On Reviewing

What to expect from my reviews

If there’s one thing I love doing it’s sharing the books I read, especially if I enjoy them. Having fostered my love affair with books since before I could speak, and having graduated with my honours English BA plus six extra courses I didn’t need but couldn’t help doing, as well as being a freelance copyeditor, I like to think I have an idea by now of what makes a good story.

But I’ve learned that dissecting a novel the way a copyeditor or scholar might can be not only overwhelming for some people but also detrimental to a reader’s experience. For one thing, while there’s not really any wrong answer in interpreting a novel, sometimes reviewers get too enthusiastic and read into a book things that may be off the mark. I’ve seen authors react strongly to this kind of thing.

Mainly, however, many people read simply to escape, and analysis can often strip away the magic of a story (I remember this from studying Poe. All I wanted was gothic horror, never mind the behind-the-scenes philosophy!). Some read casually, for fun and to pass the time. Some fly through novels, inhaling them like chainsmokers in a matter of hours before starting the next. And some, perhaps more literary types but not always, will read but also analyze a story’s themes, paying attention to the deeper levels an author either intends or writes subconsciously. I like to include a mix of these: my reaction as well as my exploration as a reader. You can read a bit more about that here (including the helpful comments).

In any case, when you want to sell a book, you have to be conscious of all your readers, not just a select few. After all, you never know what might pique someone’s interest; they may surprise themselves by being interested in something they typically wouldn’t read. While I generally stick to literary fiction and set a standard for myself, I sometimes venture outside that boundary because I’ve found good stories there, too.

Thus, I review different kinds of books here, the bigwigs with small presses, award-winning fiction sharing a bedside table with a weekend read or two. I try to present books here in a balanced way. I want to share how much I loved a book and what worked for me and didn’t, but I also want to do the author justice. A great deal of work and thought goes into writing a novel or short stories, and simply saying I had a good time reading a book and that I enjoyed the story can leave an author, and many a reader, feeling rather cheated or disappointed. I like to think when I read, and it’s only fair to include that careful thought when I review. This is also why you’ll likely find my reviews somewhat longer than the average. I want to be thorough, honest yet kind, and fair, especially since I’m very conscious of how subjective the reading experience is. If you’d like to read a review, simply click on Book Reviews or go here.

If you’d like me to review a book

I really enjoy what I do here. Books and reading are my life. If you’re a publisher, publicist, or published author who would like me to review a book, I’d be honoured, and would consider it a privilege to be part of your promotional team. Please feel free to contact me via email at steph[at]bellasbookshelves[dot]com or by using the form on my contact page. If I can read and review your books in a timely manner, I will gladly accept literary adult fiction, particularly short story collections. Please note that I do not review e-books or self-published books. (I have good reason for this!) Alternatively, if you want to know what I’d like to read and review, and you’d like to send me something to that end, check out my Amazon wishlist in the footer. :)

I love to promote books, publishers, indie bookstores, and published authors, so if you want me to link to anything in particular, or do an interview, blog tour, or host a guest post, please include that in your message. Please note that my reviews will usually contain a synopsis of the novel but I do not rate novels.

I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am for the novels publishers have already sent. Thank you so much to all of you.

Enjoy the reviews, and don’t be shy: please feel welcome to comment on them. Even better than writing a book review is instigating a book discussion!