Please tell us a little about yourself.
Bella: I write books as Mia Darien, but I review them as Bella on my blog. (I do post via my Mia Darien goodreads, though, to not break my own head.) I’ve been reading forever, and anyone who knows me will say I’m pretty mouthy, so reviewing wasn’t a surprise!
On average how many books do you read a month? What genres do you enjoy?
Bella: Some months, I’m too busy to read almost anything. Other months I can read eight or ten, chewing through a book in two days. It all depends on my available time and energy, really. I enjoy all “speculative fiction” or “genre fiction” genres, like fantasy, scifi, paranormal, horror, crime, thriller, romance…
Where do you tend to review?
Bella: When I read a self-published or small press book, I write my review on my blog and post it at goodreads. When it’s a traditional publisher/big publisher, it’s just on goodreads.
Why do you review – for other readers, for author feedback, for yourself?
Bella: All of the above? I will rate books at goodreads sometimes just to mark them off in my own “files” to keep track of what I’ve read. Otherwise, I try to do reviews for readers, and then when it’s an indie book, for both reader and writer. Unlike some reviewers, I will post one or two star reviews, but I ALWAYS work hard to be equitable. I try to make reasonable points that maybe the author can be helped by (like story, pacing, character) and I try to always point out that I know it’s subjective; like I’ll say, “This just wasn’t for me, but I can see it working for someone else.”
What are your opinions on authors commenting on a review – negative and positive?
Bella: I think it’s fine, as long as it’s done graciously. Just “thank you for reading my book” and if it’s negative, “I’m sorry it wasn’t to your taste.” Though sometimes it’s wiser to say nothing. Typically, I think authors should be careful to not “stalk” their readers when they rate/review, but if there’s a good open forum for it (say, on a blog) it can be a polite thing to do, as long as it’s done with taste and grace!
What are your opinions on “sockpuppetry” after the scandals of well-known authors leaving bad reviews for competitors?
Bella: That’s incredibly tasteless and poor sportsmanship, UNLESS they GENUINELY disliked the book. Authors can dislike other author’s work, but if all you’re doing is smearing the competition? It’s just low class. And if you’re going to do it, be sure you’re willing to put your name to it.
What are your opinions on a well-written review? What should it contain and how do you feel about personal comments listed in reviews.
Bella: It depends on what you mean by “personal comments.” All reviews are personal in some way. If a review EVER goes after the author personally, it’s bad form. Stick to the book. Good reviews are fair and equitable. You can write even a bad review while still being considerate. Don’t trash someone cause you can. Be honest, but be kind. It IS possible to be both. Note when it’s something that didn’t work for you, but might for someone else. Talk about the book: the story, the plot, the characters, etc.,
One thing I won’t do that some reviewers do is change my rating based on editing issues. I will note in a review if there should have been better editing, but my ratings are always based on the story elements. If the plot and characters were good, I will still rate high, even if the editing wasn’t as good.
Do you find yourself being suspicious of a book with only 4 and 5 star reviews?
Bella: I’m better if it’s four stars, or has some four stars. I distrust books with ALL five star reviews. Just feels like they got people they knew to flood the reviews. Maybe that’s unfair, but I’m kind of jaded. No book will be liked by everyone, so every story with more than a handful of reviews will have at least one mediocre rating. I am not likely to read a book with multiple five star only reviews.
Do the reviews of others influence your choices? What attracts you to read a book?
Bella: Different things, whatever grabs me in the description usually. Do the reviews of others? Sometimes. Sometimes I read reviews. Other times I don’t. Usually just to see what elements they might note. If there’s something mentioned I don’t think I’ll like, even in a high rating, I’ll pass. Otherwise, it’s just informational and I’ll read the book either way.
Do you deal with reviewing Indie books differently to how you review a mainstream book?
Bella: A little. With a mainstream book, I don’t see the author reading my review, lol, so I don’t write anything meant to be “helpful” or advice-like. Thus, mainstream reviews are geared more specifically just for fellow readers, where as indie book reviews of mine may try to offer information that the author might want to know. Otherwise, though, it’s just posting location. My blog is just for indie books, so mainstream reviews are only on goodreads.