Lessons Learned from Book Reviewing


Recommending a book has changed since I first became an avid reader. Once upon a time, my reaction might have been akin to something like this, “that was good,” and in turn while I was sitting around on the floor of my friend’s house, chatting, I’d have said, “you should read this book – want to borrow mine?” Today, I write a rambling 500-word review in which I debate the merits of a book, splash those thoughts across Twitter, document the reading progress on Goodreads and look for fellow readers’ opinions. How far that thirteen-year-old girl has come.

Lessons Learned from Book Reviewing. Talking about book reviewing lessons and other random thoughts. Text © Rissi JC
Lessons Learned from Book Reviewing #FWarchives Click To Tweet

Last week, a reader kindly shared with me that my review prompted her to read a book and she enjoyed the novel as a result. Then Lydia posed a question on Twitter wondering what other’s thought about “rating systems.”  This got me thinking – what do
I want to impart in a review and more importantly what do you wish to get out of a review? Earlier in the year, I saw an expert blog post on writing book reviews; it’s an interesting subject. Made me think about what I’ve been able to claim as new experiences, learning the good and bad ends of reviewing. It’s something that I claim as a “challenge” in the best sense.

In my humble experience, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to write a book review. Obviously there are the “basics,” you as a reader should consider; sharing likes vs. dislikes, cute quirks you may have laughed over in the book or a personal anecdote that happened during the reading time. Beyond that, each format is unique to each reviewer.

Here are some of the talking points I like to include and ways I’ve vacillated in how “best” to write reviews plus some “rules” I write by.

Book Reviewing Lessons

Format: This is probably the greatest challenge. Speaking from experience, you’ll have probably all noticed that I’ve used a variety of formats. From writing a strict, “full-length” synopsis in my own words followed by conclusive thoughts to dividing up the review between the pros and cons, there’ve been several revisions around here. Any way you write the review is really up to the writer, but one thing I think are important is seeing the books “stats” (i.e., the publisher, publication date or if the book belongs in
a series) and I think I prefer the “proper” publisher’s posted synopsis after a reviewers thoughts.

My goal is not only for the format to be easy to read but also easy to write, so dear readers tell me, which of the numerous formats do you prefer?

Opinions: Number one to all reviews – no matter the presentation or familiarity of the author’s and their work, is honesty. There is no way around that. It’s the first thing I tell myself when starting a new review – I try to accurately assess what I loved about the book, what bugged me and weigh the pros and cons overall. Everything I write is done so with the goal of being honest – hence the reason I may too often repeat too many of the reasons the book didn’t suit (in multiple reviews albeit a different book, re-hashing the same topic), particularly if I feel like the only reader who doesn’t like the book, it’s kind of my way of saying, in all likelihood, “it’s me, not the author.”

RELATED | Discussion: 3 Ways I Take on the Task To Clean the Blog

Looking back over some of my older reviews – as well as current, sometimes I question the validity of the words I wrote, namely those that are gushing and say nothing “bad” about the book. Each time the reacting is the same thing; it’s sincere. If a review is overwhelming with positive reactions (who doesn’t like a well-placed exclamation point – we all relate, right!? *wink*), it’s because the book genuinely inspired that reaction in me. The same goes for any reaction; the good is taken and accepted with the bad and vice versa.

Rating System: When first I began reviewing, I didn’t “rate” the book. Meaning, there’s a review but there’s no 4/5 star rating implemented. Once I begin accepting blog tours in earnest and posting reviews to Amazon and Goodreads, things changed. The “star rating” just naturally transitioned into blogging.

What do you – authors, readers, and bloggers – think of “rating” books? Is it helpful? Necessary?

Now, I’d like to open this topic – or any bookish, writing topic, for discussion. What do you, our blog reader’s look for when checking reviews of books or anything review subject? What do you, the reviewers want to impress on readers – and authors, do you like anything specific from book bloggers?

What’s your best book reviewing lessons advice? Any thoughts are most welcome! Please, the comment section is open for discussion.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Great topic!

    I want an honest opinion from the blogger. I want to know if she connected with the book. Did she like the characters? What would she rate it?

    I want honesty from the heart and definitely a rating.

    Reviews that are too professional do nothing for me.

    1. Honesty is a top priority for me too. Sometimes I feel bad about writing a negative review but I always circle back to being forthright and sharing exactly what I thought albeit kindly – or that is always what I strive for.

      I'm leaning more towards the rating. Although what the reviewer has to say is still important – particularly if its an opinion I trust – having an "overall" rating is nice. :)

      Professionalism is something I admit to "struggling" with. On one hand, I crave simplicity (with is unfussy and "plain") but I always want "welcoming" and easy-to-read for readers.

      Great thoughts, Juju! Glad you shared. Thank you.

  2. I only read reviews of books that I'm interested in reading or have already read — and in that case, I look for Goodreads reviews with similar ratings to mine (or sometimes, really low ratings, to see what I might have "missed"). I guess my method in reading reviews is much like my life in general — information gathering and analyzing what people do and don't like in fiction. I'd blame it on being a writer myself, but really it's just a quirk of mine.

    1. I like what you look for, Charity – thanks for sharing! Sounds like me, too; sometimes when I see a really low rating of a novel I adored, I'll look at with the same mentality – "did I miss something awful?" "Am I misinterpreting it?" Most the time all it comes down to is a difference of opinion – and thank goodness for that! Gotta' love variety, without it, we wouldn't all find books to love. :)

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Anon. At first, I thought I did also but since usually I am reading the review to get a trusted opinion, what I care about is that writer's opinion. That being said, your point is valid and appreciated. :)

  3. When I review on my blog I don't "rate" the book (like with stars or a 4/5 kind of thing). I've considered it, but never really got myself to do it. As a reader, when I check out reviews on amazon, I first check the ratings BUT I make sure to read what the 1,2 or 3 star reviews actually say. I've come across books that someone rated 3 stars yet said they loved it. And books someone rated 1 star simply because it was christian. So I try not to pay too much attention to the ratings but actually what people are saying.

    Tell the World

    1. Excellent point, Funto. Starting out, I didn't "rate" books either. I think for me, it transitioned into blogging because of Goodreads and Amazon. Like you say though, just because a review gives a novel 3-stars doesn't mean they didn't enjoy it. Taking your example, I don't think it's wise to down a book rating because of its branding – I'll down ratings if there is inappropriate content but not because it's a secular novel. If the writing is good, the story suits and it's a "clean" read, it gets a high rating.

      Overall, your policy is best: always "listen" to what the reviewer has to say. :)

  4. What first draws me to a review is the book's front cover and name. I don't really mind what format the reviewer uses but I do like for them to express their opinion. I once read a blog where the blogger listed the book, copied the synopsis from the book and rated it but didn't include their opinion of it. I found that to be lacking. I like reading reviews from ordinary people because I can relate to it and I know it's an honest opinion.

    I do review books for my blog too. I don't use a rating system on my blog but I do when I upload my reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. My style of reviewing is to write the review as if it's a monologue. I just find that way to be the easiest for me.


    1. That's what the attraction is often for me also, Carlyn. If there's a new book by an author whose books I already love, I seek their books out. However if there's an author I'm not familiar with and the cover catches my eye, I definitely look into that book! Guess that proves that covers should be elegant and eye-catching, right!? ;)

      Honesty is not only the best policy, it's my "number one" rule in reviewing. If I gush over a book, it had that affect on me. If I felt the story, writing or any element was lacking, I say so.

      I've read a few reviews like that too. Like you, I always look for "more."

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts – in the end, we all have different styles and most the time, that works. :)

  5. Great post Rissi!

    It's funny because the format of my book reviews have been gradually shifting as well (move the book cover to one side, add more "stat" information). My latest change was actually the result of this new guideline that book bloggers I follow on Twitter were talking about earlier this year.

    But yeah, honesty is the most important aspect of book reviewing, regardless of how you acquired the book and whether you've talked to the publishers or the writers before on Twitter or whatever.

    I actually find rating books still a little tricky, despite having more leeway with half-stars compared to GoodReads. Sometimes I'd sit there after reading a book and ask myself "Does this book really deserve a 4? But I thought so-and-so was meh, which feels like a 3 but 3.5 might be much because of this-or-that". I feel like I should do what some other bloggers have done and put up a legend listing out the details of what each rating means but I've been lazy, lol *is being a bit of a bad blogger atm*…

    1. Basically this has been one big learning curve for me. And it's been a good thing. I like to learn and every metaphorical bridge we come across, I hope that we come out having learned something new.

      (PS: thanks for that link!)

      Ditto! Being honest is number one – no matter what. Looking back at some of my early reviews (when I'm updating formats or such), I often wonder how they come across – are they "complete"? Do they sound trite or too overwhelming? No matter the choice of words, I feel each one is a fair assessment of what I thought. That's not to say that if I'd reread the book, opinions may shift, however at that time, each review is a reflection of my opinion.

      Not sure I've found ratings tricky though I totally know what you're saying. I've seen those "legends" on a lot of blogs. I suppose the rating system determines the same thing for me – if a reviewer gives the book 3 stars, that says to me that while they liked certain elements, something didn't suit or there was something nagging. A "2" rating suggests troubling material or a poorly written prose, and on the list goes (if it's making any sense! ;D). That could just be what's affixed in my mind though and obviously everyone has a different thought process.

      Really glad you shared, Lianne. Thanks bunches!

  6. Honesty in the kindest language possible is the easiest way to describe my reviews. Also, I like to tell a reader what to expect but without spoilers. And just like Charity said, I also like to know what I've missed. It's important to because it makes me a better reviewer.

    But honesty, whether it is positive or not, is number one.

    1. I like that, Miranda. Reading other's reviews and finding something you may have missed is a pro – and anything that challenges us as reviewers is an excellent thing. Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. I can definitely agree that honesty is important. And if the reviewer didn't enjoy it, be kind, be kind, be kind!

    As for ratings? I use them on Goodreads and Amazon because I "have" to. (I know I could leave them blank, but I don't really think that'd be appreciated.) And really, I don't mind them at all. I do notice them on other blogs, but more as an afterthought. I pay much more attention to the actual review.

    I also like reading other reviews for a book as a reminder of things I may have forgotten about. As Charity and Miranda said, I think doing so helps make me a better reviewer. At least I like to think so. :)

    And format? I don't usually even notice the book stats, but I do like to know the synopsis. Especially as some reviewers are much more vague in their reviews. I want to have a small idea what the book is about while reading their opinion.

    And I'll repeat, kindness is extremely important!

    1. For me, there is nothing more important than honesty. Sure, there are other properties that need to be considered in book review, but you are oh-so right, Kara; when there is honesty (kindly worded), nothing else comes close to being important.

      I actually think Amazon and Goodreads – or perhaps just one of them won’t let you post your review if you leave the stars blank…? Not sure, either way, you are right. That rating is how sites “average” the overall likability of a book so I think that does seem important to a consumer site like that. When clicking a review link, I sometimes look for the overall rating because it gives me an idea of whether or not the book is one I’ll read – if it’s an opinion I trust, naturally, I read the review regardless, however sometimes if the rating is low, I skip reading the review – especially if I’m reading the book and I don’t want a swayed opinion. (I think sometimes even when we don’t mean to or realize it, someone else’s perspective can carry though.)

      Some reviewer’s don’t really share their thoughts of the book – instead they give a generic overview and yes, in that case, a synopsis is helpful. I like including mine but I suppose I always figure that the reviewers who I actively trust always have or give the opinion I want – theirs is why I am reading so I don’t “need” the synopsis in that instance.

      Kindness is key! :)

      Thanks for adding your "two cents," Kara. I enjoyed reading your comment much-ly. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

Optimized by Optimole