Audiophile Files: Beth Fish Reads

Book bloggers are the core base of online book communities. They’re often the first to tweet book news, the brains behind book memes, and of course, the first to review new releases. I called up Candace of Beth Fish Reads, a blog covering both books and audiobooks to talk about blogging and her favorite types of books.

[Judy T. Oldfield] What got you into book-blogging?

[Beth Fish Reads] Most obviously, a love of books. I am a freelance book editor by trade, and I was interested in freelance reviewing. I felt like I should have a platform to practice on first. I had no idea when I started that there was a whole book-blogging community and that I would make friends.

[JO] How did you land on “Beth Fish Reads”?

[BFR] Well, first of all because I’m an editor, and my clients are all publishing companies, I wanted to be able to review books and have a reliable voice. I asked my editing friends about how they handle freelance reviews when they’re also an editor. A lot of them said they use a pen name. Even though I know that I would never review a book I worked on, and I know as a freelancer that whatever I say about a book (even if that publishing company is a client) has no effect on my own income or career, I wanted to create some kind of barrier between me as an editor and me as a reviewer. Because I didn’t want anyone to question the integrity of my reviews.

So that’s why I picked a different name to begin with. But Beth is my middle name and the fish comes from the fact that my editing business is called The Word Angler. So I just carried the fish theme along.

[JO] And because you are a professional editor do you think that you have a more critical eye than the average reader?

[BFR] I probably have a more critical eye to the language. Maybe plot, structure, and things like that. But I’m not that experienced in lit crit, so I don’t feel like I have a more in-depth insight than someone who has studied literature for a living. I do sometimes review books based on some things that bother me in terms of editing, which is probably unfair to the authors, but I can only bring my own experience to my reviews.

[JO] You explore theme a lot in your book reviews.

[BFR] I do like to explore theme when I read. I think of books in terms of theme. Like, oh, that’s a Paris book, or that’s an Africa book, that’s a book that’s a family saga, that’s a book about friendship.

I like books that explore how a person’s life can change in a moment. You know, you think you’re living your life one way and then through an accident or something maybe totally out of your control your life completely changes. And I like that theme for some reason. People, characters, forced into new situations. Maybe that’s also why I like dystopian fiction. How would you cope when the world suddenly changes?

[JO] Yeah.

[BFR] Those are things that I like a lot. I don’t read a lot of women’s fiction, which are about relationships and friendships, although I do enjoy them. I like a little more down-to-earth conflict.

[JO] And character development!

[BFR] Yes, I’m very much a character-driven reader. Although, also, as I said, I’m very attracted by setting. I’ll read a book just because it’s set in Africa, or Scotland, or a place I used to live.

But it’s interesting. A lot of people will separate their bookshelves by fiction or nonfiction or publication date but I have mine separated by theme.

[JO] You review a lot of audiobooks on your site, which must be very different because you spend so much time editing words on the page. Must be a little bit of a relief to listen to audiobooks. What do you look for in an audiobook?

[BFR] I’ve been listening to audiobooks since the 80s. I’m a big audiobook fan for just those reasons that you mentioned. I look for the very same things I look for in a print book in terms of picking a book. So you know, if I’m in the mood for a mystery or dystopian or a biography. So that’s my first step in an audiobook. The story itself. And then I listen, if they’re available . . . I listen to samples to make sure that the narrator, in my mind, fits the story or my own taste. Not every performer has a voice I would like to listen to for eight hours or thirty hours. So it’s a two-step process. I go story first, and then narrator second.

[JO] Do you ever reread or relisten to books?

[BFR] Yes, but not very many. I read and/or listen to the entire Hobbit and Lord of the Rings about every five years. And I have both read and listened to the Outlander series more than once. But generally no, I’m not a huge rereader. Not as a habit. I don’t reread or relisten.

[JO] How, besides just blogging, do you participate in the book blogger community?

[BFR] Well, I have been involved over the years in various things. You know, the book-blogging community has many things. For instance, there’s an audiobook week in June, which is audiobooks month. I’ve participated in some of those activities. There’s the readathons [where people read for 24 hours], in which I have participated in the past. There are on-going memes, weekly events, and I’m an active participator in some of those. There are other social media, like Twitter and Instagram, and I’m active on both of those.

I’ve been blogging since 2008 and I think that participation comes in waves, where you have more time and enthusiasm—and I see this in other people as well—and then you take a step back and have more private time. So, I think, currently, I’m in a more pulling-away stage than I have been in the past. But I still talk about books. I can’t stop talking about books, whether it’s on Twitter or on my blog.

[JO] When I emailed you I said we wanted to interview you because we wanted to interview bloggers. We’ve interviewed some writers, and some narrators, some booksellers, and an educator, and we really wanted some people who are book enthusiasts, book reviewers, bloggers to join our conversation. So if you could pick someone for us to interview next, who would you suggest?

[BFR] So, anybody who’s involved in the audiobook world in some way?

[JO] Yup.

[BFR] Hmm, that’s a good question. You know what, have you interviewed someone who is a producer?

[JO] No, we’ve not interviewed a producer!

[BFR] That, I think would be fascinating. That is something that I wish I knew more about, is the, how the producer, what they do to prepare the performer, how do they pick a book, I don’t know anything about that aspect of audiobooks at all.

That would be my suggestion.

You can often find Candace tweeting about her latest book haul. Follow her and don’t be shy to shoot her a bookish question.

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