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!

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

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 πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

 

Reading Update.

A quick wrap up on what I’ve read and what I plan to read.

I AM BACK.

I have been avoiding writing blog posts and at first I was genuinly busy but then I didn’t feel like writing. I mean, I don’t even have a legit excuse for being below average at blogging and I have no remorse. But heyyyy, I am here now so let’s catch up?

My reading has been like Kolkata’s weather. Warm & sunny followed by incessant rain, thunder & lightning. It has ranged from reading 8 books in a month to barely managing one book. I was also the lucky recipient to uninvited reading slumps which as you might have figured hampered my reading. Since I’ve missed out on posting monthly wrap-ups, I’m going to briefly tell you what I’ve read and what I am currently reading.

May:

  • Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai: I loved this book. It was part of my MA syllabus and I was so glad I got to read it.
  • Baaz by Anuja Chauhan: You can read my review to know what I think about this one.Β Review: BAAZ

June:Β 

July:

  • Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra:Β Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin by Mark Twain
  • The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  • The Ice Twins by S.K.Tremayne

August:Β 

  • A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashmi: Easily one of my favourite books of the year.
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
  • What Kitty Did by Trisha Bora:Β What Kitty Did by Trisha Bora
  • A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir
  • Three Psychos by Yash Pawaskar

 

I am currently reading Mr.Mercedes by Stephen King which is my first novel by the author. I understand I am late to the King bandwagon but it’s better late than never, right? I will write a review once I am done reading it. I am hoping to start with IT by King since the movie releases this friday and I want to read the book and prepare myself before watching the movie. It’s unlikely that I’ll watch the movie in theatres since the book is a 1000 pages long! I don’t even remember the last time I read such a thick book. It’s going to be a task, a difficult one. Other than that, I have no set TBR pile since I never follow it. I have a problem with sticking to rules even if I set them myself. I do, however, like challenges which brings me to my Goodreads challenge. It gives me great pleasure to announce I’ve read 34 out of 50 books so far with 4 months still left. I think I am pretty much on track and I MIGHT finish reading all 50 books before the year ends but let’s not get too ambitious. Β I also got done with MA exams and I’m awaiting results. It feels oddly weird not having to worry about exams or anything yet feels so incomplete. Being a student sucks but it also has its own charm.

That’s all from my side. Here’s to hoping you hear from me soon.

Also, what are you currently reading?

Book Review: Option B

“Seeking joy after facing adversity is taking back what was stolen from you”

 

I don’t know anyone who has been handed only roses. We all encounter hardships. Some we see coming; others take us by surprise. It can be as tragic as the sudden death of a child, as heartbreaking as a relationship that unravels, or as disappointing as a dream that goes unfulfilled. The question is: When these things happen, what do we do next?

Life, as we know it, is unpredictable. You’re walking down the road in your freshly cleaned and ironed white shirt only to have mud splashed all over your clothes. You’re standing on the road, hailing abuses at the vehicle who did it, but there’s only so much you can do. Or maybe accidentally dropping your favorite scoop of ice-cream you’d been wanting to savor. These are small almost unimportant terrible things that happen. What does one do when they fail at an important phase of their life? How do you react when you lose a family member? Where do you go when you’re fighting to live?

You want to give up. Leave everything. And escape. But you don’t. You wake up every day, confused, miserable, but still ready to move on. When there’s no Option A, you kick the shit out of Option B. That’s exactly what this novel by Sheryl Sandberg is all about. To find the light at the end of the tunnel, to find the silver lining and learn to live some form of Option B.

The sudden death of Sheryl’s husband turned her world upside down. It came as a blow, one she thought she could never recover from. To make it worse, she couldn’t think of a life where her children would grow up without having a father. Happiness seemed like a distant dream. Sheryl feared her children would never find happiness again. They would never be normal. She would never be normal. Adam Grant, psychologist at Wharton and a dear friend of Sheryl jumped to the scene. Together they discovered how to cope with adversity and build resilience. Talking about Resilience Sheryl says:

I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had. He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient. Resilience is the strenght and speed of our response to adversity–we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.

So began a lifelong journey of Sheryl coping with the loss of her husband, maintaining her job as the COO of Facebook and ensuring her kids grew up to be strong and resilient. One of the foremost principle’s used in the book are the 3Ps that stunt recovery. This was formulated by psychologist Martin Seligman when he was studying how people deal with setbacks.

  • Personalization: The belief that we are at fault
  • Pervasiveness: The belief that an event will affect all areas of our life.
  • Permanence: The belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever.

Studies have shown that the minute adults and children accept that they’re not in control of every situation, that they’re not to blame and that these hardships won’t follow them everywhere and will not affect all aspects of life, they recover quickly.

The book follows Sheryl’s everyday struggles which included attending her children’s school events alone or celebrating birthdays without her better half. One of the important points mentioned in the book which I personally found interesting was ‘focusing on worst-case scenarios’. Adam went on proposing that instead of trying to find the positives in an utterly miserable situation, one should think of how worse the current situation could be. I mean, come to think of it, you’re alive and reading this review right now( well, I hope you are). And the gift of life is probably the biggest gift ever. In Sheryl’s circusmtances, Adam reminded her that her husband, Dave, could have died while driving their children to school. His statement sent chills down her spine overwhelming her. She realized her children were still with her and that gratitude took over grief.

Option B is a sum total of not just Sheryl’s loss. It has tremendous stories of people from all walks of life who have defied all the odds, survived at the face of adversity and have overcome illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters and the violence of war. Not only do these stories inspire they also teach us how to persevere in times of hardships. They reveal how strong human capacity is and that pain usually bows down when faced with people who refuse to beaten by their circumstances.

I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.

Failure can either make you or break you. It’s easy saying you learn from failures. It’s difficult being on the receiving end. Talking about failures, Sheryl says, “Not only do we learn more from failure than success, we learn more from bigger failures because we scrutinize them more closely”. Imagine if we’d stop walking when we were little because we kept falling every time?

The measure of who we are is how we react to something that doesn’t go our way. There are always things you can do better. It’s a game of mistakes

—-Greg Popovich

I spent most of my time underlining and making notes because Option B does offer deep insights and there’s so much to learn from the book. The writing style is simple, it’s not preachy and Sheryl has described her emotions in a raw and unfiltered way. You can feel the emotions deeply but at the same time there’s a sense of hope and faith that pain is temporary.

We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

Sometimes it takes going through something so awful to realize the beauty that is out there in this world


Author: Sheryl Sandberg

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 176

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

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January Wrap Up

A month in books, blog posts and author meet ups!

Don’t you think the month of January stretched for far too long? Despite that, my reading was poor. I have no excuse except that I procrastinated heavily to a point where I was procrastinating procrastination. I could manage to read 3 books. However, I did write 6 blog posts which is black magic IMHO. I hope I continue being consistent here. Let’s see what January was like:

  • Selfienomics by Revant: A pretty promising debut novel on life, politics, emotions and health. I liked how the author opened room for discussion, citing important facts that we otherwise ignore and giving us a bollywood-ish feel. If you’re looking for a light, self-help book, Selfienomics would be a smart pick. You can read the review here:Β Review: Selfienomics

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  • Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kane: A retelling of one of histories most epic tale, Ramayana. I absolutely loved this book. I wrote a detailed review which you can read here:Β Review: Lanka’s Princess. I also had the honour of interviewing Kavita Kane. The interview is here:Β Author Interview: Kavita Kane

 

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  • The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night Time by Mark Haddon: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It’s one of those books that’s rewarding, a story that’s going to stay with you for years to come. Mark Haddon’s portrayal of a boy with Asperger Syndrome and his disassociated mind is so well captured. It’s funny, wise and griping right from the start. The author gave us an insight into an autistic mind where emotions are absent and the world is based on number and logic. I have to write a review for this one. (Remember what I said about procrastination?)

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I attended the Kolkata Literary Meet 2017 and met Shazia Omar and displayed sheer awkwardness and lack of emotion. (WHY AM I LIKE THIS). The author, however, was really warm and welcoming. Her book Dark Diamond was the topic of discussion at the Lit meet. You can read the review here if you’re interested in reading historical fiction:Β Review: Dark Diamond

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Took this picture at the Western Quadrangle of Victoria Memorial.Β 

Can we talk about what I plan to do in the month of February( I SPELT FEBRUARY WRONG 5 TIMES, MAYBE I SHOULD LEARN SPELLINGS FOR A START)?

  • Reading at least 6 books including a classic because I plan on passing my Β exams, so yeah. I also have to study and work on assignments. I have no idea how that’s going to happen.
  • Writing reviews. I suck at this.
  • I have been meaning to do blog posts on studying, writing cover letters, applying for jobs etc. Although I talk about books here, I want to diversify a little. Let’s see how that goes.

Well, those are a few things I plan on doing in feb.

What did you do this month and what are you planning for the next month? Let me know!