Think of your conclusion: the one thing you want anyone reading your review to know about the thing you’re discussing. Now think of the question to which your conclusion is the answer. (This works best if you have something more interesting to say than simply, “it’s good” or “it’s bad”.)
2. About a third of the way through the book …
What scene or event encapsulates the book’s strengths (or weaknesses)? Describe it. Make the person reading your review share your enthusiasm (or frustration).
3. Kick it LRB-style (version one).
Potted history of, or meditation on, the author’s career to that point.
4. Kick it LRB-style (version two).
Potted history of, or meditation on, a category of which the book is an example. (Useful when LRB-style version one is inappropriate, e.g. first novels.)
5. Bear with me for a minute …
Anecdote or trivia that illustrates something about the book under review, and thus makes it relatable for the reader. Works best if the nature of the link between the two things remains opaque until the moment you illuminate it. Use with caution in reviews of less than a thousand words.
A bit like option 5, but requires a stronger relationship with the audience, since the anecdote or trivia is about you, or your experience with the book (or another book by the writer), which is less likely to be of interest to a passing reader.
7. Here is some brilliant writing.
A bit like option 2, but you’re showing off the specifics of your subject’s prose. If you do this, you have to make at least one substantive point about the writing per sentence quoted. OK, you don’t have to, but you should.
Offer up the most pithy summation of the book you can manage. The danger here is that if it’s too pithy, nobody will read on to get the detail.
9. Previously, on this book …
Ah, the synopsis. Almost always necessary at some point; but if it’s your opening gambit, it’d better be interesting.
10. Everyone else is wrong!
Quote one (or more) other reviewers about the book, then argue with them. The more high-profile the reviewer the better — as long as you can back up your claims. (Everyone else being right is also possible, but for obvious reasons trickier to pull off.)