Friday, July 24, 2009

Spotlight On: Realms on Our Bookshelves

Is it Friday already? I have had the most amazing week chatting with book reviewers in our first ever Spotlight On week here at the Daily Dose. I've talked to most American reviewers, but today, thanks to the wonderful power of Twitter and the Internet, we're going across the great pond to The Netherlands where we're going to chat with Pearl from Realms on Our Bookshelves.

So please join me in welcoming Pearl this week and I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did.

First of all, thank you Heather for having me on Daily Dose answering some questions.

How important is the blurb of a book to your impression of a book? What about the cover?

The blurb is important since it’s the first thing I check when contemplating buying/reading a book. Some books are well represented in the blurbs, others not so much. I have read blurbs and thought: “Oh, I must get this book and the book turned out to be not to my liking. And have had it the other way around to: blurbs that didn’t scream BUY ME NOW but book turned out to be one of my keepers!

Covers are the eye-catcher but for me not the most important thing trying to get an impression of a book. I’ll put it this way: an ugly cover will not put me off reading/buying a book when other factors (blurb, familiarity with author’s work, excerpts) urge me to purchase it. And again, like with the blurbs, it goes both ways: a delicious cover will not urge me to buy/read a book that all my instincts are telling not to purchase.

I want to make it clear that an appealing cover is always nice to see and there are some drool-worthy covers out there in romance land. Even for levelheaded old me!

Obviously it's easy to review a book you like, but how do you handle books that don't appeal?

Although most books I like are easy to review, there have been some that were very hard to review because I liked them so much I couldn’t find the words to do them justice. Especially since I strive to write reviews that are backed up by founded opinions and not a gushing fan girl-letter to an author you admire for the skills and talent.

I handle books that don’t appeal in the same way I do the ones that do appeal. Again it’s the striving for a clear, well-founded review that makes me attempt to tell what I did not like about the book and why. I think it’s important when I don’t like a book to find out what it is that does not work for me and then try to explain why that did not work for me.

Sometimes it’s the writing, sometimes it’s (one of) the characters, sometimes it’s the plot and sometimes it’s a combination of any of the above. I always try to give valid reasons of why I didn’t like it. One thing I also always try do is to end the review on a positive note, even if it was a book I did not like. There have been few books I’ve read that were all bad so I always save the good things for last.

I don’t do author-bashing reviews. Every book I read has cost the author blood, sweat and tears to write, not to mention hard work, so I try to respect that even when the author’s work is not to my liking.

Has an author ever lashed out at you for a review?

Personally I have not experienced any lashing out by authors for one of my reviews. I have been reviewing a little over 2 years now. I have experienced via www.realmsonourbookshelves once that an author didn’t agree with the amount of stars I had given her book and therefore she refused to place the requested review on her website.

Her choice and no hard feelings there. I reviewed the book as I saw it and will not change that for anyone, most certainly not authors lashing out and seeing more value in a rating than in the actual review which wasn’t a negative review at all by the way. I must say I only receive positive reactions to my reviews from authors.

When you read, do you find yourself mentally writing a review or does that process begin after you've finished the story?

I keep extensive notes while reading so the process does start while reading but I don’t actually write a review while reading. I started taking notes for my reviews while reading because I discovered that often I would think of things that would be perfect for my reviews while reading. When I finished the book and sat down to write the review, the impressions of certain parts of the book and ideas for the review I’d had while reading would have died down or I wouldn’t remember it exactly. So my keeping notes is actually kind of an external memory type of thing.

Do you prejudge a book, i.e. it's by an author you liked or didn't like previously?

I try not to in the negative way and think I have fairly succeeded in that. I try to go into all my books I pick up to read or books for which a review is requested (ARC or otherwise), with an open mind, trying not to have outside factors influence me.

In prejudging in the positive way I have experienced some letdown from high expectations from authors I like. I am sort of a compulsive book-buyer and when I read a book I like by an author I tend to go out on a binge of their entire backlist. This has provided some disappointing reads unfortunately.

Have you found that your reviews influence readers?

I honestly don’t know if they do. Some people, mostly ones I know have bought or read a book because I have reviewed it, or have moved it up their TBR pile because of a review but otherwise I have no knowledge of how my reviews influence readers, and if they do.

To be honest, that is not my true goal for reviewing books; I kind of rolled into it and found it a great way for me to keep track of my opinion of the books I read.

Furthermore, I really think that people and their opinions differ so much and what works in a book for one reader/reviewer may have a totally different effect on someone else. So when I am either over the moon by or heavily disappointed in a book I don’t expect everyone else to be the same and vice versa. It’s the variety of opinions that makes the world as it is.

As a reviewer, if you could get authors to do one thing for you, what would it be?

Ehm…visit Europe! No just kidding! One thing I can say is, keep doing what you’re all doing: writing for our reading pleasure and try to keep your websites (if you don’t have one, get one!) clean, easy to navigate and up-to-date with relevant information for your readers.

Please be sure to give me a little plug for your review site so I can link it up. If you have a small image I can pop that in too!

Oh boy I am so bad at plugging myself! Am so not comfortable with it but if people would like to stop by at my blog I would like that very much. Am in the early stages of making it more than just a storage place for reviews and last week I added the first of hopefully many contest to come. There is going to be a give away of Elisabeth Naughton’s STOLEN FURY shortly!

Plugging ROOB goes without saying, since it’s the place to be for the 411 on English written romance novels in Europe!

Note from Heather:

I had so much fun with my interviews this week, I've added one more. So come back tomorrow for our final Spotlight On interview!


  1. Great interview! I'm definitely a fan LOL. Wouldn't be awesome if there was an int'l RWA for you guys? Maybe one day....

  2. Had a great time doing this interview. It was nice to stand still and think about how and why I review a certain way or what influences me. Thanks again, Heather!

    Stacy > Oh international RWA (or RT for that matter) would be awesome, from your mouth to convention organising ears!!!

    We ROOB-gang do have the dream of going to the US for an RWA or RT. When exactly is not set yet but we're definitely going someday, to meet all you wonderful fellow-readers, bloggers, reviewers and the talented authors of course.

  3. As a reviewer, if you could get authors to do one thing for you, what would it be?
    quote Pearl interview: Ehm…visit Europe! No just kidding!

    Well, I would be thrilled if they did! :D Pearl, I loved your 1st interview and it so very you! It's like hearing you talk IRL

    Someday we're going to invade the US, I know we will *grin*

  4. Great interview! I'm totally for international RT. But invading US would be great too.LOL!

  5. Would love it if you guys could make it to U.S.! Keeping my fingers crossed...

  6. Leontine > Told you there would be no surpises for you. You know me too well LOL

    Susi> You must accompany us when we do the US Invasion. They'll never know what hit them :D

    Stacy > We definitely will! Count on it!

  7. wow! this week sure went by quick. i enjoyed reading all this week guest interviews just like this one. great job, Heather! Loved reading your interview, Pearl!

  8. This has been so great! We're definitely doing another Spotlight On feature next month (book editors) and don't forget, we have one more interview tomorrow!

  9. Hi :)
    Thank you for having Pearl on your terrific Blog and thank you Pearl for sharing your insights in the book reviewing world.
    This has been amazing fun and very informative.
    Love from Northern Ontario