It is intended that we regularly add book reviews to this page and we invite visitors to submit their reviews for inclusion. We reserve the right not to include any material that we do not think is appropriate.
The purpose of a book review is to inform, and to help the reader decide whether they want to read the book. It is, by definition opinion, hopefully informed opinion but none the less, a summary of what the book is about, but also what you, the reviewer, thinks of it.
It can be as short as 70 – 100 words, it may be a scholarly essay of criticism and analysis, and much will depend on what type of book is being reviewed and the intended audience.
In reviewing fiction the first rule must be: Do not give away the ending.
In a brief synopsis you can tell your reader enough about the setting, the main character(s), how well they are developed and the genre. You can explain what the book offers in the way of action or reflection on the human condition. You can speak about its entertainment value and whether it is escapist; entertaining for the period of reading, or memorable, without giving away the plot. It is meant to be a description of the quality of the book, an analysis of what the writer intended to achieve and how well s/he succeeded, not a retelling of the story.
There is no formula, no one way to write a review, but there are useful elements that you may like to include.
Introduce the book by author and title and if appropriate, publisher. (You may not need to mention the publisher if you are writing 100 words for your local book club but you would if it was for publication in a newspaper or magazine).
You need to mention the theme of the book, the setting and how important that is to the story. For example, if it is set in war time and is reflecting something that the writer wants to say about human conflict, courage or the futility of war, your review might say how well it does that. How well is the atmosphere created? How effectively does the description, the dialogue, the amount of detail and analysis used by the author, create empathy, engage the reader? Did the book make you reconsider your own opinions or reinforce an already held view?
How are the elements of the plot handled, for example the opening paragraphs? How are relationships, conflict, disappointment, fear and joy handled’? Is there drama, suspense and satisfactory resolution, humour and wit in the authorship? Is the language concise, fluid, appropriate for the intended audience?
Does the writer use a clear simple style or use symbolism or metaphor, allegory?
Is the story told chronologically or through flashback? Is it told from a single viewpoint or several?
Summarise briefly the reasons why a reader might enjoy the book and perhaps any reasons why they might not, for example if they do not like detailed descriptions of blood-thirsty scenes or excessive bad language.
Do say whether you would recommend the book, but remember the effort, time and dedication that goes into creating and preparing the final product for publication and do try to be fair and balanced in what you say.