posts. In the synopsis I add one or 2 things more that the ones they provide on Goodreads or the back of the book, the things that stood out to me in the beginning. Since I am still a newbie at blogging I haven’t written a 5 star review yet, but so far the note taking here and there helps when I put it all together at the end. I write the review as soon as I have finished the book and I usually leave the review for a day or 2 after I have written it, before I post it 🙂

  8. Whitley

    The hardest for me are the ones I like but don’t love. If I love a book, it probably did something unique or trend-bucking or otherwise worthy of comment. If I liked something, then it probably…just failed to suck.

    Even ones that I’m ‘meh’ on I can generally find stuff to talk about, but how do you make a review out of “it didn’t do anything to make me angry. And…yeah.”

    • Giselle

      Bahahahaha it failed to suck!! I’m the same. I have the hardest time with 3 stars but even some 4 stars where I liked it but it wasn’t anything mind-blowing you know. There’s just not much to say about them.

  9. Tammy

    I actually find that books that I love are the hardest to write reviews for! I know that’s opposite from what you find, but I think it’s because I loved the book so much, I want to do it justice by writing a fantastic review. And so I stress over every word! (I am also thinking in the back of my mind that the author might read the review and I want it to be good).

    I completely agree with you on timing, though. The longer I wait to write the review, the harder it gets.

  10. Megan

    I also write my reviews asap after finishing a book. Otherwise I’m too excited about my next book to devote enough mental energy to writing a review about the previous book, especially if it’s in the 3 star range. Those are the toughest for sure.

    I love learning more about other people’s review styles!

  11. Kristin@Blood,Sweat and Books

    I write reviews within a few hours of finishing the book. If I wait to long I feel my reviews suffer plus if the book isn’t very memorable I might start forgetting details. The easiest reviews for me to write are for books I hate. It’s the meh books that I find tough or books I liked but didn’t necessarily love as much as I hoped

  12. Savannah

    Oh man…this is gonna to be hard to answer. It all depends on how I feel about the book. If it blows me away, then I need to sit down and write all that’s in my head down immediately. Other times, I do let it stew in my minds for a few days before I can gather my thoughts and feeling towards it and get it out all clearly for everyone to understand.

  13. fishgirl182 @ nite lite

    i have a really hard time writing reviews. the easiest though are probably the ones that i didn’t love or at least had some issues with. i feel like i have something to talk about. reviews for books i love can sometimes be hard because i can’t always explain why i loved it. or else i just want to fill it with !!! and words like “awesome.”

    sometimes i write reviews right away. but more often than not, i write them later. i have to think about the book for a while and formulate my thoughts. i take a few notes while reading so it’s not too hard remembering things. but sometimes it has been a while and i find that the small details will escape me.

    i wish i wrote reviews faster. my review rate is only about 1/3 of my reading rate. yes, slow reviewer.

  14. Megan (Ink Skies)

    I always envy those people who’re able to organize their reviews and make them sound coherent, because I have the HARDEST times doing that! I’m pretty much a perfectionist, so it gets hard to dish out reviews as frequently as some of the book bloggers around do. But ugh, I can definitely relate. The easiest reviews for me to write are for the books I really, really disliked. Like, I could go on ranting about them for pages, but have to stop myself because I know that’d be selfish and no one would appreciate it anyway, haha. The hardest kinds of reviews to write would be those I’m on the fence for. I have to show just the right amount of dislike and like so that my readers can get some kind of idea how I felt about the book. Which is SUPER hard, let me tell you. Most of the time I end up babbling like a half-assed idiot.

    As for when I write usually write reviews: I usually like waiting a week or so for the story to sink in, because I’m quite fickle-minded, and I tend to feel differently about a book than when I just finished it. So I let myself think it over, change my ratings if I like, and get my thoughts into order before writing the review. YES. Those people who can write reviews like a month later are superheroes, seriously! I suffer from book amnesia, so it’s either (a) an incoherent account or (b) no review at all.

    Oh, the sufferings of a book blogger… 😉

  15. ShootingStarsMag

    One thing I need to do with my book reviews is write more quicker after I finish the book. I often read more than one book at a time as well, and while they don’t always mix together in my head…I will forget little things I wanted to say in my review if I don’t write it fast enough. Sometimes life just gets in the way, etc.


  16. Millie Dixon

    Oh, I am the absolute worst when it comes to writing reviews. I’m such a procrastinator and I won’t end up writing a review until months later, but surprisingly, once I start writing the review, I do a pretty good job at remembering what I did/didn’t like about the book and etc. I start my review with the narrator or the main character, then, if it’s a romance, I go on to talk about the love interest and the romance dynamics, and if it’s a fantasy or something, I talk about the action, then the pacing and world building.And then both reviews end with the writing. Now, my reviews may vary, but that’s the general format I stick to. 🙂 Great discussion!

  17. Jen

    Giselle, I have the same reviewing tactics as you! I love writing reviews where I’m extremely passionate (or dispassionate) about the book. I LOVE WRITING IN ALL CAPS, YOU SEE? But as for timing, I literally have to write the review right after I finish, where my thoughts and feelings are strong and present. I can’t start a book without writing it first! I agree with you about having a review that has very minimal synopsis-ing. Loved this discussion post, Giselle!

  18. Christina @ Christina Reads YA

    “Like, I’m in awe when someone can read a book and write a review months later.” <– Have to do that soon. I need to get better habits and just write my review from the very start. I'll probably even have to skim the ARC again to jog my memory.

    "Books that I truly loved or hated have me passionate on either side of the totem pole. It’s when I can find the most to say about a book either by gushing or complaining." <– Also true. If a book can inspire emotions in me, then I'll already know what #5s, 6, & 7 will be in my list reviews. If it doesn't, I'm like… oh crap. What can I include here? Uhhhhhhhh.

    "Not only does my terrible memory get the best of me, but the emotions that the book brought to the surface are long simmered down." <– So true. The reviews people have most commented on and liked from me are the ones I wrote soon after because they're thorough and I'm sure the emotions make our writing better.

    "I also usually have at least 2 books on the go, a 3rd when I have an audiobook," <– I always am in awe of people like you who can juggle so many books at once o.O. It dims my enthusiasm for the others if I do that.

    Lol at the Unremembered story.

    "I’m personally not a fan of reviews that reads more like a very long synopsis – it’s fine if that’s your review style, I just prefer to know very little about the actual story beforehand." <– Me too. And a lot of them, as Jenni wrote in her discussion post, have spoilers!

    "I try to get to the point and keep them in that range because I feel an overly long review would cause more skimming and might become a little overwhelming." <– Heh. This is a constant fear for me. I actually do think most people skim mine because list format makes it easier for them, but I can't help it. I write long reviews and I write long comments and even if there are some who skim, I'm writing them for my own personal satisfaction – it's as you said. You want to keep yours in a specific range; I have to get mine to the point where I would feel convinced as a reader.

    OMG the blurbs / summary statements lol. When I first started blogging, if there was a "meh" book and I got lazy, I just didn't even include one o.O. And The earlier reviews have last sentences like "6+s, go buy this book!" That's really helpful, I know.

  19. Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

    This is such a lovely post, Giselle, and I was just thinking about posting something about writing reviews on my own blog, haha. 😉 I agree about the difficulty of meh reviews, there’s just nothing to really SAY about those. Normally, those are the books I end up doing mini-reviews for, or don’t even review at all.

    Lol, I’m so lazy when it comes to writing reviews. It’s awesome that you can write a review right after finishing a book! I can only WISH that I could do that. I always end up waiting forever to write a review. What I do these days is keep a small bulleted list of the things I liked/didn’t like about a book, so when I do go back to write a review (which is normally at least a few weeks after finishing it), I know exactly what to write about. I don’t really find that my emotions are decreased THAT much, but I suppose it would be better if I wrote them earlier. If I have a list of what I liked/didn’t like, then I find that I can find the emotion I had about a book pretty easily. I really want to stop writing these reviews so late after reading the books, but I find that I can’t write a review about a book RIGHT after I read it. My ideas have to peculate, which normally takes a few days to a few weeks. By then though, I just procrastinate on my reviews. =P It’s a never ending problem. Le sigh.

    So yes, now we know that Aneeqah has some big issues with procrastinating, haha.

    Awesome discussion post, Giselle! <3

  20. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I really do try to get my reviews written right away…or I did, until I read too much and got too far behind. *sigh* Now, I usually have to flip back through the book to remind myself of character names and the basics, though everything comes back once I do that. I do love when book reviews just flow out of your fingertips!

  21. Charlotte K. Fiel

    We’re the same, Giselle. Once I finished a book, I write the review straightaway (30 minutes-2 hours after reading the book). There are some exceptions to that rule though. I just started blogging last April but I have posted some reviews for books that I have read 2-3 years ago. This happens when I’m confident enough to write a review because the story is still very vivid to me.

    And about the length of the review: It is still a challenge to me. I really want to write 300-400 words review but I can’t seem to do it. I felt that it lacked something. But on the other hand, when I look at my long reviews, I think it was long winded. >,< I know, I am lost.

  22. Eileen @ ***Singing and Reading in the Rain***

    I also try to write reviews right after I read the books so it’s fresh and my mind, especially with three-star book reviews, since I feel so meh about them and I don’t know what exactly I loved but I didn’t know exactly what I hated. I find that five star reviews are harder to write than one star reviews, since finding things wrong with a book is so easy compared to finding things you love. But I totally get what you’re saying, if only my thoughts were so easy to sort out. >.<

    Fantastic post, Giselle! <33

  23. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    I find it hard to write reviews for ‘meh’ books as well, and sometimes 1 star books. I mena, sometimes I get really excited about throwing all my RAGE onto a post and sometimes a book drains all my energy and hate for writing a review.

    Epic post, Giselle! <33

  24. Shannelle (The Tracery of Ink)

    Since I’m very busy in the weekdays, reviews have to wait until the weekend. And even then, I can’t get it finished until two to three weeks later. Mostly because I put off adding the data.

    But for books that I hated or loved, it’s much faster. It’s like I can’t wait to share the love or the hate!

  25. Livia @ Butterfly-o-Meter Books

    I kind of thought up a structure for the reviews, like 5 bullet points to talk about, so writing reviews (aka sprawling rants, lol) or the more compact, shorter versions comes easier than it did a while back. It doesn’t really matter how much I loved the book because the structure of the bullter points helps me make my points on what I feel is important to someone who’s looking for info on that book but without being told the story. Of course I’m more enthusiastic when I loved that particular book, but in terms of writing the reviews, it’s easy for any of them, even the DNFs.

    I tend to write the reviews the next day after reading the book, or within a week from reading it the latest, when the impressions are still warm but not “hot” from just having finished, lol.

  26. Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley)

    I never write reviews immediately after finishing the book, but that’s usually because I just can’t – I’m rarely by my computer when I finish a book. I’ve always already gotten my “template” for my review started, though, so all I have to do is put in my actual thoughts, so when I do sit down and write my review, it isn’t a very long process and I can focus on my thoughts rather than building the entire blog post. I build the blog post – cover, info, etc – when I start reading the book or maybe just before.

    As far as length of reviews – mine are long. My review today, for example is about 2000 words but that doesn’t include the little list at the end. I’m not really sorry about the length, though, because people have a choice on either reading my “Three-Things” or my paragraph thoughts or my list at the end. Different people read a different combination of those things and some read the entire post. It’s just what works for me and it’s easy for people to glaze over and pick out what parts they want to read if they don’t want to read the entire thing. I like it that way. I also tend to prefer longer reviews on other blogs rather than like one or two paragraphs.

    Whether or not a review is hard to write can be for a bazillion different reasons. Sometimes the reason is spoilery and I’m having a hard time shifting my thoughts without putting a spoiler in, so it takes me a longer time to get the review out. Sometimes I just love the author or book so much that my thoughts are just JUMBLED. When I love a book, you can really tell though because I have allcaps like crazy and I really gush, and I don’t mind that either, because I tend to talk like that in real life.

    Fun topic today. (:

  27. Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed

    My reviews for books I hate are my longest because I tend to get a little bit (okay a lot) ranty. The meh reviews are the hardest because it’s hard to pinpoint what I liked even though it just didn’t work for me. Luckily I DNF most of these so I don’t have a lot.

    I actually write my reviews backwards. The first paragraph I write always gets moved to the end and the last one always gets moved to the beginning. I don’t do it on purpose but it always ends up that way.

    As far as reading reviews as long as they don’t have spoilers I’m not too picky. I like reading quotes. Helps me get a feel for the book/characters.

    Have fun in Boston with Amy!

  28. Catherine (The Book Parade)

    Thanks so much for posting this, Giselle – writing reviews is such a fundamental part of book blogging, so it’s really good to hear thoughts from different people about how they tackle it, especially because I sometimes find writing reviews quite hard.

    I’m exactly like you in that I find the reviews for books that I loved or hated the easiest to write! I feel like I just have so much more to say for those, and the thoughts flow much more easily. However, when it comes to a ‘meh’ book…well, that’s all I have to say, really…’meh’.

    And, yeah, ‘meh’ does not a good, or even whole, review make.

    I also have problems with organisation – I really should write my reviews very soon after I finish reading the book, but I often find myself leaving a few days, which grows into a week, and then a few weeks…by which time I’ve forgotten half of what happened. Or, if it was just a ‘meh’ book, ALL of what happened, and probably the names of most of the characters too :/ And then I find it quite challenging to write reviews, although I guess I only have myself to blame for that *sigh* However, I hear that a lot of people write notes whilst they read a book, so since this is not something I already do, I plan to give this a try.

    So, anyways, this was a great post, and it has been really interesting reading some of the comments people have posted here! 😀

  29. Gina @ My Precious

    I’m like you I really like to post my thoughts shortly after reading the book or otherwise I forget what moved me or failed to impress me about the book. I usually use goodreads to get down my initial thoughts. Then I copy and paste to blogger and refine it over the next couple of weeks, posting the review closer to the review date. I totally agree with you on books which were just meh. I do struggle with what I want to bring to the attention of potential readers. Sometimes I start by focusing on what element of the story I like best, this seems to get the creative juices flowing.