Toasted Cheese 15:1

The March 2015 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Holly Day, John Grey & Anne Britting Oleson; flash by Jill Boyles, Bradley Sides & Christopher T. White and fiction by Louis M. Abbey, Arika Elizenberry, Lane Kareska, Daniel Nazer, Marlene Olin, Jonathan Pauls & Tony Press.

TC 15:1 also includes the 2014 Dead of Winter Writing Contest winning stories by Erin McDougall, John Howe & Amelia Diamond.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle & Work to Do by Bob Zeanah and A.R. Cook reviews Swish Swirl & Sniff by Salvatore Marici.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Stephanie “Baker” Lenz & Theryn “Beaver” Fleming.

The cover image is by Benny’s Chop House, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!

How to Write a Book Review (and How to Request One)

Absolute Blank

By Shelley Carpenter (Harpspeed)

Mindset:

I think one of the important components in writing a book review is mindset. One needs to be open minded to reading books that they may not typically read. Professional editors and writers may have the option of choosing the books they review with the added perk of a salary. At Toasted Cheese and many other literary journals the editors and writers review books for the joy of it and to support fellow writers. It is a labor of love.

Revving Up before Reading:

Another practice I follow is to learn about the author before reading his/her book. I visit blogs, social media, and websites. Knowing something about the author makes the reading a more personal experience and may help later when it is time to write the review and the short biography that follows. I also look in the Toasted Cheese archives to see if there are submissions and links to other writing. It is like taking a test drive before driving cross-country.

Mindfulness:

The task also requires mindfulness. Before I open a book that is slotted for review, I always ask: What makes this a good book? This is a great question particularly if one is reviewing a book that is outside of their writing or reading genre(s). Giving myself an assigned question truly helps to focus on the task. Within the context of the question there are three sub-parts that I consider: What is this book about? This relates to genre, character and plot, the general information that most reviews contain. What do I notice within the text? This refers to style, language, theme, vocabulary, etc. a.k.a. the writer’s toolbox. Lastly, what do I notice beyond the story? Does it relate to the real world in any way? Are there comparisons or contrasts that can be drawn?

Another name for this practice is active reading. Meanwhile, I’m annotating the copy—I’m circling, underlining, highlighting, and writing notes in the margins. I also attach sticky notes on the pages that answer my question(s). By the time I finish reading, there are usually a dozen or more colored notes sticking out of the copy.

I take my time with every book and collection of poetry and stories and when I’ve finished reading and annotating, I let the words simmer in my mind for days before my fingers touch the keyboard. This is how I begin.

Photo Credit: Horia Varlan/Flickr (CC-by)

Photo Credit: Horia Varlan/Flickr (CC-by)

By Theryn Fleming (Beaver)

Tips for Writing a Review for Toasted Cheese:

  • Keep in mind Candle-Ends is our way of connecting the TC community with the literary journal. We’re looking for positive/neutral reviews that support the writers in our community.
  • We’re ok with fluffy, but not with false praise. Be honest, but kind.
  • We know one of the reasons writers hesitate to write reviews is they’re unsure how to handle reviewing a book they didn’t love unequivocally. Here are some suggestions:
    • Describe the book. For a novel, tell readers about the key characters, the gist of the plot, the setting. For short stories or poetry, give readers an overview of the types of stories or poems they can anticipate. Write about the overall theme of the book. Describe the writer’s style.
    • Let the book speak for itself. Include representative quotes in your review so readers can see what to expect and judge for themselves.
    • Highlight the the book’s strengths.
    • Sandwich criticism between praise. If there is a weakness you think is important to mention, put it in the middle. Start with a positive and end with a positive.
  • A brief mention of why you personally related to the book is fine, but don’t digress too much. Keep the focus on the content of the book.
  • Provide a brief biography of the author as well as links to their website and/or social media accounts.
  • Please mention if you have a personal connection to the author.

Tips for Requesting a Review from Toasted Cheese:

  • Requests for reviews should be sent to our reviews editor at reviews@toasted-cheese.com
  • Be sure to mention the author’s connection to Toasted Cheese (please note: we only review books by writers with a pre-existing connection to TC).
  • Author or publisher must be able to provide a digital and/or print copy of the book to the reviewer.
  • Indicate your willingness to write a review. Not only is it good karma to reciprocate, but requesting authors who write a review will be moved to the front of the queue.

Toasted Cheese 14:4

The December 2014 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Karen Bayly, Nabin Kumar Chhetri, Dave DeWitt Fulton, Paul Hostovsky, Dario Jimenez, Greg Moglia, Sanchari Sur & Shari Winslow and fiction by Erin Charvet, Max Dunbar, Eileen Gonzalez, Kyle Manning, Laura Marie & Lisa Sagrati.

TC 14:4 also includes the Fall 2014 Three Cheers and a Tiger Writing Contest winning stories by Jill Spencer, Amelia Diamond & Alexander Pawlowski.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews Drops on the Water by Eric G. Müller & Matthew Zanoni Müller.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Stephanie “Baker” Lenz.

The cover image is by Juliet Culver, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!

Toasted Cheese 14:3

The September 2014 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Mariel Alonzo, Sandra Fees, Dovile Mark, Karen Powell, Katia Raina & Graham WW Young; flash by Rori Leigh Hoatlin, Tim Love & Gretchen Tessmer and fiction by Judy Darley, Jack Herbert & Clare Kane.

TC 14:3 also includes the 2014 A Midsummer Tale Writing Contest winning stories by Krista Varela, Alexander Drost & Eric E. Wallace.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews Out of Dublin by Ethel Rohan.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Theryn “Beaver” Fleming.

The cover image is by jeffreyw, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!

Toasted Cheese 14:2

The June 2014 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Jim Daniels, Holly Day, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Pat Hanahoe-Dosch, Natasha Kochicheril Moni, Marc Pietrzykowski & Robert Lavett Smith; flash by M.J. Walsh; fiction by Deborah Bazalgette, Anna Chieppa, Simone Davy, Sara Siegel & Eric E. Wallace and creative nonfiction by Pamela Scott.

TC 14:2 also includes the Spring 2014 Three Cheers and a Tiger Writing Contest winning stories by Lou Nell Gerard, Carole Mertz & D. Staats.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews Train Shots by Vanessa Blakeslee.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Theryn “Beaver” Fleming.

The cover image is by Beej Jorgensen, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!

Toasted Cheese 14:1

The March 2014 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by April Michelle Bratten, Kathryn Jacobs, Erren Geraud Kelly, Marisa Marinelli & John Roth; flash by Rick Bailey & Rupprecht Mayer and fiction by Skye Allen, Terry Barca, Eileen Gonzalez & Tony Press.

TC 14:1 also includes the 2013 Dead of Winter Writing Contest winning stories by J. Chad Kebrdle, Lynn Bauman-Milner & Stephen Lawson.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews As We Refer to Our Bodies by Darren C. Demaree.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Theryn “Beaver” Fleming.

The cover image is by Alpha/avlxyz, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!


p.s. This issue also brings the biggest behind-the-scenes changes since TC began—we’ve moved the entire journal to WordPress. If you happen to notice any glitches, we’d appreciate it if you pointed them out. You can use this form. Thanks! We hope you enjoy the updated site.

Candle-Ends: 2013 Recap

Toasted Cheese publishes reviews of books by writers who are a part of the TC community (e.g. published in TC, written for Absolute Blank, interviewed at Absolute Blank, forum members). To request or submit a review, contact our reviews editor at reviews[at]toasted-cheese.com.

Books reviewed in 2013:

Toasted Cheese 13:4

The December 2013 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Katherine Botsis, Brett Busang, Ana Maria Caballero, Jared Carter, Cindy Clarke, Lisa Parry & Diane Webster; flash fiction by Cezarija Abartis, Bill Gaythwaite & Melissa Reddish; fiction by SJ Bradley, Cheryl Diane Kidder, Heidi Vornbrock Roosa & Ralph Uttaro; and creative non-fiction by HC Hsu.

TC 13:4 also includes the Fall 2013 Three Cheers and a Tiger Writing Contest winning stories by Cheryl Clark, Kate Lansky & Lorraine Nelson.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill & Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses by Caroline England.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Theryn “Beaver” Fleming.

The cover image is by Brad Proudlove, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!

Toasted Cheese 13:3

The September 2013 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Darren C. Demaree, Marchell Dyon, Tyrek Greene, Sean Lause, D.C. Lynn & Joan McNerney; flash fiction by Jamie Burke, Sarah Clayville & Andy Cochran; fiction by Bea Chang, Hall Jameson, Jay O’Shea, Julianne Pachico & Alex Shishin; and creative non-fiction by Susan Lago.

TC 13:3 also includes the 2013 A Midsummer Tale Writing Contest winning stories by HC Hsu, Chris DeWildt & Pauline Wiles.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews The Tiger’s Wedding by James Dante & The Scholar, the Sphinx and the Shades of Nyx by A.R. Cook and Erin Bellavia reviews Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Theryn “Beaver” Fleming.

The cover image is by Alyson Hurt, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!