How I Review

I have arrived so early at uni today that I’m officially uncool. But lucky for you I decided to while away my time by writing a post.

Today I thought I’d share with you my tips and tricks for reviewing, if you can call them that. I’m big into reviewing, it’s a wonderfully cathartic thing to do at the end of each book. Although in recent times I’ve consistently fallen behind, I used to stick by my rule of not starting another book until I’ve reviewed the one I’d read. But then I went on holiday, and then I got lazy, so you know. On the topic of reviews though, I recently was award the Top 1% of Reviews on Goodreads! How exciting!

But I do have set ways in which I review and what makes it easier or harder for me to do so and I thought some of you might be interested in what those are! And just maybe, you might find some of my suggestions helpful – whether for getting your reviews done or enticing more people to read your reviews. I review because it helps me find ‘closure’ with a story, but I love to throw my thoughts out into the abyss and see what happens, and I also review every book I read. For me, surprisingly, reviews are one of my most popular types of posts, so perhaps all my gif ranting is, in fact, palatable. Go forth, and peruse below a break down of my methods.


 When I’m Reading . . . 

Whilst I’m reading a book I generally don’t make notes. I way prefer to just read it leisurely, because as soon as I start having pen and paper handy I feel like I’m doing an assignment. Occasionally, and this is usually when I’m on holiday, I will have sticky notes at hand to tab quotes or significant events in the book – this does actually make it much easier when I start writing the review to recall the events and slip in some totally cracking quotes. Otherwise, if there’s something of particular note then I’ll type the page number into my phone to refer back to later. I never  write in my books and you wouldn’t catch me dead folding any corners over.


 Sitting Down to Write

 

The first thing I then do is have the book propped up nearby so that I can stare at its (hopefully) pretty cover for inspiration. I hand write all my reviews out first. Admittedly, every now and then I don’t but woah do the typos get bad if I do that. My parents bought me the nicest little calligraphy-like set for Christmas last year and I use. it. to. death. I love it. As you can see in the picture, I have a feathered pen with a fountain pen nib which I literally dip into a pot of ink to write. If you were wondering, I have to dip every couple of sentences or so. It’s really fun and looks fancy as. Also if you were wondering, I’m left handed. I thought I’d include a little video below to show you just how awesome this is.

The ink that I use, for any fellow ink dippers, is Parker Quink, I bought this from Office Works and I have no idea where else you can get these things. This one is blue and the bottle neck is nice and roomy to enable me to dip my pen – it’s very frustrating when you accidentally get something too small.

The feather of my pen is real, although I forget where it’s from. The company is called Bortoletti which is an Italian company (and if anyone else lives in Perth and is curious there’s a shop right in the centre of the city). It’s absolutely beautiful and I would probably write my reviews faster if I didn’t spend so much time staring at it and going swish and flick.

And here’s a close up of the nib for you. I’m actually not sure if I’m supposed to clean the nib but as you can see it’s obviously stained from all that dipping. ‘Tis beautiful, no?


Where I Write

I write in many places, but usually at home. I have a little white desk, which you can see snippets of in these photos, where the Internet is bad and therefore good for getting my review done. I write in these robust Visual Arts Diaries because the paper is thick which is perfect for the seeping nature of the ink I use. It’s A5 size for absolutely not reason other than me buying that size out of habit.

I always post my reviews first on Goodreads because that website is life. I expand on my initial thoughts and splurge all my prettily written thoughts into the internet. Writing a review on Goodreads is a fabulous way to learn a bit of coding, too. This means things such as putting in Italics, or Bolding words, putting in a quote so it comes up fancy, or putting in images and gifs. Here’s a quick run down for anyone who doesn’t know how to do this yet (as this is essential to know if you want to do any of these things on Goodreads).

Italics: <the letter: i> the word you want to italic goes here </the letter: i>

Bold: <the letter: b> the word you want to bold goes here </the letter: b>

To Put in a Quote: <the word: blockquote> the quote goes here </the word: blockquote>
Now, with putting in quotes, this format automatically puts in spaces (as in, what happens when you press ‘enter’) either side of the quote. So you don’t need to put a space between paragraphs, if that was where the quote was going. Give it a go on Goodreads to see what I mean.

To Put in a Picture: <img src=”the url of the picture or gif goes here”/>

Goodreads now has a function that when you’ve posted the review you can copy the HTML format from a little box to the right of it and paste this, as I do, on the ‘HTML’ format of your ‘new blog post’. Then I switch it back to the ‘visual’ format because that’s much prettier and nicer to work with. I add in a few other bits and bobs, like my sign-off picture, tags, and header image, and BADABOOM. A review is born.


How I Review

I don’t have too strict a “guide” for myself when it comes to actually writing the review. But there are some things I always do.

  1. I always write down my quick, initial thoughts on completion of a book and these sit on Goodreads until I get around to doing the full review.
  2. I always write a quick summary in my own words of what happened without giving any spoilers. I make sure that this is an ‘original’ recap of the events because I always get bored reading the blurbs or bland recaps of the book at the start of reviews. I want to hear your FANGIRL SCREAAAMMS.
  3. I always write a summary at the end. This sums up my thoughts, all my ramblings and the point they were trying to make, and I give a final line to say whether or not YOU, the reader, should pick the book up. I also provide links to Goodreads and The Book Depository for the convenience of readers who want to snap that book up.
    Disclaimer: I am NOT a Book Depository affiliate. The links at the end of the review will take you to the BD as would typing in their URL on your computer at home. 
  4. I always, ALWAYS include visuals. As you might have noticed in this post, I’m a big fan of posting images, gifs, and other fun things. I will explain why in a bit.

Every review is different because every book is (hopefully) different. Sometimes I have a  lot to say, sometimes I don’t. And I don’t worry about it. That’s the most important thing when you’re reviewing – remember that you’re doing this for fun, for you. Even if it’s an ARC (advanced reader copy) you’re putting in the amount of effort that you want to because you enjoy doing these things. If you find yourself at a loss of what to say for a book then relax, you either need a break or you just didn’t really think much of the book.

And this is a very important point. If you’re not in the mood to review, then don’t. Writing a review when you’re not in the mind set is a good road to disaster. You write gibberish and generally struggle to splurge out your emotional rantings. Sometimes you need a day to come back to it, sometimes a couple of weeks. I’ve taken nearly a month to review a book before because I just wasn’t ready to sit down and do it.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learnt, is to not worry so much about the structure of your review. If you’re reviewing for leisure then by George! Do it how you like! As soon as I go, oh but I need to talk about this and this and this, I lose myself, and more importantly, my train of thought. Write as it comes to you, what you don’t write you clearly didn’t feel the need to, or didn’t think much of it. Editing is a gift to us all.


Practice Being Nice

Generally speaking, I like to include my thoughts on characters, if need be, and of the plot itself. I feel like these are pretty important points when you’re writing a longer review. But the hard thing here, is what do you do when you don’t like it? My advice? BE. NICE. Don’t slam the author’s works just because it wasn’t your thing – you’re entitled to say you didn’t like it, or, it wasn’t your thing – but it makes me very upset and angry to see someone who has taken a knife to a book and spilt its guts all over the floor. Take your time, there are nice ways to say horrible things. For example:

  • This just wasn’t my cup of tea.
  • I didn’t like this, but who knows, maybe you’ll love it.
  • This is a cake with not enough sugar.
  • This is not a cake.
  • This was alright, but its lack of dragons held it back.
  • Maybe I need to reread this when I’m in a different mood.
  • If there were dragons in this, everything would have just made a bit more sense.
  • This is a book that, I feel, needs to be read twice to full grasp.
  • The cover is nice.

tumblr_nefh9fbK7g1rg39emo1_500

Ultimately, try and focus on the things you did enjoy. No-one likes to wallow in negativity.


Get a Reading and Reviewing Buddy

This is a really important step. Actually it’s not, but if you have pets they’re fantastic for getting in the way. Which only makes you more determined to get the review done. I actually have three cats, but this one here, this is Smartie. And he is the reason that I never get anything done. In fact, as I write this he’s currently sitting, no sorry, lying across the bottom of the keyboard and up my chest.

Just in case you needed proof.

In all fairness though, reading along with people and even sharing thoughts with a friend whilst you review is THE BEST way to motivate yourself to both finish a book and get things done.


 GIFs

The ultimate question that I had when I first started getting into reviewing was what are gifs, how can I get them, and why are they so dang funny. I used to use a website called Giphy to find my gifs. But my internet is a little sluggish and these take a painful amount of time to load. Then I tried to use Tumblr but HOW do you do this people? Sourcing gifs from Tumblr is tricky and slow – the gifs are always a little . . . strange.

So now, I use gifs simply by googling what I want and putting ‘gif’ after it, clicking on images, and going from there. This brings up everything you could ever want, fast. It might just be the easiest way to do it for my doddery internet, but that’s the way I recommend doing it for you.

But when is it appropriate to use gifs? Look, not all reviews can take these hilarious and sometimes rude gifs into their stride. And this is usually Historical Fiction. Or just Non-Fiction in general. When I reviewed The Railway Man, The Butterfly and the Violin, and other similar books I did not use gifs. For me, this reading experience was a mellow and informative one, and no amount of Jennifer Lawrence gifs could make things okay. In this scenario, I just use appropriate pictures. This works excellently if a movie has been made. That way you can use images released by the movie people of the movie to put in between your points. Otherwise, I’ve used images of Auschwitz for a WWII book before – you get the drift.


Why Visual Elements are Great

If you anything like me, reading a big chunk of text is exhausting. Which is ironic given that we read books like there’s no tomorrow. But the difference is that books are written with the purpose of telling a story and to create a film like image inside your mind. Anything else is usually some sort of text trying to inform you of something. A.K.A., whether you should read a book or not.

Laughter is the best medicine, therefore by making you giggle once or twice, you’re probably more inclined to like this very long post.

Visual elements act as a sort of way to hook people’s attention, give them a respite between the words to look at something easier to interpret. And they’re fun. For me, the bottom line is that if you can make something fun, then always, always do. People are far more interested in reading it that way.


 That’s all from me today! I hope you enjoyed this and found it interesting. And we can’t deny that my feathery pen is the coolest thing you’ve seen so far this month.

What tips and tricks do you use for reviewing?

Let me know in the comments below!


End Note

~~ Kirstie ~~

10 thoughts on “How I Review

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