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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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: 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?

April wrap up

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Books read: 6
Compared to usual, I haven’t had a great month for reading. Of the books I did read, my favourite was probably Flame in the Mist, followed by Magpie Murders and How to Stop Time.

Books acquired: 5
I spent less on books this month than usual. Three of these books were reduced on Amazon and I got a couple of ARCs from Netgalley. I also put in a couple of pre-orders for May but I haven’t received them yet.

  • Flame in the Mist – Renee Ahdieh
  • How to Stop Time – Matt Haig
  • The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel
  • Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
  • Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

Blog posts published: 9
April was actually my second best month for blogging in terms of visitor stats since I first began blogging in January 2013 – so thanks everyone for reading my posts and chatting to me! Unsurprisingly, my giveaway of A Court of Wings and Ruin was the most popular post. Other top posts were my discussion post looking at what makes fan fiction and a review of Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley.

 TBR for May:
Realistically I don’t think I’ll get around to reading the last one on this list, as it’s been on my TBR list since January. But you never know, May might be the month I finally get to it. I’m already part way through The Green Road, so hopefully should finish this one off quite quickly.

  • A Court of Wings and Ruin – Sarah J Maas
  • The Green Road – Anne Enright
  • House of Names – Colm Tobin
  • The Ice – Laline Paull
  • Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
  • The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

Challenge progress:

Goodreads Challenge: My Goodreads reading goal is to read 50 books this year. I’ve now completed 27 books – meaning that I’m currently ahead of schedule by 11 books. (27/50)

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 remains at just two books towards a goal of twelve. (2/12)


How was your April? Did you read anything great?
What do you have planned to read in May?