Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Review Policy

I've never written up an official review policy so this post is obviously overdue after 5 1/2 years of blogging. I will make updates, as necessary, when there are changes in my life or blog.

Currently, I'm not accepting any review books at all. I've got a couple stacks of advanced review books that I haven't gotten around to reading and I simply don't feel like it would be fair to authors or publishers to accept books I'm unlikely to get to in a timely manner. I will continue to read those review books already received till I'm done with all of them. Then, I'll reconsider my policy.

Just before I ceased to accept review books, I began to request an excerpt from any book someone asked me to read because I felt I was setting too many aside. I used to do what I call the "flip test" when shopping for books. It still works - if more than one random passage grabs my interest and I want to keep reading, I will almost certainly finish a book.

Oh, and I don't do e-books. I'm just not a fan of them, yet. Maybe someday.

There are a few exceptions:

I will always accept books by favorite authors. Simon Van Booy, Sarah Addison Allen and Patricia Wood come to mind. My author links are also in dire need of an update, so till I amend those you can just assume anyone not in my tiny author-links list is not a favorite, even though that's a Big Fat Lie. I have a lot of favorites.

What I like to read and may accept if/when I return to accepting ARCs:

Just about everything. It would be easier to tell you what I don't like, but I'll do my best to mention what I really enjoy.
  • I'm a history buff, but not knowledgable about history, so I like reading both historical fiction and history (as long as it's readable, not scholarly). I'm a big fan of novels set during wars, particularly WWII, WWI, Vietnam and the Napoleonic Wars.
  • I love reading about survival, whether real or fictional.
  • I like the occasional YA, including the paranormal kind (but not vampires - I am so sick of vampires . . . except for Justin Cronin's . . . and I'm not into demons, but angels are okay), those with a touch of magic or a futuristic world (like InsideOut by Maria Snyder, Wither by Lauren DeStefano and Divergent by Veronica Roth).
  • Literary fiction floats my boat, provided it is not wholly depressing. I like a ray of hope in my literature.
  • Poetry is an area in which I've recently developed a passion. I read poetry for imagery, rhythm, the senses, and wit. Scholarly work goes right over my head.
  • Short stories - Love 'em. But only if they're done right. I like stories that leave you with a sense of completion. Stories by Simon Van Booy, Nabokov, Chekov, Shirley Jackson and Siobhan Fallon come to mind. Haruki Murikami has recently pleasurably warped my brain. So, I guess I don't need all short stories to be perfectly wrapped up. And, Jack Finney -- oh, how I love Jack Finney.
  • Children's books - Picture books and middle readers, especially if they're humorous, historical or meaningful, are always favorites. When I review picture books, I read them to my cats and then do my best to find a good home for them when I finish.
  • Light fantasy is okay. I recently enjoyed Chime by Franny Billingsley, for example. I tend to dislike fantasy that's heavy on long, weird, hard-to-remember names.
  • Travel memoirs - Crazy about them. I love reading about places I'll never go, places I've been, places I hope to travel.
  • Other memoirs - The more light-hearted, upbeat and hopeful, the better. However, I do like reading about a variety of experiences. The only memoir I've recently failed to complete was one that I found pretentious and heavy-handed. Fire Season by Philip Connors is a recent favorite. I also love Stand Before Your God by Paul Watkins and Autobiography by Benvenuto Cellini.
  • Books about books, books about writing, books about authors (including the newfangled fictional variety, like The Paris Wife - which I haven't read, but I'm intrigued).
  • Coffee-table books. I don't own a coffee table (bummer) but I love to dive into big, beautiful books - design, history, photography, art, and huge, beautiful cookbooks are on my shelves.
  • Action/adventure. I've yet to read a Dirk Pitt book, but I just have this sneaking suspicion I'll like them when I do. I like escapist reading. That goes for children's and YA, as well as adult novels. Even zombies have made their way into my reading, since they're adventurous and survival-oriented.
  • Quirky novels and books on unusual topics.
  • Sci-fi, particularly futuristic or time travel.
  • Dystopian fiction, provided it's not so bleak I'll need an antidepressant milkshake when I'm through (or shock treatment to help me forget). I love the survival aspect, naturally.
  • Old-fashioned noir like Dashiell Hammett's books. I adore Dashiell Hammett. A couple years ago, I read one of the Baby Shark books by Robert Fate and absolutely loved it. It's violent and dark but very, very well-written. I couldn't put that sucker down.
  • Speaking of atmosphere, I enjoy ghost stories, whether "real" or imaginary.
  • Suspense, if done well. Daphne DuMaurier comes to mind, although one of the books I read by DuMaurier was, in fact, a wall-banger. I've read quite a few of her books.
  • Cookbooks - even though I don't cook much. I'm trying!!!! And, I love to read cookbooks, mark recipes and beg my husband to whip them up. Fortunately, he's usually willing. Right now, I'm reading a cookbook because I desire to find my inner domestic goddess. Wish me luck.
  • Science and nature for the general audience. For example, I love books about plagues past and coming, natural disasters, wildlife, climate change, etc.
  • Classics. I love the fact that many are being re-packaged and re-released, often with some sort of book about the book (like the recent book about Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird . . . which I haven't read, so I might be blowing hot air, but I like the idea).

Well. If that's not enough to make your head spin, I think there might be something wrong with you.

Here are a few things I avoid like the plague:
  • True Crime
  • Anything with extreme violence, gore, graphic sex and an unbearable amount of vulgarity -- although, I do occasionally read romance, I prefer my romance chaste and adventurous.
  • Books in which a main character has cancer.
  • Any book that is so depressing you'll want to slit your wrists when it's over. Give us hope, people! A book can end sadly but still manage to shine a ray of hope on tragedy. Any story, like Saint Maybe, in which things go wrong, keep going wrong and then end tragically is out.
  • Popular fiction - I tend to avoid bestsellers. Don't ask me why. I can't even figure that out. There are exceptions, of course. I read The Help, which you'll soon find falls into *two* of my "meh" categories. It took a great deal of convincing, but I loved it.
  • Anything at all by Nicholas Sparks. Gag me. Some sap is okay, but deliberate tragedy pisses me off.
Things I only occasionally read:
  • Southern fiction - I live in the South and don't find Southern fic escapist enough for my taste. But, people keep talking me into reading Southern fiction they like. I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm really iffy about Southern fic.
  • Mysteries - I'll read maybe one or two a year, max. I burned out on mysteries about a half-dozen years ago and haven't gone back to reading them regularly. When I did, I was an Anne Perry, Dick Francis, Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block and Lillian Jackson Braun fan. You know, just FYI.
  • Women's fiction - There are exceptions, but I tend to balk at titles that are billed as women's fiction. I really just dip into them when the storyline is appealing and it's difficult to boil that down to a few sentences so let's just say I read some but I can't say whether or not a title that falls into this particular classification will appeal to me.
  • Jane Austen spin-offs. Sometimes I will, sometimes I won't.
  • Chick lit. I'm really weird about this. I like British chick lit, but not American or Irish, in general. But, I hate calling it "chick lit" because that entire romance subgenre is so reviled. A romantic romp with humor can be a really fun, comforting read and my all-time favorite, go-to author is Jill Mansell. In Great Britain, they classify her books as general fiction. Good on you, British publishers. We need to throw that chick lit term out the door.
Here are a few books I've recently purchased:

Yep. I'm into variety, all right.

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  1. Very detailed policy Nancy, though if my experience is anything to go by even saying you're not accepting anything does not in any way stop the emails :P Sadly.

  2. I enjoyed reading your policies. :) Good idea. I'm still getting books that I've never even heard of and certainly never requested. Do love my Algonquin packages, though.

    Interesting array of recently purchased books!

  3. Amy,

    Yes, I know that well. I figured I might as well give it a shot, though. The last time I said I wasn't accepting review copies, I think my requests to review doubled. Maybe highlighting in bold red lettering will help. You never know. ;)


    I love those Algonquin packages, too! I've got The Taste of Salt sitting by my bed and I hope to get to it, soon. Otherwise, I'm not receiving unsolicited books often, apart from the odd children's picture book -- and I will always happily read those, simply because they're short enough that it's not like I don't have the time! :)

  4. Very detailed. I don't even need to bother with a review policy. I don't get requests to read ARCs and I'm to chicken to request them. :(

  5. Jenny,

    I half wrote all that for the fun of thinking about just what it is I love and dislike reading. As to review requests . . . I get quite a few of them, but I've been around for an awfully long time. You don't start getting requests overnight. I almost never ask for specific books, either. I have my fair share of chicken in the blood. :)

  6. Yes, good for you! You like variety and that is excellent.

  7. Deb,

    It's good and bad. Hopefully, I'm a little less boring for reading a wide variety. Hope, hope. :)

  8. You know, if I were writing a review policy, I think I'd just copy and paste yours. Amazing how much our reading tastes list are alike! Your "NO" list is identical to mine, though I never rule out anything other than true crime. But the other stuff? Nope, not interested in cancer, depression, or most generally popular stuff. You must have extremely good taste. :)

  9. Tammy,

    I've always thought you have excellent taste. Now, I know why. We're reading twins!!! Yeah, I don't totally rule out much of anything but true crime. Well, except Nicholas Sparks. And, somewhere around here I've got his memoir. So . . .

  10. So... Where do paranormal type stories (Urban fiction? Paranormal romance?) Whatever they should be called fit in? I'm talking about shape shifters and demons and the like.


  11. CJ,

    I'm not a big fan of urban fantasy, like C. E. Murphy's books (which my son is crazy about) nor demons, although I thought Kelley Armstrong made them tolerable and there's a Christian book w/demons that I liked. Scared the socks off me, but it was good. But, I'm okay with other paranormal/fantasy types. I haven't read anything involving shape-shifting. That might be fun. Angels are good. I like magic, healers, mild sorcery, fairies . . . can't think what else there is (cats woke me up for their breakfast -- too early). I guess it depends on the story!

  12. What a fun post! I agree wholeheartedly about Nicholas Sparks. UGH. Right now at work, we're in the process of getting rid of a lot of older titles to make room for some new product. I don't know why I was so shocked that we didn't get rid of anything written by Nicholas Sparks or James Patterson. Blech.

    I see you got a copy of Zeitoun! I started it a few weeks ago and really need to get back to it. I read several chapters and was completely enthralled. Great book!!

  13. Les,

    Haha! I'm glad you agree! Unfortunately, Sparks may be a bit arrogant and a bad writer, but he's not going away because his books sell! The same goes for James Patterson. Not my type of authors, but they have a very large and devoted fan base.

    Yes, I got Zeitoun at our Dearly Departed Borders. I flipped through it and read a few passages and it did look good. I'm glad you're enjoying it!

  14. Love your explination! I think like me you will about 90% of everything or at least give it a try. I am jealous you bought Zeitoun. I have thought about it since it came out and just afraid to order or buy. Can't wait to hear what you think of it.

  15. Paula,

    Yes, exactly - probably 90% of what's out there interests me, in some way. Not sure when I'll get to Zeitoun, but it was one of those books that I passed up at Borders and then thought, "Oh, no! I meant to get that!" and, fortunately, it was still there when I went back. I'm looking forward to reading it. Will let you know what I think when I get to it (but don't hold your breath). :)


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