Have you ever wondered who it is hiding behind this book?
Well, in case you missed the introduction of our Book Reviews at the beginning of this year, it all started when a good friend of ours, Kim Reardon, a.k.a “The Reluctant Book Critic” revealed her New Year’s resolution was to read a book every week in 2020.
Naturally, our first thought was how to take advantage of her as she embarked on such a fool’s errand.
“I give you 4 weeks,” we said, “before you give up, I mean.”
“I will not give up,” said Kim defiantly.
And so on and so forth.
“I bet you can’t read 52 books in a year AND write a book review on each for publication in Central Coast Newspapers.”
“I bet you I can.”
And so, in this way, we slowly dragged her into the boat.
But when it was time for the first Book Review, Kim became anxious.
“Wait, I’m NOT a book critic – what if I don’t know what I’m talking about? Oh my god, what if I offend someone after reading a book in just seven days that took them seven years to write?”
“Of course you don’t know what you’re talking about,” we assured her.
“But you shouldn’t let that stop you – people like to be criticised, it helps them grow”.
“But what if their book completely sucks?”
“Well, some books do suck … they provoke negative thoughts … so, I suppose you just say they are ‘thought-provoking’.”
“I don’t know, I’m a bit reluctant to do this.”
“And so you shall be known as “The Reluctant Book Critic”
So how is it going, you ask?
Well, as it turns out, after 24 weeks, our Reluctant Book Critic is 2 weeks ahead of schedule, having just reviewed the classic novel “A Gentleman in Moscow” (see below).
We took the opportunity to ask her how she does it.
Me: So, Kim, how are feeling at the half-way mark?
Kim: Too busy reading to talk to you Ross.
Me: I see, can you at least tell us what is it you like most about reading?
Kim: Reading is an escape for me. For a few hours every day I get out of my head, not think of all the disturbing events going on, and just simply escape into another world.
Me: How hard is it to read a book every week … and then critically review each one?
Kim: Some weeks are hard, especially if I am not enjoying the book … or when I was still watching the last season of Stranger Things on Netflix – that was challenging. But for the most part, it’s a breeze – you’d be amazed at how engaging many of the books have been and, to be frank, how time there is when you stop looking at social media or playing candy crush on your iphone.
Me: How do you choose each book?
Kim: Generally, I look at the New York Times best seller list, Pulitzer Prize fiction winners, Oprah’s list, Kirkus reviews, or just plain word of mouth – that’s usually the best lead. But, to be honest, choosing a book is the hardest thing about all of this. There’s just so many amazing books out there I’m afraid I’ll choose poorly and get saddled with a mediocre book when I know there’s something really amazing out there. And, since you ask, since I started writing reviews, I find choosing a book even more stressful – thanks for that Ross. It was so much easier when it was just a book I wanted to read but now I have to think about whether it’s a book others might want to read (and how angry the hard-working author will be if I don’t like it).
Me: Do you prefer a real book to kindle or an e-book?
Kim: Well, I hope you don’t have any book store advertisers (she says lowering her voice), but I’m actually starting to prefer my Kindle. It took me a while to convert, but now … I’m sorry, but that’s how it is … my Kindle is part of me – and I can read in bed with the light off!
Me: I’ve noticed Kim, you seem to write with an American accent – are you … American?
Kim: Well, I … er … ah, well, are you sure you aren’t just reading with an American accent? OK, since I can see you’re not going to let this go, I will say, very proudly, that I was born and raised in Long Island and lived in New York City for four years before moving to Australia.
Me: Can you say Long Island again please, just so we can laugh at your accent?
Kim: Mmmm … all right, LAWNG GUYLAND. So d’ya wanna getta cup of cawfee and go wauk the dawg too Ross.
Me: Do you read a lot of books about American life and history because you are homesick?
Kim: Do I? I didn’t notice. No, I’m not some much home sick as I am just feeling a bit sick about what is happening in my homeland right now.
Me: What do you like most about the Central Coast?
Kim: Ah, well, as Scomo would say: How good is the Central Coast? It’s got an Entrance – that’s grand, but I’ve never been able to find The Exit. I love Woy Woy especially, both of them. The only think I think the Coast needs is a really large pelican!
Me: What do you think is the most critical ingredient of a great book?
Kim: Its all in the writing. You’ve got to have great writing. You can have an amazing story, but if the writing is poor, … it dumps you out of the world you’re escaping into. I think a great writer can make almost any story remarkable.
Me: Ok, now for the ultimate question: What has been your favourite book so far?
Kim: Well, firstly, my favourite book of all time is Jane Eyre. I think it always will be. Of the books I’ve read this year, there’s been so many I’ve enjoyed. I’ve really enjoyed many of the books written by local Central Coast authors like D.C. (Donna) Cameron and Nina Angelo. I also really enjoyed Dr Kwong’s biography a few weeks back. Dr Kwong is from Wyoming you know? I also got lost in “Where the Crawdads Sing” and the wonderful classic, “A Gentleman from Moscow”.
But I think my favourite this year is without a doubt, The Mother Tree.
And so Kim went back to her pyjamas and her kindle with the lights out to resume her quest.
Editors note: All Kim’s reviews can be seen in print and online at our book review section.
Interview by Ross Barry, publisher Central Coast Newspapers