One of the questions I'm most frequently asked is "What's your reviewing process?" so here's a little regimen guide to share the way I read and review books with you guys. I'll try to include all the online and offline tools I use to facilitate my reviewing process, and hopefully these tips will be useful for you.
Mark deadlines in Google Calendar
I mark all of these dates down in my online calendar so I can always keep track of by when I need to finish a book, and to see what's scheduled for my blog. Here's a screenshot of what September looks like:
The calendar can also help you determine what order you should read books in. With so many deadlines, it's easy to miss a few if you don't prioritize the books that have earlier publication dates, and hang onto the ones that aren't due until later. For instance, here's how I "prioritize:"
This one's fairly obvious, but read. Just read. This is the most time-consuming part of the reviewing process because reading takes time, but you have to keep up with it, because it's also the most important aspect! I'm a university student so I know sometimes your eyes get tired, I know your life is crazy, I KNOW you can't afford the time to sit down and read every day. Well, make the time. Read on the bus, on the train, waiting in line at the bank, during your lunch break, fifteen minutes before bed. If you get in the habit of it, reading doesn't take effort at all (even if it's a miserable book). You just need to find a way to incorporate reading time into your daily life.
While reading, take notes
Underline, write little notes in the margins, and mark important quotes. If you're like me and your mind runs a mile a minute while engaged in a book, you will need to jot your thoughts down before you forget them. Usually while I'm reading, I'll come up with the perfect opinion or observation to possibly include in my review, but I know I'll never remember it, so I scribble it all down on the title page. By the time I've finished reading, these frantic scrawls accumulate to look like this:
Some people reread their review titles, but I don't feel the need to do it. (I don't have the time, either). As long as I have my notes, reading once is more than sufficient for me.
For most of my reviews, I also include a favorite quotes section, so if I find a phenomenal quote, rather than writing it down, I just mark it, and write the page number down in the front of the book so I can come back to it later:
All Our Yesterdays, by the way. My review goes live tomorrow, but in case you missed my fangirl rants all over Twitter and Goodreads: I. Loved. It. Seriously, don't even wait for my review; just go pre-order it now. You will not regret it.
Prioritize the order in which you need to write
This method is similar to the above one in which the most urgent book to be reviewed is at the top, and the books are in chronological due date order. This is a minor step, but it just helps me be more organized.
Then, I have to start using my brain. This is the most difficult part. I have to form sentences—and they have to sound nice, at least to my ears—so that others will be able to actually understand my review. I have Pros, Cons, and Verdict sections just to sum my thoughts up better (as my reviews tend to go terribly off-topic, especially when I'm raving).
Even if a book hasn't really resonated with you profoundly, there should be a reason why. You don't have to say nice things. Just say reasonable things and always be sure to justify. If you didn't like a certain aspect to a book, don't just punish it with a low-star rating; explain what you didn't like. This will at least help beef up your review if you have nothing else to say.
Edit and revise
Recently, I discovered Grammarly to help me out with this. Grammarly is an computerized "extra pair of eyes" to help catch your writing mistakes. It's not just a spellchecker; it's a proofreader that actually catches grammatical and structural errors, which can really tighten up your review, not to mention make it sound more professional.
It's super user-friendly, and I love how it explains errors, and gives suggestions on correcting them, rather than just slashing through them with a red line:
Check it out when you get the chance!
Include relevant information
I always feel hugely accomplished every time I finally click "Publish." Book reviewing, as fun as it is, is mentally and physically draining—from all the late nights you stay awake finishing just one more chapter to that one sentence you've beaten to a pulp because you just can't get it to sound right—but it's all worth it in the end. The satisfaction of seeing your words published and actually out there is like no other.