8 November 2015 - SharaLee Podolecki - Guest Book Reviewer





SharaLee Podolecki

- Guest Book Reviewer -

G'day folks,

Today I offer a book reviewer as my special guest. You know, the people we as authors try to stay up close and friendly with.

Welcome, SharaLee ....



1.   TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BOOK-REVIEWING JOURNEY:
      Well, I’ve been reading books for review since I was in high school. I would help our high school librarian categorize books for the school library based on reading level and content. It was something I really enjoyed doing. After high school, I discovered Goodreads, and started posting some reviews there. I started a degree in English Literature and found that reading books and analyzing them was something I was in love with and I knew that I always wanted to be doing it in some way. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a small unpaid position as a book reviewer for BTS eMagazine, and I remember thinking I was so stressed all the time with the pressure they put on me and the low quality of books I was expected to read/give positive reviews for, that I decided to leave BTS, open a WordPress account and start my own blog, centering around my own personal book reviews. It has been going well, and I also include some reviews that my husband, Graham, does on books I make him read. I like it better this way because I feel free to be more honest with each book and to have more time to review it properly. I also enjoy the comments some of my readers leave, and meeting other like-minded literary people. Sharing my love of reading has become such a joy. I can’t imagine not doing it.

2.   WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?
I was a very good reader. I read my first novel – Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers – when I was only 5 years old, and I remember my mother getting annoyed because I could read the long words but kept asking her what they meant every five seconds!

3.   WHY A BOOK REVIEWER?
I’ve been blogging for years (I used to have a LiveJournal account in university), and I’ve been reading and talking about books for years. After a while it only seemed natural to put the two together. Also, if I continue to do this, I can put together a portfolio and possibly get published and paid for my literary criticism.

4.   WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A REVIEWER?
Other than having my own blog and being able to review on my own terms, I really love discovering a hidden gem and helping get it out into a general readership awareness, I love the added knowledge of technique and what is and is not cliché it brings to myself as a writer, and I love getting to know writers from all over who write all sorts of things and are just as passionate about the written word as I am. It’s also incredibly gratifying if I have known the person’s work as it has progressed, when I can see it transform from a veritable tangled mess into a very well-written story or book. To see someone improve as a writer is an excellent feeling.



5.   WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A REVIEWER?
Probably having to give someone really kind a bad review. I am an honest reviewer. I try to make my criticism constructive, but I firmly believe that lying to someone does not help them professionally, so I will always give my true thoughts on their work. This is extra hard when you have friends who thank that because you are a reviewer, you will automatically give them a good review. It can lead to hurt feelings when the other person doesn’t understand the professional nature of the review versus my personal feelings for them as a friend. So to all friends and future friends: If I say your writing is good, please believe me. I am not flattering you. I am telling the truth! And if I have a suggestion to better your work, please try to listen, because maybe I can see things you can’t.


6.   WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A BOOK REVIEWER?
I took an online quiz, and it told me I was actually a fortune teller in a past life, which kind of makes sense, since I am very good at predicting where a story is going to go, and how poorly or well an author will probably do on the market.

7.   WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST BOOKS YOU HAVE REVIEWED? WHY?
The best book I have reviewed thus far has been Poison Makers by Jimmy Olsen. It takes the conflicts of North and South America that are often so present in the United States and presents them through the eyes of a Dominican-American who lives in The Dominican Republic. The issues are made both international and personal at the same time. It also involves a thoroughly plausible explanation of zombies and a lot of great writing. I really love Jimmy Olsen’s knack for characterization, which shines in all of his books, not just that one. I would love to read everything he’s ever written.

8.   WHAT ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?
Currently, I am reading a handful of books (I try to read a few at a time). For review, I am reading The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery: A Guide to Her Magical Performances by Herbie J. Pilato, my husband Graham has challenged me to read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (which I am very much enjoying), a friend and I found Charles Panati’s Sexy Origins and Intimate Things at Value Village one time, so I just had to add it to my list, and I’m also reading A History of Byzantium by Timothy E. Gregory and the NIV Archaeological Study Bible, just for my own personal study.

9.   WHAT INSPIRES YOU AS A BOOK REVIEWER?
As a book reviewer, I am inspired by anyone who can take any aspect of the human condition and translate it into the kind of words that stick to a reader’s soul for the rest of their natural-born life. In less poetic terms, I am inspired by anyone who is able to make us face what we humans do on a daily basis and see it in a whole new light, usually by the means of conveying to us exactly what it is we are already facing.

10.       WHAT GENRE DO YOU PREFER TO REVIEW? WHY?
I prefer to read fiction in general, but specifically psychological thrillers or books having to do with abnormal psychology. I am also a fan of a good mystery or even a historical fiction, but books based solely on romance are not really my cup of tea, and I’d rather choose my own erotica, so there’s no real interest in reviewing that subject for me. I will review nonfiction, but my process is slow when it comes to fact, because I am very thorough, so anyone sending me nonfiction to review can expect to wait a very long time before a review is forthcoming, unfortunately.

11.       DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Dear New Writers, please don’t try to say too much at once. Your backstory will come through over time. It doesn’t need to be mentioned in the first chapter. Also, listen to your editors or constructive criticism from friends. They are your future readers, their voice matters. Also, make sure if you are going to write about an important or complicated topic like mental illness, law procedure, or are going to go into complicated detail about injuries and hospitalization, DO YOUR RESEARCH. If you’re not writing fantasy or science fiction, just making it up is not going to cut it with any reader who knows better, and not researching will be depriving yourself and your readers of a better novel. And don’t forget to never ever give up. J




12.       DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED TIME TO READ WHEN REVIEWING A BOOK?
I have a toddler, so I read whenever I get the chance, which is usually during her nap time and right before I go to bed.

13.       DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE TO READ?
The best place to read is in my comfy bed.

14.       WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING A BOOK REVIEW?
My greatest joy in writing a book review (especially if I really loved the book) is sharing the experience I have just had with my readers. I also take pride in the quality of my book reviews, and this sometimes means being honest about really poorly-written books, but I am happy knowing I am providing my readers with a source to help guide them through the many books that are out there these days: which I think would be great to read, which I recommend should be avoided.

15.       WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE ALL TIME AUTHOR? WHY?
That is one of the hardest questions I have ever had to answer! It’s like asking someone what their favourite song or movie is. There are so many! A few of my favourites are Ted Dekker, George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Meg Cabot, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Victor Hugo, Jimmy Olsen, Kay Redfield Jamison and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

16.       WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A WRITER YOU REVIEWED?
The best compliment I ever received from a writer I reviewed was from Jimmy Olsen, who praised the quality of my writing style and the thoroughness with which I captured the spirit of his various books. It meant a lot to me because he is one of the best writers I have discovered through reviewing, and has been perfecting his craft for a long time.

17.       WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A WRITER YOU REVIEWED?
I’ve honestly never really gotten any bad comments from writers. I have gotten some complaints that my reviews were taking too long, but considering that I get through the books as fast as I can considering the other things I have taking up my day, and how thorough I am when reading/reviewing them, and the fact that I do this and then write an article about it all for free, I try to be as mindful of time as possible and maintain good communication with the authors, but I really don’t let those comments bother me too much because the final product takes time, and I think that shows on my blog.



18.       WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU AS A BOOK REVIEWER?
Yes. Absolutely. I have Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, and I have been through a lot and worked really really hard to be where I am today, so part of why I am so interested in psychologically-based literature is because I have lived it, and through my own life experience, I am something of an expert. If someone is trying to glamourize mental illness or stigmatize people with mental health problems, it will definitely stand out very clearly to me, and that’s the sort of thing I don’t stand for as a book reviewer. I’m not talking about maybe having a protagonist say negative things or treat someone badly who is depressed or even using the words ‘bipolar’ or ‘OCD’ as adjectives. I am talking about authors who think that it’s okay to romanticize or take lightly things like suicide, or who are clearly uneducated on psychiatric matters. I’m talking about writers who center stories around ‘crazy’ individuals, giving them diagnoses with symptoms that don’t match, attaching negative stigma to those diagnoses, that sort of thing. I have actually reviewed a book where all of those things happened at once, and it was probably an unpleasant experience for the author to read my review.

19.       HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU REVIEWED?
On my blog, I have officially reviewed 18 books, but before I got as serious about book reviewing, I had many star-rating one-sentence reviews on my old Goodreads account.

20.       OTHER THAN READING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Good food and drink. Seriously. It just goes so well with reading! As long as I don’t get anything on the pages! (Yes, I prefer to read hard copies).
I also love Doctor Who. A lot. I basically watch Doctor Who and read books every single day of my life and it’s been that way since I was pregnant with my daughter in 2013 (there are a lot of episodes of Doctor Who). But anything on Netflix is basically a hobby of mine. Shows and movies are basically just books with moving, talking pictures, so it’s pretty clear why I’d be into that.
I also love trying new things. I might go to a workshop on how to repair and maintain my bicycle, I might go to the museum or the art gallery or the library, or I might go to a board game café and try to kick my husband’s butt at 90s Trivial Pursuit like I did last night! Who knows what I might try next?
I love the arts. Theatre, concerts of any kind, ballet. I will see them all.
I am also very interested in film history, fashion history and Russian literature. And anything to do with South Korea or Japan.
I also have an unholy addiction to the Sims 3 games. Once I’m in, I won’t be out for hours.

21.       DO YOU ALSO WRITE?
What, my articles aren’t good enough for you? You want more??? Well, good! Because I happen to also write poems and short stories on the side and I have been working on a novel for a really long time. It’s not even remotely near being finished, of course. But sometimes I do actually write outside the blogosphere, yes.

22.       ARE SOME BOOKS DIFFICULT TO REVIEW? WHY?
Yes. I find books written by friends to be difficult to review because there is that element of someone’s feelings getting hurt if they are not a person who takes constructive criticism very well (no matter how good a writer they are). I also find very poorly written books to be frustrating, especially when I can see that the author had so much more potential and was just being lazy. As well, my book reviewing process is very thorough, so nonfiction books with a lot of names and dates take extra time because I truly try to take in what I read, and it’s hard to explain to some people why it can take so long for one book when someone else gave them a 5 star review in two days.

23.       DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
My perfect day consists of sleeping in, having a delicious breakfast brought to me in bed, going with my closest girlfriend to a salon to get my eyebrows done, getting a massage and a mani-pedi, then going for authentic dim sum for a late lunch. After lunch, we will have the house to ourselves (save for the housecleaning staff who will be making it spotless for us) and we will read, colour, watch Netflix, and cuddle with my kitty. After she leaves, I will then be having a fancy dinner somewhere nice with my husband, after which we will go shopping and purchase lovely clothes and accessories for ourselves and our daughter, who has been enjoying the entire day with the modern-day equivalent of Mary Poppins, and items for our home. We will have a Jacuzzi, and after Ivy is asleep, Graham and I will relax in it with some wine, then get into our giant four-poster bed with eiderdown quilts and feather mattress and go to sleep. *sigh* It’s so relaxing just thinking about it.



24.       WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I plan to build my portfolio and continue writing quality book reviews until I have enough to present to editors at a paying publication. I also wish to travel more and see more of Canada, especially the northern parts of it, since I lived in northern Manitoba as a young girl and have always wanted to go back up there. Travelling and possibly immigrating to the UK has always been a dream of mine as well. Most importantly, I hope to somehow be able to share my voice with the world, and to live a life meaningful enough for my daughter to learn and grow by. I hope to inspire people and to help guide them if possible. I want, in my own small way, to make the world a better place.





Clancy's comment: Well done, SharaLee. Get cracking on that book. Time waits for no author.

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