I’m not dead, I just needed a break

Hello bookworms!

On the off chance that any of you are still reading my blog after not being present on here for months, I’ve dedicated this afternoon to catching up on comments, tags and ACTUALLY WRITING SOME ACTUAL REAL LIFE BLOG CONTENT. Crazy, huh?

I feel like I should start with an apology. Everyone, I’m so, so sorry for disappearing and basically ignoring you all. Life has been somewhat different recently and one of my worst personality traits is hiding myself away when things get overwhelming. However, I’m going to make a concerted effort to get back into blogging, blog hopping and responding to you all. I genuinely feel quite guilty about my absence and I hope that none of you are too mad at me. Here, have a kitten in a basket

So, I guess you’re all wondering what I’ve been up to, huh? Well, you might remember that I was volunteering with my local library. What initially started as a few hours per week shelving books has now turned into me being part of the management team, running events, fundraising, being half of the social media team and getting involved in all kinds of projects that don’t in any way relate to my skill set (this is on top of my actual property development job). To say I’m busy right now is something of an understatement but I’m really enjoying myself.

The current “project house” is almost…ALMOST nearing completion. The last of the big jobs is painting (everything, at least four coats as it’s entirely new plaster) then loft insulation, carpet fitting and internal door hanging… and I think that will be it!  I cannot tell you how excited I am. In the past few months my cousin has been amazing, building us a new staircase, a boiler cupboard and putting in all of the interior woodwork. I’m sure there will be a million other tiny jobs to do along the way and literally as I’m typing I’m thinking “we need to seal the brickwork in the fireplace and build a new doorstep and clean up the front path and put some plants in and…” but the end is in sight… finally!

Despite all of this (and perhaps because I’m spending so much time on the library) I’m still on track with my Goodreads target of 100 books. Expect many, many reviews to come in the next few weeks! God only knows where I am with #ReadHarder, I’ll have to look later on at where I’ve got to. I have two months to sort it, fingers crossed it will be ok.

So, what have you all been up to? How are you doing with your reading targets? Talk to me, I’ve missed you!

Lots of love,

Lucinda xxx

P.S. I had a little play around with some new blog graphics. Let me know what you think!

 

Viewpoint – Are We Having Fun Yet?

Hello Bookworms!

I realised that I haven’t bashed out a discussion piece in ages, due to the inevitable end of year wrap ups, challenge completion and resolution posts so I thought I’d write about something that’s been on my mind for a little while now. So, grab yourself what looks like a horrible instant coffee, slip on some unattractive slippers, find a fire hazard of a carpeted hearth (is that even legal?) and lets have a chat about blogging and pressure.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I really enjoy blogging (and obviously reading) but there seems to be a darker side to running a blog that I’m just becoming aware of (hilariously, after three years of doing it). I’ve only just joined Twitter (THAT’S where you’ve all been hanging out!) and, well, I’m addicted. It’s far more interactive and faster than blogging, you can find out the latest happenings within the bookish community, you can engage with authors and famous people. That’s all super-smashing-great but the thing is, all of this checking of social media takes time and effort and what with writing posts, blog hopping, responding to comments etc., it’s taking up a lot of my day.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve seen super organised bloggers who have content scheduled months in advance and I’ve seen bloggers who bash posts out and publish them immediately (guess which one I am) but we all seem to be saying the same thing – sometimes, we just don’t have the time and/or capacity to keep up with it all. And when that happens, most of us beat ourselves up for it.

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Why?

Because there’s a lot of pressure on bloggers to meet various deadlines (ARC’s, blog tours etc.), complete reading challenges, engage in the latest debates… but the thing is, this is meant to be FUN. What started as a nerdy little hobby for most of us can easily get out of hand and turn into a full time job. That’s a lot to take on, so no wonder we frequently hear the terms “burnout”, “blogging hiatus”, “reading slump”… if we didn’t run book blogs, would we even notice that we were in a slump? Would we tone down our use of social media without feeling the need to announce it to the world? Would we have “scheduled reading”? Would we be keeping detailed spreadsheets of any other aspects of our lives?

The best, most addictive thing about social media is the external validation that you get from seeing the number of people who have responded to your content. It’s the most instant, obvious way to see how unambiguously “popular” you are – and when those stats are going up, it feels great. However, what happens when you publish a post that only a few people interact with – or when you realise that someone started a blog three months ago and has ten times the number of followers that you do? It doesn’t feel great, does it – but what can you do?

Look at this awful, shameful display of self promotion…😉

Well, there’s two ways of looking at this. The first is to chase those stats – review popular books, write content that you think other people will find interesting, blog SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, tweet ALL OF THE TIME, read some novellas to hit that Goodreads target, even pay another blogger to promote you. But really, who has the time? And how long can you realistically keep it up for? The instant gratification wears off pretty quickly and you’re left chasing even greater numbers, with a mountain of self-generated work to do in the meantime. Over the years, I’ve seen bloggers explode onto the scene with tons of posts, an immediate number of followers and constant engagement but then the shine wears off and they disappear, never to be heard from again. You have to wonder, what was the point?

The second way is to actively try to manage your expectations. Review what you want, limit your time on social media, try to follow a few blogs consistently instead of checking out random posts based on what pops up on your Twitter feed. You won’t get the numbers in terms of your own stats (although, consistently following a handful of blogs is arguably more beneficial as people tend to reciprocate) but you’ll be setting up a realistic blogging habit that works for you long-term. It can be hard when you’re three years in and still aiming for 500 followers but I really treasure the few proper blogging friends that I have – and isn’t that what this whole blogging thing is all about really? Making human connections with like-minded people?

I know that for most of us, we keep ourselves in check and mostly manage to balance our actual lives with our blogging activities – and that for the majority of the time, blogging is fun – even with all of the additional admin. But it can easily get out of control and I think we (myself included) need to step away from the stats and celebrate what we’ve achieved – content that we love, blogs that reflect our individuality and creativity and a positive, supportive community – regardless of how many people have clicked that follow button.

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So, be honest – how often do you check your stats? Do you do anything to actively increase your number of followers/page views etc.? Do you agree that blogging is about far more than metrics? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Review: Lucky Star by Holly Curtis

 

 

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Genre: Young Adult

Similar to: Like a mixture of a grittier Ferris Bueller and a tamer Kidulthood

Could be enjoyed by: I think adults aged 35+ would appreciate the nostalgia

Publication date: 25th April 2018

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #23 Read a self-published book

Finally – FINALLY – someone has written a realistic portrayal of how teenagers ACTUALLY talk to each other and what they ACTUALLY get up to i.e. drinking, hanging around on street corners, shoplifting and driving too fast in crappy cars. Ahhh, memories.

Lucky Star is the coming-of-age story of Ben, set on the South Coast of England during the 1980’s. Like a lot of teens, Ben has to cope with a number of problems, from raging hormones to peer pressure and an inability to converse with the opposite sex. He also discovers a dark secret from his past regarding the death of his parents that he struggles to come to terms with. Living in Thatcher’s Britain affords Ben and his aunt with few opportunities for money, so he has to make a choice – stand out as a loser or fit in with the cool kids and obtain decent threads by the only method available to him – shoplifting.

I really enjoyed how realistic this novel was. Some of you may remember my previous post called “I Don’t Like YA, Please Don’t Hurt Me” where I bemoaned the fact that all teens in YA books were holier than thou middle class try-hards with money and cars and zero interest in smoking and drinking and sniffing glue. Fortunately,  Lucky Star does not fall into that trap.

I liked the colloquial phrases used throughout the dialogue and I loved the way that Holly Curtis captured the aimlessness of hanging around doing nothing and the weird way that teenage boys interact with each other (basically taking the piss and lightly thumping their friends as a way of expressing emotion). It gave me a real sense of nostalgia for my own teenage years, even though they occurred somewhat later on.

However, I did feel like the plot meandered quite a lot and I thought that there was some surplus fat that could have been trimmed down to make the focus of the novel sharper. For example, I really wanted to know more about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ben’s Mum and Dad and thought that a lot more tension could have been wrung out from those scenes, instead of reading about odd plotline offshoots like Ben going to a club with a random minor character.

Those issues aside, I enjoyed reading Lucky Star for the realistic portrayal of teenage life in the UK pre-2000 (good God – last century – that makes me feel so old!). With a little more revision this could easily go from being a good to a great read.

Three “YOU’RE GONNA GET CA…too late” out of five.

Realistic, good dialogue and characters but the novel’s structure needs some work.


Please note that I was sent a copy of this book for free directly from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Holly for giving me the opportunity to read her work!

The A-Z of Me Part One

Hello Bookworms!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I saw this great little post on Dave@espressococo‘s blog and thought that it would be really fun to try! I love a good getting to know you post, so let’s see what the letters A to M say about me!

A is for Antiques

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I love antiques and I’ve been collecting them for a few years now. In particular, I like objects from the arts and crafts movement, like this copper jardiniere.

B is for Blogging

Well, obviously! I’ve been blogging for three years now and my little corner of the internet remains small but perfectly formed (well, as perfect as I can make it anyway).

C is for Comedy

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I love seeing comedy live – I usually go to a few gigs per year. Favourite comedians include Sara Pascoe, Jon Richradson, Hannah Gadsby and Rachel Parris – I saw Jon last year for the third time and I’m hoping to see the others soon.

D is for DIY

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I love DIY and I’m currently refurbishing a house with my partner. I’ve learnt loads of new skills and so far I’m still enjoying the process, even though it’s gone on for a lot longer than expected.

E is for Eating

Who doesn’t love eating? I really enjoy cooking my own food and have been known to whip up some tasty treats, such a lemon meringue pie from scratch (including the lemon curd) and I always do a big Sunday roast for me and the non-hubs.

F is for Feminism

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I’m a feminist and proud! I listen to lots of feminist podcasts, like The Guilty Feminist, Standard Issue and even good old Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 (which is way more radical than you’d think!) I became interested in the movement after reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Girl, which is an incredible book that everyone should read.

G is for Gardening

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If there’s one thing that gives me almost as much pleasure as reading it’s gardening. It all started when I met my boyfriend (who is a plant scientist) and he basically roped me into helping him sort his garden out after having the kitchen extended. I got completely hooked, to the point where I now grow most of my own veg on my own allotment. It’s hard work but so, so enjoyable.

H is for Human Resources

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I have an MA in Human Resource Management, as well as a degree in Business and membership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development. Despite all this, I gave up my career because…well… I hated it! If you have a HR team in your workplace, please be nice to them. It can be a pretty thankless job dealing with people’s problems day in and day out.

I is for Injury

My leg is mostly made of metal having broken it in four separate places. Some of the pins in my ankle stick out a bit and you can feel the plates in my leg (weirdly it’s made my leg thinner, so now my calves are different sizes). I also have a pretty cool scar!

J is for Jaguar

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We have an old Jaguar car that we take out a few times a year to shows and events (or just to show off if we’re going to a wedding lol). I don’t really get it but the non-hubs loves it and our house is full of his Jaguar tat memorabilia.

K is for Knitting

I love making things and knitting is one of those hobbies that I intermittently try my hand at. I’m still at beginner level but I’ve made so pretty nice things, including a lace knit scarf and an old-fashioned tea cozy for a friend. My long term goal is to knit an advent calendar – I’m thinking 25 individual mini-stockings that I can string up like bunting and fill with chocolates/sweets/tiny presents.

L is for Library

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I’m a library volunteer for one of my local libraries (since the council completely cut all funding) which is really, really fun. I recently mentioned online that I’m on the lookout for donations of books (used or new) to help replenish out stock, or possibly be sold in our used giftshop and people have been so kind – it’s really restored my faith in humanity!

M is for Music

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I love music, especially weird indie-pop, 80’s and 90’s stuff, rock, metal, death metal… and Kate Bush. I collect vinyl records too and I’m always mooching about in charity shops and record fairs.

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So, that’s the first part of the A-Z of me! Do we have any hobbies or interests in common? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned for part two – coming soon!

 

Viewpoint: I’m a Book Blogger, not a Publicist

Some of you may have seen the recent furore on Twitter regarding some negative coments about the efficacy of book bloggers and their impact on book sales.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the debate (if you can call it that) and whilst I think it’s pretty obvious that book bloggers ARE a huge part of the PR and marketing plan for many new books – I don’t think that’s not really the point of book blogging. 

At the end of the day, my blog is my little corner of the internet where I witter on about whatever I want. I usually talk about books because I have a deep, undying love for reading and have done ever since I was little. I devote hours of my time to book blogging, for free, purely because I love it. 

But – and I’m going to say this in an outdoor voice *deep breath* I’M NOT HERE TO PROVIDE FREE PUBLICITY. That’s called MARKETING –  showing off whatever you’re trying to flog in it’s most favourable light, highlighting the positives and wilfully ignoring the negatives. If I were, I’d be writing biased reviews about all of the good points of a novel and expecting to get paid for it as some kind of freelance book promoter. And you’d all see through it in about five seconds flat and stop following me.

I hate the idea that giving out an ARC or creating a blog tour is going to generate loads of publicity. That suggests that publishers expect positive responses to the books they’ve given out, purely because the blogger has received them for free. Sorry but that’s not how it works. I’ve received many ARC’s that I’ve been highly critical of (hopefully in a constructive way) because that’s the chance you take. Again – I’ll say it louder for the people at the back – I’M NOT HERE TO PROVIDE FREE PUBLICITY. All of my reviews – every single one – are my own honest opinions. And if you’ve sent me a book that I haven’t enjoyed, I’m going to tell you that. In detail. I’ll be fair and I’ll make it clear if I think I’m just not the target demographic but I won’t be anything other than honest. 

That’s not to say that I won’t help out with promoting a book if my already written, honestly positive review can help the author/publisher. Sure, they can use it for quotes; I’ll happily post it on Goodreads, Amazon etc. I’ll send out a tweet and I’ll include any hashtags or links that they want. I think it’s important to remember though that I’ll do this for any book – whether it’s an ARC, as part of a blog tour, a library book, a borrowed book, a second-hand book, a book I’ve bought myself – regardless of when it was published or how much praise it’s already received. They all get treated in exactly the same way because I’m talking about something that I love. If that’s useful to a publisher then great – if not, it doesn’t matter to me because I DON’T WORK IN P.R. This is my hobby, not my job. 

So, do I want everyone who reads one of my positive reviews to rush out and buy the book? No, I don’t. At the end of the day, it’s just an opinion. My reviews are solely written from my own viwepoint, so of course they’re biased – otherwise I’d be trying to collate everyone’s thoughts and creating some kind of meta-data overview. At the end of the day, I want my readers to think about what I’ve said and make their own judgements. I’ve read loads of fabulous, entertaining, five star reviews where I’ve known that the book in question isn’t something I’d enjoy. Like all readers over the age of ten I know my own preferences and tolerances, so for example if a reviewer goes overboard about the cute romance between two characters that’s a personal red flag for me but if they slate a book for use of profanity – meh, I won’t count that as a negative. 

Now, I could go on for hours about the intangible benefits to publishers of brand recognition, the difficulty of measuring return on investment when your sales could be impacted by a myriad of variables or the fact that you can’t attribute any profit to one specific strand of your marketing strategy if you’re not collecting customer feedback but I’ll leave my business degree knowledge alone because a) it’s boring b) it’s not my job to think about this stuff and c) IT’S NOT MY JOB TO THINK ABOUT THIS STUFF. Does it matter that my blog is tiny and statistically won’t have much reach? No. Because, for the third and final time:

I’M NOT HERE TO PROVIDE FREE PUBLICITY. 

I blog for the friendship, the discussions and the entertainment.

I blog to “meet” likeminded individuals.

I blog because I enjoy talking about books.

If my blog can help to promote a book that I love then that’s great but that’s a by-product of my primary aims. We’re all here, diligently bashing away at our keyboards because we want to share our enthusiasm, our passion and our love for reading. For free. It would be lovely if everyone could be a bit more respectful towards us – after all, without us readers the publishing industry wouldn’t exist.

Lucinda x