Book Review Process

Simply Arden’s reviews are 100% honest, unbiased opinions based on Arden’s personal experience and knowledge of the book being reviewed. Read more disclaimer and disclosure information.

This page is an attempt to describe and overview how I review and rate books.

Book Review Criteria

Since different genres of books lend themselves to being reviewed differently, I’ve created different review criteria for the three main categories of books that I read:


  • Cover Art
  • Impact
  • Pacing
  • Plot
  • Writing


  • Characters
  • Cover Art (& Illustrations if any)
  • Impact
  • Pacing
  • Plot
  • Writing


  • Covered Subject
  • Cover Art
  • Impact
  • Organization
  • Pacing
  • Writing

Book Review Criteria Breakdown

All criteria is rated on a scale of 1-5 as described below in “Book Review Ratings” as follows:

  • Characters – describes how much I connect with and enjoy the characters in a story and how well developed I feel they became.
  • Cover Art & Illustrations – how pleasing I think the cover art and/or illustrations are and how well they support the story.
  • Covered Subject – how well the book covered the promised subject area in a non-fiction book.
  • Impact – the overall impact that a book has on me and how long I feel the book’s overall message will stay with me.
  • Organization – how well the book is organized, formatted, sectioned and titled.
  • Pacing – overall how well I feel the book’s overall speed and rhythm are; if a book is too slow or lacks details.
  • Plot – how much I connect with and enjoy the overall story, story arc, and conclusion.
  • Writing – how well I think the author conveyed their story, thoughts, and feelings to the reader. This may consider grammatical, structural, editing, and spelling errors.

Book Review Ratings

This is a general idea of what I’m thinking when I use a certain number rating:

  • 5 Stars – Read this book now. This is an amazing book that I will never forget or that has greatly improved or changed my life in some way.
  • 4 Stars – This is a good book that I love and would recommend. The book has little room for improvement in my opinion.
  • 3 Stars – This is a solid book and I enjoy it. However I feel there are parts of the book that can be improved.
  • 2 Stars – This book has issues. I feel this book has too many issues to ignore, needs serious improvements, and I probably will not remember it.
  • 1 Star – I do not like this book and most probably found it offensive in some way. I might remember this book only because of how much I disliked it.

Here is an example of the book star review rating for a non-fiction book:

Spoiler Warnings

I use two types of spoiler warnings where the spoilers will be hidden by a black bar that will reveal the spoiler text in the review once clicked on:

  1. **SERIOUS SPOILERS** Click black text to reveal spoilers.
  2. **MILD SPOILERS** Click black text to reveal spoilers.

Here is an example of a spoiler warning:

**SERIOUS SPOILERS** Click black text to reveal spoilers.

This is some spoiler text that you may or may not want to read.

This is some more text.

This is some more spoiler text.

Trigger and Content Warnings

Please always, always take care of yourself, even when reading. Take care and have a plan when reading a book with one of your known triggers. Talk to someone if you become triggered, reach out:

  • Wikipedia list of suicide crisis lines.
  • United States:
    • 911 is the national emergency number in the United States.
    • 1-800-273-8255 [TALK] – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US
    • Text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741) of the National Suicide Prevention in the US
  • Canada:
    • 911 is the national emergency number in Canada
    • Text CONNECT (English) or PARLER (French) to 686-868 to reach Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone, which is a free, confidential 24/7 national crisis-intervention text-message service
  • United Kingdom:
    • 999 and 112 is the national emergency number in the United Kingdom
    • 116 123 to reach the Samaritans Helpline
    • Text HELP to 85258 to reach Shout, which is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service

These are warnings to let a reader know what kind of content a book has that may be triggering for some people.

  • Ableism – discrimination in favor of able-bodied persons.
  • Abuse – child abuse, cruelty, domestic violence, elder abuse, emotional abuse, abusive relationships, hurtful actions with bad intention, neglect, physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, starvation, violence, etc. (see “Violence”)
  • Accidents – including broken bones, car accidents, drowning, falling, memory loss, natural disasters, or other unintentional acts resulting in injury or damage.
  • Addiction – usually concerning substance abuse, but can include addiction to anything or an activity.
  • Alcohol – alcohol abuse and/or use, alcoholism, drunkenness, etc.
  • Amnesia – memory loss.
  • Animals and Insects – bugs, snakes, spiders. etc.
  • Animal Abuse and/or Cruelty – abuse or cruelty against animals or hurtful actions against animals with bad intentions.
  • Anger – themes of feelings of anger, anger management issues, hostility, etc.
  • Blood and/or Gore – descriptions or topics that include blood, gore, mutilation, torture, and other violence (see “Torture” and “Violence”).
  • Body Shaming – concerning humiliation or critical comments about a characters body, fat shaming,
  • Bullying – hate speech intended to hurt, intimidate, or coerce.
  • Cult – describing or dealing with cults, or small groups of people who devote their time to a certain way of living, a certain concept, or a certain person.
  • Consumerism – the preoccupation of society to consume and acquire more things.
  • Death – death of a character, family member, or a pet or animal dies.
  • Disowning – usually when a family refuses to acknowledge a certain family member.
  • Divorce – dealing with divorce, separations, and any dissolution of a marriage.
  • Drug Use and/or Abuse – substance abuse and/or use, alcoholism, drunkenness, highness, etc.
  • Eating Disorders – including anorexia, body dysmorphia, bulimia and other disordered eating.
  • Eugenics – the “science” of improving human characteristics or genes through selective breeding.
  • Forced and/or Arranged Marriage – discussing pre-planned marriages or other unions, usually where the characters involved have little say.
  • Homelessness – issues dealing with not having permanent housing.
  • Hospitals – doctors, hospitals, hospitalization, medical equipment, medical staff, mental institutions, nurses, etc.
  • Human Trafficking – a form of human slavery usually for labor or sexual exploitation.
  • Illness – including cancer, disease, disorders, seizures, terminal illness, etc.
  • Incest – discussing a sexual relationship between characters who are related.
  • Kidnapping – including abduction and Stockholm syndrome.
  • Language – story may contain offensive language.
  • LGBTQIA – issues relating to body image, family problems, harassment, homophobia, misgendering, self-esteem, transphobia, transmisogyny, violence, etc.
  • Medical – including hospitals, needles, medication, pills, etc. (see “Illness” and “Hospitals”).
  • Mental Illness – including anxiety, borderline-personality disorder, compulsions, depression, delusions, bipolar disorder, disordered thoughts, dissociative identity disorder, fears, hallucinations, obsessions, paranoia, phobias, schizophrenia, etc.
  • Misogyny/Sexism – contempt or prejudice shown against woman.
  • Occult – including supernatural, mystic, or other magical beliefs, ideas, or events.
  • Paranormal – clairvoyance, ghosts, possession, telekinesis, and other ideas and events beyond scientific understanding.
  • Pregnancy Issues – including abducted babies, abortion,  miscarriage, problems conceiving, etc.
  • Racism – antagonism, discrimination, or prejudice based on someone’s race.
  • Relationship Issues – topics that may include break-ups, cheating, family issues, friendship issues, love triangles, and other issues between people.
  • Religion – talk of a specific religion, antisemitism, religious discrimination, or other religious topics.
  • Self-Harm – behavior that involves self-injury that may include cutting, disordered eating, lack of self-care, picking, trichotillomania, and more (see “Eating Disorders”).
  • Sex – discusses sex and issues related to sex.
  • Sexual Abuse/Issues – abuse including rape, statutory rape, prostitution, sexual assault and violence, slut shaming, pedophilia, etc. and also sexual addictions and disorders.
  • Slavery – dealing with slavery, human trafficking and other forms of restricted freedom (see “Human Trafficking”).
  • Stalking – dealing with snooping, stalking, and related harassment.
  • Suicide – discussing suicide or ending one’s own life, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and related topics (see “Mental Illness”).
  • Terrorism – intentional violence or intimidation usually based on political or religious pursuits.
  • Torture – being buried alive, mind-control, and other acts of violence (see “Blood and/or Gore” and “Violence”).
  • Toxic Relationships – a relationship between two characters that isn’t healthy which might include abuse, gaslighting, or other forms of manipulation (see “Abuse”).
  • Trauma – discussing trauma or distressing events that can including abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, victim blaming, etc. (see “Mental Illness”).
  • Violence – actions or events meant to cause harm which can include assaults, attacks, fighting, gang activity, murder, shootings, stabbings, war etc. (see “Abuse” and “War”)
  • War – war including bombing, executions, genocide, refugee issues, etc.

Here is an example of a trigger or content warning:

**Trigger and Content Warnings**

This book discusses sensitive subjects that some readers may find triggering. Please take care of yourself. Triggers and content warnings in this story include but are not limited to:

  • Abuse
  • Mental Illness
  • Relationship Issues

Read more about Trigger and Content Warnings.

Book Review Format & Titles

For each of my book reviews I attempt to format the titles and sections according to this list, when applicable to the book being reviewed:

  1. Opening Text
  2. Quick Review – this is a quick overview of my thoughts on the book with no spoilers (usually)!
  3. Spoiler Warning – I use two types of spoiler warnings where the spoilers will be hidden by a black bar that will reveal the spoiler text in the review once clicked on (you can see an example above in “Spoiler Warnings”):
    **SERIOUS SPOILERS** Click black text to reveal spoilers.
    **MILD SPOILERS** Click black text to reveal spoilers.
  4. Trigger Warning(s)
  5. In Depth Review – my in depth review of my thoughts on the book, may include spoilers.
  6. What I Learned – my take-aways from the book and what I felt that I learned.
  7. Strengths/Weaknesses
  8. Recipe Review – review of individual recipes or recipes as a whole in a cookbook.
  9. Reading Reactions – an explanation and link to a post listing my raw reactions that I record as I’m reading the book. These posts will always contain spoilers!
  10. Synopsis – an explanation and link to the book synopsis post, if any. Will include lots of spoilers!
  11. Book Look – section describing the way a book looks and is printed, including information on the type of cover, paper, formatting, illustrations, etc.
  12. Audiobook Review – review of the narrator(s) in an audiobook version.
  13. Favorite Quotes
  14. Musical Suggestions – links to suggested Spotify playlists that suit the mood of the book.
  15. Learn More About the Book – a link to related interviews, book trailers, podcasts, and other articles.
  16. Similar Books
  17. Other Books in a Series

See all book reviews.