Discussion post: Focusing on a particular genre

Focusing on a genre

Today I’m going to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a while – whether not focusing a specific genre for a book blog is a positive or a negative, or whether it can be both.

I read a lot of different genres depending on my mood and what I’m feeling like at the time – and my blog has evolved naturally as a result of this. I quite often have a few different books on the go at once. For example at the moment I’m listening to a crime/thriller audiobook while I’m out and about, reading the latest fiction release as an eBook while on my commute and reading an epic fantasy in paperback at home.

I’m enjoying each of these equally, and sooner or later they’ll all pop up as reviews on this site. However, I’m conscious that for some people, they might be primarily interested in just one of these genres.

I have lots of wonderful followers who are kind enough to read and comment on my posts, no matter what the subject matter. However, I’ve often wondered if my blog would do better if I focused more on one particular genre or topic.

A lot of the blogs I personally follow have a clear identity and have carved out a real niche for themselves in the blogosphere – and this is something that I see as a real positive. For example, I follow a lot of blogs that are mainly focused on YA, on crime or on fantasy or sci fi. I love that there are bloggers that I can come back to time and time again and know that the books they’re reviewing are ones that I know I’ll be interested in.

On the other hand, I also think that not having a specific genre can help to attract a wider audience. I also follow a number of blogs where not all of the reviews are necessarily of books I’d read, but I know that when there’s a book review I’m not personally interested in, I can always skip down and read a discussion post, Q&A or review that does interest me.

Plus, sometimes reviews of books I would never have thought I’d be interested in pop up on my WordPress Reader that sound great, so I’ll add them to my TBR and potentially discover something new.

I’m really interested to hear what you guys think about this one – so please do comment and let me know!

Do you have a primary genre for your blog? Is this because you’ve made a conscious decision that this is the area you’re going to focus on for blogging, or simply because it’s the genre you’re most interested in as a reader?

Do you prefer to read blogs that are mainly about a specific genre, or are you happy to skip past the reviews that aren’t for you if there’s other interesting, non-genre specific posts for you to read?

Top 5: My most anticipated summer reads

The Good Daughter
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publication date: 13 July

Amazon/Goodreads summary: Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy smalltown family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – Pikeville’s notorious defence attorney – devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself – the archetypal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again – and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatised – Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case which can’t help triggering the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime which destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried for ever…

Why I’m looking forward to it: Karin Slaughter is one of my go-to crime writers and one of the few that I auto-buy. She’s great at writing gripping stories with plot twists that I don’t see coming.

The Word is Murder
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Publication date: 24 August

Amazon/Goodreads summary: A wealthy woman strangled six hours after she’s arranged her own funeral. A very private detective uncovering secrets but hiding his own. A reluctant author drawn into a story he can’t control. What do they have in common?

(So far, so enigmatic! But then I saw this blurb on Horowitz’s website…)

Summary from Horowitz’s website: It’s been two years since Injustice aired and Detective Daniel Hawthorne needs cash. Having gotten himself fired from his job at the Metropolitan police, Hawthorne decides to approach Anthony Horowitz. He’s investigating a bizarre and complex murder and he wants Anthony to write a book about it, a bestselling book of course, with a 50/50 split. The only catch is they need to solve the crime.

But award winning crime writer Anthony Horowitz has never been busier in his life. He’s working on Foyle’s War and writing his first Sherlock Holmes novel. He has a life of his own and doesn’t really want to be involved with a man he finds challenging to say the least. And yet he finds himself fascinated by the case and the downright difficult detective with the brilliant, analytical mind. Would it be really such a crazy idea for Anthony to become the Watson to his Holmes? The Hastings to his Poirot? Should he stick to writing about murder? Or should he help investigate?

Why I’m looking forward to it: This sounds really interesting – Anthony Horowitz has actually written himself into this novel as a character. I recently read and really enjoyed Magpie Murders, which featured a book within a book, and this seems like it will be equally unique. I’m hoping that this latest novel lives up to my high expectations!

The Readymade Thief
Author: Augustus Rose
Publication date: 10 August

Amazon/Goodreads summary: Lee Cuddy is seventeen years old and on the run, alone on the streets of Philadelphia. A fugitive with no money, no home and nowhere to go, Lee finds refuge in a deserted building known as the Crystal Castle. But the Castle conceals a sinister agenda, one master-minded by a society of fanatical men set on decoding a series of powerful secrets hidden in plain sight. And they believe Lee holds the key to it all.

Aided by Tomi, a mysterious young hacker, Lee escapes into the unmapped corners of the city. But the deeper she goes underground, the more tightly she finds herself bound in the strange web of the men she’s trying to elude. Aware that the lives of those she cares for are in increasing danger, it is only when Lee steps from the shadows to confront who is chasing her that she discovers what they’re really after, and why.

Why I’m looking forward to it: I haven’t read a good thriller in ages. I also love a conspiracy plot. This sounds like a cross between I Am Pilgrim and The Da Vinci Code, and a perfect summer read.

The Music Shop
Author: Rachel Joyce
Publication date: 13 July

Amazon/Goodreads summary: 1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need.

Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind…

Why I’m looking forward to it: I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and while I wasn’t as keen on Perfect, I still think the Rachel Joyce is a really talented author. She has a real skill in creating characters and settings that leap off the page. This sounds like it could be a really interesting story and I’m excited to read it.

The Last Tudor
Author: Philippa Gregory
Publication date: 8 August

Amazon/Goodreads summary: Jane Grey was Queen of England for nine days. Using her position as cousin to the deceased king, her father and his conspirators put her on the throne ahead of the king’s half-sister Mary, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her crown and locked Jane in the Tower. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block. There Jane turned her father’s greedy, failed grab for power into her own brave and tragic martyrdom.

‘Learn you to die’ is the advice that Jane gives in a letter to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and find love. But her lineage makes her a threat to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and, when Mary dies, to her sister Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a potential royal heir before she does.  So when Katherine’s secret marriage is revealed by her pregnancy, she too must go to the Tower.

‘Farewell, my sister,’ writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary finds it easy to keep secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After watching her sisters defy the queen, Mary is aware of her own perilous position as a possible heir to the throne. But she is determined to command her own destiny and be the last Tudor to risk her life in matching wits with her ruthless and unforgiving cousin Elizabeth.

Why I’m looking forward to it: Philippa Gregory is a guilty pleasure of mine. I’m a history graduate who wrote her dissertation on the evolution of the Royal Family – and I’ve always been fascinated by this turbulent period of history. I also love how Gregory’s books always give us a unique (and female) perspective on historical events.

What are your most anticipated summer releases? Did any of mine make your list?

June wrap up


Books read: 8
I started off so well this month but hit a bit of a reading slump towards the end of the month – I’ve been trying to read an arc of a new fantasy novel for a couple of weeks as I know it needs a review soon, but I just can’t get into it. My favourite read this month was The Wise Man’s Fear, but I was really disappointed by The Sense of an Ending. The Power by Naomi Alderman was also a really interesting read and this month won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

  • The Shadow Sister, Lucinda Riley
  • The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
  • The Power, Naomi Alderman
  • House of Names, Colm Tobin
  • Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  • He Said/She Said, Erin Kelly
  • The Roanoke Girls, Amy Engel


Books acquired: 4
After last month’s buying spree, this month I was a lot more reserved. I only acquired four new books, all of which I’m really looking forward to reading.

  • Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue
  • All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy
  • Three Days and a Life, Pierre Lemaitre


Blog posts published: 6
By far the most popular posts on The Stacked Shelf this month was the discussion on my most overused expressions in my book reviews, which sparked some really interesting comments. I posted less regularly this month than in other recent months, so my ambition for June is to definitely post at least twice each week.


TBR for July:
I managed to read four out of the six books I set for my TBR for June, which was good going for me. I’m hoping I can continue on this successful streak in July. This month, I’m most looking forward to reading A God in Ruins. I loved Life After Life and I’ve been looking forward to reading this follow up for ages. I also have a few arc reads to catch up on this month.

  • Darien, C. F. Iggulden
  • The Heart Goes Last, Margaret Atwood
  • Behold the Dreamers, Imbolob Mbue
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy
  • Three Days and a Life, Pierre Lemaitre
  • A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson
  • The Good Daughter, Karin Slaughter


Challenge progress:

Goodreads Challenge: My Goodreads reading goal is to read 50 books this year. I’ve now completed 43 books – meaning that I’m currently ahead of schedule by 19 books. This was a conservative goal which I’ve always been confident of achieving, but this challenge was mainly about tracking how many books I’m reading, as I’ve never kept count before. (43/50)

Beat the Backlist Challenge: The Beat the Backlist challenge is all about knocking off titles that have been on your TBR for a while. Books need to have been published prior to 2017, and I’m only including books that I actually bought before 2017 and that have been sitting around waiting for me to read them – so no new purchases or library reads. This month, one of my reads qualified, so my total has crept up to three books towards a goal of twelve. (3/12)


How was your June? What was your favourite read? What do you have planned for July?

Discussion post: Overused expressions in book reviews

Overused phrases in reviews

We all know that sometimes reviewing books can be hard (I’ve written a post on this here), and that finding the right words to express yourself clearly and coherently is sometimes a struggle!

I’ve recently noticed that I tend to fall back on many of the same words and phrasing in many of my reviews because I know they work and help me to get from one part of a review to another more easily. At the risk of all of my reviews sounding the same, I have to actively try and not use these phrases when I’m writing.

Looking back over my posts from the last three years, these five expressions have popped up more times that I can count and stand out as being some of my most overused fall-back phrases…

  1. ‘It soon becomes clear’ – This is the perfect way to round off a plot summary with a bang and get onto the actual analysis of what I thought about a book, and I seem to be able to use it while talking about literally every book!
  2. ‘That said’ or ‘having said that’ – If I’m trying to write a balanced review that looks at both positives and negatives, this is a quick way to get from one to the other. I write it in every review and then have to force myself to go back and rewrite!
  3. ‘I wasn’t overly keen on…’ – Usually to be read as ‘I didn’t like this at all but I’m trying to be polite’.
  4. ‘Kept me gripped’ – If I’m scrambling to explain exactly why I was so absorbed in a book, this phrase inevitably pops up. It says nothing but hopefully conveys there was a certain something that kept me reading!
  5. ‘Ultimately though…’ – I sometimes struggle with ending a review. You can’t just stop, you need a way to round it all off nicely. This is my go-to last sentence starter.

Not using these phrases is harder than you’d think. My fingers type them automatically out of habit. As writing is literally what I do for a living (not the exciting creative writing kind though unfortunately), I feel like I should be better at finding alternative ways to express my opinions about books.

How do you write book reviews? Are there certain words you come back to time and time again? What are your most overused expressions?

Discussion post: Reading outside your comfort zone

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When it comes to reading, I’d say I have quite eclectic tastes. I’m just as happy reading literary fiction as I am epic fantasy. I’ve always got time for a good thriller or crime novel and if I hear about a great new dystopian or post-apocalyptic book, I’ll buy it straight away.

That said, there are a number of genres that in general, I don’t tend to read. This includes poetry, non-fiction, autobiographies and books that are too focused around war or long-drawn out battles. I’m also not a huge fan of young adult contemporaries.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. I recently read and really enjoyed When Breath Becomes Air, a memoir by neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi. I do enjoy character driven novels set in the time period of WWI or WWII, just not those that are overly focused on the technicalities of battles. I really enjoyed Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which looks at a real life crime and its repercussions. I’m also hoping to explore poetry more in the future and have heard that Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey is a good collection to start off with.

Sometimes when browsing through other book blogs, I see reviews of books or lists of new releases that sound great or that have amazing beautiful covers – even though they aren’t in a genre I usually read. I also hear a lot of hype about particular books in the blogosphere, particularly YA contemporaries, that makes me wish that I’d read something and could join in the conversation. This can sometimes tempt me in, but a part of me is still always wary of investing in something if I know there’s a high chance it won’t be for me.

In the long run, I do think it’s best to understand your own likes and dislikes, and to accept that they might well be different from other peoples. There’s nothing wrong with trying to read outside of your genre every once in a while, especially if it’s something that’s been recommended to you, but I personally think I’d rather focus my time on genres that I know I’m more likely to enjoy based on past experiences.

What are your views on this? Are you an adventurous reader? Do you feel sometimes feel pressured to read books that aren’t generally your go-to genre or do you know what you like and stick to it?

May wrap up

Wrap up May


Books read: 8
I really enjoyed a lot of the books I read this month, which was great as it’s been a while since I had a 5 star read. My favourites were The White Road and And the Rest is History. The book I was most excited about reading this month was A Court of Wings and Ruin, and although I did enjoy it, it didn’t quite come up to the high standards of ACOMAF in my opinion.

  • A Court of Wings and Ruin, Sarah J Maas
  • The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
  • The Green Road, Anne Enright
  • Into the Water, Paula Hawkins
  • And the Rest is History, Jodi Taylor
  • The White Road, Sarah Lotz
  • The Hundredth Queen, Emily King
  • The Ice, Laline Paull

Books acquired: 20
Whoops. This list is quite long. Only two are review copies and only two are library books, which means that my book shopping got a little out of control this month. Four were bought using up credits that had built up on my Audible account, but even taking these out I still bought too many books! Continue reading

My recommendations: If you liked… (Part 1)

One of my favourite things about book blogging is getting new book recommendations, so I’ve pulled together some of my top recommendations based on other popular books out there. These are all books that I’d recommend based on my own experiences and similarities in theme, writing style or general feel. This is part one, which mainly looks at the fantasy, urban fantasy and dystopian genres. Other genres, such as crime/thrillers and general literary fiction, are still to come! Continue reading