How To Make a Helpful Book Review

Book reviews are fun to write, but if you want to make a helpful review for your fellow readers to read, here are some guidelines on how to give your book review a valuable content. Having guidelines will help you establish your own writing structure.  It is important to make a regular structure on how are you going to evaluate the books you have read, so it will be easier for you to write book reviews on the next hundreds of books you’ll read and evaluate. Here are some elements you might want to consider:

  1. Rating

You have to specify your rating. Set a range from 1 – 5, but what would be the specifications of these ratings? You must also set your own standard, for example:

5 – Excellent writing technique/style, excellent plot or story. Simply just one of the books you have deeply and exquisitely delved into.
4 – Good writing technique/style with a steady story. One of the good books you have enjoyed.
3 – Average. Was able to make you turn from page to page. Usually, 3 out of 5 books are the kind of books that are easy enough to read, but not that good enough to really get lost into.
2 – Gave you a hard time to finish the entire book. Either, you didn’t like the writing style or it has an unbearably slow or fast pace of the story, or you just didn’t like the story enough to get a little, even a bit hooked.
1 – You give this kind of rating to the books that are painful to read. You give 1 out of 5 stars to the books that you did not finish, even if you tried. 1 out of 5 stars simply means, it’s just not your kind of book.

  1. Summary

Your summary has to be very short, and be aware of giving out spoilers. Be careful not to give out the climax or the plot twist or, of course, the ending of the story. Just give the essentials, like the answer to the question: “What is this book all about?”

  1. Characters

You might want to add the descriptions of the main characters, or just one of your favorites. You will not resist the drive to give a short description of the character, especially when the author made you feel like this person is someone you just have known thoroughly, like you know more about this character than that new friend of yours you just met and you hang out with.

  1. Reaction

I cannot specify what kind of reaction would this be, but this is the most vital element of your review. What was your reaction to this book? Did you like the writing style? Do you agree to the author’s or character’s view? Is there something that you can absolutely relate to, and you just couldn’t agree more to the point of view of the character or the direction of the story? How was the author able to tackle some sensitive topics like miscarriage, marriage, depression, loneliness? Give your reaction or reactions or mixed and contradicting and complex emotions about the book, how does this book made you feel? This element will give way to your personal touch. There is no right or wrong reactions, it is your review and, your reactions no matter how absurd there are – are valid.

  1. Recommendation

To whom would you recommend this novel or book? Would you recommend this to someone who is into Magical Realism, or if the novel has similarities to the novels of a certain author, would you recommend it to those who also loved Haruki Murakami, for instance? Or would you recommend this book to your girlfriends who feel a little bit lost in life (assuming you just read Eat, Pray, Love), or would you recommend this book to your geek guy friends who loved Lord of the Rings Trilogy?

These elements only serve as a simple guide in writing book reviews. You can be complex,  you can make your own structure. But for starters, this will do. Hope this was helpful. And by the way, if you just read something beautiful, please feel free to drop the book title under comments. Now, bury your nose back to what you are reading and keep those pages turning!

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Fighting the Cycle of Depression

Depression has become a universal battle, and the one were fighting against with is ourselves; each of us is our own silent opponent, stealing our own identity, ruining established relationships, putting away  our own opportunities.

I have tried everything that I could to avoid the dark clump of clouds hovering on the back of my head. Last semester, my hard work finally paid off. I’ve finally become my most productive self; I was able to do my schoolwork on time, I was able to help my mom at home, I did a clerical job on the side. Yes, finally, I was able to fight it! Or maybe ignore it, live above it. All the while, Depression is still beside me, like a known enemy, sitting at the corner, relaxing at my side, puffing his smoke with his feet up high, and his usual companion, Anxiety, is there, too. They are taking their time.

This morning, these two caught my full attention again. I found myself zipping up my humane mask back on.  Depression just stands in there, smirking at me, mouthing the words “Welcome back”. The heavy feeling is here again.

This is the tricky part, it had you again and you have to start from square one. I figured, if there is one thing that actually worked during my 4 year battle with persistent depression cycle, it’s developing my own routine. I thought, the only thing that could fight this cycle, is also a cycle and I have to make my own.

Whenever the shift comes, this has become my cycle:

 1. Hibernation – This is the time where I ceased fighting it. I let myself submit to it, lie down in my bed, pretending I’m dead. Usually, during hibernation, I get  overwhelmed with the feeling of absolute nothing. It’s like climbing down to a deep and empty well, and when you’ve finally reached the bottom, all you do is stare at the opening, your slightest source of light.

2. Shower & Contemplation – After a day of two of succumbing to my emotions and lack of emotions, I will force myself to get-up. I’ll go to a long and nice shower, to think. To control my thinking. To think over and over, until my mind gives way to a new perspective. The after shower feeling helps, too. The light sensation of just-came-out-of-the-shower freshness makes me feel a little better.

3. Conquering the clutter – I’ve got this from a Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Whenever Toru Okada feels restless, he would iron his shirts until his mind clear-up. I know, it is a productive way of taming the mind.

I know how hard it is to move when you are feeling depressed, but I always give this a try. I start with chunks, from small things, to organizing the cluttered desk, until I get to that piling plates on the sink. It is not a fun thing to do, but it gives me more time to think. I am always stressing about thinking. You see, I am battling with my own thoughts. I have to think, to change these thoughts. And conquering my clutter usually works, it even gives me the feeling of relief once I’ve made my place neat and comfy.  A clean place, can bring peace. And peace, in the moment of darkness, is exactly what I need.

4. Proper Rest – This is something I cannot do right now. You see, I’ve been writing a midnight diary, and midnight diaries can only be written during midnight. Hah! But having a good night sleep can be helpful. It gives the brain a time to rest (so it has more energy to fuck with you in the morning). But in all seriousness, the relationship between sleep and depressive illness is complex – depression may cause sleep problems and sleep problems may cause or contribute to depressive disorders. As much as possible, I want to cross this one out, I don’t need any more depressive contributors.

5. Making my own morning routine – Mornings are for happy people! I believe in “fake it till you make it” and I will try to pretend I am happy this morning, until I can be truly happy the next morning.

I go for a jog, exert my energy, rage, self-hatred, into running. Some days, I really have no interest in anything at all,  I’ll just give myself a simple breakfast, and by simple, I mean the easiest one to cook. Maybe a bowl of cereals. Not much, but progress is progress. One of the ways to fight depression is to continue fighting it, it is fighting to do something against my will. So serve I myself a decent breakfast, even if I don’t feel like it.

When I am feeling a little better after this full cycle, I’ll continue with it, but I skip Hibernation, I’ll proceed to step 2. Going back to step 1 is my last resort. Never let yourself fall apart over and over again, it’ll be a habit. This is certainly not a good habit.

Remember, only cycle can break a cycle. I will keep on establishing new cycle, as long as I can fight myself, as long as I have the will to fight myself.

If you find yourself facing a battle with yourself, you might wanna give this cycle a try. Let’s surpass this, I will keep on encouraging myself, and I will keep encouraging you. Depression can be persistent but I will never lose hope, and I will share this hope with you.