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text 2016-04-20 13:19
Book Reviewer Interviews: John Green

So I got interviewed as a book reviewer as part of an ongoing feature over at BlondeWriteMore.  I think it went pretty well- I'm talking about me, after all- but I can't help but feel like I should've fleshed it out a bit more.  Ah, well. 


(reblogged from BlondeWriteMore)


Book Reviewer Interview


Welcome to my weekly series – Book Reviewer Interviews. 


I believe that book reviewers hold valuable insight for us writers and their answers to my interview questions make intetesting blog posts.


Please welcome my new book reviewer friend John Green and author of the blog Illuminite Caliginosus


John, thanks so much for sitting in my interview chair. Please tell us about yourself.


First one’s always the hardest. Lessee now- born, raised and still living in Brooklyn, NY. Wanted to be either a baseball player or paleontologist when I was little. Ended up joining the Marines instead, traveled the globe and can’t really say a bad word about my tour. To paraphrase Malcolm X: the plan was theirs, any mistakes were mine.

Worked for Virgin USA for over thirteen years; had a blast and met a lot of good people and had some great experiences. It was like getting paid for hanging out with your friends! If there ever was such a thing as a good retail job, that was it.


The last few years I’ve been in the Sports & Entertainment field; blogging and reviewing was something I kinda fell into, and I really enjoy doing it. I’ve met a lot of good and… interesting… people during my online career.


I’m also a member of Amazon’s Vine program and a former Top 1000 Reviewer on the site.


Been an avid & voracious reader all my life; I was that nerdy kid who’d always get “volunteered” to enter trivia contests, spelling bees, etc, and I always had to take something into the bathroom with me to read (once upon a time that wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Neither was being nerdy). One of these days I’ll finally finish my own novel and then get to see how the other half lives.


Anyone who wishes to contact me for any reason can do so via: Email / Booklikes /
WordPress / Twitter / Pinterest


What made you start reviewing books?


During my time at Virgin USA I was the Magazines Buyer for the NY stores, getting my hands on more books and reading material than I’d thought possible (rubs hands gleefully).


**The store was located in the same building where Random House had their offices, and I was on good terms with the building guys so they always let me know when RH would dump out books. Discovered a lot of new authors that way- good, bad and ugly. I’ll always be proud to call myself a Dumpster Diver.**


**Our UPS driver, Joe, offered to grab a few books for me while he was delivering up there, and part of the stack he brought back included the first three books of GRRM’s Song of Ice & Fire- all hardcovers with original artwork.**


After Virgin USA closed I spent a lot of time on Amazon buying even more books. I got in the habit of sifting through the reviews for recommendations, etc, and picked up on a few individuals I felt I could rely upon not to steer me wrong, like EA Solinas, Chibineko and others. I’d always been the one my friends and family would go to for a critique because they knew I was hard but fair, and it finally occurred to me that I should write a few reviews myself- sort of give back a little and have my say. Next thing I know I’m making steady progress through the ranks and I wondered what I could do with this.


How many books do you review a month?


It varies. I’ve slowed down over the past couple years; used to aim for maybe 5-10 a month, right now maybe half that. One of my goals is to clear out some of my TBR pile; I know- we ALL say that, but my work schedule affords me a lot of free time, so I have a good shot at it. I’ve still got stuff going back to the 2010 BEA I haven’t checked out yet.

What is your selection process for reviewing a book?


Nothing set in stone. The easy answer is “whatever catches my attention”, but defining that is the trick. I’m a very eclectic reader; I’ve always been chiefly into Fantasy/Sci-fi but right now I’m really into Steam/Diesel/Atompunk- though I haven’t seen much of the latter two so far. There’s also Lovecraftian Horror, which I think’s been under-appreciated but seems to be enjoying a renaissance now. Guess we can thank the oversaturated PNR/UF genres for that.


Both the blurb and the cover are key, of course- you never get a second chance at that first impression. There’s been quite a few eye candy covers that made me stop to check them out, only to get let down by the synopsis. So many books nowadays, especially in the YA genre, immediately drop the ball from sounding like carbon copies of each other that it’s hard to find anything worth investing time in. I swear you can choose ten, TEN, YA novels at random and the blurbs will all sound the same! How many Chosen Ones with Destined/Fated/Soulmates stories does the human race need? When’s the next Alice in Wonderland/Brothers Grimm ripoff due out? Will this end up being Gregory Maguire’s enduring legacy?


For me, it’s gotta be something at least a little different; whatever the genre it has to be something that makes it appear like the author actually had something to say- a story they wanted to tell and not just aping the latest trend to try and make a quick buck. And that gets harder to find every day.


A good one was Pagan by Andrew Chapman. It’s a PNR/UF/Horror series about vampires having existed for centuries but only certain agencies like the Catholic Church knew of them. All the books, movies, etc, served as misdirection and softening up for when they finally emerged and basically sucker-punched the entire human race. Some countries tried to make nice and assimilate them True Blood-style while others said F-that! Even the werewolves sided with humanity against the vamps. Made for a refreshing change of pace from sparkle-pires and woobie-wolves.


Read the rest of the interview here.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-06-04 00:08
The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop
The Shadow Queen - Anne Bishop

[Another old review with a guessed-at star rating. Rereading my review made me annoyed at this book all over again, so this probably deserves a lower rating. I'll let it keep its half star because there were parts of the book I liked enough to want to reread them.]


I read a comment about this book on another blog, something about the Daemon/Jaenelle/Saetan/Lucivar cameos being a bit much. At first, I couldn't see what the problem was. Yes, the back-and-forth thing as characters from Bishop's original Blood trilogy kept checking on Cassidy looked like it might get annoying after a while, but I figured that would let up eventually. Plus, part of me kind of liked it - I do still like most of the characters from the original trilogy, and it was nice to see what they were up to.

Then those characters tried to take over the book. I'm not really sure when it started - maybe when Daemon started having his Vulchera problems, or maybe it didn't really start until Saetan began his multi-stage torture/killing of Vulchera. Anyway, for a little while, I forgot that the book was actually supposed to be about Cassidy and Dena Nehele. The whole thing with Saetan got resolved, and suddenly I remembered that that wasn't really the climax. Or it wasn't supposed to be.

Had Daemon and Saetan's issues not taken up so many pages, there might have been more room for Cassidy and Dena Nehele. Maybe Bishop didn't feel like there was enough story there to fill a whole book, and that's why she allowed her characters from the trilogy to run amok, but I think there was a lot more she could have done with Cassidy's story. For one thing, she could've had Theran get his head out of his butt faster and spent more time showing Cassidy getting others to trust her and believe that she could be a good Queen for Dena Nehele. She could have spent more time showing Cassidy bridging the bloody gap between Dena Nehele's Blood and landen - I'm sorry, but after all the bloodshed the two groups went through only two years prior, one incident in which Cassidy protects a landen girl and justly punishes the Blood males who hurt her isn't enough. Mending the rift should take more work than that - why not show some of that? Why not show Cassidy interacting more with her court and others in the area? She seemed to spend all of her time with Theran, Shira, or Gray.

The cheesy bit (sidestory?) involving the "treasure hunt" at Grayhaven, in which Cassidy keeps finding all the pieces and can't let anyone else know, was just...not worthy of a novel. A short story maybe, but only if there was nothing better to write about. I know, I know, it was supposed to show how Cassidy was being accepted as the Queen of Dena Nehele by a great former Queen's magic, which, I guess, overrides any objections anyone else (like Theran) might have. Whatever. Wasn't there a better way to do that? Something less clunky?

Seriously, once Bishop got past the bit where she set up the basics of Cassidy's part of the book ("Queen who's been emotionally wounded by a court who rejected her for not being pretty, going off to be Queen of a place where, for the most part, she's not wanted because she's not pretty"), it's like the book became two blended short stories - Daemon and Saetan's "two men who still bear the scars of their pasts" story, and Cassidy's "treasure hunt, and do I really belong here?" story. If Bishop wanted to write a couple short stories (or novellas), she should have just written another anthology. I would have preferred that, because at least then it would have been clear what I was getting into. Instead, I expected a book starring new characters, with cameo appearances from old characters. That's sort of what I got, but that's not the spirit of what I got.

I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of "the dark side of the men" stories, so I wasn't as happy about most of the Daemon/Saetan stuff as I could have been. I skipped the Zuulaman story in the anthology Bishop did (Dreams Made Flesh), because I don't like reading about Saetan having crazy person meltdowns. I wasn't entirely happy with Daemon having crazy person meltdowns directed at Jaenelle - I mean, I always thought that Jaenelle would be the one person Daemon would never go all scary with.

Aside from all of that, I think one thing that got to me with this book was that none of it really felt new. Maybe it was all the cameos and references to, well, everything Bishop had ever set in the world of the Blood. Seriously, I think she referenced nearly every book and short story in one way or another - even if I didn't prefer the original trilogy to this book, I still wouldn't recommend this book to a newbie to the series, because of all the references. I do think, though, that, even without all the references and cameos, it still would've felt a bit too familiar. Saetan had his breakdown story already - Zuulaman. Daemon spent, what, a whole book broken? Also, he had a short story where people spread rumors that he was cheating on Jaenelle, kind of like what Vulchera was planning. So, other than Daemon almost/sort of hurting Jaenelle (and I'm not entirely sure that hasn't happened before), nothing new.

It seems like every single one of Bishops good Queens isn't pretty, although Cassidy may be the first one to be stuck on that. Gray's man-boy nature (mentally a boy, with flashes of being mentally the 27-year old man he really is) is also, I think, new for one of Bishop's romantic heroes, although his damaged nature certainly isn't new. Even so, Cassidy's part of the book is still fresher than the parts of Daemon, Saetan, Jaenelle, and Lucivar - it's too bad Bishop couldn't think of anything better than a treasure hunt and allowed cameos to eat valuable story space. I should note, however, that, after I finished the book, the parts I went back and reread were all parts with Cassidy and Gray. Especially Gray - I enjoyed reading about him as he learned about Protocol and fell in love with Cassidy.

Overall, though, not Bishop's best effort. I loved the bits with Cassidy and Gray, and the bits where Cassidy tried to become the Queen of a place that couldn't seem to accept her, but I hated the treasure hunt and I hated the dark, show-stealing sidestory involving Saetan, Daemon, and Vulchera. I know there's at least one Blood book after this, and I plan on reading it, but I hope that Bishop gets her act together and writes a book, and not a few blended novellas. Or, hey, I'll take the novellas if they're actually called that. Just be honest about what I'm going to be reading, and I'll be happy.


(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2013-06-25 00:00
Queen of the Darkness (Black Jewels Series #3)
Queen of the Darkness - John Sharian,Anne Bishop Audiobook
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review 2013-06-09 00:00
Heir to the Shadows (Black Jewels Series #2)
Heir to The Shadows (Black Jewels, #2) - John Sharian,Anne Bishop Audiobook
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review 2013-05-26 00:00
Daughter of The Blood - John Sharian,Anne Bishop Audiobook.
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