Friday, January 13, 2012

Blogger Interview: Steven R. McEvoy of Book Reviews and More

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Learn more about Steven R. McEvoy.

Are you a bookstore or library reader or both?

Both, but to be honest about 80% of what I read is ARCs or review copies. But I love browsing both bookstores and libraries.

Do you keep a record of your reading? If so, how?

Yes. I am on my 34th volume of reading journals since August of '94 when I started keeping track of reading and have an itemized list dating to October 1995. I also keep a list of favorite books each year and favorite authors each year.

Now I only count books I read for myself. I do not list books I read to my children or other children.

How do books for children and teens fit into the mix?

I tend to go through phases in my reading, currently I would say about 75% of what I read is YA or children’s literature. I have had a great fondness for children’s lit since doing a university course in it about 10 years ago.

Because of my dyslexia and not learning to read until later in life, I never read children’s books while a child. And now I have a deep appreciation and love for them.

How do you spread the word about great reads?

If it makes my top ten of the year, I tend to buy a bunch of copies and give it away for Christmas and birthdays. I now try and post a review of every book I read on my blog, Book Reviews and More. Once posted on my blog I cross-post to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca and chapters.indigo.ca. After that, I tweet about it, post to Google+ and Facebook.

How do you store your books? Do you keep all of them? Donate?

With reading over 100 books a year I now keep very few, and if I buy an electronic copy, I usually do not keep the physical book anymore at all.

Most of my ARCs and review copies end up with Family and Children's Services. My dad and stepmom are foster parents, and I pass along a lot that my stepmom reads with the kids. I also donate them to the FACS Library or Foster Parent Association garage sale.

I tend to only keep about one out of every hundred books I read, and usually only if I plan on rereading the book again and again.

Was there a book that changed your life?

The fiction book that had the biggest impact on my life was probably Jacob the Baker by Noah benShea. I have read the first book 13 times and the trilogy 10 times. They are books I reread every year, and each time they challenge me to be a better person. The books in the series are: Jacob the Baker, Jacob's Journey and Jacob's Ladder.

What were you like as a young reader?

To be honest, I could not read and did everything I could to avoid it.

In school, I rented the movies and did my reports based on the movies until after grade 7. I felt stupid because others in school could read and I could not. I hated having to go out to special instruction for English class time.

What challenges did you face?

I came out of grade 7 reading at a grade 3 level. And yet I passed the school year and was soon to be in high school. My parents sent me to a private summer school, and in two months, I went from reading about 30 words per minute to over 400 with comprehension, and from reading well below my grade level to reading at a university level. Once I learned how to read and discovered the joy in reading, it was like suddenly there were worlds I never knew existed and I became very addicted to it.

What advice do you have for young readers with dyslexia?

Be persistent. Get the help you need. There are worlds in books, and friends awaiting you. If one technique does not work for you, keep trying until you find the one that does.

What advice do you have for teachers and parents?

Lead by example. Be a reader. Also do not give up on anyone. I had teacher after teacher just pass me on in English.

Anyone can become a reader if they are really taught to read and the wonder of literature.

What do you do when you're not reading?

Write reviews, workout, hang out with my wife and kids. Plan my next books to read. I usually have different books on the go on my Kobo, iPad, iPhone and physical books.

Currently, I have about 30 books in process.

What does reading mean to you now?

Books show us other ways of being; they can help us learn to be better at being. To help us become what we were meant to be.

I love this quote from Saint Erasmus: "When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left over, I buy food and clothes!" That is the passion I have for books.

What is their special appeal?

Books can take us to places we have never been. They can take us to places we never dreamed of. They are friends we can visit again and again. They can be an escape or distraction or they can focus us to a greater purpose.

Why is word-spreading so important to you?

When I encounter something that I believe is wonderful or amazing, I do all I can to promote it.

Back when I was a bookseller, I hand-sold books by Paolo Coelho, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, Robin Sharma and Dan Millman every day. At the time they were among my favorite authors, and I could sell almost anyone on trying one of their books.

I think, as readers, we have a responsibility to the authors and the characters in the stories that touch us to share them with others.

If, as I see it, books and characters can be friends.... Well, who doesn’t like their friends to meet each other?

Which were your favorite authors or books in your youth?

I tend to read an author's entire body of work, not just books on a title by title basis. I find an author I like and read everything he or she wrote. When I was younger, it was Harry Harrison, Piers Anthony (all the non- Xanth books), Robert A. Heinlien, Steven Brust. Back then, I read mostly science fiction.

Which are your favorite authors or books now?

For the last few years I have been mostly on a young adult kick. I find the writing so much better, the stories tighter and the characters amazing.

My current favorite authors would be: Cecil Castellucci, Noah benShea, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Libba Bray, Alexander Gordon Smith, Kathryn Lasky, Arthur Slade, Kenneth Oppel, Holly Black, Pat Schmatz and more.

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