Book Reviews

How to write a tough book review. The Oreo Approach.

I love reading. It’s my passion right next to writing. I’ve been an avid reader since I can remember, starting with frequent trips to the Upland Library as a kid. Now I’m an adult with a fledgling writing career and one of the ways I keep myself supplied in free books is to write reviews.  The best mail days are the days when I receive a yellow envelope in the mail.  HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY!yellow envelope

Often times published friends will ask me to review books for them. It garners publicity for their books and allows me to offer an honest review. It’s a win win.

The flip side of the coin are times when I read a book I don’t like and I’m expected to review it. One time I couldn’t even finish a book that I was sent by a publisher. It stresses me out when that happens! I don’t like being the bad guy, but I’ve learned something important over the years while writing this blog. You trust me to give you an honest opinion and I don’t want to violate that trust.

When I’m really unhappy about a book I’ll tell you, which I had to do a few months ago and it was a bitter pill to swallow.  One of the reasons is because writing is a craft and I know it takes the author years to write their book. Who am I to come along read their book and judge it in a week? I don’t take that responsibility lightly. In fact, I give each book I read every opportunity to win me over. I want to love the characters, the story world, the ending. I want to rave about it to you. I’m not sitting in my easy chair, slippers on, red pen in hand ready to slash someone’s dreams while drinking my vanilla chai tea.

So, what happens when I don’t like a book? If I don’t finish the book, then it doesn’t get reviewed.  All the books featured on my blog are books I’ve read cover to cover. If I’ve read it and still don’t like it, then I think about the reasons why. I also pray about it. I never write a review without praying about it.

Next, comes the hardest part: writing a negative review especially if it’s for someone I know. UGH! That’s honestly the worst kind of review to write. Think of it as writing a note criticizing your friend that the whole world can read, because regardless of how you say it the author is going to know you didn’t like their book.

The best technique I’ve found for writing reviews is what I call the Oreo approach.  You open a big package of Oreos and eat half of them. (Just kidding, sort of)SONY DSC

I think about two positives that I can take away from the book. My mother says if you look hard enough you can find something nice to say, so I think about the characters, the setting, the ending, the romance, the spiritual element, etc.  I find two things I honestly like about the book.

Then, I carefully consider (for me this includes prayer) what the negative point/constructive feedback I want to make about the book. I will only point out one thing. I may look at it as the book is something outside my comfort zone or a genre I don’t normally read.  My negative isn’t an attack. My review is not a place to bash any book or author. It’s merely a place for me to give my opinion.

Now, I assemble the review. I write my first layer of positive, followed by the negative/constructive feedback, ending with a positive layer. Thus you have a Oreo.

If I feel like a review isn’t possible, then I know that a quick email to the author or publishing house representative is in order. I need to let them know that while I appreciated the opportunity to review their book, I wasn’t able to do so.

I remember when I first started writing reviews.I felt completely overwhelmed and unsure of myself. To be honest, I still feel that way most of time! Now, it’s usually because I’ve over committed myself. I love to do that to myself. It sure makes life more interesting. I’m hopeful this will help someone who is new to reviewing books. I love reviewing books and am thankful for every opportunity.

Happy Reading!





3 thoughts on “How to write a tough book review. The Oreo Approach.”

    1. Thanks, Mary! I remember when I first started writing reviews I scoured the internet looking for a how-to blog, but ended up learning on my own. I came up with this blog post after chatting with some reader and author friends on Facebook yesterday. I thought it might be helpful for someone. I appreciate your comment. I hope you have a great day!


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