A Reviewer’s Perspective

Kudos’s for All You Do

In light of all the recent review controversy, I wanted to take time to thank the reviewers who work so hard to give writers an honest review. Today I am spotlighting the lovely ladies from BestChickLit.com. So without further ado I turn the podium over to them.

Charlotte Forman

Virginia Andrews’ harrowing Flowers in The Attic was the first novel I ever read, way back in my early teens, and it turned out to be the catalyst for my reading obsession. From then on I would pilfer any of my mum’s books that I could get my hands on, until I finally had money of my own. For years I read as a hobby but it was when I was made redundant whilst on maternity leave that I decided I wanted to read for a living. I trained in copy-editing and proofreading for a year before I realized there weren’t  many freelance positions available in the industry. So I took up freelance writing instead, which led to the idea of combining my work with reading. I set up BestChickLit.com and discovered indie books, deciding to help promote self-publishing as best I could.

I love indie authors, mostly their books are incredible and I see them as untapped talent. Unlike with mainstream published authors, indie authors actually reply to readers’ emails, tweets and FB comments, which can be very rewarding for fans. Coming across these incredibly good books, and sometimes being one of the first people to read them, is very exciting and definitely one of the perks of being a reviewer.

The downsides are what you’d expect: reading books that don’t interest you or that aren’t any good and authors that just expect good reviews – although these are far and few between. But it’s an amazing job to have and one that I take very seriously – I want to give authors and readers the best possible reviews. We don’t make a big deal of pointing out if a book is self-published,nor to we give outright bad reviews as I feel constructive thoughts are a lot more helpful. Basically, BestChickLit is here to help authors gain exposure and to help readers find their next read.

Francesca Verbeeten

My name is unusual, Francesca, not very common in this country. When I was a kid I could NEVER find a trinket, pen or key ring with my name on it. Francis, yes. Franny!!?? yes! but never Francesca. Skip a few years on, out on a retail therapy session I strolled past WH Smiths, and there in the window, on offer (bonus!), was Patricia Scanlan’s new book ‘Francesca’s Party’ I had never read a book before, other than the books school forced you to read, but I had to have it, it was my name! I diverted straight into the shop, picked it up without even reading the back and paid for it. I was hooked and once I had bought and read all the books Scanlan had written I started on another author and another. I now have a library of over 150 books and it’s still growing.

I love to read, I just simply enjoy sitting down with a cuppa and a good book, I can’t really explain why or what it is about reading that makes me happy and content. I like happy endings and I am a bit of a romantic so perhaps it’s that, or I like a good bit of gossip and I am quite nosy so it could be that! I really don’t know. I enjoy all types of books, from period dramas to a classic chick lit to crime thrillers and each genre gives me a different thrill.

I became a reviewer by accident, as a favor to Charlotte, founder of BestChicklit.com. I was never good at English at school and could never explain myself properly, so when Charlotte asked if I would write a couple of paragraphs about the book that I had just finished, I’ll admit I was nervous. But I did it and became a full-fledged reviewer! I have found that now when I review a book, I pay attention to it a bit more and really let myself be sucked into the narrative and I  enjoy reading it even more. The only downside is that I have a backlog of books waiting to be read, but can’t find time to squeeze them in. I find I don’t need to read books that my fellow reviewers have read, but I may be missing out on a gem. But and it’s a big but… I have the best excuse ever to just sit, with a cuppa and read the day away! Bliss!

Nikki Mason

I became a reviewer because I want to do things I enjoy with my life and reading has always been a magical experience for me. I studied journalism and while doing work experience and then, as part of the job, I got to review books and realized it was the perfect marriage of writing and reading – two things I loved. I also love to get insight into what makes authors tick so maybe one day I’ll be able to write my novel…

I think the challenges for me have been reviewing books whose opinions on big issues (you know I’m talking religion, abortion and race here!) have differed so much from mine it has made me uncomfortable to read them and I feel a bit awkward promoting the book when I don’t like the sentiments within it.

Pros – you get to read so many books you wouldn’t otherwise! You can discover authors and genres that you fall in love with that might never have crossed your path. It also opens up a whole world of other book lovers and a like-minded community of people who you can go to and rant on about books without boring them to death.

Cons – I guess sometimes it’s difficult to fit in reading the books you really want to read. I’ve had Alan Hollinghurst’s Line of Beauty lined up to read for months but I keep not having the time between work and reviewing and life! Particularly because I run a book group as well and have to read books for that.

I think a professional review takes steps back from the label of a books ‘genre’ and looks more at the creation of characters, plot, place, pace and how the writer manipulates you into feeling certain things and if they have pulled it off. And just pure enjoyment of reading it. These are things all books have in common so should be judged by these factors, not if it’s chicklit, a classic, a thriller etc.

Finally – I’m not looking to achieve anything more than encouraging people to read and people to write. And a sense of enjoyment myself if I’m being selfish. So long as authors keep writing and staying true to themselves, I don’t know if we can ask anymore of them!

Elizabeth A. Wright

Writing reviews is so much more than simply reading a book and writing down your thoughts. Even if a book is really dire you have to remember that the author (hopefully) put their heart and soul into it. Writing a novel is a very personal experience and putting it out there, in the cold reality of the reading world leaves the author extremely vulnerable. With that in mind, reviewing a book means finding a balance between constructive criticisms and embracing it for its true worth.

 Not every book I read is good or bad, but every single one is different and teaches me something about the world we live in and that is why I love being a reviewer. For me there are very few downsides. Typos and grammatical mistakes are always frustrating, but the odd few can easily be overlooked. As a reviewer the main objective is to identify what the writer is trying to do and evaluate whether they have achieved it or not. Genre is rarely an issue, as a good book transcends these labels.

With every new book that I read I am always on the lookout for my next favorite  A book that can be read repeatedly, opening new avenues of thought with each sitting. But it is important to remember that no two people will read a book in the same way. Each individual will use their own experiences, likes and dislikes to create their interpretation of it and that is what makes writing reviews so complex. You are writing them for both the author and prospective readers, whoever they might be.

My Review

BestChickLit  5 out of 5 stars

Normally, I cringe when I request a review. Mind you, I’m not afraid of a bad review, but you are sending your baby to be handled hopefully, with caring hands and a warm heart. What if the reviewer has had a bad day and your protagonist reminds him/her of a recent unpleasant event? Will they be professional with the task at hand?

Plain and simple, it is difficult at best to find a reviewer or a team of reviewers who can remain on the path. One such group is BestChickLit. These ladies not only find strength in the writer’s work, but critique in such a way that you don’t feel like you’ve been tossed to the wolves for dinner.

I have never understood why some reviewers find it necessary to have a razor tongue and a mean streak to boot. Talk about a lack of professional demeanor! Well, you will never find that with these charming ladies, keyword–ladies!

I am pleased to say Charlotte, Elizabeth, Francesca, and Nikki get a thumbs up from me, for whatever that’s worth. BestChickLit never leaves you hanging and wondering if you are going to even receive a review. They are quick to respond and a pleasure to engage. They lift an author up and help them move forward in a positive manner. The best is to view characters through their eyes leaving one to wonder why they never saw a particular flaw, strength , or quirk. After all,  the author gave them life and they were born into print.  BestChickLit  are like the favored aunt who comes to dinner to remind you there is so much more to your darling.

 

 

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The Art of Being Polite

PENDING REVIEWS

I am sure I am going to upset more than one person with this post. Oh well! This is about decorum in the industry where we are so eager to belong. Writers and authors(first the writer, then the author) work  more hours, more days and sometimes years to share their words. There are a rare few who actually make a living in this great and wacky world.

There are so many blogs that “review”, so many reviewers period. We love you we really do and we need those hard to get reviews to move forward in our hoped for careers. Could you please be polite enough to indicate on your blogs, or sites that at the present time your kindle is full, you are up to your ears…something.  At least we wouldn’t waste our time in hopes that you’ll answer. If you do receive a submission and you simply are overwhelmed, please be polite enough to email and say so. There is a lack of common courtesy and professional demeanor out there. And last but not least(sorry for the cliche`), if you are a reviewer, please use your spell check and capitalize your i’s on your sites. Why would anyone want a review from someone who lacks those basic abilities? Thank you, we do need you and you need us as well. Please be polite!