Book Review (Booknotes) Statement and Policy

Book reviews, which I call booknotes because I often include notes from my reading in the posts, are a big part of The Itinerant Librarian. As an active librarian and reader, I read quite a bit, and I enjoy sharing what I read with my four readers. Since reviews are more prominent now, I feel the need to lay out a few basics to keep things neat and clear.

Please note this document can be changed if conditions change. Also note, I am a real academic librarian (yes, I have to work for a living, which I do enjoy very much). Point is I do this because of my love of reading, not for commercial gain. I also do it to help out other librarians out there in a small way. I am very interested in helping people find good things to read through reader's advisory that I can do on my blog as well as on social media. This is a one person operation.


"I do not always rate a book, but when I do. . ." (my rating scale)

I rate on a 1 to 5 stars rating. I do not always rate a book. For instance, some academic books are not exactly books I would read for pleasure, but they often fill some important role or function, so I have to recommend them or not. However, I might not give them a starred rating. When I do rate by stars, I do the following:

  • ***** 5 stars= This was an awesome book. I would add it to my personal collection right away. I found the book to be amazing, and it is a book that stayed with me well after reading it. It is a book that I will do my best to put in people's hands, and it is one I definitely can re-read. 
  • **** 4 stars= "I really liked this book." The book is not perfect, but it is close to damn good. I may or not add it to my collection. The book may or not be one that stays with me, but it did make a strong impression. It may also be a "read once" book. It is a book I will be happy to recommend and put in people's hands.
  • * * * 3 stars = "I liked it." This means exactly that. I liked it, but I will add the book was not really a big deal or terribly memorable. Would I recommend it? Yes, probably depending on the book. This is one I would likely tell people to borrow rather than buy. It is usually a one-time read and move on kind of book. 
  • * * 2 stars= The book was OK. I do not dislike it, but I am only lukewarm about it. I would say there are better books out there, but this was not bad. Definitely one to borrow if you must. It is also one to read only once. The book may have had some issues. Maybe it is not the best written book in terms of prose, narrative, or other issue, but in the big picture I may still suggest it to someone. As teens would say, this book for me was kind of "meh."
  • * 1 star = This I use when a book was bad. This means I disliked the book. The book likely had serious issues ranging from poor information to bad tone (judgmental, displaying ignorance, discrimination, etc.) to poor prose and just poorly written. I rarely give a single star, but when I do, it means this is a book to skip; it is a book I recommend that everyone stay away from.

Where do I get books from? (Book sources)

I review both new books and older books. When it comes to reading, I do not discriminate in terms of whether a book is new or not. Way I see it, an "old" book is new to me if I have not read it. 
  • My local public library. As of this writing, that is the Madison County (KY) Public Library. I use the Berea branch. It is nice they will bring in books from the main branch upon request. 
  • My workplace library, Hutchins Library, Berea College. 
  • Interlibrary Loan (what we librarians call "ILL"). If neither of my libraries have it, I can place a request (usually via my workplace library) to borrow a book from another library. I will try to note if a book was an ILL (mostly for me to keep track). 
  • I do buy books as well. I do buy some new books now and then. However, most of my purchases are second hand and used. Hey, I am on a librarian salary. 
  • Netgalley: I get e-galleys via Netgalley. These are provided by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I do not get any compensation for these. Heck, I don't even get to keep the galley since the electronic copies have DRM with expiration dates. So if I do not read them by a certain date, I lose them. Due to the expiration issue, when I have Netgalley titles to read, I will try to get to them first. Most current things I read, especially graphic novels and comics, come from Netgalley. When I review a book from Netgalley, I will state it on the review.
  • Edelweiss: Pretty much the same applies here as applies for Netgalley. I do employ Edelweiss less than Netgalley. When I review a book from Edelweiss, I will state it on the review.
  • Books and galleys from publishers: In some rare cases, I have received and do receive books and/or galleys directly from a publisher. Reasons for this: 
    • They may have requested I do a review for them and sent me a copy of a book or galley. 
    • I may have worked with them before, and I requested something to review.
    • I may have won one of those online contests for books they do once in a while, and I so happened to have won the book. 
    • Whatever the reason, I do state on the review when this is the case.

What genres and topics do I read?

I usually do not like saying I just read X or Y since I tend to read widely, and once in a while I will pick up a new genre or topic just to try it out. Having said that, I do have some preferences:

  • Comics, mangas and Graphic Novels: Pretty much any comic, manga, and/or graphic novel. The only comics I do not really read are for early children (nothing against them, just not my interest). Teens and up are fine. Comics and graphic novels for adults are highly welcomed.
  •  Erotica: I read both  fiction and nonfiction in this genre. I do prefer erotica over erotic romance (nothing against erotic romance. I have read and reviewed a title or two in this genre, so I am familiar with it, but it is not my interest). Any kind of erotica is fair game here from paranormal to mainstream to not so conventional. This also includes books like sex health guides and manuals and other related nonfiction (say, a book on a history of porn for instance).
  •  History: I especially favor what are known as "microhistories." Think books like Mark Kurlansky's Salt. These are books that go into one topic and do it really well. I do also read history in general. I often favor current affairs, some military history, Latin American history, United States history, world history. If you are not sure, it is perfectly OK to ask if something in history would interest me.
  •  LGBTQIA: fiction (though not romance usually,  unless it is romance and something else, say science fiction with romance), nonfiction (history, guides, reference, and other informative items), erotica.
  •  Nonfiction (Adult). This is where I put everything else in nonfiction. Some memoirs, especially things dealing with road trips, travel, food-related, etc.. You can click on the "books and reading" label in the blog's right column to see some of the nonfiction I read. Again, in case of doubt, asking me if it would interest me is OK. This a the category where I often will try out something new.
  •  Politics: I am very selective on what I read in this area, often related to current affairs. Books that educate about politics are what really would interest me as a librarian and reader. 
  • Reference: As a librarian, I often make decisions about buying reference books, so I do look them over and will review them. My subject liaison areas (the areas I do book selection for my library) include: Art and Art History, Asian Studies, History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religion. As a reader, I do like reference books in more "geeky" or esoteric topics, say reference books on science fiction or steampunk for example. Reference books I may review for work I may post on my professional blog, The Gypsy Librarian (with possible cross posting at The Itinerant Librarian if the book has appeal past an academic library market).
  • Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy
    • Of the three, I prefer science fiction. I read a variety of things in science fiction from hard science fiction to space opera. 
    • I do not read much sword and sorcery in fiction (but I will if it is a graphic novel. Things like Red Sonja are definitely read if they come as a graphic novel). 
    • I do like some urban fantasy. 
    • In term of series and "properties" in this area, I read Star Wars and Warhammer 40,000.I will try out other properties, say video game based novels on a case by case basis.
    • I do read horror, but I do so on a case by case basis. Horror that brings in science fiction (or science fiction with horror elements) is definitely fine by me. 
  • Library science and education
    • I am especially interested in library science books related to library instruction, information literacy, readers' advisory, reference services, outreach, library marketing, and social media. 
    • I also like books about books and bibliophiles (you can put this in nonfiction too). 
    • I am interested in books about education, especially higher education topics like teaching, libraries in higher education, minorities and other less visible groups in higher education.
    • These books usually get reviewed in my professional blog, The Gypsy Librarian.
  • Books in Spanish. I am native fluent in Spanish, so I read in that language. All genres above I can read in Spanish. As for pleasure reading in Spanish, I tend to prefer Latin American fiction (especially anything with magic realism or some other magical element) and some Spanish peninsular. Nonfiction, if it was originally written in Spanish, I will read it in Spanish. If I can read it in Spanish, I do not read it in English translation unless I am reviewing it for a library acquisition. For pleasure, if it is in Spanish originally, it is read in Spanish if I can get it.  
  • What I DO NOT read: I have sampled reading in other genres, mostly to learn how to do readers' advisory. This also taught me what I personally do not like and would prefer not to read. As a general rule, I do not read:
    • religious or inspirational fiction (nothing against it if it is your cup of tea).
    • partisan politics (on either side). 
    • romance.
    • westerns (It is not that I dislike them. It is that I read so many other things, this is not really on my radar). 
    • celebrity books, especially celebrity biographies.(A classic celebrity bio, say of Jimmy Stewart, I might read. A bio of Snooki from Jersey Shore goes right into the recycling bin. Don't even ask).
    • literary fiction (exception is for some Latin American and Spanish Peninsular in Spanish).

Other considerations 
(other stuff you may be interested to know about me and how I review)

  • I am happy when a publisher or author approaches me to review something. If it fits in my interests, and I have the time to read it, I am very likely to accept. I do strive to meet certain requested deadlines, but I make no guarantees. I do work to have things read and reviewed within a month of receiving it, two at the most. If there is no hurry, I will get to it when I get to it. 
    • Just because I accept an item for review does not guarantee I review it. For instance, if the book turns out to be one I lose interest in and I drop it. 
    • If it gets reviewed, I finished it (even if it was bad). 
    • I do my best to respond to all queries. If you were polite enough to write to me (and I mean actually write, not just send a "form" e-mail in a blast), I am polite enough to write back.
  • Reviews from sources like Netgalley, Edelweiss, and from publishers and authors I will also share in book sharing sites like BookLikes and GoodReads. Of the two, BookLikes is my preferred book sharing site (I post my personal book reviews, meaning from the library or my own there too). I will do GoodReads on request. I post reviews on Amazon if requested, however, I tend to post a short version of my review on Amazon and my full, often more complete review on my blog. I also share my reviews on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest.
  • What I do guarantee is when I review a book that you will get my honest opinion, both as a professional librarian and as a reader. If it was good, I will tell you and strive to tell you why it was good. For libraries, I will try to tell you if you should buy it for your library or not. If it was bad, I will certainly tell you that as well and for libraries, I will tell them why they need to avoid it too.  A review may be long or short, but it will be honest. 
  • Formats: I can read in print. Electronic formats I can read anything if it works on an iPad. My iPad is equipped with iBooks, Kindle App for iPad, and Bluefire reader. If your format works for those, then I can read it just fine.
  • How do you contact me if so moved?
    • You can comment on any post in the blog. 
    • You can send me an e-mail (gypsylibrarian AT gmail DOT com) works nicely. 
    • You can contact me on social media. I do keep my Facebook somewhat private. Twitter works specially well to contact me ( @gitanolib). 
    • You can also find me on: 
      • Tumblr: gypsylibrarian.tumblr.com
      • Pinterest: gypsylibrarian
  • Anything else I did not cover (what, you read all this?), please contact me and ask. Asking is perfectly fine. I am a librarian. Answering questions is part of what I do. 
  • Read well, read widely, and peace. 


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