August wrap up

Books read: 5
This month I read fewer books than usual, but those that I did read were longer and quite intense (4 3 2 1 was just under 900 pages while The Ministry of Utmost Happiness tackled some really complex social and political issues and was definitely not a quick book to read). I really enjoyed The Word is Murder – which was a really unique take on the classic detective novel.

  • The Good Daughter, Karin Slaughter
  • The Word is Murder, Anthony Horowitz
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy
  • The Readymade Thief, Augustus Rose
  • 4 3 2 1, Paul Auster


Books acquired: 7
I was much more reserved this month than I was last month – acquiring just 7 books compared to last month’s 24. I’m really looking forward to reading City of Circles and American War, both of which have been on my wishlist for a while.

  • A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles
  • This Savage Song, V. E. Schwab
  • Nevernight, Jay Kristoff
  • City of Circles, Jess Richards
  • American War, Omar El Akkad
  • The Golden House, Salman Rushdie
  • The Last Tudor, Philippa Gregory


Blog posts published: 7
By far my most popular post this month was one about writing book reviews and how to get started, given that so many of us find reviewing to be one of the most challenging things about book blogging. I’m going to try and do more of these in the future as it seems they’re helpful to you, so please shout if there’s anything you’d like me to focus on!


TBR for September:
I’ve been terrible at sticking to TBR lists lately. This month I want to get to some of the Netgalley ARCs that I haven’t been able to get to yet. However, I got married yesterday (this post is scheduled in advance!) and am off on honeymoon today, so I may not be able to fit much reading in amongst sightseeing on the Amalfi Coast! I also might be less responsive than usual, so please bear with me!

  • The Last Tudor, Philippa Gregory
  • Behold the Dreamers, Imbolob Mbue
  • Three Days and a Life, Pierre Lemaitre
  • Red Sister, Mark Lawrence
  • City of Circles, Jess Richards


Challenge progress:

Goodreads Challenge: My Goodreads reading goal is to read 50 books this year, which I’ve now surpassed.  This was a conservative goal which I was always confident I’d achieve, but this challenge was mainly about tracking how many books I’m reading, as I’ve never kept count before. Everything from here on out is a bonus. (54/50)

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, none of my reads qualified, so my total is still five books towards a goal of twelve. (5/12)


How was your August? What was your favourite read? What do you have planned for September?

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Top 5: Books about books

books about books

As a book lover, books that revolve around the subject of books hold a special kind of fascination for me, so this week I’ve pulled together a list of some of my favourite books about books. These are all totally different, but although each one is unique, they all share one things – books in some form are a central part of the story. They’re all great reads and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any and all of them! I’ve also linked back to my reviews of these books on this blog where I can.

  1. Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz

Summary: When editor Susan Ryeland is given the tattered manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has little idea it will change her life. She’s worked with the revered crime writer for years, and his detective, Atticus Pund, is renowned for solving crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s. As Susan knows only too well, vintage crime sells handsomely. It’s just a shame that it means dealing with an author like Alan Conway….

But Conway’s latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript there lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.

Read my review here.

  1. The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman

Summary: Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

  1. The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

Summary: ‘Once upon a time, there was a boy who lost his mother . . .’ As twelve-year-old David takes refuge from his grief in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother, he finds the real world and the fantasy world begin to blend. That is when bad things start to happen. That is when the Crooked Man comes. And David is violently propelled into a land populated by heroes, wolves and monsters, his quest to find the legendary Book of Lost Things.

Read my review here.

  1. Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan

Summary: Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone – and serendipity, coupled with sheer curiosity, has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra.

The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behaviour and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore…

Read my review here.

  1. The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Summary: Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘cemetery of lost books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘La Sombra del Viento’ by Julian Carax. But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find.

Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from La Sombra del Viento, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax’s work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.

 

Writing book reviews: how to get started

As book bloggers, writing book reviews is a core part of what we do. However, I’ve heard from lots of people who say that review writing is the most challenging or least fun part of blogging.

I’ve written posts in the past that set out some of the reasons that I personally find writing reviews difficult. There are a lot of times where I’ve gone to write a review but put it off – sometimes I can’t seem to get the thoughts in my head down on the page in a way that makes sense or think of the right phrasing, or sometimes just I draw a blank and can’t think of anything interesting to say.

Assuming that at least some other people out there also suffer from the same issues – I thought I’d share some of my experiences, processes and tips for writing book reviews.

I know that everyone writes their reviews differently and I’m by no means an expert! If you’ve been blogging for a while and already have your own style for review writing, this post might not be so useful for you!

However, if you are at all interested in hearing my thoughts and top tips for writing book reviews, please read on!

  1. Have some questions to fall back on:

Having a list of questions to consider when starting a review is so useful for teasing out content for a post, and I’ve found it can also really help with structuring a review and keeping my thoughts in order as well. There are a few questions that I always ask if I’m struggling to get started on a review, which I’ve included below in case they’re helpful!

  • Were the characters believable and did they develop over the course of the book?
  • Were there any plot points that I really enjoyed, or really didn’t enjoy?
  • Was the setting fully developed? Was too much or too little time spent on description rather than action?
  • Did the language flow and feel natural? Was there anything that jarred or didn’t work?
  • Were there any pacing issues? Did it feel like any parts of the book dragged or were interesting parts skipped over too quickly?
  1. Write about what you’re interested in:

Ultimately, when people are reading a book review they want to know what you thought of it – including why you liked it, why you didn’t and whether you’d recommend it. If you found a particular aspect of the book really unique, talk about it. If you hated it, tell people why. I’d always recommend trying to be balanced though and picking out arguments from both sides where you can.

  1. Mix it up a bit:

Don’t think that you have to stick to the same formula all the time. If you’re struggling to write a review, adapt your structure or approach. I read a lot of blogs who break up their reviews up with pictures, quotes, headings, gifs or page dividers, which not only makes reviews interesting to read but also helps to add a bit of visual interest to something that otherwise could be quite word heavy.

  1. Don’t always start at the beginning:

Focus on what interested you and work backwards from there. I always find the beginning of a review the hardest to write, so a lot of the time I start in the middle by writing down my thoughts on a specific plot point, character or niggling issue, and then I go back to the introduction when I’ve had some time to think through my arguments logically.

  1. Take a break:

If you’re struggling for inspiration, don’t stress about it. Take a break and come back to it another time. If it feels like pulling teeth to write a review, the chances are that it’s going to read like that too.

How do you write book reviews? Do you have a process for writing them? 

Are posts like this helpful and is there anything else you’d like me to focus on more specifically in another post? 

 

 

Discussion post: Books that I’ll (probably) never read

Books I'll never read
This post is a tough one for me to write, as the fact that I own a large number of books that I’ll probably never get around to reading is never something I would usually admit to.

Looking at the stats…

It’s time to face facts. There are currently 184 physical unread books currently on my bookshelf, along with 109 unread books on my kindle and 11 in my audiobook library. That’s a total of 304 unread books (and yes, counting up all of these was slightly horrifying and took forever!).

Despite the fact that I already own almost enough books to open my own private library, only a paltry 5 of the 50 books that I’ve read so far in 2017 are books that I owned prior to the beginning of 2017. This means that the vast majority of the books that I’m reading are either new releases, review copies or books that have been otherwise bought or borrowed by me in the last six months.

What does this all mean??

These statistics really doesn’t bode well for the piles of books that have accompanied me from house to house for years but haven’t yet got around to reading – some of which I don’t even remember buying!

Looking at it mathematically I’m on track to read about 90 books this year – as long I carry on at the rate I’ve been reading for the first seven months. At this rate, finishing all the books I currently own without adding any in new books at all would take me almost 3 and a half years.

If I carry on my current rate of reading on average 10 books from my backlist every year (which is far more likely, given my obvious weakness for new releases, Amazon ebook sales and second hand bookshops) working through the books I currently own will take about 30 years.

What am I going to do about it? 

All of this makes the chances of me ever finishing the books I already own increasingly unlikely! But even though I know this is the truth, I just can’t bring myself to get rid of my unread books. Every time I do a clear out and read the back covers of long neglected books, I’m reminded of why I thought I’d enjoy it and I remain convinced that soon there will be a day when that particular book will be perfect for my mood.

However, in an attempt to try and tackle some of the backlog of books that have steadily been piling up, for the next six months of this year – and beyond that as well – I’m going to make a real effort to attempt to read at least one book a month that I’ve owned since before Christmas 2016.

I’ll also make an effort to donate some books to charity, including those that I know that I can’t see myself reading anytime in the near future – such as biographies or titles that I’ve had for a while but I now know from experience that I’m not a huge fan of the author.

Does anyone else have this problem? Are there any books in particular on your bookshelf that you think you’ll never get around to reading?

My recommendations: If you liked… (Part 2)

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 two, which looks more at general fiction.

Part one, published a few weeks back, looks at fantasy and dystopian, and I’ll also be doing a part three shortly which looks at crime and thrillers.

  1. If you liked The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, try How to Stop Time

Both of these books play with the idea of time. Both feature characters that mean they’ve lived longer lives that most, and these books both focus on how life and loss affects us as individuals. They also both have great main characters, unscrupulous villains and just the right amount of drama.

  1. If you liked A Place Called Winter, try The Museum of Extraordinary Things

I loved A Place Called Winter for its unique setting and historical perspective on topics that are still very relevant today. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is similar in themes. I loved the setting of turn of the century New York, the contrast of the old and new and the family dynamics.

  1. If you liked Americanah, try We Need New Names

Both of these books tackle some really interesting questions around identity and culture. They also offer an insightful view into experiences of immigration and feelings of displacement.

  1. If you liked The House of the Spirits, try The Son

I love anything that’s described as a sweeping family epic. I also really enjoy reading about different cultures and settings from my own native UK. The House of the Spirits is a classic, spanning multiple generations and set in Brazil. The Son uses a similar concept, but starts in the frontier lands of the American west in the mid-1800’s and takes us all the way through to modern times.

  1. If you liked Life After Life, try The Light Between Oceans

Life After Life has a really unique format, taking us through many versions of the same life and exploring how one small action can cause a butterfly effect, putting us right in the head of the central character as she navigates the world. The Light Between Oceans is very different in subject matter – although it is still historical fiction – but is also very character driven and raises interesting questions around morality and right and wrong.

What do you think about this list? Do you have any books that you’d recommend to me that are similar to any of the above? 

July wrap up

Books read: 7
In July I finally got around to reading A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson – which might just be my favourite read so far this year. I don’t know why I waited so long to read it, but it definitely lived up to expectations. I also really enjoyed The Heart Goes Last. I wasn’t at all sure about The Butcher’s Hook though.

  • A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson
  • The Owl Always Hunts at Night, Samuel Bjork
  • The Butchers Hook, Janet Ellis
  • Frostblood, Elly Blake
  • The Heart Goes Last, Margaret Atwood
  • The Good Daughter, Karin Slaughter
  • The Diabolic, S. J. Kincaid


Books acquired: 24
This month I made the mistake of looking through the Kindle books selection on Amazon, and there far too many deals on books that I wanted to read. I also received a number of ARCs that I’m looking forward to reading this summer and took some out of the library – which given how many books I’ve acquired this month wasn’t a very sensible idea!

  • The Ninth Rain, Jen Williams
  • The Word is Murder, Anthony Horowitz
  • Red Sister, Mark Lawrence
  • Artemis, Andy Weir
  • The Readymade Thief, Augustus Rose
  • Wilde Lake, Laura Lippman
  • The Hating Game, Sally Thorne
  • Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
  • The North Water, Ian McGuire
  • The Wonder, Emma Donoghue
  • The Magicians, Lev Grossman
  • The French Promise, Fiona McIntosh
  • Frostblood, Elly Blake
  • Walking the Lights, Deborah Andrews
  • Not Working, Lisa Owens
  • All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers
  • Death is a Welcome Guest, Louise Welsh
  • Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
  • New World Rising, Jennifer Wilson
  • The Diabolic, S. J. Kincaid
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
  • Days Without End, Sebastian Barry
  • The Good Daughter, Karin Slaughter


Blog posts published: 7
I posted more reviews than anything else this month. The most popular posts were my review of Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders and my round up of the books I’m most looking forward to reading this summer. I also had some really great feedback on my discussion topic last week – which was about focusing on a particular genre for a book blog.


TBR for August:
This month I only managed to read three of the seven books I was hoping to get to. In August, I want to finish all of the books I’d planned to read in July, plus a couple of others. I’m really looking forward to The Word is Murder, as I really enjoyed Horowitz’s recent mystery, Magpie Murders. I also can’t wait to read Red Sister, as I’ve loved other books by the author.

  • Darien, C. F. Iggulden
  • Behold the Dreamers, Imbolob Mbue
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy
  • Three Days and a Life, Pierre Lemaitre
  • The Word is Murder, Anthony Horowitz
  • Red Sister, Mark Lawrence


Challenge progress:

Goodreads Challenge: My Goodreads reading goal is to read 50 books this year, which I’ve now met! This was a conservative goal which I was always confident I’d achieve, but this challenge was mainly about tracking how many books I’m reading, as I’ve never kept count before. Everything from here on out is a bonus. (50/50)

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, two of my reads qualified, so my total is now five books towards a goal of twelve. (5/12)


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

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?