Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
It's All About the Books
8/9/2010 8:03:41 PM
A Round Table Discussion with Three Book Reviewers!
Welcome readers to my weekly blog. Usually, I feature an author or writing tips, but this week you’re in for something a little different as this is my first round table discussion with three fascinating ladies, each of whom happens to love the written word enough to review and blog about the books they’ve read.
Now, as an author, I must admit that those who take the time to read and go on to review these novels have always intrigued me. With so many titles available as ebooks and in print, how does one even begin to choose one? And what happens if you are asked to review a book, but it falls flat, so much so you can’t even finish the read?
Today, Joanne Chase of Cut to the Chase Reviews, Nicole Hicks of Howling Good Book Reviews and Adrianna Colwell of Book Goddess No. 1 have offered to share some of their insights, favorite books, and more! Because these ladies share some very helpful, interesting advice to those in the business of writing stories, I felt that rather than editing their comments down to fit nicely on this page, I’ve chosen to split this interview into two parts. For your enjoyment, here is Part One:
LTS: First of all, ladies, welcome and thank you for offering to guest blog today! Let’s start the session with this question: why this love affair with books? Was the love of reading cultivated early in life?
JC: I learned to love reading at a very early age (thanks, Mom & Dad), starting with bedtime stories and going to the public library every Saturday morning to listen to story time and to pick out new reading material for the week. I’ve probably read well over a thousand books in my life.
NH: Hey thanks for having us! I learned at an early age to love reading as well! The ability to lose yourself in another world has always been an escape, and joy, for me. My parents introduced me to books also, although I don’t think that they expected for me to read so much! Lol
AC: Thank you for asking me to participate in this interview. I have always loved to read and from a very young age would always read every night. I think books are one of the most important things to love and have instilled this love of books in my boys as well. I believe that if it is typical to spend time reading everyday, then you will become a good reader and enjoy it very much. I never get bored and try all different genres.
LTS: What made you decide to post your reviews online?
JC: I set up my website when Claudia Jackson, wife of Steven Jackson (author of Death of a Cure) asked me if I could write a review, after I had told her how much I enjoyed reading his book. I couldn’t post it on amazon.com (as Claudia had asked me to do) because, living in Canada, I only have an account on amazon.ca. I put together the website to post the review and just kept going after that, with invitations on Twitter and Lulu inviting authors (mostly self-published) to submit their books.
NH: I was actually going through review sites online, roughly 5 years ago, and decided why not see if they wanted more reviewers since I read so much. Surely I could do that too, and I actually got accepted! After that I worked with another site as a reviewer before opening HGB. I enjoy it, working with the authors to get their names out there! It is as fun and rewarding as editing!
AC: I was interested in starting a blog and gave some thought to what I was passionate about and turned to my love of reading. I decided to give it a try and found that I really enjoyed it. I am honored to be asked to write reviews by authors and publishers and hope that my following and requests will increase as I become a better blogger.
LTS: Do you have a favourite genre and if so, what is it and why?
JC: I’ll read anything from philosophy to psychology, Stephen Hawkings, Carl Jung, and of course fiction – fantasy and mystery-crime novels are favourites of mine. I don’t watch a lot of television; I entertain myself with books instead. The one thing I don’t like is extreme violence.
NH: Like Joanne, I also read a lot of genre although I love gore! Right now I am in a paranormal/scifi kick for personal reads. I love paranormal because of all the possibilities it offers!
AC: I also enjoy reading an array of different genres and must say that I do enjoy psychological/medical thrillers and also historical novels and I do not mind gore in my books if it fits in with the story.
LTS: With thousands of titles coming out each year, both in print and as ebooks, how do you make your reading selection?
JC: I pick books by recommendation, mostly. Someone may tell me about an author they particularly enjoyed or lend me a book they’ve read, and I’ll look up for more on the same author if I enjoy their writing. My partner, Claude Bouchard, has written five mystery-crime novels and came into my life six years ago with a library of hundreds of paperback novels, which I devoured.
NH: I allow my reviewers to choose their books that we are offered by the publishers and/or authors. Whatever appeals to them. As for myself, well I work with the authors and publishers. I read so much that I read practically anything, so it works out well!
AC: I usually alternate between books I have chosen, book club books and ones I have been asked to review. I find this mix keeps me interested and makes it so it is not work at all, but a very enjoyable pass time and passion.
LTS: This will probably sound petty, but I often do judge a book by its cover. Sadly, the ones I tend to steer away from are the ones designed by self-published authors who happen to fancy themselves as artists as well as novelists (often, it’s their mother or grandmother who has convinced them that they are fine artists as well as writers). These are the ones with hand drawn and colored images that look like they were created by a school children and yet, the book was not written for a child!
Do you judge a book by its cover? Has there ever been a book that had a cover design that really piqued your curiosity? Enough that it made you want to buy the book?
JC: No, it’s more the summary on the back of the book that will make me want to buy a book.
NH: Honestly yes, sometimes I do judge a book by its cover. There have been some covers that initially made me pick it up and look through it. But the reverse is also true in that sometimes I have gotten a book despite the cover. I think we buy with our eyes. It’s true with food and books, at least with me.
AC: A cover design might catch my eye so that I would pick it up and find out what it's about, but it would not necessarily make me buy it. I prefer to go by reviews as I know there were some books I have read which I did not think the cover had anything to do with the story, but the book was excellent.
LTS: In writing a review, what are some of the elements you must consider to give the book your top rating?
JC: First and foremost, the writing HAS to be up to par. I know that sounds obvious, but spelling/grammar/wrong words takes SO much away from reading a story. Next, the story line has to flow well, whether it’s the action in the plot, the descriptiveness, or the poetic prose – it has to move along in some way. Keeping plots and subplots interesting, entangled, and suspenseful are always key to me as well.
NH: I agree with Joanne, the first must be syntax and flow. Especially since I edit, if the flow and syntax are not up to par, then it detracts from the story and my ability to “lose” myself in it. The ability to keep me entertained, the descriptions (although some are well done with less descriptions), the factor of if we would reread and suggest to all of our friends are also factor in the highest rating. It is a matter, I think, of how much the story “blows us away” as both reviewers and readers.
AC: I also agree with you about the writing as reading a book full of errors is distracting and irritating. A book that I would want to read again and again would get my top rating. The book needs to excite me, stretch my imagination and be an all around good story and characters that I actually care about.
LTS: Very good, interesting responses, thank you! Overall, reading should be a fun, entertaining endeavor and not a chore. As an author, I know firsthand that no matter what you write or how you write it, it’s impossible to please all the people all of the time. And when you do make your book available to the public, an author must know it will be up to public scrutiny. With this in mind, without naming names, have you ever dealt with the wrath of an irate author after you’ve posted a less than favourable review? How did you handle it? Is there a tactful way to give a negative review?
JC: I don’t post unfavourable reviews. If someone submits a book that I find isn’t well written I will send them an email pointing out what I didn’t like and why. I don’t think publicly bashing someone is productive. Most people who submit books to me for review are independent, self-published authors, sometimes lacking the editing help that they need. And then there are also people who simply don’t know how to put sentences together properly and I just can’t read it.
NH: Well, I try to keep in mind that authors take a risk when they publish. That putting their work out there is very similar to letting your child go to college. I think that some reviewers forget that authors are people too, and become biased. It is important, I believe, to remember that even if you don’t like a book there are respectful ways to say what it was that didn’t agree or grab you. But even doing it respectfully- such as using the oreo technique- you get some authors who will heatedly disagree with your interpretation of their work. All you can do at that point is respectfully agree to disagree, in my opinion. I don’t believe that it helps anyone if there is a huge “scene” made out of it. As you stated, not everyone can be pleased whether it is a reviewer, author, or normal reader.
AC: As I reviewer, I do think it is important to point out flaws which may help the author in the future but you also need to be encouraging. I do not believe in bashing someone but would for example point out that perhaps more editing would be appropriate before publishing - this has happened and the author was very grateful for the helpful suggestions.
LTS: You ladies are so diplomatic! That is why I write stories rather than review them! I’ve had friends buy books written by bestselling authors because they were familiar with their works, and then they’d be so angry when they discover it was nowhere near as good as their earlier works! Now, if my works fell into the ‘bad review’ category, I’d certainly want to know why. And I’d also hope that book reviewers will help steer potential buyers away from making the purchase because really, who wants to feel like they’ve been ripped off after paying good money for a book?
Return next week when Joanne, Nicole and Adrianna discuss what elements in writing gets the failing grade in a book review, how they make their book selection, the future of print vs. ebooks and more!
In the meantime, feel free to read some of their posted reviews on their websites at:
Joanne Chase, Cut to the Chase Reviews:
Nicole Hicks, Howling Good Book Reviews: http://bit.ly/asSa0p
Adrianna Colwell, Book Goddess No. 1: http://bookgoddessno1.blogspot.com/
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