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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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text 2016-04-06 16:20
Book Reviewer Interviews: Cleo Bannister

(reblogged from BlondeWriteMore)

Book Reviewer Interview
I have decided to start interviewing book reviewers on my blog for the following reasons:
  • Book reviewers hold a lot of useful literary insight for writers.
  • Book reviewers are very valuable to us when our books are published. It is useful to see how their book reviewer mind works.
  • I believe getting inside the mind of a book reviewer will make an excellent blog post.
To kick off my new Book Reviewer Interviews slot is Cleo Bannister. I am so excited because Cleo is one of my favourite book reviewers. I buy books according to what she says. If you are not familiar with her blog ‘Cleopatra Loves Books’ please check it out.
Welcome Cleo, I am thrilled that you have agreed to this. Please have a seat in my new book reviewer chair!
Tell me about yourself. Well that’s a daunting opening question!
I am a forty-something woman, I have no pets and my favourite colour is purple!
I’m quite small, straight-talking although hopefully not to the point of rudeness and I have a distinctive laugh and actually say ahh tissue when I sneeze!
I work in the Legal Department of a company that renews Intellectual Property rights, and since I’ve been there for over thirteen years I can imagine the glazed looks on all the readers faces, so I’ll quickly move to the fact that I live in Jersey in the Channel Isles which people are always far more fascinated about.
It’s what’s known as compact living, anyone who is stupid enough to think that a large proportion of the island don’t know what they said, did and wore at any given point in time is much mistaken. Although it’s a beautiful place to live, in the winter there isn’t an awful lot to do other than socialise and so we jokingly refer to ourselves as 90,000 alcoholics clinging to a rock! I’m not, an alcoholic (I am fairly sociable) because if I drink too much the words on the page tend to swim and the reason why I’m being interviewed is because I’m a booklover and I think I’d crack up if I couldn’t get my daily dose of reading in!
What made you start reviewing books? I started reviewing books on Amazon in 2010 as a way of having a record of the books I read because I have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to names so people would say ‘have you read xxx?’ and I’d look blankly at them needing a bit of hint to place the book – I also frequently borrowed the same book with a different cover from the library that I’d already read.
My early reviews were exceptionally short but served that original purpose but then it grew as I started to depend on reviews when choosing books and in turn wanted my voice to be heard in the crowd.
How many books do you review a month? I can comfortably read 10 books per month and I review each and every one that I finish. Last year’s total was 145 books which works out at about 12 books per month. In between the reviews I do memes on the blog with features from upcoming books, the occasional blog tour or interview with an author and sometimes random pieces about book related stuff.
What is your selection process for reviewing a book?
  • Have I read and awarded 4 or 5 stars to the author before?
  • Does it have a synopsis that appeals?
  • Has it been reviewed and recommended by bloggers whose opinion I trust?
  • If I’ve been offered or can request it from a publisher/author, do I have a slot in my schedule? My book reading is planned to the nth degree on an excel spreadsheet – once the slots are full for a month, that’s it, no more. At the moment I have books scheduled up to July as I like to review close to publication date, and then there is the books I already own that need to be read too, oh and the ones I buy for myself because I need them!!
My main interest is crime fiction particularly that which looks at the why of a criminal act as much as the who but I do read other genres too, it’s good to have variety.
What is your book review process? I rarely make notes, the only exception is if I’m on holiday and have a number of reviews to write on my return.
I’ve always wanted my reviews to be the gut reaction when finishing a book and in the early days I was really disciplined about not opening the next book until the one just finished had a review written, sadly I’m not that good anymore so I tend to write my review and then go back through the book trying to find the names and places to check I’ve got them right.
If I’m reading on my kindle I will highlight passages if I want to refer to them in the review but nowhere as frequently as I should.
What do you think makes a good book? For me I have to be able to believe in the characters, which shouldn’t be mistaken for liking them, in fact my favourite characters tend to be the wolves in sheep’s clothing types. But characters alone do not make a book, there has to be a solid plot preferably a clever one by which I mean one that makes me think or encourages me to put myself in ‘someone else’s shoes.’
If it has a historical aspect then it has to be well-researched, I know all sorts of random things and if something is not in the right era it lifts me out of the story. So to sum up in a single sentence: A good book is one that I can believe in from the beginning to the end, and that I am totally immersed in while I’m reading it.
If you're a book reviewer and are interested in being interviewed by her, leave a comment on her original blogpost linked above.
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