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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!

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

This is going to sound bad, but I really don’t like writing reviews. I love pretty much everything else, I love buying books, getting books through the post, I obviously love the reading part, and I also love the discussing part. I just dislike having to sit and put my thoughts into words.

The main reason, I think, is that I don’t feel as if I’m very good at it. There are plenty of reviewers out there who can express perfectly how they feel about a book, be it good or bad, and most are a joy to read. Mine, I feel, just don’t live up to them. I never give away the main points of the stories, so sometimes it’s hard to know just what to say, and whenever I read them back, I always feel I’ve missed the mark.

What I am good at, is being passionate about books, authors and publishing. If I like a book, I’ll go out of my way to track down the author and let them know, and many of them I will continue to chat to. I also like getting to know publishing people, partly because I find the world of publishing interesting, and partly because most of them are very cool human beings!

So, I can be passionate about a book or an issue. I’ll post photos, talk to authors and publishers, and encourage others to read a book I love. I love to talk about the books I love, and their issues and their characters. I even run a book forum, even though the forum format doesn’t seem to be that popular these days.

When it comes to sitting and writing a review though, I’m not so keen, and I’m really sorry to authors and publishers if I don’t manage that part very well. I hope the rest makes up for it?!

A short while ago, Andy Robb set up the UKYA Blogger Awards, and I was amazed (seriously – my jaw literally dropped!) to find myself on the list of nominations. Then yesterday the shortlists were posted for the other UKYA Book Blogger Awards, organised by Faye, and I was just as surprised to find myself on there too (yep, my jaw dropped again!).

I’m sure that a few others have been surprised too, as I’m not a traditional blogger. However, when I sat and thought about it, I am doing the same things, just in a different format. If you don’t know much about me, I own The Book Club Forum, a book forum which has now been running for almost 10 years. There’s also a connected review blog, plus I occasionally ramble about books on here, my personal blog.

I don’t run a full book blog, as I don’t have the time to do it justice – and that’s the lovely thing about a forum, the content is provided, day after day, by the members. Some chat about the books they’ve read, some post full reviews, whilst others have conversations about all sorts of book related topics.

Considering the forum is broad, covering all genres, why am I listed for UKYA awards, I hear you say? Well, YA is a passion of mine, and especially our own UKYA. Despite being in my 40s, I read a lot of YA, and I love passing on recommendations. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet quite a few of the authors at signings etc, and I pester chat to even more on twitter. They are, without exception, lovely people!

I keep up with all that’s happening in the YA world, I review ARCs, newly published and established books, and I try to support the authors and publishers on twitter and facebook.

So, I feel as if I’m doing the same as the wonderful bloggers, just in a different way. I don’t feel the need to run a full book blog, because there are so many wonderful ones already out there, and I like to focus my attention on my forum and on twitter.

I don’t believe for one moment that my nominations will go any further, but it means SO MUCH to be acknowledged. Both awards are great, and both as special as each other – and to whoever thought to mention me, I thank you so much. Congratulations and good luck to everyone else on there, you all do a great job.

My final word – if you haven’t checked out a book forum before, or if you’ve had a bad experience in the past (I promise you we’re a nice bunch), why not give us a try? :)

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! :)

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