Sunday, November 27, 2011

In the Reviewer Spotlight: Colleen Turner


Welcome to the Reviewer Spotlight, where dedicated book reviewers share their thoughts on reading and reviewing historical fiction! Today's guest is Colleen Turner!


Why do you read historical fiction?
There is just something wonderful about going back in time and finding out what it was like to really live during the pivotal times in history and around the phenomenal people that shaped our world. You aren’t just reading through the facts, you are seeing, smelling, feeling right along with them.

What are you reading now?
The Ghost of Greenwich Village by Lorna Graham. Up next after this is The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White and To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Sandra Byrd.

What makes a great read for you?
A compelling set of characters that make me really feel for them (whether that feeling is love, hate, empathy, what have you) and a plot line that keeps me turning the pages and not wanting to put the book down.

What’s your biggest turnoff?
Underdeveloped characters and a plot that drags on without feeling like it is getting anywhere. I also can’t stand extraneous information given for no other reason than just to give it. For me, if it doesn’t have anything to do with the story at hand, leave it out!

Where do you stand on the fact vs. fiction debate within the genre?
For me, if it is written as a fiction novel I don’t expect every bit of information to be text book. That makes for a boring story. There is no way to know EXACTLY what each character was thinking, doing, etc. so some leniency needs to be given for authors to show their stuff and make it interesting. As long as it follows along the general path of facts known about the time period, people, etc. I am fine with that.

Are there any subjects that are overdone?
Not for me! I know a lot of people think The Tudors are overdone but I think every story can bring its own dynamic spin to what we already know and breathes new life into well-loved characters.  So far I haven’t found any subjects that I don’t want to explore again and again.

Are there any subjects you’d like to see more of?
I would love to see more about the common majority throughout history. We get so many stories from the perspective of the rich, famous, and infamous but the normal, everday is often left out. I would love to read more from the perspective of the average people throughout history. They have a story to tell as well!

Do you read any of these historical fiction sub-genres: mystery, inspirational, fantasy, romance? Why or why not?
As long as there is still some actual history kept in the mix I am up for just about everything! That being said, I cannot get into the historical fantasies that mix vampires, werewolves, etc. into the mix.  They just seem too over-the-top for me.

Are there any current trends in the genre you either really like or really don’t like?
I think historical fiction writing is at its zenith at this point in time! I am amazed at the amount of wonderful fiction coming out every month and am having the worst time keeping up. The books that I have been most drawn to lately are the ones that mesh together a modern timeline with a historical timeline, weaving back and forth and finally showing the link between the two towards the end. I love the mystery of how the various times and people are connected.

What’s the last historical fiction book you read and loved?
There have been so many lately that I have loved! Two that come to mind are A Sound Among The Trees by Susan Meissner and The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy.

What’s the last historical fiction book you read and hated?
Hate is a very strong word for me. I honestly cannot remember a historical fiction book I hated. I wasn’t crazy about Eromenos by Melanie McDonald, but it wasn’t her writing style that turned me off but more the characters. I just couldn’t connect with any of them.

What’s your favorite time period to read about?
England or Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries. Gotta love those Tudors and Borgias!

Who are your favorite historical fiction authors?
Philippa Gregory, Karen Harper, Kate Morton, Carolly Erickson and Alison Weir. Some authors who are new to me this year that I have come to love are Gabrielle Kimm, Ciji Ware and Elizabeth Loupas.

How often do you read?
Everyday. If a day goes by I haven’t read I am either insanely busy and can hardly stop to eat or sick as a dog. Otherwise, I always have a book at hand.

Do you read print books, ebooks, or both? Which is your preference?
I have just ordered the Kindle Fire so will soon be a ebook reader like the rest of the world it seems. When the Sony ereader first came out I got one for Christmas but could never bring myself to read it over my print books. I think print books will always be my favorite. You can’t simulate the feel of the pages or the dusty smell I have always loved.

Do you have a favorite place to read?
I usually read on my couch or laying out in the sun. I live in Florida so reading outside is almost always a good choice for me.

Where do you post your reviews?
I review for http://www.luxuryreading.com and http://readerunboxed.com and I also post my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Do you write a review for every book you read?
Over the past few years I have posted a review for each book I read. It only seems fair to share my thoughts, good and bad, for other readers to help them decide if they might like the book and to help the authors get exposure.

Do you read other reviews of a book you’ve read before you write yours?
No. I never really thought about reading other reviews before writing my own. I only read reviews when I am deciding whether or not I might like to read a book in the first place or after I have already reviewed the book myself.

Do you read your friends’ reviews of books you’ve also reviewed? If so, do you find that your thoughts tend to be similar or dissimilar?
I love to read the reviews of my bookish friends! We often have similar tastes and it is interesting to see if we liked or disliked the same aspects.

Do you have any pet peeves about book reviewing in general?
I don’t really like reviews that are purely negative or really short. I have never come across a book that I couldn’t find something about it that I liked and I think it is important to write a well-balanced review that doesn’t just bash the author. That isn’t helpful or constructive for anyone. A review that is too short and doesn’t really share what the reviewer feels about the book isn’t helpful either.

Have you ever stopped following someone because of a review they’d written?
No, it would have to take a lot of cruel reviews for me to do that. Everyone has a bad day or can write a bad review, but if they are continually negative or unhelpful than I would probably stop following them.

Where do you think readers can find the most trustworthy reviews?
That can be hard! I think if a reader joins an online reading community (goodreads, shelfari, etc.) and builds a network of other book lovers that they have similarities with, they can trust that those people will be honest and review books that the reader might also enjoy or want to stay away from.  This is how I have found most of my bookie “friends” and I trust their reviews. Readers can also look at following some book blogs that give well rounded reviews and decide for themselves whether the reviewers seem legitimate or not.

How much weight do you give to reviews when choosing whether to read a book?
I look at reviews and the average number of stars it receives pretty closely when deciding what to read, but it is not the only determinate at all. I also read over what the book is about (to see if it is a subject matter I already know I would enjoy) and what the author has already written (have I read book by them before and, if so, did I enjoy their writing?).  Reviews are subjective, obviously, so they might not always match your interests and I personally would hate to miss out on reading a book that could have become a favorite simply because it got bad reviews and I didn’t give it a try.

What do you like best about being a book reviewer?
Free books J! Not really, although that is a wonderful perk. For me I love to share my thoughts on the books I read. Reading is such a huge part of my life and encompasses so much of my joy that I love the idea of getting to share that with others. I have “met” such wonderful people through following blogs, Goodreads and on Facebook that I feel like I have this wonderful virtual literary friendship circle that I wouldn’t give up for the world!



Thanks for stopping by, Colleen!
You can find Colleen's reviews on luxuryreading.com and readerunboxed.com. You can find her on facebook and Goodreads, too! Stay tuned for more
Reviewer Spotlights!

5 comments:

  1. Thank you Jenny! This was so much fun!

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  2. Great review on a great reviewer!! I love the Tudors, too, and one of my favs was The Other Boleyn Girl. I am also seeing the cover on this blog for a new find, India Black--LOVE her! Another good and fun (and funny/great main character, Luciana Vetra) is The Botticelli Secret! Thanks, Colleen and Jenny Q!

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  3. Dee, I've got The Botticelli Secret sitting on my TBR shelf. I loved the author's Daughter of Siena. And that's the second India Black. You probably ought to start with the first one to meet India properly!

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  4. Fabu interview! I too yearn for more hist fic from the 'unremarkable' people of the past -- less royals, more peasants.

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  5. Great interview. And another prod to read Kate Morton's books. A friend recently loaned me two of hers. Thanks!

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