From Kelli Stanley, an award-winning author of City of Dragons and City of Secrets and of The Curse-Maker and Nox Dormienda.
Good reviews should encapsulate the plot points without giving away spoilers … if the book has a surprise twist 3/4 of the way through, don’t reveal it, just allude to it.
As a reader, scholar, and author, I particularly appreciate reviews that admit their own subjectivity. Taste is a subjective thing–just because you don’t like, say, The Grapes of Wrath, does not mean that the book isn’t “good.” In fact, weak adjectives–“good”, “bad”, etc.–tell us nothing about a book, and are the hallmark of an amateur reviewer or worse–someone out for attention for themselves by slamming or extolling a given work.
If, as a reviewer, you are not versed in a particular sub-genre you’re reviewing–Gothic horror or steampunk or noir, for example–make sure you inform the reader. A dislike of the book may, in fact, be your dislike and/or ignorance of the subgenre showing. A good reviewer should reveal his or her gaps in taste and knowledge, and explain why they chose to review a book outside of their comfort zone.
Give us a bit of the critical history. Did it receive praise from well-regarded critics? Has it sold well? Did it win or was nominated for legitimate awards?
Plot, characterization, pace, tone and style should all be discussed or at least mentioned.
Spell the author’s name correctly! 😉