Special Guest Friday: Amy Cunningham!

Misty MasseyMisty Massey
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Today we welcome book reviewer Amy Cunningham to Magical Words! Book reviewers are an important part of the publishing world – there are a lot of books out there, and sometimes you need someone’s help to figure out which ones to choose. But I’ll let her tell you all about it. Here’s Amy!

How did you begin reviewing books? Why do you think it’s important to share your opinions of books you’ve read?
I’ve been reviewing for about 8 years now. The website I review for, Romance Reviews Today, is celebrating its 9th anniversary, and I came on board not too long after its inaugural year. Mainly it gives me a venue where I can talk to somebody who cares about the books I love to read. I don’t look for prestige or even my name on the cover of a book, but I love to talk books whenever and wherever!

Have you ever been contacted by someone who loved your review? What about someone who didn’t love it so much?
Yes, I’ve been contacted by authors who appreciate, or in some cases, love what I had to say about their book. I was even castigated by an author who didn’t like what I had to say, and felt I’d spent too much time trying to sound “hippy”, too engrossed in my own words to feel that I gave her a fair shake. It was an eye opener. But since I don’t believe in flaming an author or denouncing the person who wrote the book, I can sleep at night.

ou have a chance to have dinner with three of your favorite authors. Who are they, and what do you think you’ll talk about?
Nora Roberts, Karen Rose, and Julie Garwood — three of my personal faves in romance and suspense. Sherrilyn Kenyon is up there too, so I’d have to break the rules, and invite 4 authors! I’d hope we could talk about all the books they were going to gift me with for life, but that’s just dreaming. Since I don’t read as fast as I used to and as some of my co-reviewers, I still haven’t read all of these authors’ works. So I’d love to be able to just chat about mundane stuff, you know — girl talk. And football. Because I’m all about football!

For some reason you decided to join that infamous three hour cruise and are now stranded on Gilligan’s Island. Luckily you packed your five favorite books (hey, the Howells brought all their money!) What books are going to keep you reading while you’re stuck there?
CASTLES by Julie Garwood, it’s a personal fave for me. Probably the Gabaldon book I’ve been putting off forever to read (Outlander) because I know it’d probably take me forever. If I had a Kindle or Sony eReader, I’d just load it down with ebooks because the device could be construed as a book in itself, and the files on it limitless! Heh.

Do you have any advice for new writers who are trying to make their books good enough for a starred review?
Whatever you do, don’t write to please other people. Write what’s dear to your heart, what you know, and have fun with it. If you want to write about Purple Monkey Dishwashers, then do it! Although I can’t say I’d be interested in that, but hey, it’s your book, not mine.

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4 comments to Special Guest Friday: Amy Cunningham!

  • Thanks for this, Amy. Question(s): Even with the advent of sites like yours, it can seem incredibly difficult (from a writer’s perspective) to get books reviewed. How do you go about choosing what you will review? Are the books assigned to you, or do you get to pick, and if so, based on what? Do you read the book and then commit to reviewing it or the other way round? How often (given your *commendable* desire not to attack writers) do you opt NOT to review a book you have started reading because you don’t like it? Do you feel you have to review a book before or shortly after publication, or might you go back to something which has been out for a few months, even a year? Something with a snazzy cover and the words “by A.J. Hartley” on the front:) OK, that last wasn’t a real question, but the others are. Thanks!

  • Welcome, Amy and thanks for posting with us. Though I don’t do it anymore, I use to do reviews for several magazines. Problem was, I burned out. I found that although I loved all the free books, so many were mediocre or just plain bad, that I spent too much of my reading time plowing through junk. It can get disheartening after awhile. Do you ever feel burned out just trying to keep pace with all the books wanting reviews or the quality of the books?

  • QUOTE: If you want to write about Purple Monkey Dishwashers

    Argh! Gol-darnit, I must be hooked into the ether again! How did you know that was going to be my next book?

    Good post. I’ll have to go and read some of your reviews. When I review a title (just my own time and energy, not as a job or anything) I try to always stay respectful of the work and the author. So many supposed “reviews” I see out there are nothing more than a person’s attempt at being cute as they bash a work and author relentlessly. I think it’d be refreshing to see a more professional review of a work.

    For me, a review should focus on both facets, good and bad. A really good review should help the writer as much as it helps other readers. “Okay, so reviewer A didn’t like the book, but said my pacing was good yet I should work on characterization, check.”

    Though a person may not like a book, that does not mean that there weren’t good points to the work, plot, or characterization, or pacing, whatever. I don’t think I’ve ever really read a book that just blew me away and didn’t have a thing wrong with it. After all, everyone’s opinions vary. What one person really loves may fall flat for another. I like to try to be unbiased in a review and just focus on those things I felt were good or needed work, leaving my own feelings out of it. I wish more people could tell the difference between review and trashing. Same as I wish more people knew the difference between debate and argument. ;)

  • Thanks for the post Amy. This is a side of the equation that I haven’t thought about much. Thank you for the insight.