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 copy editor, 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 copy editor 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.


I am sorry, but due to the nature of my work, I no longer have time to review. Please enjoy what there is on the site, and if you’d like to still hear what I think of something I’ve read, on the main page you’ll find my links to Instagram and Goodreads.


  1. Jan Koepke

    Hi Bella,
    I just discovered your reviews today while searching for reviews on the Best Laid Plans for my book club tonight. By the way, I loved that book, being a political junkie from way back and could relate to Angus and his unexpected “win”, as a similar thing happened to me many years ago. Enough of that though and I’m writing to see if you send out emails or whatever when you make new reviews or commentary of any kind. If so, please add me to your Contact list. If not, how often should I search for your current comments and news on email? I’ll make a note in my daytimer to look for them.
    Thanks for so many great reviews (I got off track reading many of them instead of concentrating on my “assignment”) and love your approach, even if I don’t always agree with you!
    Keep up the good work!
    Jan Koepke

    1. Steph Author

      Hi Jan,

      Thank you for your interest in the blog, and for reading! I’m glad you like the reviews, even when you don’t agree with them.

      To be notified by email when I post a review, simply click on the envelope icon on the right, under FOLLOW, and follow the instructions. If you’d like to be notified when another comment is added to a particular post, at the bottom of the comment square, beneath “post comment” you can check the box where it says, “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.”

      Hope that helps, and thank you again!

  2. You just shattered my heart when you said you didn’t review self-published books, mostly because everything else you said up until that point resonated so deeply with me. I was two seconds away from concluding you were one of the select reviewers for me based on what you said before I read that. I love a careful, insightful, well-thought out review. They are the rare and the best and I want nothing but the best for my book. Perhaps one day you might make an exception for my self-published novel, as I too graduated with a BA in English (upper second class honours). Something in my gut tells me that you would like, if not love, the story I have written. I’ve bookmarked your website and hopeful if/when I get picked up by a publisher I can revisit the idea of a review written by you. It would please me so much, I can just tell. To be honest, I would love to give you a copy of my book, not to review, but just to read and hopefully enjoy. Let me know if you would be open to this at all. Until then, happy reviewing and cheers! :)


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *