I was so impressed by the qualiy of the reviews that came in, and was heartened above all by the enthusiasm around the books that were read.
All of the reviews, without fail, were enthusiastic, and generally well-written. One of the key things that differentiated the winner, highly commended and shortlisted reviews from those that weren’t chosen was the level of detail and analysis. Some of the reviews submitted were very short and read like back cover copy – just a hint of tantelising promotion and plot summary. This is great if you’re a publisher promoting the book, but generally not enough for a book review, where readers are coming to you for your critical judgement on whether they should spend their limited money and time on this book. For that, what works best is a solid look at why the book is an enjoyable read, what works well (with examples) and what doesn’t work so well; how the book compares to others in its genre, and what kind of reader the book would appeal to. The audience for a review is readers, and usually readers like you – most likely your own age. Good reviewers get a following because people come to respect your judgement and know that your readings and assessments are honest, and very carefully considered.
The reviews that I chose for first place and highly commended were not only enticing reads in themselves, but also really went deeply into the setting, the characters, the themes, the readerships, and the ultimate impact of the book. First place winner, Emily McDonell, reviewed Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Claire and provided lots of information about setting, characters, and thematics in an engaging style that draws the reader into the confidence of the telling without sacrificing specifics.