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Industry Insight: Q&A with Liz Robinson

Deborah Maclaren

By Deborah Maclaren on 8th April 2019

As you might have guessed, we LOVE books. We love what we do, we love getting #bookpost and having the opportunity to read so many wonderful books for a living.

We read A LOT of books between us, we gotta to keep our avid bookworm audience fully sated, content with a constant flow of reviews and recommendations on what to read next. No-one, however, is more prolific than our very own Reviews Editor Liz Robinson. She is a machine. She is an absolute superstar. Not only does she have the amazing capacity to read a lot of books, but she has the uncanny ability to really get beneath the skin of a book and make the plot, the characters, and the story shine through. My LoveReading bookshelf is always rammed with books to read due to her stunning reviews. So, today we invite Liz to share behind the scenes in the life of a super reviewer!

What do you love about books?

Absolutely everything… the shape, covers, smell, touch, warmth, colour, the excited anticipation of before, the full satisfaction of after, the words and the way they travel from the page into your mind, and how they react when they arrive there. If I visit a new town, I hunt down the local bookshop. If I’m visiting a house, I check out the bookshelves (you can tell so much by a person’s bookshelves!). Books lurk in my house, they can be found in unexpected places, ready to say ‘hello, remember me?’.

If you could only read one book for the rest of time, what would it be and why?

I really am going to be a dreadful cheat here and say anything by Terry Pratchett… I know he wrote a huge number of books, so I’m not properly answering your question! Every time I read one of his books (anything featuring The Watch and Witches are particular favourites), I find something new to wonder over. He really was a master storyteller, and I miss the excitement of waiting for his new books, I miss the essence of Terry Pratchett, though of course, he lives on in his books.

Have you got a favourite genre of book?

Ummm, not really, I read a huge variety of genres, which is why I was employed by LoveReading. Actually, now I have had a ponder, I do get excited when a book crosses genres, which in fact when you think about it, an awful lot of them do. I know we have to have genres, but I’m not a hundred per cent keen on having to confine a book to a pigeon hole and saying, there, that is where you will sit, if the book itself really doesn’t want to!

Where is your favourite place to read?

The bed, bath, sofa, I sometimes even walk around the house and read, and when it is warm enough, anywhere outside as long as it is shady. I love it when I come up for air and am surprised to be sitting wherever I have plonked myself to read.

How long have you been a book reviewer?

I’ve always been a reader, I almost think I was reading before I was talking. I really do feel that there is nothing better than being sucked in whole and totally consumed by a book. I started reviewing for LoveReading in February 2014, it was a case of meeting the right person at the right time, we talked books, lots and lots of books, and before I knew it I was writing reviews (yes it was slightly more complicated than that :).

On average, how long does it take you to read a book? 

That is a hard question, probably on average, five to six hours (of non-stop reading). I am rather naughty at tuning everything else out and just existing in my book space until I am done.

How many books do you review per year?

Anywhere from 150 to 300 books. The most I reviewed in one month was 38, and I nearly collapsed after that little mountain… I try to keep a lid on the number of reviews I do now, so usually from 12 to 20 a month. 

How do you read that many books, do you speed read?

I know people think I speed read, I think it’s actually more of a case of the fact that I can allocate myself quality reading time. It is my job, so I have time to read.You definitely can’t take shortcuts, you could miss the most amazing twist, or reveal. I read properly but I think, when compared to some, quite quickly. 

What do you look for most of all in a book? 

For it to make me feel something, no matter what that is. Sometimes being frustrated by a character and wanting to stamp your feet can be the best feeling, or being transported in wondrous joyful warmth, or to be frightened silly, or being broadsided by a hugely devilish twist. I can remember with one book just sobbing, really really sobbing, I had to keep putting it down to wipe my eyes so that I could see what I was reading, it took me a while to read those last few pages, oh that feeling, I will never forget it! 

What do you think makes a good book review?

I don’t read other book reviews, I don’t want to be inadvertently influenced by anyone else. I personally only write a sentence or two of synopsis as we include the synopsis on our site. I talk about how a book makes me feel. I am a book reviewer, not a critic, and at LoveReading we recommend the books we love. So I would never ever be rude, shouty or aggressive, we are all about book love not hate.

The opening line of your reviews is always very captivating, do you spend more time on this part of the review and is it difficult to avoid repetition in this part when reviewing so many books?

Thank you! I sometimes become aware that certain words start to creep in more often than perhaps they should, but generally, as each book is completely different I don’t feel I suffer from being too repetitive. 

When writing a book review, do you work to a set format or structure? If so, how does that look? 

I make notes as I read, so my reviews tend to form naturally. I suppose I may have developed a structure over the years, but I try to just let the book speak to me. The more I love a book, the easier it is to write a review.

Do you write a set word count?

I tend to write between 150-250 words, just simply because that looks better for the site. I could write more, a lot lot more! 

What advice would you give to aspiring book reviewers?

Write a review because you’ve fallen in love with a book, because you want to spread the utter joy of the words, the feeling it gave you. I would never write a review if I hadn’t finished, you aren’t being fair to the author or book. Having said that, don’t keep reading if you aren’t enjoying a book,  there are so many other books out there waiting just for you. If you did finish a book but didn’t love it and want to give feedback, it can still be done in a pleasant way, no need for mean!

Thank you for asking me, really appreciate it!

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