Today I’m delighted to welcome Amazon and Goodreads top book reviewer, Maxine Groves, to the blog. Possibly better known by her reviewing name, Booklover Catlady, Maxine devours vast quantities of books whilst also offering publicity and reviewing services to authors. She’s also taking the first steps towards writing her first book. Without further ado, lets begin the interview.
After working for so long in recruitment and advertising, what made you decide to focus on books?
After a successful career in advertising, copywriting then recruitment, and human resources at senior management level, I injured my lower back very badly in the workplace. Despite extensive treatments and physiotherapy unfortunately my condition cannot be rectified nor is surgery an option. I tried working part time for a year with my back injury as a Job Coach to young adults with disabilities, which I loved, however it got too much for me as other serious health conditions impacted me and I had to resign from the job. I was facing never working again.
During an extended period of bedrest after the first of five surgeries I have had in the last 2.5 years, I started reading avidly to help get me through. This led to reviewing after discovering Goodreads and then on to Amazon reviews. To my surprise, I quickly started to rank highly as a Top Reviewer and Most Popular Reviewer on Goodreads, then Amazon and authors and publishers were contacting me with books to read and review. This was like a dream come true for a bookworm like myself.
A successful horror author contacted me (after another horror author recommended that I review his book) stating that he felt I would be really good at book publicity and could I do some for him? I took this on and it was really successful, at this point I realised that all the work experience and business knowledge I had plus my copywriting and advertising skills meant I could do this for other authors also. I saw a gap in the market for a quality book review service which is what I kicked off with. I am passionate about helping authors achieve their goals.
What has been your biggest:
(a) life achievement
(b) book/reviewing achievement?
Oh wow! That is a hard one. I think my greatest life achievement has been consistently rising from the ashes after a lot of very difficult situations in my life and somehow turning difficult times into opportunity. Having physical disabilities, then being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 42 plus chronic pain, was not going to stop me from doing something meaningful with my life. I think of myself as a tenacious survivor.
I am also super proud of my 16 year old son who has Aspergers and ADHD and how far he has come and the self-belief he has instilled in himself. He also believes nothing is a barrier to doing what you love. I run groups on Facebook for adult women with Aspergers and want to leave a legacy of making a difference in the lives of these women as well as all the other Autistic people out there who think they have nothing to offer. They do!
My greatest book related achievement has to be making it into the Top Ten Top Reviewers and Most Popular Reviewers in the UK on a regular basis as well as having some of my reviews featured in the Top 50 most popular reviews on Goodreads. Recently I hit number 94 in the Top 100 globally on Goodreads which just blew me away! I am also extremely proud of being a Top Ranked Reviewer on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk especially as my first book reviews usually read something like “I really loved this book! Highly recommended!”
Can you pick out the one book that you have had the most difficulty reviewing and explain what made it so difficult to review?
That’s a great question! I generally have the most difficulty reviewing books of short stories or anthologies, simply because there may be stories I don’t like, some that are mediocre and some that are fantastic, so rating it overall can be hard. Two specific books come to mind as being very hard to read and I took ages to do a review which are Marrow by Tarryn Fisher and Lost Girl by Adam Nevill, both for the same reason which was that I was so emotionally impacted and astonished by them that I had to let them “sit” with me for a while before being able to write objectively.
Marrow is simply a powerful book if you get the message behind it and it is so beautiful yet heart-breaking. Lost Girl stunned me as I could see how the fiction aspects of the book could very well be the reality of our world very soon if we don’t all make major changes to how we live. It also genuinely gave me goosebumps and had the hairs on my neck and arms stand up to attention!
Do you enjoy reading one genre more than any other, or like me enjoy over-lapping them?
My three favourite genres are crime, horror and psychological thrillers but I like to be eclectic with my genre choices. I find I get a bit jaded for example if I read too many crime books in a row, so will jazz things up with literary fiction, chick-lit, steampunk, dark romance or something humorous. I like having a broad perspective of different genres and try to let the plot and synopsis sway me more than the genre when choosing books to read/review.
When a book that you’ve enjoyed is adapted into a film would you go and watch it or think it’d spoil your memory of the book?
Yes, I often will go and see a movie based on a novel and I try to have an open mind and tell myself that the casting probably will be all wrong in my mind and that a LOT of words have been edited into an average 90 minutes of movie. I have seen some movies I enjoyed more than the book (The Martian comes to mind) and other movies where I found the book to be much more superior than the movie such as Gone Girl (which really bored me in movie format.)
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
In relation to both my book publicity business and reviewing it’s been a really hard battle to fight whilst having disabilities and chronic pain. I have also battled and overcome the obstacle of depression associated with it all and have no shame in sharing that. My entire life has been a series of events that have been full of obstacles and somehow I just keep on keeping on and re-inventing myself and fighting on. I very much want to be an inspiration to others and am thankful I still have a soft core and a kind heart despite what life has thrown at me.
I’ve seen on social media that you are in the process of planning to write a book. What will it be about and when do you think we’ll be able to read it?
Well, this is a world exclusive! I am in the process of co-authoring a series of novellas with an already published author, there will more than likely be 3 novellas with the first two having a good cliffhanger. The genre will be a bit of a combination of dark romance/psychological thriller with some twists. It’s at very early stages at the moment so I am unsure of expected publication date, possibly early 2017.
In addition to that I plan to write a series of illustrated children’s books based on my two cats – Riley and Toddy, teaching young children different life skills with a lot of fun included. I also have in the pipeline a very special illustrated book for older children that will be a lifetime keepsake book, I will be working with a very talented and amazing illustrator on that one.
Last but not least – expect something ghostly and creepy and unexpected in the not too distant future. I also have the opportunity to co-author a book about Aspergers with an established author that I am considering also. Life is certainly telling me the time is finally right for writing the books I have always wanted to.
Finally, please explain to us what services you offer to authors and any perks you offer to those looking for ARC/review copies of books?
I have deliberately looked at what the market is not doing for authors and tried to adapt my services to meet those needs. I currently offer review generation campaigns with the help of my established VIP team of reviewers and bloggers, cover reveal campaigns, professional beta reading services with full report, exclusive author promotion across my social media network, book giveaways, campaigns to generate votes for books in the Kindle Scout program and will also do other ad-hoc services I feel I can capably do for an author.
There are great perks for any readers who like to review books on Goodreads, Amazon or their own blog if they have one! I offer a plentiful range of great books to choose from across many genres, easy to use book ordering systems, monthly and ad-hoc prizes and competitions and the big one is my yearly awards for my Top Reviewer of the Year – this offers bronze, silver and gold placing! The prizes are generous and book lover relevant. In addition to that those that review for me are part of closed groups on Goodreads and Facebook and get to give their own reviews and blogs extra exposure.
Thank you very much Maxine for taking part today. I hope that all continues to go well with your reviews and that your writing projects are successful.
Maxine can be found in various places online:
Goodreads profile https://www.goodreads.com/BookloverCatlady
Booklover Catlady VIP Book Reviewers Goodreads group https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/168870-booklover-catlady-publicity—vip-reviewers-group
Publicity/reviewing Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BookloverCatlady
Twitter profile https://twitter.com/promotethatbook
LinkedIn profile https://uk.linkedin.com/in/maxinegroves
As always, thank you for reading,
All the best.