This is the new season of For Love of Books and today I’m interviewing Jenre who is the owner of the blog Well Read. Jen is also one of the guest reviewers on this site. She lives in Great Britain and loves to go camping every holiday (more on that later).g
In this series instead of talking with authors I interview book reviewers, the people who give their opinions about different M/M books and influence the buying patterns of thousands of readers. I wanted the readers to meet the people behind the reviews. Jen, like other book reviewers, does this because she loves books and she gives her opinions so that you, the reader, can get a sense of which books are good, bad or downright ugly.
Reviews are always a matter of opinion whether it’s movies, restaurants, stage shows, books, etc., and these opinions can vary from one end of the spectrum to the other, which is why it’s always a good idea to check out several reviews if you have the time, before you put down your hard earned money to buy a book. Most reviewers are motivated by their love of books, are impartial, and if they have a liking for a particular author they state their biases upfront, and they don’t expect anything other than “thank you” from the readers.
Hi Jen. Thanks for kicking off the new “season” (I always wanted a television show)g of For Love of Books.
Why don’t you tell us something about yourself?
In real life I’m a shy, capable, slightly frazzled wife, Church administrator and Mother of four who spends far too much time printing out and folding leaflets; picking up stuff and putting it away; and dealing with Elliot the evil cat. In cyber life I’m a bossy, opinionated blogger and reviewer, with a weakness for pimping my favourite books and authors.
What is something fun about Jen that we don’t know? (Probably a whole lot) g
Erm, well…actually I had to turn to hub for advice on this one and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Wave wants me to tell everyone something fun about myself.
Hub: Oh yeah?
silence whilst we look at one another with furrowed brows
Hub: We don’t really do fun do we?
There is one thing that I don’t find fun but my family do, which is my slight phobia of crossing bridges over running water. It makes me all light headed and slightly panicky. There’s a walk we often do when we go on holiday which takes us over a swing bridge which crosses the river Swale. It’s a bit wobbly as it’s also a suspension bridge (see picture) my children take great delight in waiting until I get half way across and then they all leap up and down on the bridge to make it swing from side to side, just to see me go green.
What made you decide to review books in the first place?
I started a blog and was interested to see whether I could write a coherent review. I like reading and discussing my opinions about books and reviewing is the ideal format for getting your opinions set down in a formal manner. I had in mind that I may just write one or two reviews a week – one in a ‘short review’ format and one longer review on the blog. At first I wasn’t sure whether I had the skills to write a review as constructing a review which sets out the reasons why a book did or didn’t work can be quite a difficult thing to do. It’s a different skill to that of fiction writing or even writing a persuasive or argumentative piece. In the end I found I had a knack for it and I actually write more reviews than general commentary on my blog now, which was never my intention!
What, in your view, are the most important elements to include in a book review? Why?
My reviews all tend to follow similar patterns: A short intro which often tells the reader why I was attracted to the book in the first place; a very short summary of what the book is about (being careful not to give away spoilers); what I liked about it; what I didn’t like about it; Conclusion/summing up. Within that structure I usually discuss what I thought about the characters, the plot and any technical aspects which I noticed that either enhanced the book or detracted from it if they were done badly. I include these things because that is essentially what I want to know when I read a review and those elements will influence my own book buying.
The most important thing that needs to come across though is whether the reviewer actually enjoyed reading it – was it a good experience for them? Were they entertained? Books are written for our reading pleasure and I need to know whether I will get that pleasure should I choose that book. There have been times when I’ve read a book which has had several glaring errors in it, but it was still an absolute riot to read. Sometimes I think that the simple joy of reading can be analysed out of book reviews (and I’ve probably been guilty of that myself) but it’s still an important factor.
What would make a book DNF for you?
Most of my DNF books are simply books I stopped reading because I had to do something (like sleep) and couldn’t be bothered to pick up again the next time I switched on my book reader. Often there was nothing particularly wrong with them other than a lack of engagement on my part with the plot or characters. A book would have to be very objectionable indeed for me to stop reading it and metaphorically throw the book at the wall. I can think of maybe a couple where I’ve wanted to do that. In those cases the problem was mostly with unrealistic characterisation or dialogue.
There has been some concern that M/M books seem to be more sex than plot and while some readers like their man on man with lots of sex, other readers would prefer to have a real story and a romance between the two men rather than portraying them as sex machines. What is your view?
Linking with the question above, most of my DNF books have been those with scene after scene of sex and very little plot. I just got bored. Books which are mainly sex scenes have their place in the genre and there are occasions when I fancy something a bit hot and steamy but I can usually only read them if they are in the short format of a story or novella. A novel length book of mostly sex is frankly quite dull. On the whole I like a mix, lots of plot, good characters who develop beyond a preference for a sexual position, and some sex. I will admit that I am disappointed if there is no sex in a book, but I can live with that vague disappointment if the book was well written and engaging in other ways.
You don’t give numerical ratings when you review books on your blog although you do give a rating of excellent etc. How difficult was it to adjust your rating system when you started writing reviews for this site? What’s the hardest part?
I have to admit that I found it difficult at first to have to be so precise with my ratings for you. I like the wooly, vague terms I use on my blog because then people can’t get bogged down by a .25th of a rating. I ended up having to equate (at least in my head) my vague ratings with your more precise ones. So, for example, anything above 4.5 would get an ‘Excellent’ rating on my blog. I don’t always keep to that, especially with a 4.5 rating which tips the line between ‘Very Good’ and ‘Excellent’. In the end, the most important thing isn’t the rating it’s what is said in the review. I have many books which are rated ‘Excellent’ on my blog but are so vastly different in terms of what I actually thought of them that it would be almost impossible to compare them.
You recently celebrated the first anniversary of your wonderful blog, Well Read. What plans do you have for future changes, if any?
I fly by the seat of my pants. No honestly, I am all in awe of you Wave and the way that you structure and plan for your blog. Most days I don’t know what I’m going to blog about until just before I write it, except for my ‘Saturday Shorts’ posts where I review any short stories or novellas that I’ve read during the week. The only planning I’ve ever done is in my author interviews and the interviewing is something that I’m intending to do a bit more of in the future. When I get my act together! I’m also not entirely happy with the ‘look’ of the blog and keep thinking I need to do something about that. The trouble is I’m not technical at all and found it hard enough to construct a banner the last time I changed it so I’m sticking with what I’ve got for the moment.
What particular kinds of books do you enjoy reading? Is this different from the books that you review?
At the moment most of my reading is taken up with m/m and within that I like to read a whole range of genres. Occasionally I do read other books and I’m pretty flexible about what I read. Looking back on my reading life, I tend to read in phases, so about 10 years ago I was reading mostly mysteries, then I moved to m/f historical romance before shifting to m/m.
What do you do for fun when you’re not reading?
Reading is my fun time and I spend most of my free time doing that. I read to escape (and sometimes to avoid the housework g). I don’t watch much TV, but I do like to sit down on a Friday evening and watch the comedy programmes on the BBC. I’m a fan of satire and alternative comedy rather than sit-coms. I also like going for walks. The area where I live is on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and I love getting out for some fresh air.
The guys in the hot tub are taking a break because I told them that, being English, you didn’t approve of strange men touching your body but they would still like to come back and administer their own brand of therapy. Would you like them to return? They have lots of oil and hot towelsg
You are right Wave, I’d rather not get in the hot tub with them and having a massage is one of my complete horrors. Tell you what, though, why don’t they get back in and I’ll sit here on this sun lounger in my dressing gown and watch them rub oil on each other?
I understand that camping is your favourite holiday and that you can wait to go again. What’s the best part, other than coming home?
The kids and hub get more enjoyment out of camping than I do! My favourite part is that we tend to go camping with a group of friends and I love sitting together and chatting, especially in the evenings when we light a fire in the brazier and toast marshmallows, cook sausages and bake potatoes and drink wine. I also like the fresh air and exercise that comes with camping.
Is it true that you got a bit tipsy at a dinner with your in-laws once and admitted that you read romance? Did you tell them what kind of romance you read? g (This question was submitted by anonymous)
Ha! Where did you find this stuff Wave?! I did once admit to my in-laws (who are complete book snobs) that I read romance and I’ve never lived it down since. My MIL makes little snide comments about it every so often. I’ve also told my boss about the romance books and he thinks it’s quite funny. I think this is because I don’t come across as a stereotypical romance reader so people are surprised when I tell them. I’ve not told anyone I read m/m because I don’t think I should have to justify my book reading habits to anyone and admitting that I, as a straight woman, enjoy reading gay romance would mean that I would have to do just that. Hub is sworn to secrecy on pain of death as well.
Where do you hide your romance and erotica novels? I have it on good authority that you don’t put them out in full view where all and sundry can see what you read. Do you put brown paper covers on your erotica books?:) (anonymous is working overtime) 😀
Most of my m/f historical romance and some of my m/m books are on a bookcase in my bedroom. The very naughty books are in a drawer in my bedside cabinet. There will come a time when I will have to hide them in a less accessible place because I don’t want my kids to read them until they are old enough to understand what they are reading. This is just based on my experience of reading some of my mum’s Harold Robbins books when I was about 13. Looking back I don’t think I was quite ready for descriptions of ‘golden showers’ and the other sexual practices described in those books.
How did you ever start reading these books anyway? I would classify you as atypical.g
Is this reading m/m? I was reading a lot of m/f Regency romance and I saw an advert on another blog for My Fair Captain by JL Langley. I clicked on the link and decided that it sounded quite fun. I’d not read any m/m before but I’m pretty open minded so I thought ‘why not?’. I read it and enjoyed it but wasn’t fussed about reading another m/m until I read a review of The Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon. I love mysteries so I bought that, thought it was fantastic, bought and read all the rest of Josh’s books and the rest is history :). I suppose I am a bit atypical because I didn’t go through the m/f/m menage route that many people seem to do. I must admit I’ve never been attracted to that type of menage book and have only read one before deciding I wouldn’t bother again.
Have any of your kids ever mistaken your yaoi for a comic book, or wonder why Mummy spends so much time looking at pictures of men on the internet?
The yaoi stays in the bottom drawer and only gets read after the kids are asleep! I also try not to look at sites with half naked men when they’re around. I am a responsible parent – honest!
I heard that you have a stash of naked men on your computer and your biggest fear is that your Hub will find them. Is it true that you’re looking for a new computer technician since you don’t want your husband near the computer?
Have you been talking to Kris? It’s lies, I tell you, all lies!
Someone told me that you have a naughty chair at your house but it’s the adults that use it. What do you use it for? :-DDD (anonymous needs to be spanked) g
Hub gets put in the naughty chair when he’s done something wrong. Which is usually at least twice a week 🙂
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