Blogger Query – The Little Red Reviewer

The Little Red Reviewer is both the blogger I’m interviewing today and the name of her blog. Andrea, for that is her first name as I learned due to interviewing her, blogs with lots of humour and snark, but most importantly a huge passion for books. I always enjoy her reviews and her thought-provoking articles. This January she ran a Vintage SF month where she reviewed classics of the genre and posted articles about the authors of those books, which I enjoyed immensely. But beyond this and the fact that she is a huge – and when I say huge, I mean humongous – Scott Lynch fan, I didn’t know a lot about her, not even her name! So she was a prime candidate for a Blogger Query. So let’s a bit more about The Little Red Reviewer.

Let’s start with the basics. Who is the Little Red Reviewer?

I’m a 30-something living in a little college town in the Midwest of the United States. When I’m not devouring a book, I’m probably at a foodie/craft beer party (grilled pesto pizza anyone? how about a Jambalaya cookoff?), board gaming, gardening, watching old Harrison Ford movies, or listening to rock music. To the untrained eye, I’m quirky. But to the trained eye? I’m an epic nerd, and proud of it!

What got you into blogging?

To talk about books, of course! With so many wonderful scifi and fantasy book blogs, and facebook, and twitter, and so much online communication, you’d never know that us science fiction geeks are few and far between. Just because the library has a science fiction section doesn’t mean there are a ton of people at your school or in your neighborhood or in your circle of friends who geek out about Frank Herbert or Jeff Vandermeer or Cory Doctorow.

Back around 2005, I started posting book reviews on a few scifi/fantasy forums that I was active on, and worked with a few online e-zines as well. I’d also been posting a few reviews on SFRevu. Blogging software was getting more and more user friendly and I wanted all my stuff in one place. The first blog was a major fail. I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t have a plan, didn’t know the first thing about the blogging community, didn’t even know the right questions to ask. It was a fail, but I learned a lot. when I decided to get serious and blog for reals, I started Little Red Reviewer around two years ago.

Why The Little Red Reviewer?

Well, I have red hair, I’m really short, and I wanted a name that would let people know right away that the blog’s focus was book reviews.  I’ve got some stuff on there that isn’t book reviews, of course, but it is primarily book review after review, after review.

What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?

Um, snark? And I swear a lot? That, and I tell it how it is. If a book blew my mind, or made me cry, or pissed me off, or confused me, or annoyed me, or inspired me, I say so.

I’ve been getting some opportunities to do author interviews lately, which is really awesome, and I hope those continue. As I travel more for work (why, hello Detroit to Chicago run! I haven’t seen you since last week!) I’d like to talk more about different bookstores I visit.

What are your goals for your blog?

For it to always be fun. The blog is my labor of love, and I don’t want it to ever feel like a job.

I can’t express how much I love the scifi/fantasy blogging community. Everyone is constantly chatting back and forth, and all of our “books we want to read” lists are exploding every day as we visit our friends blogs and follow links all over the place. [Ed. note: Preach it, sister. I have so many books on my wishlist I’ll never reach the end!] Beyond the blog being a nerdy playground for me, if just one person ends up searching out an author or a title that they’d never previously heard of, because of something they read on my blog, then my goal has been met. But I think all of us bloggers are hoping for that? I know I’ve been introduced to a ton of new authors by reading other scifi/fantasy blogs, and I hope those bloggers got a kick out of me later commenting my thanks for introducing me to something wonderful.

One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?

I’m a “not-rate”. When I first started the blog, I rated books on a 1 to 5 scale. But it was so subjective!  What if the plot line was great, but the characters fell flat? What if the 1st half of the book was bleh, but the 2nd half rocked my world? What if it was an author whose previous work I loved, but their newest book just didn’t do it for me, even though it was still really good? I’m far too lazy to give books separate scores for characters, story, prose, etc, so after a few months of pulling my hair out worrying about how many stars I gave a book, I quit with the ratings. Probably the reason why I’m not on Goodreads and I rarely post a review on Amazon – it would force me to rate a book!

Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?

Yay! Well, not “yay for bad reviews, I love them!”, but “yay for bad reviews, bloggers shouldn’t shy away from posting them”.

Not every reader is going to love every book. Not every book is awesome. That stinks, but that’s reality.

I’ve become very wary of blogs and e-zines that post only positive reviews (which is why I left SFRevu). A site that only posts positive reviews is a book promotion site, not a book review site. Nothing wrong with being a book promotion site, it’s just not what I want to be. Some of my reviews are formal-ish, where I talk about plot and characters and all that good stuff, others are straight up gut reactions and emotional responses. But each one should give you an idea of if I liked the book or not, and why, and hopefully will give you an idea of it’s a book you might like.

Some of my negative reviews have sparked a ton of comments, and I find that simply fantastic, with all of us hashing out what we did or didn’t like. If it counts for anything, the bad reviews are much harder to write, and take much longer than the glowing reviews.

You read and review a lot of Vintage SF, even having a theme month last January – which I enjoyed greatly – how has this grounding in the classics affected your appreciation of the modern day genre?

I haven’t yet read enough Vintage/Classic SF to feel grounded in it. There’s just so much. I’m jealous of my SciFi friends who are my parents age, they grew up steeped in this stuff. They were there when Michael Moorcock invented Elric Melnibone, they were there when Isaac Asimov bundled a handful of robot stories into a book and called it I Robot, they were there when Jack Vance published what would start a whole sub-genre of Dying Earth fiction. Those are the folks who are grounded in the classics.

The more classics I read, the more I appreciate the journey that was required for contemporary speculative fiction to get where it is. Everyone was inspired by what came before, everyone wanted to take what came before them to the next level.  Neil Gaiman was inspired by Michael Moorcock, who was heavily inspired and influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs. That’s probably a vast oversimplification, but I think you know what I mean.

I plan to do Vintage month next January as well, and I’m already looking forward to it. Is it sad that I’m planning to take vacation time from work in December for the sole purpose of reading a bunch of Vintage SF in preparation for January? [Ed. note: No, no it’s not. Sometimes I wish I could do the same to catch up on my TBR-pile!] For anyone who wasn’t part of The Vintage Science Fiction not-a-challenge month last January, I focused on as much Science fiction as I could that was published before 1979. [Ed. note: Does that mean I just missed being vintage?] A ton of people participated, and it was incredible, and you are all invited to join in this coming January.

How important are blogs to your reading choices?

Very. I used to troll the library and the bookstores, and randomly grab books that looked interesting to me. I still do that a little bit, but these days I get the majority of my reading choices from book review blogs. I’ve a growing list of bloggers whose opinions I trust, and if they say some new book or author is the new amazingness, I’m going to search out that author. Depending on who or what it is, I’m either going to buy a copy, or library it. Some days I have my Google Reader up in one window, and my local library’s catalog and Interlibrary Loan up in another. If the book ends up coming from the library, as it’s as good as my blogger buddies say it is, I’ll be facebooking my favorite local bookstore before I get to chapter two, and asking them to order a copy for me. Following all these book review blogs has really done a job on my savings account, that’s for sure.

How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?

Bloggers are the best advocate the book business has ever had. We are free advertising and free PR. We are talking to each other, talking to our friends, blogging, tweeting, bragging, visiting conventions, interviewing authors,  talking to our local booksellers and librarians. Crowd-sourcing? Yeah, we’re doing it right. We do it because this is our passion.

And speaking of the book business, go check out Bookstore Blogger Connection , a joint venture between Dark Cargo and yours truly. We’re harnessing the power of bloggers (that’s you!) to help independent booksellers sell more books by providing the booksellers with blogger written book blurbs. Still a work in progress, but something Dark Cargo and I are hoping to get more off the ground very soon. Go submit some stuff, it’ll give us a kick in the pants to get this baby off the ground. [Ed. note: That is a really interesting initiative!]

What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?

I’m currently reading Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines. It’s an urban fantasy that takes place in Michigan, a place I am intimately familiar with.  There’s a great plot line, excellent characters, tons of pop culture references (which actually end up being really important to the plot), and a bunch of Michigan jokes. I’m really enjoying it so far, and I hope this is a series that Hines runs with. The book comes out in August, and my review should be up next week some time. [Ed. note: Andrea actually posted the review for this last week, as I’m always a week or so ahead with getting new interviews done before posting them.] 

What am I most eagerly awaiting? aarrrrghh, I can’t pick just one!

King of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence
The next book in the Prester John series from Catherynne Valente
Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch

Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than books?

I’m a total foodie. My hubby and I have a group of foodie friends, and we try to get together every few months and do either a themed pot luck (bring something that can go on the grill. bring a home made pizza, bring a desert, bring something Middle Eastern, bring something Italian, etc), or a cook-off, where every family brings an entry, and at the end of the evening we vote for the winner. The cook-offs keep getting bigger and bigger, and we eat a ton of great food, drink a bunch of beer, and have a wonderfully chilled out evening.

And when I say “Foodie”, I mean someone who loves messing around in the kitchen, looking at cookbooks, watching original Iron Chef and eating yummy stuff. I mix a wicked sweet and sour sauce, but I have no idea what Arugula is. [Ed. note: It sounds like a scary spider, but it’s a green, isn’t it?]

A small view of Andrea’s library

Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?

Umm, Ingenious system? Ahhhh, sure i have an ingenious system! It’s called cram the book wherever I can find space. When I tell my friends that my apartment looks like a library threw up, I am not kidding! The photo might give you an anyerism.  One day, when I’ve won the lottery, I’ll be able to afford a big enough place to safely house all my books.

I read this questions out loud to my husband, and his response was “Hodor”?

Thanks again for interviewing me!
_________________________________

Thank you for answering my questions, Andrea! If you hadn’t discovered The Little Red Reviewer before, go check her out, especially her Vintage SF posts! You can also follow Andrea on Twitter.

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  • Thanks, Andrea.

    Your Vintage SF interests reminds me of a friend of mine, Jamie Todd Rubin, who has been reading old issues of Astounding in a column he calls “Vacation in the Golden Age”.

  • Great interview! The Bookstore Blogger Connection sounds very interesting, and I'll definitely check it out!

  • Fun interview; thanks for sharing! Andrea is one of those trustworthy book bloggers that I follow.

    “Bloggers are the best advocate the book business has ever had.” – so true!

  • The Little Red Reviewer rocks!

  • Hi Mieneke, thanks so much for interviewing me, I've been enjoying reading through your previous Blogger Query posts, this is a fantastic series you've got going!

    Hi Paul! thanks for the info on Jamie's Golden Age SF column, I'll go check that out.

    Hi Grace! Hi Nawfalaq, I'm loving all your recent Russian and Eastern Lit reviews, btw. Hi RealBooks4Ever! :D

  • @Andrea: Thank you for participating! And thank you for the compliment on the series :-)

    @Paul, Grace, Nawfalaq and RealBooks4Ever: Thanks for reading!

  • Anonymous

    thanks for sharing.

  • I've a growing list of bloggers whose opinions I trust, and if they say some new book or author is the new amazingness.

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