Friday, 14 October 2016

So, You Want To Review Books

A couple of friends have recently asked me how I became a book reviewer, and if I have any tips for folks who might be interested in starting their own reviewing blog or becoming an independent reviewer. So, I thought I’d post a little blog with some basic ideas and tips.

Top Tip: Read. Just read. Read a bunch of different authors from a bunch of different genres. Find books that spark something within you. Find books that intrigue you and interest you. Find books that set your imagination soaring. And then share them with the world…because really, that’s the beauty of what we do.

1. Decide how much time you want to dedicate to reading and reviewing work. This will help you shape what kind of review work you want to apply for. If you have more time, you may want to approach authors for beta reading or to help with editing. If you have less time, you may want to approach authors you already know and love to review published work.

I love editing and beta reading. It’s awesome to see a book constructed from its early phases to its shiny published stage. But I’m a full time student so I don’t always have time to properly offer the thoughtful and constructive criticism needed for beta reading so it’s not something I offer unless I’m genuinely sure I can dedicate the time and effort required for that kind of thing. There are also long stretches of time, usually during assessment periods at university, where I don’t have the time to review books regularly, so I can’t contract directly with publishers to review books weekly or even monthly because my schedule needs to be more flexible than that. Generally, I review books via third party services such as NetGalley or directly from the publishers or authors on a book by book basis.

2. Don’t be in it for the free books. It’s a great perk when it does happen. But guys, authors put a ton of work and effort into their books and if they’re asking you to review their book, they’re providing a product in exchange for a service. It’s not an excuse to get a free book before it’s published, and if you treat it like it is, authors will stop giving you their books. Most authors are awesome people and it’s a pretty amazing thing that they trust us with their work, so try not to take advantage of them. Likewise, most authors will be pretty unhappy if you just cold-contact them and ask for a free book. Well-established authors have a system for providing books for reviews, read their websites and

2.1 It may be a while before you’re at the stage where authors are willing to supply you with free books for reviews. It’s a great idea to start early by reviewing books you’ve already read or have an interest in. Basically, just don’t expect free books. Most authors have a very limited supply of advanced and free copies to give out for reviews and they tend to go to people with established sites, or who can prove a history of reviewing. So it’s likely, especially at the beginning, that most of the books you review will be books you’ve spent your own money on or have borrowed from a library or from a friend.

3. Start reviewing on bookseller sites and Goodreads and on your own blog. Most authors and publishers will require proof that you regularly review books, and some will require proof that you do so outside of sites such as Amazon or Goodreads. It doesn’t have to be an amazing professional site, most publishers just want to see that you’re actually producing reviews and that you’re not just signed up to review something to get a free book. They also will want to try to maximise the amount of potential readers who will see your reviews, so it’s a good idea to have your own blog to help spread the word.

4. Respect confidentiality. If an author has given you access to an advanced copy of a book, don’t share it with other people and definitely don’t publish it anywhere else. It’s not just really disrespectful behaviour but the author/reviewer community is pretty chatty and that kind of behaviour is super frowned upon and it’ll definitely get around to both authors and other reviewers. As a reviewer, you trade on your integrity and honesty and people need to know that they can trust your opinion, so not acting like a jerk is generally a good thing.

5. Follow reviewing rules. I personally don’t allow authors or publishers to put constraints on the opinions I put into my reviews. But I do respect specific requests such as not including copywrited graphics or quotes in reviews without permission. It’s also a really good practice to check those rules prior to agreeing to review a book, especially if they have timelines that need to be adhered to. Some publishers, particularly for advanced copies, will provide the book and then follow up later with guidelines or things they’d like to be included in reviews. It’s always a good practice to check those out, to make sure you can live with their requests, prior to agreeing to review the book.

6. Be honest. As harsh as this sounds, while you’re technically providing a service to authors and publishers, your job is not inherently to boost the sales or egos of the authors. It’s actually to provide readers with an honest opinion so that they can make informed decisions about their book purchases. I actually got into reviewing books because I was so sick of seeing fake or dishonest reviews on Amazon. I wanted to read reviews that I could trust. And your readers will want the same. And realistically, your readers need to trust that you’ll give them an honest opinion otherwise they won’t be your readers for long.

How you actually review is up to you, everyone as a unique voice and you should honour yours. But review with integrity. You’ll find that, as long as you’re not a jerk about it, authors and definitely readers will appreciate your honest approach.

7. Branch out. Try lots of new authors and styles. Approach different publishers and authors. Try different third party services (NetGalley and Above the Treeline are both great but there are plenty out there). Even speak to your local libraries, book clubs and bookstores. Sign up for pre-release and release-week blog-trails and cover reveals. Talk to other reviewers. Join readers and authors groups on Facebook and check author pages regularly. Get involved in the community and get your name out there. Establish yourself as a trustworthy, honest and engaging reviewer. Every little bit helps and if authors see you engaging and working hard and generally not being a jerk, chances are you’re going to find some success, and a whole lot of enjoyment, out of reviewing books.

8. Be realistic and compassionate. Don’t offer services you can’t provide and don’t accept a free book if you have no intention of reviewing it. I know a bunch of authors and they’re tremendously lovely, hardworking people. They put a whole lot of heart and soul and hard work into their books and that’s really something that should be appreciated and respected. And while reviewing books can be rewarding and great, chances are it’s not going to make you a million bucks within the first month of running your own blog. So be realistic about what you want to achieve, what you can provide and what you want to get out of it.

9. I do this for fun and because I love helping to promote amazing authors and the books they produce. So I can’t speak to the economic side of reviewing books, because I just don’t do it for the money. I’m also not particularly tech savvy so my blog isn’t designed to be a genuine website with tons of options. It’s just a space where I give honest reviews for the books and authors I love and it’s a space where people can share their thoughts and opinions.

My way works for me, but it may not work for you. So look around, talk to different people, ask questions and do your own research. You may find an approach that is completely different and infinitely more awesome than my own approach. Find your voice, find some books you love and then start sharing that with the world. 

Good Luck! And Happy Reading! 

If you have any tips or questions you'd like to share, please leave a comment below.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

ARC Review and Teasers: Nobody But You By Jill Shalvis

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of Nobody But You from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. As always, all views expressed here are my own. 
Book Blurb
After an overseas mission goes wrong, Army Special Forces officer Jacob Kincaid knows where he must go to make things right: back home to the tiny town of Cedar Ridge, Colorado. All he needs to scrub away his painful past is fresh mountain air, a lakeside cabin, and quiet solitude. But what he discovers is a gorgeous woman living on a boat at his dock.

Sophie Marren has nowhere else to go. She's broke, intermittently seasick, and fighting a serious attraction to the brooding, dishy, I'm-too-sexy-for-myself guy who's now claiming her dock. Something about Jacob's dark intensity makes her want to tease-and tempt-him beyond measure. Neither one wants to give any ground . . . until they realize the only true home they have is with each other.
Book Review
If you haven’t read Jill’s newest Cedar Ridge series, featuring the fabulously sexy Kincaid brothers, you need to. The series has been a bit of a departure from her usual series format in that there are plot points that feature across the entire series, and it makes for seriously compelling reading. The series also features drop-dead-sexy, capable and badass brothers who live wildly and love deeply and sassy, strong and amazing women you’ll want to be best friends with. 
Nobody But You features the mysterious and broody, long-lost Kincaid brother, Jacob. And guys, you are gonna want a piece of this guy. He’s one of the most tantalising characters Jill has released on the world in a long while and it’s freaking awesome. Arguably more awesome is his heroine, Sophie. She’s a whole lot lost but a whole lot sassy and snarky. They’re an explosive couple and their chemistry is undeniably electric. 
Nobody But You is smoking hot and a whole lot naughtier than the first two books in the series, but it’s just as sweet. Just like the first two books, you see a whole lot of the families of each characters and you get a whole lot of really amazing character interaction and development. The dialogue is fantastic and Jill has managed to create some of the most moving and intense scenes. The plot is wonderful and Nobody But You ties up many of the loose ends from the first two books. It has some emotionally intense and bittersweet moments but it’s funny, clever, erotic and achingly sweet. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and it’s a brilliant ride. 
But, and this is a big but, there’s one big thing about this book that I HATED. In Second Chance Summer we were teased with the idea of the youngest Kincaid, Kenna and Aidan’s best friend Mitch. That plot line is followed through in Nobody But You, and you find a little more about Kenna as well, just enough to be intrigued. And by a little, I mean a little. Mitch and Kenna’s story spans the book and it’s done in less than a paragraph. And it’s hugely disappointing. Kenna is by far the most interesting Kincaid. She has an epic backstory that we’ve only been teased with, she’s intriguing and broken and lost but funny and fierce. And Mitch was adorable, a total tease in the sexiest of ways and all appearances suggested he was a good man…and the series ends without them getting their own book? Hell, I’d settle for a novella! These characters are unique and interesting and we were teased with their story across three books. They deserve their own story and it was a massive disappointment only to get the barest of hints of what sounded like an epic and sexy romance. 
Having said that, overall I loved this book and I’d recommend it to all and sundry. It’s an amazing read and it has all of the hallmarks of a fantastic Jill Shalvis read. 

Nobody But You releases in eBook and print formats from everywhere you can by books on the 29th of March. You can find more information at Jill Shalvis’ Website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads page. 

Friday, 11 March 2016

Upcoming Awesomeness!

The Book Den has been on hiatus since July while I was studying overseas and recovering from surgery. It will return next week with my Most Anticipated Books of 2016, plus reviews of Jill Shalvis' upcoming release, and reviews of books by Suzanne Wright, Kristen Ashley and Elle Kennedy. We also have a very special review of two species creations by 

Pop by and join in the fun next week! And if you have any books you'd like to suggest for review or any authors you'd like to highlight for Author Spotlight Week, leave a comment here or contact me at

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of Second Chance Summer from NetGalley. As always all opinions here are my own.

Book Blurb
Cedar Ridge, Colorado, is famous for crisp mountain air, clear blue skies, and pine-scented breezes. And it’s the last place Lily Danville wants to be. But she needs a job, and there’s an opening at the hottest resort in her hometown. What has her concerned is the other hot property in Cedar Ridge: Aidan Kincaid-firefighter, rescue worker, and heartbreaker. She never could resist that devastating smile…
The Kincaid brothers are as rough and rugged as the Rocky Mountains they call home. Aidan has always done things his own way, by his own rules. And never has he regretted anything more than letting Lily walk out of his life ten years ago. If anyone has ever been in need of rescuing, she has. What she needs more than anything are long hikes, slow dances, and sizzling kisses. But that can only happen if he can get her to give Cedar Ridge-and this bad boy-a second chance . . .

Book Review
One of the things Jill Shalvis does incredibly well, is creating characters that are wonderful and unique in their own way, but all feel endearingly old friends you've just reconnected with. And that's one of the true joys of reading her Lucky Harbour and Animal Magnetism series, they're filled with friends that you get to catch up with and delicious, sweet, erotic love stories that you feel like you're a part of. But this time, with Second Chance Summer, I felt out of place and the first time I read it I really struggled to get into it. In fact, for the first time ever, I found myself putting the book down repeatedly and watching Warehouse 13 re-runs instead. But then I shook it off, grabbed some cookies and dove in again...and I fell in love.

Second Chance Summer, at times, feels slow and bulky because it's a brand new series and we got to meet almost all of the main characters, a ton of incredible supporting characters, a whole lot of backstory and a whole heap of intrigue. It's a lot to cover in a standard-length novel while also investigating an achingly sweet, teasingly delicious romance. But once you realise that you're getting nifty little tidbits of an intriguing backstory laid out before you, you kind of just roll with it and realise that Second Chance Summer is just the day-to-day life of Lily and Aidan as they fall in love. And while it did feel a little bit disjointed, it also feels incredibly real and I absolutely loved meeting the characters of Cedar Ridge and by the end of the story, I was completely in love with Lily and Aidan.

Aidan is a badass. But he's a teasing, funny and kind of adorable badass. He's sweet and loving and so very protective. His relationship with his mum, brothers and sister were incredibly well written, the dynamic is so realistic and all kinds of hilarious. Also, I'm pretty sure I want to be his mum when I grow up. There's a lot of intrigue and heartbreak surrounding this family and the more you find out, the more you fall in love with them, and the more you'll admire Aidan and want to do very naughty things with the man.

Lily is a hard nut to crack. She's so tough but also so vulnerable. She's suffered such great losses and her pain reaches out and grabs you from the page. She returns to Cedar Ridge
after a betrayal and huge, public embarrassment and watching her struggle as she fell in love with her old town was deeply moving. I adored her determination and her strength but I loved her sass and snarkiness more. Lily is the kind of chick I want to hang out with. She's funny, full of sass, determined, and complicated.

The characters, as always, reach out and grab you. You'll want to spend time in Cedar Creek, you'll want to meet the neighbours, and watch all the craziness, you'll want to hear the gossip and the scandals and you'll want to see all the drama. The sex scenes are a delicious mix of teasingly sweet, deeply erotic and ridiculously hot. The plot is engaging, intriguing and I honestly can't wait to learn more.

Second Chance Summer is not without it's problems. But overall, it's an incredible book and once you take a trip to Cedar Creek, you're not going to want to leave. And I grantee, you're going to fall deeply in love (and lust) with Aidan and Lily.

Second Chance Summer is available now in all formats from wherever you buy books. There are plenty of ways you can keep up with Jill Shalvis and her upcoming works: