I’ve always wanted to know what a book reviewer is looking for in a book. I know that many of them are authors or editors themselves, writing and reading just like the rest of us. So, I got a hold of one. Her name is Jade and she’s the creator of the website called, “Chasing Empty Pavements” (www.chasingemptypavements.com). She dedicates a large portion of her website to reviewing books. It’s an enjoyable website to browse through and you’ll absolutely love her reviews.
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Brandon Ellis: First off, what got you into reviewing books?
Jade: I learned to read at a VERY early age so I’ve been reading for almost as many years as I’ve been alive. That’s a long time to develop a loving relationship with books. In middle school or high school, I was always the girl that went around telling people what books were great and which ones were awful. A lot of the time if someone wanted to know about a book, they’d come to me to find out what I thought. When blogging came onto the scene, I was a little late to the party but I started blogging to share my love of books and reading with more than just close friends and family. I wanted to offer up my opinions to anyone who was considering buying a book that I’d reviewed. Chasing Empty Pavements was then born!
B: What are you looking for in a book? Or, in other words, what makes a book ‘one that you can’t put down’?
J: I read all kinds of genres, but lately I’ve been particularly fond of dystopians/post apocalyptic (probably like most readers lately). I think the reason why I love those books is because the start to finish ratio is so high thus they lend itself well to the “ones you can’t put down” type of book. I think it’s the action, the questioning of reality/life that makes it so interesting to me.
But in a more general sense for any genre, in order for a book to be un-put-downable (I think I just made that word up?), it has to have strong characters, an interesting premise/plot and it must be well written. In rare cases, if a book has ONE really strong element, it will keep me reading though some of the other elements aren’t as strong.
B: What turns you off in a book? One that you can put down.
J: The number one reason I put down a book is poor writing. Even if they may have great characters or a strong plot, I cannot get past the terrible writing. Typos, horrible sentence structure and bad grammar all are a turn off. If the book is too boring, it is really a struggle to keep going. In some cases, books will redeem themselves (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson) and in others, it’s just a lost cause (The Time In between by Maria Duenas).
B: What makes a book soar above the rest compared to one that doesn’t seem get off the ground?
J: Unfortunately, self-published books just don’t get the marketing or attention that published authors do and that seems to account for a lot of REALLY good books going unnoticed. And then there are books that people just seem to latch on and the fad spreads (50 Shades of Grey) and it becomes enormously popular. But let’s be realistic here, there are many unnoticed, unpopular and self-published books that have better writing, characters and plot structure than some of the most popular best sellers out there. Overall though, I think a great cast of characters in a novel along with a great plot is what sets the best sellers apart from books that don’t seem to have a readership. Having a book that really separates from the crowd is almost a guarantee that a book will be popular. Harry Potter, Twilight, The Help, 50 Shades…they all have one thing in common…at the time they were published…they were going against what was “popular.” They’re the trendsetters regardless of if the book is actually well written or not.
B: What’s been your favorite book to review thus far?
J: Oh this a really hard one!!! I’ve read A LOT of really good books and a lot of them are really fun to write about but I have to say that when I reviewed The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I was able to put my English major skills to use. I reviewed but also analyzed and that was pretty fun. It was also an extremely amazing book, so it was easy to sing its praises. Lately though, On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves was a great one to review because I really enjoyed reading the book. I find that when I’m really passionate about a book, it tends to come across in my reviews and those are the my favorite to review.
B: Do you remember the first book you reviewed?
J: Oh my goodness. It was so long ago! I’d have to go back through my archives to even find it. I do know that my reviewing has evolved dramatically since I started blogging. I’m sure my first review was something like, “I liked this book, you should read it. It’s totally worth your time,” and that’s about it. I’ve worked really hard to write reviews that are actually worth someones time if they decide to read it.
B: What about that book directed your decision to write about it and start a reviewing blog?
J: I’m not sure it was one book that directed my decision to write about it but more so the fact that I went through a period of time where I was reading more than usual and when I was trying to tell people about them, I would have six or seven books that they should add to their “to read” list and I think they were getting confused because I had so many recommendations. I was also getting myself confused because I’d read, think about it, pick up another book and read that one, think about it, etc. I needed a place to collect all my thoughts on the book I was reading in an organized and user-friendly way. Blogging happened to be just the thing to do that for me.
B: Are you currently writing a novel?
I am writing a book! Thank’s for asking! The working title for my novel is called The Right Kind of Wrong and it’s a Contemporary New Adult book about my main character, Kara who is assigned to work a college project with Vince, someone she does not get along with at all. They decide to go back to Kara’s hometown to write about her grandfather’s stint in WWII, but they get a little more than they bargained for when they discover an old family secret and a family disappearance that’s never been solved. I’m hoping to have it edited, revised and ready to query in the next few months! Keep your eyes peeled, it may be on shelves before you know it.
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Jade Hankes is a creative writer for a higher education marketing firm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She graduated in 2011 with an Bachelors in English and an emphasis in Creative Writing. She is currently working on her 5th novel and hoping to be published within the next couple years. She lives with her fiance and her mini farm (aka, 2 dogs and 2 cats).