OCTOBER
THRILLER ROMANCE


10-21 Sarah Raplee – Author of “Blindsight” Psychic Agents Series, Book One

Saturday, May 21, 2011

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF BOOKS

Hi! Thank you so much to Romancing the Genres for having me today. I'm Bethany from Cloudy with a Chance of Books. I've also commented on various writing blogs over the years as Wavybrains/chanceofbooks. I think each book lover who does reviews at various sites and on book blogs has a different mission. For me, my mission is simple: helping great books, particularly undiscovered gems, find the right audience for them and analyzing what makes great reads work.

I've been an RWA member since 2005, and this blog came about after I decided to let my membership lapse while I wrangle motherhood and teaching community college. Even during the weeks (okay, MONTHS on end) of not writing, I was still a voracious reader, and I realized that I missed talking about books. Here I was up all night nursing a voracious baby sumo wrestler and discovering amazing new authors, but I had no one to rave to. I've done Goodreads since 2008, but I realized that more and more of my Goodreads reviews sounded like blog reviews. So this year, I took my RWA renewal money, put it towards a Nook Color, and gave birth to Cloudy with a Chance of Books.

I operate on the premise that EVERY book is some author's baby and the product of months (years!) of hard work. And nearly every book has at least one person who loves it, even if it's just the editor and the reader's mother and the 15 people who love second person, present tense stories told from the POV of a purple goat with OCD. In my reviews, I always try to talk about which types of readers might like a particular story because my goal is to help those 15 readers find their purple-goat-boy stories.

When I LOVE a particular book, particularly one that I think isn't getting enough exposure like Paty Jager's Spirit of the Mountain or Inez Kelly's Sweet as Sin, I do a blog post (making it my pick of the week if I can) and a Goodreads review AND Amazon and, occasionally, Barnes and Noble.
It's the heart of what I want to do as a reviewer--getting great books more exposure, and I throw my whole self into it. On the other end of the spectrum, I very rarely do reviews of books I don't finish at Amazon/Barnes & Noble--I'm not going to tell readers to NOT purchase a particular book as for all I know there are legions of people dying for the purple-goat story. I see Amazon/Barnes Noble/other bookseller reviews as telling readers whether or not a particular book is worth their money. This why it's so important to me to identify which types of readers a particular story may work for, because worth is so darn subjective.

As the blog evolves, I find myself less and less willing to do purely negative reviews. If I can't find some redeeming value in a book, some connection to the ideal audience for a book or some insight into why something didn't work for me (but might for others), I'd rather put the energy towards the books that truly captivate me. As a reader, I love snarky review blogs, but I'm trying to carve out a different niche for myself. And I know reviewers-who-really-want-to-write have a bad rep, but I can't change that part of my identity as a reviewer--I love how doing reviews has connected me with so many awesome authors and keeps me connected to the Romance community.

I think the fact that I have written manuscripts and critiqued others' WIPs comes out in my reviews--I tend to think like a writer, looking at conflict, point-of-view, tension, and characterization. But, I'm a reader first and foremost and what I really care about is: Did it hook me? And if it did, I want to figure out why and share that experience with others. There is nothing quite like the heady feeling of falling in love with an author with meaty backlist or discovering a rising star. I use my Five Umbrella Friday pick of the week to showcase new additions to my keeper shelf.

Since having kids, I've gained new respect for the novella, and I do a Saturday Short pick of the week to help weekend readers find a guaranteed awesome gem. Like the ladies of Romancing the Genres, I love venturing into different subgenres, and I find novellas a great way to try out new authors and new genres. I like nothing more than being able to say "I wasn't sure I'd like it . . . BUT."

Doing reviews also means that I get handed more genre defying books that let me say, "But I loved it and here's why." I'm just a few chapters into Gail Carriger's Soulless (comment for a chance to win), and I can already tell it's one of those genre-defying discoveries that make life as a reader so much fun--I don't usually "do" Vampires and alternate history is very hit-and-miss for me. But then I encounter a very proper Victorian Spinster with the dry wit of an Austen heroine, and she's completely non-plussed about being able to fight paranormal beings. And the week from hades slips aways, I forget to look at the clock, and this . . . THIS is why I've embarked on my journey as a reviewer. For moments like that. I'll have a full-review up on my blog as soon as I finish with Alexia. Or she finishes with me. I doubt she'll let ME have the last word.

Thanks so much for the chance to visit! Feel free to ask me questions in the comments, I'll check back to chat later. And share your opinions on reviewers-who-also-write--can it work? Send you running for the smelling salts? If you're interested in sending me a book or novella to consider for review, my email is chanceofbooks at the email provider that starts with a "G."

11 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

Welcome to Romancing the Genres, Bethany! And thanks for a wonderful post. :) Sorry to hear about your water heater disaster.

I'm glad you're enjoying Alexia's adventures in Soulless, the first book in the Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger. Alexia's vampire-killing parasol seemed appropriate for today's giveaway!

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Soulless in a random drawing. Let us know when you post a review on your blog and we'll notify our readers.

Happy reading!

Paty Jager said...

Welcome Bethany! As always a wonderfully written post. I love the way you go at reviewing. It is important to remember everyone has different likes and dislikes. The way you compare books is the best way for a person to judge for themselves if they will like a book.

chanceofbooks said...

Thanks Sarah and Paty. I think the fact that I've been reading Romance for 20 years now (ssshh, don't tell my mother what I read under the covers as a teen!) and that I've explored many subgenres over the years is probably my greatest strength as a reviewer--I can make comparisons because I've read so much.

And I forgot to mention in my blog that all my "I'll review instead of re-joining RWA" talk has lasted for all of six months. I'm planning on re-upping and subscribing to RT as well as I realized that reviewing IS a connection to the community I love so much. And all this writing about writing has my fingers itching again which is an awesome thing.

Judith Ashley said...

Bethany,
I'm amazed at what you've accomplished in such a short time - motherhood, teaching and starting Cloudy!
I will admit I'm a novice at clicking around blogs or even websites. My paranoia at "Someone" knowing where I've been on the internet is slowly ebbing. Sarah has gently prodded me to be more adventuresome and this month I can say that I've checked out three (as of today) review sites. Starting Romancing the Genres has really bumped up my internet and technical skills.
I appreciate your POV that every book has someone who loves it and there is an audience for it as well as your commitment to helping that audience find Their book.
Romancing The Genres is lucky to have you with us today! Hope the household challenges fade. My house is a 1924 Craftsman with a basement so I can relate.

Tam Linsey said...

Welcome, Bethany! It's nice to discover a book blog without the snark :)

Vonnie Alto said...

Hi Bethany,

I, too, review books--(previously for "The Gothic Journal, The Regency Realm," occasionally for a chapter newsletter, and now for GoodReads). Like you, I always look for the positive and review that. If a book doesn't meet my expectations, I don't offer a comment.

I should say that I reviewed books the old fashioned way via snail mail. Now that I'm developing an online presence, I looked around for ways to grow it and stumbled onto Good Reads.

Initially, I couldn't understand why I was warned away from GoodReads. Then it dawned on me. Reviewers get a bad reputation and if you're also an author, it can have a boomerang effect.

I think book reviewing is a great way to grow your online presence, network, and offer positive feedback on a book to avoid the boomerang effect. It also prepares you for a writing career if you choose to embark on one. Most importantly, like you said, it forces you to think like a reader.

I just wish I had more time to read. Then I could review more books!

Welcome to this interesting blog!

B. A. Binns said...

I also review as well as write, and there just aren't enough hours in the day, but there are so many good books out there. I usually do one a week, mostly YA, usually on Mondays, and my reviews go on my blog, and GoodReads, and Facebook. At least I get triple duty out of my reads.

I heard an author claim that writers should also be reviewers as a way of giving back. I judge contests for the same reason.

And now, back to writing.

chanceofbooks said...

Thanks for the great comments! I'm squeeing like a fangirl because B.A. Binns commented :) I was JUST TODAY explaining to my department chair why "Pull" should be the new supplemental novel for one of my classes. That's another side benefit to reading with an eye towards reviewing--I discover supplemental texts far outside the academy.

Vonnie, I personally love Goodreads but I also *only* review there--I'm not active in any of the forums. I think with both Goodreads and Amazon that much of the negative stuff happens in the forums--I just avoid those cesspools.

Thanks Tam and Judith for the kind words!

ElaineCharton said...

Another review blog for my list I love it!!! Welcome I went over to check your site out and love it. Can not wait to read your review of Soulless. It's one of my favorite books.

Courtney L said...

So cool to have a reviewer here! Thanks for the great angle on your process. I guess the first step for me, before I can get a review from you, is to get my book published! I just added your site to my favorites list. Thanks again, Bethany!

Linda Lovely said...

What a great attitude about reviewing. I've read well-written books that I had to force myself to pick up each night to finish. They just weren't my cup of tea. On the other hand, I understand why others could love them. And, of course, the opposite is true. In addition to "perfect" books, I've fallen in love with some books that had some flaws but their merits far outweighed them. They spoke to me. I admire you for recognizing the subjectivity involved and not trying to act as a taste dictator. I'll definitely be following your blog.