Book Reviewer Interviews: Cleo Bannister

(reblogged from BlondeWriteMore)

Book Reviewer Interview
I have decided to start interviewing book reviewers on my blog for the following reasons:
  • Book reviewers hold a lot of useful literary insight for writers.
  • Book reviewers are very valuable to us when our books are published. It is useful to see how their book reviewer mind works.
  • I believe getting inside the mind of a book reviewer will make an excellent blog post.
To kick off my new Book Reviewer Interviews slot is Cleo Bannister. I am so excited because Cleo is one of my favourite book reviewers. I buy books according to what she says. If you are not familiar with her blog ‘Cleopatra Loves Books’ please check it out.
Welcome Cleo, I am thrilled that you have agreed to this. Please have a seat in my new book reviewer chair!
Tell me about yourself. Well that’s a daunting opening question!
I am a forty-something woman, I have no pets and my favourite colour is purple!
I’m quite small, straight-talking although hopefully not to the point of rudeness and I have a distinctive laugh and actually say ahh tissue when I sneeze!
I work in the Legal Department of a company that renews Intellectual Property rights, and since I’ve been there for over thirteen years I can imagine the glazed looks on all the readers faces, so I’ll quickly move to the fact that I live in Jersey in the Channel Isles which people are always far more fascinated about.
It’s what’s known as compact living, anyone who is stupid enough to think that a large proportion of the island don’t know what they said, did and wore at any given point in time is much mistaken. Although it’s a beautiful place to live, in the winter there isn’t an awful lot to do other than socialise and so we jokingly refer to ourselves as 90,000 alcoholics clinging to a rock! I’m not, an alcoholic (I am fairly sociable) because if I drink too much the words on the page tend to swim and the reason why I’m being interviewed is because I’m a booklover and I think I’d crack up if I couldn’t get my daily dose of reading in!
What made you start reviewing books? I started reviewing books on Amazon in 2010 as a way of having a record of the books I read because I have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to names so people would say ‘have you read xxx?’ and I’d look blankly at them needing a bit of hint to place the book – I also frequently borrowed the same book with a different cover from the library that I’d already read.
My early reviews were exceptionally short but served that original purpose but then it grew as I started to depend on reviews when choosing books and in turn wanted my voice to be heard in the crowd.
How many books do you review a month? I can comfortably read 10 books per month and I review each and every one that I finish. Last year’s total was 145 books which works out at about 12 books per month. In between the reviews I do memes on the blog with features from upcoming books, the occasional blog tour or interview with an author and sometimes random pieces about book related stuff.
What is your selection process for reviewing a book?
  • Have I read and awarded 4 or 5 stars to the author before?
  • Does it have a synopsis that appeals?
  • Has it been reviewed and recommended by bloggers whose opinion I trust?
  • If I’ve been offered or can request it from a publisher/author, do I have a slot in my schedule? My book reading is planned to the nth degree on an excel spreadsheet – once the slots are full for a month, that’s it, no more. At the moment I have books scheduled up to July as I like to review close to publication date, and then there is the books I already own that need to be read too, oh and the ones I buy for myself because I need them!!
My main interest is crime fiction particularly that which looks at the why of a criminal act as much as the who but I do read other genres too, it’s good to have variety.
What is your book review process? I rarely make notes, the only exception is if I’m on holiday and have a number of reviews to write on my return.
I’ve always wanted my reviews to be the gut reaction when finishing a book and in the early days I was really disciplined about not opening the next book until the one just finished had a review written, sadly I’m not that good anymore so I tend to write my review and then go back through the book trying to find the names and places to check I’ve got them right.
If I’m reading on my kindle I will highlight passages if I want to refer to them in the review but nowhere as frequently as I should.
What do you think makes a good book? For me I have to be able to believe in the characters, which shouldn’t be mistaken for liking them, in fact my favourite characters tend to be the wolves in sheep’s clothing types. But characters alone do not make a book, there has to be a solid plot preferably a clever one by which I mean one that makes me think or encourages me to put myself in ‘someone else’s shoes.’
If it has a historical aspect then it has to be well-researched, I know all sorts of random things and if something is not in the right era it lifts me out of the story. So to sum up in a single sentence: A good book is one that I can believe in from the beginning to the end, and that I am totally immersed in while I’m reading it.
If you're a book reviewer and are interested in being interviewed by her, leave a comment on her original blogpost linked above.