We caught up with fellow Aussie book blogger, Jodie Llewellyn of Words Read and Written, to find out what she loves to read and how she reviews.
Can you tell us a bit about your site, Words Read and Written: how long have you been reviewing and why did you start?
I started my blog back in September 2013. At the time it started as a writing blog – somewhere I could build a platform as an aspiring author. Then around mid 2014 it converted into a book blog and was renamed Words Read & Written. Reading is something I’ve always adored, so making that transition into reviewing was really organic.
What kind of books do you review?
I mainly review young adult and new adult fiction, but I’ll read anything that catches my eye. I tend to review contemporary romance fiction the most, because it is a genre that I love.
What’s your reviewing process?
I think I could quite possibly be the most relaxed reviewer ever! I read, I write down my thoughts as I read, I do a quick edit for spelling/grammar/structure, then I post. Simple. I’ve heard of book reviewers taking hours to write a proper review. My process is really low maintenance—I just write whatever pops into my mind as I’m reading.
How do you decide what to read next?
I usually pick up whatever appeals to me. A part of me thinks I should create a system where I read books in the order in which they are sent to me; but reading is something to be enjoyed and I don’t want to lose that raw love I have for reading.
What are three key things you look for in a good story?
Characters – This is SO important to me. Liking or not liking characters can make or break a novel for me. I have to identify and like the main character and I have to like the love interest (if there is one) otherwise I lose interest in the plot.
Emotion – 5-star reviews for me are the ones that give me an emotional reaction. I LOVE a book that has me hand-flapping-with-excitement or flopping around unable to deal with all the feels! I also love a story that teaches me something new about the world and makes me feel something I’ve never felt before.
Writing – I’m pretty picky with my writing style. I like my writing simple, direct and to the point. I’m not a fan of purple prose or overly descriptive and metaphorical writing. They always make me feel like I’m wading through quicksand trying to get to the point.
What do you love most about reading, and why is it important?
I feel like reading is my “thing”. It’s what I’m known for in my group of friends. So I feel like it has become a part of my identity, which I love, because it feels like it’s mine and mine alone. Especially in a circle of friends who don’t read!
I feel like reading is so important because it teaches you something about the world. It lets you explore lives you’ve never lived and try things you’ve never tried.
Why are book reviews important?
I think they are important because they’re so helpful! Especially now when anyone can write a book and publish it online for public consumption. Reviews can help you decide whether a book is even worth reading. There are a lot of books in the world, and having people weed out the good from the bad is really great when you’re trying to make a decision on which books to read next.
What’s been your favourite read so far this year?
I don’t often rate books 5-stars, but this year I’ve had three!
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertailli
Paradise City by CJ Duggan
What five books should everyone reading this add to their TBR pile?
I suppose I’d have to recommend the books that have really stuck with me:
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – an amazing memoir.
‘Harry Potter’ series – because wow, these books literally took over my life when I was a teenager.
‘Sinners on Tour’ series by Olivia Cunning – if you are looking for something steamy with great characters, this is the series for you.
‘The Selection’ series by Kiera Cass – I just loved these ones.
The Protected by Clair Zorn – a great novel from an Aussie author.
If you could live inside a book, which one would you pick?
‘Harry Potter’ of course! I will take my place happily in Ravenclaw!
Which three fictional characters would you most like to meet and why?
Continuing on with the ‘Harry Potter’ trend – I have to choose Draco Malfoy. I read WAY too much fanfiction back in the day not to choose him.
Zsadist from the ‘Black Dagger Brotherhood’ series by JR Ward – because he’s a character that has really stuck with me over the years. So damaged and yet so beautiful.
And… wow, this is a hard question, not because I can’t decide, but because I’m trying to think of characters that have resonated with me enough to actually want to meet! So often when you’re reading, you like the character but several months later you can barely even remember them. Or a lot of characters you do remember, but aren’t necessarily fussed on meeting.
So after much thought, I’m going to go with Stargirl from Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. I loved that book when I was a teenager. I loved how she was so utterly herself. A free spirit.
Who is the one character you’d never want to run into in real life?
Haha! Kiera from Thoughtless by SC Stephens. I loathed her! I have never disliked a character as much as I disliked her. She was selfish, naive, self absorbed… urgh!
What advice would you give to new and aspiring reviewers?
Don’t get too caught up in what other bloggers are doing. Sometimes I feel like book blogging is a competition to see who can get the most followers or the best ARCs or the best blog tours or become the most “known” in the book blogging world. I realised very early on that I don’t have the time to compete. I have a full-time job, a boyfriend I spend a lot of time with, a hectic social life – I don’t have time to be active on Twitter and Instagram and spend hours writing new blog posts. I blog because I enjoy it. I write blog posts in five minutes and upload them. My advice is to figure out what works for you and don’t get too caught up in the crazy.
What advice would you give to emerging writers?
Write the novel you want to read. Read a lot. Be aware of your adverbs. Learn how to properly write dialogue tags. Persevere.