Interview with reviewer Cheryl Malandrinos

You have some great reviews on your site How long have you been reviewing books?
Thanks for the compliment about The Book Connection. I’ve always been an avid reader so this was a good way to make use of my interest in books. I began reviewing books at my personal blog The Aspiring Author, two years ago, but found it took away from what I was trying to accomplish there—which was to have a blog about what is important to an aspiring author. So, in July 2007, I created The Book Connection. There you’ll find book reviews, author interviews, and guest posts from authors in a variety of genres.

Can you give a brief description of your reviewing process?
Read the book, review it. Read the next book, review it. LOL! No, actually it’s a bit more complex than that. I don’t usually agree to review a book unless I am familiar with genre or have an interest in the topic—though I have done so upon occasion and found some truly engaging and powerful material. When a book comes in I log it into my spreadsheet so that I can remember when each book came in and in what order I am supposed to read them. I try my best to provide a review 1 to 3 months after receiving it, but if I get overloaded I contact the author and let him know. I don’t accept eBooks because I’ve long since learned they will sit at the bottom of my “to be read” pile and never see the light of day.

While reading, I will underline or star certain areas that I want to mention in my review. These could be strengths or weaknesses. This also allows me to quote out of the book if something particularly touches me. I don’t usually begin reading another book until I post a review for the completed one at The Book Connection. This avoids confusion and allows me to approach each creation with a fresh mind. Then I email the author and/or publicist to let him/her know the review has been posted and I put a completion date on my spreadsheet so that I know it’s done.

Any tips for people who want to start reviewing?
Reviewing books is not for the faint of heart. It’s great fun when you are so hyped up about a good reading experience that you want to tell the world about it; but it’s an entirely different feeling when you believe a book didn’t live up to its expectations. Therefore, you must be ready to write both types of reviews. Honesty is the most important ingredient in a review. But I would counter that by saying there is no need to be caustic or cruel. The point of a review is to help a potential reader decide if a book is worth spending her hard earned cash on; not to discover how witty the reviewer is. While I don’t spend time worrying over a writer’s feelings when I put together a review, I still appreciate the creative aspects of it and the guts it takes to put your work out there.

No book is going to be all good or all bad. One has to decide how much impact the negatives have on the overall reading experience. A good reviewer can blend the strengths and weaknesses of a book and provide a potential reader with the information she needs to make a sound buying decision.

Anything else you'd like to add?
A review is only one person’s opinion. Two people can read the same book and have opposite reactions to it. Sometimes an author will react strongly to a review, and oftentimes, the automatic response is to want to defend your review. Don’t do it. Nothing is served by defending your position because neither of you is going to change your mind. And like in all things, don’t over commit. If you don’t have time to take on more books, then say no.


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