Today, I'm welcoming Toi Thomas to my blog! I'm super excited to talk with her about one her new recent releases, Ain't Nobody Got Time for Book Reviews.
Hi Toi, and thanks for stopping by. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a bit of a geek girl. I love comic books, vinyl records, animals, chocolate, and green tea. Of course, that also includes books. I love them- whether print, digital, audio or whatever the future holds. I love a good story- whether fiction or nonfiction. When I’m not indulging in written words, I also like to write my own via published books and my blog: The ToiBox of Words.
Please tell us about your new book.
My new book, Ain’t Nobody Got Time For Book Reviews, is (in the simplest terms) an ode to my love of books and book reviews, but there is a sad note to it as well. Being both a consumer and producer of books and being pulled in many directions by the current, everchanging state of the publishing industry, there are some trends that have me concerned. Trends I mention in my book, but overall, this book is an exploration of the reading experience and how book reviewing may enhance that for true book lovers.
What made you decide to write a book about book reviews?
I had a conversation with two people who prompted me to write out my thoughts and feelings about book reviewing, and once I was finished I decided I wanted to share it. One conversation involved me talking with another book lover about a book we’d both read. The other book lover gushed over how much she enjoyed our conversation. When I asked if she reviewed the book or shared her thoughts with a book club, she looked at me like I was crazy. She actually asked me, “Why would I do that?” The other conversation I had was with someone who is not a book lover and who doesn’t read much in general. She couldn’t understand why I was so upset about the idea of possibly not being able to review certain books. Her question to me, “Don’t you have to be a professional critic to review a book anyway?” When I asked her if you have to be a professional to leave a Yelp review, she laughed.
Why is this subject important to you?
This is important to me because I love books and am concerned that the way books are currently perceived is negative and devaluing. I want other people to, at least, consider the idea that books are just as important and valuable as music downloads, movie tickets, food experiences, and more. When people value something, it gets nurtured and lasts a long time. But, I also want people to know that they have more freedom to express themselves than they are currently practicing.
Why do you think book reviews are so controversial?
Part of it has to do with a culture of elitism. Like my friend asked, many people assume that if you aren’t labeled a master, professional, or leader in the industry that your opinion is somehow not valued. Again, I refer back to Yelp. I don’t recall any controversy about people reviewing their dining experiences. There’s also the matter of greed. Let’s face it, it fuels a large part of our economy. If there is money to be made in any industry, controversy will soon show up. With book reviews, I think a lot of the controversy stems from who’s making or not making money on book sales and who is trying to control it all.
There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not authors should review books. Where do you stand on this issue and do you think it’s a conflict of interest?
I think that anyone who becomes an author probably did so because they read a book at some point and it changed their life. If authors aren’t active readers, then no, they shouldn’t be writing reviews. But if a person, who also happens to be an author, reads a book, like any other consumer/reader then they should be allowed to review that book. However, I acknowledge that there are lots of ifs in this train of thought. If someone has an active and healthy reading lifestyle, they should be allowed to review the books they consume, just like any other product.
As a reader, how do you approach book reviews?
I love book reviews. They are part of my reading experience. I rarely read them before I read a book unless I know nothing about the book. I always recommend people read reviews if they are going to try something completely new to them. Still, after I’ve read a book, and sometimes while I’m reading it, I enjoy reading how other people loved or hated the book. I find book reviews to be educational and entertaining.
As an author, which types of book reviews do you find most helpful?
I rarely read short reviews, but I do take note of the star-ratings. I also don’t read reviews that are too long- I mean I’m not looking for literary analysis, I just want to know what the reader thought. I like reviews somewhere between 200 and 1k words. To me, it’s like reading a short story. I find that readers who express themselves within that word count are the most concise in their analysis and the most entertaining at expressing how much they love or hate a book.
In addition to Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Book Reviews, you have published several other books. Can you tell us a little about the genres you write?
My 10-year experience in the classroom fuels the inspiration for my five children’s books, which I also illustrate (and I use that term loosely). I also write clean adult fiction. I have a collection of short stories, including a bit of science fiction, paranormal, and romance, called Legend of the Boy, In the Window, and Other Short Stories. I have a romantic comedy written under the penname Glorie Townson, called It’s Like the Full Moon. It’s my second most popular story but the hardest for me to continue (I struggle with romance). And lastly, I’m currently rewriting my paranormal series, Eternal Curse, with a Christian world-view, but the nonfiction companions for the series are currently available until I have to rewrite those ;).
What current projects are you working on?
I’m working to release two new short story collections where I’ll be paring all my contemporary stories together and all my speculative fiction stories together. I’ll continue working on my Eternal Curse rewrite as well as the sequel to It’s Like the Full Moon. I hope to release two more children’s books in 2019.
If you'd like to connect with Toi Thomas or learn more about her books, here are some helpful links:
Website- https://etoithomas.com/ (home of The ToiBox of Words)
Twitter- https://twitter.com/ToiThomas (@toithomas)
Here is my review of Ain't Nobody Got Time for Book Reviews!
Ain't Nobody Got Time for Book Reviews is a thoughtful, well-reasoned exploration of book reviews and book review culture. From scandals to scams, Thomas talks about many of the problems that are not often discussed outside of literary circles.
Many of the points covered within the pages of this book would surprise the "average" reader, but would not come as a great shock to writers. For example, Thomas opens up about the controversy surrounding authors reviewing books: should they or shouldn't they? The author also talks about the pervasive bullying (coming from a variety of sources) in regards to negative book reviews, paid book reviews, and some of the policies put in place by certain book vendor or book bloggers.
Thomas's years of experience as a independently published author, blogger and reader are apparent as she tackles the subject from all sides, explaining each side of various arguments, and laying out the relevant facts. After reading the book, I can say I am able to view book review culture from a slightly different angle. I know writers and book reviewers will definitely enjoy and benefit from reading this book, but I suspect those readers who have never thought about writing a review will find this book both interesting and helpful. Recommended!