Posted in Reading, Writing

How to Review Books, and Why You Should – Guest Post for “The Artist Unleashed”

Artist Unleashed logo
(Not Jessica, in case you’re wondering!)

Today my guest post about my philosophy of book reviewing features on the excellent Artist Unleashed blog, which is curated by the multi-talented Jessica Bell, author, poet, musician, publisher and book cover designer.

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Vine Leaves logp

As well as writing many works of fiction and poetry, Jessica is the founder and director of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, which celebrates the vignette – a short and ancient form of fiction that gets its name from being sufficiently succinct to fit on the back of a vine leaf. I’ve been proud to be part of the Vine Leaves team for a couple of years, editing its book blog, endearingly called Sampling the Wine. We review books by authors whose vignettes have been accepted for publication in Vine Leaves, and also, more recently, other literary fiction.

Here’s the opening paragraph of my post about reviews, ending with a link to read the rest of it on the Artist Unleashed blog – a site well worth exploring. Take the time to delve into its archives, and you’ll find all sorts of stimulating posts by other authors on topics related to books and writing.

As a reviewer for Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the Historical Novel Society, and an author of fiction and non-fiction, I have long believed that all writers ought not only to read widely, but also review the books they read.

It doesn’t matter whether or not they share their reviews in public, on retailers’ websites or social media, or on their own (book) blog. They don’t even have to write the reviews down. But it will help them grow as writers if they at least pause after reading one book to consider and digest what they’ve read, before moving on. READ MORE

selfie with Ben Galley and Jessica Bell
Sharing a speaker platform with Jessica Bell and Ben Galley at the Dublin Writers’ Conference last month

I am grateful to Jessica for the opportunities she has given me to work with her on her blogs, and for her friendship and moral support elsewhere too – we recently spoke on a panel together at the Dublin Writers’ Conference, and I also had a fabulous time a couple of years ago as a guest speaker at her excellent writers’ retreat on Ithaca, one of the most formative experiences of my writing career.

Ithaca photo
Wonderful memories and much knowledge gained from the retreat organised by Jessica two years ago

Finally, I’d like to recommend Jessica’s books – fiction, poetry and writing guides for other authors. Good starting points are her novel String Bridge, her extraordinary dystopian poem/short story in verse Muted, and her Nutshell series of writers’ guides – Polish Your Fiction lives on my desk! So if you’ve not already read any of her books, head over to her author website and browse her catalogue.

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English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

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