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Many reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads give scores based on gut reactions to how a book makes them feel. Such an approach is valid, but often lacks critical judgment. The process of evaluating the literary merits of fiction and nonfiction can seem overwhelming, but is ultimately a rewarding process! However, even casual reviews that state how good or bad a book is should ALWAYS offer specific support from the novel.


My book review criteria are based on the following mnemonic device based on the 6+1 Traits for Effective Writing helps me remain reasonably objective when evaluating books:

People on violent swings will injure children.


The first letter of each word in the sentence corresponds to one of the following traits inherent to good writing.


Picture of carnival swing ride.

Presentation: The cover achieves a professional balance between image and text. Proper paragraphing and appropriate font size add to the book’s readability. eBooks should contain an active table of contents, functioning “go to” options, clickable links, and correct formatting.


Organization: A story should contain a highly focused beginning, middle, and end. Narrative devices such as flashback and jump cuts enhance rather than detract from the story. Filler in the form of unnecessary dialogue, description, backstory, etc. do not bog the story down.


Voice: Demonstrates an awareness of audience and entertainment value is present in the story. The point of view is also believable and well-controlled. The author’s tone (attitude toward the subject matter) is not an issue and the mood/atmosphere of reads naturally.


Sentence Fluency: A variety of sentence structures enhances the story’s literary elements and results in well-crafted memorable prose. The writer and editors obviously thought about how the story should flow in order to create interest and rhythm.


Word Choice: A powerful and confident selection of vocabulary adds to the narrative. The author uses words that are true to each character’s personality and fitting of the setting. Repetition should not be an issue. Simple words are occasionally used in profound ways.


Ideas: The story contains an interesting and well-developed conflict. The plot, characters and setting are thought-out and believable. Genre stories create seamless worlds. Overriding themes point to deeper issues in the text and can be applied to real world issues.


Conventions: A published work should not contain errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation, but minor errors are easily forgivable and quickly fixed. Careless errors concerning the basics reflect poorly on the author and editors. Masterful rule-breaking is always greatly appreciated.

People on violent swings will injure children.


Readers don’t want the narrative to trip them up and make them question the story. When that happens, the traits of effective writing aren’t working together.I do not give stars to the review posts that appear on my blog, but I do follow the starring system when I post mini-reviews to Amazon, Shelfari, and GoodReads. I’m a miser with five-star reviews. It’s nothing personal…



Image Credit: Chair Swing Ride by Samantha DeWitt.


Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2012.

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