How The Write Reads Has Helped Me OR How I joined a Book Blogging Cult and I Regret Nothing

Hello Bookworms!

Today, I want to talk about a Twitter phenomenon, a celebrity amongst the book blogging community, our most exalted leader… Dave. All hail Dave!

 

 

Dave is amazing for a number of reasons, not least because he set up The Write Reads – a super fun, super awesome group of book bloggers who are just the best, most supportive, loveliest people EVER!!! If you want to be part of the cult gang, all you have to do is follow @thewritereads on Twitter and agree to read and retweet (and if possible, like and comment on) the two featured blogs of the day – one is a book review and one is more of a discussion post. When it’s your turn, Dave will contact you and you get to choose your content to be Blog/Review of the Day. That’s right bookworms – this one weird trick will see you evolve into a better blogger!

However, I feel it is my responsibility to warn you that there is a downside to joining the cult gang. Possible side effects may include:

  1. Awkwardness – the gang members are very friendly and supportive. Positivity about your own work doesn’t come naturally to the common-or-garden introvert book blogger so may result in unexpectedly warm and fuzzy feelings.
  2. Increased workload – guys, you have to do TWO blog hops PER DAY. That’s right – TWO!!! That extra ten minutes that you spend reading relevant, interesting content is going to have to come from somewhere, Karen!
  3. Increased workload – The Write Reads gave me a huge stats boost which means even more people now know about my blog (and now I have to interact with them all, sigh 😉)
  4. INCREASED WORKLOAD – you’ll pick up so many blogging tips and so much advice and knowledge that it’s genuinely difficult not to try them all out IMMEDIATELY, thus leaving your house in a state, your career in tatters and your love life non-existent. Or maybe that’s just my inability to multi-task. Either way, Canva has stolen too many of my Sunday afternoons (the multiple windowed little minx).
  5. Shock – you might feel like you’re so cool and misunderstood with your alternative theories about the ending of Harry Potter but then you realise that YOU’VE FOUND YOUR TRIBE and suddenly, you’re not a special little snowflake anymore 😯.
  6. Injury – I’ve added sooo many new books to my TBR since joining up that my virtual one gives me anxiety and my physical pile is threatening to topple over and squish me.
  7. Stress – being part of the gang gives you access to competitions, giveaways etc. which may result in you needing to find somewhere to home yet another book or decide which novel from your massively increased TBR you’d like to purchase with your free voucher. Another book simply will not fit on my shelves I CAN’T BEND THE LAWS OF PHYSICS DAVE.
  8. Obesity – we all know that reading is a pretty sedentary hobby and being part of The Write Reads gang will only encourage your lazy ass to avoid the gym and pick up a book instead. The horror!
  9. Ostracisation – your friends are gonna hate you for all of the cool new opportunities that you get from being a member of the gang, like access to the biggest and best blog tour going, or your shiny new free virtual badge (this alone can induce murderous intent amongst your peers).
  10. Guilt – you’re meant to be a word-loving free spirit, not a corporate drone! Doing those two retweets every day may provide your life with a level of structure that you’re just not comfortable with. You’ve sold out, man!

Joking aside, I really do love being part of The Write Reads. I’d like to say a personal thank you to Dave for everything that he’s done for us gang members – he’s a top bloke and he’s put so much effort into making this thing a real community. I don’t know how he finds the time to keep The Write Reads running successfully (Dave, do you actually live on Twitter?) but he does and it’s thanks to him that the group is as brilliant as it is.

Cheers Dave!

Mid Month Mini-Reviews – March

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Hello bookworms!

Due to the success of my last post, I’m going to keep going with a few more mini-reviews. Look, I even made a graphic! I had no idea how fun these things were to write so I think they might become a monthly feature. Woo hoo! No more trying to drag out interesting comments about dull 2.5 star books.

Today, I’m focusing on clearing out some of my NetGalley backlog, Marie Kondo style. That “older than three months” tab does not spark joy.

 

Golden State by Ben H. Winters

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I quite liked this book – it was proper old-fashioned science fiction along the lines of Philip K. Dick and reminded me very much of Minority Report. The story centered around Lazlo Ratesic, a citizen of the Golden State and member of the Speculative Service whose job it was to enforce the Objectively So: the criminal offense of lying. The upholding of the truth requires Lazlo’s special sixth sense combined with the constant surveillance of all Golden State citizens but absolute power corrupts absolutely and when he stumbles across previously unknown truths, his reality unravels.

I really enjoyed the Big Brother overtones within the novel and it was interesting to read from the point of view of the enforcers, not the average dissenting citizen. The world building was great, very cohesive for such a bold idea and held together well. I enjoyed the questions that the book raised around morality – is it possible to be completely honest all of the time? Is freedom always such a good thing or should we appreciate the use of CCTV etc. as a protectionist measure? However, as the book went on it became a bit absurd, then a lot absurd, then descended into an ending that came so far out of left field that it could have belonged to another novel entirely. Still, I enjoyed the majority of the book very much so I gave it:

Three and a half “is honesty always the best policy?” out of five.

 

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett

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I have to say that I really, really tried with this book but unfortunately I had to DNF it at 60% (see, I told you I gave it a good go). It’s well written but, frankly, dull. Cass is  a singer-songwriter re-launching her career after years of shying away from the public and the book flips between her life now and her back story. I initially enjoyed reading about Cass’ early life and relationship with her family but as the book progressed I felt like the action was sorely missing. Cass has a horrible relationship with her jealous boyfriend (another member of the band) but this point is so laboured and the endless chapters about yet another gig, yet another argument, yet another London flat were so repetitive and dull that I lost interest.

I feel like there’s a good story within the novel but to stretch it out over 400 pages was too much for me. When my Kindle estimated that it would still take over three hours for me to finish I made the decision that life was too short and gave up on it.

Two “MY GOD WHEN WILL IT END” out of five.

 

Notes to Self by Emilie Pine

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This book is a collection of personal essays focusing on a number of taboo subjects – the alcohol addiction of Emilie Pine’s father, her own problems with fertility, the loss of children, of miscarriage, of regret and death and guilt. Whilst the book is brutally honest, it’s just… a lot. That doesn’t make it bad exactly but it does make it a difficult read. Everything is laid bare in quite a matter-of-fact way and whilst I was glad that Pine never wallowed in self-pity it was the lack of personal reflection that left me feeling a little cold. I struggled to get a handle on who she was and her lack of empathy for others or consideration of the wider issues that impacted upon her life meant that in turn I struggled to empathise with her.

Whilst I wouldn’t say that this book was enjoyable, it was a powerful read containing beautifully written prose. I appreciated the honesty of the author in tackling such difficult subjects but I struggled to connect emotionally.

Three “check your privilege” out of five

 

So, have you read any of these books? Is 60% a ridiculously long way into a book before DNFing it? Let me know in the comments!

 

Review – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

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Genre: Complicated Murder Mystery

Similar to: A gothic version of “Clue”

Could be enjoyed by: Anyone who really wants something to sink their teeth into

Publication date: 8th February 2018

 

Picture the scene…

Publisher (P): Ok, tell me about this idea that you have for a book

Stuart Turton (ST): Well, it’s a Victorian murder mystery. It’s set in a crumbling gothic mansion where there’s a party taking place and the reader knows that one of the guests is the killer.

P: Pretty standard stuff.

ST: Weeeeellll… not really. I added a twist.

P: What kind of twist?

ST: The same day gets lived out over and over again, so that the reader gets to see the murder from different angles.

P: How?

ST: Well, for each day that passes, the protagonist wakes up in a different body.

P: Riiiiggghht…

ST: So they collect information from each of their host bodies.

P: Ok. That sounds a bit complicated, but as long as it’s a linear progression…

ST: It’s not a linear progression.

P: But you said…

ST: Each time one of the hosts goes to sleep, or gets knocked out, or killed, the protagonist jumps to a different host. So the timeline kind of moves back and forth.

P: But no-one knows about the hosts, so doing things out of sequence…

ST: No, there’s other characters who are stuck in the same time loop.

P: And presumably they have different host bodies too?

ST: No, I wouldn’t want to make it complicated.

P: Hmmm.

ST: Of course, the hosts know about the hosts so they can give each other information. Oh, and did I mention the plague doctor? And the footman? He’s trying to murder the protagonist by hunting him down. And when I said this was a murder mystery… there’s more than one murder. A lot more. And when I said the same day gets lived out, the hosts do have the ability to alter the timeline for future hosts.

Are you still with me?

P:…

ST…

P: You’d have to a genius to write something that complicated.

ST: BEHOLD MY GENIUS!!!

P: Ok, well as long as you don’t give it a confusing title…

So yes, anyway…

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (not to be confused with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo which is an entirely different book, or The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle which is the same book but with a different title for US audiences) is complicated. As someone who regularly reads multiple books at once, even I had to dedicate myself solely to the novel, reading it in big chunks over a period of a few days (otherwise I kept forgetting who everyone was). Its genius is it’s intricacy though, pulling you into a web of lies, betrayal and secrets that reveal themselves slowly – sometimes even frustratingly slowly – to finally build a picture of the truth.

I loved how the book was written – the sheer scope of the thing, the numerous characters, the plotline that took so many twists and turns I had virtual whiplash. I loved the gothic sensibilities, the utterly unreliable cast of characters and the sense of tension that started on the first page and built momentum as the book progressed. I was utterly engrossed…for about 80% of the novel.

You see, whilst it would be completely honest to say that I got lost in the book, I literally mean that I got lost. The book is so complex, the storyline so fragmented and the characters so unreliable that any sense of playing detective as a reader was utterly pointless. To me, the whole point of a mystery book is to try to work out what’s going on before you’re told by picking up on the clues and red herrings scattered throughout the text. There was none of that here. Even if I wrote the ending here now it wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference because not in a million years would you get anywhere close to being able to work it out.

I think that part of the problem was the idea of inhabiting different hosts (all male, all seemingly middle class/upper working class) with little knowledge or memories of who the host actually was. That meant that the protagonist was endlessly jumping between bodies who all seemed pretty similar, but who all had predefined parts to play. You had no idea of what each host knew, where their loyalties lay or even what their relationships were with other characters. Add to that the few breadcrumbs of plot that jumped out as clues/things to remember and it was all just a bit too much. So by the time I was nearing the ending, I realised that I didn’t have any theories as to what might happen and I was passively watching the action.

Ending notwithstanding, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an incredible, absorbing book. I loved how engrossed I became in it, how inventive and original the storyline was and joyously, unashamedly complicated it became. I would have loved a few more clues, a viable chance at guessing the ending and an easier way of telling the characters apart but I still give it:

Four and a half “not a single non-alcoholic drink throughout”s out of five..

Inventive, original and complex – make sure you keep a notebook handy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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