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Reviewing… part 1

I’ve been considering quite a long piece about reviewing, about why I do it, my style, what I like and dislike to see others doing, etc. However, blog posts take me some time, and I have a book I need to get back to. I have a busy week coming, so limited reading time ahead. So, I decided to break it up a little, and write in sections.

So to begin, why do I review, and how did it happen? Well, I’ve always been a reader, but starting my book forum almost 10 years ago has gradually widened my horizon.. not just with the books I read, but also with the wider book world. With the help of email and twitter, I’ve come in contact with publishers and authors, I’ve been offered books to read and review, and I’ve requested some as well. I can’t actually remember how this started initially, it’s just something which has built up and developed.

I started by writing the reviews on the forum, then after a while I started a review blog.. but I found a team of people on the forum to help, and we reviewed all kinds of books, rather than focusing on a particular genre, or on books we had been sent. Over time, many of these others have stopped posting, and it’s a lot quieter. I tend to only write reviews for the books I’ve been sent, and I go through periods of choosing my own books, and choosing not to review them.

I don’t consider myself a blogger, as I don’t have the time to do a full, decent job. I write reviews on the review blog, and then I occasionally write bookish blog pieces over here. There are a some lovely book blogs out there, and I admire the time and energy spent on them.. but it’s not something I can commit to.

My favourite books to review are those which are not yet published, or only just. I love picking up a book with no real knowledge of what to expect, and taking that journey. I’m easily put off a book by a bad review, so I actually like to be able to make my own mind up before the internet is awash with others views.

Of course that sometimes (ok, often) means I’ll pick up a book which looks and sounds great, but isn’t for me. In the past I would have carried on, but I now tend to put it to one side. I love it when a book really grabs me, and I just have to keep reading. So, some books sent to me will not get reviewed, and I feel bad about that, but then I’d rather spend my time reading, reviewing, and chatting about the ones I love. I hope publishers and authors get that?

That brings me to the other reason I like reviewing.. if I like a book, I will look out for the author, see if they’re on twitter or facebook, and check out their websites. Most are lovely, and will respond to a review link or a message, and many I still enjoy following on twitter. That connection between reader and author is one of my favourite things.

Ok.. back to reading. I’m half way through Endgame, and it’s one of ‘those’ books – I’m addicted! :)

As part of running my book forum, I love running competitions. It helps readers get new books, and it helps the publishers and authors get word out. However, I’m having a bit of trouble working out the best way to do this.

I often go for the simple option, and run the competition on the forum itself. This has the bonus of rewarding the forum members, but doesn’t reach that wider audience, and entries are often low.

Twitter does reach a wider audience, but then I get fed up with the accounts which are obviously set up just to win competitions… I’m trying to get books out to readers after all. Plus, if you’re not on twitter, you’re being left out.

This morning I set up a rafflecopter account, and went through the process.. only to find that I can’t post it on wordpress because I don’t host it myself.

So… to the people who enter book competitions.. which type of competition do you prefer to enter? Do you like the simplicity of a ‘Retweet and follow’ on twitter? Do you like or dislike rafflecopter (personally, I’m not keen)? And what are you willing to do to enter.. would you follow a new twitter account, sign up to follow a blog, join a forum?

Plus, is it enough of an incentive to simply win a book, or are you looking for signed books, extra swag etc?

To those of you who offer competitions.. what is your method of choice? Twitter, Rafflecopter, blog comments.. or something completely different? Do I really need to run an amalgamation to cover everyone, or is there an easy solution out there?

Thank you! :)

 

glowing book You read books and you love books – where do you go to talk about your books? The Book Club Forum (BCF) was first set up 9 years ago, in an era when there seemed to be a forum (or 10) for everything. Over those 9 years, there has been a steady increase in social interaction, with book blogs, twitter, and of course, Goodreads.

Most forums were set up by individuals, with limited funds, and so it’s impossible to keep up with the big businesses. However, by being smaller, they do offer a much friendlier place to be.

That’s one of the things we’re proud of at BCF – people tend to stay because they feel welcome, and many make friends. We have a moderating team who have been around for a long time, and who love books themselves, and therefore problems are few.

Anyway.. to reflect the way book discussions have changed, BCF has been tweaked – our emphasis is on social discussion of books, and the first thing you’ll find are the book blog threads, where members control their own content.. they can keep a record of their reading in a way that suits them, they can write reviews, or just make short comments. Anyone can respond, and discussions can happen in a natural way. Imagine yourself in a cool book party, where you can wander around and dip in and out of various conversations! :)

The Library section still remains, divided into different genres – is there a particular author, book or issue you want to discuss, or find out more about? You can do that too!

So, have you considered checking out a book forum.. or have you done so, but many years ago? Have you thought about your own book blog, but need something a little easier? Do you just want to find out what others are reading, and chat to them about it? www.bookclubforum.co.uk :-D

 

YALC 2014

Yalc news logo

I have always been a ‘reader’, but over the last 10 or so years this has grown to a passionate love of all things connected with books. Running my book forum (10 years old next year!) and reviewing books has put me in contact with authors, publishers, bloggers etc and twitter has been a great medium to keep in touch, and stay up to date.

So, when the 1st ever UK Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) was announced, I just knew I had to get there. The added bonus was that it would be part of the London Film and Comic Con (LFCC), something I was yet to experience. So, tickets were bought, and the excitement grew on twitter as the weekend approached.

On Saturday, after travelling up to Earl’s Court, I stood in awe of the queues formed outside. I had pre booked my tickets, but even that meant joining a queue. And when Patrick Ness tweeted a photo of the crowd inside, I nearly turned around and went home! But I stayed brave, fought my way through the general crowds, and reached the safety of the Book Zone.

The YALC team had set up an area with beanbags, books samples, postcards and other goodies, and there were some publishers there with goodies and very well priced books. Then there were the authors, signing books and chatting to readers.. it was heaven. I got to meet people I knew from twitter, and I got to talk to Patrick Ness and Jonathan Stroud. Everyone was so lovely it was amazing!

Being part of LFCC made things even more special.. I walked past famous people who were doing signings (but they were charging, and I was saving my pennies for more books!) and saw the most mind-blowing costumes. The general atmosphere is something I simply can’t put into words.

On Sunday I got up ready to do it all again, this time with my teen daughter to keep me company. This time we walked straight in, which was a relief, and we settled in for many more authors. I managed to see authors I’d met before, as well as those I knew only from twitter, plus a few new ones. Beth managed to meet Holly Smale and Cat Clarke, two authors whose books she enjoys. It takes a lot for a book to grab her attention, and Geek Girl and Undone most certainly had, so she particularly enjoyed meeting those two. We were also both persuaded to buy books by new authors, which I’m excited to get to.

booksAfter lots of wandering around the LFCC stalls, we also managed to buy a couple of mugs, some badges and a t-shirt.. and that’s on top of all the new books! We finally left feeling exhausted but happy, with lots of gorgeous signed books.  (You can see some photos on my facebook page.)

I have to say a massive thank you to every person who was involved in setting up and running this amazing weekend – and to every author we met there – you’re awesome! Here’s to next year’s YALC!

——

These are all the authors we met – check them out, they’re all fabulous!

Cat Clarke / Holly Smale / Tanya ByrneNon PrattBeth ReeklesJames DawsonHolly BlackPatrick NessJonathan StroudAlexia CasaleKim CurranJames SmytheKit CoxIsobel Harrop (who kindly signed Isobel’s Journal just for Amy, who didn’t go.)

 

bookoflife

I have neglected my blog for some time, but I’ve just experienced my first book launch, which is certainly worthy of a post!

Back in 2011, Headline sent me out a copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I’ve just been back and read my review, and it’s actually more critical than I remember! Oops! However… whereas many books soon disappear into the depths my mind, this one has stood the test of time. For me, this is often the sign of a damn good book – one which I look back on with a lot of fondness, and would even consider re-reading (I’ve only re-read about 6 books in my life!)

Fast-forward a few years, and the final book of the trilogy, The Book of Life, is almost ready for publication. Knowing this re-ignited my excitement for the trilogy, so I was rather happy when in the post appeared a box with a little bottle of wine, straight from Matthew’s cellar (fans of the books will understand) with an invite to a book launch!

I’ve had a few invites before, but I haven’t been able to attend. This one was on a Friday evening, in the middle of summer (light nights for travelling), and was really too good to be missed, so I booked the afternoon off work, and took myself up to London.

The setting, in the Royal Institute ,was lovely, and we were greeted with drinks. After lots of mingling, and looking for people I knew only from Twitter, Deborah arrived, and came around to meet everyone. This was followed by a brilliant Q&A session with Deborah, where we found out lots of interesting information about the books, and Deborah’s writing, including the fact that she cried when she finished the final book!

I came home happily cradling my signed book, a very cool wine glass charm (it’s on the wine bottle in the piccie), a cup cake, and some fantastic memories!

My thanks to the people at Headline who put all this together, especially Caitlin Raynor, hi to all the nice people I met there, and a HUGE thank you to Deborah for coming over, and for being so lovely! It was a great experience, and something I hope to do again in the future.

PS If you’re yet to hear about the All Souls Trilogy, it’s perfect for those who love historical fiction (although much is set in the modern-day world), along with witches, vampires etc. The key to Deborah’s characters is that she asks what would a witch or vampire be like if they were a part of our world.. how would they maintain certain powers, but remain hidden? It certainly makes you wonder what really *could* be going on around us! :)

World Building

When reading fantasy or sci-fi, the writer is usually presenting you with a new world, which may resemble our own, or be very different. To make it work, the reader has to understand that world, and more importantly, have to believe in it.

Some writers choose to throw you straight into their world, finding ways to provide you with background, history, and rules as the story progresses. I’ve read books in which this fails to work for me – often I find myself so concerned with trying to figure out the world, that I fail to concentrate fully on the story.

I’ve experienced two books recently which make this work – the first is the Dark Tower series, which I once thought I’d never read. I gave it a try when it came out in audio, and I’m hooked. I believe fully in Roland’s world, and even it’s connection with ours.

I’ve also just finished a new YA fantasy book, A Throne of Glass. This one takes a while to build up it’s world, and I do think it slows down the book at the beginning, but it pays off – once you’re settled in the world, the story really kicks off.

Then there’s the prologue idea – and this is what prompted this post. I’ve just picked up my ARC of Katya’s World, from a new imprint, Strange Chemisty. The prologue, which tells you the world’s history over a few hundred years, is only a few pages. And yet in those few pages, I feel I understand the world’s origin, and something of the people living there. Just a few pages, and I’m ready to lose myself in the story. I’m impressed.

So, what do you prefer – a slow build, or a good prologue? Any good or bad examples of either?

Review Books

I’ve collected together the main books which I have to review at the moment. From the top down..

Amity and Sorrow – this one is from the new Headline imprint, Tinder Press. This one isn’t out for a while, but I did make a start the other day. And if this one is anything to go by, it’ll be an imprint worth watching!

Neptune’s Tears – from Piccadilly Press. Since taking the photo I’ve manage to finish this one. It’s an interesting sci-fi tale for teens, will link to full review once done.

Poltergeeks / Katya’s World / The Assassin’s Curse – these three were sent to me from another new imprint, Strange Chemistry. I’m really excited about these books, and about Strange Chemistry in general, as they seem to have some great looking titles lined up. I’m half-way through Poltergeeks, and as loving it so far.

Deathless – this is from Corsair, yet another brilliant imprint. I’ve reviewed a few for them now, and they’ve all been good, and I love this author’s children’s book.. I’m excited to see how she handles an adult’s book.

Struck / This Is How It Ends – both from amazon vine. I’ve read some of TIHIE, but it’s failing to grip me.

The Dog Stars – a surprise send from Headline. :)

I guess I need to get one with my reading!

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