Tag Archives: book blogging

How I Read

I saw this great post on the blog of writer Callum McLaughlin the other day, and thought: hmm. There’s a good idea! So, I decided to follow suit and answer the questions posed about how and what I read. I waffle on about how and what I write often enough on here!

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

How do you find out about new books to read?

Social media, a lot of the time. I follow whackloads of writers on Twitter who are always talking about books (naturally enough), whether their own or those of people they know, and I’m usually hovering over their shoulder, taking notes. I also love walking into bookshops and simply seeing what grabs my eye – and/or allowing knowledgeable and helpful booksellers to guide me! – but in general I’m just open, at all times, to picking up bookish vibes. I’m constantly on the lookout for new suggestions, and I’m always sniffing out new possibilities. It sort of comes naturally.

How did you get into reading?

I literally don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t read. My parents tell me I was reading by the age of two – not books, as such, but I was able to pick up on words and put sounds together, which meant I was a huge hit at family parties and suchlike. (‘Dance, monkey! Dance!’) My parents read to me from my earliest days and our house was always filled with books; I don’t think the importance of making books available to children can be overstated. My brother and I are both big readers, even now, despite the fact that neither of our parents are actually all that into reading. They supported our literacy with a passion, but neither of them really read for pleasure – which is interesting!

How has your taste in books changed as you’ve grown older?

Not by a lot, truth be told! I am an omnivorous reader, and I have always been. I read books which were probably deemed ‘inappropriate’ at a young age (usually without my parents’ knowledge or involvement!), on a wide variety of topics, and I’ve never censored my own reading. I love all sorts of fiction with the exception of romance novels, which I never really warmed to (though I did try them, in my teens) and I’m making an active effort to read more non-fiction. That’s probably the only real change in recent years, actually – I’m trying to expand my repertoire by reading non-fiction, which has an entirely different feeling and power to fiction. I love children’s books, of course, but I always have.

How often do you buy books?

Not as often as I’d like. When I worked as a bookseller, of course, most of my pay packet went on ordering books for myself – this, I feel, is a common problem among booksellers! It’s so tempting, as a book addict, to simply chuck a few tomes into the order basket for yourself at the end of a particularly slow day, just so you feel justified in placing the order. Now that I don’t have that job any more, I find it’s harder to buy books. I don’t buy online, and I don’t have an e-reader (phooey!) and never will, so I’m dependent on my occasional travels to nearby towns to visit bookshops in the flesh. This doesn’t happen enough. (I’m not sure my husband would agree!)

My happy place... Photo Credit: un.2vue via Compfight cc

My happy place…
Photo Credit: un.2vue via Compfight cc

How did you get into Booktubing/book blogging?

I’m not a Booktuber (whatever that is!) but I blog about books and writing and reading because it’s what I love to do more than anything else in the world. I think about little else but books, plots, stories, characters, creating worlds and people and situations, and when I’m not writing my own, I’m reading the visions of others. I blog about books because, basically, I know very little about anything else!

How do you react when you don’t like the end of a book?

Violently, usually. I have been known to slap books shut and fling them on the ground if I don’t get on with how they end! I’m told I mutter when I’m reading if I don’t like what’s happening, whereas I’m deathly silent – and totally focused – if I love what’s going on in the book. I don’t ever ‘assassinate’ books in public, or post (really, truly) nasty things about them, no matter how much they annoy me, but my nearest and dearest hear all about exactly how disappointing the book was, and I’m lucky that they put up with me so readily! Books are important to me, you see. When they end badly, it makes me mad.

And I’m a bit like the big green guy with the purple pants when I get mad.

How often have you taken a sneaky look at the back page of a book to see if it’s a happy ending?

Goodness me. I never do this. The very idea! *looks about, shiftily* One thing I do do, however, is read a book’s acknowledgements first, which are sometimes printed at the back of the book. If they are, then occasionally my eye will stray to the last few lines, but I’ve normally forgotten them by the time I actually get to the end, so there’s no harm done. Right? Right.

Thanks to Callum for the great post, and the inspiration! If anyone wants to take up these questions on their own blog, do let me know. I’m nosy. I’d love to know what your reading habits are like. It’s all in the name of scientific research!

Just Another Boring Old Week in Writer-Ville…

So, wow.

Did the world spin a little off its axis last week, or what? I’m sure nobody missed the rather unusual goings-on in the world of letters over the past few days, but just in case: we had one hugely influential, massively popular and extremely famous writer making some ill-advised and (to my mind) criminally stupid comments on child pornography, and another who described, without remorse, how she had systematically tracked and stalked a blogger who gave her book a poor review. I can’t comment on the first story for fear I lose my reason completely – anyone who was in my company when I first read about it will testify to my spitting rage – but I watched the latter story unfold with growing incredulity; as a blogger who regularly writes book reviews, and a writer with aspirations to a career in words, the issues raised go to the heart of everything I love.

Photo Credit: isayx3 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: isayx3 via Compfight cc

I have written many book reviews. Some of them have been gushing, and some of them have not. Some have barely found so much as an errant piece of punctuation to criticise, and some have dissected a book’s shortcomings in detail. However, I always try to find something good about every book I review, and if a book is truly terrible I have one simple rule: don’t review it. Whether a review is good or bad, I don’t tend to draw the author’s attention to it – if they happen to see it, then that’s fair enough, but the chances of it happening are small. I don’t think it’s fair or kind to Tweet a link to an author, particularly if the review is less than stellar, or find their (publicly available, I should point out!) email address and copy it to them; it’s like playground taunting. Even if I have loved a book with every shred of my soul and my review makes that perfectly clear, I still won’t directly contact an author to say ‘Look! Look! Here’s how much I loved your work!’ – it’s not professional, or respectful of an author’s time or personal space. They don’t exist merely to write books and talk about them to fans – they are people with lives and families, and it’s important not to forget that.

I don’t know the blogger with whom this particular author had her falling-out; to be quite honest, I had never heard of the author before last Saturday, either, despite the fact that she writes YA books. Her book (to date, she has published one novel, with a follow-up due out in early 2015) has, I’ve since seen, received polarised reviews on Goodreads, with some people absolutely loving it and others most assuredly not. Since this story broke, some people have taken an ideological standpoint and given her poor star-ratings simply because of her behaviour, though, which I also believe is misguided. A star rating should reflect the quality of the book, not the reviewer’s feelings about its author. An author’s work stands apart from the author themselves; disapproval or dislike of one doesn’t mean disapproval or dislike of the other, necessarily. The good reviews for this book are intriguing, but it doesn’t sound like the kind of story I’d enjoy, and so chances are I won’t read it. But I know from some of this author’s journalistic work that she can write with power and fluency, and that she can craft a compelling argument, and it’s beyond doubt that she is a talented and intelligent woman.

So why, I found myself asking, did she feel she had the right to take her dissatisfaction with this particular reviewer to such extremes? Without rehashing the linked article, above, the author – no matter what the blogger is alleged to have done – trampled all over the lines of acceptable behaviour in her quest to find out the ‘truth’ about the person who had disliked her book.  And for what? Acres of headlines, sure, and plenty of traffic in the gossip columns of the internet. But what does it say about the relationship between authors and bloggers, most of whom blog about books and book reviews purely for the love of it and the desire to drive enthusiasm for reading? Nothing good, I’d wager.

I have been contacted on a few occasions by authors after I reviewed one of their books. A lot of the time, these contacts take the form of a mention on Twitter or a quick message of thanks. Once, an author took the time to send me an email (and this was after I reviewed her work in not entirely favourable terms) to thank me for the thoughtful way I had handled her book, not only the bits I enjoyed but also the bits I didn’t. I was charmed, and moved, that such a highly-regarded and talented person had taken the time to write to me personally in such a generous way. I would hate to see that sort of two-way exchange broken, the mutual respect that exists (or should exist) between writers and reviewers, but to keep it healthy, work is needed on both sides of the equation. Reviews shouldn’t be personal, or spiteful, or focused on the author. They should focus solely on the work, on how it can be made better, on what was (objectively) ‘good’ and ‘bad’ about it, highlighting – if possible – the good. They shouldn’t luxuriate in snide remarks or be written in such a way as to make the author feel bad about themselves – and I’ve seen reviews just like that. If you wouldn’t say it to the author’s face, why say it online? At the same time, if an author comes across a bad review, they really should take the advice of everyone and just not engage with the reviewer. Not at all. Not even to say ‘thanks for reading’. If there’s anything constructive in the review, take it; leave the rest, and walk away. Not everyone is going to like your book, particularly if (as seems to be the case with this author’s work) it’s a little on the unusual side. Embrace the fact that you’re writing for a select audience, and hold your head high.

Let’s all try to remember to be nice, right? Let’s put compassion front and centre. Meet hostility with kindness – or, if you can’t manage kindness, then try respectful silence. And let’s not use the great power of the web to stalk and harass one another. Above all, let writers keep writing, and readers keep reading, and maybe we’ll realise eventually that we’re all on the same team, here.

Happy new week, my loves.