A book review is a description, critical analysis, and an evaluation on the quality, meaning, and significance of a book, not a retelling. It should focus on the book's purpose, content, and authority... It is a reaction paper in which strengths and weaknesses of the material are analyzed. It should include a statement of what the author has tried to do, evaluates how well (in the opinion of the reviewer) the author has succeeded, and presents evidence to support this evaluation. (How to write a book review / LA Valley College (2009). Retrieved 25th February 2010)
Well, that sounds quite high falutin' and a bit OTT for what we are doing which is not English Lit 101! But you get the idea. The good thing is that apparently there is no one right way to write a review. What is important is that the review is the expression of the reader's opinion.
There will be some factual parts to the review though, and I suggest we include the basics such as:
Title / Author. (Publication Date). Publisher: Publication Place
If you wish to include the ISBN as well, that is helpful for anyone who wanted to order the book from a book seller.
The other basic factual part to a review is a brief synopsis of the book.
If it is a fiction book, the story outline need not reveal anything that would spoil it for potential readers.
For non-fiction books it is helpful to give an idea of the book's main purpose. Sometimes it is also helpful to put a non-fiction book in context with some background of the author's previous works.
I often use the blurb on a book for my synopsis if I think it describes it well. Feel free to do the same but do make sure you attribute it so readers realise it isn't your own words. I usually write ~from the blurb or something like that.
As for the rest of the review, there are many places on the web that can give you some ideas on what to include. You don't have to include them all of course! Here are a selection I've cobbled together to prompt you.
This one is a bit old, but still has some good points.
From How to write a book review / Bill Asenjo. (2002). Retrieved 25th February 2010
Points to Ponder:This one is even older, but I liked some the points they bring out.
• What was the story about?
• Who were the main characters?
• Were the characters credible?
• What did the main characters do in the story?
• Did the main characters run into any problems? Adventures?
• Who was your favorite character? Why?
Your personal experiences
• Could you relate to any of the characters in the story?
• Have you ever done or felt some of the things, the characters did?
• Did you like the book?
• What was your favorite part of the book?
• Do you have a least favorite part of the book?
• If you could change something, what would it be? (If you wish you could change the ending, don't reveal it!)
• Would you recommend this book to another person?
• What type of person would like this book?
Writing Book Reviews / Literacy Education Online. (1997). Retrieved 25th February 2010
Describe the book: Is it interesting, memorable, entertaining, instructive? Why?
Respond to the author's opinions: What do you agree with? And why? What do you disagree with? And why?
Explore issues the book raises: What possibilities does the book suggest? Explain. What matters does the book leave out? Explain.
Relate your argument to other books or authors: Support your argument for or against the author's opinions by bringing in other authors you agree with.
Relate the book to larger issues: How did the book affect you? How have your opinions about the topic changed? How is the book related to your own course or personal agenda.
Part of the fun of the Blogosphere Book Circle is visiting other member's blogs or their reviews on Facebook and seeing what other people thought. It's inevitable that some of our reactions will be the same or similar, so if you do wish to use another member's words or expressions, please attribute the original poster via a linkback in your text. For example, I often find Mel takes the words out of my head and writes them in her review so I might write "As Mel has said" [insert words of excellence here].
Hope that is helpful! Like I say, we're not aiming for university level reviews here but it is good to have some guidelines to spark the old brain into action.