A Latte with Literati – Muskan Rajani

Meet Muskan, a Buzzfeed featured bookstagrammer from Indore. At the tender age of twenty years, she manages her studies, work and reading. She is a bibliophagist by choice, a bibliovert by nature and a writer by passion. This is how a friend might describe her, ‘She can talk about the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in one breath. Finds her solace in random words strung together, bound by a jacket that makes you think. Makes absurd decisions and struggles to find perfect endings.’ She loves hosting book clubs, readathons, readalongs, anything that she can do to promote reading.

Bookstagram Handle: The Quirky Reader

Favorite Genre: Fiction/YA in particular

Would Love to Meet: Jojo Moyes and Nikita Gill

Indie Author You Like: Anjali Karmakar

Recent Reviews: Life Unknown: A Passage Through India by Kartikeya Ladha

Salini: Let’s start with your early days. What are your first memories of reading? What was your favorite book as a child?

Muskan: I was a very curious child. Stories always fascinated me. My mom used to tell me stories before bed, and that evolved to her teaching me how to read from storybooks, the kind that had lots of pictures and colours.

Salini: How was your transition from a reader to a book reviewer? What was your inspiration to take up this unique role of a book reviewer?

Muskan: I am a writer, and I like to pour on paper every relevant thought I have. This led to me writing about books in my journal. Then I came across a group of readers in my city and some of them were into blogging and reviewing and that inspired me to structure the initial thoughts and write reviews.

Salini: What’s the book that’s sitting on your reading desk right now? Or is it a stack of books? 😊

Muskan: A huge stack, indeed. Books – multiple, always – that I’m currently reading; books on my TBR, books I read and not written a review for yet and a kindle which has its whole other plethora of books.

Salini: What are your favorite genres? Are you a fiction or non-fiction reviewer, or do you do both?

Muskan: I like reading all genres. I have a natural inclination towards fiction, and within that YA is the genre I usually pick up. But I always try and mix it up. I review almost every book I read, regardless of the genre.

Salini: Is there any role-model for you when it comes to book reviews/critique?

Muskan: Thebookelf_ on Instagram, Nikita, is the one whose account I really love. I would follow her from my personal account and would wait for her posts so much. Even now I absolutely love her bookstagramming style and recommendation, the only difference is that we’re bookish friends now.

Salini: Tell me a bit about your reading habits. Which one do you like, eBooks or paperbacks? Do you have any specific reading place/time?

Muskan: Nothing beats a paperback. Nothing comes close to that kind of reading. I got into ebooks about a year ago and I definitely see the advantages. So I read both and am equally comfortable. I usually read when I’m alone, usually in my bed or writing table. I don’t have a specific time.

Salini: How do you usually rate a book? Do you have any strict set of rules, or does it vary from book to book?

Muskan: I have a simple algorithm. I look for five things in a book – a good plot, the characterization, the writing style, the emotional range, and how good it made me feel/added to my life. The more boxes the book checks, the higher the rating.

Salini: If you are given a chance to meet a writer, dead or alive, who will that be? And Why?

Muskan: I’d love to meet Jojo Moyes for writing the book that kept me going when times were tough, and still does. Another is Nikita Gill – a person who writes so beautifully and from the heart, I can only imagine how fulfilling that conversation will be.

Salini: Being a book reviewer, you might have come across many indie writers. Is there any new writer who astonished you with their talent? 

Muskan: There have been multiple, actually. I even added them to a series I do on bookstagram called Small Business Sundays. The basic idea was to promote small businesses, but now it also includes indie author and artists. The one who astonished me with her talent is Anjali Karmakar. She wrote a book of short stories and poems, and whatever I had expected from a book, it rose higher. I think she has a lot of potential as a writer and I’ll definitely like to read more of her works soon.

Salini: When authors approach you for a review, what information are you expecting from them?

Muskan: The first thing I ask is for the blurb of the book. It tells so much about how the book is going to be. This isn’t a line in concrete, just an experience thing, but the way a blurb is presented is probably a sample of that book.

Salini: Tell us how a reader could benefit from reading your book review? Do you give any specific pointers?

Muskan: The point of my book reviews is to open up a reader’s mind. The agenda is to push people to read more, to read as much, to read in variety. The only reason I post about books, the reason I spend so much time planning posts, writing the captions, cutting the right design, is I want to promote reading.

Salini: What are the takeaways the writer can gain from your reviews?

Muskan: In my reviews, I try to create an honest and clear image of what I felt about the book. The only thing writers expect from a review is an honest reaction. A good writer uses these points as praise as well as constructive criticism. That is what I try to deliver.

Salini: On your journey as a book reviewer, what are the challenges you faced? Was it a smooth ride?

Muskan: I honestly have not thought much about it. I started doing this because it seemed fun. I have had old accounts where I tried but did not gain an audience and then work and academics got in the way. This one, I promised myself, I’ll be consistent on. And I gained an audience and it’s just going far better than I ever hoped. Of course, I ran into a lot of trolls and disrespectful people, some authors not handling a low rating well, someone not agreeing with my reviews. It wasn’t a smooth ride, but it is a fun one.

Salini: What was one of the highest points of your journey as a book reviewer? Any unforgettable experiences?

Muskan: The first thing happened when I got to collaborate with a publishing house for a giveaway when I had 500 followers. It felt so grand. Honestly, these feelings never feel repetitive. I still jump up when an author reposts my story or I get a message from some random person appreciating my account. Even though this is very real, I still feel like, dude, I am just a kid who likes to read. That is all I am.

Salini:  Which is that one book you think every human being should read? And why?

Muskan: I won’t recommend a book here. If someone read that, it didn’t turn out to be their type, they won’t pick another recommendation ever. So I can’t say which is that one book you think every human being should read, but what I will say is every human being should read. Read anything you want, anything you like. Do you want to read Chetan Bhagat? Don’t let anyone stop you. That is literally how I got into full-length novels.

Salini: How do you juggle your day-job and book reviewing?

Muskan: With time, this bookstagram and review scene has blended in with my lifestyle. The writing process, the clicking of pictures, the planning, it is a soothing experience. It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like a calming and liberating activity. Where reading is concerned, I make time for it. Always have, always will.

Salini: We all like to have a good laugh. Could you please tell me about a book that really made you laugh?

Muskan: Okay, now it’s going to get fun. This is strictly 18+. Kids should not do this. This won’t be just reading, this would be an experience. There is a book series, 4 books, very small ones, called The Booty Call Series. Gather up your friends, all of you read it on the same day, make a whole weekend of it if you need. The series is supposed to be erotic, but it is so much into it that it is just simply funny.

Salini: Are you strictly a reviewer, or do you write too? If yes, where can we read you?

Muskan: I am a writer, too but I don’t really post much about it anymore. I took time off to experiment with genres, try to diversify my style. You can read some old write-ups and poems here is you want to https://thebookmarkedwriter.wordpress.com/. I will make a comeback though, hopefully very soon.

Salini: As a community, do book reviewers have any groups or collaborations? Who is a fellow book reviewer (of your circle) you greatly respect?

Muskan: Of course! Book reviewers collaborate a lot, for readathons, buddy reads, giveaways. I currently have a book club with @redbrickbooks and @bookschaimusic, a monthly buddy read called #whenchaimetcoffee with @bookschaimusic, a 2021 readathon called Colorbooked with @avanireads and a guest host each month. As for reviewers I respect a lot, there are so many amazing people that I will keep typing and the list won’t end for days. Some of them, if I had to mention, would be @bookschaimusic, @bookxp, @kavitajhala, @avanireads, @dancingbibliophile, @redbrickbooks, @aym_less

Salini:  Please tell me about a common point of improvement you come across in the work of new writers. From a reviewer to a writer, please give me a generic tip to become a better writer.

Muskan: A writer needs to understand that the book is more of a team effort. Just writing it doesn’t suffice. Along with the writer, agent, publisher, marketeer, a book direly requires a good editor and proof-reader. A writer can write the most beautiful book ever, but if it has a lot of grammatical errors or loses connectivity, the book is not a good book. I cannot emphasize the need of an editor and a proof-reader enough.

Muskan’s Social Media Handles

Muskan’s Instagram Feed

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