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Exploring the world of books with Manal Ibham

5 months ago

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By Shakira Shareef   If you’re a book lover, I bet you’ll love Manal Ibham’s “bookstagram” – @manalreads – quite a lot. Reading books is amazing, but have you ever reviewed a book? There’s a feeling of freedom that arises when you put the gist of your thoughts into words and let them impact other readers. Your heart does a little dance when someone goes through your reviews before making a purchase.    We spoke with Manal Ibham and asked her to tell us about her experience of reading books and reviewing them.    Q: Why are you fond of reading?  A: There are a multitude of reasons. I could be reading a psychological crime thriller with brutal incidents, yet, there is something very relaxing about the whole journey with that book that I don’t easily achieve otherwise.  I also get to learn about people from different walks of life – learn about the invisible side of people, visit cities around the world, and be at worlds in the future, past, and those purely imaginary.  I’m able to understand people, their emotions, and the reasons behind most of their actions even if I dislike them because I’ve often met a version of them in my fictional world. Reading has always geared me up for the real world.   Q: Do you remember the first book you reviewed? A: Yes, it was ‘A Place Called Here’ by Cecelia Ahern. It was my first review back in 2015, and I didn’t write any again until 2019.   Q: Why did you start reviewing books, and what’s your goal?  A: There have been so many books I’ve read and loved, but with time I forgot how the book was nuanced in my perception; I forgot the minute details which made me fall in love with the book. When I realised that reviewing/writing about the book helped me connect better with the books and recall books from the past, I started reviewing my books on Goodreads and my personal Instagram.  This prompted many book-related conversations in my online circles and requests for book recommendations, which led to the beginning of @manalreads, my “bookstagram”. My goal, simply, is to enjoy the process of reading and reviewing and to inspire someone to pick up a book.   Q: Is it challenging to manage a review page like yours? A: The challenge is relative. The book reviewing communities on Instagram and Goodreads are very supportive, and you can easily make friends who readily share tips and show support. The challenging part for me is, that despite wanting to support indie authors, I have to decline review requests when the books are not of genres I enjoy. I also don’t enjoy writing a negative review, especially if they are first-time authors.   Q: What are your genres, and what other genres are you planning to add? A: My go-to genres are psychological thrillers, true crime, sci-fi, and historical fiction. I’m trying to include more introspective literary fiction and self-help books. Reading these genres alone does not work well with me, so I usually read them as part of a few amazing book clubs I’m part of. I also read with fellow book friends.   Q: Suggest five books for avid readers.  A: These are a few books I love and would always recommend:   ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood (Dystopian) ‘If You Tell’ by Gregg Olsen (True crime) ‘Altered Carbon’ by Richard Morgan (Cyberpunk) ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ by Alice Feeney (Suspense) ‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi (Historical fiction)   Q: How long does it take to design the backdrops for your pictures? A: Not more than 30 minutes, during which time I take pictures of 3-5 books that I plan to read and shoot a couple of reels. I usually do this once or twice a month. I have a pre-planned backdrop, and I use props from my bookshelf. I try making it as minimal and easy as possible, so I have a lot less to put away after the photo shoot is done.    Q: Can you tell us about book reviewers you’ve found interesting? A: I love reviews from Mariam Sadique (@book_reports_by_mari). She reviews contemporary fiction and romance and has a cheerful style of writing that I really enjoy reading. Chiara (@fu_reads) has interesting book reviews of new releases, and reading her reviews feels like having a conversation in person, which I adore. Nada (@earlybookishbirds) is a book blogger whose reviews I take her word for. She has an amazing choice of books and fun reels I find delight in watching. There are so many more, each having a unique choice of books and style of reviewing.   Q: What would you like to say to anyone interested in starting their own book reviewing page?  A: There is no perfect way to review books – to each their own style. Honest opinions on books are always reflected in the reviews, and that’s what people enjoy reading, so talk about everything you liked and disliked in a book, take some fun pictures, and you can get started. Do not pressure yourself to review books you don’t feel connected to.  To begin with, write about books you have strong opinions about, they can be positive or negative. Always remember that even if you dislike a book, it is still a product of someone’s hard work, and they don’t deserve the hate.    PHOTOS © MANAL IBHAM 

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