Sunday, March 14, 2010

[Reviewer Time] Carolyn from Book Chick City

Blog: Book Chick City [quite catchy, like bubblegum]
Founder: Carolyn X [I have omitted her last name for your own protection; she will deny]
First Post: June 1st 2009 [a rookie, sort of, but beware, she is utmost cunning and/or evil]
Average Number of Posts per Month: 24 [based on 2009; this is why we must fear her for she is zealous]

Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction & In-Between

From the Chick Herself: Well, I am a Brit chick totally obsessed with books. I love reading them, buying them and collecting them. Book Chick City is my outlet for my unhealthy book addiction. I realise that my blog design, with my gorgeous pink haired brit chick, can be perceived as a bit girlie, but who say's a chick can't love a bit of blood and gore? I like my books with an edge, a heroine who kicks some serious butt and lots of thrills. I can't help it, I just love scaring myself silly!

Highlights: Thankfully, numerous. Otherwise, I would have been writing these in a series that may rival Encyclopedia Britannica: Where Stories are Made [authors show their writing space], On my Wishlist [because even if she has every book, she wants more], Cover Crush [where she drools over covers] etc. etc. etc…

Why do I bother?: Apparently, she is big right now and I want to stay in favor. Before she knows it, we will stage a revolt and overthrow the Pink Overlord [Carolyn, love, this is a joke, so don’t mind me {dead serious}]. Shenanigans aside, Carolyn is a very pink person. Nice and warm and communicative.

My Two Cents: Today, I gathered you all to behold and revel in the magnificence that is our Pink Overlord [Carolyn]. Some may criticize or maybe even indulge themselves in raising an eyebrow [heaven forbid, if they were to raise the second as well] at my obvious posterior-courting [for we do not use ass-kissing in the presence of the Overlord], but I must express my utmost admiration at this lovely Brit Chick.

I believe that there must have been some sort of radiation in Britain, because the bloggers to hit the scene from 2009 and 2010 come in with enhanced performance and usurp the Internet like it’s nobody’s business. Carolyn is the prime example, how the color pink [synonymous to evil, empire, enslavement and cookies], a sleek template and a diverse repertoire cane boost a person to a 718 subscribed followers and only ‘ShinyStat’ knows how many visits per day. I am not a pink person, really, hence the evil propaganda, but Paris Hilton has my work cut out for me. Whatever personality archetype pink may summon [how it’s woefully incompatible with speculative fiction, perhaps], you better forget it. Carolyn knows her SFF and likes her horror bloody and fantasy action-packed. She does not shy from brutality and she even adores zombies [another reason to fear her oppression].

Carolyn runs a dynamic operation. Her reading speed is monstrous. Her reviews are short and sweet and to the point, which for those with ADD is a blessing [though I do not imagine ADD people to read thick books; I sure don’t]. Carolyn knows her imprints and publicists, which her In the Mailbox feature convinces us of. Carolyn knows that to be a powerful overlord in the Lands of Book Blogs, reviews and interviews won’t cut it. So she has become interactive. If you don’t see her pimping book covers or asks you what you want in her On My Wishlist feature [even I have fallen for Mr. Linky], then she will catch you on Twitter and perform unspeakable acts with her Tweets. This will leave you clicking away at everything she throws at you [this Overlord is obviously EVIL University Alumni {top of the class}].

This has been a message approved of the PINK OVERLORD, [part of ‘We own the world’ corporation]. Thank you for staying with me, now proceed to the interview below.

PS: I have been ass, when Carolyn has been nothing but sweet, helpful and ecstatic to be a part of this feature. Book Chick City is a fun blog to return everyday without needing to donate too much of your time. Follow the nice lady.


Carolyn, you have extremely impatient to answer my questions. I am not sure whether to be excited or worried, but thank you for the enthusiasm. Now that we know your first name, are you allowed to reveal what you do, when you are not managing your blog posting plantation [because so many posts are month is criminal]?

Hehe.. I'm not sure if I should tell you anything...hmm, oh ok..

At present I am a lady of leisure. Not so long ago I closed down my photography business that I had for three years. It was successful but I didn't enjoy it as much as I should. So now with that finished I am looking forward.

I have done lots of different things in my life so far: I studied music for ten years. I am a classically trained singer (soprano) and pianist, although I haven't done a lot of both for a few years, but now I have some free time I may get back into it. I then became a qualified veterinary nurse, which I practiced for eight years. I adore animals. I love cats and dogs and hope to get a yellow lab puppy in the not so distant future - they are just so cute with their sqwuiggy wittle faces ;) Then I became a photographer for three years. Phew! So, now I am having a rest.

I am very lucky with my situation as my husband can carry us both with just his job. That's why I have been able to try out so many different things. It's really great to be able to pick and choose what you want to do in life and I feel very privaleged. I couldn't work in an office (I tried for two years and hated it) and so I try and choose jobs that really interest me. But for now, I'm cool with being one of those lady's that do lunch.. ;)

When I'm not reading or blogging I'm either at the gym, on holiday or playing golf, (as well as all the other boring chores in life, but I'm not going to mention those only the good stuff!) I also run but I'm in physio at the moment, so no running for me. There's actually a question whether I will run again, so my fingers are well and truly crossed. I've also just started Kettlebell training, very different as they have you thrusting your hips, hmm... but I ache all over in the morning so it must be doing something. As you can tell, I'm a very active, outdoorsy kind of gal ;)

You are supposed to be a bibliophile. Tell us, where did your addiction begin and how you ended up with SFF?

I actually see myself as quite an eclectic reader as I read lots of different genres, but I do read speculative fiction the most, so that's why it's more predominant on my blog. But it's not all I read - I love crime and mystery, the odd romance novel, the classics. I read what I want to read and never exclude a genre - I will always give something a go :)

But to answer your question: My reading addiction began when I was really young. My mum used to read Alice in Wonderland to me and that was it. My Love of books began. By the age of around ten I was reading adult books by the likes of Helen Forrester and Catherine Cookson (mum's inffluance!), then I quickly moved on to the Bronte's, Jane Austen, Dickens, then onto Orwell, DH Lawrence etc. My first horror novel was Dracula by Bram Stoker, which is still my most favourite book ever! This helped me discover Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

I began reading urban fantasy books about ten years ago when I picked up Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton - superb book and I'm definitely an Anita fan! I haven't read the entire series and have heard all the rumours that it moves into the PNR genre and even Erotica, which is the main reason I set up my Anita Blake Reading Challenge, so I could re-read the books I have and read the rest of the series and see for myself what all the fuss is about.

As the Pink Overlord, you are the head of the evil blogger empire ‘Book Chick City’. Tell us the origin story behind one of the meanest book review machines out there.

I'm not sure how to take that, but I'll take it as a compliment LOL.

I first started BCC eight months ago (July '09). I started out with the vision of an online book club but then came across book blogs and knew that's what I wanted to do. So I made it happen. My hubby helped me come up with the name of my blog.

To be honest I don't see myself as a machine at all. I only get one or two reviews out a week as it's just me and life takes over sometimes. I have seen other bloggers manage four reviews a week - now that's a machine! I would love to be able to read enough books that I get out three reviews per week, now that I have more time maybe this will be achievable.

Since ‘Book Chick City’ popped up so complete, pink [did I mention that, already?] and technologically savvy, I can’t help myself and wonder that you had a battle plan. How long did you plan to become a book blogger?

As I mentioned before, I didn't plan on becoming a book blogger at all. I was working all the time and couldn't get to a real life book club, so I thought of creating one online. Blogger is so easy to use I had a blog up in a few minutes. I started researching 'how to run an online book club' and came across a book blog called 'J Kaye's Book Blog' and that was it. I knew I would rather be doing that. So I reviewed lots of my own books, posted them all and went live. The rest as they say is history...

And how do you like it so far? Being a blogger and a rookie in the field?

I love blogging! I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it. There's a lot of time and energy into running a book blog. As for being a rookie, I don't think it's affected me. Mostly everyone I've come across is supportive, helpful and friendly. Book bloggers are a great bunch of people and I love being a part of this community.

What I would say though, it's taken me this long to feel relatively comfortable in my bloggy skin. At first I fumbled a bit, not knowing what kind of books to review. Then I stopped, had a rethink, redesigned my blog and launched myself again at the beginning of October as a speculative fiction review blog. However, you will see that my tag line ends with 'and more!' that's because I don't want to pigeonhole myself into only being able to review one kind of book. As I've said my reading tastes are pretty eclectic so you will find other genres on my blog too from time to time. I'm pretty happy where the blog is and its goal.

I promised my readers that we will talk about How to run a Book Review Empire is several easy steps. Do not disappoint them and supply a few cardinal rules you have for your blog, because I believe every blogger has those?

I do have rules but their mine. Everyone will have their own way of running their blog, so I do feel silly giving out 'advice' as it may not work for others. But here are five of cardinal rules for what they're worth:

1. Always be professional. I like to have fun with my blog, it is afterall my hobby. But I do think that authors and publishers expect some level of professionalism and I hope I accomplish this as well as injecting some of my personality into my posts.

2. A neat and tidy blog. I'm continuously striving for this. I don't have many widgets now and I really dislike all the countdown widgets as they make blogs really slow to download. I also don't like music on blogs either, but that's just personal preference. I try and keep everything in my sidebar centered, not all over the shop. I'm a little anal when it comes to symmetry...ahem

3. To try and keep things fresh. This is a biggy for me. I know many bloggers who don't post daily and still have a very successful blog, but I like to post something different each day. I like mixing things up and not just having a blog full of reviews or a blog full of memes. Variety is the spice of life :)

4. Do not copy. Since I began blogging, I will admit that a couple of my ideas have come from other bloggers. It's hard to come up with completely new ideas as most have already been thought of but I will always try and put my own slant on things and not just cut and paste. Unfortunately, I've seen this a few times on other blogs and I don't think it's fair to the blogger who originally thought up the idea.

I also created a blog, visually, that was totally different. There weren't any pink haired chicks reading books when I came on the scene, but now I'm seeing similar blog designs popping up all over the place (minus the pink hair, that would be too obvious). So, I have thought about a redesign, but it's very early stages.

5. Be yourself. A few months ago I was having a personality crisis. As I went on my blog hopping travels I was reading lots of different posts: some were really funny, some were lengthy detailed reviews, lots of interesting discussion posts etc etc. I felt completely out of my depth and totally intimidated, I basically thought that what I was doing was totally, well, crap.

But now I have come to terms with the type of blogger I am. I am an honest reviewer and every now and then you will get a hint of my typically British sarcastic humour. I'm a friendly little chickie too ;) My blog is getting more visitors every month, so I think that I'm on the right track. I just want people to enjoy my blog.

Confess a book related sin.

Do you mean like a guilty pleasure?

Well, I spout about the fact that I don't really read 'romance' or 'paranormal romance' when in fact I do, and I even like it! I think my attitude towards the 'romance' genre came from a period where I read nothing but 'chick-lit' (I go through phases like that of reading nothing else but one genre or one author).

I used to bundle 'chick-lit' and 'romance' together but they are totally different. It's actually chick-lit I am utterly bored with and now usually stay away from (unless the synopsis really, really, really grabs me).

Which author would you stalk?

Umm, I wouldn't stalk any.... and you wonder why I wouldn't give you my surname, Harry, look at the kind of questions you are asking..... stalking?

Hehe... If I could time travel I would stalk Bram Stoker. He sounds like such an interesting man and knew lots of interesting people (Oscar Wilde among them). It would be fun to follow him around as he researched Dracula.

A hostile alien life form is trying to abduct you in Kansas [do not ask what you are doing there, you are just there]. You have to force on him one book to dissuade it from abducting you. What will it be?

Is that to charm him from abducting me with a great book or repel him with a bad book?? LOL

To charm him I would force him to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This was my first introduction into the world of classics and it is a gorgeous read.

To repel said alien with a bad book I find more difficult as although I may not like a certain book I wouldn't say they were bad. Hmm, I could force said alien to read Mr Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett, that way he would fall asleep due to complete and utter boredom and I could escape...

Ouch, did you bother even reviewing it? While on the subject of reviews, let’s hit some key points. Have you had any trouble after a negative review? A small scandal or perhaps a little controversy?

Yes, I did bother to review it! Did you not do your research, Harry?! ;)

I would never say anything negative about a book without having read it first. How could I possibly know it would bore a person to tears without reading it myself. Seriously, most books I dislike are not bad books, they're just not my cup of tea ;)

Luckily, I have never come across a bad author. I haven't had a negative email or comment about my reviews. I've had quite a few thank yous for good ones though, and that's always lovely.

What should a review be in order for it to be a good, helpful review? Consequently, do you have such an ideal in your head, which you abide every time you sit down to write one?

My reviews are just my thoughts about the book. I just write down what I think. There's no more thought to it than that for me. Some of my reviews will be longer than others just because I thought of more to say. I don't find positive reviews easier to write than negative ones and I don't shy away from saying what I think and I don't structure my reviews.

I know that some say you should have good points and bad points to give a more balanced review, but I'm not a critic. I'm just a girl who loves to read and then writes about it on her blog.

You host so many challenges. Which is your favorite and why?

I think my favourite would be the Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge as it has such scope. There are a lot of genres under the umbrella 'speculative fiction', so I thought it would be a fun one to host.

I only host four challenges and I don't see that as too many. There are other bloggers who host a lot more than that. I think challenges are fun and I think readers like them.

You run quite a few challenges, memes, post about new books and reviews and at the same time you are an adult. How do you work with the pressing need for time?

I host one meme, 'On My Wishlist', which gets posted on a Saturday and I join in with another meme, 'In My Mailbox', which is posted on a Sunday, but that's it for memes. I decided pretty early on that I didn't want my blog to just be about memes and that's why they are both posted at the weekend, as a bit of downtime and a bit of fun.

I'm an adult who wakes up at the crack of dawn - I am an early bird - and no matter what day it is I'm up at around 5am, so this is when I get most of my blogging done.

You receive an insane amount of books. Where do you fit reading in your daily routine and how can you even choose what to read?

I am a very lucky book chick, I do get an insane amount of books sent to me and I love it! All the publicists I have contact with are just brilliant and so generous. I don't have a definitive time to read but it can be in the morning, before bed and in the bath.. with lots of bubbles :)

When I used to work in London I had a three hour round trip and so I got a lot of reading done, but now I only manage 2-3 books per week. Now that I'm not travelling around the country taking photographs, I'm hoping I can add one or two more a week.

Choosing what to read next is my most difficult task. I have tried reading them as they come in on a first come first served basis, I've tried reading schedules, tried by publication date... but none of them work. I am a terribly moody reader and therefore have now realised that I can't keep to a schedule, I just have to read what takes my fancy. So now that's how I do it. I read the synopsis, look at the cover and if I go 'ooh' then that's my next book ;)

Although you may not have a schedule for reading, do you maintain a schedule to keep track on updates for the memes, reading challenges, features and what not?

Nope. I have no schedules. Zilch. Nada. I keep a list of all my books on Goodreads where I have different shelves for books I own, books I've read, books to read and my wishlist, as well as lots of other shelves, but won't bore you with those. I keep the pile of books I've received for review that week on my desk, so they are close at hand when I write my 'In My Mailbox' post. For my 'On My Wishlist' posts I just go to Goodreads (or Amazon) and pick a few off my wishlist shelf. As for challenges, I have a post for each that lists all of the books I've read for that specific challenge.

Speaking of features, you are the hostess to the new & quite entertaining Where Stories Are Made. Where the interest to learn, where authors create and did your idea have a smooth sailing from conception to execution?

'Quite' entertaining!? ;)

I love this feature. I am so appreciative of all the authors who have and will take part. I love having a sneak peek into their writing lives.

The idea originated from a TV show we have here in the UK. Instead of it being on the tele I wondered if it could be done as a blog post. We all love books and reading, so what could be more interesting than the lives of our favourite authors, reading about their day, the things around them that inspire them.

Once I had thought it through I just sent out lots of emails to lots of different authors and they loved the idea. It has definitely been smooth sailing and it was only about a week from conception to execution. Most of 2010 is now booked and I'm really thrilled. By the way my stats increase every Thursday I'd say my readers are enjoying the feature too - yippee!

You are a creative person [as we can all clearly see] and I am asking the traditional Reviewer Time question: Would you like to be a published author?

OK, I admit, I have dabbled. I have half an urban fantasy novel written, but it's now been sitting in my draw untouched for two years. Who doesn't have a few aspirations. Mine have always been artistic, whether to be a famous classical singer, a writer or the second woman to walk around the world. I will always aim high.

Thanks for having me, Harry, it's been fun x


Book Chick City said...

Hi Harry - thanks so much for having me! I loved doing the interview, it was really fun! Although, I will ignore that you call me an EVIL overlord ;)

Harry Markov said...

Okay, then. Benevolent overlord. :)

Book Chick City said...

Hehe, okay... You're right, it doesn't sound as good! Let's stick with 'Evil Overlord' mwahahaha! ;D

Harry Markov said...

See. I know my stuff. :)

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