Writing Book Reviews (Just Do It!)

Amanda Zieba -- On writing book reviews - Just Do It!Welcome back to author Amanda Zieba, who I first introduced you to in the kick-off post for 2018 on Forging (Real Person-to Person) ConnectionsI appreciated very much Amanda's post about writing book reviews--so much so that I'm giving the whole thing to you here. (However, you can also access it on Amanda's blog.)


Writing Reviews by Amanda Zieba

What do you do when you read a good book? You tell somebody about it, right?!?!

“Oh my gosh, you have to read this book! I stayed up way too late finishing it. It’s going to change your life! You just have to read this!” — You, when you L-O-V-E a book

You become a walking billboard for the author. You tell everyone at work, your mom and your sister, every member of your book club, all of social media, even your dog groomer knows that you love this book.

Why? Why do we do that?

Because we don’t want the reading experience to end. If we can talk about the book, it isn’t really over. And if we can convince other people to read the book, then we can talk about it with them, and relive all of the drama and glory of the story. Telling people about a good book, is almost as much fun as reading it in the first place.

But many of us stop there.

Believe me, authors L-O-V-E when you talk about their book. Word of mouth is by far and away the biggest success factor a book has in its corner. No matter who published it, Why Writing Book Reviews Matters!who endorsed it, how many ads it has in People Magazine… if people don’t like it and talk about it… the book is unlikely to sell well.

But do you know what is almost as important? Reviews. The Amazon Algorithm (yes, with a capital A) is designed to visibly introduce online shoppers to products that have been purchased AND reviewed. If a book has zero to few reviews, there is a snowball’s chance in hell that it will show up in the “also bought” section of your screen. Even slimmer are the chances that it will appear in the ads slots on Amazon or even Facebook.

Reviews are also a factor for consumers as they decide which book will win their hard-earned money. A cheesy review with a glowing 5 stars that was likely written by the author’s high school English teacher doesn’t hold much weight. But an honest appraisal of story, pace and character is much more helpful. People want to know… did you enjoy this book? Is it worth my time and money? They do NOT want to know the end, or who the girl ended up with.

So the next time you finish a book, go tell everyone how much you loved it. Tell them that a character quirk drove you crazy until page 378 when it all suddenly made sense. Tell them you wished the sequel was out tomorrow, instead of November. And then… go online and write a review.

Because I am a writer… and a full-time teacher, and a mother, and a wife and a human being who needs to eat, sleep and shower… I have had very little time to sit down and enjoy a book lately. Do I let those little details get in my way of enjoying a good book? Heck no! Here are two reviews for books I recently enjoyed via audiobook. If you are like me and struggle to find consistent time to independently meet your reading quota, try audiobooks. Bonus, they are a lovely way to distract yourself from other mundane life chores such as exercise, folding laundry and scrubbing the kitchen floor (which I only do rarely, upon the force of embarrassment or mold. I’m kidding. Kinda).

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I saw this book at Barnes and Noble and picked it up multiple times. Each time I saw it, I read the back blurb, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t enough to entice me to purchase it. Maybe it was my lack of reading time? Maybe it was because I am a terrible video game player… even at, like, Mario Cart? I don’t know. I also don’t know why I chose to download it on Audible a few weeks later. Maybe because the movie was coming out? Maybe because a friend had just asked me about it? Maybe because I’d just finished my last audiobook (Firebird by Susanna Kearsley) and was in desperate need of a new auditory distraction? Either way, I re-upped my Audible account and downloaded it for free. Holy Cow, I’m so glad I did.

Ready Player One does a lot of things right, but the best thing about it, is the world building. The story takes place on earth, but in the undefined future. Several aspects of our planet as we know it are around, but they are so warped and twisted, that Ernest Cline’s juxtaposition of the common elements give the feel that you are in an entirely new universe. For example, in his world, trailer parks exist, but because the earth is so crowded, the trailers are piled one on top of the other, 22 high sometimes, and now called, The Stacks. Also, in the story, the main character spends an excessive amount of time playing video games. As a non-gamer, these virtual worlds are also fun new places to discover.

The second thing the book does well is pacing. I was hooked quite quickly and rarely wanted to quit listening. Even as I found myself in the driveway after a late night, four-hour drive home from the other side of the state… I considered driving around the block, just so I could finish the chapter. The events of the story unfold in a perfect arc of intense action and internal emotional conflict. It was a combination that always left me wanting more.

I’m not going to expound on specific elements of the plot in this book, because I hate reading reviews that tell me what is going to happen. I want to read the book for myself, thank you very much. I am just reading the review to find out if the book is going to be good, and worth spending my ever-shrinking free time to read. So, bottom line, yes, this book is fantastic. Yes, you should read it, obviously before you see the movie. You are welcome.

Once I finished Ready Player One I was sent into a spiral of depression when I discovered that A. There was no sequel... yet  AND B. My new monthly Audible credit hadn't yet arrived, so I couldn't download Armada, the author's second (non-sequel) book.

So, I went searching for something else. Without my Audible credit, I was on the low-dough-show. The Library saved me with it’s app: Overdrive. Overdrive is the library’s version of Audible… bonus, it’s free. But sometimes the book you want (cough-cough-Armada) is on the wait list. What was I going to do? Oh-the-word-nerd-drama!

Remember when I said I didn’t have a lot of time to read? Yeah… that stack of books I had purchased to read… the one threatening to tumble over and maim my youngest son if he walked too close? I decided to listen to one of those. This way I would get to enjoy a story I really wanted to read, and I would no longer have to feel guilty about not reading that which I said I would. Two birds with one stone!

Also, as I move into the realm of self-employed status, I am trying to glean anything I can about people who make a living following their creative pursuits. Additionally, I am trying to self-pep-talk myself into maintaining a healthy level of confidence by learning all I can about rockstar, girl bosses who totally kick butt. Enter Anna Kenrick.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Scrappy Little Nobody is the memoir of Anna Kendrick, star of the Pitch Perfect series. Before we knew her there, we saw her aside George Clooney in Up in the Air and before that she was the (human) best friend (Jessica) in the Twilight Saga. Before that, we probably didn’t know her. Those times, those places, are where Anna takes us.

I’m not gonna lie, this book makes me laugh out loud. It’s my favorite part about it. As I drive in my car, as I awkwardly pause mid-lift at the YMCA, as I sneak in a chapter during my pre-lunch walk… I am laughing. Bent over, almost pee my pants, laughing. The sarcastic charm we are used to now seeing on screen comes through full force in Anna’s writing (and especially when she narrates her own story in the audiobook version.)

As a fellow person of small stature, late bloomer and creative career aspirations, I can relate to Anna’s hopes, fears and dreams. I recognize myself in the situations of her youth and am whole heartedly rooting for her to succeed, even though, spoiler alert, I already know she does in real life. In these mini essays on her life Anna discusses everything from her childhood to early auditions, from the role of females in society and Hollywood to her own sexual history, from fashion to the Oscars and more.

Anna is not pretentious or overly serious. She swears, A. LOT. Which I love. In her story we commoners are gifted a rare look at what celebrity life is all about, and for me, most interestingly, the path that led there. If you are looking for a laugh, or grew up in the 90’s and are dying for a coming of age story that will remind you of all your favorite trends, or are a fan of Anna Kendrick, or really just have some free time on your hands and want to be entertained… read this book. (or even better, listen to it!) You won’t be sorry.


Thanks, Amanda!! Now we all have two new books to add to our list! (If you're looking for more recommendations, my latest reviews can be found here.) 

Please, please write reviews of the books you've enjoyed. They don't have to be as long as Amanda's. Simply a line or two will work wonders and help your fav author crack that crazy Amazon Algorithm.  

Type a quick message below to let us know the best book you've read lately that you LOVED and think we all should read! Feel free to link to your review if you'd like us to check it out!



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