The Organised Author

Interview with Chrissy - A Book Reviewer

 I'm very please to have today Chrissy of Chrissy's Bookshelf. Chrissy writes wonderfully detailed 

reviews for romance/fantasy novels. I don't usually read reviews, but Chrissy's reviews are incredibly

entertaining. The plot is explained in a clear and concise way, and she explains very well what she 

loved of the book and what in her opinion can be improved. 

I highly recommend subscribing to her blog. You'll read wonderful reviews and have the chance to 

meet great authors.  

Chrissy has been kind enough to accept to be interviewed.

1. What's your favourite genre to review and read?

My favourite genre of book has always been fantasy. When I was allowed to join the adult section of my local library, one of the first books I borrowed was Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. I think the cover attracted me because it had a beautiful illustration of a dragon on it. I fell in love with the genre there and then. I still re-read the Chronicles of Pern series sometimes! I was pretty young when I joined the adult section of the library. They let me do it because I read so fast and I’d pretty much finished all the books in the Children and Teen Section. I think I was around 10 or 11 years old.
After that first book I kept being drawn to the fantasy section because it was filled with heroes, monsters and epic quests, rather than boring things like romance! Plus, they are usually big fat books and they are often written as a series, so you can really get into the story.  When you read as quickly as I do, big fat books are a really good thing when you have a borrowing limit from the library.  
As an adult, I really enjoy a good romance and in fact one of my favourite things is a fantasy romance, and it’s even better if it’s a fantasy reverse harem. I’m a sucker for a reverse harem. One of my favourite series, by far, of the last few years is The Rise of the Iliri by Auryn Hadley. It does all of my favourite things extremely well.
I also read a lot more urban fantasy than traditional fantasy these days, after falling in love with the genre in the late 1990s, when it used to be found in the horror section of bookstores. I think Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake books got me started on that track, come to think of it, those books were my first exposure to reverse harems too!

2. What are your pet peeves in a story? What makes you stop reading?

It’s hard to pin this one down. I used to stop reading books at the drop of a hat, but since I started reviewing I often try to muddle through a book in order to write a fair review, so other people know what they are getting into. I’m actually quite glad I started doing this because sometimes a book just doesn’t click for me until I’ve got past the first third, and I would have missed out on a great read if I hadn’t kept going.
My main peeves are; characters that don’t seem to have any backstory and are just a placeholder for the plot, inconsistencies and really bad editing. This last one annoys me, but it does take quite a lot of bad editing to make me stop reading.  Books by indie authors, of which I read a lot, can often have bad editing because it can cost a lot of money that the author just doesn’t have, so I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, so they can afford an editor next time out. I just wish they would ask for beta readers more often!

3. What's the most difficult thing of writing a review?

For me, the most difficult thing is knowing when to stop. If I love a book I want to rave about it, and that can sometimes lead to me wanting to discuss more about the plot than I should, because I want to talk about how great that section of the book is. I really don’t want to reveal too much and spoil the surprise, but sometimes it’s hard to find that balance.
4. Reading your reviews, I noticed that the world building is something important for you. What makes a good world building?
Good world building means creating a consistent system around which the book is based. It means thinking things through carefully before including them in the book and making sure that if you add other things that impact on your initial descriptions, that do not contradict each other. For instance, in a world with magic don’t state that only women can perform one kind of magic and then have a man casting that spell later in the book - unless of course that is the point of the story.

Good world building also keeps an eye on geography and in this day an age it’s easy to double check contemporary stories using Google Maps and Street View. 
As well as magical systems and geography, good world building describes the society in which the story is set. It makes references to the way in which people interact, whether it’s different species, in the case of fantasy and science fiction, or different genders or nationalities in contemporary work.
If an author has all those things worked out before writing, then it will come through as the story progresses. The descriptions of people and place become richer and more detailed. It means that the reader can imagine clearly the characters, the place they are in and the people they interact with. This is why world building is so important to me, because it adds real depth to the writing.

5. As a reviewer, what do you do when you really don't like a book?

If I really don’t like a book, I’m most likely to not leave a review at all. If I don’t finish the book I’ll mark it on Goodreads as “read” and “dnf” (did not finish), but leave no star rating. I’ll also not review something I didn’t finish because I don’t think that’s fair.
If I can finish a book it generally means there some redeeming qualities that I can talk about that might appeal to other readers. I know that there is a reader for every book, because no two readers are the same. I’m likely to simply give a warning, for instance if it’s got a female character that sets feminism back by 50 years, or a really poorly thought out plot device.  As a point of interest I also try to warm about really traumatic content, or even if it’s just a silly lightweight book. Both of these things appeal to me at different times and it’s probably the same for a lot of readers, but I’d like to know before I start reading, which one I’ll get. I’ll also warn if the editing is poor because I know for some people that’s a deal breaker.

6. How important is the plot versus the characters? I mean, do you prefer a story with an engaging plot even if the characters aren't so interesting, or a not so brilliant plot but with awesome characters?

That’s a tough one. It’s really hard for me to describe that fine line to anyone, even myself.  My favourite books always have a good balance between good characters, good plot and good world building. If those three are good, then I’ll really enjoy a book, however, I can also enjoy books that don’t have that balance, provided that they are really good at the one thing they focus on. If a book has little plot then it’s got to have great characters and vice versa. My enjoyment will also depend on what kind of mood I’m in. If I’m in a “entertain me now because I need distracting” mood then I’m more likely to enjoy a plot based story. If I’m in an introspective mood I’m more likely to enjoy a purely character based story.

7. What's the best piece of advice you can give to an author to get a 5 review
from you?

To get a 5 star review from me, the book has to be great at everything. It’s got to have a great plot, fantastically realised characters with plenty of backstory, that interact in an interesting way, and a believable world setting. That world setting isn’t just important for fantasy and urban fantasy books, it needs to work for contemporary or historical fiction too. If something is obviously wrong, such as an invention being used before it is invented, it jars me out of the story and that will pull me away from my enjoyment.
The other thing that will get you a 5 star review is the way in which you write. You can have all the above and still not get 5 stars, if the way you write is stilted. I like to read books that are fluid and naturally written. Sometimes it can feel like an author is trying too hard by using language that feels plucked straight out of the thesaurus. I can tell the difference between the word choice being a natural extension of a writer’s extensive vocabulary and when a writer dips into a thesaurus to make themselves look more ‘author like’. It’s not necessary, and it generally annoys me more than sticking to simple language that is natural to that author. So basically, authors need to stay true to their own voice and stop trying to be something they’re not. Yes, I enjoy reading rich language, but I don’t need to do so in order to enjoy a book.
So in summary; good plot, good characters, good world building and unforced and non-stylised writing. An author hits those points and they are going to get 5 stars!

Thanks for joining me Chrissy.
You can find her here: