I think most writers will agree that book reviews, especially positive book reviews, are critical in garnering reader interest in a newly released novel. Knowing this, I’ve often wondered what the world of a good book reviewer looks like. Today, I’m delighted to have book reviewer Rel Mollet of Relz Reviewz as my guest.
Rel is a lawyer, wife, and mother of three young daughters and lives in Melbourne, Australia. Reading has been her passion since childhood. She is a book club coordinator and has her own blog – relzreviewz – dedicated to reviews and author interviews with the sole aim to support authors writing from a Christian worldview. She believes Sir Francis Bacon’s (1561-1626) creed, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”.
Rel, thank you so much for being my guest today, can you start by telling us what drew you to reviewing books. Also, when did you start?
I started reviewing books in 2006 for the fiction e-newsletter of one of the largest Christian booksellers in Australia, Koorong Books, after I gave them feedback about their lack of local content! Koorong sent me a book and asked me to review it for the newsletter. I was delighted but so ignorant about reviewing at the time that I asked if I needed to return the book once I had finished it. 😉
What does it take to be a good book reviewer and earn the trust of readers who rely on your opinion?
Now, there’s a question! A good book reviewer needs the perfect balance of impartiality, sensitivity, integrity, a love of literature with the time to read and review. Most importantly, but often missed, is the need to review any book within its genre. For example, when reviewing a humorous romance novel, I ask myself how it stacks up against other similar light-hearted novels and not against an issue laden woman’s contemporary story. I also give thought to the target audience and the writer’s intention for the book, as much as I can interpret that. I believe that is the best way to write a balanced review. If I write a review on Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, with Tolstoy’s War & Peace as my litmus test, or vice versa, it is easy to see that would result in an unfair review.
With so many new books being released each month, how do you keep up with the volume of reading?
I don’t! It would be impossible for me to read and review every single book I am asked to review. That being said, I am a very quick reader so I get through books well enough, but I find it harder to write reviews at the same rate. I only read one book at a time, but I usually have a pile of 6-8 books waiting from me to put fingers to keyboard and post a review.
For all of the avid readers and booklovers out there, what advice would you give them for becoming a book reviewer?
Your desire to review must stem from of a passion for books and a love of sharing them with others. While it is wonderful to receive a free book, there is no other remuneration and it is a very time consuming exercise. You can put a lot of time and effort into a review and not receive a single comment or response! Be honest but not harsh and demeaning – authors are real people, and in most cases they have put their heart and soul into their book, regardless of the quality of the story. Authors will most likely read your review at some point – it is worth thinking about how you would feel if someone ripped apart a review you wrote before you do the same to an author.
I would imagine that you occasionally read books that you may not particularly care for. How do you handle those situations?
I am fortunate to love all genres with the exception of sci-fi which I simply avoid, so I do enjoy most books, as I consider them within their genre. I will let my readers know, however, if there are aspects of a book that aren’t appealing or I believe are inappropriate for the target audience. Any such review would include the positive aspects of the book as well. However, if I don’t have anything good to say about a book, I won’t review it and will let the publisher know why I am not reviewing it. The intention behind my reviewing is to introduce readers to good books not to damage an author’s career by a totally destructive review. That decision is what works for me; others may choose to do things differently.
What do you feel makes a good book?
Any one or more of the following (usually a combination) of the following: relatable characters, descriptive settings, a unique premise, an unanticipated plot twist, beautiful prose…I could go on, but anything that engages me and tempts me to keep turning those pages. It will be different for everyone and that is why we have such a smorgasbord of writers, genres and styles.
What type of book are you most likely to read for fun on those occasions when you’re not doing a book review?
Hard to remember the last time I read when not doing a book review! I would probably pull out an old favourite, most likely romantic suspense, one high on the suspense and subtle with the romance. 🙂
Rel, a few weeks ago, I talked about loving eighties music. Since we believe in having a good time on this blog, tell us your favourite eighties song and or artist before you go.
Can I have two?
Bryan Adams, all the way! Summer of ‘69, Straight From the Heart, Cuts Like A Knife, It’s Only Love….okay, stopping now. 😉
And because I am an Aussie, Midnight Oil 🙂 Beds Are Burning, The Power and The Passion, US Forces and Short Memory…..