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© 2009 Bella Stander

Bella Stander

Welcome to the home page for Bella Stander, freelance writer and book critic. My specialties are literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, the publishing business, gardening, lighthouses and 18th-century life.

I'm a member of the Authors Guild and National Book Critics Circle. I blog at Reading Under the Covers.

PLEASE NOTE:  I only review books assigned by an editor.


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Bella's Rules for Reviewing:

Being a book reviewer may look easy, but there's a lot more to the job than just reading a book and jotting down whether you liked it. Here are some basic rules I've formulated in the 20-plus years that I've been evaluating other people's writing.

  1. Be respectful. Even if the book stinks, the author worked hard on it. However, if it's obvious that the author didn't work very hard, don't try very hard to be kind either.

  2. Don't read any publicity materials or other reviews until after you write your review.

  3. NEVER have any contact with the book's author or editor before your review is published.

  4. The most important points to cover in fiction:
    • Plot
    • Characterization
    • Writing style
    • Setting
    • Pacing
    • Theme
    • Resolution
    • Illustrations (for picture books)

  5. The most important points to cover in nonfiction:
    • Author's qualifications/expertise
    • Writing style
    • Originality
    • Book's usefulness or interest to readers--at what level?
    • Author's organization of subject matter
    • If how-to or cookbook: Clarity of instructions/directions
    • Illustrations (if applicable)

  6. Shun these over-used phrases & words:
    • richly textured (my #1 pet peeve; do a Google search & it'll be yours too.)
    • luminous prose
    • page-turner
    • keen eye for telling detail
    • a book that you can't put down
    • till long after the last page is turned
    • gripping, compelling, intriguing, interesting
    • [see more in Circle of clichés]

  7. Things to avoid, per a wise book review editor:
    • Describing books in a recipe format: "Take Gone With the Wind, add a dash of The Feminine Mystique and throw in a little Naked Lunch and you've got..."
    • Lengthy recitations of the plot that lack any sense of perspective.

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