Rachel Smith is the founder of Bitten by Books, a new book review site focusing on paranormal fiction, urban fantasy and horror. At the moment, the sites has 18 reviewers who review about 100 books a month. Smith considers both electronic and print copies. She's also currently looking for more reviewers to join her team, especially those who are willing to review e-books and love the paranormal/urban fantasy genre. In this interview, Smith talks about her site, reviewing, and the long-lasting appeal of vampires in literature.
Thanks for this interview, Rachel. Why don't you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
I am an avid reader and have been since the early 70's. I enjoy primarily paranormal fiction, but can occasionally be caught reading non-fiction, chic-lit or books on esoteric subjects. I am the founder of Bitten by Books, which takes up a large amount of my time. When not reviewing books, I can be found blogging about my favorite products at Weird Stuff in my Desk or creating custom perfume blends and doing readings for my other business, Fragrant Soul. I have also worked as a spiritual counselor and teacher for many years. When not reading or hanging out online I enjoy spending time with my husband, playing with our gaggle of dachshunds, and listening to music.
Tell us about your blog, Bitten By Books. How did it get started?
Bitten by Books really stemmed from my obsession with paranormal fiction. I read about 4-6 books per week on average, which is a lot of information rolling around in my head. I found that if I could write down my thoughts about the books, it helped clear the mental backup, and cleared my reading palette for a more enjoyable experience with future books. I also wanted to review books at my own pace, on my own terms, so starting Bitten by Books seemed like the right thing to do. Little did I know how popular the site would become.
How many books do you review a month?
Bitten by Books has over 18 reviewers and as a whole we review 100 plus books per month at this time. Personally I review about four books a week, although it really depends on what is going on for the site each week. I review less on weeks where we host author spotlights, and more when a reviewer is on vacation or book volumes are higher. Our goal is four reviews posted to the site, seven days a week. We are currently meeting and exceeding that goal.
Do you review e-books as well? What are your guidelines?
We do review a lot of e-books. Personally, since I purchased a Kindle, I am finding e-books to be more enjoyable and easier to read. The guidelines for all books are that they have to be within the scope of what our site offers to our readers. The focus of the Bitten by Books website is to provide book reviews for all types of paranormal fiction, urban fantasy and horror.
Who is your favorite fictional fiend – vampires, werewolves, etc.?
I would have to say vampires are my favorite. I can't begin to imagine the issues fur ball creatures have, although I have to say that I do enjoy a good storyline that incorporates both Werewolves and Vampires in a classic alpha power struggle. That is what endears me to Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series so much.
What is it about vampires? Why do they hold such never-ending appeal?
With vampires, I think they are the ultimate character for mental escapism. They are portrayed as exotic creatures of the night that have everything their undead hearts desire. Beauty, money, super powers, eternal youth. Vampires give the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" a whole new meaning.
Any particular great books you've read recently you'd like to recommend?
Wow, that is hard to narrow down. There have been a few that have been particularly memorable this year. One is Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry which is kind of a "Sex in the City" with zombies type storyline. I'd also recommend Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis, which introduces a new series featuring Quincey Morris, supernatural detective. Accidental Werewolf and Accidentally Dead by Dakota Cassidy are an absolute riot. You can visit our site and see the reviews I have done here for more recommended reading.
I also had the opportunity to review Black Magic Woman recently. I agree it's a memorable book. But to go back to reviewing, what happens when you get a terrible book? Do you go ahead with the review, or decline to write it?
We owe it to our readers to review books honestly and feel it is important to the author as well. We review them regardless of the quality of the book.
Some bloggers out there seem to enjoy trashing books with mean, snarky
reviews. What would you tell these bloggers?
Bloggers of this caliber are typically attention seekers. Like my mom used to say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I always wonder if their one minute of infamy really weighs out in their favor, over long term legitimate commentary.
On the other hand, other online reviewers never get tired of giving facile praise. What would you say to these?
I think it is important to have balance in all things. If a reviewer is using terminology such as "always fabulous," buyer beware. Statements of "all-ness" are not based in reality. Not every book written is great, so please do not insult your audience's intelligence by
not providing an honest review. If it is bad, find a way to offer constructive commentary for the author. That is more beneficial in the long run than copping out to a praise-ridden review. Besides, honest subjective reviews garner the trust of your readers and endear them to actually listen and act upon your advice.
Do you think a review has a lot of influence on whether or not a person buys a book?
For me personally, reviews have a lot to do with what books I buy. I typically will visit one or two review sites to see what they have to say about a title and make my decision from there. Everybody views the world through a different lens. Some are drawn to cover art, others to the label of a well known name. It really depends on the consumer.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
I really want to encourage avid readers who have not yet tried e-books to do so. There is a whole group of amazing authors who are only producing electronic books. By not giving them a try, you are really missing out. Bitten by Books is currently looking for more reviewers to join our team, especially those who are willing to review e-books and love the paranormal/urban fantasy genre. Please stop by and join us for our upcoming author spotlights, author guest blog spots and contests every week.
Thanks for your time, Rachel!