Blogging Tips: Tips for Writing Book Reviews When You Don’t Have Much to Say

 
 

I love writing book reviews, for the most part. I enjoy getting to share my thoughts and opinions and feelings about books and to know that other people actually read them and even sometimes find them helpful. But I know that some people struggle. And even I sometimes come across a book for which I just… don’t know what to say.

I also remember how much I struggled to figure out how to write reviews when I first started. When I was first considering the possibility of becoming a book blogger, I tried to write this practice review, and I think it took me like half an hour to write one paragraph, and then I just gave up. I had this idea in my head that reviews had to be super professional, and I also thought the “correct” way to review was to give a kind of summary as the first paragraph?

I don’t know. But my point is that I think a post with some tips would’ve been helpful! And that is why I thought I would share some tips and ideas for all my fellow current and future reviewers :-)

 

 

Talk About the Basics

Plot, characters, world-building, pacing, romance, writing… did I miss anything? You pretty much can’t go wrong by covering all the bases (that apply, depending on the book) since these are the main things readers usually want to know about.

Was the plot action-packed? Full of twists? Did it make sense? Did it flow, or did it feel forced?

Were the characters flat, or were they complex? Were they static, or did they show growth over the course of the story? Were they flawed, or were they practically perfect? Did they make ridiculously horrible decisions, or did they make smart decisions?

Was the world-building lacking, was it super detailed, or was it somewhere in-between?

Was the pacing slow, steady, or fast?

Was there romance? Was it instalove? Was there a slow-burn? Any tropes, like enemies-to-lovers, second chance romance, fake relationship/engagement, or fated mates?

Was the writing lyrical and beautiful? Was it flowery and metaphorical? Was it simple and easy to read? Was it unique in any way?

 

Talk About How You Feel

Emotions! The emotions you feel toward a book or anything in a book can say a lot.

Did the book overall make you sad? Happy? Giddy? Bored? Contemplative?

Did you actually shed tears while reading? Or laugh out loud? Or scream something at the protagonist? Or squeal when the characters kissed for the first time?

Did you feel seething rage toward the antagonist? Did you want to give the protagonist a giant hug because you felt so bad for her? Did you fall in love with a side character? Would you date the love interest?

 

Describe Things

Instead of just talking about how you feel about things in the story, describe them. We all have different tastes, so actually describing a character’s personality, for example, is more helpful than simply saying, “I really liked the character!” (Even though I myself am guilty of doing that sometimes.)

Describe each character’s personality and what traits they have. Talk about what it is specifically that you like or dislike about them. Give examples of how they react in situations.

If a book is sci-fi/fantasy, describe the world. Maybe there’s a unique magic system that other people would find interesting. Tell what paranormal creatures are in the story. Talk about what kind of advanced technology it had. Talk about the society if it’s different from our own. If there was a unique or interesting setting in the book, mention or explain it.

If the blurb is vague or you think it’s misleading, explain what the story is about in your own words—just make sure to avoid spoilers!

 

Talk About Specifics

Sometimes you might not know what to say about the book in general, but there are specific things that stand out to you.

Were there any quotes in particular that resonated with you or cracked you up that you could share?

Did you have a favorite character or scene you can talk about (without spoiling the story)?

Was there a beautiful setting described that you wish you could visit?

 

Other Random Things You Can Talk About

Here’s a list of more random things that you could mention if they pertain to the specific book:

– Was the mystery good? Did it stump you? Did you figure it out way ahead of time?
– Was there diversity of any kind (race, culture, religion, disability, mental illness, lgbtqia)? Was it a good/accurate representation?
– Were there any non-romantic relationships explored, like friendship or family?
– Was there a lot of sex or violence? How explicit/graphic was it?
– Was the book scary/creepy?
– Did you learn anything from the book? (Maybe about space or technology if it’s sci-fi, or about whatever job/hobby the main character has.)

 

Now Put It All Together!

Just kidding. That makes it sound like we’re doing some sort of choreographed dance.

Seriously though, we all come across books sometimes that we struggle to find things to say for, but there’s always something to say, right? And it doesn’t have to be professional, just honest and respectful. And you never know what types of things might make someone interested in a book or help someone make a decision.

There’s no set length for reviews, and different people like to read reviews of different lengths, so you don’t need to pressure yourself to make your reviews longer. But next time you get stuck on a review for a book you do want to say more about, maybe some of these suggestions will help!

 
 

Talk to me!

Do you ever get stuck and not know what to say in book reviews?
Do you use any of these ideas in your reviews already?
What other tips or suggestions do you have for reviews?

 
 
 
 
 

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  1. Greg

    I went through that where I thought a review had to be a certain way, and I summarized the heck out a book sometimes. I still find myself being too mechanical at times but I’ve lightened up a bit- I think? Maybe lol? I think if anything I could spend more time on parsing out plot, characters, world building- I think I tend to be fairly general w/ that stuff and maybe I should dig deeper. IDK. :) A post like this makes me think about all that ha ha.

    I used to include quotes a lot more too. For some reason I never do that anymore.

    Great tips!

    Greg recently posted: A Beautiful Day - flash fiction

    1. Kristen Burns

      By the time I actually started the blog, I think I realized reviews didn’t have to have summaries or be any specific way. Thankfully, because that practice review I tried to write was so difficult lol. I don’t think you sound mechanical. But I get what you mean. I feel like with blogging in general I started out a lot more mechanical and have finally started just letting my natural voice show.

      I love quotes, but idk, I just use them kinda randomly in some reviews but not others.

      Thanks!

  2. Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews

    I don’t have a specific way I review, it depends on the book. Since I include the synopsis in the review, I don’t​ go over the plot again, just little details to map out the characters. I try to be very careful with the things I say, like was there a huge twist or a death or anything in particular because I don’t want to spoil but also some readers want to know before reading if a character dies or if there’s cheating etc.. the easiest to review are books in a series because I can talk about plot stuff and spoilers that happened in the previous. But mostly it depends on the book, and if I don’t have a lot to say then I’ll just post a mini review.

    Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews recently posted: FAKE BOOKS I WOULD LOVE TO READ

    1. Kristen Burns

      Funny, I find later books in a series to often be a lot harder to write since I know that people who read my blog prob haven’t read the previous books, and I wanna keep it somewhat spoiler-free for them so they can read the review too. But I don’t have a specific way that I review either, it’s just whatever works for each book!

  3. Angela

    These are all great suggestions! If I don’t have a lot to say about a book, I try to stick to the basics – a brief description of the book, the writing style, the characters, etc. I try to think of things other readers might want to know about the book, not just how I feel about it (so I try to be more objective, like the topics you mention in “other random things,” stuff you might not know about the book just from reading the synopsis but might sway you one way or another from reading a book).

    Sometimes I will just do bullet points, and that way I don’t have to write as much. And if I need to review something or really want to but don’t have a lot to say, I just do mini-reviews!

    Angela recently posted: Never-Ending Series: Yea or Nay?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! That’s a good tip too, thinking about what other readers might want to know. I try to do that sometimes, since I know that sometimes there’s something *I* want to know about books that would sway me that no one mentions, or maybe there was something kinda vague or confusing in the blurb.

      Oh, yeah, sometimes bullet points are the best. That way you don’t have to even worry about how to transition from one paragraph/point to the next lol. I do mini reviews sometimes too!

  4. Lola

    Oh this is a great list of things to ask yourself when you get stuck with a review. Luckily nowadays I usually don’t have much trouble coming up with what to write. but sometimes I do encounter a book where I just don’t have as much to say, especially with later books in some series this is the case. I’ll have to remember this post next time that happens.

    When I started with reviewing I actually wrote very short reviews and I thought being super critical was a good thing. So I mentioned every small thing that maybe could’ve been better. Nowadays I just write my reviews and focus on what comes to mind when I think of the book. There might be small things that could be better or bothered me, but I only write them if they come to mind when writing my review. If i don’t remember it by then it usually didn’t really impact my enjoyment that much or it wasn’t a big deal.

    I have a general set-up for my reviews, but often i just start writing and see what I write and what comes to mind. I like how you mentioned specifics, as while often I address general things in my review, sometimes a specific part of scene can be important to mention. And good point about describing the character as well and why you liked them. I know I do that myself sometimes, I say I liked a character, but that’s less helpful probably than explaining why. Great post! I think it’s very helpful for starting reviewers to have a few of these questions so they know where to start.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I usually have the opposite problem of having too much to say lol, but I actually did write a review the other day where I didn’t have much to say, except what I had was kinda negative and that didn’t give the right idea of the book since I enjoyed it, so it came in handy adding some more about random things I liked and whatnot. And yeah, later books in series are sometimes the hardest.

      I tend to be kinda critical I guess in that I just feel this compulsion to talk about EVERYTHING. Every little thing I liked, but also every little thing I disliked. Even the nitpicky things. I’ve been trying to maybe not include all those things? But then, when I remove them from the review, I feel like, ok, it’s maybe better for the author since nitpicky things sound really negative even when they’re usually minor and unimportant, and it’s maybe better for potential readers who don’t want to read a super long review, but it kinda makes me unhappy since this is usually my one chance to really talk about the book and so I want to say everything.

      Since I have no general set-up, some of my reviews end up talking about general things whereas others end up talking about specifics and others talk about both. It just depends on the book and what stands out to me or seems worth mentioning. I have found that sometimes specifics do really get people interested. For example I had that one review where I talked all about the one character and how he ate cat food and chased around a toy and whatnot, and even though I pointed out quite a few negative things about the book in general, people were really intrigued by the character and still seemed interested. But yeah, I sometimes do the “I really connected to this character” without explaining, but it really is more helpful if we explain. Sometimes it’s just hard to pinpoint the reason!

  5. chucklesthescot

    Some reviews are easier to write than others so for those where I don’t have a lot to say I do mini reviews which solves that problem. I do take notes when I’m reading because I have a poor memory and when I go to write the review, that gives me everyone’s name, the major incidents, funny quotes etc to refresh my memory and make it easier. For me the important thing in a review is to say WHY I liked or didn’t like it as that is useful to other readers if they are choosing books for wishlists and tbrs. I like to mention any annoying tropes and editing issues as these can often be dealbreakers for readers. I don’t write classic reviews that people rave about but I like to give an idea of what the reader can expect in the book.

    chucklesthescot recently posted: Chuckles Update: Guest Posting today!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I do mini reviews sometimes too. It’s definitely a good alternative for those books when you don’t have much to say. But for review copies, for example, I try to give a full review unless I just really, really can’t manage it. And the other day for example, I had two paragraphs written, but it sounded really negative even though I actually enjoyed the book, so I added some more about random specific things I liked to give a better indication of how I felt about the book. And I agree, it’s the WHY that’s important in reviews!

  6. kris @ lemon-notes

    Yes I feel like I am never sure what to say on EVERY SINGLE BOOK I READ because reviewing books is hard!!! It seems so easy in theory. Yeah, just talk about the plot and the characters and your thoughts and feelings and BAM review. However, my mind tends to just go completely blank??? Like, crickets being the only thing breaking the silence that is my brain when I’m trying to write reviews! w h y ?
    This all often leads to me putting them off and then forgetting a lot of relevant things and not posting anything :P

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay, I’m glad it was helpful! I actually used some of my own tips the other day when I wrote a review for a book that I didn’t think I had much to say about lol.

  7. Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium

    I really really don’t want to make fun of you being tired [u know I lave ya!] but I had to smile when I saw the title of the post because I was thinking OH K is really tired :) “when you don’t WANT to say much” :) now.. you my precious super productive and perfectionist blogger… do you realize if I did all this that would be MUCH for ME :) I was expecting a post for lazy bloggers like me! something like find a gif that says it all for you LOL! now… seriously.. Awesome post as usual! you smart creature :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      You doubted me?! But see, I knew what I was saying ;-) I was definitely not telling everyone to do all of these things in one single book review. That would be crazy long. But hey, you should totally write a post for the bloggers who don’t *want* to write much. Look at what a good friend I am, giving you ideas and inspiration! Lol. Thanks!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Aww, thanks! I agree, a summary of the plot isn’t usually helpful since I already got that from the blurb! (The exception being sometimes when a blurb is super confusing or vague.)

  8. Evelina

    Ha, I hate giving summaries in reviews. It’s not why I read reviews myself. I usually won’t give one on GR, but on my blog I will, cause there’s not a handy blurb, so it’s more relevant.

    I find that I struggle less with writing reviews if I jot down things that come to mind as I’m reading it. Then all I’ve got to do is sum it up. But unfortunately, some books can be so engrossing and an experience I just won’t write stuff down. That will be a problem when writing a review. It’s kind of why I still haven’t written one for Fifth Season :D

    My reviews almost always talk mostly about how I felt :D emotional reviewer!

    Evelina recently posted: Sunday post #6

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah I don’t give summaries in my reviews, I just thought that was what you were “supposed” to do before I actually started blogging. I do give my own kinda blurb on my blog though.

      I also take notes as I read. It definitely helps. But sometimes I don’t even find anything to take notes on. Or, yeah, I get to succeed in and forget!

      Emotional reviews are great!

      1. Evelina

        Yeah, there will be those books that you have nothing on :D those are the hardest!

        Having a special bubble on your blog for the blurb really helps! Cause then you can just guiltlessly include it, knowing that the person can skip it if they want.
        That said, my blog is still giving me trouble. I even have a friend now who agreed to help. Except my mailing function is (apparently) broken (is that actually why you have not been receiving my notifications?) So anyway, I’ve created them a user, and they can’t log in with the generated password, nor do they receive my email, nor can they reset the password (because the function is broken). Can’t give them my own password cause it happens to be an important one, and I’m afraid to change my own because the function is broken, so what if I lose my ability to log in and then nobody can log in? Jesus xD

        1. Kristen Burns

          That’s what I figure with having the blurb separate from the review. But oh gosh, I’m sorry your blog is having so many problems! If it has a malfunctioning mailing system, then yeah I would imagine that probably is why I don’t the notifications. But I don’t know anything about the mailing or password systems :-/

  9. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    These are all really great tips. I know some books are a bit more difficult to write reviews for, but reviews don’t have to be super long! There is always SOMETHING I can share. Another thing is if I don’t really like a book, I still try and point out any positives — if they had them!

    Let's Get Beyond Tolerance recently posted: Back Piece by L.A. Witt

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! I agree, they don’t have to be super long. But there have been times for me at least when I was just at a loss for what to say but I *wanted* to say more. And yeah, once you actually think about it, there’s always something that you can say. And I too still try to point out positives, even if I didn’t like the book!

  10. Karen Blue

    Sometimes when I get stuck on what to say, I break it down by like and dislike. That sometimes helps me actually rate the book cuz I can see if I liked it more than not, or vice-versa. You got some e3xcellent tips here for reviewing more about the book then just if you liked what happened. Great tips!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Like/dislike lists work perfectly sometimes! Doesn’t usually help me rate the book though because sometimes, even if I have less in one column, those have more weight to them. Thanks!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of people say they don’t like writing reviews or they struggle, but I love them! Aside from the occasional struggle with specific books, of course. And yeah, it’s always those meh books. Cuz it’s like, plot? Characters? Pacing? All were decent. But nothing stood out. So what do you say??? I share quotes sporadically. I guess sometimes quotes just seem relevant, other times they don’t. But I’m a quote lover!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah I have the same problem, my reviews are almost always too long. But that’s why I figured I’d be a good person to write this post, haha. But sometimes mini reviews are perfect! Oh, yeah, quotes should be kept to a few lines or snappy dialogue. I tend to just not bother reading quotes that are whole paragraphs. Thanks!

  11. sjhigbee

    This is an excellent article, Kristen – as it happens I regularly go back to those basics if I feel a tad stumped and that ‘I don’t know what I can say’ feeling soon disappears:). Have a great week!

  12. Olivia Roach

    If I take the time to make notes as I’m reading the book (which I often do), it usually means I have enough material to write my review. But I do struggle for some books, and like you mentioned, I usually go back to the basics and use them as my template, talking about how I felt on each one and why I felt that way!

    Olivia Roach recently posted: Pear Spice Smoothie Recipe!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I usually take notes too, but sometimes I don’t even find anything to take notes about if the book is just kind of… meh. Or good but nothing special. So yeah sometimes it’s still helpful to go back to basics or have a list of ideas!

  13. Jordon @ Simply Adrift

    Sometimes I have such a hard time writing reviews! I used to write these really long winded reviews that I broke up into sections. But as time went on I started to really dread writing reviews because it took so long and I really had to think about it sometimes. So I stopped writing reviews.

    Now I write short and sweet reviews, I split it up into two sections – What I liked and what I didn’t like. It’s just easier for me to do it that way. If I bullet point it then I don’t find them really hard to write. But that also means you definitely won’t be getting super in-depth book reviews from me, I don’t write in lovely prose, and I guess my reviews also aren’t very critical. It’s simply me just saying what I liked about the book and what I didn’t like.

    I love this list though! I know lots of people will find this super helpful :D

    Jordon @ Simply Adrift recently posted: How I fell in love with reading

    1. Kristen Burns

      Liked/Disliked works perfectly sometimes! And they’re really easy to see exactly what someone thought, so they’re definitely helpful. But other times I find it doesn’t work so well for me, like when the likes and dislikes intermingle a lot and stuff, so I just write each review however feels right.

      Thanks!

  14. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    This is (again) fantastic advice. It’s funny because I never used to have a problem writing reviews but the longer I’ve been doing it, the harder it’s gotten—which seems backwards somehow. I think it’s because I start to feel repetitive and think “What can I say about this book that’s different than the five million other reviews I’ve written?” I think this advice of going back to the basics is so valuable!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks :-) In a way, it makes sense that it gets harder because yeah, it might start to feel repetitive, like you’re just saying the same thing over and over. But really, it doesn’t matter if you’ve said the same thing since most people use reviews when they’re looking for a specific book, you know? They’re not going through all your reviews and comparing them.