Authors and narrators greatly appreciate the people who take the time to listen to our audiobooks and then write thoughtful reviews. In this installment in my series of interviews with audiobook bloggers, I’m excited to welcome Beccy Stokes from Audiothing Reviews and find out about her review interests and process.
I’ve always been a reader, my world is not right without a book.
I live in an old cottage on 3 acres in rural Tasmania along with our two Jack Russell terriers who are my constant companions, my husband and a few chooks. I was born and raised in Cornwall in the U.K., and before moving here we lived in New Zealand for a few years (plus a few other places). Injury caused me to retire a bit earlier than planned, I worked as a RN and gained my masters degree to work in nurse education.
I enjoy crafts but am not much good at any of them though I’m not too bad at making crocheted lace. I cook a bit and grow a few veggies, I love lava lamps, essential oils and tie-dye, bit of an old hippy really.
10 Questions For Bec
1. When did you start listening to audiobooks?
I can’t really recall, probably when libraries first introduced books on CD for loan, I’d listen on my Walkman until it broke. Then, three years ago I was given an iPad, first thing I did was join Audible and download the app. I also listen to audiobooks from the library via the Overdrive app.
2. What prompted you to start writing audiobook reviews?
I often forget what I’ve actually read, so I began cataloging my books on Goodreads, it just went from there. I’ve always used reader reviews as a guide to choosing a book, and leaving a review is also a small way of thanking an author. By having my own review blog I hope I also make a minor contribution to the promotion of books.
3. Where do you write your reviews? If it’s a public place, why did you choose it? If it’s at home, describe the room and/or stuff on your desk. A picture would be fabulous!
Always at home, I rarely go out, I’m not a total recluse, just almost! Even if I did go out I would far rather just people watch.
I’m not able to sit in a chair for long,(bad back, just like practically every other ageing nurse) so I work from my bed, just like Mae West! I work entirely on an iPad so I don’t need a desk, there’s not much to see I’m afraid.
4. How do you decide whether to read a book or listen to it? Do you ever do both for the same book?
The choice is quite easy for me, I will read a book if I know I shall want to dip into it again for information, or if it has a useful glossary or references. I see no point at all in buying a cookery book in audio form. Other books I prefer to read are those that benefit from being illustrated like travel and gardening books. Recently I’ve been buying the Whispersync audiobook/Kindle combination. It’s so useful for checking up on unusual names, or, when listening to a more complex story – saves all that rewind business.
5. Do you have a go-to genre?
Yes I do! Just a few years ago I picked up a murder mystery from the library and was hooked. I enjoy police procedurals, British for preference, I like the American P.I. type stories, historical crime, oh, and I love to have a good series to follow. I also love a darned good humorous cozy mystery.
6. What is your review policy? Do you accept review requests from narrators?
Judging by some of the requests I’ve been receiving I think it’s time I reviewed my policy, or maybe it’s just that nobody reads it. I don’t accept erotica, or anything shape shifting or vampire like. I dislike legal thrillers and James Bond type books. Horror is out as is anything dark, evil or psychologically disturbing. I’m really not keen on books with sex scenes, even moderate ones as they always seem a bit farcical to me, and let’s be honest, it’s all been said before.
I read all requests, some are from narrators, a few from authors or their assistants, but these days I am picky, I had some awful listens in the early days when I didn’t know how to say no.
7. Describe how you approach your reviews. Do you have different criteria for different genres?
Let me say first and foremost, one thing I have learned is that the British sense of humour is often not internationally appreciated! On occasion, some remarks I’ve written have been misunderstood or worse, taken for rudeness so I’m more restrained these days.
In my reviews I always include the book cover of course, along with the usual details, and yes, I do include the publishers summary, mainly because it saves me the job and I can just get on with the review, besides, they are far better at précis than me.
I suppose I do use a genre specific criteria, but in a very loose way, for example, a ludicrous plot might be quite acceptable in a humorous cozy mystery but totally unacceptable in a serious police procedural.
I’m not a writer nor am I a book critic so I don’t use literary jargon, not that I know what much of it means anyway, I just write as a reader reviewer and it’s all about telling people why I did or didn’t enjoy a book. Put quite simply, that means I might expand a little on the storyline and the characters, and if a book evokes a particular response in me then I attempt to describe that too.
If I dislike a book I say what it is I disliked and try to explain why, quite often I seem to go against the tide of popular opinion but I don’t allow other people’s ratings to affect my own. I really dislike a book containing long information dumps or, even worse, a lengthy denouement. Nevertheless, I do try to find something good to say about every book I review, if I dislike it so much that I can’t even finish it then I just don’t post a review.
I find the most difficult reviews to write are about books I’ve really loved, and that’s because my lack of writing skills means I don’t do the author justice.
I always finish up with a few comments on the recording quality and narrators performance, after all, it is an audiobook! I’m always left feeling a bit puzzled at reviews with no mention of the narrator. The comments usually include the usual remarking on voice, clarity, cadence and suchlike. However, the hardest quality to convey is that “undefinable something”. That certain little thing that keeps us coming back for more. I like to think that those narrators come from a long line of storytellers and are continuing a tradition.
8. Do you multitask when listening to books? If yes, what else do you do while you listen, and how does listening to books affect the other activity?
I listen when I prepare and cook dinner, sometimes if a book is really interesting I spend far longer in the kitchen than is strictly necessary.
I’ll listen when I crochet which is not a good idea, the more interesting the book the more I have to rip back my crochet mistakes and start again.
If I’ve remembered to charge my phone I’ll use that to listen in the garden. I know some people listen at work, I wouldn’t be able to do that as I’d be concentrating on the book rather than work.
I’ve never listened to audiobooks whilst driving because I become too engrossed in stories, I’d probably get lost!
9. Looking back through the reviews you’ve written, please share the link(s) of 1-3 that were favorites of yours and explain why they are special to you.
This is the first book in the Breen and Tozer series, it’s special to me because the setting is London during the 1960s, when I was a teenager so there’s the nostalgia factor. The storytelling is brilliant, William Shaw is one of my favourite authors of all time,
I found writing the review for this one very difficult. Despite it being book which received both critical acclaim and many 5 star reader reviews, I disliked it. This is how I review such books.
This book is special because it introduced me to The Dixie Divas, a cozy series unmatched by any other I have read. Above all other reasons for loving is that it made me laugh, really laugh at a time when I especially appreciated it.
10. As a narrator, I sometimes feel I have a spiritual connection to some of the characters in the books. If you were a character in a novel, who would you be, and why?
Oh Karen, I don’t know! I could, I suppose, be my namesake, Daphne du Mauriers’ “Rebecca”, but then again, she didn’t have much of a role did she?
I quite like the idea of being Phrynne Fisher, from the Kerry Greenwood novels, she’s a little bit fabulous, but then, the dentists didn’t have lignocaine back then.
I shall be Jessica Fletcher! From the Murder She Wrote series, Donald Bain writes novels based on that series so it counts. Jessica is clever, travels extensively staying in beautiful hotels. She lives in a gorgeous house near the ocean, she doesn’t seem to have money worries nor is her life complicated by those bothersome romantic interests.
Connect with Bec on these sites:
Thanks, Beccy, for joining me today and giving us a peak inside your world!
Do you have a question for Beccy? Please leave a comment!
Very insightful! I appreciate Beccy’s willingness to take time and write out a thoughtful review. It is always helpful. From the perspective of a narrator, a REAL review is extremely helpful in honing our craft.
Always nice to think a review is actually useful Nancy, thanks for your appreciation