Writing A Book Review, Are You?


My World War II novel – or I should call it more accurately a fictional biography – is out in advance copies now, and I’ve asked quite a number of friends and acquaintances to read and review the book. All seem more than willing, but some half are wringing their hands over writing a review. So what’s in a review?

Reviews can be as long as a magazine article or as short as a book cover blurb, but reviewers will want to accomplish roughly the same things in them regardless of length. For my book, and for those I review here, I’d say the length should be from one long paragraph to three moderately long ones. In these, there are certain things to be accomplished:


  1. The first sentence should “hook” the reader’s interest. Something intriguing that comes to mind about the book, or possibly something that sums up the book in an interesting way. Not just “I like this book…” but something that gets to the core of the book from some an unusual perspective. Let’s say the book is about traveling by train. You might begin with “I grew up in a small town, a town that wouldn’t have existed had a railroad not run there. I would listen to the train whistle at night, wondering what the train was carrying, who was aboard…”
  2. Don’t go off on a tangent with 1. above; instead segue as quickly as possible into your review of the book. This is most often written in present tense. The most common advice here is don’t write the book you wish the author had written; review the book before you, as it is. Be concise but sum up the story without giving away the key to the story. Something brief about the main characters, in the context of the story.
  3. Are you familiar with the author and his/her work? The author’s past history of books/stories published – basically the writer’s authority on the subject of this book.
  4. Finally, summarize the book from your perspective. Did you like it? Why?

This may sound daunting, but you’ll likely find that you have a handle on all of this from your reading. It’s just a question of putting it together. You can do it!


Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.



Ever read a novel or a book of short stories or novellas and wonder if the writer is really writing about herself? That no matter the subject matter or story direction, the author is simply projecting himself as a character into the book?

This is one of the peripheral tenets of post-modernism, particularly, the process of something called deconstruction. Here, the idea is that every piece of writing can only be about the author, no matter how cloaked in exciting facts and story elements.

So here’s a fun thing to try – if you have all the time in the world, and nothing else to worry about:

Put on your deconstruction hat and thumb through your favorite authors’ works (and let’s limit them to American writers). Resurrect a sense of the primary characters and consider them alongside what you know of the author. In case you have a hard time coming up with appropriate writers and their works, let me suggest a few:

  • John Steinbeck
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Ian Frazier
  • Paula McClain
  • John Grisham

Some books and some writers may constitute a stretch here, but I’d be interested in what you come up with. It’d make a great conversation on the blog, don’t you think?


Visit my website here. Within it you’ll find more on books and events that matter to me — and possibly to you. And there’s a gridleyfires Facebook page, too, if you can find it.

Guess The Line’s Source

Today begins a new series. For the next few days, I'll give a beginning line – or a more widely known interior line – from a famous novel. Your job, should you accept it, will be to name the novel, and its author.

A caveat: no fair Googling the line, which will surely turn up the desired connection. 

Today's line is an easy one:

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

The answer will be posted tomorrow