Friday, January 11, 2013

Writing a Book Review: The How (Post 2 of 3)

Note: This is part two (2) of a three (3) part post about book reviews: They why, the how and the where!  To view the first post, click here.

So, you're all fired up about writing a book review and you stare at the blank screen, that cursor flashing on and off the screen.  It's taunting you, telling you in it's own insidious way that you'll never be able to get past your writers block to scribble down a few lines about the book you just enjoyed.  What was the book called again?  Oh no!!!!! AHHHHHHH!

Just kidding :)!  Writing a book review is supposed to be fun, not an experience that leaves you sweating and gives you nightmares for years to come.  These are a few tips to aide you in your next book review!!!

As I said in the last post, a book review is critical look at the book in question.  After pouring through plenty of websites, some of them from educational institutions I might add, a book review can be broken down into three parts: the summary, the critical review, and the reviewers opinion of whether the audience would like to read the book.

Part One:  The Summary:
This is basically a telling of the story in a few short sentences.  For example, if I were doing a critical review of Romeo & Juliet, the first portion of my review would look something like this:

The Montague's and Capulet's are at war, and nothing can bridge that gap.  The young Romeo sneaks into a party one night and falls hopelessly in love with Juliet.  Feuding continues, yet the two young lovers cannot bear to be apart.  They wed in secrecy and plan to run away together, but fate isn't so kind.  A communication error leaves the two lovers in a tragic set of circumstances that in the end leads the two families to question the validity of their feud.

See, just a basic summary.  Now, be kind because I've not read Romeo & Juliet in ages!

Part Two: The Critical Review
This is the part where you break down the story and tell why you did or did not like the story.  Were there any characters that grabbed you by the heart strings or made you want to bash their brains in?  What about the plot intrigued you most?  For a list of questions/etc, click here or here.  Here is an example using Romeo & Juliet:

Shakespeare's use of rhyme and iambic pentameter is amazing as he tells the story of two star crossed lovers who find a tragic fate.  While I enjoyed getting to know each character, I found that Romeo & Juliet to be less of a romance and more of warning.  Letting oneself become so involved in a war or feud can have devastating consequences on families.  I also find myself forgetting the reasoning for the feud.  But, this is Shakespeare, so one must be prepared for the untimely deaths of the main characters.  Overall worth the read and though I don't find myself connecting with the characters on a personal level, I did feel as though they were well developed.

Part Three: How the Audience Might Like the Book

This one is purely based on how you think others will perceive the book.  Again, I'll use my example, Romeo & Juliet:

This play will resonate with the young and old, however, I do suggest the reader to be at least in high school as some of the language can be difficult for younger children, as well as the violence.  It should also be noted that suicide is used within the text, although it isn't glorified.  All in all, this is a must read, because one can simply not go through a proper English and Literature education without at least running into one of Shakespeare's works, and Romeo & Juliet is, in my opinion, one of his best.  Although, I am quite partial to Macbeth.

Now, a few things that are on my mind

Q:  Should I write a book if I didn't like the book?

A:  My answer to that is yes, as long as you're clear on why you didn't like the book.  Was it poorly written?  Did the plot line fall flat? Or, in contrast, was the book something completely different that you normally wouldn't get into or couldn't get into?  I've never started a book that I didn't finish...except for Jack London's Call of the Wild.  Was it because it wasn't well written?  No of course not, but from the beginning, I just couldn't get interested in the book, and no matter how hard I tried...It just wasn't working.  A close second was Frankenstein...I know shudder to think.  I'll be honest, I didn't even like the movies or television shows that related to Frankenstein.  But I did finish it, although it may have been due more to the fact that it was required in high school.  The point I'm trying to make is that although you didn't enjoy the book, others might and your review should reflect your honest opinion of that.

Q: Does my review have to look like yours?

A: Of course not!  Your review should be as unique as you are.  It doesn't have to be staid and written like an article for the newspaper, besides, the most fun reviews are funny or captivating in other ways!  Also, a person can read approx. 150 words in a minute, so too many words equals someone not reading the entire review!

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