Friday, April 5, 2013

I read, therefore I review

       I recently reviewed two books back to back and ended up loving one and not favoring the other much. While as a bookworm that forms a part of my existence, relating to the written word on varying levels, it struck a peculiar chord with me as a reviewer. 
      I realized that when I agree to review a book, I’m not merely reading it, I’m judging it as well. And in this age of the Internet and heated tempers, not many take a diplomatic view when it comes to agreeing to disagree. It also remains that, with books, reputation is built by word of mouth and sometimes all it takes is one review to tip the scales for you either way. That said, here’s some insight on what I do as a reviewer and some pointers on how to choose the word you can trust the best.

What I Do:

1 – Choice of books: My reviewing commitments are spaced out. I make sure I have the time to focus on whatever I’m reading and ensure I finish a book before I form an opinion.

2 – Comments: I maintain a reading journal or atleast sticky notes throughout the book so that I can quickly jot down a criticism or appreciation or question as and when I’m reading.

3 – Favorites/Stereotypes/Pre-judging: I do not let prejudices get in the way of my review. Each review is subjective. That said, I do have certain expectations from different genres, like for example, nail-biting sequences in a thriller, but that’s only general. I’ve had books live up to my expectations and sometimes blow my pre-conceived notions through the wall. That’s what makes you grow. That’s the hallmark of good writing.

4 – Incubation: I don’t jump at my laptop to write a review immediately after I finish a book. I give myself atleast an hour or two, or overnight if possible to let the idea sink in. That’s my buffer time to get over mere reactions and move on to more proactive commenting. That is how I exercise responsible journalism.

5 – Categories & Clarity: I try my best to categorize my comments and provide as much clarity as possible. I prefer to be honest with my review than be funny to gain a following. I don’t trash for popularity. I’m an author too. I know what goes on behind the scenes, both before and after print.

6 – Openness: I don’t review to create an image, so I’m not looking to be a patronizing or a demoralizing figure who wields power. I’m merely just another bookworm blogger who loves to read. I don’t expect to have THE opinion, I only have AN opinion.  You are welcome to agree or disagree with me.

7 – Role: When I’m a reviewer, I play the role only of a reviewer. I don’t compare an author’s writing to my own writing. I do learn from every book I read and review but I know my place and I most certainly don’t criticize based on the fact that I too am a writer. I consider myself a blogger first and I adhere to the reviewing policy of whatever medium I’m doing it for. Some sites and platforms out there do not allow peer authors to review each others’ books.

Who should I believe?

When you decide to read reviews for a book, it helps to keep certain points in mind.

1 – The source: This talks about the credibility of the reviewer.  The Internet, being an open medium, allows both encouraging and damaging reviews to be posted virtually everywhere. There have been instances where rival authors try to taint each others’ images by posting reviews against a work. As a reader, it’s very important to know how credible the source of a review is.

2 – Be open: The best thing about the world of books is that there is no single blanket opinion that can be pronounced over a work. What someone loves, you might dislike and vice versa. Always remember that each individual is entitled to his/her opinion. Constructive discussions can be enlightening but blaming someone for not seeing things your way is just plain chauvinism.

3 – Choose wisely: What reviews/reviewers you choose to follow can be established with a little background work. Read as many reviews from a person as possible and find out if you and the reviewer agree on a majority of things you expect out of a book. This will help highlight what you focus on when it comes to a book. With any new review be prudent enough to accept that while you agreed on another write-up, there’s every chance you might not agree with this one.

4 - Be a sport: No matter what anyone tells you, there is no fixed rule to the kind of books or authors you should like. Reading is a privilege. How you go about it is your business. And in truth, what some reviewer thinks about your favorite author should not alter your opinion of him/her. Therefore, dismissing a reviewer’s opinion just because they don’t like your reading list or trying to get back at them by criticizing their works will not get you anywhere. If you think they are wrong, read the book yourself and judge it by your own standards.

These days it has become relatively easy to communicate with authors and with luck, they might read your reviews and actually listen to your pointers. Afterall, every writer knows his/her written word will always be a work in progress. :)

Read and review responsibly :)


Book Review - Tantra

            Tantra, is the latest book to hit the stores, in the Indian fantasy fiction genre. The author is Adi. I wonder if it was a PR choice to just go with a more personal version of his name straightaway. I don’t know how everyone else is taking it, but to me it just feels unconnected. I keep waiting for something to follow the name, a surname or a moniker. Something that’ll endear to me, the owner of the text I’m ploughing through.
And that also remains my strongest complaint about the novel. It just doesn’t connect.

           Tantra tells you the story of a vampire hunter who fills out for a transfer from NYC to Delhi. She has her reasons, vengeance being one of them. How she adapts to what is originally her country and a relatively lackadaisical hunting system, stumbles upon the bad guy who is trying to take over the world, albeit for reasons he thinks are legitimate and how she thwarts his attempt, form the gist.

           Reading the book, I felt like watching TV on a day where heavy rain has messed up the system and the picture is all but a cluster of dots and bands and lines on the screen, buzzing out every few seconds. You don’t collectively watch any program but you know it still counts as watching TV. That’s as best as I can explain my experience.  
Let me get down to the tough part, then.

What did not work for me:

Where do I begin?

1 – The heroine : Anu. Again, named to match the brevity of the author’s, is a very confused woman indeed.

She annoyed me to my limits and here’s why:

She calls herself badass
She is NOT badass

She tries to be sarcastic
She is oh so not sarcastic
She thinks she loved Brian
From her account of it, I felt Brian was more of an enjoyable sexual experiment. She did say ‘fuck me’ to him every single time they met and not once an ‘I love you’ or a confession.
She thinks grabbing mens' balls is badass
I think she is a sex addict who likes to play games. Not to mention the dozen other recollections and incidents involving flirting, blushing, grabbing, ‘fucking’ (her words, not mine) and even slapping a guy after making out. She needs therapy. She could’ve done well as a character on Gossip Girl.
She thinks she’s falling for Gaurav
Dude, protect your balls.
She thinks wearing leather makes her cool
I think she isn’t professional enough to adapt to her mission or atleast pretend to.

I think, a more diabolical name could’ve helped her image a little bit, if not salvage it. Something like Maya or Tara or Shakthi or even Tantra. I actually thought hence the title.

2 – Language & Narration : I have no solid complaint in the grammar department but the narration was not engaging at all. There was something missing, a hook maybe or style or perhaps execution. The plot is actually decent and has potential but it just did not work for me.

3 – Details : Too much at times, too little at others. Some of the characters are similar and a few others do not make any impact. Nina aunty was irritating, Smiti was a Xerox of Nina aunty. Chandra, Panditji, Dr. Sharma, Suresh and Karim sounded like each other, and the villain Senaka actually had very little part to play!

There was a lot of mumbo jumbo explanation that Anu wasn’t very interested in learning, so I took her lead and chose to be bored of them. I appreciate the idea but the final output falls flat.

This one line in the climax surprised me – Already, there are illogical bits happening, like Dr. Sharma doing a Dumbledore and trying to take on Senaka a.k.a Voldy here, and the two of them going on and on about their master (What villain waits patiently for his enemy to compare notes and distribute power? If it were me, I’d have had him at hi.) Then, Senaka actually says “...he was to be our guru, not a mindless Scrooge dancing to the fall of gold coins!”  Wait, did this guy just refer to Uncle Scrooge? Apparently, you can afford to take cartoon breaks while on the way to achieving spiritual enlightenment or conquering the world. Sounds fun. Sign me up! I’d love to know if Senaka likes Johnny Bravo.

What did work for me:

1 – The saving grace of the entire book : AMIT! I love that guy. Now, here’s someone who is sweet and funny! (Anu, take notes) I would not have read further if he had died towards the end. I suggest making him the hero and shipping Anu back to NYC where she can mope over Brian and grab balls in bars.

Which brings us to the fact that this is a book series so there’s more fare to come. I hope the author will find a better pace and connect, with the rest of the books he has planned. Less preachy choomantar and more intriguing tantra, please.

2 - I thought the bookmark idea was neat.

Oh and the demon in the cover – kinda off-putting. Vampires are good looking (No. Not THAT one you are thinking about. Try the Salvatore brothers) and the vampires even in this book are in human form, who blend with the crowd. If I saw someone who looked liked the cover-demon, I’d most likely think Halloween-costume-overdone. Hey, maybe Anu brought a souvenir back with her?


A good plot that could use tighter execution and a different protagonist. 

Rating : 3/5 (For Amit)

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Did you like this review? Do you agree with my view? Yes/No? Leave a comment. Let's discuss :)