Book Reviews

How to Write a Book Review | Blogging Resources

There are approximately 9,000 different ways to write a book review. I know y’all know that and writing a post titled “How to Write a Book Review” seems so snobbish and that most definitely is not my intent. I love the variety of blogs out there, so this is just my two cents 🙂

I’ve written about how I blog a bit before, but I thought it might be helpful to chat a bit more details and things I always like to include and why. Of course this is my style and you have to find what works for you, but hey if it helps one person, then awesome!

– Make it personal. One of my favorite things in reading blogs, is hearing how a book impacted a person’s life or how it connected with them, so I usually try to incorporate that; like why I reviewed a golf book, a book on marriage (oops) or why I was crying my eyes out. As you would all agree, books are more than paper, so hearing their impact is lovely.

– Always include an image. Whether from the web or a creative picture you take, pictures make life better (can you tell I’m a little biased and a photographer? 🙂 It also breaks up the post and is more attractive to a reader.

– Include links of where to buy the book. Not only is this helpful if you are part of an affiliate program, but it makes it easy to buy the book, thus helping out the author.

– Make it easy to share. Whether it’s a helpful plugin (like Click-to-Tweet or any of the Share plugins. WordPress also has other ones built in too), this makes it easy for people to tweet out, share on Facebook, Pin, etc. Looking over stats, I’ve seen an increase in my traffic since I’ve incorporated them. Also, from personal experience, there’s been times I’ve wanted to share posts from blogs, but couldn’t find an easy way to share them, so I didn’t. Just think, if someone is reading this from their iPhone, will it be easy to share? If your goal includes growth in your blog, I can’t recommend this enough.

– If you didn’t like the book, share why. I don’t think anyone really likes writing these reviews, it’s never easy to type up something you know isn’t positive. Yet, once you start blogging enough, you realize it becomes part of the job. My biggest piece of advice? Share why. For example: “I didn’t like the book” vs. “I wasn’t a huge fan because the plot moved slow after we met the main characters and I found myself losing interest” or “There was language I wasn’t prepared for and it took away from the story.” Publishers, authors and fellow readers all appreciate it. I remember reading a review of one of my favorite books and another blogger (who didn’t like it) shared why and while I didn’t agree with their thoughts (different ideas of what’s considered language or not), it was helpful to see why they rated it low.

– If you loved it, don’t be afraid to go all out. Sometimes a girl’s gotta go ALL CAPS right? These are the most fun to write. I’m pretty sure readers know when I absolutely love a book and that’s definitely on purpose. If a book impacted me, then I for sure want to pass that along!

– End with a question or something to engage the readers. When I’m reading blogs, this makes it a bit more fun and I’m more willing to engage, especially if it’s a new blog to me. Plus I love engaging with my readers, so I always try to include a fun question.

– Tag away! If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, be sure to tag the author (and the publisher). Whether good or bad, I know it’s helpful for them.

One of the goals of my blog is to support authors. What they do is truly a gift and I want to be able to use this platform to chat, discuss and support. I’ve found these tips help me accomplish that goal!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a couple other blogs to check out with different reviewing styles. Of course I want to list like 50, but that might get overwhelming :), so here’s a couple!

Hope this was a bit helpful for y’all! What are some tricks you love to include?

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Bookish Radness

7 Books to Read in Your Early 20s

I’ve noticed recently I’m not one of the “young guns” anymore. Between having to use more facial products than ever before, to my knees having the ability to predict the weather, I’ve fully embraced this new life stage. I’m not saying I’m nearing retirement (only in my thirties internet), but professional athletes my age are close to throwing in the towel and some of my co-workers were in college after my 10 year reunion (how did this happen people?!).

I look back at college fondly, but of course there’s plenty of wisdom I could have used. Since college, there’s been some incredible books that have shaped much of who I am, so I want to give any of you young folks a head start with this list of eight books you should read in your early twenties. You know, ones that will stick with you. Unlike that Introduction to Philosophy book you pretended to have read by highlighting random paragraphs each chapter. Not that I did that. I would never…

Of course, if you aren’t in your 20s, I still think you should read these! 🙂

So here they are (in no particular order) along with a favorite quote:

1. Crazy Love by Francis Chan. There are few books out there that have caused a paradigm shift in my thinking. I never use the word paradigm, but for this book, it’s fitting. It opened up my eyes to so many convicting truths and moved truth I knew in my head into action with my heart.
“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust in Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. If you follow me on social media, you’ll notice I talk about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien about every 14 seconds (not really, but just go with it). Why? They were geniuses. Lewis’ collection of World War II radio broadcasts on the fundamentals of Christianity are fantastic. He wrote them while his country was at war and being bombed nightly by the Nazis, so the truth in some ways, hits a little deeper.
“Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

3. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller. Simply put: Read this book. I’m pretty sure I highlighted something on every page. It’s an easy read (which is awesome considering the topic) and you’ll gain tons of insight. And if you don’t consider yourself someone of faith, I still recommend this one. I’d love to know what your thoughts are after reading it. Such a great book!
“Once you realize how Jesus changed for you and gave himself for you, you aren’t afraid of giving up your freedom and therefore finding your freedom in Him.”

4. Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy. Tony Dungy is an incredible human being and just when I thought he couldn’t be more awesome, he did 4 Questions. He and his wife, Lauren, live out an inspiring story (full of some heart breaking moments) and it’s an incredible example of what it means to live your life fully following and trusting in Jesus.
One of the most important truths I want to impress on you is this: You were created by God. You’ve probably heard that before – maybe so often that it has lost its meaning. So take a minute to let it sink in. You were created by God! Before you were ever born, He knew who you would be. You are designed with a unique combination of abilities, interests, and passions that has never been before and will never been seen in anyone again.”

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry. Curve ball right? I know it might seem random, but I love this book. We were created for a beautiful and adventurous story, but too many people lose sight of that. So why this book? I love how it reveals this, displays it and stirs your heart.
“Now he was [starving]. If he had stayed in the community, he would not be…If he had stayed, he would have starved in other ways. He would have lived a life hungry for feelings, for color, for love.”

6. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. The lessons from ten Boom’s life have inspired people around the world. Her family hid Jews in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. They were turned in and sent to concentration camps (her Dad and sister would both die in them). Yet, they trusted the Lord in every situation. They were a light in the darkest of times. She is a beautiful example of courage and faith. This quote was said by her sister before she died in the Ravensbrück death camp: “We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” Wow.

7. Quitter by Jon Acuff. The vast array of sources young college-age dreamers have now is amazing (no really, when I was in college, email addresses were barely becoming a thing. I got my first email address then and thought I was so clever creating lapdogghizzy@hotmail.com. One of my many awesome choices at the wise ol’ age of 18. I’m sure it’s available if you’re interested in taking it over. I won’t mind). One source you should grab first? Quitter. Full of humor and advice from someone who has been there, this book will guide you in the path you want to go and hopefully save you from mistakes along the way.
“Your gift is never nothing.”

Honorable mentions include The Soul of Politics by Jim Wallis and Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner. Both were written in the 90s (gasp!), but have solid principles and were the first books to really open my eyes to social justice and Christians’ impact on culture.

Alright wise readers, what would you add to this list? Have you read any of these?

Author Interviews

4 Questions With New York Times Bestselling Author Sally Lloyd-Jones

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

I’m so excited to share this interview! Why? Because she’s British! I mean really, what more is needed right? There’s that and the fact that she is an award-winning and bestselling children’s author. If you have children and are looking for an amazing bible to share with them, you need to check out Sally Lloyd-Jones’ bestseller The Jesus Storybook Bible. And her newest?? Awesome! And as I mentioned in the review of Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, the book is beautiful! It’s a beautifully illustrated and beautifully written collection for children about spiritual/biblical truths and faith. I want one for myself! Besides being British and an incredible author, she was born in Africa. What a story right?!

It’s great to be able to connect with Sally and learn more from this creative and insightful author!

Sally Lloyd-Jones is a leading writer of inspirational books for children, with an expertise in conveying biblical truth to young children. She is the author of three bestselling children’s Bibles, including the Gold Book Award-winning Baby’s First Bible and, most recently, the Moonbeam Award-winning The Jesus Storybook Bible. She has written many picture books for children, including Handbag Friends, Time to Say Goodnight and the critically acclaimed How to Be a Baby: By Me, the Big Sister. A native of England, Sally lives in New York City and can be found at http://www.sallylloyd-jones.com.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
That I would be “Playing the Ryman”.

Musicians say when they Play the Ryman—(because you don’t “play at the Ryman”, you “play the Ryman”)—they are humbled thinking of the legends who trod the same boards before them. Legends including Elvis, Johnny Cash (who met his wife June Carter for the first time back stage at the Ryman) and Patsy Cline. They all played the Ryman. Emmy Lou Harris, Neil Young, Mumford and Sons, Coldplay have all played the Ryman.

And now me. Yes, I “Played the Ryman.”

The last two years, I’ve found myself on that same legendary stage looking out at the audience—standing alongside my wonderfully talented musician friends—and having really no idea how I got there. I’m a children’s book writer. This is not part of what we do.

And yet—there I was “Playing the Ryman.” (Not singing you’ll be relieved to hear—just reading from my books). I was honored to be part of Andrew Peterson’s moving BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD Christmas concert.

I’m still pinching myself and so very grateful.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Live less afraid. I’d like to have more quickly got to the place where I’m “living out loud”.

But then again how can you really say that? Because all the things you’ve been through have made you who you are today. Grace and joy are at the heart of things. So I prefer not to look back like that. I believe even the awful things are worked together and redeemed and will be turned around ultimately. And the joy will be greater for it all once having been so sad. It’s what Tolkien spoke about—everything sad coming untrue.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
That’s hard. How on earth do you choose? Actually, I can’t. Life is too full. I read a quote this week that said, “Write on your heart that every day is the best day of your life.” And it’s true. I’m happiest when I’m happiest right now today. Some of the happiest moments are the small surprises. One of my favorites? When it snows. My heart leaps. I feel like I’ve been given a free day. I want to run outside and play. I’d like to live every day as if is a snow day.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
That the dream you keep deep down inside your heart—the thing you most want, the dream you may never have told anyone—may just turn out to be the very thing you were born to do. It may be the dream God planted in your heart.

It won’t look exactly the way you imagine it. It may take a long time to come. It may even come in disguise.

But keep your eyes out for it.

Fredrick Buechner says it best when he says: “listen to the voice of your deepest gladness”.