BRW: Interview with Book Reviewer & Writer, H.A. Lynn

Our "Book Review Wednesday" series gets a fresh twist as we glimpse into the world of book reviewers! With so many books out there, it's often hard to choose which one to pick up. Reviewers and bloggers can make this easier by giving their followers a look at their reading lists, and rating the novels they think are worth reading. 

Meet H.A. Lynn, founder of and inspiration for my own book review series on the blog! She provides writing and editing services, updates on her own projects, and recently reviewed False River. You can check out her review here. Lynn is an active reader and writer, but also posts book reviews on her blog to help guide readers toward the the best reads. I spoke with H.A. Lynn to discover how she approaches giving honest and fair book reviews, and her advice for bloggers wanting to do the same.

How do you choose what books to review? Is it just personal preference, or do you try to reach a variety of genres?

When it comes to book review requests, I accept a variety of genres, but also list my favorites on my site. I usually read book summaries to get an overall feeling for the story. I’ll search for published books on Amazon and Goodreads, or check out the author’s webpage if it’s an ARC, to get more information. I look at past reviews, how many people have read the book, and the book description. Sometimes, I choose a book with no reviews, or a new release book. I like to help out self-publishing authors when I can by buying their books too, if I think it’s one I’ll enjoy. There’s a “send sample” option on a lot of amazon books, and I have kindle unlimited, so both of these options help me decide on what book I’ll pick up next. I always have one or two books on the side I read for fun. These are books written by my favorite authors, but occasionally I’ll pick up a random book from a follower on Twitter.

What do you look for when reading a book to review? Any pet peeves that catch your eye while reviewing?

I always assume when I’m sent a request for a book review that the book has already been edited, so anything a copy-editor or proofreader missed will bug me. Overuse of adverbs, weak/incorrect sentence structure, and lengthy paragraphs drive me nuts. I don’t want to feel the need to edit the book myself. I want to enjoy it and be able to brag about the book to others. When I’m reading, I note character likability, conflict, tension, plot, setting, readability and pace (like I do when I beta read, but not as in-depth).

Some reviewers have made a commitment to only posting 4-5 star reviews (not posting those less than 3 stars). What's your take on this?

I haven’t posted a low review in a long time. Anything lower than 3 stars, to me, usually means there are developmental and major copy-editing errors throughout, and I avoid books like this to begin with. I can usually tell from the first two pages whether or not it’s been edited, or well-written. If I can’t read beyond the first page, there’s a problem, but I don’t see the point in posting a review for a book I don’t finish. I’m sure I’ve done it in the past at least once, but I try not to unless there’s a good reason for it. I refuse to force myself through a terrible book just to give it a low star rating, and I don’t have the time or patience for it. So, yes, I usually stick to 3-5 star reviews now.

I did, however, get a book review request recently for a book I felt was more of a first draft than a polished book ready to be published. I read it quickly, surprised it kept my attention, but couldn’t bring myself to write a 1-star review for it. Instead, I emailed the author back with my notes, like I would for a beta read or mini-manuscript critique. This is the difference, though, I try to help other writers, not just crush or troll their “book-babies” by writing shitty reviews. It bugs me to no end when a book reviewer writes a low review with little-to-no constructive feedback. That’s not to say there aren’t great 1-2 star constructive reviews, but I don’t see the point in continuing to read something I don’t enjoy just to post a disappointing review. Who has time for that? It also bugs me when a reviewer rates a book 3-4 stars, but has nothing negative to say about it…then why not 5 stars? 

What's your favorite review you've ever written and why? What did you enjoy most about that book and its author?

Just one? There are so many… Wool by Hugh Howey will always have a special place in my heart, as will Demon’s Possession by Kiersten Fay, since they were two of the first I wrote on my original book blog.

But, Embellished by Karen Glista was one of the first I wrote a mini-critique for after my initial review. Shortly after, I was contacted to do beta reading for other writers. From there, my beta reading and manuscript critiques took off. I loved reading Embellished, and Karen Glista is such a wonderful person to follow and be-friend. The story was so unexpected and fun. As I was reviewing it, I realized I had more feedback I wanted to give the author far beyond a book review. Since then, I’ve had to redefine my services on my site. So, this was another “first” review that will stick with me.

If someone wanted to start reviewing books on blogs and social media, what would be your advice to them? 

Think about WHY you want to do it. I do it because it’s one way to help and support authors. If you’re looking to go beyond reading for the fun of reading, I’d say learn the pillars of book construction and writing rules that make a great story, even just the basics. As much as authors love simple opinions, it’s more helpful to them to give specific examples of why you like or dislike something in their book. I’ve also seen a lot of poor reviews given purely because the reader didn’t like the genre (another thing that irks me). So, read what you like to read, or be willing to learn about a new genre. Finally, be active on social media, as well as posting on your blog. The Twitter-writing community is so supportive and appreciative of each other.

Thanks to H.A. Lynn for sitting down with me to answer some questions and provide insight into the world of book reviewing! Be sure to visit, follow, and learn from her at the following social media platforms: 
Twitter - @annhlynn
Facebook - /halynnbooks
Instagram - @halynnbooks