by Sue Heavenrich
Rosi Hollinbeck loves words. A retired high school English teacher, she's continuing to follow her passion by reviewing books. Her reviews are published in the San Francisco Book Review and the Manhattan Book Review as well as her blog, The Write Stuff.
"These aren't paying jobs," she says; she does it for the books. The reviewing gig started when a friend suggested she contact the San Francisco Book Review. They were looking for contributors. That was five years ago, and she's still going strong. Rosi reviews some picture books, mostly middle-grade novels, and some YA. She chooses the books she reviews, and is committed to giving an honest assessment of how the books speak to her.
"I see my role as someone who tells the truth about the books," Rosi says. She's not out to sell a book, but to let potential readers know what the story's all about and her impressions. "And there's the discipline of it - the reviews have to be succinct and get to the heart of the book immediately." Rosi's reviews are limited to 200 words - except for reviews she posts on her blog.
When she's reviewing a book, she reads it like... a reader would. She might stick page-markers where a particular passage exhibits excellent writing - something she wants to cite in her review. She'll read through picture books two or three times; novels are so long that she reads them once - and then sits down immediately to jot down her notes.
Rosi considers a lot of things when she reviews a book:
- is it something a kid would like to read?
- will it enrich their lives?
- will they be exposed to good writing?
Before choosing a book, Rosi does her homework. When she gets a a list of titles to choose from, she begins by looking for authors she's familiar with. She also looks at the titles - and if one captures her interest she'll read a synopsis about it. She looks at page count; a 500-page fantasy is too long for her - plus she's more interested in historical fiction and contemporary novels.
"I also read a lot of blogs - about 30 a week - and sometimes I see a book that interests me, so I'll ask for a review copy," says Rosi.
Reviewers are subjective - and Rosi hopes people reading book reviews keep that in mind. Even when she ends up with a book that just doesn't resonate with her she tries to find something good to say about it.
When she's not reviewing books, Rosi is writing them. She's had stories published in Highlights and High Five magazines, and a rhyming story in the anthology, Fifty Funny Poems for Children published in the U.K. Now she's beginning to submit her picture book manuscripts - and a novel. "Plus I'm working on my second novel," she adds.
Rosi's advice for people who want to review books: start by contacting publications where books are reviewed. It might be the San Francisco Book Review, or perhaps a local paper has a book review section. "You can review for Goodreads and Amazon," she adds, "or even start a blog." As for earning money doing it? Mostly you get "paid" in the books you get. You can find out more about Rosi here.