Thursday, October 31, 2013

Interview with Will

My guest today is Will, whom I stumbled upon on GoodReads, where he posts well-crafted, meaningful reviews. With over 700 ratings and 2000+ books on his 'to read' list, you are bound to come across one of his reviews sooner or later. 

I'm a 36-year old composer of contemporary concert music (what “classical” music is called now) just outside Chicago, IL. I do a little reviewing when a publisher sends me a book now and then, and I have just recently been appointed/elected to my local Library Board of Trustees.

Do you have specific genres that you review, and what is your favorite one?

I try to review anything I read, and I read a great deal of literary fiction, history/biography, poetry, and the odd book sent to me by authors or publishers. I try to read only the best books, but I'm willing to try any book that I can have a reasonable suspicion of the writing at least aspiring to greatness, so I read quite a few that fall short. I do also read a great deal of sequential art, or graphic novels. It's a hot button topic in the community, and like anything there's a great deal of junk, but it really is a medium where some creators are making significant artistic contributions. This did lead to a public argument that involved Captain Underpants at one point, and people are very slow to accept that there are graphic works that don't involve children's themes or superheroes and capes that are at the level of high art. I also want to add that the Captain Underpants person is a good friend of mine now!

On average, how many books do you review each month?
It changes quite a bit from month to month but between 3-8 books a month

Do you accept unsolicited review requests, or do you only review books you select yourself?

I tend to get very few offers to review books, perhaps fewer than 10 a month (which seems a lot to some, I know) but with a to-read list currently standing at 2,038 books I'm not worried about having nothing to read. I will admit most of the books I review that are given to me tend to be from traditional publishers, either sent to me or from giveaways I expressed interest in to the publishers, and one or two from entered giveaways from non-goodreads sites. I think I won a goodreads giveaway only once, a long time ago. I've recently done two from Random House, and I have one in the pipes from Henry Holt and Co. I tend to get new history and poetry books as it seems there aren't a ton of people willing to write reviews for them, and those are two genres I read and love a great deal. But I will consider any book thrust at me, so if you're an author reading this, I can't promise I'll accept it, but I will give it the same squinty look a Pulitzer winner gets. Finding and helping a truly great book reach a wide audience must surely be the dream of any reviewer.

Considering the recent surge of self-published books on the market, what is your experience with self-published titles?
My father is a self-published author, and he had an actual printing run of his novel, so I know all the things that go into doing that, and I've received a number of self-published books from self-published authors. There's a great many problems I see from cover design, font choices, material selection, and the ever-present editing (or lack of) problems. More often than not I see the author shooting themselves in the foot before the words have a chance to make an impact, and that's a shame. I'm also involved a little in the world of the more professional reviewers and small publishers, both of whom go even further in their disdain. I wonder whether a publishing collective might be a better route, offering a standardized set of publishing conditions (paper stock, cover materials, collective funding of cover design and editing, etc) The things I hear from the minor publishers about SP works is pretty rough, and I think a majority of terrible books is muddying the waters for the better ones. It's a terrible shame in that I'm sure there's some great writing that just needs some better materials and some editing. The current angst we're seeing with authors making outrageous comments for attention or engaging in all-out warfare with reviewers lately really isn't helping either. The mood in the online literary world seems to be shifting towards an Us vs. Them on every forum and website, and I point out to authors that you're trying to sell a product, not create an enemy. I understand their angst at the same time, as a professional artist selling a product that I spent months and years creating alone in my studio, it's easy to get very touchy about your work. It's not a good policy if you want to actually SELL your work, however.

As a reviewer, you have to state your honest opinions. Do you publish all reviews regardless of the rating?

I do, but I'll admit I rate a little differently if it's a book given to me from a SP author. I will usually give no review or stars if I think it's just bad, and I will bump it up a little bit compared to the rating I'd give if it comes from a traditional publisher. Often times we're speaking about a difference in editing rather than the writing, so they get a little credit there. However, that said, that's the rating and not the review. The review will reflect my honest and considered opinion, and I don't shy away from calling a spade a spade. Thus far this hasn't been the source of any problems from authors, as I generally won't review something I don't think COULD live up to a high standard, but I have gotten some trouble, such as a twitter attack from 20,000 followers of a celebrity whom I apparently offended and the celeb in question threatened to quit twitter because of it, so I had a lot of very threatening private messages on twitter and across several other sites. It died down within a week or so, but it means that at this point I don't fear any new controversy...after all it probably can't be WORSE than that. I'll also say that I sat down and wrote a nice note to each and every one of those people who said some horrible things to me to express that I was sorry I "ruined the internet" or "ruined their entire day" or whatever each person said but I wrote what I thought was the truth and can't take that back, and wished each one that I hope they understood and that their day got better. Except for a few, almost ALL of them wrote me back and even apologized for reacting emotionally and that they felt bad for saying something terrible if they did.

Is there any particular book or author that set the benchmark for you in a specific genre?

First I'd like to say that there's actually a review that set my benchmark for writing reviews, and that's Ursula K Le Guin's review of Peter Carey's “Parrot and Olivier in America”. I read and reviewed the book during a group read of it, and afterwards I read Ms. Le Guin's review online in The Guardian and I hope that someday I write reviews as well at that. I try to write shorter and far more direct reviews than many of my friends who do so professionally or get a lot more attention than I ever will, and while this style doesn't get a lot of "likes" or acclaim, this is my standard for how it's done.

I do want to mention a couple of really lesser known books for hardcore history (lacking literary-style narrative effects) I have to mention “From Prairie To Corn Belt: Farming On The Illinois And Iowa Prairies In The Nineteenth Century”, by Allan G. Bogue, and “Their Number Become Thinned: Native American Population Dynamics in Eastern North America”, by Henry F. Dobyns. Both are amazing and somewhat hard to find texts on subjects that you might not think are compelling but are. If you can get a reader to turn a page and really FEEL the deaths of 27 million people over a very short period of time without using emotional language, you're good at conveying facts.

What was the catalyst for you to become a reviewer, and what keeps you going?

Really just the challenge of having to compose thoughts on each book. I try not to allow myself to get wrapped up in anything past that.

In your opinion, do you find the new titles original and creatively executed, or do you see more of a repeat of the same (think Hollywood's surge in remakes)?

I see some of both. I think there's a major argument going on in the literary community that I see playing out at all levels, with the writers (Zadie Smith wrote extensively for the NY Review of Books in 2008 on this), with the publishers, and at the local Library level on what direction fiction is taking, and the role of technology in the composition, publication, promotion, and reading of books. E-readers are something publishers and libraries worry about constantly, and libraries are facing pressure from some people in their communities to take a smaller share of the tax levy and essentially give up on physical books. I suspect less from a devotion to a futuristic vision of a paperless library, but because they'd like to see that money get spent elsewhere. Despite the average citizen overwhelmingly preferring a paper book, these ideas still need to be combated actively to preserve the depressingly tiny amount of resources available to libraries and to a lesser extent the smaller publishers.

Out of all the books you've read, are there any particular books or characters that stayed on your mind?
To be honest, whatever I'm reading at the moment dominates my thoughts, so I'm thinking about James Madison quite a bit right now. He's a Sphinx-like figure with remarkable discipline, but it also makes him somewhat unknowable.

What is the one review you are the most proud of, and why?

In all honesty, no. Reviews are a service in the hands of able practitioners and a weapon of malice in the hands of the incompetent. I aspire to someday approach the former and always avoid becoming the latter. I suspect I'm firmly in the mediocre. I DO try to do something a little different in mine, which is to keep it short, and to keep it about the writing and my general impressions. I want to give somebody like myself a quick idea of whether or not the book is worth my time, and not write some high-handed literary essay. I know some excellent reviewers I consider friends who often seem to try to outdo the book with the review. I just want to tell a friend I haven't met yet whether or not they'd enjoy reading the book themselves. This deliberate choice of style probably precludes me from ever reviewing professionally, but oh well.

I'd like to thank Will for sharing his thoughts with me and for all of his reviews out there. Reviewing is often a thankless and hard work. Please show your support for my guest by either visiting their links or leaving a comment. 

You can find more about Will on his website: 
or on his GoodReads profile: 

If you would like to see someone featured on my blog, drop me a line. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Invisible CitiesInvisible Cities by Italo Calvino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You past adolescence and enter the world of adult literature. At first, you read anything and everything that found its way to your hands; then, slowly you begin discovering your own, unique literary taste, and you become selective. The more you read, the more selective you become. Your list of favorite authors and genres grows; you find literary voices that speak directly to your soul. By now, you have reached mid age, and you have over two decades of serious reading under your belt. Any new book that you open, any new author that you discover is judged against your favorites, against the voices that stimulated your mind over the years. Words and phrases are judged against those that provided comfort when you felt down; ideas and executions are compared against the benchmarks established over the years. You think you know what you like; you think you know what to expect. Well, perhaps you do. New books come along, and some attempt to quietly sneak in to your consciousness, while others attempt to shatter your world. Most, if not all, pale with your favorites, do not fit with your ideas, or leave you cold.
Then, one day, you come across a gently used book. It's small, it looks interesting, and you buy it. That book manages to get under your skin in a very inconspicuous way, without you even noticing. Such was my encounter with Invisible Cities.
My first Italo Calvino. He arrived on the heels of Bolaño, Borges, Ungar, and Girondo. Good company, you might say. I say no. Bolaño left me lukewarm—I was expecting more. Borges blew my mind—but only temporarily—he is amazing, but very systematic. Ungar was great—while reading him. Girondo was thought-provoking—entertaining but not mind-altering.
Calvino managed to deliver where all of the above failed. He did not force his way to me, he came unsuspected, veiled in beautiful prose. All of the aforementioned authors wrote fine literature, amazing actually. Yet, they were all "in your face" at times. Calvino is like a spy who sneaks in under the cover of darkness. And here comes the strangest part: I haven't even noticed.
To be honest, I cannot quite describe what kind of book is Invisible Cities. At first, I thought I knew. Then I thought I did not know, then I thought I knew again, and, in the end, I was reminded that I did not know.
The book is simply beautiful. It is irrelevant and relevant at the same time, pointless and necessary at other times, while remaining non-contradictory. Does this make sense? I thought so.

To me, Invisible Cities is not a single book, but three separate books.
The first one is a wonderful study of humanity. These are the cities that reflect human behavior, the cities that serve as metaphor for greed, anger, vanity, et cetera.
The second book is a book of cautionary tales. These are the cities that tell a story, a story of what will happen if we, as humans, do not change our ways.
The third book is a book of philosophy. These are the cities as metaphors for mortality, actions and consequences, continuity, faith... To this book also belong the conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, for these are truly philosophical.

Then again, I am probably wrong on all counts. One thing is certain, and that is the undeniable truth that Italo Calvino was an amazing writer. His prose is magical.

So now, after more than two decades of reading what I consider to be quality literature, I have to shuffle my mental shelf and make room for Calvino, right next to my all-time favorites where he belongs.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Interview with Michelle Abbott

I discovered Michelle Abbott on GoodReads where she is a regular poster. Besides being an author and a reviewer, Michelle runs a rather interesting blog series where she interviews fictional protagonists. I found this to be a breath of fresh air in the blogosphere saturated with author interviews. Thus, when she wanted to interview one of my characters,  I gladly accepted. I found the whole experience so different from the typical interviews I've done in the past, that I decided to bring Michelle into the spotlight. So, if you are remembering my post about a character interview I've done with Michelle, this is not a case of manus manum fricat. In the interest of full disclosure, I have done the above-mentioned interview with Michelle and she has read a couple of my books. Yes, full transparency! That being said, I am here interviewing her as a reviewer only.


I live in the UK and am a self-published romance author. I love to read and I enjoy travelling and seeing new places. I'm somewhat quiet and reserved. I enjoy spending time with my family and curling up on the sofa in the evenings with a glass of wine and a good book.

Do you have specific genres that you review, and what is your favorite one?

I will review most genres of fiction if I like the sound of the synopsis, though I tend to avoid horror. 

On average, how many books do you review each month?

When I'm writing my own books I don't get as much time to read as I would like and at those times I review one to two books a month. When I have a break from writing I can get through a book or two a week.

Do you accept unsolicited review requests, or do you only review books you select yourself?

Usually only books I select myself as I have so many I want to read and limited time, but I try to find time to read a book if someone has requested it for a character interview on my website.

Considering the recent surge of self-published books on the market, what is your experience with self-published titles?

I am selective about what I read and so far the quality has been high, equal to any traditionally published books I've read and generally far more interesting. I've read many self-published books and there have only been a couple that I couldn't finish: one due to bad formatting and the other, though well-written, dragged a little for my tastes.

As a reviewer, you have to state your honest opinions. Do you publish all reviews regardless of the rating?

If the book is written by a traditionally published, or well-known and successful author, I publish my review regardless of the rating. If the book is self-published with only a handful of reviews and my rating would be less than 3 stars, I will refrain from rating or reviewing it as I appreciate that the author may not have had access to an editor. In that instance I would contact the author directly.

Is there any particular book or author that set the benchmark for you in a specific genre?

Yes, Thoughtless by S. C. Stephens. I love to experience a character's emotions and her writing made me feel like I was in the characters skin.

What was the catalyst for you to become a reviewer, and what keeps you going?

Joining goodreads, I wanted to share my reading experience with others on that site. What keeps me going is my enjoyment of books and when I've enjoyed a story, I want to let the author and other readers know how good I think it is.

In your opinion, do you find the new titles original and creatively executed, or do you see more of a repeat of the same (think Hollywood's surge in remakes)?

The titles I've come across seem to be original and creative.

Out of all the books you've read, are there any particular books or characters that stayed on your mind?

Yes, a character called Caleb from Captive in the Dark. For three quarters of the book I thought the character was sick and depraved and I hated him with a passion. Toward the end of the book the author revealed things about him that changed my opinion and I ended up hoping things would work out for him. I've never experienced that before, my opinion of a character is usually consistent throughout a book.

What is the one review you are the most proud of, and why?

I guess it would be my review of Beneath the Willow by Gemma Farrow, because I think I explained clearly what I liked about it and it's a review of a horror book, which usually I do not read or enjoy. This one was an exception.

Aside from reviewing books, you have done a substantial number of interviews both with authors and their characters. This is a rather innovative approach to book reviews. Why did you select this route, and, do you find that you learn more about a story this way?

I thought it would interest visitors to my website. Yes, I think you can learn much more about a story from an interview because an author can tell you things about their character, or plot, that you may not find in a synopsis or a review. After all, an author knows their characters better than anyone else.

I would like to thank Michelle for answering my questions, and for all the hard work she does on behalf of independent authors. You can learn more about Michelle by visiting her website:
Character Interviews
Author Interviews

Please show your support for my guest by visiting their sites and/or leaving a comment. If you would like to see someone featured here, drop me a line.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thank you

Through my various writing endeavors, I was blessed with meeting many a fellow artist, as well as reviewers and readers. Some offered words of encouragement, some offered support in various forms; others, in good spirit, offered words of criticism. As a writer, and hopefully as a human being as well, I’m constantly evolving, and therefore, I’m grateful for both the kind and the not so kind words, for it makes me think. Think about my own work, think about the motives behind my writing, and think about where and how I can improve. And believe me, there is always room for improvement.
    One person in particular, whom I met through a mutual acquaintance, has enriched me in countless ways. Whether we discussed a certain writer, a book, or our own texts, I could always rely on her honesty and literary taste when it came to recommendations, and on her unbiased opinions when it came to my own material. Over a period of about two years, we’ve shared many a heated moment dissecting our own texts, which is something I will always remember.
    When I struggled with revisions to the Mad Days of Me, she offered her help, both as a reader and as an 'unofficial' editor. One chapter at a time, I would sent her the finished chapters, only to receive them back some days later with her suggestions and recommendations. This relationship, albeit very informal, has helped me to get back on track with writing. Perhaps, her words of encouragement helped me overcome the disgust I initially felt when revising; perhaps, the persistence with which she attacks her own writing has inspired me.
    In any case, having this ‘second set of eyes’ readily available has made me want to sit down and write, to tackle the revisions one at a time, and to desire, once again, to complete the project. This false sense of security has helped me see clearer. 
    Then came a time when she has dumped me. (and I deserved it) Not in the literary sense, for she remains someone I consider a friend, but she no longer wanted to look at my ‘chapters in progress’. At first, I was extremely disappointed. Not because she didn't want to look at my work as it happens, but because I have gotten so used to having here there, that now I’ll miss it. Which brings me back to ‘this false sense of security’: My mind, my creative mind that is, is cluttered. When I write, I do not think about rules, about clarity, about a message. I vomit my ideas on paper. Then, when I re-read what I wrote, I nip and I cut, I move and I add, until it is what I perceived it to be in the first place. Sounds messy? Well, when we worked together, I could rely, as I have said already, on her unbiased opinions to point out where I had screwed up. I did not have to question my own words for extended periods of time. Now, that I no longer have this luxury, I question everything.
    One of the most difficult things for me, as a writer, is to read my own work. Usually, I put it off until the end of a piece, or end of a book. This means, that sometimes I do not read what I had written for months. During the time when she graciously helped me, I had the benefit of not only the needed ‘second set of eyes’, but also of seeing my work more frequently and with fresh, critical eyes. 
    So what is the purpose of all this? I guess this is my way of thinking things out and in a way, saying ‘Thank You’ for all she has done to help me get back to that hot seat in front of a blank page. I never took you for granted, and I never wanted to make you feel that you were being taken advantage of. 

Thank you for being a good friend and an inspiration.

And while we ventured in separate directions, I will always remember.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Interview with the Twinjas

My guests today are Libertad and Guinevere, the ladies behind Twinja Book Reviews. That's right, a double feature!

I first met the twins on Goodreads, and later started following their blog. And while their reviews are interesting, and the books they review varied, the best thing about their blog is that it features literature with characters that are not your typical mainstream protagonists. Multicultural settings, multicultural characters, and multicultural reviewers. What could be better?

So, without further ado, here are my guests.

About us:

Well we are a set of fraternal twins who have a scary obsession with books and geek culture. Luckily for us our mom didn't give us awkward twin names like Tia and Tamera(which doesn't matter because that's all people know us as anyways)but rather Guinevere and Libertad. Libertad got lucky with her name because people always seem to ask her about her heritage when they meet her but me? More people know my name and its always a conversation starter. But we both have in common that no one has a clue on how to pronounce either!

Anyways....together we run a book blog called Twinja Book Reviews. We both take Tang Soo do, Wing Chun and a gymnastics like art called Tricking and seeing how we're twins everyone just started calling us the Twinjas. The nicknames stuck so we thought it would be a cute way to establish a web persona. This is corny but even in our 20s we're still really happy to be twins and its part of our identity so why fight it?

On our blog we review a multitude of books but there's a catch....the main protagonist or the love interest has to be a person of color, disabled, plus sized, part of the lgbtq community or of a non Christian faith. While this limits the reviews we accept, it's opened a door for us to read more fiction featuring characters very different than ourselves.

Growing up in a Cuban American household we had just that experience and the experience of the world seeing us as African American, so we wanted to start reading characters who reflected the people we see, not just the people who make up the majority.

Do you have specific genres that you review, and what is your favorite one?


Well currently we are opening our review policies out to some different books. We started out just reviewing Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, YA, Middle Grade, children's fiction, and contemporary fiction but we've started to include New Adult, Mystery(even though we're really limited to this genre), Crime thrillers, Historical Fiction, literary fiction and Romance. As far as favorite, I think we both stand by Fantasy being our favorite to review! Especially epic or heroic fantasy! It just doesn't get old for us!

On average, how many books do you review each month?


Well that's kind if hard to say. When we first started we were only doing between the both of us 3-4 reviews a month, but we've been getting so many requests lately that we've managed to read between the Both of us 8-14 books a month. It's easier since there's two of us, whomever reads the fastest takes on the next arc or request outside of books we choose ourselves. It could possibly be more in the future because this has become part of our lives now!

Do you accept unsolicited review requests, or do you only review books you select yourself?


Well we do accept unsolicited review requests. Most of the books we review are requests, because our blog only reviews books with multicultural themes and characters its been a wonder that so many authors have stumbled across our humble blog interested in sharing their books with us! Books with diverse characters have gained a reputation of not selling as well as books with white protagonists, but I think the reason is these books don't often get the same promotion, which is why we started our blog in the first introduce readers to books that feature different kinds of characters instead of the default.

But we do have a ton of books we but personally. For every 3 review requests we get and finish, we then move onto something we purchased personally. The review requests we try to make first priority as most of the time authors prefer them by a certain time.

Considering the recent surge of self-published books on the market, what is your experience with self-published titles?


Well we try to make it known that we are really open to self published titles. Most books with people of color in them  are self published.(at least in our experience of searching for them) I do notice that some self published authors are kind of....stalkerish and take not so glowing reviews badly, but the bad experiences hasn't completely turned us off to reviewing them, just putting some research into the authors etiquette.

But I will say a large percentage of the books I read and loved this year were self published. At least 60%, so our support will always be there for indies!

As a reviewer, you have to state your honest opinions. Do you publish all reviews regardless of the rating?


As reviewers we ALWAYS state honest opinions! Too often I've purchased a book off of glowing reviews just to find out that the reviews weren't as honest. We have a particular rating style where we rate based off a point system, so in all honesty the only way a book would score insanely low(lower than a 3)is if it was poorly edited and suffered from pacing issues. We do score on diversity so for books that don't have diversity the highest you can get is a 4. But I think our system is pretty fair. There are some books I felt deserved Lower based on my personal feelings with the author or plot itself but our system forces us to be unbiased, which is why we made guidelines for it.

Is there any particular book or author that set the benchmark for you in a specific genre?


Well that's a difficult question to answer. I'm not sure any one author comes to mind. But there are some trailblazers I don't mind giving credit to. Octavia Butler, for being one of the first black authors to set the standard for Science Fiction with obvious African American characters.

 Sci fi/fantasy Ursula Le Guin for constantly sticking it to the industry for always white washing her characters.

Stephen King for being so diverse and dedicated to his craft.

And I have to add J.K. Rowling. Yea, I know her books is about a young boy and wizards but so many young people I know started reading after that book. It brightens my day to meet young kids who actually like reading and if an author can make readers out of thousand of kids and adults alike, I have to give props where props are due!

What was the catalyst for you to become a reviewer, and what keeps you going?

Guinevere & Libertad:

That's easy! The lack if diversity in our favorite genres. When we started our blog we weren't sure anyone would find interest in it. The blogs I searched for that highlighted diversity seemed to give up on the idea or lacked the patience to really bring awareness to diversity in books. So we thought we wouldn't find any like minds in the blogging world.

But because we're one of the few that focus on it, it makes it insanely easy to find us! We're one of the few that pops up in the searches. And we've gotten a lot of requests, so authors have been making the effort to find bloggers who do find this important. It's not about making a big deal about authors and books who don't incorporate diversity, it's highlighting the ones that do! And that's kinda what we are all about!

The massive support we've gotten from other bloggers and authors is what keeps us going. If it wasn't for readers that want to see diversity in books and authors that write diversity in books, our blog would be pretty lonely and lacking content.

In your opinion, do you find the new titles original and creatively executed, or do you see more of a repeat of the same (think Hollywood's surge in remakes)?


Well the genres that we consider favorites have a tendency to release a lot of similar stories a month so it's a challenge on finding a story that's truly unique. But I've noticed that books that include lores and myths of different cultures tend to introduce something different and non mainstream. The research and effort it takes to incorporate African, Asian or even South American legends makes a lot if books stand out, but that only works with fantasy and Science fiction.

When I look to other reviewers for their reviews on books we're interested in, I look for comments like "Oh if you've read Harry Potter, you've basically already read this". If I read more than 3 reviews like that, I tend to skip it and look for something else; but it doesn't mean I won't ever read it.

I like to think authors are trying to introduce new themes and new ways of telling stories but the truth is many traditional publishing houses aren't open to releasing books that won't make them money, which is why they would rather release similar themes over and over and over again. But self published titles definitely try to release something different, so I think it's not hard to find the authors that try to stand out.

Out of all the books you've read, are there any particular books or characters that stayed on your mind?


Well for me I just read a book called "I hunt Killers" by Barry Lyga. Although its a YA book it's very scary and dark and if I'm to be honest, it gave me nightmares. The book follows Jazz,the teenage son of a famous serial killer and for a 17 year old boy, his thoughts were insanely scary. He had been taught how to murder and mutilate women by his father and fought every day not to become the killer his father was. The author did a great deal of research in that field and his characters just really stuck out to me! But I will confess, I look at men a whole different way now XD Anyone could be a serial killer...that's what the book convinced me of.


Thinking of it now a book called The UnNaturalists, a steampunk fantasy in an alternate London really stood out to me as far as characters and story wise. The book featured a lot of characters of "Asian" descent(since its fantasy they really don't say they're Asian but how they are described and speak Mandarin as an ancient, almost dead language kinda told me they were. Then the author confirmed it for me!) And the main character was female, which is a plus for me! I can't put in a few words how much I loved it and still think about it, but yea that's the one for me!

What is the one review you are the most proud of, and why?


Well for me, I'm pretty much proud of all my reviews! But there was a review I left recently for a book called Hush Puppy by Lisa Cresswell. I really loved it and my review talked a lot of my friends into getting it, so I mean what's better than people taking your opinion seriously?

Guinevere: Libertad I'm proud of all my reviews too but I recently read an arc from an author named Helen Wan, titled The Partner Track. The book was highly uncomfortable to read as it exposed the harsh realities of being a minority in the corporate world. But I couldn't put it down! My thoughts on that book were thought out and truthful and I hoped the author saw it as so.

You can find out more about Libertad and Guinevere by visiting their blog: Twinja book reviews

I would like to thank my guests today for sharing their thoughts with me. Please show them your support by visiting their blog and/or leaving a comment. Reviewers are a vital part of the literary community. 

If you would like to see someone featured on my humble blog, please drop me a line. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Awaking in the wild

Modern life is so busy, so noisy, so full...From time to time, I escape into the wilderness and spend a few nights in a tent. Awaking in the early morning is one of my pleasures. This is a humble attempt to describe it:

Your crawl out of your man-made cocoon into a world bathed in a weak twilight. The trees, standing erect against the presumed sky, are motionless reminders of your own insignificance. Everything is quiet and, high above the treetops, dawn struggles to tear the last remaining signs of night.

You strike a match and throw it onto a pile of twigs. The fire radiates faint rays of warmth through your shivering body. Its crackling, weak at first but growing stronger as it consumes the broken tree limbs you found on the ground, is the only sound disturbing the peaceful reign of serenity.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the sun stretches its fingers across the milky sky, mercilessly shredding whatever small remains of the night are left.

All at once, the world awakes. The crackling of the fire drowns in a chorus of birds as forest creatures crawl out of their dens and into the open.

The first ray of the sun makes its way though the low hanging branches and lands on your face. At your feet, the fire crackles, and you no longer feel like a lone island in the sea of souls; you feel like you finally belong.

You sense that this is the right place after all, that your own miserable soul is not forlorn, but is still, somehow, tied to the countless souls and spirits that dwell in the rocks, mountains, and creatures who hide from your eyes when you are fully awake.

At this point, everything you thought of as wrong becomes right, and you discern that, despite what you were told, you are a part of this world.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Interview with Christoph Fischer

Today, my guest is Christoph Fischer, an author whom I met on GoodReads. Aside from crafting well-written books, Christoph is very active in the writing community, and is a prolific reviewer in his spare time.

About Christoph:

Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he is still resident today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; 'Sebastian' in May 2013; 'The Black Eagle Inn' in October 2013.
He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

Do you have specific genres that you review, and what is your favorite one? 

I review all genres generally, it depends whether I get approached or whether I chose to review the book myself. I warn authors of fantasy and horror that my appreciation and understanding is probably not that good. I prefer Literary and historical fiction but if I limited myself to those genres alone I might find that boring and I always welcome a challenge.

On average, how many books do you review each month?

On average I review about 20 – 25 books a months. My actual number of reviews can be higher as I also review a lot of short stories.

Do you accept unsolicited review requests, or do you only review books you select yourself?

Yes I accept some unsolicited review requests but I always check out the book before committing myself. A poor choice would only lead to a disappointing review.

Considering the recent surge of self-published books on the market, what is your experience with self-published titles?

My experience with self-published titles is surprisingly good. Yes, there are some authors who could do with a better editor but their numbers are very few. When I read professionally published books I am often shocked that many of them contain the same kind of mistakes, despite the money spent on proof reading etc.

As a reviewer, you have to state your honest opinions. Do you publish all reviews regardless of the rating?

No. I don’t publish reviews lower than 3 stars, unless the writer specifically asks me to. I found several trolls and other rather unkind reviewers on amazon who would happily rate a book with one star on the basis of one spelling mistake, even if they have not read the rest of the book. In an environment where such hostile activity takes place I prefer to stay on the positive side of the spectrum. I highlight the good I find in books and the observant reader of my reviews can spot by my omissions which areas may not have sparked my enthusiasm.

Is there any particular book or author that set the benchmark for you in a specific genre?

Almost too many to mention individually, but here are some recent reading highlights:
Three days of Rain by Christine Hughes, Literary Fiction
Free Fall by Amber Lea Easton, Memoir
Unexpected Gifts by S.L. Mallery, Historical Fiction
The Steward, by Christopher Shields, Fantasy
Every Silver Lining has Its Cloud by Scott Stevens, Non Fiction.

What was the catalyst for you to become a reviewer, and what keeps you going?

My local book shop asked me to recommend some of the books I was buying from them and so I got into the habit of making notes. When I found independent writers on Goodreads in almost desperate search for reviewers I began to offer them my help. What keeps me going is my belief in those books. Independent writers do not have the money or powerful support of established publishing houses and yet so many of them deserve our attention just as much.

In your opinion, do you find the new titles original and creatively executed, or do you see more of a repeat of the same (think Hollywood's surge in remakes)?

In a way people have written stories or produced theatre plays for at least several thousands of years. I doubt that the basics of any new book or story can be truly innovative. Our world has changed and scientific, psychological and technological progress allow for creative variations of those themes in fiction. However, innovation is not the only criteria to mark a good book that stands out. A powerful main character, a good story, a new or different perspective or a different kind of wow factor can distinguish a book from its peers, without it having to be ground breaking (as Hollywood calls many of its films and not always justified in my view). Also, amongst some very bad ones there are also some very good remakes.

Out of all the books you've read, are there any particular books or characters that stayed on your mind?

“Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts has deeply affected me with a controversial ex-con as protagonist who redeems himself in India. “The Slap” by Christos Tsiolkas has one story with 8 different perspectives which shed different lights on one singular incident. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver with its raw to the bone honesty remains one of the literary highlights of my life.

As far as independent writers are concerned “The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap” by Paulette Mahurin was an amazing find with a most likeable Lesbian heroine in the Midwest in 1895. “The Bridge of Death” by MCV Egan, a fictionalised investigation of a crashed plane and its mysterious passengers just before the beginning of WWII made me wonder about what had happened for a long time after I finished the book. “Free Fall” by Amber Lea Easton overwhelmed me with its story about a woman surviving her husband’s suicide.

You can see, I really like books and could go on for some time.

What is the one review you are the most proud of, and why?

I don’t think I have any particular reviews I am proud of. I write about my feelings about the book and don’t like to draw the attention away from the book onto me by being particularly witty and I don’t pride myself for having analysed the book correctly. Some authors have thanked me for a review, which of course was very rewarding, but the thing to be proud of is primarily the book itself, which was not written by me.

You can find more about Christoph, his reviews, and his work here:
Christoph's Reviews
Christoph's Blog

Please show your support for my guests by visiting their links or leaving a comment. If you would like to see someone interviewed here,  drop me a line.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2666 by Roberto Bolaño

I recently started reading Roberto Bolaño's epic novel, 2666. The book size itself is massive, but not enough to make me question my ability as a reader. Nevertheless, for the time being, I've decided not to continue reading it.
My first introduction to Roberto Bolaño was The Skating Rink. Despite the fact that it only left me slightly warm, I did enjoy the novel; I was not excited or amazed, just a bit above indifferent. It was a good piece of literature, but there were a few things that did not sit well with me. Unfortunately, I'm finding similar issues with 2666.

Bolaño is an interesting author, one who surely knows his craft and can write well. His pacing is good, his character development is good, his choice of words better than most. So why do I not like him as much as I should? My immediate answer would be themes. Bolaño himself said that if he did not become a writer, he would have been a criminologist (if I recall correctly, but it could be a prosecutor). There seems to be an underlying criminal theme in his work, a theme that is subtle enough not to take away from the literary meaning, but strong enough to annoy me. If I wanted to read a great detective novel, Roberto Bolaño would not be my first choice. I want to read him for his words, his style, and his ability to weave sentences in a magical way. Unfortunately, I can't.

I've spend the first sixty pages of 2666 pondering the relationship between four unlikely friends brought together by their common admiration for the work of an obscure Prussian writer. So far so good. But then comes the crime layer, or the suggestion of a crime. It was enough to put me off because, in my mind, I do not want another hundred pages of criminal study (as in The Skating Rink). Roberto Bolaño is a great writer, but I'm afraid I'm not feeling him the way I should.

My venture into the realm of 2666 came in the heels of The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. I could relate to both, and I have since resumed reading Calvino. His sentences are great, his imagery wonderful. I love the deep thought that went into creating this book, the vast array of human emotions disguised as cities, the premise of intimate conversation between two great men.

In 2666, I'm missing the human touch. I'm an observer sitting on the outside, an observer who, at times, is fed too much and not enough all the while. An observer who observes actions but not emotions, for they do not come as genuine. I know his characters struggle, feel pain, and are confused by their own emotions. Of this I am told, yet I fail to feel it.

Thus, for the time being, I've decided to return 2666 to the library and move in a different direction. I'm sure there will come a day when I borrow the book again, and I will likely enjoy it. But the time is not now.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Interview with Alana

In continuing the Interviews with the Reviewers series, my guest today is Alana,  the lady behind Book Talk with Alana.

About Me:
I am a reading coach in a public middle school in Jacksonville, FL and the mother of two teenage boys.  In addition to reading and blogging about books, I also blog about Caribbean music and culture, as well as write and perform spoken word poetry.  I am active in my local community on a variety of social justice issues and am working with my church to create an adult education program for Haitian immigrants learning to speak English.  I can be reached on Facebook at, on Twitter @stufjustgotreal, via email at, and of course through my blogs:
 Book Talk with Alana and  Caribbean vibes with Alana.

Do you have specific genres that you review, and what is your favorite one?

I prefer to review fiction, though I would consider nonfiction on a case-by-case basis. The genres that I enjoy the most are urban fiction, sci-fi/fantasy (especially doomsday/apocalyptic themes), mysteries, historical fiction (I love stories about 18th and 19th century kings and queens) and anything with a Caribbean theme.  I also enjoy young adult fiction because of my background as an English teacher and reading coach.

On average, how many books do you review each month?

I generally review 2-4 books per month. 

Do you accept unsolicited review requests, or do you only review books you select yourself?

I generally review books that I select, though I do accept requests through my blog and through Goodreads.  I’ve actually discovered some great titles from unsolicited requests.

Considering the recent surge of self-published books on the market, what is your experience with self-published titles?

Overall, I see the quality of self-published titles improving over the years.  I think there is still a stigma attached to self-published authors.  Some of it is just bias, but some of it is genuine criticism because unfortunately, all authors don’t take the time to make sure their work is edited and polished.  However, I really enjoy the self-published titles that I have discovered since starting my blog.

As a reviewer, you have to state your honest opinions. Do you publish all reviews regardless of the rating?

Yes.  I don’t really “rate” books per say, giving them a 1 star, 2 stars, etc.  However, I do state my honest opinion.  With that being said, I don’t review every book that I read.  I have rejected authors because the book was simply too short for me to review, and sometimes, I just like to read for pleasure and not just to review.  I’m getting ready to participate in some book tours on my blog, and I also get some unsolicited requests, so I will give my honest opinion and not just say everything is wonderful if it’s not.  I try to be positive overall and not just totally trash a person.  I’m a writer myself, so I understand how hard it is to put your work out there for the world to read and judge.  I think if my blog were American Idol, I would be more Paula Abdul than Simon Cowell, lol.

Is there any particular book or author that set the benchmark for you in a specific genre?

I read so much and I enjoy so many titles, that it’s hard to pinpoint one book.  Overall, my favorite books and authors have a Caribbean background.  Part of my family is Bahamian, so this is natural for me.  Paule Marshall, who is the daughter of Barbadian immigrants, and Colin Channer, a Jamaican author, are my absolute two favorites.  I’ve read everything that they have written.  My favorite book by Ms. Marshall is The Chosen Place, The Timeless People and my favorite book by Mr. Chandler is Waiting in Vain.  As far as sci-fi, I’ve read Ray Bradbury since I was in junior high, but there are a ton of awesome sci-fi authors out here today, including Rick Yancey and Ben Winters, just off the top of my head.  When it comes to young adult fiction, Sharon Flake, Sharon Draper, and Gary Paulsen have some wonderful novels out there that are really engaging to the students that I work with.

What was the catalyst for you to become a reviewer, and what keeps you going?

I started doing book reviews simply because I’ve been a bookworm since I was a child, and I also love to write, so I thought, what better way to combine my two passions than by starting a book review blog.  As my blog develops, what keeps me going is the excitement that I see from independent authors when I publish their reviews and interviews.  It makes me feel great when I see them spreading the links all over their social media sites.  I like the feeling of helping someone get some much needed publicity and giving them the encouragement to keep going when it might seem tough and easy to give up.  When I started my blog, I didn’t really intend to review self-published authors, I started with traditionally published works.  After working with several great self-published authors though, I really want to continue.

In your opinion, do you find the new titles original and creatively executed, or do you see more of a repeat of the same (think Hollywood's surge in remakes)?

I do see some formulas in the writing I have reviewed, however I have found a good bit of creativity in the works that I have reviewed thus far.  I have read interviews from other book reviewers and some of them say that they stay away from self-published titles.  Perhaps they have had bad experiences, but I’ve been very fortunate so far.  Overall, my experiences with the new titles have been very positive and I’ve seen some great plots and character studies.

Out of all the books you've read, are there any particular books or characters that stayed on your mind?

Oh wow, that’s a hard question.  I really get into the books that I read so many of the characters stay with me.  It’s hard for me to pin down one book or character in particular.  I think for me, the characters that stay on my mind the most are the ones in books that don’t have a ‘happy’ ending, or in which there are loose ends in the resolution.  I wonder what will happen to them, if they will make it, be happy, etc. 

What is the one review you are the most proud of, and why?

The reviews that I am most proud of are the ones of self-published books.  The authors are so grateful and appreciative of the coverage.  Michael Myers, author of Deadly Eyes, A.J. Walkley, author of Vuto, and you, Henry, made me feel really good about my blog and like I was really serving a purpose.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to interview ‘big name’ authors-who wouldn’t, but they will get publicity and sales regardless of appearing on my little blog.  The independent authors are the ones who make my day.  Knowing that someone is eagerly waiting to see their book show up on my blog, and waiting to share it with friends and families, makes being a book review blogger very rewarding.

I would like to express my gratitude to Alana for answering my questions, and for all the hard work she puts into her two blogs. Please show her your support by visiting her links and spreading the word. Book talk with Alana
          Caribbean vibes with Alana

I have three authors lined up to participate in this interview series (as reviewers, of course), and a couple of bloggers. If you would like to nominate someone, please post a comment or contact me directly. Likewise, if you have any questions you would like to ask my guest, both current and future, please post a comment.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - a review

The Epic of GilgameshThe Epic of Gilgamesh by Anonymous
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a brief, albeit quite profound work of literature. In the interest of reading a translation as close to the original text as possible, I selected an edition translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs, published by Stanford University Press in 1989. I'm aware of other translations available on the market, some more 'readable' than others, nevertheless, some of them were altered significantly to either sound more poetic or to fill in the lines missing from the original text.

That being said...

On the surface, The Epic of Gilgamesh is a praise for Gilgamesh, a mighty king of the city of Uruk. It recounts several adventures Gilgamesh undertook with his friend, Enkidu, and it follows Gilgamesh after Enkidu lost his life.

Deeper within, however, the epic deals with multiple issues we can all relate to: Solitude, grief, desire, pain, fear of the unknown, and most importantly the fear of death.

Gilgamesh is a super-human, well 2/3 god and 1/3 human (this could be because his father, Lugalbanda was later divinized) who is like no one around him. He is strong, he is handsome, he has no rival. This, of course, is an issue itself. So, to stop his 'abuse' of his subjects, the gods create a counterpart for him, the mighty Enkidu. Enkidu lives a wild life with the animals until a trapper encounters him at the watering hole. Later, after being seduced by a harlot, the animals abandoned Enkidu and he arrives in Uruk, the center of civilization. What is interesting about this particular tablet is the opposing nature of the two men, Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Gilgamesh represents civilization, all that is glorified and magnificent (yet causes troubles), whereas Enkidu represents the wild, untamed power (yet is peaceful, in harmony with nature).

After Enkidu learns the 'civilized' ways, he enters the city of Uruk and, seeing that Gilgamesh is about to copulate with the harlot who seduced him at the watering hole, challenges Gilgamesh. The two fight, Gilgamesh prevails, and they become best of friends. Gilgamesh finally has a friend almost equal to him in strength and beauty, and the two of them leave the subjects alone and seek adventure to please the gods (some of them, anyway).

But all good things come to an end, and so does the friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Two of their joint deeds are not well received by the gods, and the gods decide one of them must die. Enkidu gets the short end of the bargain. This is where the epic takes on a more profound tone. Seeing his friend die, Gilgamesh begins to realize that he is mortal, and that his end would be no different than Enkidu's. The fear of death changes him, changes his ways. Gilgamesh abandons the city, abandons the fine things, lets go of his appearance and becomes almost wild himself; all in search of immortality. He finds immortality, but he is not granted it. He is offered rejuvenation, but it is not to be his. Old and worn, he returns to Uruk.

The last two tablets, Tablet X and XI were my favorite by far. (this translation did not cover tablet XII because, the translator claims, tablet XII was added later and does not continue the Epic)
Gilgamesh's conversation with Utanapishtin (the only man to survive the Flood) provides an interesting insight into Gilgamesh's character. It is also an end to a journey, an end to a quest. Gilgamesh will not be granted immortality. (albeit he made himself immortal later by burying a tablet with a portion of the Epic in Uruk, which we are reading now, 4700 years later) The backstory to the Flood was an interesting take on an event described in many religious texts the world over.

Overall, this was an interesting read (which I would not have discovered without GoodReads), that presented me with many subjects to reflect upon. It also marks a new period in my reading - I will now seek more ancient literature, starting with Erica Reiner's "Your Thwarts in Pieces, Your Mooring Rope Cut. Poetry from Babylonia and Assyria".

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Versatile Blogger Award

I'm honored, and surprised, to receive a nomination for the Versatile Blogger Award. I was nominated by Michelle

Thanks Michelle!

How it works…
1. Display the Award Certificate on your blog
2. Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.
3. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
4. Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award.
5. Link your nominees in the post and let them know of their nomination with a comment.

My 7 facts:

1. I enjoy being alone, far away from people.
2. I ride motorcycles off-road.
3. I enjoy working with my hands.
4. I can't paint pictures.
5. My handwriting has gotten so bad that I often cannot read what I wrote.
6. I love spring and fall more than summer and winter.
7. I like challenging books that require me to reach for the dictionary every now and then.

My 15  10  nominations (well, breaking the rules here, I do not keep up with 15 bloggers):

 the Lazy Book Reviewer
Breeni Books
The Book Cove
Apocrypha and abstractions
Authors to watch
Book Talk with Alana
Mik Everett
Christoph Fischer

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Michelle Abbott is hosting a giveaway of my novel, Mad Days of Me: Escaping Barcelona. No strings attached, just enter and read.

There are five days left before the winners are selected, so get your name in the hat.



Our past is no more
but a relic
touched by the fingertips of time,
changing the beautiful
radiant desires
of today.

The distance we traveled
stole our smiles,
stole our memories.

And although we still feel young
only the photographs
remain unchanged.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Interview with Steve Farrell

My guest today is author Steve Farrell. In the interest of full disclosure, I connected with Steve via Goodreads when he reviewed one of my novels. This, of course, is not the reason why I reached out to him. As I have said from the beginning, my goal for this series is to offer many different takes on what it means to be a reviewer. Most reviewers I talk with review books regardless of genre, except for a few who are somewhat specific (for example, see my interview with Jim). Steve, while not being a prolific reviewer, concentrates on Literary Fiction, which is largely underrepresented on most review blogs/sites. Steve's reviews appear on Goodreads, and Dactyl Review, among others.

Steve Farrell is a writer, a father of two, an identical twin, and a commuter.
You can find him on Goodreads:  Steve_Farrell
and his work is available at Smashwords

Do you have specific genres that you review, and what is your favorite one?

I mostly review literary fiction, although I delve into nonfiction from time to time. Those are my interests.

On average, how many books do you review each month?

As a slow reader, I don't usually have time to review more than a book a month. It depends on whether I've read anything that's provoked a strong reaction.

Do you accept unsolicited review requests, or do you only review books you select yourself?
I'd review something if someone sent it to me, but ordinarily I review things I've found on my own.

Considering the recent surge of self-published books on the market, what is your experience with self-published titles?

The vast majority of self-published titles I've looked into haven't interested me in the least. However, the ones I've found worthwhile are some of the best books I've ever read. As a self-published author myself, I wouldn't trash an indie author with a bad review; it's like writing a review of a busker.

As a reviewer, you have to state your honest opinions. Do you publish all reviews regardless of the rating?

I hate "ratings," and I can't stand having to give a certain letter grade or number of stars to a book. It's way too simplistic. But like I said, if I have a negative experience with a book I'm much less likely to review it. I figure I've missed something or I just have unrealistic expectations about the work.

Is there any particular book or author that set the benchmark for you in a specific genre?

I'll admit that Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow was a staggering revelation for me, and one that made me realize the potential of literary fiction.

What was the catalyst for you to become a reviewer, and what keeps you going?

I don't remember what the catalyst was, but I just felt like I could approach fiction with an experienced perspective. I really don't like reviews that are all about the reviewer's tastes. I think you have to approach the work on its own terms.

In your opinion, do you find the new titles original and creatively executed, or do you see more of a repeat of the same (think Hollywood's surge in remakes)?

It's hard for me to find something original and interesting. Like you say, there are a lot of books out there that are just Hollywood movies waiting to be made, or genre things that are only interesting to people who already enjoy the tropes of the given genre: romance, fantasy, etc. I'm looking for books that are less standard than that.

Out of all the books you've read, are there any particular books or characters that stayed on your mind?

A few friends of mine all read Donna Tartt's The Secret History at the same time and were all fascinated with the many levels of the narrative, the characters, and what the author was trying to say. I've been a big fan of Finnegans Wake my whole life, and have spent a lot of time digging through it, trying to find out more about the characters and the meaning of how their story was told. Miriam Henderson, Dorothy Richardson's alter ego in her Pilgrimage cycle, is a fascinating character because of how her awareness develops throughout the books.

What is the one review you are the most proud of, and why?
In the Internet's old days, I posted a gushing review of Pynchon's Mason & Dixon in some list-serve board or other, I forget where. I really felt like I took my time and communicated what was so brilliant about the book. But the review is gone.

I'd like to thank Steve for answering my questions.

If you find this series as interesting as I do, please spread the word, and visit my guests on their respective sites.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Interview with Tricia Drammeh

Today's guest to Interviews with the Reviewers is Tricia from Authorstowatch.

In her own words:

I’m Tricia Drammeh, author, blogger, and book reviewer. I’m also a wife and a mom. I live in the St. Louis area with my family. You can find my books on I interview authors and post book reviews on

Do you have specific genres that you review, and what is your favorite one?

I enjoy romance, fantasy, paranormal, and literary fiction, though I will read other types of books if the blurb catches my attention. My favorite genre is young adult fantasy/paranormal.

On average, how many books do you review each month?

It varies. I usually schedule three or four reviews a month. Those books are forwarded to me from authors, publicists, or publishers as part of blog tours or new release events. I also read and review books that I purchase for pleasure.

Do you accept unsolicited review requests, or do you only review books you select yourself?

I do accept some unsolicited review requests, but not all. It’s impossible to accept all the requests that come my way and there are times I’ve had to put a halt on all requests because I’m busy with work, family, or with my own writing.

Considering the recent surge of self-published books on the market, what is your experience with self-published titles?

There’s a huge range in quality. I’ve found self-published books that are outstanding and far exceed many of the books released by major publishers. I’ve also found self-published books that need major editing. Some authors are too quick to publish and throw their first draft on Kindle, but for the most part, self-published authors are very conscientious.

As a reviewer, you have to state your honest opinions. Do you publish all reviews regardless of the rating?

As a reviewer who is also an author, I’m very reluctant to post negative reviews. I have a hard time publicly thrashing an author’s book because I know each author puts their heart and soul into every book they write. That being said, I won’t leave a dishonest review either. I prescreen books before I accept them for review. I read the sample on the Amazon “look inside” feature, the author’s blog, or any other example of the author’s writing I can get a hold of before I make a decision about whether or not to review a book. I’m sure some people will say I’m taking the easy way out, but with all the requests I receive, I don’t think it’s fair to use space on my blog on unedited, poorly written books when there are so many well-written books that need promotion. I also have a very short attention span, so if I book doesn’t catch my attention, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to finish it.

Is there any particular book or author that set the benchmark for you in a specific genre?

I try not to compare books and to judge each on its own merit.

What was the catalyst for you to become a reviewer, and what keeps you going?

I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child. I had a Goodreads profile long before I ever considered writing. I also belong to a local book club where we analyze and critique books of all genres. Reviewing on a blog is just an extension of what I’ve been doing for years. Honestly, there have been times I’ve considered stepping away from book reviews, but each time I decide to take a break, I end up reading something that’s so spectacular, I have to spread the word.

In your opinion, do you find the new titles original and creatively executed, or do you see more of a repeat of the same (think Hollywood's surge in remakes)?

There are some books out there that seem to be a tired repeat of the most popular trend. I think anytime an author tries to capitalize on a trend, the resulting book will feel stale. For example, young adult vampire books are a dime a dozen. Some have a new twist and feel fresh, while others are mind-numbingly boring. If the author has a genuine passion for the genre they choose to write, the book will reflect that and readers will connect with it. When an author forces him or herself to follow a trend, the book will be dull and the characters lifeless.

Out of all the books you've read, are there any particular books or characters that stayed on your mind?

I read J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy for book club. That was a book that definitely stayed with me for quite a while. I’m also completely obsessed with M.A. McRae’s Penwinnard series.

What is the one review you are the most proud of, and why?

I don’t think I could choose one review I’m most proud of. I put a great deal of thought into all my reviews and try to do each book justice.

I'd like to thank Tricia for playing along. Please visit either of her links and show your support for independent reviewers. 
Likewise, if you enjoy this interview series, please spread the word. I'm always looking for more reviewers to interview.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

“Time plays no role in the life of one man—the subtle consciousness of it floating past me is more than enough. Years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds—what does it matter? Floating by, it rubs against my skin, face, and hair—wearing me down, yet polishing me all the while. Time is like fine grains of sand in a desert storm. At first, you don’t pay any attention to it, but the more it hits you in the face, the more aware of it you become, the more annoying it gets until, one day, you find yourself suffocating. The weight of it eventually bends your spine, until you are crawling on your hands and knees, unable to stand straight. Then comes the time to crawl back into the womb, crawl inside and wait for rebirth.” ― Henry Martin, Mad Days of Me: Eluding Reality