Writing part 2. Book review (C1)

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had a good end of the year and have had a strong start to 2021. We won’t dare say “this is going to be my year” but it’ll sure outdo its predecessor! 🙂

Today we bring you the second part of the post series on how to write a review. On this occasion, we’ll be focusing on C1 students so the review will be slightly longer than the previous one. First of all, look at the task, what differences can you see when comparing it with the B2 First task we studied here?


Have you read a book that has a central character whose life is affected by an event or decision they make early in the story?

What did you learn about the person’s character? Did the book help you to understand how the person was affected by this event or decision?

Send us your review for our next issue

As you can see, whereas the B2 review task focused on summarising the plot and writing a recommendation, in this case we don’t need to do the latter, but rather focus on one of the characters of the book and talk about their development in the story and their evolution as a character.

This is an example of how a review on Javier Castillo’s “Snow Girl” would look like for this task:

Iris and the Snow Girl

Last year I read a book that had quite an impact on me; it’s called Snow Girl, by the Spanish writer Javier Castillo.

The book starts with the 1998 Thanksgiving parade in New York City. Thousands of people wait for the enormous inflatable turkey and amongst them Aaron, Grace and her 3-year-old daughter Kiera Templeton. Aaron takes Kara to get a balloon and she gets lost in the crowd, at that point in the story, a nightmare begins for the Templetons but also for William and Iris.

As Will was walking around Macy’s enjoying the show and surrounding himself from the happiness that his own house was lacking, he saw Kiera: alone, scared and crying. He simple could not take it. He approached her, changed her clothes and cut her hair to make her look like a boy and took her home. After Iris’s initial refusal, Kiera stayed with them, for over 12 years.

What drove Iris to do such thing? We learn the simple but painful truth: she had been trying to have a baby for years and that every month she had to face the disappointment of finding out she was, yet again, not with child. During the first months of Kiera’s kidnapping, she did struggle to live with herself having taken someone else’s child but after the first time Kiera called her “mom”, the first time Kiera hugged her and asked for her protection, she was made.

Iris’s decision of accepting Kiera into her house marked not only her life but also her psychological evolution. She had clearly committed a crime and, yet, the reader will struggle to blame her for it because, in the end, all Iris ever wanted was a child to love and sometimes, that need, simply doesn’t attend to reason.

What do you think of this review? Has it answered all the questions? What differences in language can you see when comparing it to the B2 First one?

Take a look and let us know in the comments! We’ll see you next time to discuss the answers!

Stay safe everyone!

Writing part 2. Book review.

Hello everyone! I hope October has treated you well and you have received November with open arms!

Today, we are starting a series of posts about writing. One of the most common questions when using descriptive language is how to do so, what words and parts of the speech to use and how to organise it.

Hello everyone! I hope October has treated you well and you have received November with open arms!

Today, we are starting a series of posts about writing. One of the most common questions when using descriptive language is how to do so, what words and parts of the speech to use and how to organise it.

Well, we think that it is always better to work hands-on so here I bring you my review about Snow Girl, by Javier Castillo. I have chosen it because I know that it is a book that many of you have read and so you’ll be able to relate to this piece of writing.

There will be four posts in total divided in two blocks: B2 and C1 level. This first one will show a sample of the book review for first certificate and you’ll be asked to read it and give your opinion of the review answering a series of questions, which will be answered and highighted in the text for the second post. The second block will do the same but with a change of focus towards C1.

Let’s go for it! This is the task:

You must answer this question.

An international arts website is looking for reviews of novels for a new section called ‘A Reader Writes’. You have decided to write a review of a novel you’ve recently read for this section. Describe the novel and say what you think about it. Would you recommend this novel to other people?

Write your review in 140- 190 words in an appropriate style on the separate answer sheet.

B2 Sample review task

And this is the sample answer:

Snow Girl

I really liked The Day Sanity Was Lost, by Javier Castillo but with his latest book, Snow Girl, he has surely outdone himself.

The book starts with the 1998 Thanksgiving parade in New York City. Thousands of people wait for the enormous inflatable turkey and amongst them is the Templeton family. Aaron, Grace and her 3-year-old daughter Kiera enjoy the parade before her brother comes along in a few months. Aaron takes Kara to get a balloon she gets lost in the crowd, which leads to a spiral of anxiety, pain and blame, changing their lives forever.

Many journalists become interested in the case, including the undergraduate Miren Giggs, but as years go by without new leads, people lose interest and many in the police department think that Kiera is no longer to be found. However, five years after Kiera’s kidnapping, the Templeton’s receive a VHS film with recent footage of their daughter, who is now eight years old, playing in an unknown room and it won’t be the last one.

I really loved this book, it’s a real page-turner, engaging from the very beginning and keeping you engrossed chapter after chapter. If you like mystery and noir novel, I’d recommend this book as Javier Castillo never disappoints.

So, what did you think of it? Would this get a 5 out of 5 in the B2 First Exam?

Think about the following:

  1. Has the writer answered the questions fully?
  2. Was the text easy to read?
  3. Was it well organised both in paragraphs and using connectors?
  4. Look for adjectives and adverbs in the text, what sort of information do they give you? Why are they important?
  5. How does the reviewer describe the action in the book? Have you learned about main characters and plot twists?

Read the review again and answer these questions, the answers will be discussed in our next post.

Until then, as usual, #staysafe !

Photo by Koshevaya_k from Pexels

Write & Improve

Hello everyone and welcome to our writing special! Continue reading “Write & Improve”

Improving your writing skills

Hello everyone!

How’s April treating you? I hope you’ve all had a chance to enjoy the sunny spells we’ve been having lately as well to do the suggested exercises our last post on Inversions Part 2! Let’s take a look at the answers: Continue reading “Improving your writing skills”

How to write an essay (First Certificate Level)

Hi everybody!

I know that a lot of you are going to take a Cambridge Exam in the following months and that’s why, throughout the next four weeks, all our posts in the category “Teacher’s Corner” will be about that.

Today we start with the compulsory writing part 1 in First Certificate: How to write an essay.

This is the task we will be working on:

We have broken the planning into pieces and organised it in different steps and I think it will be useful so, come on! What are you waiting for? Take a look and give it a go! 🙂

STEP 1.- Understanding the task

What is one of the most common problems when it comes to starting a writing task? It doesn´t matter if we are students or professional writers, everybody has experienced the “blank page fear”, wondering “But, how am I supposed to write 140 to 190 words about this? I don’t have a clue where to start! I can´t think of anything to say!” Don’t panic, we are going to give you a hand with that! 😉

Usually we only read the part in the “notebook” area but today I am going to ask you to start paying attention to the very first lines. It says:

“In your English class you have been talking about the environment.”

This sentence, usually overlooked, is the key to come up with ideas so we can start planning our writing! Actually imagine you have had a discussion about the topic given in class, think about your classmates, what do you think their opinion would have been?

Here’s my example about ideas that may have come up in the class:

–          Polluted seas

–          Polluted water

–          Cars = Polluted air

–          Trees and vegetation damage

–          Bad air quality

–          Pesticides

–          Ozone layer damage

–          Greenhouse effect

–          Dirty beaches = skin problems

–          Cost: purifying water so it is potable.

–          Less oxygen in the air


–          Ashtma and breathing problems (Tokyo) Þ The more patients the higher social security costs

–          Contaminated food / Recent research Þ Possible cause of illnesses such as cancer

–          Harmful sun: Skin problems

–          Higher temperatures, changes in weather (harmful for crops), ice caps melting, raising sea levels

–          Industry residue control

–          Industries residues control

–          Better public transport system so as people won’t use their cars.

–          Exhaust fumes control

–          Promote bio food by helping farmers (grants…)

–          It cannot be undone but we can prevent it from getting worse.

How? ß

  • Recycling
  • Educating in schools
  • Educating in awareness of current environmental problems
  • Encourage: Using public transport, eating bio food, not using BFC’s, taking care of nature when outdoors.

STEP 2.- Lay-out

Or, how am I going to put all these ideas in the same text cohesively and coherently?

I know my essay should look more or less like this:

This being the content:

STEP 3: Language

Part 1.- Style In this case I am going to write in a neutral to formal style as this essay is for my English teacher.

Part 2.- Linking words Organising my ideas. In this part I am aiming to show a range of vocabulary so as to raise my mark in the writing part. In this way, it is useful to include: A variety of linking words and expressions, passive, conditionals, etc.


Opening: Impersonal passive …

Supporting the topic: It’s important to realise, as an illustration…

Expressing cause and effect: Conditional.


Opening: Firstly, …

Adding information: In addition

Explaining the reason: Due to

Expressing consequence: As a result


Opening: Secondly, …

Adding information: Not only … but also….

Explaining the reason: Given that….

Emphasising: With this in mind, indeed


Opening: Having considered… it is also reasonable to look at …

Introducing the point: Given that…

Expressing consequence: Consequently


Opening: In the final analysis, …

Emphasising: What is more…

Expressing consequence: Under these circumstances…

Now, you just have to put the pieces back together to get an awesome essay! 🙂 Next week I’ll post a sample but, why don’t you write yours first? Leave them in reception and we will correct them!

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