Complete Guide to Writing a Smashing Book Review.

Writing a book review is not as daunting as you think. Follow these simple steps to write a perfect book review!

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL BOOK REVIEWER( IF THAT’S EVEN A THING?) NOR AM I CLAIMING TO BE ONE 🙂

With the start of 2018, I want to introduce you to a few tips on ‘How to write a book review’. Since the only thing I can consider myself competent in is reading and writing reviews, I thought I’d take the bait and write a blog post. If you’re in school or college, and are required to write a book review for your English paper or if you’re thinking of starting a blog or a page dedicated to reviewing books, then keep on reading. (Also, please overlook my sense of humor and sad attempt at sounding smart).

Let’s clear a few things right in the beginning. There is no ‘right’ way to write a review. Books are highly subjective and a review is not a testimony to the credibility of the said book. There are a number of books I loved which didn’t get GOOD reviews or in fact quite a number of books I HATED  with a passion that went on to becoming International bestsellers, but that’s the whole point. One shoe doesn’t fit all.

Now how I see it, there are two ways of writing a review;  Personal and Formal. Let’s understand what both formats mean.

  • Personal:  Here, you write whatever you feel about the book. You express your love for the characters, your admiration at how the plot was crafted and genuine applaud to the author concerned. In short, letting your emotions do the reviewing. Now you can do this either on your blog or Instagram page or your Facebook page. You’re taking a more informal approach to the book. Nothing is wrong with using this format. If this is how you’d like to review the book, then go ahead. YOU DO YOU. Of course, you will not be getting into the technical details of book reviewing i.e commenting on the narrative technique, plot, theme, writing style etc. You only focus on how you felt when you read the last line of the book.

Many people who don’t review books as a hobby or as a book blogger, adopt this format.

  • Formal:  Here, things get a little tricky. (Don’t worry, it’s easier than math, I promise). When you’re writing a review as a blogger, you need to be careful of not bashing the author’s work just because the book didn’t appeal to you. By this I don’t mean you should lie or sugarcoat information but instead use a more constructive approach. Let’s take an example:

    You were disappointed at the climax and you were expecting a different result but at the same time you found really interesting quotes in the book, and were impressed by the writing style. You then go on to mention what you didn’t like about the book, your concerns and tips on what could have been different while simultaneously praising the author for what worked for you.

    It’s really important to understand that authors are humans, and cannot produce work that’s going to be liked by everyone especially since we’re dealing with something as subjective as art.  If you’re a book blogger, you’ll get books for review by various publishers and even authors. Remember, constructive criticism goes a long way.

The following points should be remembered while writing a formal book review:

a.) Try to introduce the author and the premise of the novel in the beginning of the paragraph.  Preferably, a short summary of what the novel is about and what you thought of it. The reason behind this is that people are busy and no one really has the time or patience to read through an entire review.  As sad as this might be, with the onset of online reading and social media anything exceeding one paragraph is too much reading material.

b.) The second paragraph should be a more in-depth analysis of the book; what are the characters like, what problems they’re in, and how they try to overcome their problems, etc.

c.) The third paragraph should be about the narrative technique, plot, writing style and theme of the novel including other details such as how the author managed to put together important pieces of the puzzle and present a masterpiece or how it was inspiring or moving to you as a reader.

d.) By the fourth paragraph, you should be on your way to wrapping up your review. It’s more like a conclusion. Your final thoughts and the kind of reader base the novel can appeal to. For instance, if readers of historical fiction would enjoy a YA novel or not, or if crime mystery lovers would like to read a romance novel. Give a heads up to your readers of what they might expect from the book.

Now let’s talk about the format of this particular way of reviewing:

  1. You can either start the review by writing down the essentials i.e Author’s name, publishing house, rating etc followed by the blurb of the book. After you’re done filling in the above mentioned points, you proceed to write the review.  You can take a look at this post to get a clearer picture: Book Review: Option B
  2. OR after you’re done writing the entire review( taking into consideration all the technical aspects), you can write a short paragraph at the end narrating your personal thoughts about the book. I’ll give you an example:

All in all, the book appealed to me in a number of different ways. I could relate to most of the characters and their situations. Although, I was left disappointed by the ending, I think the book as a whole is a good read.

3.) Another way of writing the review is by filling in the details (author name,                           publishing house , blurb etc) at the end of your review.  This means your review starts in the beginning and then towards the end you mention the details. I personally prefer writing reviews this way and have only recently adopted this method.  Click on this review to get an idea: Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra: If you could read just one book, let it be this one.

4.) Usually the blurb for the book is written at the back. You can copy-paste it directly to your review or you can write a blurb of your own. To be honest, writing a blurb of your own requires practice and takes time. This, however, does not mean you shouldn’t do it. It’s credible if you can come up with your own blurbs.  It definitely adds a more personal touch whilst maintaining a formal approach. (The only time I wrote blurbs were when I was interning at a publishing house. IT WRECKED MY BRAIN)

These are some of the tips  I have learnt over the years. Like I said, there are many ways to write a review, but I tried to narrow it down as much as possible. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to follow these steps. You can mix both the formal and informal formats as and when you like 🙂

Please let me know if this was helpful or if there are other ways you like to write reviews. I’M ALL EARS.

Also, happy new year. 🙂

 

Author Interview: Kavita Kane

Meet the queen of Indian Mythology.

No other way to celebrate my 5Oth post on WordPress than to have the versatile author and senior Journalist, Kavita Kane talk to us about her love for mythology, what inspires her and a little something about her no one knows!

You can read the review of her latest book Lanka’s Princess here: Review: Lanka’s Princess

Get to know the author: 

A senior journalist with a career of over two decades, which includes working for Magna publication and DNA, she quit her job as Assistant Editor of Times of India to devote herself as a full time author. A self-styled aficionado of cinema and theatre and sufficiently armed with a post-graduate degree in English Literature and Mass Communication from the University of Pune, the only skill she knows, she candidly confesses, is writing.
Karna’s Wife her debut novel, (2013)was a bestseller. Her second novel – Sita’s Sister (2014) also deals with another enigmatic personality – Urmila, probably the most overlooked character in the Ramayan. Menaka’s Choice(2015) ,another best-seller, is about the famous apsara and her infamous liaison with Vishwamitra the man she was sent to destroy. Lanka’s Princess (2016) is her fourth book based on Ravan’s sister, Surpanakha, the Princess of Lanka who was also its destroyer…
Born in Mumbai, a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi , Kavita currently lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash and two daughters Kimaya and Amiya with Chic the black cocker spaniel and Cotton the white, curious cat.

 

 

Interview:

  • Did your career as a journalist somehow inspire you to become an author? 
As a journalist I had written non fiction for more than two decades! I wanted to test my creative writing skills and gathering enough courage, ventured into writing a novel. That’s how my debut book Karna’s Wife came about. It was more about testing myself.
  • Did you always want to write on Indian Mythology? What has been your experience like as an author of Mythology?
Mythology as a subject greatly fascinated me while I was studying English literature when I came in contact with Greek, Norse and Celtic mythology besides the fact that I grew up on a staple diet of Amar Chitra Kathas! Another favourite subject was history so I guess somewhere down the line I unconsciously leaned towards mythology as a genre when I decided to write my first novel.
Mythology is a huge canvas where you can add colour without damaging the whole picture. It’s not about retelling ancient tales of God or simply about  good vs evil : mythology is a lesson in knowing about Man and his follies and fallacies. Holds true especially now.
I receive so many questions on my books and our mythology from readers aged 18  to 30 and I realise they want to know so much more. It’s a void they want filled by writers of mythology.
  • Tell us a little about your latest book, ‘Lanka’s Princess’.
As the title says it’s about Surpanakha, Ravan’s sister whom we rarely see as Lanka’s princess. She is that ugly woman whose nose got chopped off. Yet she is the one who started the war. She is the turning point in the plot and pushes  forward the second part of the narrative of the epic. Also, besides Ravan,  she is the antagonist of the latter part as was Manthara and Kaikeyi in the earlier section of the Ramayan.  Yet what do we know of her?
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  • Your books are always well-researched. So what’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your book?
While researching,  I often find the way the stories in our epics and mythology are woven within another and this interweaving is truly amazing. It is like a maze and connecting the dots  is a challenge. For instance I just realised Shishupal and the Pandavas were maternal cousins! It keeps coming and I have to make a concerted effort to stop reading and researching and get down to some writing!
  • Of all the characters you have written about, which is your favourite and why?
Urmila! My first book was to be about her but not having enough research material on her, I started on Karna’s Wife instead. But Menaka was one of the more difficult characters to sketch, adding to her shades of grey yet not to make her dark and negative. She was a temptress, a consummate seductress who used her wiles to succeed, she was a mother who abandoned two daughters- certainly not the perfect woman, is she? Yet she fell in love with the man she was meant to destroy. She was the reason for the downfall and rise of the most powerful man. Must have been a remarkable woman and that’s how I portrayed her in my book Menaka’s Choice.
  • Describe your ideal writing space. 
Physically I don’t like to write on a desk. I find it confining. I just need a quiet room with lots of sunlight and greenery. Also I never write in the night. That’s when the ideas rush in!
  • What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?
Each time a reader gives his feedback, I am truly touched. The most humbling moment was when Karna’s Wife was compared favourably to the classic Mritunjay. Or the moment when I received a hand written letter by a 90 year old fan hand delivered by his grand son! It was incredibly heart warming.
  • A book that had a deep impact on you.
Most books do so in some way or the other and  it would be unfair to name one.
  • Million dollar question, are you working on another book?
Yes!
  • Lastly, tell us something about yourself no one knows. 
I hate chocolate!
I feel extremely honoured to have Kavita Kane on the blog and had a great time interviewing her.

Review: Before I Go To Sleep

Welcome to Christine’s life. She wakes up every morning not knowing where she is or who she is next to.

Author: S.J Watson

Length: 372 pages

Publisher: Penguin India

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

 

Synopsis:  

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even people you love- all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life

My Review:

Welcome to Christine’s life. She wakes up every morning not knowing where she is or who she is next to. She believes herself to be a 20 year old but she isn’t. She is a 47 year old woman who has no idea of her past or present. The future at this point does not exist for her.

There has a been a lot of hype surrounding this debut novel by S.J Watson and it did live up to the expectations. The story revolves around a woman who suffers from amnesia due to an accident that took place years ago. She wakes up everyday unaware of her identity or the identity of the person she is living with. No matter how hard she tries, her mind is blank. It’s like her life never happened and she’s been reduced into the body of a stranger. The only person she can trust is her husband, Ben. But is Ben really speaking the truth?  As she begins to put together shattered pieces of her memory, she realises her life has been a lie.

Christine is helped by her psychologist Dr.Nash who advises her to maintain a journal where she can write down everything about her life and everything she does in a day. At this point, Christine cannot differentiate between black and white; her perception is distorted. Memories from the past hit her like a ton of bricks but she is unable to decipher whether it is a figment of her imagination or reality. She knows if she sleeps today, she will wake up tomorrow with no memory of what happened the day before. The journal is her only hope. The author takes you into the psyche of a person who remembers nothing. A person who has to start from scratch every single day.

The novel surely is a page turner although it gets a little dragging in the middle.

The writing style is impressive, simple and holds the readers’ attention. I had a lot of assumptions about the climax and had my own theories on how the novel would end. But the ending was unexpected and I didn’t see it coming.

Before I Go To Sleep is fast paced (something most mystery novels lack), it is gripping right from the start and raw. For readers who love psychological thrillers, this one is right up your alley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 things a reader goes through after finishing a book.

Even though the story has ended on a happy note, the reader is left with a sense of loss and sadness that can never be measured in words

Who said endings are always happy? Even though the story has ended on a happy note, the reader is left with a sense of loss and sadness that can never be measured in words. Feeling empty or hung-over after finishing a book is quite obvious to book lovers. It’s almost like losing a friend or a loved one or saying goodbye knowing you’ll never meet again. You are left in the dark, isolated, wanting for more. If you’ve read a book that’s stirred every little part of your body, mind and soul, then these are a few post-reading blues that you’ll be able to relate to:

  • Book-hangover: It’s like you’ve been drunk on that last story and even though you tried sleeping on it, you can’t seem to get over the heartache. There’s a strong need to keep reading the book even though you have completed the entire series. To re-read the series again or to read something quite similar? The struggle is real. No matter how hard you try you’re left with a void that can’t be filled. You’re stuck in the story and you can’t find your way out.

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  • The look:   We’re all familiar with being asked questions by non-readers that only make us cringe even more. It goes something like this: “So you finished reading the book in a day?”  Seriously, I can’t roll my eyes any further. Of course, I did. It is not rocket science.

 

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  • Inability to start afresh: They say you need closure to leave behind what can’t be and focus on what can be. As true as it might sound, it’s not the case with book lovers. You just can’t seem to let go because you’re so emotionally involved in the magical world of the last book.

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  • Empty head syndrome:  You have finished the book and you have no idea what you’re going to do with your life. You feel empty, your stomach churns but there’s nothing you can do except maybe get lost in another book.

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  • Obsessing over fictional characters: Do you ever have those days where you start comparing fictional characters to real life people? You’re so in love with the characters that you can’t help but bring them into life through your imagination. You’ve laughed at their idiosyncrasies, cried your heart out at their death and empathized with them at their endeavours. Curiosity takes the best of you as you want to know what happens to the characters after the book ends; do they live happily? Do they even survive? Do they continue being as fearless and brave till the end? The possibilities are incalculable. Hallucinating about a particular character is part and parcel of being a reader and if you’re lucky you might find your favourite fictional character in real life.

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  • Desire to meet the author in person:

It’s amazing how when you read a book, it makes you question about the world in general and you wished the author was a dear friend of yours so that you could meet him/her in person or call them up to let them know what their book meant to you or hound them into writing another sequel. Sigh, the world isn’t a wish granting factory after all.

 

  • Urging other people to read:

Nothing satisfies the soul better than discussing a book over a cup of coffee. Having someone describe or narrate their experiences of reading the same book as you and getting to know their version of how the book could have or should have ended is like a step towards recovery. You’re introduced to novel concepts, different perspectives and point of views that you might have missed.

ALSO, YOU’RE GOING TO SUFFER AS MUCH AS I DID.

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Some losses are irreplaceable and it’s only natural to feel this way. What matters is that you’ll live with the story and characters all your life and you can always go back to re-reading your favourite book and re-living everything you seemed to have lost.

 

Do you ever feel hollow from within after having read a book? Which book has made you feel this way and why?