What to Do When Writing Book Reviews

How to Write a Book Review

Writing a book review can be a great way to share your thoughts on a book you’ve read and help others decide if they want to read it too. But where do you start?

First, make sure you’ve read the book. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people write reviews without finishing the book. The author gave their blood, sweat, and tears to write and publish it, so consider that and give them the respect of reading it in its entirety before writing your honest review.

Next, think about what you liked and didn’t like about the book. Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat, or was it predictable? Did the characters feel natural to you, or were they one-dimensional? Did the writing style enhance the story or take away from it? Finally, did you learn something valuable from a nonfiction book, and if so, what? Be precise.

It’s also important to consider the book’s genre and target audience. For example, if you’re reviewing a children’s book, your standards will differ from those of a literary novel.

When you start writing your review, briefly overview the book’s plot, but avoid giving away spoilers. You can also mention the book’s setting and any themes that were present.

Then, give your opinion on the book. Use specific examples from the book to back up your points. If you liked the book, explain why and if you didn’t, explain why not.

Next, include a recommendation. Let your readers know if you would recommend this book to a friend or if you think it’s one they should skip. I often forget this because I assume the reader will understand that I would recommend the book if I gave it a four or five-star rating. (I use the five-star rating system.) I hope what I say about a book adds to a recommendation.

Finally, post your review on Amazon.com (or Amazon.ca with as catchy a title as you can write) and on Goodreads and share it with your friends and followers. You could also go the extra mile and share your review on your social media accounts. Authors will love you for this and may be willing to do the same for you!

I recently discovered a book marketing tool called Pubby that a colleague referred me to. You can sign up as a reader (click on the link to be referred) and get free books to read and review, or get them on Kindle Unlimited or purchase them for 99 cents up to $4.99. Alternatively, you can upload your books to Pubby and earn book reviews for your book(s) on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. Here is my author referral link.

Pubby offers a free ten-day trial, and then you can keep earning reviews and reading books for as little as $17.00 per month. I have only been using this service for thirteen days, and I have read and reviewed six books and earned four book reviews for one of my books. Many of the books are short, so it’s easy to read them in a day or two, and so far, I’ve been fortunate with my choices as they all received four or five-star reviews, except for one.

Writing a book review can be a fun and rewarding experience. (I know because I have written two books and am writing a third.) It allows you to share your thoughts on a book and help others decide whether to read it. So, grab a book and give it a try!

You can read my reviews at Bodacious Book Reviews – My Bodacious Blog (wordpress.com).

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Historical Fiction Book Review

Title: The Marriage Portrait
Author:  Maggie O’Farrell
Imprint: Knopf Canada
Released: September 6, 2022
Pages: 352
ISBN-13: 978-1039005631
Stars:  4.00

I wanted to read Maggie O’Farrell‘s latest book, The Marriage Portrait, because I enjoyed her earlier work. I loved After You’d Gone, The Distance Between Us, and The Hand That First Held Mine. I look for her work when browsing used bookstores, which is a pleasurable hobby. So, I was delighted to win an uncorrected proof of this book in a giveaway on Goodreads. The version of the book I read was 436 pages long.

I have not yet read Hamnet, which was critically acclaimed, but after reading The Marriage Portrait, set in Renaissance Italy, I can say that O’Farrell writes exquisitely about 16th-century Florence. Her descriptions of the setting, architecture, fashion, the Medici nobility, the poverty of the plebes, and the tumultuous emotions of her protagonist, Lucrezia, are flawless.

Lucrezia de’ Medici was the fifth child of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. When her elder sister Maria died, Cosimo gave Lucrezia’s hand in marriage to her fiancée. O’Farrell conjures Lucrezia’s wedding day at the age of thirteen to Alfonso, the Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, who is more than twice her age, in marvellous, intimate detail, and we can empathize with everything the young girl experiences. Likewise, her portrayal of the tiger’s anger and grief earlier in the novel is authentic and heart-wrenching.

O’Farrell’s ability to depict dread is astonishing. Women of our time would never be able to understand how terrible it would have been to have lived in the 16th century without the work of gifted storytellers like O’Farrell. Can you imagine never being allowed to leave your room without permission? Can you imagine being married off to a twenty-four-year-old man when you are thirteen? We feel everything Lucrezia feels and find ourselves holding our breath at times. Yet, Lucrezia’s ability to find solace in her cruel world through her art is inspiring. I rooted for her throughout the book.

I would love to see O’Farrell write a book about Lucrezia and Jacopo, the artist, if there was a chance that they escaped together. The way she wrote the ending was beautiful. However, I believe The Marriage Portrait was inspired by Robert Browning’s poem, “My Last Duchess,” and we know that Lucrezia died at the age of sixteen, cursed by her genealogy and the customs of the times.

In the version of the book I read, its pacing drags, with some of its 60–84–page chapters set in the days before or just after Lucrezia’s marriage to Alfonso, and I would prefer they had been chopped into thirds. Other chapters, set in the book’s present, which excitingly depict Lucrezia’s fear of being murdered by her husband, are no more than a few pages. What struck me most about this version is how long almost every sentence is (especially in the first third of the book); many are whole paragraphs, which can make for a tedious reading experience. If you were to read passages out loud, you would often gasp for air. I hope that the fully edited version tightened O’Farrell‘s magnificent prose just a little to improve its fluidity, but overall this is a captivating story.

Maggie O’Farrell

The Fossibles: Bursting From Extinction To Distinction by Heather Rancourt & Claudia Gauches

Fossibles: Bursting From Extinction To Distinction by Heather Rancourt & Claudia Gauches

Children’s Book Review

Title: The Fossibles: Bursting from Extinction to Distinction
Author:  Heather Rancourt and Claudia Gauches
Publisher: 360 Marketing, LLC; 1st edition
Released: February 6, 2007
Pages: 148
ISBN: 978-0970265449
Stars: 3.0

The Fossibles are a team of five “formidable, cool, ultra-hip dinosaurs, each with their own distinctive, often quirky, personality, who possess super powers, secret, hi-tech gadgets and extraordinary motorcycles” that they use to “travel throughout the world fighting evil and preventing disasters.” Fossibles #1: Bursting from Extinction to Distinction tells the tale of their origin and how Trex, Braun, Deb, Riz and Little T grew up in a world where anything is “fossible” and because of this, they become the extraordinary Fossibles.

The story begins sixty-five million years ago when dinosaurs roamed a land called the Crystal Red Supremacy and were led by the reigning dinosaur magistrate, Zigopholus. A race of beings called Royans who lived on a planet called Osteroya was “intent on permanently eliminating all dinosaurs from this land.” Aware of their impending threat and eventual doom, Zigophalus calls a meeting in a great cave to ask dinosaur couples from every species to convene and bring their eggs with them. The eggs are buried so that millions of years later, when they’re discovered, the world will learn about how powerful they once were. The story’s description of the Royans of Osteroya is a bit too brief and doesn’t give enough background about them to truly make them, or their threat, tangible.

We flash forward sixty-five million years to the present day and meet a mild-mannered professor of information technology named Clem Stone. Clem invents high-tech gadgets and loves motorcycles and his wife, Joan. He dreams of opening a motorcycle repair show in Arizona, and before you know it, his dream comes true.

One day Clem and Joan are hiking in Arizona, and they stumble across a giant cave. Guess what they find? They manage to transport four very large eggs back to their home and decide to try to hatch them. Several days later, perched on a plant stand under bright lamps in large bowls lined with towels, they do hatch. Joan and Clem become instant parents of four different types of dinosaurs! They name the tyrannosaur, Trex, the brontosaurus, Braun, the triceratops, Riz, and the parasaurolophus, Deb.

There are some interesting but highly unlikely things written in this story. I know it’s a fantasy for children, but would dinosaurs really eat fresh fruit and bran cereal for breakfast? Could you buy Dino-Ade in modern-day Arizona if no one but the Stone family knew that dinosaurs actually exist?

On their tenth birthday, Clem invents GEOGOGS, which are special goggles that give his dinosaur children the power to see into their past. (Amazingly, they’ve lived ten years without ever being noticed by any other human beings.) Clem and Joan decide to take them to the cave where they found their eggs, and there they discover yet another egg that they take home, and that hatches into their little brother, Little T: another tyrannosaur.

Naturally, the Stone family is growing so large that they can no longer be accommodated in Clem and Joan’s house, so Clem builds an airplane hangar-style home for the dinosaur kids in the backyard that they affectionately call The Bone Zone and soon after that, he and the kids build five super fantastic motorcycles that are powered by cactus juice!

Anything is fossible, after all, in this story, including the fact that a professor is able to quit his job, move to Arizona, start a motorcycle repair shop, and, is miraculously able to afford a seventy-five-acre property, an airplane hangar home for his five dinosaur children and to feed them all on his salary from fixing motorcycles. I appreciate the magical intent in the story, of course, but it just seems a little too imfossible to be believed at times. But then again, I’m not a child.

Fossibles #1: Bursting From Extinction to Distinction was published in 2006 by authors Heather Rancourt and Claudia Gauches, and it was published on Kindle in 2013. The Fossibles series would have made a much better comic book than a short novel. Book #1 is glaringly void of regular illustrations, although there are some really great pictures in a five-page photo album at the end of the book that allows the reader to see what the characters look like, as well as on the website. There is a supposed “villain” in Dr. Dimitri Roy, a world-famous paleontologist who is afraid of the dark, but he doesn’t do anything evil in this book and is only in the story briefly.

Children from ages 8-10 will enjoy the Fossibles, but I’m not really sure what their parents will think. The story has a fun and far-out premise and enjoyable characters, but it ends abruptly with a “To Be Continued” that will likely make your children yell, “Aaawwww!!!!” (And as of February 3, 2023, there has never been another book published.)