Is book-blogging-minus-book-reviews ruining book-blogging ?

imagesThe other day I read a book blogger’s musings about the very discouraging reader engagement for book reviews in contrast to non-review content which seems to have become almost a must-have to bring readers to your book blog in the first place . Otherwise , the book blogger might as well write in his / her  personal diary – forget about reader engagement with the content , the post does not get any clicks .

As several other book bloggers have pointed out repeatedly , today book blogs minus book reviews have become a trend . If they do have reviews , they are the some 5 or 6 lines about a book – the mini-reviews . Almost every review reads like the one before : ” It was unputdownable…” , ” I stopped in my tracks when I finally came to the big reveal – you would’ve have never seen it coming… ” . There are too many adjectives and adverbs in these mini-reviews  : ( almost ) nothing original but still there just to enforce upon the readers the intensity of the reviewer’s reactions , I think .

Mini reviews are somewhat okay but there is one book-blogging fad which I have not taken to ( & will never ) : the book-tags . I have never gotten the idea behind book tags . Somebody please enlighten me about putting out a list of books / writing about bookish elements which fit a particular tagline . You may identify your fandom tribe and can have gush about your favorite series all over again . That’s how far book-tags go for me . I haven’t picked up a single book yet after reading book tags .

In today’s blogosphere , with too many wannabe-writers / hobbyists competing with each other for the readers’ engagement with their content , it’s only natural that many book bloggers are turning to the easy-content-with-high-reader-engagement to bring in the numbers . I myself have put 2 compilation posts in this blog and vouch for it being a blog-saver : The blog was languishing and I was not reading much to review it here . At-least these recommendations posts let people know that I haven’t shut shop . Now , after 3 months of my first ever reading – slump , I am back .

But , I regretted each time I put out some filler content like that .

I don’t see mini-reviews / book tags / listicles ( basically , several of the recent fads in book-blogging culture ) as being of much value ( forget about the literary value ) to the readers . Sure , people may pick up books from your list but I believe that nothing can take the place of a proper book review – a review which dissects the various aspects of the book : the themes , the characterization , the plot , the storytelling . The in – depth reviews offer the reader / would-be reader an idea about what to look for in the book and encourage them to read better . The mini – reviews / book recommendation posts most often read like those blurbs written by the book’s promotion team – the blogger’s ultimate goal is to pique the reader’s interest . Still better , if they make them pick up that book . But , is it the purpose of blogging about books ? Aren’t the book bloggers supposed to be facilitating better reading of books by having discussions around the books they have read / full-fledged reviews about their reads ?

I believe that nothing can take the place of a proper book review – a review which dissects the various aspects of the book : the themes , the characterization , the plot , the storytelling . The in – depth reviews offer the reader / would-be reader an idea about what to look for in the book and encourage them to read better .

But , is making the readers pick up the book after reading your mini-reviews , the sole purpose of blogging about books ? Aren’t the book bloggers supposed to be facilitating better reading of books by having discussions around the books they have read / full-fledged reviews about their reads ?

As important influencers among the reading tribe , I think that every book blogger should ensure that their blogs carry more literary content than fad / filler content . As an analogy , while we are concerned about the quality of reporting these days with more of click-bait headlines ( basically all celeb stuff and all other fluff ) rather than THE IMPORTANT STUFF that make it to our online news-feed , let us also get concerned about the content our book blogs carry . Because , in this digital age of short attention-span / need for eye-ball grabbing stuff like GIF s to actually entice the readers into clicking the link to your post / availability of encyclopedic proportions of information on every random topic , giving the readers all this fad stuff would only further contribute to the growth this culture of mindless consumption of anything they read .

I think it is the time for the book-bloggers to remedy this mindless consumption by putting out content that would open the readers’ eyes to the various aspects of the book being reviewed and help them to identify these aspects in their own current reads . And , it won’t hurt the reader to read some proper reviews without all the distracting fluff like GIF s , memes . When readers get to read more quality content like good discussion posts / book reviews online , they would demand quality content every time , in turn making us book-bloggers  read better . Currently , our production of all these fluffy content has shaped their book-blogs’ experience , in turn forcing us to keep churning out more of this useless content and it definitely wouldn’t do for us to hold the reader accountable for the content we post on our blogs .

I think it’s high time that book bloggers had a good look at their content and ” fads ” they are encouraging .

As an analogy , while we are concerned about the quality of reporting these days  , with more of click-bait headlines ( basically all celeb stuff and all other fluff ) rather than THE IMPORTANT STUFF that make it to our online news-feed , let us also get concerned about the content our book blogs carry .

In this digital age of short attention-span / need for eye-ball grabbing stuff like GIF s to actually entice the readers into clicking the link to your post / availability of encyclopedic proportions of information on every random topic , giving the readers all this fad stuff would only further contribute to the growth this culture of mindless consumption .

Let me know your thoughts about this post in the comments section below . I would like to hear about what do you feel about the trend of book-blogging- minus-book-reviews? Are you taking to it well or are you like me ? Also share your thoughts on the book blogging elements I have termed as fads or fluff-content…

 

The Mother – in – Law – Book review

download (1)  I chanced upon The Mother-in-law by Sally Hepworth as one of the must-read beach reads of  2019 . The title flipped some switch inside my head and I remembered that I had it on my Kindle . I had got it from Net Galley . But after reading books with hackneyed plots ( like about an impostor nanny with Munchhausen syndrome who is also a writer ) , I was wary about  trying out any Net-galley offering . But , thankfully , it turned out to be a pretty  satisfying read .

Plot summary :

A staunch advocate for women refugees , a prominent member of the community hailing from one of the wealthiest families & not to forget the lady’s elegance , Lucy had been properly intimidated by Diana Goodwin – her prospective mother-in-law during their first meeting . When Lucy did get married to Diana’s son eventually , she looked forward to gelling with her better and reverse Diana’s opinion of her being only a fine girl . She wanted to impress Diana properly like Diana had impressed her .

Lucy tried , very hard , during the early days of her marriage , to win over Diana but eventually gave up . But , then , she didn’t know Diana back then . Diana had an innate reserve that nobody had quite managed to navigate past  – even her children . Diana would offer sympathy , solid advice or would simply listen but she would never extend financial support . It seems that things haven’t changed much in the Goodwin household even after all these years…..

And , now , Diana is dead . While her suicide note suggests that she had taken this step because of her cancer , the autopsy does not find any cancer . But it does find traces of poison in her system and signs of suffocation .

Now that the police are looking for motivations for Diana’s homicide , there seem to be several reasonable ones . And there are several questions too -Why was Diana’s will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad Diana’s gone ? Why would Diana lie about the cancer ?

Of course , there are interesting secrets and it seems everybody knows something about Diana’s death which they are not letting out…

My thoughts on the book :

The premise of ” after x’s death ” is not a new one but the choice of the MIL – DIL relationship as the focal point for the narrative of the family’s dynamics is new . Both are very engaging  & often witty and their voices are done well .  Through Diana’s and Lucy’s narratives , we come to understand their relationship in a way which they never would , because we get an uncensored view into their mind workings . The host of secondary characters have also come out well .

I have a few things which did not sit well with me though….

For one thing , there were too many sub-texts / afterthoughts within the parentheses ,  which I felt , cramped the free flow of the narrative . Another thing which I thought was very unnecessary is the time-stamping throughout the book . . The voices of both Diana and Lucy are very distinct and the reader can easily get to know who is speaking and of which time-frame the narrator is speaking about . I think the readers today have been exposed quite well to alternating time-frame narrations and multiple POVs that they don’t require much help from the author by way of PAST and PRESENT time stamps along with the narrator’s name at the start of every chapter .

I want to ask the writer just one thing – Why don’t you trust the readers to work out these little things by themselves ? If the voices of your characters are distinct , then you don’t have anything to worry about ( Sally H can be happy as her characters ‘ voices  are really done well . She just needs to have some faith in her readers and herself ) .

The big reveal , though , was underwhelming . Perhaps , not putting up his / her name as the narrator at the top of the page would have been better . It was not difficult to put together the circumstances and the name at the top of the page but the ” twist ” was not very convincing .

On the whole , Sally H. kept me turning the pages until the not-so-twisted end ( and for few above-mentioned hiccups ) and for that , I have to thank her .  It would not do to forget the publisher , St . Martin’s press  here – A big thank you to whoever approved the e – ARC on time .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter : Kim Edwards

Norah Henry , Dr David Henry’s wife remarks  “Our world will never be the same.” before they start to the hospital for Norah’s first delivery during a blizzard . Little did she or Henry think about how much weight those words carry : Norah delivers twins unprecedentedly – a boy and a girl . While the boy is a healthy infant , the girl has Down’s syndrome . David secretly entrusts the baby to the care of a nurse while informing Norah that the child has died during birth .  Norah would not come to know about her daughter’s existence until 25 years later – but the secret which had weighed down David like ” a stone around his neck ” as he himself puts it has torn the family apart .