The difference between a good book review and a bad book review

As editor at, book reviews come across my desk daily. Sometimes there are such good reviews that our authors respond to them personally. Sometimes there are some really bad ones and our authors end up asking us to remove them because they detract from the overall experience. It got me thinking about what makes a review good, or bad.

You may not be a writer yourself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go with me on this journey.

Creating is something we can all relate to. We all do a little creating every day within our daily routine. Whether it be that little deviation in tonight’s dinner recipe or the job we did mowing the lawn yesterday afternoon. There is creativity in everything we do. Creativity is simply injecting a little of your own taste or preference into an inanimate object or process. When you do insert that bit of you into what you’re doing, it’s gratifying to hear those around appreciate it. If you are experimenting and are still unsure whether you need to tweak your recipe or your lawnmower blade height some more, you want some constructive criticism as well.

When your daughter tells you last night’s dinner was “Yuck!”, that doesn’t much help you determine how to un-“Yuck!” it. Even if she says it’s “Yummy!”, you want details about what makes it work or not work. If it’s bad, you want to know how to fix it and if it’s good, you want to know that too. Constructive criticism is commentary that tells you exactly what is wrong or right with your creation so you can make it work again and again and again, or you can fix it so that it works.

Loved it” is nice to hear when you’ve written a book, but “Loved how the hero is always struggling with his morality while trying to find the killer. It gives the whole story a rounded feel.” is much better. “There were so many characters in this book that it was hard to keep up with all that was happening.” is good too because now you know what you need to fix.

When reviewing books, keep other readers in mind too: “If you like mind-bending horror, this book is for you. Every page turn was like waking up from a new nightmare.” or “This story tore at my heart. Romance novels always do. This one had me crying and laughing all through it.” are reviews that are likely to draw a new reader in as well as letting the writer know what worked for you in the story.

So the next time you want to write a review, think about what works for you and what doesn’t and tell us (the readers and the writers) a little bit about both: “I loved this book. Every page turn was a new nightmare for me. Detective Brandon was either fighting with himself and his demons or he was finding something new and horrific left by the killer. An entertaining read for horror lovers.”

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