How to Write a Review

Authors need reviews. We need to know that our time behind the computer screen matters. A good review is like warm, gooey chocolate—savored and enjoyed. A poor review is like a water balloon to the face—it hits like a rock and soaks you with chills from head to toe. You might dry quickly, but it’s hard to forget.

That’s why, personally, I never give less than a four star review. I know how hard it is to write a book. I know how long it takes. I understand the dedication and discipline.

I think of the star ratings as a report card.

5 stars an A

4 stars a B

3 stars a C

And so forth.

If I think a book is less than a 4 star, I keep those thoughts to myself.  Unless I really hated the book, then I might spout off.  I think I’ve done that once. If I find mistakes, but still enjoyed the story, I will find a way to let the author know, because I know how easy it is to fix mistakes.

As a reader, I don’t believe that an author owes me a thing. This is especially true in today’s world of free, or nearly free, books. Every story is a gift that someone took the time to share. If I wanted to be a part, I stayed to read. If not, I put the book down.  Life is too short to waste time reading something I don’t love.

For some, writing a review is hard, and for those who struggle, here are a few basic templates. Fill in the blanks.

For a romance:

I _____ (loved, liked, enjoyed, relished, adored, savored) this story. I found the hero ______ (scrumptious, delish,  yummy.) And the main character was ______ (delightful, brave, heroic, charming.) The plot kept me _____ (riveted, captivated, enthralled.) I found the dialogue ____ (witty, entertaining, heartwarming.) I thought I would swoon when______. And I was sad, but happy, when it was over.

For a mystery:

This story kept me _____ (on the edge of my seat, awake all night, captivated.) I thought the main character was _____ (resourceful, clever, ingenious.) The plot twists kept me ______ (in constant suspense, tied up in knots, in a sweat.) And when I close my eyes, I imagine the villain _____ (coming at me with a knife, lurking in dark corners, leering at me from the shadows.) I love it when the good guys win!

For a fantasy:

I found this world to be _____ (totally believable, fascinating, mesmerizing.) I loved the ______ (magical, legendary, mythical) characters and their quest for the_____ (mysterious, elusive, fabled) ______.

For a literary novel:

I found this story _____ (haunting, heartbreaking, inspiring.) The message stayed with me for days and colored my perspective in new and _____ (life-affirming, provocative, meaningful) ways. Because of this book, I now see life ______(differently, with a fresh mind set, with more compassion.)

The literati take reviews very seriously, but you are free to _____ (extoll, laud, praise, applaud.)

Or not.

Here are snippets of three of my favorite reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars

I read this through the night. As I read kept reading, I lost all track of time and only resurfaced at the end. I can’t wait to see more adventures from this set of characters. Well done!

This review is from: On Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent (The Beyond series)

Buy now:

5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling and fun historical romance

I thoroughly enjoyed Ms.Tate’s book. From the very start I was held spellbound by Mercy’s adventures. From beginning to end I was captivated by the suspense and romance.

This review is from: Stealing Mercy (Seattle Fire series)

Buy now:

5.0 out of 5 stars fast becoming an author for me to watch for in the contemporary mystery genre

In the second book that I have read from this author, she is fast becoming an author for me to watch for in the contemporary mystery genre. The Rhyme’s Library is a clever murder mystery, rife with family and small-town secrets and an engaging, intelligent heroine at its center.

From The Rhyme’s Library

Buy now:

Author friends, do you have a great review? Please share! Feel free to leave a buy link.

35 thoughts on “How to Write a Review

  1. Great job, Kristy. Book reviews should only be a few lines not a book report.

    Want to make your favorite author do the happy dance on the ceiling? Go write a nice review! And as for those bad reviews… Most are laughable if you’ve read the book. I think most of us could write a blog post on why bad reviews should be ignored.

    Here’s one of my favorite reviews on COMING OUT OF HIDING
    WARNING: This book was not written for an immature reader.

    International buy link for Amazon:

    5 STARS Highly Recommended
    This is the second book I’ve read by this author. She seems to have a knack for creating self-contained domestic worlds which draw me in so completely that when I resurface from a long reading session, I feel quite disoriented and out of place in the real world. That to me, has to be the chief sign of an excellent story-weaver.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really love your comments about not writing a book report. As a reader that’s not what I am looking for in reviews.

    For my own work, my favorite review has been from Carly’s Book Reviews:

    “STARLING is a reader’s treasure that completely engaged me from the very beginning. I found myself talking to my kindle, offering advice, yelling, cringing, cheering and processing each emotional experience as if it was my own. The realities of life, love and self discovery that are presented in this highly character driven story are exceptional. STARLING is well written and develops at a slow but steady pace that perfectly complements its raw emotionalism. I was thrilled with this first offering in the Love in Los Angeles series and am eagerly anticipating further additions by this exciting writing duo!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My romantic comedy mystery, Temporarily Employed, has a nice review:Hattie Cooks is just like most of us. Bad luck follows her around, she has embarrassing moments in front of the opposite sex, and of course her dream job is out of reach. Allan Wellborn is the geek turned Prince Charming…with a few hiccups of his own. His Detective skills are a little off when it comes to the Girl of his dreams. He will need a little bit of luck to rescue his damsel and show her that life isn’t always turning out wrong. This book is filled with laughter, tears, suspense, and romance. You get a little of everything to enjoy yourself.
    And find it at Amazon:

    Thank you so much for allowing me to post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your philosophy and as an author, so appreciate you posting templates for those who struggle with writing reviews. I feel lucky and blessed that my Teen Wytche Saga, a series of sweet Young Adult paranormal romances, has garnered many positive reviews. My fourth book in the series, Spell For Sophia, launches in November. I will link you blog post in my appeals for reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! Thank you for the templates examples!
    The very first thing that comes to my mind regarding a review is the Latin maxim : De gustibus non est disputandum, “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes.” Yes, it depends on someone’s taste and not only. A story may find approval and praise and a five star review from someone and then a lot of criticism and a two or even one star review from somebody else. I deeply agree with Kristy. As an author myself I know what it means and do not give less than 4 stars in a review.

    A fragment from one of the 5star reviews I received for my paranormal romance Shadows of the Past.
    There are so many things I loved about this novel that I don’t even know where to start. First, I must say that Genevieve’s heart-breaking story was my favorite part. Carmen Ştefănescu draws a beautiful, realistic picture of Medieval England, when people’s superstitions led to the persecution of wise healers who were considered witches. The legend of the cursed forest is absolutely fascinating, with its red-eyed ghost dogs, the stream with clear, cold water that turns into tar at night and the unsettling stillness of the trees… The cursed forest took everything from Genevieve… will it also hurt Anne? And what exactly is the connection between the two? Even though by the end of the book I kind of guessed what the mysterious bond was about, the author still did a great job at building the suspense and leading to a resolution that the readers will be grateful for. After all, we all want happy endings, and Carmen Ştefănescu delivers hers in a unique, surprising way.

    I also loved the fact that I could relate to the characters and Genevieve’s tragic destiny really made me sad, which is a great thing! It’s always a plus when the author manages to make the reader cry and laugh at the same time with the characters. This proves insight and great writing talent. While Genevieve is a frail young woman who cannot achieve her happiness because of the society she lives in, Anne is a strong, determined woman who always takes matters into her own hands.
    Buy link: Wild Child Publishing

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! I struggle with writing reviews myself. I tend to write reviews right when I finish the book, and usually my thoughts are a jumble of “so good! more please?” Having a template is a great idea!

    My favorite review that I’ve ever received comes from my new adult romance novel “First Man.” It’s short but sweet, and I walked around with a silly grin on my face for the rest of the day when I read it.

    “I’m a romance novel addict. Often that leads to tolerating poorly written books just for the romance. Ava Martell is a story teller. She writes with metaphor, intelligence and a truth that speaks to your soul. “First Man” is a beautiful story and a wonderful stand alone romance. I’d be happy to read it over and over again.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Kristy! The templates will be a huge time saver. 🙂 I won’t leave a bad review either. If I really don’t like a book, I don’t post. As you said, I simply keep those thoughts to myself.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I so needed this post! Most of my reviews just include a gif. 🙂

    I love when people show post-reader excitement for my books. Like this review for SLEEPY HOLLOW.

    5 STARS
    By Linda Lou “LinLou” – See all my reviews
    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: SLEEPY HOLLOW (Kindle Edition)
    I could not put this book down. Kept me going till all hours of the night, partly because I was pretty creeped out (bonus)!


    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m glad you blogged about this because readers really do want to know. I reprint my post about How to Write a Reader Review once every quarter, and it never fails to get hundreds of views. I love your fill-in the blank format. Next time I run my How To Review post, I’ll put a link to this, Kristy. Good job.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent post. I can write a full length novel, create fantasy worlds, but writing a review gives me writer’s block. Thank you for the tips.

    Here’s my favorite review because she gives a bit of detail on what/why she likes the novel and even hints to the reader to look into another book in the series :
    5 Stars
    Miranda have been hunting evil all her life, intend to stop it from spreading. Prince Landon receives news of a female brave and skilled enough to kill the evil undead that plagues his land. Ignoring his father’s orders to stay inside the castle and out of danger, Landon rides to find this amazing warrior and ask for her assistance. But what Landon doesn’t know, is that this evil intend to stop the destined four of the prophecy, and he was smack in the middle of it. Miranda is confused about her sudden interest in the human Landon. Afraid to suffer heartache again, she stays away from him. But when their lives are in danger, it’s Landon that her heart calls for. Can they stop the evil warlock protégé, from rising her father from the dead?

    As always the adventure is thrilling and amazing. Andrea take the readers for another wild ride in the second addition of the Legends of Oblivion Series. This time the plot is more focus on Brock’s lost sister Miranda and Prince Landon. As they struggle to reach the protégé and stop her evil plans, their lives and hearts are entwined more and more. Miranda’ scared to fall in love again, tries her best to stay away from the new handsome human male, but the more they survive together, the more her heart deceives her. Landon is the strong and hero character just like Brock. Determined to find the weakness in Miranda’s defense he calmly waits for her to turn to jelly for him. Andrea skill to keep her readers glued to the pages, have improved even more. I was sucked into this one just like the first. With an amazing plot and endless twist and turns, I can only imagine what she has in store for us with the next ride. Make sure to read Cursed in Shadow – Book 1.5, to catch some interesting detail of how Brock finds his long lost sister. Well-deserved 5 stars from me. – Eclipse Reviews

    Buy link:

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is one of my favorite reviews. It was written for my 2nd novel, TRAPPED. One of the reasons I like it is it doesn’t give plot info AND it lets me know how the reader responded to my book. It tells me that the emotion I was trying to create in the reader worked. Loved knowing that. Here’s the review by Louise:

    I had intended to give this book away & thought I would read a little first & see what I thought. Before I was 1/4 of the way through, I said, “No way am I giving this book away! This is a keeper, for sure!” Now I can hardly wait to read “Missing”.

    There were so many twists and turns, it kept me reading. Way too busy to spend much time reading this week, nevertheless, I sneaked time here & there & finally had to stay up half the night to finish it. I have to admit I was a little puzzled by the last paragraph & came here to read the reviews & see if anyone else commented on it.

    That said, I kept wondering why Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight took the world by storm, rather than this one. Better publicist? This plot is similar in many ways with no yuckie vampires. Don’t get me wrong.. I love all of Stephenie’s books, own all of them, plus the movies. But I think this book could have been just as big a hit with the right exposure.

    I’m recommending this one to all my friends & family.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As a reader, I won’t leave a review of anything under 4 stars. I made the mistake of doing it once and the author harassed me by email. It was scary. As a writer, I appreciate every one I get, even the 1 stars because each one is a reader who was willing to take a chance on me. My favorite is:

    This isn’t a sugar-coated love story that barely touches reality, it’s a messy and sometimes dark romance started at the tangled ruins of a failed relationship. –Roger A. Murfin, Amazon

    Buy Link for Divorce, Interrupted – FREE –

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I hope readers will use your templates as a guide to how to write a review! My favorite review was for the first book in my “Immortal Relations” series, both 2nd & 3rd books are also available. This review of my 1st book by Richard Rasmussen can be found on
    Five Stars:
    “Being a bit of a vampire-phile, I find myself constantly searching for the next vampire series to reach out and grab, or, more appropriately, bite me. I believe I have found my holy grail of vampire novels. You see, the Vlad books are typically a bit gory for my tastes, while the Twilight series is campy, sophomoric, and I feel, is most appealing to teenage girls. Mr. Ogan has delivered a tale at breakneck speed, one that jumps out of the starting gate and never loses steam. A tale filled with life lessons, love, sex, action and adventure. Complete with new insights into the powers of the immortal vamps, and fresh takes on the complex inner workings of their existence. From page 1 until the very end, Immortal Relations promises to have you on the edge of your seat and begging for more…”


  14. Great post, Kristy. I used a quote from one of my favourite reviews on the cover of the print version of my novel The Silk Romance, and credited the reviewer in the acknowledgements. (It’s one of my pet peeves when authors use quotes and forget to thank the reviewer. Reviewers do a great job, for both readers and authors – they deserve to be thanked more often!)
    Here’s the quote I used: “Unforgettable, powerfully intense, and beautifully written.” I was overwhelmed when I got this review 🙂
    Here’s the link to the review on A Reader’s Review blog:
    and here’s the link to the print version of The Silk Romance:
    Thanks for a great post!


  15. Hi, Kristy! Thanks for the tips. I write regular reviews for Erotica Revealed, and I have to admit, sometimes it’s difficult to create something original.

    I just got an amazing review from one of my peers, Ashe Barker, for my most recent release The Ingredients of Bliss. It’s quite long, so I don’t want to reproduce the whole thing here, but it begins:

    The Ingredients of Bliss … Hot, Sexy, and a cracking yarn to boot

    I’ve read a couple of other stories by Lisabet Sarai so I embarked on The Ingredients of Bliss expecting her hallmark stellar writing and elegant characterisation. I was not disappointed.

    … and it ends …

    If you like your erotic romance hot, but cleverly constructed and probing below the surface lust to expose the emotions and vulnerabilities lurking beneath, The Ingredients of Bliss is for you. I highly recommend it.

    You can read the whole thing here:

    And buy the book (M/F/M BDSM erotic romance) here:

    (Also at Amazon, B and N, All Romance Ebooks and all your other favorite resellers!)


    “The exciting battles and period details also drew me in as did the intrigue surrounding Elinas’ son trying to prevent him from marrying Pressine. Overall, Princess of Bretagne was a solid story that I enjoyed reading. I’m very much looking forward to finding out what’s next for Elinas and Pressine when the series continues with the release of Pagan Queen.” The Hope Chest Review
    “The story is filled with action and danger and there are many interesting secondary characters that help drive the plot forward. I particularly like Gwenvael, Pressine’s brother… Look for the just released PAGAN QUEEN, to continue the saga of these two lovers.” Romance Junkies.


  17. Pingback: How to Write a Review | Trisha Faye

  18. Reblogged this on Kelly Rae & Jocelyn Bell Books and commented:
    Have you ever loved a book, but didn’t leave a review because you just don’t know what to say? Well, take a click over to the Authors of Main Streets post, earlier this week, and Kristy Tate will show you the ropes. There are even some templates, on ways to write a great review.

    Reviews are HUGE for authors. It’s one way we can gain new readers, a grass roots word of mouth sort of movement can happen – with luck. Also, a lot of the advertising outlets won’t take your ads, without a solid number of reviews. There is the additional benefit of allowing an author the knowledge and compliment of expressing what was done well in their piece of work.

    Take a look at Kristy’s great advice and maybe that next book you read, that you love, leave a review and make the writer’s day, as well as the next reader who picks up a copy thanks to your recommendation!

    Wishing you well, in fiction and real life.
    Kelly Rae


  19. Great post, Kelly. Reviews are vital. Thank you for reminding all of us to do them. Here’s one of my favorites. I like it because it’s short and sweet and gets right to the point.

    Second Chances by Leigh Morgan is a fun romp for lovers of the romantic novel genre. It gets quite steamy in parts, but that’s what keeps one going back for more!

    You can find Second Chances at:


  20. I think what you did here, Kristy, is extremely helpful. As others who’ve commented have said, there are many people who have no idea how to write a review and feel at a complete loss. Your post should really help those clueless-but-well-meaning sorts out, and I thank you for doing so.

    As for a review I adored, it’s for my YA comic urban fantasy/mystery/romance AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, and is written by popular SF/mystery author Stephanie Osborn:

    This book has almost everything: fantasy, mystery, romance, suspense, thriller, paranormal, you name it — and that sounds like it would be a hodgepodge, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. Everything flows together beautifully, leaving a fascinating story that will keep you on the edge of your seat! I highly recommend it, and since I don’t usually write book reviews, that’s saying a good bit!

    Buy link to Amazon (US):


  21. Thanks, other than I love the book or the characters, I never know what to why in a review. I hate it when reviewers give you the whole plot. I’m going to save the recommendations to help me write my own reviews. I also don’t post bad reviews. Mainly because I know what it’s like to write a book, but I sure wish some of these self-pubbed writers would read what they publish or hire an editor the formatting issues and typos drive me crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Great post, I love writing reviews and it has taken me years to develop my own style of reviewing. Like most of you I don’t like long reviews and I don’t want to read a review that completely re tells the story. I like your examples and think it is great if you can fit 1. If you liked it or not 2. Mention what you thought about the characters, 3. The plot, 4. If you would recommend it – all in one paragraph.

    I usually write a short review on what I call so so reads (3 stars mostly) but 4 and 5 stars it can vary. Like you I appreciate all authors and love how gifted they are. Without their talent my world would be boring so in return I always give a positive review. With that said, if you see one of my reviews and it is long, it’s because I had a lot of positive things to say about it.

    When I first started out reviewing I use to recap the story but it occurred to me how boring I sounded and I’d get messages about the possibility of spoilers so that’s when I figured out to just write how I felt towards story while at the same time giving the author credit in their approach of character connection, the easy flow of their sentences, the understandable plot, and how they added similar realities to their creative world that I could totally identity with.

    So you see, I’d have to really like the author’s work to mention any of the above.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Pingback: Guest Fox: Kathy Heare Watts | Four Foxes, One Hound

  24. Pingback: How to Write a Review – Lisa's -Home for Books and More!

  25. Pingback: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Leaving a Review – Jane Henry and Maisy Archer

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.