5 Elements that Determines How I Review and Rate My Books

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I love writing book reviews.

I think it’s universally agreed that book reviews is one of the least popular types of post in the blogging world, but I just love writing them. I created this blog to share my thoughts on the books I read and while it’s not always easy writing them, nor it is always popular, I still enjoy writing them and seeing them go live on my blog.

However, writing reviews are not easy. In fact, I think it’s the hardest type of post to write (other than the intro of a wrap up post 🙄) because it can be hard to form my feelings into one coherent sentence. If the book is just okay and doesn’t stand out from the rest of the books out there, it can be hard to find things to write on my review 😬 If I dislike a book, it can easily turn into a rant review which I try to avoid at all cost but if I love a book too much… it can easily turn into a keyboard smashing, all out screaming session about the book 🤦‍♀️

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So, how do I write my reviews?

I’m not an expert in writing reviews- God knows I still write incoherent, messed up reviews even now. However, after a lot of trial and errors, I notice that there are 5 main elements in general that are important for me when reading a book and these elements do help guide me when writing a review. So without further ado, let’s discuss these 5 elements.

01. Characters

I think characters are THE MOST important aspect for me in a story because if I don’t like the character or just don’t care enough, I couldn’t care about the book. That’s just it for me. Like why would I care what happens next, whether the evil government got toppled or whether our character survive the killer if we don’t root for them?? So yeah, characters are really important for me.

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So what makes me like a character? First, they have to have some growth. They can be unlikable at first, but they have to have some growth throughout the story that made me root for them. I didn’t like Lara Jean at first, but she really came to her own person and now she’s one of my favorite character! 🥰

Second, they have a personality. And what I mean by this is that they felt like a complex human being, they made mistakes, they have a past. They can follow stereotypes, but they have to be able to exist beyond that stereotypes. For example, Kenji Kishimoto from Shatter Me follows the “funny best friend” stereotypes. But he’s also a strong leader, fierce fighter, and the most loyal person to Juliette.

Third, they give a different perspective. There’s a reason why antiheroes, villains, or morally gray characters are really popular nowadays. After years of reading stories from the perspective of straight As golden heroes and heroines, reading from the point of view of these antiheroes, villains, or morally gray characters gives another layer of complexities and interesting character study. It also creates a great discourse on morality and right or wrong!

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And finally, diversity. Recently we’ve found out that there are people who can picture while reading and there are people who can’t. I’m a bit of both: I can imagine scenes and settings really well, but physical description always eludes me. Unless you mention the physical features many times*, I can’t imagine the characters. And it’s not only human characters- I can’t imagine Thestral from Harry Potter either. So yeah, you can imagine how much trouble I have with Laini Taylor’s books with their chimeras (I love them though!!!).

But anyways, back to diversity, while I can’t imagine skin color or physical description, I love it when books connects the characters diverse background and how it shaped them. It doesn’t have to be glaringly obvious, like eating exclusively chinese food all the time or have a character wear saris 24/7. I love stories like Cemetery Boys, Crazy Rich Asians, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before as it allows us readers to see ourselves in the characters by seeing how much of their cultures and experiences shaped them.

*Don’t do this, I hate this. I know I’m bad with description but that doesn’t mean I want to read how golden your hair is or how green your love interest eyes are 😶

02. Writing

I have no preference in terms of writing, whether it’s straightforward or flowery. When it comes to writing, the questions are: Does it describe enough of the setting? Does it allows us to empathize with the characters? And finally, does it move the plot forward?

There are books that can use straightforward language and yet, still being overly descriptive to the point of describing the shape of a rock and the moss that grow on it. There are books that use flowery language, bordering on purple prose, but did not describe enough and instead, confuse me with the overly descriptive style. There are books that use straightforward language except when describing the characters feelings. There are books that are so succinct the plot is moving too fast.

So really, styles doesn’t matter for me. But the way a book is written ties to all the other elements in a book as it is what gets all the element on paper and across to the audience. Therefore, it is one of the important aspect I pay attention to.

03. Plot

As important characters are for me, I have to admit that I prefer plot-driven story. I don’t mind books that take their time in developing the plot and focused more on the characters, but I think you can develop your characters while moving the plot! For example, by their words or action or response towards a certain situation, or you know, the classic “story/confession” time 🤣😉

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For plot, the questions I asked are: Is anything actually happen? Is it interesting? Does it offer something new to the table? Does it unravel slowly or does the author just tell us everything?

I love fast paced, action packed story– especially if it’s the climax of the story. However, I also have to be able to grasp what was happening and the characters (and us readers, in extension), have to have some time to process our feelings. My biggest complaint about Allegiant is not the controversial ending, but how there are too many unnecessary death (my fave died!!!!) that we didn’t even mourn because the plot are too muddled and things are moving too fast.

I also love unique plot. I don’t mind retellings or books that follow the same formula with other books within the genre, but put some spin on it 🤩 Like Cinderella in space or dystopian society divided by interesting superpowers, etc. Even if it ended up following the same template as another existing story, there are still element of the stories that could make it different and unique.

Oh, I also hate when too many bad things happened to our character, the kind where bad things happened just for the sake of adding misery to our character. Like… let them live!!!

I think this is the part of review where I tend to get really personal 😅 I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not, but plot is what causes me to be able to put myself in the characters shoes and therefore, I tend to get personal and subjective in my reviews 😅 I’m trying to be writing less personal reviews though!

04. World building

Maybe because I can’t visualize character, when it comes to description, I really focuses on world building. You can have your story to set in a normal, boring suburbs or another planet where mermaids walk, but you got to let the reader know how does the setting look. Is it a seaside town? Is it old and sleepy or modern? How many suns are there in the planet? And so on. You don’t have to build a whole new culture, beliefs, mythology, or folktales to describe your world but you can’t just throw in a random castle description, some random foreign words, “breeches”, “sword” and call it a fantasy, you know what I mean?

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Aside from the physical description, I also need a clear rules on the magic system. I’ve read a lot of magic fantasy books where the rules are unclear that it’s obvious they make the rules as they go. It makes the plot too convenient and tbh, not that interesting 🙄

So in summary, the questions for world building are: Does it have enough description to help reader visualize the setting? Is it clear enough? Does the magic system have a clear set of rules? And was I being immersed within the world?

05. Pacing

I don’t mind both slow-paced and fast-paced story, however in general I enjoyed fast-paced story more. This is because the story will move forward regardless of whether the other elements are enjoyable or not. Meanwhile, slow-paced story can be more immersive and connect us to the characters more (especially for character-driven story), but without strong points in the other elements, it’s easy for me to lose interest. But again, the book have to ensure we have the time to process our feelings, especially when a twist or sadness are involved.

So that’s all for today! Tell me, how do you write your reviews? What elements do you tend to focus on while reading?





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