Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meet Author & Book Reviewer, Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani

I'm happy to welcome Mayra Calvani to my blogspot today. Multi-genre author Mayra Calvani has been a reviewer for ten years. She's the author of the supernatural thrillers, Embraced by the Shadows and Dark Lullaby.

A regular contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, she's also a member of Broad Universe, Authors Coalition, and The Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators.

You can visit her website at:
For her children's books, see:

To Learn about Mayra's book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, go to:

Mayra also keeps a blog, The Dark Phantom Review, where she regularly posts reviews and author interviews. Today, she touches on what is a hot topic among Reviewers and Bloggers.

Here's what Mayra Has to Say:

Reviewers vs. Bloggers: The Controversy

Reviewing was a hot subject among kidlit bloggers last year, ever since the magazine n+1 came up with an article which criticized—though not in such direct terms—bloggers of not being objective, honest enough with their reviews, of not posting enough negative reviews and of lacing their positive reviews with facile praise.

The main question seems to be: is it possible to be impartial in a snug environment where the people who post friendly comments under the bloggers’ posts are often the same people who request reviews from these bloggers?

In other words, is it possible to be objective in the blogosphere, where authors, publishers, publicists, reviewers and librarians are in sociable terms with each other in such blog communities as Live Journal, Blogger and Wordpress?

In a perfect world a reviewer should never review a book by a person he/she knows. But, as usual, more often than not, what is ideal in theory is not realistic in the real world, and this ‘sin’ is not only committed by bloggers, but also by legitimate reviewers who write for online and print review publications.

Another issue seems to be the lack of format which many (maybe most?) bloggers have when writing reviews. Unlike the ‘legitimate’ reviewers who seem to have a preference for a ‘standard’ structure—an interesting lead/opening sentence, a short summary of the plot without ever giving away spoilers or the ending, and an intelligent, fair, tactful evaluation—the bloggers write about books anyway they want. They have the freedom to write in any length or style without a thought to format—even to the point of giving away spoilers or relating the ending of a book.

This freedom comes with the territory of being a blogger. But then, the questions arise… Are bloggers ‘real’ reviewers? What defines a review? After all, there are many types of reviews—academic and long, light and short, and snippets like those in such publications as Library Journal. Different review sites and publications have different guidelines. Are blogger reviews a new, different type of review? Should we draw a distinction between bloggers who are simply readers and post ‘reader reviews’ and ‘legitimate’ reviewers who post ‘real’ ones on their blogs? After all, just like on Amazon, there are reader reviews and reviewer reviews. Are bloggers the lowly counterparts of legitimate reviewers? Is this an elitist attitude?

I find these questions fascinating because I think there are no easy answers. As usual, opening a discussion about what is right and wrong is like opening a can of worms.

A couple of years ago, this dilemma started with the emerging online review sites... I remember how librarians and bookstores often dismissed them as ‘not legitimate’. Online review sites have come a long way. Now it's the bloggers who are being attacked.

Ultimately, I think we're not giving enough credit to the discerning reader of reviews. It's so easy to tell a good review from a cheesy one guilty of facile praise! There are good and bad reviewers everywhere. Serious blogger reviewers aren't going to be stupid enough to post overly positive reviews because if the reader buys a book based on that review and then finds that book to be poorly written, that blogger will lose all credibility and that reader won't come back to this blogger for more reviews. Honesty and fairness go with our job as reviewers, without it, we're nothing but weak, cheap publicity. That is not to say we should be nasty or mean... which brings me to the writing of negative reviews...

I personally think there are too many good books out there to be spending time writing about the bad ones (even negative reviews are a type of publicity!). Unless it's a book that has been written by a famous author and/or heavily hyped, I won't bother posting negative reviews on my blog and newsletters (this wouldn't be the case, however, if the book was assigned by a review site/publication, in which case I wouldn’t have a choice but to write the negative review).

One thing the blogging technology has done is bring books and literature closer to the public and, let’s face it, the average person is so busy and/or has such a short attention span that long, insightful reviews are not the most practical thing in the world. Blogger reviews are like quick tasty treats of information for people on the run who enjoy reading about books. In the end, and in spite of the ‘slippery’ questions mentioned above, I’m all for anything that brings literature closer to the public.


Don't Go Away, Now Mayra will share what her book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, is all about.

Are you passionate about books? Do you have the desire to share your thoughts about a book with readers, yet are unsure about what makes a good review? Are you curious about the influence reviews have on readers, booksellers, and librarians?

If you're an experienced reviewer, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing will serve as an excellent reference tool and amalgam of resources. If you're a beginner, this book will show you how to write a well-written, honest, objective and professional book review.

It will also teach you:

• How to read critically
• How to differentiate the various types of reviews
• How to rate books
• How to prevent amateurish mistakes
• How to deal with the ethics and legalities of reviewin
• How to tell the difference between a review, a book report, and a critique
• How to start your own review site
• How to publish your reviews on dozens of sites and even make money while you're at it, and much more

If you're an author, publisher, publicist, bookseller, librarian, or reader, this book will also bring to light the importance and influence of book reviews within a wider spectrum.

To read an excerpt and reviews, visit:

Thanks, Mayra, for this great information. I invite the readers to comment below about any of the topics Mayra discussed, or if you want, just say hello to Mayra.


  1. Thanks so much for having me on your cool blog today, Morgan!

  2. The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is an excellent resource for those that want to be reviewers. The tricky part is writing a book review on a book about book reviews. I did and you'll see it next week.

  3. That's so true, Ron, about the tricky part. I'm glad I didn't have to go through that! LOL

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Welcome to my blogspot, Mayra.
    I hope you enjoy your stay here.

    Morgan Mandel

  5. "In a perfect world a reviewer should never review a book by a person he/she knows."

    I once had a - not sure what he was calling himself but for the sake of me not losing my mind trying to think of it, let's call him a psychic - tell me that he couldn't give me a reading because I was too "close" to him. And by close, it didn't mean we knew each other other than the Internet, but still, he had his reasons. I never could understand the reasons until later it dawned on me. The feelings (in his case strictly platonic)he had for me as a friend "clouded" whatever other talent he possessed to do this right.

    In the case of the reviewer, if you are friends with someone and you want to give them an honest review, you can't. What if you were totally honest with this person because you did like them enough to be and what if this opinion was somewhat negative?

    It happened to me and I'm sure it happens to a lot of authors. Do not get your friends to review your book. Some will sugar-coat; some will tell you like it is. Their "feelings" are clouded by the relationship and besides you don't want to go to jail for throwing them off the nearest bridge.

  6. Mayra,
    It's interesting to read about the controvery about blogger reviews and "legitimate" reviews. I certainly understand not reviewing the work of friends. It's hard to be objective no matter how hard you try.

    Ron, I'm right there with you writing a review of a book on reviews. Mine will be a little later in Mayra's tour.

  7. Anonymous1:26 PM

    Interesting point of view. Part of the difficulty lies in the definitions. Is an unpaid reviewer (or book critic) any less professional than one who isn't paid?
    We can surely find examples of good and bad reviews by paid and unpaid reviewers. And as for a perfect world, the ethical limits imposed by good newspapers and other publications are absolute but they have practical limitations. As a practicing author, I solicit and maintain contacts with a number of reviewers. Several of them I consider as friends, but it would never occur to me to offer money for a good review. I don't know any reviewers who would accept payola. In looking back over the hundreds of reviews I have written, I would have to set aside the vast bulk of them and a large segment of my network of authors if I couldn't review the work of friends and acquaintances. In my opinion, that's a non-starter. Readers are intelligent enough to sort out the personal biases. The only reviews that should be tracked down and obliterated are those, professional or otherwise, which are direct attacks on individual authors. A rare occurrence. Yes, it's hard, sometimes, to read negative reviews, particularly when it appears the reviewer seems to have missed the point. But then, perhaps there is a message in that, as well. As an author, I have never read a review of my work which didn't tell me something I needed to know.

  8. Hi Mayra, Interesting thoughts about a very sensitive subject. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Great article Mayra! You already know that I reviewed "The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing" at and recommend it to anyone interested in reviewing books.

    A question posed in your article was whether there can be objectivity in the blogosphere, but I believe this same problem arises in the reviewing community; perhaps on a smaller scale, but it is still there. If I know someone who writes reviews for a paper, why wouldn't I take advantage of that?

    I don't necessarily agree that you shouldn't review a book by someone you know, as I have done it more than once. I just don't allow my friendship with the person to cloud how I word my reviews. Now, that might be because I don't write caustic negative reviews, but if someone I know has had a problem with a review of mine that was less than glowing, I haven't heard about it.

    I usually follow a certain format, but length depends upon the book and how much I enjoy or did not enjoy the book.

    I've always forced myself to finish a book even when I don't enjoy because I feel like the author paid good money to ship it to me. But on the other hand, I wonder if it is adding insult to injury when I email him/her and the review has more negative points than positive ones.

    Whether bloggers are considered legitimate in some circles or not, these sites are here to stay. And, yes, they have brought literature closer to the public and are helpful for quick glimpses into books.

    Thanks for sharing your insights with us!

    Readers - you'll find more reviews of Mayra's work at The Book Connection


  10. I do reviews, but not "formal" ones. I post very few negative reviews. And I do post reviews of friends' books. But I don't consider myself a reviewer.

  11. Hi Mayra,
    Very interesting, informative article. I am a great believer in honest reviews. Even if a reviewer has to give a negative review, there is always a nice way of putting it so that authors don't feel as if "their baby" has been vilified. On the other hand, nothing worse than gushy sickly sweet, insincere reviews either.
    I like to think there is a happy medium.

  12. I write - and review gay historical fiction. This is a small, but growing genre, and generally all the writers who specialise in it, network. So I know most of them, some of them very well.

    I can't afford to be less than honest on my review blog. The readers of the blog expect it, and they'll also know if I'm being kind to someone simply because I know them. It's hard to say tough things about a book of a friend, but I personally think that I retain respect and integrity that way.

    I know of at least two review sites - who, when I offered to do reviews for them said that they didn't do negative reviews. what is the point of that? You only need to do a few searches to find sites that never give less than three stars for example!

    On the other hand - there is a kind of an art to reviewing. Even the worst book has some redeeming qualities, so one should never give a hatchet job, no matter how awful.


  13. Thank you for a very informative article, Mayra. I wish your book had been available years ago when I was writing reviews. I never liked to review a friend's book because I felt it might ruin a perfectly good relationship. However, there good things about every badly-written book and I always focused that those.

  14. Anonymous12:15 PM


    I'm curious, how many hours do you have in your day? You certainly are accomplishing more than I am. How-to books, mysteries, children's books and more, just what kind of vitamins do you take?

    Good luck with this book. I know it will be a big success.



Your Comment Is Welcome