#ThrowItForward Thursday: Meet Annie McDonnell, Book Reviewer Extraordinaire!

AnnieMcDIt’s #ThrowItForward Thursday, and I am so honored to have Annie McDonnell, book reviewer for The Write Review, Chick Lit Plusand Elle Magazine here with me!

Annie is a zany force of fun, and I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know her via Facebook. I was flabbergasted but delighted when she expressed interest in reviewing A Man of Characterespecially since she got it onto Chick Lit Plus – a big-time site!

Annie is so expressive in her love for books and authors, and she brings happy smiles wherever she goes. I’m thrilled to now count her as a friend as well as a reviewer – and wait until you read all the insights she gives!

Settle in, folks, because you don’t want to miss this. I hope you’ll leave Annie a comment below!

How long have you been writing book reviews?

I became a published book reviewer in March, 2007. But, I recently came upon my very first book review on record!!! It was published in my elementary school newspaper from when I was in 3rd Grade. LOL!!! Apparently, I was the “Book Reviewer” for the newspaper. I loved finding that! I always knew this was in my bones. This proved it!

When did you start The Write Review?

Fountain penI began blogging about two years ago, but am really honing in on it this year. I am still birthing the site. I am hoping to have it full of interviews with authors, other reviewers, guest bloggers, articles, and, of course, book reviews. I have the vision, just a lot of work to get it started. Still unsure of where this is going to go. Because working with Elle and Chick Lit Plus keeps me busy enough. AH!

How did you hook up with Chick Lit Plus?

Ann-Marie Nieves of Get Red PR knows that I love to review books for Elle Magazine, and she heard that Samantha, the owner of Chick Lit Plus, was looking for another reviewer for her site. Ann-Marie thought we may be a good match. So, I applied.

I was so nervous sending in samples of my reviews, especially when she asked for a review of a book I did not enjoy. That is a tough review to write.

I got the job!!!

Chick Lit Plus is a site I have always enjoyed getting lost in! It has a large market, and I was so excited to at least give it a shot! If you have not visited this site yet, you must!

I am so grateful that she let me have a chance and come on board. This is something I am very proud of!!!

How did you start writing reviews for ELLE magazine?

Elle-logoOn November 2nd, 2006, I read about a contest ELLE Magazine was having. The contest winners would become monthly book reviewers for the Magazine, known as the “Readers’ Prize Panel”. There would only be 15 participants. I had to enter this contest!

They asked for a list of your Top 5 favorite books, and for a written review of our top favorite.

I chose to write a review about Pride & Prejudice. Tough one, but … Jane Austen was not going to let me down.

Once it was sent, I checked my email like a crazy person until I received the Winner/Offer email on November 6th, 2006! I sent back my acceptance and willingness to read three books a month and send in my reviews.

About a month later, the books began to arrive. I was so excited opening my first delivery! It had actual manuscripts, held together with a rubber band. I thought I hit the BIG TIME! Hahaha.

What’s your favorite thing about being a book reviewer?

Stack of vintage books isolated on white

Short Answer: This is my passion, one that never wanes, so that is a gift itself!

Simple answer: “Just Fun! When you do what you love, it never feels like work!!” There is no greater joy than reviewing a book, and finding out that someone read the book because of my review. That is an awesome feeling!

Longer answer: Being my passion, there are so many favorite things about being a book reviewer. High on the list is that I get to interact with the authors and other readers. It is like living in this perfect world for me. I could get lost once I start chatting with authors or other readers.  Being around books is very intoxicating for me. I am at home when surrounded by books. My husband has a Man Cave, I have a Library!!

Secondly, I love having access to all sorts of books, especially ones I may not have come across unless I was in this field. For example, I have learned that I really enjoy Non-Fiction…which I never really dabbled in, until 3 arrived one month for me to review for Elle. I have been hooked ever since! I was just introduced to a newer genre, called “New Adult”, and I am seriously in love! I reviewed Bounce by Noelle August, and I will have to read more of her books.

Wow, I have a Long PRO list, I love it! (You know I could keep going…right?)

Annie’s Library!

What’s your least favorite thing?

Being a super slow reader!!! Obviously, not having the time to read all of the books I want to read would be a least favorite thing. Picking and choosing is very difficult. I will die with a To-Read List. Oh, and reviewing a book that I am not enjoying. Definitely, not fun.

I also need to take notes when reading a book. As a child, reading comprehension was a problem of mine…still is…But, I still love what I do. Most books I totally forget the endings…so, I get to enjoy it over and over again. I love that I did not let this problem interfere with my dream of writing book reviews. I feel it is my calling. Even though it does not come easy, I still cherish doing this.

I wish I was a speed reader like Becca the Bibliophile.

How do you choose what to read? Do you request books you’re interested in, or do people send you review requests?

background made from opened books

Well, ELLE sends me 3 books a month, no choice there. I am asked to do the book reviews by the author, publisher or PR Firms.

I request books on Netgalley. I sit down with Netgalley open once a week, and feel like I am shopping for books!

Being out in the community, I come across books I would love to read, so I reach out to the author directly.

[ML says: And I was one of the lucky ones! When Annie said she’d be interested in reviewing A Man of Character, I nearly fell out of my chair. It was the first time a reviewer ever approached me, instead of the other way around. I’ll never forget it!]

How many requests do you receive in an average month?

I would say at least a dozen requests pass by me each month.

There are certain authors and publicists that actually reach out to me. Twitter has opened my door to more authors that would ask me personally. I love that!

How many reviews do you do in an average month?

writingI would say I probably do about 12-15 reviews a month. Some months are busier than others, typically at the beginning of a season…but, I do try to do as many, many reviews as possible. This month, I have almost 20 to review. I cannot do that to myself again…hahaha. As stated earlier, I am a very slow reader, so this will be challenging.

This is a labor of love; you’ve told me you don’t get paid. Why do reviewers like you give so much to the author community without compensation? (Meaning, what forms of compensation, besides money, do you derive from these ventures?)

Yes, this is definitely a labor of love. I do get all of the books I read for free; so, I save a lot of money not buying books, and trips to the library are far less than they used to be. I cannot even remember the last time I borrowed a book from the library. Sometimes when I think about how much time goes in to a review, I am taken aback. Occasionally, I will finish a book and it will take me a few days to absorb the book, and finally write the review.

My compensation does not only come in the free book; I love when authors ask for name suggestions, let us vote on covers, etc., and really appreciate my time.

old-books-11281939505MsrnFor example; I wrote a review for a Steena Holmes novel for Elle Magazine, and ever since then…she has had me review all of her books, she sends lovely gifts, cards, and does giveaways. She keeps us so busy with her work, that you cannot help but feel like what you do really does matter. She has an amazing assistant that throws online parties….I get to know other reviewers and authors during these events. It is just nice to feel part of the process. She supports other authors, by asking us to read and review other author’s books. She is an author that makes me feel special. I appreciate that.

Appreciation is always a great thing. It is how I know I am doing a good job!

BONUS!!! Getting others to READ!! I love to influence people to pick up a book.

What’s one thing you wish authors knew about book reviewing?

chickbrocAuthors need to remember that book reviewing is figuratively like a meal on a menu ~ Not everyone is going to like the same thing…So, don’t beat yourself up if you get negative reviews. Pay closer attention to the readers that happily devoured your book.

Always write what you want to write, and people will come!

As far as my particular book reviewing, I would like to add, that when I open a book, I like to believe I am going to love it…it is difficult to sway me the other way…Kind of like, “innocent until proven guilty” only, “fabulous book until you change my mind.”

What’s one thing you wish readers knew about book reviewing?

It is always good to follow a reviewer that you like. If you like them, then you know that their suggestions are pretty much in line with your choices of books to read.

We love having a following! I am still working on that. When you can’t get your best friend to follow you, you know it will be hard to get others.

I would like to add, that I take this “job” seriously.

Also, I wish I had more followers. It is very hard to get them. I ADORE my friends and family that follow me!! Yvonne is a close family friend, and she has been following me since my first review. I cannot thank her enough for giving my reviews such wonderful attention. I know each review will be read at least once…by Yvonne.

What’s your favorite type of book to read/review, and why?

I can go in all kinds of directions with books, as I don’t like to be boxed in to one particular genre. But, Woman’s Fiction/Historical Fiction has proven to be a true favorite of mine. I like reading a book that teaches me a little something, or delves in to female relationships. While I enjoy mysteries, and that was all I used to read, I have certainly grown as a reader.

I also LOVE reviewing memoirs. They always draw me in.

My favorite is to be with an author from their very first book…like Steena Holmes. I have been reading each of her books as they are released.

Is there any sort of story/book you’d love to see, but haven’t?

I love that more authors are going on tangents with their stories, to tell us more about particular characters from their full novels with the use of the novella!! Now, that was a wonderful invention!!

Do you also write? How has reviewing books impacted your writing (or, if you don’t write, how has it impacted how you read books)?

A Vintage Typewriter on a wooden table.

I do not have an imaginative or creative bone in my body when it comes to storytelling. However, I enjoy writing about my personal experiences…and, I love to write poetry. I have had some poetry published. I began that in elementary school, too…haha.

I took a Creative Writing class a few years ago, and really struggled. But, when I read the stories now, I find that I may have a teenie-tiny bit of talent.

Any advice/guidance to authors looking to get book reviewers interested in their books?

findingemmaFirst, get your book on a Blog Tour!! Get all blogs reading it, and posting reviews EVERYWHERE possible.

Secondly, giving your reviewers your support and appreciation goes a very long way. Steena Holmes has a private Facebook Page/Group just for her Reviewers and it is a lot of fun to be there. She has really gained a lot of followers this way. I was there from the beginning, so I have seen this group grow. She has special events for us, for example, she held an “Ornament Exchanges” over the holidays last year. She does a lot of interactive stuff with us. I think something like that goes a long way when you want people to read your books and post reviews. Her assistant, Melissa is also a great joy! One of the hardest workers I know. All authors could use a Melissa!

I have a soft spot for her because of these interactions since reviewing her book Finding Emma for Elle Magazine.

She also promotes other authors! She is leading the way for other authors to follow suit.

Where do you see yourself and your reviewing in five years?

Close up , colorful pushpins on calendar

I would like to see my site thriving, and really “in the know” of the literary community. I’d like to be sought after by more authors.

I hope to have my quotes on the cover/back covers of more books. I am on two, right now! Nice start. My quotes are on Colette Kebell’s books, Blue and Green Should Never be Seen and The Retail Therapist. Great books!

I would also love to travel to various Book Expos, etc.   I want this to be a huge part of my life. It already is…but, I am seeing BIGGER! I want to get out of the bubble I am in…expand my horizons.

Put me in a room full of books, authors, readers…I am in my Happy Place! Besides being home with my husband, dog and three cats.

Do you have any idea the impact you’ve had on authors?

Some authors are huge Cheerleaders! Those authors are my favorites…shhh! A little pat on the back goes a long way, when you choose to review a book of your own accord.

Not so sure of having an impact, exactly.

[ML: I assure you, you do! You have no idea how confidence-inspiring it was for you to not only request my book, but then rave about it! I appreciate all of your efforts on my behalf!]

Is there a favorite book or two you’d like to tell us about, that you feel we shouldn’t miss (you do NOT have to pick A Man of Character, I promise – I honestly want to know your favorite or two from the last few years). 

You will wish you did not ask me this…hahaha.

Let’s be honest, I could not be a book reviewer without a ton of favorites…so, I will give you the highlights! I cannot honestly choose just two. This is one of my favorite subjects to discuss.

I hope you are sitting down. LOL!

Before listing my favorite books (those authors are obviously my favorites, as well), let me tell you some other authors I cherish, so you can check them out:

Bette Lee Crosby, Dinah JefferiesColette Kebell, Jane Green, Nicholas Sparks, Terry McMillan, Patricia Cornwell, and Jodi Picoult. I also adore Jackie Collins, I have been enjoying her Lucky series.

And, newest to my list is Patricia Sands….I just started her first Provence book….but, I already know, she will be added to my “Must read all of this authors books” list!

I AM GOING TO GIVE YOU MY TOP FIVE BOOKS … My favorite books of all times are Pride & Prejudice and Little Women…in the last few years, these have become my top favorites:

So, my favorite Romance is: A MAN OF CHARACTER by Margaret Locke

A Man of Character Cover Margaret LockeMargaret, you know I ADORED A Man of Character, as I sit here waiting for Eliza’s book…(hint, hint) This is not on my list because you are interviewing me.

You can read my review here: (http://chicklitplus.com/bookreview-and-bookgiveaway-a-man-of-character-by-margaret-locke/ )

[ML: Holy cow. Close to tears as I read that. Thank you. Thank you.]

My favorite Memoir is: WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW by Alice Eve Cohen

You can read my review here: (http://thewritereview.com/2015/08/07/what-i-thought-i-knew-by-alice-eve-cohen-flashback-to-2009/ )

I have two favorites in the Woman’s Fiction category, they are:


You can read my review here: ( http://thewritereview.com/2015/08/07/giveawayeveryone-is-a-winner-help-me-celebrate-samanthas-new-release/ )

2. THE ART OF FORGETTING by Camille Noe Pagan. I read this book prior to writing personal reviews. I need to write this review!

You can read about that book here: ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9707143-the-art-of-forgetting?from_search=true&search_version=service )


You can read my review here: ( http://thewritereview.com/2015/05/06/stillwater-rising-struck-by-how-well-steena-holmes-tells-this-heartwrenching-story/ )

This was a lot of fun! I got to know myself a little bit better with each question. I appreciate you wanting to have me as a guest on your blog/site.

I hope I inspire someone to grab a book!

Wow. Thank you for joining us, Annie! I loved all of your answers, and you gave great insight into how authors can best relate to book reviewers. I wish you the best of luck as you build your reviewing career – with passion like yours, you’re obviously a star. And yes, I will get A Matter of Time to you as soon as I can!