As a book reviewer, I get asked a LOT of questions in person and on social media about my reading habits. Recently, I reached out to everyone on social media and asked what they wanted to know. Here are those answers. Enjoy!
- Who are your reviews for?
- Me, mostly. I work in a bookstore so I regularly get asked for recommendations. I sort of pride myself on being able to give specific ones. For example, if you say you’re looking for mystery thrillers but you want a little romance and you like realistic characters I might recommend Tami Hoag. I have a whole lot of those running around in my head, that’s just one example. Organizing these book reviews by forcing myself to add in who may love this one has really helped me prepare for those types of requests. If other people stumble upon their next favorite book because they also read the review, that’s a bonus.
- So you just check out old books from the library and review them?
- Yes and no. Yes, I totally do that. I have a HUGE backlist of books I want to read. I have the list color coordinated (I’m a spreadsheet geek, I know) and one of those colors is “available at the library” (also including format). I almost always have an audiobook going as well as a physical or ebook going. That means I’m plowing through my list of old audiobooks available at the library pretty quickly. That being said, I’m also a traditional and indie ARC reviewer for a lot of websites or publishers and I take review requests as well. As I mentioned, I also work in a bookstore. You can imagine that means I bring home a LOT of books in a month. It’s fine. So YES I do check out books from the library and review them but NO it’s not all I do.
- How long is your TBR?
- Right now at the time of prepping this post it’s 158 books strong. 132 of those I have already purchased and just need to read. 5 of them I’ve borrowed from friends or relatives and need to read and return. If you’re really interested in my TBR, add me on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/tabathashipley. I work really hard to keep my TBR current there.
- Is there anything you don’t read?
- Not really. There are things I’m not always a huge fan of, which I will warn a requesting author about before agreeing to review for them if it seems like they may have those. Those include romance (especially romance with perfect characters, age differences, or baby makes instant happily-ever-after), sneaking erotica into young adult books, rape as a plot device, or general hatred for anyone (obviously excused from villains who are expected to be the bad guys who make stupid choices like that). Even if you tell me it has that but want me to read it, I usually will. Just expect that my review will reflect that both in lower star rating and in the what I didn’t like category.
- Explain that review scale. Why don’t you give 5 stars if you completely loved it?
- Because, in my opinion, the absolute best books are ones that you would confidently recommend to a variety of readers. Genre crossing books are the holy grail. They’re books I will reread and pass along to literally everyone. They’re rare, which means I don’t always give 5 stars, but they’re unforgettable. That being said, 4 stars is still a GREAT rating in my opinion. These are the books that are the TOP of their genre. If you read this genre, you need to read these books (and I’ll tell you that). They are books I likely own and will constantly recommend. 3 Stars is ALSO GOOD. They just have a more niche audience. I need to know more about what you like in mystery, for example, before I can recommend one of these to you. I still own a lot of these and I do recommend them. In fact, these are the ones that I have to know more about … because I have to remember what niche would love them.
- So the only negative reviews you give are 1 and 2 stars?
- I guess that’s one way to look at it. 2 stars were problematic for me in some way, and I’ll always say why. If you are a reader who isn’t sensitive to that you’ll feel differently. But these aren’t books I typically recommend just because of that sensitivity. I very rarely (like almost never) give 1 star ratings. When I do it’s because something about the book was glaringly wrong, professionally or conceptually. I can’t justify recommending this to anyone. I’ll always explain why. You’ll notice if you check out the Book Reviews tab on my blog page that 1 and 2 star reviews are not linked. This is purposeful. They’re not the books I’m comfortable recommending. I’m not here for drama.
- Have you ever changed a review?
- Yes. Not a big change, but yes. In my own notes for this particular title, I have it listed as a 3.5. Originally I put it on the review sites as 3. Then I decided that was ridiculous. I rounded UP instead of DOWN and changed it to a 4. I did feel mildly guilty about that one since the author reached out and asked why I changed the review (which means they noticed). I just explained that the full review (which at the time was going on my YouTube channel) would call it a 3.5 and would explain I rounded up for sites that didn’t allow for half stars. Since then I’ve forced myself to stick to full stars and just make that decision before I get around to posting the review everywhere.
- Are you ever worried about backlash on your own books when you post a negative review?
- Worried about it, no. Conscious that it could be a thing, yes. It’s actually happened where an author I read/reviewed lower than they wanted suddenly reviewed one of my books with the exact same star rating and no explanation. The way I see it, having a new review is always good, so at least they’re not really hurting me by reviewing it. I personally have too much integrity to rate a book I haven’t actually read. If someone else can’t say the same, that’s not really my problem. I suppose I’ll feel differently if it ever seriously affects my books overall ratings. For now, I just sort of roll with it. But, yes, I am aware that it could always get to a bad point.
- Do you spend all day reading?
- HAHA sometimes I wish. Realistically I read for about one to two hours a day from the paperback or ebook I’m working on. This is typically divided into two or three smaller sessions, based on what I have going on during the day. I also listen to an audiobook on my drive to work, when I’m at the grocery store, and sometimes when I’m cleaning around the house. Basically, I squeeze in audiobooks whenever I have some other mindless task that needs to be done. The audiobook helps my brain focus on something so that my hands can wander on other things, like folding laundry. I’ve learned I actually focus BETTER on the audiobook when I do things like this. So, on a perfect day, I might get 2 hours of reading and 30-45 minutes of audiobook listening.
- Favorite type of book to review?
- That’s a hard question for me to answer because what I feel like reading varies so much. Fantasy statistically came out on the top last year, but mystery/thriller is the section I always visit in a bookstore first, and three of my absolutely favorite authors all specialize in contemporary. Really, when I say I’ll read anything, I mean it! That being said, I really love books that surprise me and make me think. If you hand me something formulaic, I’m going to struggle to get through it and I’ll likely end up rating it lower.
Now you know the basics.
Did I miss any? Drop any questions you have about my reading/reviewing habits in the comments and I’ll get to them!