Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Secret Confessions of a Romance Reviewer

Alisha: Welcome to my blog, Barb. So happy you are here! I'm excited to hear some juicy confessions from a romance reviewer! First off, tell us about Risqué Reviews.

History of Risque Reviews (Scroll down to read JUICY STUFF FIRST)
Barb: Risqué Reviews is an adult romance review site. We opened our doors in May of 2010. Some assume it is purley an erotic review site. While you can have romance with erotica, that does not mean that ALL erotica is about romance.

Confused? I know. Most are. I'm trying to break that stereo-type for my site and branch out into more venues such as satire and more mainstream. The only genre we do not review is YA. Remember, this is still an adult site.

I have a strict policy. When a book is checked out for review, it MUST be reviewed. Not every book will receive a good review but I will never tolerate crude reviews. I have been reviewing for a long time, close to eight years now. I've learned you do not have to be cruel, even if you did not care for the book. I am willing to teach new reviewers, but they have to check there egos at the door if they want to be a part of my team. I won’t allow my reviewers to rip out the author’s heart if they find a book lacking for whatever reason. I constantly remind my reviewers that there is a person behind every book and I'll never let them forget that.

We do not guarantee that we will love every book, but we will be honest and fair.
The gals that are with me now are great and I love them!! They have no problem when I or one of my editors makes a suggestion or changes needed to help their review. I also have two great editors and without them I’d be lost.

Our goal is to give readers honest and thoughtful book reviews intended to fairly represent the authors' work while providing readers with the information they need to make informed buying decisions concerning their reading material.

But the most important part is to have fun. When I'm no longer having a good time, belive me, I'll stop. :)

Alisha: What inspired you to create your very own review site?

Barb: A friend. I had just left another review site and was pretty down in the dumps. I still loved reviewing, but didn’t want to start up with another site. She said to me “Barb, you are one of the best reviewers I know. (She loves me so she had to say that) I don’t know why you don’t just start your own review site.” (She however didn’t have to say that.) She has this great southern accent. Well, anyway after a lot of contemplation, I finally got off of my butt and did just that. That friend was you, Alisha. I don’t know if I ever told you how much your encouragement helped me and has continued to help me to this day. Thank you, my friend.

At first it really was only a hobby, a way to combine the two things I love: reading and writing reviews. But I wanted Risqué Reviews to offer more. That’s when I really got to work and have been driving my husband crazy ever since!

Alisha: You are so sweet. I just know a good thing when I see it. ;) What can we expect from Risqué Reviews?

Barb: I’m working on so much that at times I’m not sure which end is up, but right now I’m talking to a few web-designers to help me take my site to the next level. I want the new site to be as user friendly as possible. I hate it when you go to a site and it feels like you just fell into the rabbit hole with Alice, with all sorts of things vying for your attention. Like an acid trip that’s gone bad…now how would I know about stuff like that?

Seriously, my first goal is to get my website more consistent and orderly. That is my priority. And right now I don’t have the capability to do that. This is just not in the realm of my expertise.

What I’d like to do is incorporate a top notch blog into my website as well as expanding my capabilities for ad space. Right now I’m spread in too many directions and it just doesn’t flow like I would like it to. I also need some better behind the scenes ways of keeping tabs of things and managing pages so they also are more consistent and better managed. Right now the day to day stuff is taking up way more time than it should. That is why I’ve been talking to those that have that knowledge and can help show me what steps I need to take to help achieve my goals.

SECRET CONFESSION TIME!!!! (How many people scrolled down to this part..lol!)
Alisha: Now we get to the juicy stuff! How old were you when you decided you just couldn't live without books?

Barb: I was 12 when I discovered the power of a book. Until then…I have to tell you, I actually hated reading. Nothing held my attention. If I may quote a part of another interview I did that I think sums things up nicely…quite by accident I found my mom’s copy of Valley of the Dolls. It had been out for 2 years. I was 12 years old. I knew this was hidden for a reason, so I started reading. I was captivated, it was right there in front of me and I loved every heart pounding, rock and rolled, sex drugged moment it could throw at me. It was gritty, raw and intensely emotional. I was enthralled. It was like being right there. These weren’t just “characters” in a book. This felt real. There were no innuendos or hidden meanings. It was right there in your face. This was like Christmas morning and I had just opened up the best gift ever, my imagination. I felt everything.. their pain and sorrow; I cried and laughed OUT LOUD. Amazing. These were adults living life, and I was just a kid and outside of the four walls of my bedroom and TV (which only had 4 channels), I had no idea the outside world could be so exciting. For the first time I truly understood the power of a book and I liked it.

Alisha: Wow! I know that first sexy book opened up new doors for you, especially for a girl on the verge of womanhood. I remember experiencing something similar in my early teens. Heavy stuff. Tell us something funny about yourself. ;)

Barb: Sometimes when I sneeze, I pee a little… Ok maybe not that… How about instead of telling you something funny about myself, I give you a funny quote that describes me?

Some people say that I am going insane, but I know that they are wrong, I've been there for a long time.”
― Ron Person

Alisha: *Snicker* sums you up perfectly. I love your insane side..or wait..do you have a sane side? Hmm...not sure. What do you look for in a great story?

Barb: When it sneaks up on me and knocks me on my ass. How? Well first by catching me off guard by giving me a story I didn’t see coming. And by that I mean it got me to go beyond my boundaries, comfort zones, if you will. I like it when I start reading and am caught totally by surprise by a story that I thought was one thing and, oh mama, was so much more. I like a book that challenges me to look beyond preconceived ideas of right and wrong and good and evil. But not by shouting at me. I like it when it does it in such an ingenious way that I never see it coming. Not just in dealing with sexual preferences, but in all things human and beyond.

The characters should be fully developed, coupled with scenes so vividly drawn they become a character themselves. There should be sub-plots effortlessly flowing within the story, drawing the characters together to the end.

Also, within a story you should find a lesson to be learned, as it touches on the social etiquette of the era. There should also be another message to be conveyed, moral and otherwise, that will be as important a hundred years from now as it is today.

And mostly if I’m sad when I’m finished, I know I’ve just read a great book. At least for me.

Alisha: How important is chemistry in a relationship? How important is it when you're reading romance?

Barb: If we’re talking a sexual relationship (and I’m sure we are) without chemistry well, there is no relationship. That’s like peanut butter without the jelly, toast without butter! Man! That’s just crazy, woman!!! Oh this is precious, because the blog, "When Was The Last Time You Read A Good Book?", which is posted now at Reviewer Extraordinaire discusses chemistry…here’s a taste.

OK, I’ll admit I like a story that revolves around romance and where there is romance there should be sex. I just find when I’m reading a story where the sexual chemistry is stimulating between the characters, it makes it soooo much more…motivating. So sue me!

It’s not just genetic instincts driving us to have sex in order to procreate. Hell, we don’t even need the act for that anymore; it’s also a very human need for touch that drives us. And man...it just feels so damn good.

How’d I do? Did that answer your question?*snicker*

Alisha: Yep! Pretty good answer! What does your ultimate hero sound like, look like, smell like and what are his three best traits?

Barb: Mmmm well, he’d sound like Clint Eastwood …

…look like Hugh

and he wouldn’t need any cologne, because he would have the invigorating natual scent of musk that is all man gritty, sensual and just so lick-a-lious…

Well here’s my take on what traits I like in a man…the art of being a man is knowing when to control and how to surrender.

Alisha: Yum! Let me know if you meet this man in person and invite me over for Cosmos!!! Name three of your guilty pleasures.

Barb: Oh, dear! I’m 54! I don’t have any guilty pleasures left. I did them all and then went back for seconds! And now I’m pretty much an open book… (pun intended) and I don’t feel guilty about any of my pleasures, past or present. What you see is what you get. I make no bones about what I like; you can find my desires in most of my writings.

Alisha: Do your neighbors and family members know you review romance?

Barb: Most do. I don’t keep it a secret. I’m not ashamed of what I do or what I write or what I read. I do however get a few snickers and remarks when those who didn’t know find out. It’s quite entertaining. Mostly I hear, “Why do you so this?” When I tell them I enjoy it… well, some just don’t understand. That’s ok. I don’t mind. I don’t expect everyone to understand, just like I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t enjoy reading as much as I do.

That’s why I wrote the blog, "When Was The Last Time You Read A Good Book?", because of some of the attitudes I get about the “types” of books they seem to think I read.

I guess I have a rep for only reading ‘dirty’ books. Don’t get me wrong, I do read them, but I read a lot of books. And sure they mainly revolve around romance, but…wait for it…wait for it… not all of them are jammed full of scene after scene of sex.

Actually I just finished two books. Although there was a sex scene in one, both of these books clearly did not revolve around sex in any way at all. The stories did not call for them and the authors knew that. The stories did not suffer for the lack of them and again the authors knew that too. Have these authors written books that had plots with more sex scenes in them. Yep. And guess what? They were good books, too. And you know why? Because the characters and the plot called for them!

When people allow themselves to be led by what ‘polite society’ believes is inappropriate or unacceptable without judging it for themselves, they are doing themselves an injustice and missing out on so much that life has to offer. Not just in their choices of reading materials, but in all things.

Alisha: Do you ever remember reading a genre or book that you normally wouldn't pick up and loved it? If so, tell us the title and author and why you loved it.

Barb: Here is a perfect example of thinking you’re getting one thing and getting something totally different and being blown away. This happened when I was with the other review site and a reviewer had left, leaving behind a number of books she had checked out. So instead of putting them back in the database we tried to distribute between all of us so they could still be reviewed.

I chose a book by the title thinking it might be something I’d like, Dark Beginnings: The Demon Within by J.E. Marshall. What an incredible book. It however was not a paranormal book like I thought. It wasn’t even a romance. It was in fact a Mainstream/M/M/Thriller. Best mistake I ever made.

This was my opening statement… The Demon Within grabbed me at the opening prologue and truth be told this story took my breath away.

This book did exactly what I said in question #4; it challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone and to explore a contemporary mainstream story about a man struggling with his sexuality. This is what I wrote at the end… I just do not feel that I could do justice by trying to explain who Christen is. I have therefore decided to leave that up to him. I will however tell you what this story is not. It is not just a love story, but love is a driving force in it. It is not just about lust, but lust is what will cause Christen to begin this journey. It is not just about a gay man, but about a man who happens to be gay.

Understand.. I don’t have a problem with a person's choice of who they want to be with and never will. I just didn’t think I would find anything I myself could relate to tin that book. I was clearly mistaken and I’m pleased to say that I have never made that mistake again. A love story is a love story. That story will always hold a special place in my heart for showing me that.

Aisha: Leave us with a great recipe. I'm in a cooking mood!

Barb: Ok here’s a great one and just in time for the cooler weather.

You’ll need:

• Brown Sugar (light or dark doesn’t matter but both would be best!)
• BBQ Sauce (any kind whatever you like)
• Bourbon
• Whole chicken (cut up)

Very important…Do not remove skin!! This recipe needs both the skin and white and dark meat in order to work. And the chicken must be cut up.

Cooking time 3 hours

Preheat oven to 300.

Place chicken in roasting pan
Cover generously with BBQ sauce, make sure to cover thoroughly
Toss Brown Sugar over all the chicken (don’t worry you really can’t put too much)

Cover and cook for the first two hours

Take out of oven and add one cup (or more, your call) of Bourbon

Put back in the oven UNCOVERED for one hour.

If this doesn’t knock your socks off, you did not follow the instructions!!!

Alisha: Barb, Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy reviewing schedule to give me your secret confessions! Best of luck with Risque Reviews i enjoyed every delicious moment of it! And thanks for the recipe! Yum!

You can find Barb at Reviewer Extroidinaire

and at Risque Reviews


Barbara Mazzuca said...

Hi Alisha! I want to thank you for having me as you Guest today. I had A lot of fun answering your guestions too. Hope your reader enjoy it too!

Vicki Batman said...

Hi, Barb and my lovely friend, Alisha.

This is a fascinating interview. And you sound like a terrific, professional woman. No wonder your good friend told you to start a business. And we're lucky to live in a country we can do this. Congratulations!

And the chicken recipe sounds like one to die for.

Love it, ladies!

Kathy Ivan said...

Great blog post, ladies. It's always great to see what goes on behind the scenese so to speak with reviewers. As authors sometimes we forget that you're all people and especially readers just like everybody else.

Plus, that chicken recipe sounds fabulous. I might just have to make that this weekend.

christine warner said...

Loved your interview ladies...nicely done. I just stumbled onto your site (because I'm a blog addict lately) and truly enjoyed getting to know each of you. Great humor, the recipe sounds awesome, and the plans for your website updates sound terrific. Best of luck to both of you!

Alisha said...

Thank you for stopping by, ladies. Barb is a wonderful reviewer and has a team of fabulous, very professional reviewers. I'm so proud to have her on my blog and hear all her secret confessions. I learned quite a bit that I never knew about what goes into reviewing a book. And that chicken recipe sounds WONDERFUL! I look forward to trying it out myself! Yum! Thank you so much for gracing my blog, Barb! Please come back anytime! Hugs!

Barbara Mazzuca said...

Hi ladies thanks for dropping by and leaving such nice comments. I hope to live up to them all. It's going to be alot of work in the coming weeks and I'm sure it will also come alot of headaces too *grin*. But that's all part of the gig I guess. I can say one thing that is a sure thing in all of this is that recipe~ And Alisha anytime you need a few laughs, or a juices take on this that and well you know...I'm your gal!! Next time lets talk about those sexy immortal warriors why we like 'em what we like about them and why they make us purrrrrrrrrr....