It’s time to sing the praises of those dedicated on-line bloggers who publish book reviews for the love of it and don’t have to constrict their reviews to best-sellers or titles that are trendy. These bloggers are especially helpful when magazine and newspaper review-space is continually declining, and when relatively unknown novelists or better known writers published by an independent press need a helping hand. Over the years, certain bloggers have been invaluable: Marc Schuster, a teacher and novelist has such a site, Small Press Reviews, while another novelist/university teacher, Charles Holdefer offers occasional posts, as do various individual critics at Luxury Reading.
But Sheila Deeth (a published writer and teacher) is in a class by herself since she started her blog in 2008 and blogs two or three times a week. It consists of personal and philosophical messages and book reviews. In 2014 she reviewed 272 books on Goodreads alone and at least 20 more that were not on Goodreads. Before she started blogging she had never acted as a critic, but soon realized that “It’s all about writing, which is fun.” She is also prolific in posting her reviews elsewhere as well, from Amazon to Shelfari, LibraryThing, Barnes & Noble, Powells.com, and Lunch, among other sites.
I asked her how she chooses books.
I posed a second question: How do you see your role as a critic?
“The majority of the submissions I receive are eBooks, presumably because it's easier and cheaper for the author to request reviews that way. Some arrive unsolicited through email. Many arrive in the form of review requests from publishers, publicists, blog tour organizers, or other bloggers. Even if I can't or don't want to review a book I will usually offer a spot on my blog to the author—I love to host authors and read their different points of view. I get lots of review requests directly from them, and I have some favorites to whom I will always say yes.
“And then there are real printed books. I look on them as a treat after reading electronically. Wisdom Tales send me the most beautiful illustrated children's books. I always tear the packaging apart and start reading straight away because they're short of course. The Permanent Press sends me gorgeous galleys that are always beautifully presented and nicely described, like Christmas presents arriving throughout the year. They're longer so I can't read them straight away, but I look at the release dates and make sure to add them to my list in time to review before release.
“Finally, I really do buy books as well, and get them as gifts, and borrow them from friends. My sons will drag me across the street to avoid letting me loose in a bookstore. And my friends, most of whom are also avid readers, will always pick out coffee shops near bookstores when we arrange to meet.”
Enough praise from me regarding Sheila. To better appreciate her gifts as a critic, her recent reviews of our 2015 novels speak for themselves and demonstrate her considerable abilities.
Sheila's Reviews for:
Should you wish to contact Sheila, here is a link to her blog: http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com/
As a subscriber to The New York Times there are excellent professional critics who I read and enjoy, Janet Maslin and Dwight Garner among them. They are household names. But word-for-word, would you not think that Sheila ranks among them?
I look forward to your responses.