Booktrovert Reader Podcast

Interview with Nenia Campbell: Insights & Challenges of Book Reviewing

December 07, 2023 Charity the Booktrovert Reader Season 2 Episode 40
Booktrovert Reader Podcast
Interview with Nenia Campbell: Insights & Challenges of Book Reviewing
Booktrovert Reader Podcast
Become a supporter and you will get a shoutout on an episode!
Starting at $3/month
Support
Show Notes Transcript

Introduction:
In this episode of the Booktrovert Reader Podcast, I am privileged to delve into book reviewing with the remarkable Nenia Campbell. Join us as we explore her reviewing preferences, strategies, challenges, and invaluable insights into navigating the realm of literature critique.

Episode Highlights:

  • Nina's Genre Preferences: Discover the diverse genres that resonate with Nina when it comes to reviewing books. Genres that captivate her attention and inspire her insightful critiques.
  • Crafting Reviews - Nina's Writing Process: Gain insights into Nina's unique approach to crafting reviews. Explore her methods for articulating thoughts, expressing opinions, and structuring reviews for impact and clarity.
  • Addressing Negative Reviews on Social Media: Delve into Nina's experiences with handling negative reviews in the digital sphere. Navigate the challenges and ethical considerations when expressing critical opinions online.
  • Key Focus Points in Reviews: Explore the critical aspects Nina emphasizes when reviewing books. Uncover the key elements and angles she prioritizes in her detailed and thoughtful critiques.
  • Thoughts on Popular Books in Social Media: Hear Nina's perspectives on reading books that gain popularity on social media platforms. Discover how she navigates the hype and forms unbiased opinions.
  • Reading 300 Books a Year - Nina's Insights: Understand Nina's reading habits and how she manages to read an impressive number of books annually. Gain tips on efficient reading without sacrificing depth.
  • DNF (Did Not Finish) Books - Nina's Thoughts: Discover Nina's stance on the concept of DNF'ing books and the considerations behind her decisions.
  • Building a Reviewer Platform on Social Media - Nina's Advice: Get invaluable advice from Nina on establishing and growing a platform as a book reviewer on social media. Learn strategies for engaging with the audience and building credibility.

Follow Nenia Campbell:
Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook  | Threads | Tiktok

Buy Nenia's Campbells on Amazon

Support the show

Loving this podcast? Please consider leaving a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback is valuable to me and helps me improve the show.

Connect with Me:
Instagram » TikTok » Pinterest » Blog » YouTube

Join my Weekly Newsletter: HERE

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/booktrovertreader

Check out my Amazon Shop for Fantasy Book Recs: HERE

I get a commission every time you purchase a product through my affiliate link.

Book Reviews and Reading with Nenia Campbell: Insights, Challenges, and Literary Platforms

 U1 

 0:00 

 Hello readers! This is your host for our book Booktrovert Reader Podcast. My name is Charity. I have an exciting episode with you today. I have Bookstagramer or Goodreads reviewer. Her name is Nenia. I have been following her for quite some time and I love her reviews, just in the fact they're super detailed, super honest and she does not hold back. So I invited her on to talk about herself, her reviewing process, and all that fun stuff. So Nenia, definitely introduce yourself and a little bit about yourself. 

 U2 

 0:34 

 Hi. Yeah, thank you so much for having me. As you mentioned, I'm a book reviewer. I've been doing that for over ten years now. I'm also a published author and I have a day job, so I work in tech as well. Oh, 

 U1 

 0:49 

 wow. You're definitely busy. Yeah, yeah, I 2s got a lot on your plate. So you started this ten years ago. What got you into it? 

 U2 

 1:00 

 I remember being in one of my college classes and I was super bored. And so I was just googling one of the books I was reading to see what popped up. And one of the things that popped up was this site called Goodreads. And so I was looking at it. This was like before it was acquired by Amazon. So it must have been like 2009. And I was just reading reviews and I was like, wow, people are really funny. I want to do this. But I was like, really scared. So I was a lurker for a couple of years, and then I signed up and made an account, and I got really into it because everyone was so supportive. Like, one of the things I love about the book community is like, even when you're just starting out, people will like, really encourage you, comment on your posts and like say, hey, keep it up. And I've always really love that about this community. 

 U1 

 1:49 

 Yeah, I think that's the first thing I've noticed too as well, because I was super scared to get on to to Instagram. I've never owned an Instagram until to bookstagram and that's what I've noticed. It's really positive, really supportive. Yeah, that's pretty cool. I noticed when I first reached out to you, you said at heart, I love romanticize. What other genres do you review like to review? Oh, that's a good question. I'll read pretty much anything. I don't like really dark horror. So anything where like, I'm afraid the main character will die or bad things will happen to animals. Like I'm not about that life. I also don't really like, like straight, like straight up westerns. I'll read Western romance, but apart from that, like, I read a lot of thrillers, I lead a rut, I can't talk a lot 

 U2 

 2:41 

 of romance, and I read a lot of kind of blends of the two. So like fantasy, romance, fantasy, thrillers, romance, thrillers. Yeah. I noticed, like on your Instagram that you're talking about the bodice rippers. Yes. 1s That's a whole other ball game, I think when it comes to romance, 1s because they're just they're so dark and dated, it's hard to it's hard to review those, I think, and I think it's really important to provide a reflection of like the trigger warnings, because trigger warnings didn't exist back then and so you didn't know what you were getting into with some of those. 

 U1 

 3:21 

 So? So those bodice rippers romances, they have some pretty questionable stuff. Yeah, 

 U2 

 3:28 

 right. Yeah, yeah. 

 U1 

 3:30 

 Oh, boy. 2s So you avoid the very dark genres. And what would you say is your favorite genre to review? 

 U2 

 3:40 

 Oh, I like that question. I think fantasy is fun because I like to fangirl about the world building when it's done. Well, I think that's when an author can really make a book their own, just because there's so many options of what can be invented. Like when you're writing about things that already exist, I think you're a little more limited, but like, that's when I feel like an author can really let their imagination shine. And I love that. I also really enjoy reviewing romance, obviously, because it's nice to like, see people fall in love. And I know one of the criticisms of the genre is like, well, you always know how it's going to end, right? Like there's always an HCA or an FN, but like, I think that's kind of part of its brilliance too, because like the ending is always the same, but getting there, like the roadmap is always different. And that's kind of what I love. 

 U1 

 4:34 

 How do you feel about third act breakups as what they call them? 

 U2 

 4:38 

 Oh man, 

 U1 

 4:41 

 I, I'm not the biggest fan. I think sometimes it works, but I think it's kind of obvious sometimes when the author is just throwing it in there for drama. And I don't like that, especially like if they seem like reasonable people up until that point, and then suddenly they're like, time to be unreasonable. It's their breakup 

 U2 

 5:00 

 time. And I'm like, no, 1s what are you doing? 

 U1 

 5:05 

 Like how you say that they're reasonable up to that point and you're just yeah, it does. It does make no sense to all of a sudden they just don't want to communicate and they break up. Yeah. 

 U2 

 5:16 

 What's with that? 

 U1 

 5:19 

 Should have a discussion. 

 U2 

 5:20 

 Yes. Sit down and talk like mature adults 

 U1 

 5:24 

 because this is like I know you mainly review romance, but in regards to fantasy. Do you have a favorite trope when it comes to fantasy and in your least favorite trope in fantasy? 

 U2 

 5:39 

 Okay. 1s That's that's a tough one. I, I think I really like portal fantasy because that's kind of what I read as a kid. So like, you know, like someone from our world walks through a door or a wardrobe or whatever and ends up like Magic Land. I really enjoy those just because I feel like the character is kind of playing like the straight man to like this fantastical realm. And so like, you're kind of experiencing it through their eyes, which makes it much more vivid and intense. I also really enjoy historical fantasy, because I feel like historical fantasy is also kind of like another world to us, because it was so long ago in the past, and so having that with like a magical overlay can just be really like enchanting and amazing. 

 U1 

 6:27 

 I haven't come across a really good historical fantasy lately. I have it, I've been getting a lot of ones that I don't like. Is there one that you would recommend? Because I'm just for for myself, you know. 

 U2 

 6:40 

 Oh, I love this question 

 U1 

 6:41 

 because yes, I have so many. Um, 

 U2 

 6:46 

 so I just finished reading this series by Susan Kennard. It's called the Fan Series for me, and it's basically like Regency and Victorian England, where the Fey are kind of like living among us, like partially in this world and also the next. It's really well done. You can tell, like she loves like the legends. I think the first book is called The Forest Lord, and the main character is actually this real Celtic figure. Hearn, I think, is how you say his name. Her in the forest Lord. He has like the antlers. Oh, maybe you've seen pictures of 

 U1 

 7:22 

 Hitler. Yeah, that's Hearn and that's the love interest of that book. And then there's another good one by Edith Leighton. It's called The Enchanted Bride, and it's basically like Twilight, except Edward is like a fairy and like he is hiding something from his bride. That's kind of like Bluebeard. Like he's not telling her something, and she's, like, afraid of what it is because his sister is, like, who is a lot like Alice, actually, from Twilight. Kind of like, you know, peppy. She's like, oh, he's hiding something. Like, ask him what this means, ask him what this means. And she's like, oh God, 

 U2 

 7:59 

 what if I married into. It's really good. 

 U1 

 8:03 

 So you brought up Twilight, and that's an old school. I mean, it's at that point, old school series. What was your thoughts about that? 

 U2 

 8:12 

 They've changed because I actually read it for the first time when I was still a teenager, so kind of outed my age there for a bit. But 

 U1 

 8:21 

 I know I was a teenager when I read it, so. Okay, that 

 U2 

 8:24 

 makes me feel better. So yeah, I read it when I was a teenager, and I distinctly remember staying up all night on a school night to read it because I was like, I have to find out what happens next. And then I reread it like right before the movie came out. And at that point it was getting like really, really hyped up, like all across the internet. And so, like, it became kind of impossible to read it and parse out, like the hype and like what other people were saying about it from like, the book itself. And so I liked it less that time, I think, because I kept kind of imposing other people's thoughts into the text. But then I read it recently and I'm like, it's harmless. It's fun. Like, I feel like it just became like this Zeit geist of the times. And so like, it was almost like it became more about the book, if that makes sense, 

 U1 

 9:14 

 because the movie is behind you kind of in, in a way, in the hype is done with it a little bit. 

 U2 

 9:19 

 Yeah. And there were just all these think pieces and like people like saying, oh, this is what it symbolizes, this is what it means. And I'm like, can it just be a book? So I think rereading it and just trying to take it at face value made it almost as fun for me the first time I read it, rather than like the second time reading it during all the hype. 

 U1 

 9:40 

 I don't know if I was like in my teenage. I was the first one to read it and I was trying to tell people about to read it and they're like, no, we just vampires, you know, like they looked at me funny and next thing you know, everyone's reading it and everyone's like, yeah, you need to read it. I'm like, uh huh. 

 U2 

 9:59 

 So you were like the cool girl, the OG, like, you read the OG hype. Yeah. Love that. And you know, I'm thinking about the way you described it. I'm like, man, maybe I should just read it one more time. It's like. It's like it could be like that comfort read. Yeah. And just enjoy it for what it is. Because that that would bring you back to when you first read it, and you just love the whole aspect of it. The vampire coming out of nowhere. Maybe 

 U1 

 10:22 

 I need to get back to my roots. Yeah, definitely. 2s I was originally drawn to your your reviews, essentially. Can you walk us through what how's your writing process when it comes to your reviews for for each book that you come across? Yeah. 

 U2 

 10:41 

 So. I guess I kind of follow, like the old essay format that I learned in like grade school where they're like, you need an introduction and then like a body and then a conclusion. So like my introduction is usually like, this is what I think about the book. These are kind of like my opening thoughts and then my body paragraphs. Sometimes there's more than one. I get carried away. I try to like kind of substantiate the rating. I'll introduce the body paragraph with like a brief summary of the book, and I try to keep it spoiler free. Sometimes I can't do that, so I'll have like a bolded section right before where the spoilers are, because I know some people don't want that. And then I'll end the summary with kind of my thoughts relating to what happened in the book and how I personally felt about it, and then kind of like a conclusion. And sometimes what I try to do, because I don't want people to kind of see my review is like the be all end all I know. Like that happens sometimes when people respect a reviewer. They're like, oh, I'm not reading this because you didn't like that. And I don't want that for people just because, like, I'm weird, I'm different. Like, everyone is different. And they might really enjoy the book. So I'll try to like, recommend it to like people or the audience that I think would appreciate it. Like, if you like X book, you might like this. Or if you don't mind this trope, you might like this because I think. For someone reading a review, it really helps to understand what put the person off, because that might be an auto buy for someone else. 

 U1 

 12:23 

 I've been like really questioning in my reviews lately because, you know, I even found a book that I liked that nobody liked. Oh, nice. You know, so those are gems. And yeah, it's like we have to, like, be careful because we have this ultimate responsibility, whether someone reads a book or not, depending on how loud our opinion are. So do you write notes or quotes or anything about your book reviews to help you remember what you wanted to write? That's part of the reason I post so many status updates when I'm reading a book. It's kind of like from my own memory, otherwise I won't remember. I used to take paper notes. I don't really do that anymore just because I don't have the time to like, keep a notebook and write while I'm reading. So like I usually will just as soon as I finish the book. If I'm near a computer, I'll write the review because otherwise I will forget. Yeah. 

 U2 

 13:15 

 Sometimes if I'm feeling conflicted or if a book made me really angry, like I might wait a while because I don't want, like the anger to kind of poison my review. I want to, like, cool down and think about what I read, and then write it with like, a cool head. 

 U1 

 13:31 

 It sounds like you approach it very objectively. You try, try, try, 

 U2 

 13:36 

 try. But no one can be objective with a review. It's all subjective. I just try to be like 

 U1 

 13:43 

 Switzerland. Yes, 

 U2 

 13:44 

 that's a good example. The Switzerland, different views. 

 U1 

 13:49 

 Yeah, I mean that's what I like a lot about your reviews, is that I could go to it and get a very straight up, honest response to the book. You know, some people, they're really they could be really brutal with their, their reviews and they won't say why they didn't like it. Does that bother you at all or you just don't read those or how do you handle those 

 U2 

 14:14 

 mean? I'm not going to lie. I kind of used to be that person. 

 U1 

 14:18 

 Oh, give me the tea. 

 U2 

 14:21 

 I mean, I just. 1s I think it's easy. Like maybe when you're not having, like when you're in a bad place of mind or if you've had a bad day, it's easy to kind of pick up a book. And if you're not enjoying it already, it's easy to kind of just read it and like, be really hateful. I don't think that's maybe the best approach, but I don't begrudge people for doing that because I understand it could be cathartic and sometimes maybe really hate the book or found it like really harmful or whatever. And so I think, you know, a valid opinion is a valid opinion. I just don't think they're necessarily very useful for other people unless they already feel that way. Or maybe they find it like entertaining or funny to read your rant. As my platform started to get bigger, like I kind of felt like this responsibility where I wanted to write reviews that would help as many people as possible, and I don't want to, like, stick it to the author more than like the one star review already does. I think it already sucks when you get a one star review, so I don't want to make it like more painful than it needs to be. So that kind of changed my mindset as I got older. I'm like, you know, life is short. Like want to write helpful reviews and focus on like the books that I love rather than the ones that I 

 U1 

 15:42 

 don't. Did being an author published author yourself kind of help you? Also with your reviews, you kind of understand where you know the other side of perspective, understand where you're coming from, you know, being the receiving end of reviews. 

 U2 

 15:57 

 You know, my one star reviews that I get don't really bother me too much just because, like, I get that it sucks to have to write them. Also, as much as it sucks to receive them because you don't know how the author is going to react necessarily, or like their fans might attack you. And so that sucks. Like, I don't want to add to that. I try not to look at them anymore. I used to compulsively, now I don't just because not 

 U1 

 16:22 

 my business, right? 

 U2 

 16:24 

 I think people sometimes think that you need to write in order to write a good review. I don't think that's necessarily true any more than like, you would need to be a chef to understand whether or not a dish is good. I think all that really changes is that, like if you're a writer, you understand some of the more technical elements of like storytelling and writing. And so sometimes, like, I could kind of speak to that in my reviews, I could say like. It feels like maybe they had a third act problem, or they introduced these plot holes that I kept waiting for them to tie into the plot in some way, and they didn't. They were kind of just like loose threads. And so that was like a little bit disappointing. But I try not to mention my writing experience too much in my reviews, because I feel like that kind of adds into self self promotional territory. Like, I don't want to be like, I could write this book better than you because chances are I couldn't. 

 U1 

 17:28 

 How do you feel? Because I seen this on Instagram quite a bit about how people's like, don't ever tag an author and a negative review or whatever the case may be, because I think they're kind of come across, you don't want to hurt their feelings or you don't. It's their work. You don't want to insult them. Like, how do you feel about that? Because I know you're not malicious or anything. You're just being honest. 

 U2 

 17:51 

 I used to tag people in three star reviews and up just because I thought they could use them to promote or whatever. Then I found out that people sometimes think of three star reviews as negative reviews, right? So I just stopped doing that point blank. Now I only tag authors and like five star reviews or really popular four star reviews. I mean, not really popular, really positive. Sorry. Okay. But yeah, I see the point. Like if someone is trying to distance themselves from criticisms. I think rubbing their face in it isn't great. Especially, you know, you don't know what someone's mental health is like. Like maybe they've stepped back for their own well-being. And so like, I think tagging people and negative reviews could be seen as malicious in that regard, even if it wasn't intentional. So I get it. I think sometimes people who do that should be called in rather than called out, especially if they're smaller creators. Just because I don't think it's necessarily right to put people on the spot if they've messed up and didn't know. I understand the argument for that. I think I used to like be that way. It's like, doesn't matter, I might tag or I just say, hey, this is a three star or a two star or whatever the case may be. And, and I think I started evolving over time, like you kind of did. I just like, you know, I'll take it privately to Goodreads and let them know in my review, but I'm not going to shout it out to the social media that, hey, this is a bad book. So I put in NetGalley, like, hey, I don't believe in bad, like on my social media bad reviews. So I will only post it if it's a 4 or 5, 

 U1 

 19:31 

 right? So I just think it's just I just want to hear other people's perspectives on it. And I like how you're approaching it, because I never thought about the mental health perspective of 

 U2 

 19:42 

 it. Yeah, I think if you get an Arc and you want to promote the author and tag them in something, but you didn't like the book, like you could take a nice staged photo of the book and be like, hey, this is coming out. Like, look at the cover. It's so pretty. And then, yeah, tag them with that and then post the review elsewhere. I've done that before. I think what you don't want to do, though, is if someone writes a negative review or if they do one of those posts, you don't want to tag the author in it. As a reader, I've seen I call it like narc tagging, 

 U1 

 20:14 

 like because, you know, if someone has written a negative review and they didn't tag the author in it, like tagging the author in it as someone reading that post and being like, hey, did you see this? Like, 

 U2 

 20:26 

 I feel like it's hard to defend that, right? Yeah, I can see that. Some people, they say, well, it's my opinion and all this stuff and yeah, it's it's 

 U1 

 20:37 

 it's like I see both sides of the argument, but you know, it's to each their own definitely. When you're reviewing a book, what are some key points that you like to focus on when it comes to book reviews? 1s Oh 

 U2 

 20:53 

 oh, what a question. Let me think. 

 U1 

 20:56 

 The examples I have is plot, characters, writing style. You know, you talk a lot about loving the world building. Its kind of a thing for you 

 U2 

 21:06 

 trying to think about the last review I wrote, but like, my brain is like, I don't know about reviews, like, what are you talking about? You don't write those. You 

 U1 

 21:15 

 you forget about as soon as you write them. Exactly. 

 U2 

 21:17 

 That's why I have to do it right after things I focus on in my reviews. So characterization is a big one for me. I feel like when I'm reading a book with like a female main character, ideally, like I want to read about a character I could be like friends with, if not that. Like someone who's really entertaining. I kind of have gotten into like anti heroines lately, like, you know, like morally gray. 

 U1 

 21:47 

 Yeah. 

 U2 

 21:48 

 I just find it so fascinating to like, read about like these female characters who just give no flips. They're like, they're to do whatever and like, God help anyone who gets in their way. It's just so different. And I feel like you used to not be able to find a lot of characters like that that weren't like, you know, men characters. So it's really great to see, like, women kind of owning the 

 U1 

 22:13 

 day. Yeah. 

 U2 

 22:16 

 Regarding plot, I guess I really like. Suspense. I like high stakes, especially like emotional stakes. I really like books that have like a huge psychological element to them. So someone who's neurodivergent, someone who's like overcoming trauma or tackling something from their past. I majored in psychology, so things like that are always really, really interesting to me, especially when they're well done. Gosh, what else do I like? Anything that's different, like, I really appreciate it when authors try to break the mold. If I see a book with a low rating, I actually want to read it more, just because I always wonder if maybe the author just couldn't find their niche. I think sometimes when you're writing experimental books, it can be really hard to find your target audience. And so it's exciting to me to see an author who tries something new and see if it works for me, and then I can talk about it and maybe help 

 U1 

 23:17 

 them help get in front of more people, more of their target. Yeah, I can I can see that. It comes down to marketing sometimes because people will make like these false dichotomies where they'll be like, oh, this book is like X meets Y, and like the two comparisons will just be totally like kind of a reach. And so anyone who is a fan of either of the two things mentioned in the copy will be disappointed. Yeah. 

 U2 

 23:43 

 So I think there's like this like push and pull when it comes to marketing is like you want to capitalize on something relevant, but what is relevant maybe isn't always relevant to you and your work. 

 U1 

 23:55 

 I think there's this book recently published. They said, like it's a comparison to Sailor Moon and. Oh, and then people. Yeah, it sounded interesting. But then the people are like, there's no reference to Sailor Moon in there. So it it makes it. I'll have to send it to you if you're interested. But 

 U2 

 24:13 

 yeah, I love Sailor Moon. I 

 U1 

 24:15 

 know I love it too, but I was afraid to to read it at that point because a lot of people kept saying the same thing, and that's why I was drawn to it in the first place. That was how I got roped into reading Cinder by Marissa Mayer. Oh, really? I don't normally read like a lot of ya, but someone was like saying it was like moon princesses and like Sailor Moon influence. And I'm like, well, now I have to read it. And it 

 U2 

 24:41 

 was actually pretty good. So it was like one of those, like, experiments that paid off. 

 U1 

 24:46 

 You never know what you'll find. Yeah. 1s Are there any book reviewers or critics who have influenced your own reviewing style or or approach? 

 U2 

 24:58 

 Yes, yes, actually, one of the creators who probably influenced me to review is Lindsay Ellis. Okay. I had been following her since her like, nostalgia chick days. That sounds so creepy. It makes me sound like I'm like, outside her window. Like I was watching her videos 1s since her nostalgia at chick days. And then like, she became kind of like her own reviewer. And I think she has like a film degree. So like, I loved, like the technical way she would analyze, analyze, like children's movies or like musical theater. I just thought it was like such an interesting way to talk about those books that normally generate like a huge emotional response. I really admire Emily from Goodreads. So like the Emily, 1s she writes really levelheaded, kind of even keeled reviews. And I really like her writing style. I feel like it's very informative. And then on TikTok, which I just joined, I really admire Chelsea Books and Babbitt Kate. I think they both do a really great job deconstructing media that's geared more towards women, which often isn't taken seriously when it's reviewed by like, major outlets or critics. But they do a really good job kind of showing the validity of the mediums, while also kind of talking about why it's fun and why it's relevant. 

 U1 

 26:28 

 Yeah, I just literally joined TikTok yesterday and I'm like, oh, I'm struggling. It's 

 U2 

 26:34 

 hard. I joined like two months ago and I'm like, I have to show my face to people, you 2s know? And it's just like. It's just a whole new beast. 

 U1 

 26:48 

 So 

 U2 

 26:49 

 sucked down the video rabbit hole. Just like watching for hours. 

 U1 

 26:54 

 I almost did, but since I was aware of it, I was like, 

 U2 

 26:57 

 nope, nope, I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to do it. That's good, because I was not aware. And I'm like, oh, look, it's three. And I've been watching like cats play with goldfish for like an hour. I have to I have to find you now because I'm trying to. I found out that you have to have like a thousand followers to even put your link on there. And since I'm doing it for my podcast, I'm like, oh, 

 U1 

 27:21 

 yeah, their social media climb. 

 U2 

 27:24 

 Yeah. And like, you can't make playlists until you hit like 10,000, which was disappointing because I was like, I want to organize my videos, like, why can't I? And then I looked it up and I'm like, oh man, 

 U1 

 27:35 

 oh, the struggles. I know you, you have a blog, 1s which I think was, oddly enough, was when I was following you played a kind of a pivotal role in how I started my blog and using Goodreads for my for promoting my blog. I felt like I was stalking and felt like I was stealing ideas from you, but it really helped me a lot with some things because. Formatting was a beast. And when I saw you do it, I 

 U2 

 28:04 

 was like, oh, okay. 

 U1 

 28:07 

 So how did you learn all your techniques on that? Oh, God. 

 U2 

 28:13 

 Well, I've been on Goodreads, like I said, for like a long time, since before the Amazon acquisition. I think I joined in like 2009, which is insane to me. 

 U1 

 28:27 

 A lot of it was trial and error. My reviews are kind of formatted weird, because I just lift them directly from the HTML on my blog, which does a double paragraph. I actually like it better because I feel like it makes it easier to read. I think, like when people are posting their reviews on Goodreads, like it looks a little bit clumped when you just have like one break in between paragraphs. But the formatting is largely because of my blog. It just it keeps all the italics and the bolds and so I don't have to do much. I made my header with just like an a RF like image link, and then I just formatted all the buttons. I feel like I got exposed to HTML pretty early because of Neopets, right? Like you have to customize your stuff. 

 U2 

 29:19 

 Yeah, I feel like for a lot of like Millennials and Gen Xers, like Neopets was like our first taste of, like, coding. 1s If you wanted a nice shop, you had to, like, put the code in. 

 U1 

 29:34 

 Oh my gosh, I totally forgot about the old pets. And I remember doing all that. Yeah, my gosh, we're old. 

 U2 

 29:44 

 That's okay. It happens to everyone 

 U1 

 29:47 

 the age. Well, how about that? 

 U2 

 29:49 

 Yes, I miss Neopets. 

 U1 

 29:52 

 Yeah. Oh my gosh, I love Neopets. Yeah, I forgot 

 U2 

 29:56 

 that you were going to be getting into that on this podcast, 

 U1 

 29:58 

 did you? The millennial memory lane. 

 U2 

 30:03 

 Next up Tamagotchis. 

 U1 

 30:06 

 But 

 U2 

 30:08 

 I feel like a lot of just like my review formatting was trial and error. I feel like I kind of got into organizing my reviews like essays, just because it helped the flow of my thoughts better. I feel like having something to channel your thoughts towards. Keeps it from becoming chaos. Chaos can be fun, but not when I'm trying to remember what I need to 

 U1 

 30:33 

 do. Yeah, I think that's the biggest battle. I used to do like review to come, and now I'm getting to that point where I'm like, if I don't review this soon, it's it's never going to come. 

 U2 

 30:44 

 Review to come is like the biggest lie that readers tell themselves. You know, 

 U1 

 30:49 

 there's times I want to be just the the advocate, those people who put review to come. And it's like 2017 when they wrote that. And I'm like, when is the review coming? Yeah. 

 U2 

 31:01 

 It's like, what? Where is it? I want to know. I want to 

 U1 

 31:04 

 know why you put it that star 

 U2 

 31:06 

 especially like if it says like, oh man, I have some thoughts. Review to come. And then you see like a 2010 stamp and you're like, wait, 

 U1 

 31:16 

 I'm invested now, 1s maybe one day do it, but don't poke a bear. It's not my thing though, 

 U2 

 31:23 

 right? 

 U1 

 31:25 

 Do you have any favorite books or authors that have inspired you as a reviewer? 

 U2 

 31:32 

 Oh wow. Inspired me as a reviewer. Well, so it's weird because I mostly read romance and fantasy now, but when I was starting out on the platform, I read a lot of literature. I was mostly only reading like literature. And yeah, I feel like I was kind of influenced to talk about those books because I felt like I had to, to be like, culturally relevant. Like, I think I was doing the the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die challenge. I don't know if you've heard of it's like this list. I heard of it. Yeah, yeah. So I was doing that. That was that wasn't really fun. I found I didn't really enjoy most of those, but they were very dry and some of them were really dark and depressing, which I did not like. But I was like, I have to read these. I was coming from this point where I felt like what you read kind of had to substantiate your intellect, because that had kind of been drilled into me like in school. Right? Like when they teach you books, they're like, we're teaching you books that are relevant, that are going to be important for you to like, navigate society with and like, understand important cultural references in media. And I didn't like that. So then in college, I kind of got into romance because it was like an escape from all the heavy research papers I had to write. Because like when you're writing a ten page essay on the structure of the AI and all its functions, you don't want to read James Joyce when you finish the freaking essay. 

 U1 

 33:08 

 Um, 

 U2 

 33:09 

 and then I kind of learned, like, cultural relevance is like what you make of it. And like anything can be culturally relevant just depending on, like, what culture you're in or like, what culture you're making for yourself. And I learned that I really love romance, and I feel like it provides a lot of value, like emotionally, psychologically and intellectually. And so that kind of empowered me to write more reviews because I was reading more of what I actually loved. 

 U1 

 33:38 

 That's really good, I like that. I think I told someone this that I started my podcast with fantasy Pacifically because I never get burned out in fantasy, but I can get burned out in all kinds of other genres. So I can see that if you're passionate about a certain genre, that it would help you keep moving forward. There's two questions I want to ask. Hopefully I remember both of 1s one is do you like to read things that are popular on book talk, bookstagram, yada yada yada? Do you like to read those? Make sure you're staying up with the times, or you kind of ignore it and takes time before you read it? Or how do you approach all that? 

 U2 

 34:14 

 I don't think there's like an easy answer to that, because I picked up fourth wing because I literally could not look anywhere without seeing someone, like waving that book at me. And I was so afraid to pick it up because. 

 U1 

 34:31 

 Hating on a book that's popular is never fun, because one like you're at odds with all your friends, and two, everyone's like mad at you for like harshing their like book mellow. And it's like you want to be honest but also like, not be the buzzkill. I actually love that book. I feel like a lot of the negative criticism it does get is because people went in with elevated expectations because of what people were saying, because like book talkers. I think the problem with book talk is it's all about clicks. And so people will come up with these soundbites. To market the book, but kind of like what I was saying earlier, they might not be the best portrayal of what the book is actually like 

 U2 

 35:12 

 because like, I think if you say that Fourth Wing reinvents the fantasy genre, like, and then you pick it up expecting it to reinvent the fantasy genre, you're going to be angry because, yeah, it's it's pretty basic from a worldbuilding perspective, but like where it really shines is just like the setting and the depth of the characterization and like the chronic illness, rip like all of that is really great, but it doesn't reinvent the wheel. I will say hype marketing doesn't motivate me to read a book that I wouldn't pick up in the first place, because I'm at a point where I know myself pretty well. I know that there's just some tropes that I will never enjoy, and I should not touch those because it wouldn't be fair to me in my time, or the author and their time for writing the book or the fans, and we're enjoying it. But it does push books in my direction, where I find myself thinking, okay, this might be fun. I kind of want to see why everyone is into 

 U1 

 36:07 

 it. Yeah, I think I went in with high expectation with the fourth wing and I loved it, but not like to the point of like, oh, I got a book slump. Now let me talk about it over and over and over again. And I think I've mentioned that one time in a Facebook group and they deleted my comment. 

 U2 

 36:29 

 No. 

 U1 

 36:30 

 Yeah. 1s Oh, 

 U2 

 36:32 

 that's not even like that. Critical. 

 U1 

 36:34 

 No it wasn't. I'm just like it was good. I'm not like I didn't like it. It's just like what I say that I couldn't read anything afterwards. No. And I ordered the second book. I even said I ordered a second book, you know, a disclaimer to like, it's not like I'm hating this, but. 1s So 

 U2 

 36:51 

 pre-order club same. 

 U1 

 36:54 

 Yeah, I have to know. But anyways, yeah. So it's it's interesting because I noticed like because I'm getting into the world of like recommending books and trying to get in on social media, like the pressure to read what's popular is it's real. 

 U2 

 37:11 

 You want to be relevant. And I think with a site like TikTok especially, which is very algorithm driven, I feel like there really is a pull to review those types of books, because otherwise no one's going to look at your content or you feel like no one's going to look at your content. I feel like there's a niche for everyone. It's just the problem is like the top layer is like what a lot of people scratch at. And that's like where you see the same 20 books recommended to you over and over again. I feel like you really have to kind of dig deep and search the hashtags and do like hashtag mining to find like the areas that you specifically might be interested in. 

 U1 

 37:54 

 Then it's like, how do you build that platform based off of like, not what everyone else is doing? You know, that's always the challenge. Yeah, that's what I've noticed. You know, I'm not trying to brown nose you here, but 2s that's what I like about your, your platform on Goodreads is that a lot of times you do find those, those books that I never thought to pick up before, you know. So that makes me so happy. I feel like there's something really special about finding, like, a gem that hasn't gotten like the accolades that it deserves. I try to like, really focus on like retro and vintage, and I also try to read a lot of books by like people of color. I try to read like at least two a month. Usually I do more, sometimes less. But I feel like it's really important to like, shine a spotlight on these books that like, you know, in the case of retro, might be half forgotten or out of print because that's how you get a good book in print. Again, is talking about it and showing that there's a demand for it, or like highlighting this book that's like, you know, about this, like marginalized group or community and like putting the author out there and making sure that they can reach their audience. I think both of those things are really important, and that's hard to do. I think if you're only focusing on like books that are. You know, top ten on TikTok. I 

 U2 

 39:17 

 mean, there are some diverse books, like I've seen a lot of Kennedy Ryan on there, which makes me happy because I think she's great. I'm reading The Kingmaker right now by her, and it's really good. But she's like one of the few authors of color I've seen bandied about on TikTok pretty frequently, and that's a shame. 

 U1 

 39:35 

 It's like Catherine, I sorrow, and you recommended that book, and I put it on my thing, and I was about to buy it on thrift books, and I was like, no, I'm going to hold off. I'm going to hold off. And I swear I found it at a library sale. And because you recommended it, I was like, I had to buy it. 

 U2 

 39:53 

 Yes. 

 U1 

 39:55 

 So, you know, because it is a pretty cover and I'm like, people need to know about this. 

 U2 

 40:01 

 Did you read it yet or is it on the to 

 U1 

 40:03 

 read list? It's on my to read list. It's a 500 million long. Um, 1s see, that's that's a series that's out of print. And it makes me so sad because it would really appeal, I think, to people who like Sarah J. Mass or Fourth Wing because it's very romantic fantasy. The first book has the heroine, who's actually the mother of the heroine, and the second book, and I think the second book is better because it's a villain romance. Oh, okay. But he's not like one of the unredeemable like dark villains. Like, I love dark romance too, but like, he's like villain light. He loves conquering cities. Like he's kind of a warmonger, but like, it's his only talent. And he's actually very awkward in person, like Mr. Darcy level awkward. So, like, when 

 U2 

 40:49 

 he's in this arranged marriage with, like, this tomboyish, like Tamora Pierce, like heroine, he doesn't know how to deal with her. So he's like, alternately like super shy and, like, weird and, like, overprotective. And she's just like, you need to 

 U1 

 41:05 

 chill my guy. 2s And he's like, 

 U2 

 41:09 

 all I know is war. 

 U1 

 41:12 

 That's another thing. I'm looking at your Goodreads profile, and I have to ask 1s because this is a question I see quite a bit on Facebook and all this stuff you have so far. You're reaching 300 books this year. You're not done yet. A lot of people want to ask, especially you have a job like, how do you balance getting all those books read? 

 U2 

 41:36 

 I read pretty fast. I can read about 100 pages in an hour. 

 U1 

 41:40 

 Oh, wow. Okay. 

 U2 

 41:42 

 I've always been like that. I joke that, like, the reading portion of my brain, like, develop faster than, like, the math part, so, like, I can't count, but I can read really fast. 

 U1 

 41:54 

 I also always have a book in my purse at all times. I have multiple, like I have the Kindle app, so I'll read while I'm like waiting for like a video or a page to load, or if like I'm working on something and like I get sidetracked, I'll open up the Kindle and read. 

 U2 

 42:13 

 I guess I just, you know, all those like, spaces in your day to day where you're just waiting or like, annoyed by something that's taking longer than it should. Like, I just cram a book into this space so my wall of my life is just mortared with books. 

 U1 

 42:31 

 So do you buy a lot of physical books or is it a lot of digital copies? 

 U2 

 42:36 

 Both. Like I am an unrepentant book author. I probably all told, like, I know I have like 2000 books on my Kindle right now, which is bad. And then I probably have at least that many in paperback. Hoarded around my house in various spots. 

 U1 

 42:54 

 Yeah, I think that's the one thing I'm trying to, like, justify my behavior. And then I don't know if it's a toxic trait, but justify my behavior by people's collections. 

 U2 

 43:05 

 Yes. Yeah. It's like, oh, well, they have like an entire room to hold their books. I'm not there yet, so I need to buy more. 

 U1 

 43:13 

 Yeah, you need to aspire. 3s I like that. So do you DNF books or do you like to finish it? 

 U2 

 43:23 

 I DNF pretty frequently and I rate my DNF, which some people really get mad at me about. But my argument is like, if you're eating at a restaurant and the food is just so unpalatable that you cannot finish the plate, like you might give that restaurant a bad review and you wouldn't have to eat the whole plate to like, understand that the dish wasn't for you or that it was prepared incorrectly. And so I feel like if you're reading a book and for whatever reason, it just wasn't your thing and like it didn't work for you. Like, I feel like it's valid to know that the book was so bad for you that you couldn't make it through. And I'm pretty honest. I'll say where I stopped. Okay, I try to give it at least until 15%, but sometimes I can't even do that. 2s And the reason I used to force myself to finish because I felt like I had to. And I don't know why. Because I'm not getting paid. Like, 

 U1 

 44:22 

 right. 

 U2 

 44:23 

 It's reading. Shouldn't feel like work. I feel like unless you're like a professional book critic, like it's not your job. So you should read what you enjoy. And if a book is no longer enjoyable to you, you should put it down and read something that is so I DNF with abandon just because. Like I found myself getting into a lot of slumps when I was forcing myself to finish. And like I would use like good books as like rewards to get through bad books. And it just kind of felt like it was becoming toxic and not fun. 

 U1 

 44:54 

 Right? 1s Okay, I might like adopt that myself because I have been kind of embracing the DNF life. And it is like, like you said, being put in a book slump by pushing yourself to finish. I think I'll I'll definitely consider that more, you know, just being more front and honest and saying, hey, you know, I did enough at this part, you know, because I just don't want to pretend that I finish. And that's. Yeah, feels awful that way. 

 U2 

 45:24 

 I've definitely seen reviews written by people for seemingly pretending that they finish the book, but then they'll say something that makes me think they did, especially if there's like a twist and they don't mention the twist and they're like, oh, this book sucked because blah blah blah. And I'm like, wait, but. 1s That wasn't true. I think it's good to be up front, and I don't think there should be any shame in that, as long as you're being honest. 

 U1 

 45:50 

 Right. Okay. And and it's crazy. You said like, at least up to 15%. And that's where you decide. 

 U2 

 45:57 

 It's my personal rule. Yeah. Because especially like with longer books, like if a book is like 700 pages, like sometimes it can take a while to, like, set up the world building. I feel like you as a reader get a sense like, I don't know if this is true for you, but you can kind of get like a third sense, like if the book is going somewhere and like building up to something and like if you want to invest the time and find out where it's going because they'll be like little hints or whatever, and you'll be like, oh, this seems like it's seeding the way for something like, great, I want to find out what happens. 

 U1 

 46:32 

 I do get that sense. I just have to embrace it and be okay and not be a people pleaser. 

 U2 

 46:37 

 Yeah, yeah. And you have to, like, make the decision. Like, is it worth my time to stick with this? Like, am I enjoying it enough that I want to find out where it's going? 

 U1 

 46:46 

 Right. Okay. I like that. Okay. I'm just going to ask this one. What ethical considerations do you keep in mind when we're reviewing books, particularly regarding potential conflicts of interest? You know, definitely saying something that might not be what everyone else is saying. That's a tough question. So I guess there's like a couple that I keep in mind. I typically will avoid any book that sounds like it has a plot similar to something that I've written, just because I don't want to be biased at all unless like, I think I'm going to enjoy it. Or it's like in a genre different enough that I feel like maybe there wouldn't be a conflict of interest when I'm reading books by people of color. I try not to talk too much about, like, the cultural accuracy or like the representation. Because I don't know if it's accurate or not. Like, that's not my wheelhouse. I might notice something funny and I'll be like, you know, I don't know, like, about this. I'm not like an expert, but like, this read like a little bit weird to me, but like, you know, I try to be respectful, like I, and understand that, you know, some things I just will never have the authority to speak to. And that's just something you have to be okay with as a reader and understand that some people should talk to things that others shouldn't. Um, and 

 U2 

 48:21 

 I think it's also important to if you're reading a book that has significance in some way, like if it has like disability rep or it's significant in some other aspect. I think it's important to mention that in the beginning, just so people who are interested can read that and seek it out, even if you didn't like it. And I think, like from an ethical perspective, it's also important to read like out of your comfort zone, like read stories written by people who are different from you and like, who maybe don't look like you or don't have your culture just because it's important to learn. Get the stories out there. The pool of books that are available to us aren't homogenous. I think diversity and reading is really important across all genres, and I think the best way to get more of that is to read more of it. That's 

 U1 

 49:11 

 really good. How do you handle receiving requests from authors and publishers to read and review their books? That's 

 U2 

 49:18 

 a good question. So. I'm pretty honest. Like I would say, some people would probably say I'm brutally honest, even though I really try not to be brutal 

 U1 

 49:29 

 or mean. 1s I typically don't accept requests now just because. 1s A lot of the some of the ones I'm sent. I don't want to say a lot. Some of the ones I'm sent, I'm just really not sure about. And I don't want to give a negative review to someone who doesn't have a lot of reviews, especially like if they're a smaller author, if they have like under 50 ratings, like a one star review can be pretty crushing. Not just like, you know, personally, but also to their rating overall. Like I feel like ratings have more impact when you have less of them. And I just and I don't have time anymore to go through, like all of the requests that I'm given. That sounds really bad. 

 U2 

 50:18 

 I just I don't have time to take on new requests. I still accept paperbacks from major publishers, but I can't always read them right away. I got one in April that I'm only just now reading, which is really bad, but the book hasn't come out yet, so I'm still 

 U1 

 50:34 

 good. 

 U2 

 50:37 

 Uh, it's difficult because I want to be supportive and encouraging, and I understand that it's hard, but I also am just like one person, and I. I'm not always interested in the prompts that people give me. Or like, I just don't think it would be a right fit. But sometimes, like I'll post like promo for someone or give someone a bumper like their posts. I try to like things like I try to be supportive even if I can't review. 

 U1 

 51:03 

 I've been inviting a lot of authors on here, and, you know, obviously we're constantly interacting with authors to know for a reviewer as yourself, is there a right or wrong way for publishers or authors to reach out to book reviewers to request to review their book? Yeah, 

 U2 

 51:21 

 I think it never hurts to ask. Some reviewers will have a list of things they're not interested in in their profile, and I don't think all authors read that. I think if you're going to query a reviewer, you need to read their read their submissions. Bloggers have them as well. I think, you know, if you're going to ask someone for a favor of that magnitude of their time and like their platform, you should make sure you're marketing yourself to someone who will actually be interested in your book. I never get upset when people ask me like, why would I? I think it's really a compliment. I always try to be nice. I'm never like me when I say no. I'm always just like, you know, sorry I don't have time or sorry. This just isn't really my genre like, but good luck. Like. That's amazing. 

 U1 

 52:09 

 Yeah, I think that's really important. I think I need to revisit my. I used to have one, and I took it off because when I was focusing on it. But I'm getting requests now and I'm getting like requests to review their thriller books. And I'm like, uh, 1s not my genere. Yeah. 

 U2 

 52:28 

 It's so nice to be asked, though I always try to look at it from that perspective. I'm like, just, wow, that's really nice. I hope you find the reviewer you're looking 

 U1 

 52:37 

 for, right? Yeah, I think a lot some authors are just saying nowadays, like if they just hear a response from you, even if it's it's a no, they're just eternally grateful for that anyways. I'll try to wrap it up. If someone's learning to grow their platform, what is the advice you would give them if they're building grid reads, their Instagram or whatever the case would be as a book reviewer. 

 U2 

 53:01 

 Who ending with the toughest. 

 U1 

 53:05 

 No pressure. You can't leave now. 

 U2 

 53:08 

 I think being honest, because I think it's really important to build credibility. I think it's really important to be as impartial as you can and have a really strong platform where you're coming from a place of like, you know, not cruel honesty, just like honesty and a love of reading. And I think being nice, like being nice is really underrated, I think in the digital age sometimes. But just, you know. I think reviewing can be selfish, and I know I fall into this trap sometimes too, where I just post the review and then people comment like I try to comment on other people's reviews too. Like if I'm read a book, like I'll go through all of my friends reviews, I see one that's like particularly amazing. I'll comment on it and be like, oh my gosh, yes, like you said, this better than I ever could. Like, this is great. Keeping in mind that everyone starts small and so it never hurts to be supportive of someone who's just starting out because, you know, then you can grow together. Like I think some people see, book reviewing is really competitive area, and it is, but it doesn't have to be like a mean spirited competition. It can be like rivals to lovers or rivals to friends, right? It doesn't have to be rivals to enemies, 

 U1 

 54:34 

 right? 2s What would you say is your favorite fantasy book that you would no doubt left and right, recommend? 

 U2 

 54:44 

 Oh God, Poison Study by Maria Snyder I read that in college and I was just blown away. It was like I remember I was, I think it was just after finals, and I was just drained and I walked to the library and I went to the young adult section, and I was like, oh, this looks good. And I read it in like a day. It was so good. Just pure escapism. Strong female protagonist, villainous love interest, enemies to lovers like she's a poison taster for this kingdom that is outlawed magic and like her love interest, is the poison master, who has poisoned her to make sure she can't run away, and so she has to come to him for the antidote at the end of every day, or she'll die. It's so good. 

 U1 

 55:34 

 I have that on my shelf and I've been meaning to get to it. But so is every other book. 

 U2 

 55:38 

 That's wonderful. 

 U1 

 55:41 

 Well, I have a lot to ask, but, you know, this is the end of the episode. Definitely tell people where to find you. What's your handles? Just kind of a the best place to find you to find your reviews. 

 U2 

 55:53 

 Yes. So I am Nenia Campbell on Goodreads. Just type my name in the box and I'll pop right up because I'm an author perk of being an author, right? And then on Reddit and TikTok, I'm Nina Campbell. All one word, no spaces. And then on Instagram, I'm always be booked with two E's and the B like Bumblebee because I love 

 U1 

 56:16 

 bees. Well, I'll definitely be putting all that in the show notes. Definitely check her out at the end of this episode if you love it. Definitely subscribe to follow this channel and definitely give us a like. Let me know on Instagram your thoughts about book reviewing and what your favorite tips on how to review a book. So and then yeah, thank you so much for joining me. I loved hearing your experience and love hearing your perspective. And we'll have to do this another time. Yes. 

 U2 

 56:43 

 Thank you so much for having me. 



Podcasts we love