Monday, December 24, 2018

A Book Reviewer’s Criteria for a Good Read

This post was first published here on March 31, 2011.

Writer, editor, and book reviewer Wendy Noble is our guest today at Blood-Red Pencil, with some advice from the perspective of a reviewer.

I’ve been reviewing books for over seven years. Four important elements stand out for me as the keys to producing a really good book, which will gain a glowing review.

These four elements are:
  • Text
Give me some ‘golden lines’. Use imagery – without being silly about it – and make sure your nouns and verbs are so strong and evocative that only the rare adverb or adjective is needed.
  • Dialogue
Don’t start every second line of dialogue with um, err, oh, well, uh… or they’ll be as irritating to the reader as a dripping tap. Use them sparingly and they’ll shine like diamonds. Also, please remember that most people use contractions when they speak: it’s, we’ll, they’ve…
  • Plot
Make me want to keep reading. Give the protagonist a goal (big or small). Have difficulties get in the way, threatening to keep him/her from achieving that goal. The protagonist must change in some way: learn something, find something, achieve something, or become something. If these elements are missing you will have written a scene (even if you took 300 pages to do it) but it won’t be a story and (the unforgivable sin) you will bore your reader.
  • Characters (This is the Big One)
Give me characters I can believe in, worry about, cry for, cheer on, and daydream about. I want depth of personality, interesting character traits, and, most importantly, a reason to like or hate them. I want, for a while, to inhabit their world.

Wendy Noble (Adv Dip T; Grad Dip CS; MA Creative Writing) reviews Young Adult and Children’s books for Good Reading Magazine in Australia. She is the author of the fantasy trilogy BeastSpeaker, and also an editor and public speaker. Visit her blog at


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your advice with us today Wendy. I would also love to read how you started reviewing for Good Reading and your advice for new reviewers just starting out. I think that would be an interesting follow-up post, if you're game ;-)

    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

  2. In this era of people writing reviews on Amazon that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the story elements, it is good to have this information so people can at least attempt to write a true review. I have been a reviewer for a long time and I cringe at some of what I read on Amazon, for my books as well as others. Thanks for sharing and I agree that a follow up would be good.

  3. All important pieces of the book puzzle (and sometimes it is like putting together a puzzle, revealing the overall picture one piece at a time). I agree with you. For me, the most important piece is the characters, esp the main one.

    Thanks for a great post.

  4. Wendy fancy meeting you here?? Great post. And I agree, even in the popular fiction I write, where people often think plot takes the lead, the characters must be strong or I'm out of there.

  5. Thank you for those tips, Wendy.

  6. I agree with Elle - come visit us again, because there is no question that a good book review requires a good book reviewER. Not all are capable so these tips are appreciated. Don't get me on my soapbox about Amazon reviewers... ;)


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.