How to write book reviews for bookstagram

This blog is part of a four-part series of bookstagram tips, split up from my original post on this topic for easier readability. This final post focuses on writing book reviews.

Book reviews are a big part of the book community. They help tell other readers what to expect from books, help you keep track of books you read and help you learn what you like and don’t like over time.

I think reviews are extremely subjective and personal. I’m sharing what works well for me to format my reviews, but that won’t necessarily be what works for you. For example, I don’t like synopsis in reviews because I’d rather just read the book blurb from the publisher. Other people love to read them and write quick synopsis at the top of their reviews. So ultimately, my advice is do what works for you!

Use this guide as a starting point, and don’t be afraid to experiment to find what you like! It may take some time to find your fit for your bookstagram reviews.

I used to use  a star rating system but I am no longer using it in my bookstagram posts, and instead only use it on Goodreads. They help me personally track how I felt about a book which is why I like them on my Goodreads. But I’ve found that so many people hone in on just your star rating on posts, and skip over the context of the review, which used to frustrate me because star ratings are not used consistently and so people would misinterpret my thoughts on books despite them being plainly stated.

How I format my book reviews

I use basically the same review on Goodreads and my blog. Sometimes I will shorten up the content for Instagram space reasons but I keep the same structure.

  • Overview. My quick take on what I felt about the book/ a summary of what’s to come.
  • What I liked/ loved. Even if it’s a book that wasn’t for me, I try to find qualities to highlight that I enjoyed. Sometimes this section is really long and other times it’s really short.
  • What didn’t work for me. Sometimes I don’t have this section if I have a rave review. But usually I highlight anything that I struggled with here.
  • Who I’d recommend it to. Even if a book wasn’t meant for me, I try to share who may enjoy it. I sometimes compare it to books it reminded me of as well here.
  • Content warnings, if needed – so people have a heads up going in. I put this at the end because some people find them spoiler-y but I do think they’re important to have.

I used to just openly share all my opinions in reviews, and most people who know me know I have a lot of thoughts on any topic. I’m trying to be more thoughtful especially in my negative reviews though, to make sure my reviews add value to other readers. Especially books that are sharing perspectives different from my own.

I think it’s important to be balanced and recognize that those books weren’t written with me in mind. I may not connect as strongly immediately, but that doesn’t make them bad. The caveat is if a book has problematic content (is racist, uses stereotypes, etc.) I absolutely will call that out.

An example review

Here’s an example of a review I shared of the book These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling.

In case that’s not easy to read, here’s the text format labeled by category:

Overview: I really enjoyed this witchy YA mystery book! It was a perfect October read. It’s not technically classified as a mystery but had many qualities I love about the mystery genre.

What I loved: It’s an interesting take on the teen witch story. Hannah is an elemental witch and controls the elements of fire, earth, air, and water. She’s navigating a breakup with her ex-girlfriend, trying to move on with her still in her life, and the evil underfoot that threatens her coven’s secrecy and lives.

While I guessed the biggest mystery, it took awhile and I felt like the clues to throw you off were very well done. The characters all had a decent amount of personality and believable dialogue and decision making for YA age groups.

What didn’t work for me: I didn’t love that you are kind of dumped in the story world and not given some of the details to help you settle until the story is fairly underway. I also felt the pacing was a little too slow in the first half and a little too quick in the second half.

Who I’d recommend it to: But I was hooked and had a hard time putting this down. I really look forward to the sequel and I would definitely recommend this to fans of witchy YA books and YA mysteries.

Mini-reviews

Sometimes, I may want to post a shorter review on Instagram. I call these “mini-reviews” and use a variety of different formats, but generally it’s a condensed version of the above.

Here’s an example of a mini-review post:

And here’s the text:

Mini review of these poems: They are fun to set the mood for spooky season but overall they aren’t my favorite volume of poems since they’re heavy on the old British poets which aren’t my favorite. Still a fun little volume for your shelf or to set the mood for Halloween!

Do you have a review format that you love that’s different? Share your structure in the comments to help give people more ideas!

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