Friday, June 27, 2008

In the Book Reviewer Hot Seat: Jocelyn Pearce

Last reviewer up in the hot seat, but the first (we think) to suggest a 2K8 debut authors reading challenge, Jocelyn Pearce of Teen Book Review fame!! Be sure to leave a comment by June 29th to be entered to win Lisa Schroeder's debut novel I Heart You, You Haunt Me. Winner for this and all the other Hot Seat giveaways will be announced on the 30th! Okay, Jocelyn, time to get in the seat and let's get quickly acquainted:

What's your handle? Jocelyn, mostly...I don't really use anything but my name, though some refer to me as "teen book reviewer."
What kind of books do you review? YA, or MG or Adult books that I think will appeal to teenagers. Or at least to this teenager :-) No specific genre.
Approx # of books reviewed? I have no idea. A lot. Several hundred.
Where can we find your reviews?
Reading turn-ons: Books that grab my attention right away. I have a short attention span. I also love a great, distinct voice.
Reading turn-offs: Books that are slow to start. Or that are required to read for school. Or that are so terribly written I visibly cringe.
Class of 2K8 books reviewed:
Alive and Well in Prague, New York
The Opposite of Invisible
I Heart You, You Haunt Me
A Curse As Dark As Gold

Excellent list! Okay, now right into the questions: We love the crazy handles book reviewers come up with—tell us how you came up with yours! A little bit about how you got into book reviewing would be cool too.

I usually just use my name, and my blog's name is Teen Book Review--not too creative. I obviously wasn't thinking too hard at the moment, and now it's kind of too late to change to something better! Although I do get lots of google search hits for general terms like "teen books," so that's cool. I don't really have a good story about how I got into reviewing. I saw some book reviews, and wanted to do it, too, because I read a lot and have opinions about what I read. My friends are always asking for recommendations, and they also tend to treat my bookshelves like a lending library!

You should probably make up fun ID cards for them to use as well! Hee hee. Okay, describe your grading system and how that translates to the reader?

I've stopped doing stars or numbers, because that just got too tricky and depended too much on my current mood. I just write what I think, and people can take that however they'd like to.

Sounds like a great plan. Speaking of plans, how do you pick the books you review? Or are they picked for you? Do you ever read books that wouldn't normally interest you—and if so have you ever been surprised by what you've read?

I try to read everything that is sent to me for review, but there's a big backlog there, always. I get more books than I can read! So generally, I just pick what to read for trivial reasons like a cool cover, or other things like an author I like, or a recommendation from someone whose opinion I trust. Whenever I get a new book, I read the first few pages, so if those are great, I'll read the rest of the book sooner. If not, well, then, it might have to wait awhile. I do read books I'm not sure I'll like, and sometimes it turns out wonderfully--sometimes, not so wonderfully.

You do know that Teen Book Review's initials are TBR (as in To Be Read pile) Interesting coincidence? Or carefully planned... eh, not sure where I was going with that, okay, what are the best ways to find new books? Any advice for authors about getting their book noticed by reviewers?

Well, of course, there's always book blogs and review sites! Just browsing can lead you to some pretty great things, too, at the library or bookstore. If authors want attention from reviewers, they should try to have a web presence (the Class of 2k8 does a great job of this!) of some sort, the best being something often updated like a blog (and don't just blog about book news--readers want to get to know you a little more, not just how your book sales are doing). But mostly, just ask us to review your book! We love to read new books. Especially before they're available to the public (meaning ARCs); it makes us feel special.

You are special! But what about those books that maybe are less so? If you really aren't feeling a book—will you make the ultimate sacrifice and finish it for the sake of the review?

Not generally, because that review would be very negative, and I'd rather recommend books to read instead of books not to read (though I do that as well sometimes). I also believe that there are so many great books in the world, and obviously I won't have time in my lifetime to read them all, even if I forgo things like showering, so why waste my time on something I'm not enjoying?

Let's not forgo showering. Yes, this is the Internet, but that doesn't make it okay. But what happens if you really love a book—will you read it again? If so—what are some of the books you just had to read more than once?

Yes, definitely! I have so many books I've reread. The entire Harry Potter series in one marathon five days. All of Tamora Pierce's books, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' books, Looking for Alaska...Really, I often get in a mood where I want to reread an old favorite, although there's less and less time for that.

But not less time for showering. Jocelyn, we're serious about this. As serious as we are about our book reviews. Do you have a basic philosophy on what should be included in a review—or does it depend on the book itself?

I don't have any specific rules. I like to include something about the plot of the book (but no spoilers!), and point out what's best about the book (great writing style, characters, suspense, etc.), and, if something stands out as being not so great, I'll point that out, too. Just your basic review. I usually try to touch on the voice, the characters, and the basic plot, but mostly it's just what I notice, for better or worse.

Let's chat about the "for better." Tell us about the last time your jaw dropped open, you laughed, or you cried while reading a book.

I'm not so easily moved to visible reactions like that, but I think it was probably Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Absolutely brilliant. I think that's my new favorite book of all time. I had all those reactions, and much more, while reading it. I can't praise it highly enough.

That's so cool. Okay, more cool stuff...Is there any character in a book that you wish would come to life? Or any place you wish existed?

Sure, lots. When I was younger, I always wanted to go to Hogwarts. I would pull up weeds and mush them up with dirt and water and pretend it was magic potion, stuff like that. I had this plastic wand filled with glitter, and I'd take the dust jackets off of big hardcover books and pretend that they were spell books and I could do the spells with my wand. Basically, I spent as much time in "Hogwarts" as in the real world!

If we had a nickle for every time Hogwarts was the answer... speaking of getting mentioned over and over, what books do you find yourself recommending over and over and why?

Ophelia by Lisa Klein is one I haven't been able to stop recommending since I read it! I loved everything about it. Usually it's authors more than books that I can't stop recommending, though--Scott Westerfeld, Melina Marchetta, John Green, Garret Freymann-Weyr...These are people who have been consistently brilliant, even if there are few other consistencies in some of their books! I usually prefer to recommend authors because that gives someone lots more to read.

Excellent point! Okay, this is it folks, our very last time to ask the Extra Scandalous Question! I know, it's a moment. Let's have a pause.

Really bad reviews—do you ever fear giving them? Ever had an author get upset with you? (It's okay—you can tell us, just don't name names!) And what advice do you have for authors who get a bad review?

I only review books I finish, and I usually don't finish really bad books (although those I would put into that category are few in number). I've never had an author upset with me because of a completely bad review (to my knowledge), but I have had people who are really nitpicky, and even if I said some great things about their book but didn't like one small detail, they email me to tell me why I shouldn't have said what I did. Sometimes reasonably, sometimes less so. For authors who get a bad review--remember, it's just one person's opinion. There are books out there for everyone, but they're not the same books for every person. So keep that in mind, but also, remember it for next time if lots of people have the same criticisms of your work. If you get several reviews saying that your dialogue was awkward--try to make it less so in your next book. Stuff like that. Most bad reviews try to be constructive criticism rather than total bashing. Ignore total bashing.

Wonderful advice! Thanks for all the great answers! One last question: if they aren't scared off by all that bad review talks and an author would like you to review her book, what should she do?

You can email me here! Just please don't push me to review your book. I have people who email me after a week or two asking (sometimes rather impolitely) why I haven't published a review yet. That's not the way to a good (or at least unbiased) review, or even a review at all. Remember, we're busy people, we do this for free (I love it, but school and a paying job keep me busy, too).
Excellent point Jocelyn! Okay last chance to win one of the Class of 2K8 books to be given away this week. Read what Jocelyn Pearce had to say about I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder, then comment!:

"This is a lovely verse novel–haunting, a beautiful story, beautifully written. I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME is a powerful story of life, love, loss, grief, and moving on (but not forgetting)–of finding hope after a tragedy. " Teen Book Review


The Compulsive Reader said...

Ooh, cool interview. You're most definitely on my Google Reader list, Jocelyn!

Ronni said...

LOVE the book review tips!

Meredith said...

Great interview!


Book Chic said...

Jocelyn is pretty much made of awesome, and I'm excited that she got to be part of this whole shebang! Also (shameless plug), I have a guest blog up on Jocelyn's site where you can win 2 copies of Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling! So check it out! :)

(shameless plug over)

Great interview!

Chelsie said...

Awesome interview =D

Breanna said...

Great interview! I read your reviews all the time Jocelyn.

Please enter me to win I Heart You, You Haunt Me! I've been wanting to read it for the longest time!


KissToBetray said...

That was a pretty awesome interview!

Sign me up for the book!

Carol said...

Great interview. I like the review tips!

The Book Muncher said...

i think Jocelyn is pretty much like a famous book reviewer in my mind...seriously. she's reviewed so many books and it seems she's been around forever (even tho she hasnt of course!) :D

Little Willow said...

Go Jocelyn. Always nice to hear someone else sing the praises of Garret Freymann-Weyr's novels!

Chicklish said...

Yay, Jocelyn! Brilliant interview!


RR2 said...

I loved Ophelia, too!

Anonymous said...

I was on a bookmarking phase and Teen Book Review was one of the first ones I bookmarked. I love your reviews.

I never really realized the "TBR" until it was mentioned. haha. It's one of those things in life that just seem to work out perfectly.

Well, please enter me for the contest. "I Heart You, You Haunt Me" has been on my "TBR" list for a while... just haven't gotten to buying it yet. haha.

Carmen T

daphne grab said...

terrific interview! and i'm now off to pre order melina marchetta's latest- SAVING FRANCESCA is one of my all-time favorite books and i'm so excited she has another one out!

Bunny B said...

Great interview! Fab tips!

jmprince said...

Most excellent interview. A fitting final reviewer interview. Thanks for sharing!

Book~Adorer said...

Love, good job with it Jocelyn. I also love 'I heart you , you haunt me'. I usually didn't like verse books till this book. It was great. Definitely enter me for this.

Aimee said...

Great interview and contest! Thanks! aimeecirucci at hotmail dot com

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Great interview. I love her advice to authors about waiting for a review!


growareader said...

Way to ask the tough questions!
You always ask what enquiring minds want to know. Thanks!

Alea said...

I just use my name too! I think covers are really important, sometimes that's how a person is first attracted to a book, I know it gets me to pick it up!

Sherry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erin said...

Oooh, I'm so dying to read Jellicoe Road.

I heart Jocelyn! She's one of my first (if not first) ever book-blogging-buddies. Great interview. :)

AwesomeNiks said...

After this, I'm going to look up and read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta when I get a chance.

Also, I thought it was interesting about the whole if I don't like a book, I don't finish it. I'm absolutely the same way. Sometimes I feel bad letting a book sit on the shelf not finished. But I guess different books are for different people.

Melissa Walker said...

I love reviewers in the hot seat! And Jocelyn is a Carolina girl like me... yay!

Reviewer X said...

I love the guest blogs on Jocelyn's sites. :)

Please enter me!