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I’ve recently had a few ‘issues’ with my reading – I may have called it a lost-reading-mojo or something, but if I’m honest, I think it’s more to do with pressure… and mainly pressure on myself.

I’ve bought quite a few books this summer, mainly because of YALC, and I’ve just re-arranged my bookshelves. I have a ridiculous number of books which I really want to read.. some of these are proof copies from publishers, many are bought, but they’re all yelling at me to read them NOW – all of them at once!

When I do choose a book to read, I’m very aware of all the others waiting, so if I’m not loving it, I start to wonder if I should move on to something else. But, I don’t want to miss out on a good book, so I get caught up deciding whether to continue or not.

And then there are my review copies. Some do just come in the post, but most I’ve asked for (and sometimes begged!). Most of the time I do love what I’ve asked for, and I happily review it, and shout about it on twitter. Sometimes though, I realise that it’s not what I expected, or it’s just not working for me. Then I get hit with guilt.. I feel bad that I asked (or begged) for it, that I took a copy someone else may have had, that the publishers will hate me, that they’ll never send me anything again. :(

A while ago, I decided to stop reviewing. It was quite good for me, but it only lasted a few months. It’s very difficult to resist a good proof when it’s offered, despite the pile of books sitting beside my bed, looking accusingly at me. And by reviewing, I’ve discovered some awesome books which may have otherwise passed me by. Books are my passion, and getting to review some of them early is a huge part of that.

So, this time I’m going for some sort of compromise. I’ve been resisting some offers and give-aways, but I’m not stopping completely – I’m just trying to be very selective in what I ask for / accept. I’m also trying not to buy anything for a while (if you see me in Waterstones, or on Amazon, please slap my wrist!) but I do know something somewhere will tempt me before long!

I’m also – and this is the hardest bit – not going to pressure myself so much with review copies. If I’m not getting on with a book, even if I requested it, I’m going to put it down.. and maybe come back to it if I think it will work with a second chance. I’m a busy working mum, and my reading time is limited, so it’s pointless for me to struggle with something which isn’t working.

I also can’t restrict myself to review books only. Reading is my relaxation and my escape, and I have gorgeous bought books which need my attention as well.

Publishers – I’m so sorry if you send me a book, and I can’t review it. Hopefully the next one will work better, and I’ll be shouting on twitter for everyone to buy it. If you choose not to send any more though, then I’ll sadly accept that, because I do appreciate that your review copies are limited.

Bloggers / Reviewers – am I the only one who feels like this? Are you well organised, and keep on top of things, or do you have to make compromises? Any other advice?

So this was the 2nd year that I attended YALC, and it was bigger and better than the first one. Twitter was buzzing with book talk all weekend, and it continued into Monday. There were some issues, of course, but these are mainly related to the venue, and were out of the organiser’s hands. On the whole though, YALC has been a massive success – so why is this?

I’ve been mulling it over, and for me, I think it’s success lies in the fact that there was something for everyone, and it was possible to make the weekend whatever you wanted it to be.

For some, this meant attending the panels, and hearing their favourite authors discuss various issues – whilst others wanted to grab that early spot in the signing queues! And when it came to the authors, it seemed that some had come purely to see a favourite author (Cassandra Clare and Carrie Hope Fletcher in particular) whilst others wanted to see as many as possible (there were *suitcases* full of books!)

The other lovely thing about YALC is that everyone is so friendly – I saw groups of people meeting up, chilling in the book area, and introducing their friends to other friends – and yet at the same time, it was perfectly ok to sit quietly by yourself, just taking it all in, or even reading that new book you’d just bought!

There were lots of freebies to collect, and lots of books to buy at some good prices. The publishers were lovely, and many of the authors were wandering around on the stands, as well as their ‘official’ signing space.

For me, I met loads of great authors, publishers, bloggers and book lovers – despite feeling shy, anxious, and rather tired. There were books I sadly left at home, due to lack of space in my bag, and books I had to sadly leave un-bought (but hey, have you *seen* my TBR pile?!)

But for others, the experience may have been completely different…

And that’s what makes YALC so awesome!

(PS Did I mention chatting to Chris Riddell?! Double awesome! :-D )

YALC 2015

yalc2015

Last year I managed to go to the 1st ever YA Literature Convention, which I absolutely loved. So, when tickets were announced for this year, I knew I had to be there, and my weekend ticket was booked!

I only intended to pop up for a short visit on the Friday, but I was then invited to a publisher’s blogger’s bunch in the morning, so it turned into a long day. I arranged to meet someone at Victoria, so we could travel to the venue together, and once there I got to chat to the authors, and other bloggers.

We then moved on to YALC, which was so much bigger than last year. They’d managed to get a whole floor (well, shared with a small gaming section) so everything was spread out. There were lots of freebies, and loads of excellent publisher stands, as well as the gorgeous book zone, with bean bags and a book wall!

On Saturday I returned with my daughter – we started off by going downstairs to the LFCC (London Film and Comic Con) – this was also bigger than last year, and I think even more crowded. We did quite well until about 11:30, when it suddenly started *really* filling up – and after walking around in circles for a bit, we finally made it back upstairs.

Highlights for Beth were listening to the Carrie Hope Fletcher panel, and then meeting her whilst she had her book signed. She also met Holly Smale for the 2nd year running.

For me, Saturday brought the highlight of my weekend – Chris Riddell turned up to join in, and I got a book signed, we chatted, and I have my own Chris Riddell drawing! Beth was suitably impressed with his artistic skills.

On Sunday I awoke early with a migraine, so I couldn’t go until my medications got rid of that, but I made it back. Everything was just as busy, and I got more of my books signed.

For me, YALC continued to be about meeting fabulous authors, and getting books signed. A couple I had met before, but there were many new ones. It always amazes me how friendly they are, always ready for a chat as they sign, and often recognising me from twitter. A couple even recognised me from last year!

As well as this though, YALC 2015 was about meeting in person the people I chat to on twitter, as well as a few I hadn’t yet met – I said hi to some lovely publishers whom I’m often pestering about review copies, plus lots of lovely bloggers and book lovers from twitter.

I’m scared to make a list of whom I met, because I know I’ll miss some, but a special shout out to a few..

Michelle Toy (@chellytoy) – who let me meet her in Victoria, made sure I was introduced to people, and generally kept a eye out for me!
James Smythe and Alexia Casale – who both recognised me from meeting me last year.. that’s a good memory!
Fleur, Emily and Anne from Chapter 5 – one of my most favourite publishers! 
C J Daugherty – who was happy to sign my book, even though I hadn’t read it – and who seems to be one of the nicest authors on twitter.
Chicken House publishers – thank you for the brunch, for the review copies, and for introducing me to a bunch of new, awesome authors.
Helen Maslin – Darkmere really is that good, you know!
Rosy (@reviewdiaries) – who kept me company when we first got in on Friday
@catrad (I’m so sorry, I don’t even know your name!) who was so lovely, and we got to meet Sarah Pinborough together. 
Dawn Kurtagich – who was very lovely for someone who’s written a very disturbing (very good) book!
Chris Riddell – highlight of my weekend!

To EVERYONE involved in YALC, thank you so much for the experience – the wonderful organisers, the enthusiastic publishers, the passionate, friendly bloggers and book lovers who attend… and of course the AWESOME authors!! See you all next year!?

robotOccasionally I’ll be offered a book to review which I know nothing about, which is what happened with A Robot in the Garden. Within it, I found the story of Ben, but most importantly, Tang.

There is a lot to love about this book, but I have to admit that I fell in love with Tang, the said Robot which turns up in Ben’s garden. He has the voice and ways of a cheeky child, and yet there is an adorable depth to him too.

Deborah kindly agreed to answer some interview questions, but you have to excuse us, as we let Ben and Tang get involved too….

Let’s start at the beginning – how would you describe your book to a new reader?
DI: ooh this is always a tricky one! But my best elevator pitch I think is: broken man finds broken robot in back garden, and on voyage of discovery both are fixed. Warning: may contain radioactive sausage dogs.

What aspect came to you first, was it Tang, or was it Ben’s story?
DI: it was very much Tang and his name that came first. My husband made an off the cuff remark about the smell of newborn nappies and I said ‘Acrid Tang, that sounds like a robot from east Asia’…why it did, I will never know! That was late one evening, and by morning I knew what Tang looked like, that his best friend was called Ben and that they would go on a round-the-world trip. What started out as practical elements to the story, eg giving Ben money so there’d be no question as to how he could afford the trip, for example, and having Amy leave him so he’d have no ties to keep him from making the journey, turned out to be really important elements to both plot and character, and also some of the most interesting bits to explore whilst writing.

Tang is just adorable.. where did you get your ideas and inspiration for his character – films, books, people?
DI: thank you! All of the above really. I grew up with R2-D2 being my favourite Star Wars character so I think I probably carried through to the book, but I get inspiration from absolutely everywhere. I was balling socks yesterday and thought of a funny section I could do about it. I reckon as long as I keep my eyes and ears open the ideas will find their own way, although that sounds a bit more mysterious than I actually am! I’d never base a character on a particular person, it’s just too intrusive and unfair. Odd conversations, foibles and traits though perhaps. And my son. My son is definitely like Tang sometimes!

This is your debut, are you working on anything else at the moment?
DI: I am, yes. Several things including another comedy, this time with time travel taking the place of robots – i.e. time travel is just something that happens, rather than being a big deal in itself. And where ARITG looked at friendships and relationships this one will look at work and careers, office frustrations that sort of thing. With time travel.

Surely Tang has more stories to tell.. are there any plans for more from him?
DI: Oh, I’m sure if…
Tang: I HAS PET…I TELLS YOU ABOUT PET
DI: shhh, Tang, please. To answer your question – yes I’m sure there’s more we can hear from the pair of them!

What do you like to read yourself, and what’s on your bedside table right now?
DI: I like comedy books, unsurprisingly, my faves being Nick Hornby and Alexander McCall Smith. They’re both so brilliant in they way they observe people and make ordinary things extraordinary. I also love Jane Austen, actually for the same reasons. But on my bedside cabinet at the moment is Ned Beauman’s The Teleportation Accident, which I’m reading for research but enjoying all the same. Also I’m revisiting Terry Pratchett so I have Guards! Guards! there too. On my Kindle is Sara Pinborough’s The Death House which I’m loving and reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which I also loved.

I was wondering if I could have a word with Ben and Tang please….
DI: sure, go ahead! Be nice, chaps….

Ben, you managed to have quite a trip with Tang, which was your favourite part?
BC: I did, didn’t I. Never expected to be halfway round the world, certainly. My favourite bit…I think probably driving in the Dodge. I’ve never been a car man as such but it was quite cool to drive a muscle car. And I guess it’s when I first started to how special Ta…
Tang: CAR!
DI: Tang, please don’t interrupt Ben…and leave your gaffer tape alone.

Is travelling something you wish you’d done earlier in life?
BC: I never thought so, but since going on the trip I now wish I had done more of it. Travelling and holidays and stuff was always just something that happened to me that somebody else wanted to do, but I get the point now, I get why people enjoy it. I thought Tokyo especially was great.

Tang, how about you, what were your favourite parts of your trip with Ben?
Tang: FISH FISH FISHES FISHINGS. FISH! And car.
BC: you did like the boat, didn’t you? I was proud of finding that. We had a really good time on the boat.
Tang: yes.

What’s your favourite way to travel?
Tang: I like fly. But big plane. Big seat. Not small rattle plane. Scared. But big plane, big seat. Game screen. Wheee! Ooh also bul-let. Bul-let train.
BC: I’d go with that.

Do you have any plans set for further trips or holidays?
BC: well Bryony’s got our folks’ holiday house in Tuscany and I’d like to go there again sometime. But we might have to wait until Bonnie’s a bit older. I’d like to take Tang to some places round the UK, too, he’s not seen a great deal of it. Maybe Legoland.
Tang: Leg…what?
BC: don’t worry, Tang, you’ll know what I mean when you see it.

How are your cooking skills developing, have you been shown how to make a proper sandwich?
Tang: Ben, what is means ‘proper sandwich’?
BC: erm…let’s leave sandwiches aside for a moment. How do you think you’re getting on with cooking?
Tang: is easier with box. I has taller. Can reach. I makes…what does I makes last day?
BC: you helped me make a cake for Bryony yesterday didn’t you, because it was her birthday.
Tang: yes. I stirs. Stirring. No…mixings. Did not oven though.
BC: no I had to put it in the oven, because it wouldn’t have done you a lot of good. You don’t get on very well with heat, do you?
Tang: no.

Ben.. do you have anything to add about Tang’s cooking…?
BC: he’s actually doing ok. I mean, it’s like teaching a child to cook and his concentration’s all over the place but, you know, I’m used to it. He really enjoys it which is the main thing.

Tang, are you enjoying your bedroom.. is your Witch cupboard big enough?
Tang: yes I loves bed room! I has room of things are mine. Mine! I think cupboard maybe bit bigger. Does not quite fit. Ben I can has big cupboard?
BC: if you like.

And finally Tang, how does it feel to have your own twitter account, and to have fans?!
Tang: I love fans! Ben what is twitters?
BC: Tang, we’ve been through this…you know perfectly well what twitter is, you’re just being deliberately obtuse.
Tang: what is ‘obtuse’?

I think we’ll leave them there! Thank you everyone. :) You can follow Deborah on Twitter @TheRobotLady andyou also find Ben and Tang @BenandTang

You can find this interview, plus many others, over at The Book Club Forum :)

After a brief trial, The Book Club Forum was set up in 2005, with a small group of people who wanted to discuss their reading; and ten years later, it’s still going strong.

There have been lots of changes over that time. When I started it up, forums were very popular, both large and small, and competition was fierce. Over time, many of them have disappeared, and I think forums in general have had a bit of bad press. During that time, we’ve also seen the growth of facebook and twitter, and many readers use places like goodreads. 

Despite all that, we’re still going, and I hope we still have a lot to offer. However, I have heard lots of comments and concerns about forums recently, so I thought I’d try to address them..

Forums are full of trolls, and there are too many arguments…

This can be true of some forums, but they all have their own moderating team, and that team drives the feel of each forum. The team running BCF are passionate about books, but are also against arguments and personal attacks. We see ourselves as a community who want to share their love of books and reading – debate is welcome, and everyone is entitled to an opinion, but arguments are dealt with quickly. In fact, a comment I hear a lot from members is how safe they feel.

Forums are complicated to use…

Ok, I agree that when you look at a successful forum, it can look a bit intimidating. However, the well run ones will have an introductions section where you can say hi, get to know a few people, and ask questions. There’s usually a help section as well. We indeed have both, and I like to think we’re very welcoming, and can help you settle in. We also don’t mind if you start a new thread or add to an old one, and if you post in the wrong place, we’ll quietly move it for you.

I don’t like registering, and I don’t want to be spammed…

To be honest, most places ask you to register, including facebook and twitter, and the process is usually quick. I understand not wanting to be spammed, but I can assure that in our case, your privacy is important, no one else gets access to your email, and you control any emails you wish to receive from us – you can get notifications of new replies etc if you wish, but that’s something you choose.

There’ll be a lot of book snobs / You won’t discuss the books I read…

I can’t speak for other forums, but that is certainly not true in our forum. Our members read a huge range of books, from chick-lit to horror, historical fiction to SF, fantasy to YA – and everything else in between. The joy of being established for 10 years means that we’ve had time to talk about LOTS of books, so a quick search can often find something. If not, just start a thread about it, and there’s a good chance someone else would have read it, and is ready to chat.

Actually, this takes me back to the ‘complicated’ bit. We have a section, near the top of the forum, where members keep their own records of their reading.. some just keep a list, some make quick comments, and others write reviews. It may not have the prettiness of a goodreads shelf, but our members love reading these records, and they pop in and out to either leave comments, or start discussions about a book. It’s the most social part of our site.

So, you’re almost persuaded? We offer more! My goal over the past few years has been to bring authors and readers together. We have a large selection of interviews, and some authors have stayed around for a while to answer members’ questions. I’ve also run a YA month and a Crime/Thriller month, which has involved authors popping in.

On top of this, thanks to some LOVELY publishers and authors, there are often give aways – we have some rather good ones lined up for our celebrations!

I hope I’ve looked at some of the issues – if you have any more you’d like to mention, please leave me a comment. Or, you can find me at @bookclubforum :)

In case you’ve missed it ;) my book forum will be 10 years old in July! There will lots of discussions and fun on the forum itself, but I also want to celebrate 10 years of BOOKS on twitter and on here as well.

I’d like to run a few blog posts about your ‘Top 10′ – obviously this can be book related if you wish, favourite books, characters, authors, that kind of thing, but I’ll also take all sorts of top 10s.. food, films, erm.. anything you wish (within reason!)!

So, authors, bloggers, publishers – if you want to get involved, let me know. It can be a detailed post, or a quick list, I don’t mind. :)

You can use the contact form here, or find me on twitter: @bookclubforum

Announcement!

The Book Club Forum (or BCF as it’s known to it’s friends) will be 10 years old in July 2015. We think that’s quite an achievement, and we have plans to celebrate!

There will be various events and discussions happening over on the forum, and there will be various competitions running, including one to win a year’s supply of books!

I’ll be posting updates here, so you’ll know what’s going on, there will probably be some content here too, and any competition entry forms will live here as well.

As we’re celebrating the forum, you will need to be a member to be included in most of the competitions, so why not pop over now and check it out?

www.bookclubforum.co.uk

Registration takes just minutes, and I can promise you that we’re a warm, friendly place to be. No drama! ;)

There may be the odd twitter give-away going on as well, so it’ll be worth keeping an eye there even if you don’t want to join the forum. That’s @bookclubforum

So keep watching – and help us celebrate 10 years of books!

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