I always try to add a redeeming quality if there is one. If not, I try to include the words, 'I really wanted to enjoy this novel, but it just didn't seem to suit my needs.' I try not to bash the book, even if it is badly written, or has spelling errors, etc. If there isn't a redeeming quality, try to let down the author as gently as you can, as to not get hate mail/comments back. Overall, I'd still write what I thought of the book, and how the author can improve.
Hope that helps!
To be honest you've got the best advice already, but just pick up on what was done well, what you felt worked and go from there.
I think the most important thing it to be polite and respectful. If you write a review smashing it to bits and saying how the characters were crap, the setting pathetic, it was torture to get through obviously the author won't be very happy! But, if you go into it and offer constructive criticism and try and match a criticism with a positive (if you can find one) for eg. While I felt like the characterisaton of Jenny was lacking because...I did think the relationship set up with Damien was believable etc. Obviously don't make things up but if you can write a balanced review it offers a complete view of what you think and isn't a slap in the face of the author.
First offer what good things you liked in the book...the way it was written, a certain character's personality, etc. Then offer some advice, what you didn't like, then end it on a positive note....it's not good to bash, but a helpful critique is usually...not always, but usually... appreciated.Hope this helps.
Author of The Alias
*kindle for 3.99
Try to present a balanced view of the book. Remember that not saying anything negative at all if the book was flawed is unfair to your readers, who are looking for you to tell them whether or not the book was worth reading. It also depends on whether you didn't like the book because it wasn't your usual taste or because something was actually wrong with it.
Be honest, but not cruel. You can point out the things that didn't work for you without saying it was crap.
Not every book can work for everyone!
But, if it needed another round of edits or the flow was off- you can state that in a gingerly way.
I don't think you need to write a positive (or negative) review based on whether you liked the book. Your review should focus on whether the author and book met certain standards that reviewers look for. Another reviewer has posted a great list at http://bookblogs.ning.com/forum/topics/great-book-reviewers-have-spine . She calls her review methodology SPINE and I would encourage you (and anyone else interested in reviewing) to peruse it.
In short, analyze themes, plot, character, and the other elements of literary style in the book. Have the patience and vision to see where the author is heading; understand the difference between writing criticism and just being critical; don't bring your own baggage to the review; be familiar with the genre and format; and place it in perspective of a broader literary context. This is a summary of L. Monagan's excellent post linked to above.
Not every reader will like every book. You can like a book your friends hate, or vice versa. Your review should focus on whether the book was well-written (good plot; sub plots; fully-fleshed out characters that you came to care about; theme; use of irony, foreshadowing, other literary devices; grammar, spelling, diction, etc. For example, I don't like the types of stories Stephen King writes (I'm not a horror, blood and gore reader). But I can safely say that King's work would generally meet all of the criteria mentioned above. He writes good, well-written books that I would not like to read. Whether I like them is immaterial to my objective review. Subjectively, you are always free to state the book's subject or genre isn't your cup of tea. But what I want to know from your review, before I buy the book, is: is the book filled with misspellings; bad grammar; weak or hackneyed plot and subplots; two-dimensional characters; and a lame story?
I recall reading one review where the reviewer gave the book one star because she intensely disliked a character in the book. In my view, if an author has crafted a character so well that it elicits such strong negative or positive emotions from a reader, then that is the sign of a good author (wish I could remember the name of the book).
Speaking as an author, I think most authors would appreciate a review along the lines of "this is what worked, this is what didn't work" rather than "like/dislike". One of the best "reviews" I got was from a beta reader who commented as she was reading one of my short stories. "This is gross," she said. "You don't like it?" I asked, a bit disappointed. "No, I love it, I want to keep reading it, but it's so gross." I realized the import element of her comment was not whether she liked it, but that she wanted to keep reading it.
That was a great post! I'll be bookmarking it!
Ha! I've heard this called a "criticism sandwich" and seen it advocated in management training tools.