Monday 18 May 2015

Writing a Book Review 101

with Cassandra Samuels

Hi everyone!

Speak to any published/self-published author and they will tell you how important reviews are. I've lost count of the number of times people have said they would love to post a review of a book but are not sure how to do it, don't know what to write, or think it is only for professional review bloggers.

 Reviews are not for authors, they are for readers. 

They help readers determine whether any author might be worth their $2.99 investment. A review can determine whether someone picks an author's book or skims on by. With over 5 million books on Amazon it can be hard for a reader to find their next favourite author.

Reviews on other platforms like Goodreads can be very helpful. If you are a reader (and let's face it, most of us are) and you are unsure about leaving a review let me put you at ease.

Amazon reviews

When you buy a book from Amazon, they kindly give you a few weeks before sending you an email asking how you liked the book. Here is your opportunity to let other readers in on your thoughts. 

The only real requirement is that you be over 13 years of age to do a review. You should be honest and respectful in your review and explain why you liked or disliked the book. You don’t have to do a summary of the book like professional reviewers do but rather just say in your own words why you enjoyed reading the book.

Was it the characters, the setting, the time period, the intriguing plot? Was the book free of errors? Did you enjoy the writer’s style, humour or emotional punch? Did it make you laugh or cry? 

Amazon to some extent tries to help by providing these three buttons.

You don’t have to use the buttons if you don’t want to. To get the stars, simply highlight the desired amount with your mouse. Then all you have to do is write about the book, trying not to include spoilers. It doesn't have to be an essay, as long as you think it might help another reader. And that is it.
You can also go to the Amazon site and do the same thing from there if you like. Amazon keeps an account of all the books you have bought.


If you have a Goodreads account it is easy to leave a review. You have two choices:

1. A starred review with no comments  
2. A review with stars and comments
When you hover over the stars it helps you to determine how many stars you want to give the book.
  • 1 star - I did not like it 
  • 2 stars – it was ok 
  • 3 stars – I liked it 
  • 4 stars – I really liked it 
  • 5 stars – it was amazing 
Of course a review with comments is more helpful for fellow readers than a starred review on its own. The same applies here in regards to being honest but not nasty. If you truly do not like a book by all means say why. Perhaps you didn't like a certain character in the book or the fact that it was filled with errors which kept pulling you out of the story. 

However, if there were any redeeming features in the book it is nice to balance a 'not so nice' review with something positive. Perhaps it had some humorous moments, or a battle scene that was exciting to read.

Here you can see that my book 'A Scandalous Wager' has 14 ratings and 7 reviews. Goodreads at a glance gives you an average rating for your book. You can see under the cover picture that you have the opportunity to hover over the stars and give any book on your list a rating. Or let the author know you want to read it by adding it to your virtual shelf by clicking on the green button below the picture.

And that my dear readers is all there is to writing a review! Remember, reviews are for you--the reader, but readers have to leave them in order to be able to use them!

 Have you hesitated over leaving a review on a book? Tell us why. Did this blog post help you to feel more encouraged to leave a review?

I love to laugh at this video of dogs failing at being dogs.

I love to love solving a story problem in the shower.

Picture courtesy of

Love to learn that I am not the only one who struggles with work life balance. under creative commons licence


  1. I love this post, Cassandra, you make book reviewing simple. I love reading other people's reviews on Amazon and Goodreads - it really helps me decide whether or not a new book might appeal to me. But like yourself, I dislike the reviews that are rants and disrespect the book - some people enjoy bringing other people down. I ignore those reviews. But I do read the sort of reviews that honestly say 'I didn't enjoy the book because of xyz, it wasn't my reading taste, BUT I can see it will appeal to others who love this genre'... Good answer! And I love reviews that sort of gush when they really did enjoy the book; their reader personality shines through

  2. Hi Malvina. Yes a review can really help a reader make that vital decision to buy or not to buy. I skip over reviews that are obviously not helpful. Isn't it amazing how their reader personality really does shine through when they gush over a good book.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank Nicole. I'm always surprised by how many people shy away from reviews simply because they are not sure how it works.

  4. Thank you for this Cassandra! I have to admit I've been a bit worried if I was really the person to write a Goodreads or Amazon review! I had always assumed they were for established critics/reviewers. And then there was the issues of technology...I assumed it would be soooo much harder than it actually was! With your direction, it was all made so simple!!! Thank you!!

    1. You're welcome Dee. Yes a lot of us have felt the same way but it is a lot easier than people seem to think.

  5. A really helpful post, Cassandra. You make it sound so easy! I'm so wary of doing reviews - I worry that if I make any slightly negative comment (no matter how nicely-put) the author will be hurt by it. Maybe I should just stick to writing reviews of books I absolutely love?

    1. PS: the dog video made my day. :)

    2. Hi Marilyn. Yes it can be hard to decide what to write on a review if you didn't particularly like it. In that case I think just doing reviews on books you love is a sound idea. Other readers will still benefit from your review that way.

  6. Keeping in line with the topic of reviews...

    Why not sign up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge...all you have to do is read a book (or more) by a female Australian author and/or write a review on your blog. For more details go to the Australian Women Writers Challenge blog at

    1. What a great way for readers to find lots of new Australian authors. Their next favourite author might be just the next click away.

  7. Great post. The other secret is to let readers know that a review does not have to be an essay. A simple 'I loved this book' is enough to show the world you really enjoyed a great read.

    1. Exactly Sasha. They don't have to do a summary of the book in order to leave a review just why they loved it. Simples.

    2. I really dislike reading a summary of a book - for me it takes away from the enjoyment of the story unfolding.

    3. I agree, Marilyn. A good review should briefly intro the book then give an opinion - but *never* a spoiler!!!!

  8. Informative post, Cassandra. I'm in full agreement that reviews should focus on whether you enjoyed the book or not and why, giving valid reasons. I do read reviews but avoid negative comments that don't focus on the writing.

    1. I think that sometimes negative reviews can work in the favour of the author. I know that sounds strange but if one person says they didn't like a book because the sex scenes were too hot for them then another reader may think - I love reading hot sex scenes - and then go and buy it.

      What I don't like to see in reviews is when a reviewer takes their dislike of the book and takes it out on the author. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but that kind of thing doesn't help other readers to decide on whether to buy a book or not. Therefore it is not helpful.

    2. Don't people say all publicity is good publicity...?! But still, some people are negative for the sake of it. Trolls, IMHO.

    3. Very true and they can be a real problem.


We love getting comments. Why not leave one?!