Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What do you do when you're asked to review?

I've read and reviewed books by A. J. York before. I know roughly how long they'll be. I know I'll enjoy the storylines, and I know A. J. York's very English voice will appeal to my English heritage. When I receive an email from her asking for another review, it's not hard to say yes. After all, this will be a quick, short, thoroughly enjoyable read, and I'll fit it in between my other commitments... eventually. Ms York is always very willing to wait, which helps a lot, since my other commitments are rapidly wearing me down.

I've read and reviewed lots of wonderful picture books from Wisdom Tales too. They are one of my favorite publishers of children's books, and their stories always blend cultural significance with immediate relevance in a thoroughly pleasing way. When they send an email asking for a review I always say yes. Picture books are lovely, uplifting, quick reads. And the time spent writing a review (probably longer than reading the book) is always time well spent as I get my thoughts and my priorities into order.

The Permanent Press sends me much longer books, literary novels, frequently with a mystery bent. They always arrive with plenty of time to read before the book comes out. I try to read each in a timely manner, and send pre-release reviews, counting myself lucky to be trusted by such an impressive publisher. So yes, I always say yes to them, and eagerly await their parcels.

Then there are websites like Blogging for Books which let me choose my own reads, but do tend to place demands on how quickly they'd like me to review (which is why I'm not doing so many Amazon Vine reviews anymore). Choosing my own entertainment can be great fun though, so I'll say yes, just as soon as I post the last review.

Meanwhile publicists send me emails or letters with information on books. I might agree to review something, depending on timescales, and how the subject or author appeals to me, and depending on my schedule. I'll usually invite the author to be a guest on my blog, hence all those great guest posts here. But book reviews for authors I've not heard of can take a long time - my current schedule is full until late next year!

Finally there are those emails from people who find me, randomly, on Amazon.

We're sure you'd love to review this lipstick, phone case, pencil sharpener... No really. No.
Dear Sheila, I hope all is well with you. I have a favor to ask... depends...
I think you would really enjoy my book... maybe, or
I wonder if you could take time from your busy schedule... perhaps before August 15th, 2016 perhaps?

What do you do when you're asked to review? I used to say yes to (almost) everyone. Then I learned to agree only if the book appealed to me. Eventually even those had to turn into "No. My review list is full until next year." But there are so many great books out there, so many I'd really love to read, so many I'd delight in reviewing, sometime, someplace...

and so many I really, really want to write.

If you asked for a review by August 15th, I've probably already replied and said I can't do it. There's no way I could fit anything longer than a picture book in. If you gave me more time and I still said no to you, please understand, it doesn't mean I wouldn't like your writing. And if I've asked you to wait then made you wait  longer, I apologize. For those who've given me a book to review, who are wondering what's the delay, please feel free to remind me when it takes too long. I always love to know the author cares about hearing back from me.

Meanwhile, here are some long-delayed reviews of some much-enjoyed recently-read volumes. Grab a coffee and see which ones you'd like to read (and review?) - authors love to be reviewed!

Starting with one I chose for myself - lucky me!

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber seems to be everywhere, on all the big displays in all the big bookstores. It deserves to be there. It's a wonderful novel with faith, science, biology, love, hope and more, all perfectly blended together. Don't let anyone tell you what it's about. The story unfolds beautifully with perfect timing and smooth revelations to carry the reader far and further away. Enjoy some rich, elegant, complex coffe and sit down for a seriously good read!

Two children's books just had to be on the list:

Eliza Bluebell by AJ York is a lovely modern-day fairytale fantasy set in a small English country town, where the inhabitants learn from a slightly magical visitor (and her shadow) that they can do so much more than they imagined. Enjoy with a bright lively two-star coffee, and read with a smooth English accent.

The Thunder Egg, by Tim J. Myers, illustrated by Winfield Coleman, is another delightful Wisdom Tales picture book. The illustrations convincingly evoke a Native American background, and the story, though modern, reads with the haunting lyricism of myth, drawing from and speaking to many different cultures. A lonely girl learns just what she'll be willing to give for her community, and a community learns to value the outsider. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Next come two dark novels of mystery and suspense...

Measure Twice By J J Hensley is part mystery, part police procedural, part psychological thriller. An unready detective works through the 12 steps of recovery, and salvation comes in unexpected guises. A dark, haunting tale with great dialog, well balanced horror and humor, and some fascinating complexities, this is one to enjoy with a bold, dark, intense cup of five-star coffee.

Blue Flame by MC Schmidt presents a different kind of mystery as an elderly man falls prey to the problems of the day, and his estranged son finally faces up to the past. It's an oddly powerful, compelling novel, told through multiple points of view. And it carries a great touches of hope in spite of its sorrow. Enjoy with an elegant complex four-star cup of coffee.

Finally, here are two novels that take Christian romance to more serious levels - not for unquestioning readers I guess:

Wind over Marshdale by Tracy Krauss is a story of romance, suspense, faith, listening to God, and the clashing cultures of indigenous peoples with comfortable small-town life. The drawing together of faiths is beautifully done, making this much more than the usual Christian romantic suspense. Enjoy with well-balanced, smooth-flavored three-star coffee. Then read Lone Wolf by the same author, and see how the story continues in the life of Thomas Lone Wolf. More well-balanced smooth three-star coffee would go well.





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