An Interview with Young Adult and Romance Blogger Shelee Juarez

A 2019 graduate of Southern Oregon University, Shelee Juarez is a Young Adult and Romance book blogger. You can follow her blog and Facebook pages at Book Reader Chronicles and on Instagram & twitter at @brcbookblog

Ed Battistella: Tell our readers a little about your blog Book Reader Chronicles?

Shelee Juarez: My blog features book reviews and cover reveals for books in both the Romance and Young Adult genres, and will hopefully soon include a master list of books I recommend in every genre—that last part is a goal of mine now that I’ll be done with school shortly and can devote more time to creating that aspect on my website. I generally only feature positive reviews on my public forum—anything with a star rating of 3.5 and above—and books that I can positively recommend to my followers. My reviewing style is more of a ‘deep-diver’ as I like to flesh out my thoughts in more of a professional capacity than one more focused on my feelings. I like to delve into the characters, the writing, the relationships, and the overall arc of the plot before I touch on my feelings. And, of course, I try very hard to keep all of mine spoiler-free.

EB: You’ve been blogging since 2014. How did you get started?

SJ: It was happenstance, really. The owner of the blog put out a post on Facebook around end of Summer in 2014 asking if anyone was interested in blogging. When I reached out to the her, she told me she was interested in selling her entire website, social media channels, and books to get out of the blogging industry to pursue a new career in the publishing industry. It happened to be around the same time I had quit work to go back to college, so my husband and I decided to take the leap—both financially and creatively—to buy her out. I had always wanted to get into blogging prior to that, but was overwhelmed with the entire idea of starting everything from scratch, so thankfully I had the great benefit of gaining an already established fanbase and product. But it was a crash course of teaching myself how to use WordPress, to learn coding, and my reviewing process in the month she worked with me before leaving completely.

EB: Book Reader Chronicles specializes in Romance and Young Adult genres. What does that include?

SJ: I read sort of all over the place in those two genres as each have many subgenres. In Romance I read anything from romantic suspense to historical romance to new adult to contemporary and fantasy. With Young Adult I read anywhere from fantasy to sci-fi to contemporary books. If it has good writing and plot, I don’t much care where it falls under, but those two genres are where I read from ninety-five percent of the time. I love a good love story and both tend to always have one somewhere in it.

EB: Do romance and YA share some things in common in your view?

SJ: Absolutely. The only real difference between the two is the age of the characters and the overall heat of the romance. But the characters generally have the same wants and needs, just at different points in their lives. And some YA is quite explicit, it’s just author and publisher preference.

EB: How many books do you read or review in a month?

SJ: Depending on my workload outside of reading, I generally read around ten to fifteen books a month. Most of those are to be published that same month or early in the next, but sometimes I’m able to get ahead of my schedule and read a book that isn’t out for a few months. It’s often that I am reading a book two weeks ahead of its release, though I wish I wasn’t that close to publication so I could drum up interest for the title sooner. Without school taking up so much time, I’m hoping to get ahead and stay there.

EB: How do you manage to fit in all the reading? I know you’ve got a busy life.

SJ: It’s been a delicate and stressful process to find a balance between classes, schoolwork, reading, reviewing, promoting, and being a mother and homeowner, but I’ve managed to find some harmony in it—some months being harder than others. I know that I have put a lot of unnecessary stress on myself over the past four and a half years because I couldn’t make myself turn down any book I was interested in, and that left me overbooked on that side while also having a full-time schedule’s worth of schoolwork on the other. There were plenty of days I was up late doing one or the other. One element of my life that became easier was when my son started kindergarten in 2016 and freed up a lot of my time. Depending on my class schedule, I’d take him to school and then read a bit. Then I’d find spaces to read before my husband brought him home on his way home from work, and then staying up late to read before bed. Being a night owl helped keep that going for as long as it did, but it was always an internal battle of being responsible in choosing which actually needed done first—and not choosing the book simply because I wanted to read it. And, yeah, deciding how much sleep I wanted that night to function for the next day. When I first started blogging I was reading and reviewing 200 books a year, but as schoolwork became more involved I’ve gone down to around 130-150, which is still more than most people.

EB: How do you decide what to review?

SJ: Over the years I’ve gotten really picky with what books I request or have sent to me for review. I used to be able to read a book’s synopsis and know that I’ll enjoy it, but with the market in the indie romance industry being oversaturated with writers, I’m less able to predict if I’ll actually like the writing of the author or their storytelling. That’s not an attack to that market at all, but with so many writers all vying to stay relevant, you find a lot of books written too quickly and the quality suffers because of it. Now I try to stick with what my gut says when reading the synopsis—it’s still wrong sometimes—and try to stay with authors who I’ve read and loved before. Almost all of what I review on the YA side is traditionally published, so I have a better chance at reading a well-written, well-edited book since they’ve gone through the rigorous process of a publisher buying and working on them, but there are still duds. In either genre it’s all about the synopsis pulling at me as well as the cover—you can tell a lot about a book with those two things.

EB: What do you look for in a book?

SJ: I look for elements that haven’t been done before, or fascinating decisions the main character must make. I look for different dynamics in couple relationships that present a particular problem I either haven’t read before or is part of a trope I love. I’m a cover snob, too, so sometimes I won’t even look at the synopsis of a book if the cover doesn’t grab me. I basically need to feel that excitement in my chest when I read a synopsis to want anything to do with it because it’s a lot of hours to invest in that author’s imagination.

EB: What sort of authors are easiest to work with. I’m asking for a friend.

SJ: (laughs) Ones who truly appreciate everyone in the book industry—from us bloggers to the paying readers and all of those paid to promote or create the book in some way. If an author truly appreciates those who buy or promote their work, they’re good people. Those that do will appreciate the time you’ve spent reading and reviewing by commenting on your review or sharing it to their followers—all of which make my day every time it happens, even years into it.

EB: I notice there are some pretty specific blog polices too. What do those involve?

SJ: Most of my policies are pretty standard in that there may be sensitive content within my posts, not to reproduce any of my reviews unless express consent and credit is given, that giveaway winners are given a specific amount of time to respond before a new winner is chosen, and, because I prefer an open policy, that any purchase on a link on my website to a title on Amazon will earn me a very small percentage from Amazon as an affiliate of theirs. Much of this is to protect me as a business, but thankfully I haven’t run across an issue where I needed to refer to one of them.

EB: What do you enjoy most about book blogging?

SJ: The books are what I enjoy the most. I enjoy the storytelling, the transportive world-building, and the love stories they create—either with friendship, family, or a romantic partner. None of the effort of spending hours to read a book, hours to write one review, the time spent promoting it in the blackhole that is social media now, or the effort spent reaching out to publicists—sometimes having to prove your worth as deserving of an early copy—would be anywhere near worth it if my passion wasn’t in books themselves. I originally fell back into reading in 2012 as a form of escapism with my PTSD and panic disorder, but they quickly became more than a lifeline and are now my way of life. It’s why I always carry my kindle or a physical book with me. Also knowing I’m helping an author succeed, in some small way, makes my heart happy.

EB: Will you be reading more now that you’ve finished your college experience?

SJ: I truly hope so. Once the constant of “I have schoolwork to do” falls away, I’m really hoping it’ll level out to the same number of books read as before now that all of my free time can be spent with just books. But working full time presents its own challenges and I’m hoping to be able to find a balance with that quickly because I have many books to read.

EB: Thanks for talking with us. Good luck with your work.

SJ: Thank you so much!

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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