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What I’ve been doing

I’m writing this post and thinking to myself why? I’m not very good at writing personal stuff online, guess it’s an introvert thing. I was going to ask if anyone wanted me to write this but instead here goes.

Helo! It’s been a while.

I just wanted to explain what’s been going on. Well, this year I’ve been changing my attitude towards blogging. First of all I just reduced reviews and stopped taking new requests, but I was still requesting books on Netgalley.

I’ve got to the point now that I’ve realised how much time I spend blogging when I could be writing. And lately I’ve been doing other things as well….

What I’ve been doing:

Lost motivation to blog/review

Because of all the things I’ve been doing as well as writing (more info below) and maybe because I became overwhelmed with my Netgalley list (my own fault!) I stopped reviewing books. I was reading this one ARC and I wasn’t enjoying it, I read my Poldark book too quickly. Was feeling tired a lot from not enough sleep and reading and reviewing became a chore. I was enjoying the book I was reading for an upcoming blog tour but it was my Netgalley list that loomed over me. I even met my GoodReads goal.

I found less time to blog and didn’t know what to write about. I had a bit of a slump. I was tempted to write about the things I’d been doing but tired mind and being busy.

Yoga

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Photo by Cedric Lim on Pexels.com

I started doing a 30 days of yoga challenge with my favourite yoga teacher, Adriene on youtube. I’ve done this before but always gave up when I couldn’t do yoga on consecutive days, I joined a lovely supportive yoga group on facebook and I’ve just been doing yoga when I can. This was all to change my mindset and feel less anxious which is what I’ve been trying to do with prioritising writing over blogging. So doing half an hour of yoga has taken up more time but I gain time also as I feel calmer and more able to write, read and …

Learn Welsh!

The red dragon flag of Wales

Ok, if you follow me on twitter you know. I am terrible at keeping things to myself, this blog, learning Welsh, writing previously. It seems silly to take on another thing to do when I’m trying to fit writing in but this is something I’ve always wanted to do. This could be a blog post all on it’s own.

I tried learning Welsh in the past, through books and the same website I’m using now Say Something In Welsh   (they do other languages to and it’s great!) but gave up for various reasons. Why I decided to try again now is more of a chain of events than anything else:

  • Keeping Faith/Un bore Mercher

I realised that the series Keeping Faith was originally filmed in Welsh as Une Bore Mercher when series two was aired this year. I wanted to watch the series so badly that I tuned into S4C to watch it in Welsh with subtitles obviously. I loved the music in series one and listening to the Welsh songs by Ela Hughes I really wanted to sing along but didn’t know what the words meant. I didn’t continue watching the Welsh language series sadly, I got distracted trying to see what Welsh I already knew so I continued with the English series when it came back on. I really wanted to know what the song was but it wasn’t on youtube yet. (I’ve found them all since 🙂 )

  • I think the next thing that happened was:

I seen a chance on social media to win a Welsh course, Alana Spencer who won The Apprentice one year is learning Welsh through Say Something In Welsh and all you had to do was email to enter to win this course. I thought about it but chickened out because it might be on tv, I don’t like photos or videos of myself never mind tv! I can’t remember if I tried the taster challengers on the Say Something In website before I seen this but once I seen this I thought why not try again?

Say Something In Welsh

So I started doing the free taster challenges on the website. I spent ages trying to decide if I should do the full course, the 5 minute course or just subscribe and have access to all the challenges/lessons. I was concerned I’d stop again so I thought I’d see how I went. I eventually decided to subscribe and then as usual wished I’d done the course but finding  the time with work etc can be tricky.

I enjoyed learning Welsh with Say Something In Welsh, joies i fe! It seems so easy, they say something in English and you say the Welsh. They tell you the words and you are learning to build them into sentences. I’m surprised by how much I’ve learnt in a short time (Dw i’n synnu at faint dw i’n wedi dysgu llawer mewn amswer byr).

I started doing this quite often when I was taking a holiday from work for a bit but now I’m trying to fit it in. Sometimes I think I don’t know anyone who speaks Welsh and I am so nervous about talking to people that I don’t. But then I watch some S4C and hear the language on Radio Cymru and realise how much I love it. I remember how I regret quitting all those other times and I really do love Welsh, I’ve gained a new love for the language, maybe it’s because I’m older now.

But I said it was a chain of events…. right? 

Before all this I agreed to happily review a book for a blog tour, it’s due on October 1st,and it’s published by a Welsh press and also written by a Welsh writer translated from the original Welsh language! Coincidence?! A few months after signing up for this I’m now learning Welsh. It’s very odd.

If you humour my imaginative fantasy writer reader (sorry) brain for a sec…. It’s like everything was pointing at me learning Welsh again. It’s just unusual…. 

Ok I’m back. Back to rationality I think. I’m still learning,( dw i’n dall wedi dysgu a mae eisiau i fi ymarfer siariad) and I need to practice speaking. I plucked up the courage to join an online hangout one day, only one person turned up and I was so annoyed with myself afterwards for not speaking enough Welsh and signing off instead of practicing. There’s time. It’s a marathon not a race…. and all that jazz. 🙂

I think that’s it.

Sorry, Thanks for sticking with me and reading this it feels a bit of a ramble. I’m feeling calmer after doing yoga and learning Welsh has given me such a sense of satisfaction that it is also contributing to me feeling good. I’m rereading the third book of my favourite trilogy: The Book Of Life By Deborah Harkness.

I don’t really want to stop blogging it’s just I really didn’t have anything to write about and writing one post takes so much time. I’ve got a blog tour coming up on October 1st for that book I was talking about and I’m also going to review the funny book I read by the person who thought up the Say Something In Welsh website. So more to come. And I’m reading another lovely book set in Wales now. And Halloween and spooky reads are on the horizon….

 

How have you been? Share your latest posts, thoughts, anything in the comments. 🙂

Hwyl!

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Summer Reading Challenge In Review

I read 14/20 books for my summer reading challenge, this is my list of books I read, how did I do? Check out my original post click on the titles to visit my reviews.

  1. SealSkin by Su Bristow (wishlist)

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2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew(review)

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3. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot(tbr)

The Outrun

4. Skin by Ilka Tampke(tbr)

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5. The Girl At The Window by Rowan Coleman (Netgalley)

6. The Book Of Cornish Short Stories (tbr)

Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing

7. Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo de Toro and Cornelia Funke(Netgalley)

8.The Magpie Tree by Katherine Stansfield(tbr)

9. Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims (tbr)

Funny book, review to come.

10. The Thirteen Tale by Diane Setterfield (wishlist/tbr)

11. Percy Jackson and The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan ( to review Books2doors website)

A fun and adventurous book, review to come.

12. This is going to hurt by Adam Kay

An enjoyable read if sad and eye opening. Makes you appreciate the NHS and it’s workers. Recommend!

13. Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris (tbr)

I love Joanne Harris books, she’s an amazing sensual writer. Sometimes this book meandered on and I struggled to keep interested. I don’t think the ending and resolution lived up to what I expected. Just my opinion.

14. Parrot in the Pepper Tree by Chris Stewart (tbr)

Such an enjoyable read. Review to come

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In review: I visited different places real and fantastical, Scotland, Cornwall, Narnia. I’ve read an assortment of funny, sad, weird, dark and mystery books. And I couldn’t pick a favourite as they are all different and wonderful in their own way.

I haven’t mentioned the books started and given up on or those not included in this summer challenge. (I started reading A Perfect Cornish Summer but it didn’t live up to what it offered.) I read a lot of the books I planned to.

8/14 were books on my to-be-read list, others I’ve reviewed for Netgalley or Books2doors website. A small few were from a wishlist, books I’ve been meaning to be read for a while. I always feel that I should read more from my tbr and towards the end of this challenge that’s what I tried to focus on. But it’s always hard to read all the books 🙂

Have you read these?

What now?

I don’t plan to review all the books I’ve read but I will be posting the reviews I haven’t got around to within the next few weeks. I thought I’d already posted some.

September: I might reread some books and read for fun not worrying about my tbr so much, athough my Netgalley list is long. And then in October I have a blog tour and it’s that time: Halloween Reads 🙂

Have you been doing any challenges lately? How did it go?

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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once home to the March family – fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, brutal, dangerous Charlie, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House hides a chilling secret which strikes at the very heart of each of them, tearing their lives apart…

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield’s past – and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has Angelfield been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic writer Vida Winter? And what is the secret that strikes at the heart of Margaret’s own, troubled life?

As Margaret digs deeper, two parallel stories unfold, and the tale she uncovers sheds a disturbing light on her own life…”

My Thoughts

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while, it’s one of those stories with a mystery, a blend of gothic, literary fiction and it just feels like this is one of those stories that is written for me.

The first thing I loved was the bookshop where Margaret Lea lives and I liked her instantly. She was so absorbed in reading The Water Babies once that she fell off a wall! I love reading about fellow bookworms and a book that features bookshop or libraries is …. a dream!

This is such a wonderful book that I got lost in the story. Margaret Lea meets an author Vida Winter who tells her to write her life story, the only time she has ever told the truth. The story drifts back and for between past and present telling the story of Vida Winter and the others whose lives have intermingled with hers. It’s like a puzzle and in the present Margaret tries to put the pieces together, returning to Vida’s childhood home, now a ruin and doing some research herself.

It’s a wonderful mystery with gothic elements, hard to put down and stays with you when you finish. I loved this and will definitely be reading more by this author. The style draws you in and keeps you there, such beautiful writing and simply amazing, perfect in every way.

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Another thing I loved about this book that felt it was perfect for me…. the mention of my favourite classic which I am hoping to reread soon: JANE EYRE.

I’ve read all but one of the books that are listed as suggested reading at the end of this book in the reading group notes. That was another reason I knew this book was for me.

 

Have you read this book? You should. Gothic novels are the best, which ones have to read?

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Summer

Yesterday we took a short trip to Porthcawl, just for a walk along the beach. The tide was out, further than it usually is on our other visits and tidal pools were uncovered at the water’s edge. I love rock pools, I used to spend most of my childhood holidays hunting for shrimp when I wasn’t playing in the sea. It was great to see these pools uncovered and we spotted a lot of wildlife, some I’ve never seen.

We could see a lot of starfish caught on the beach and we weren’t sure if they were alive or not. The little fish I think is a sand eel, it was jumping about on the beach and I picked it up to put back into the sea but it was dead, the seagulls were waiting for us to leave to have their dinner.

In this first picture you can see this crab, it’s alive but it’s covered itself with wet sand, there were other crabs hiding beneath the sand too you can see my video on my twitter, I’ve pinned it to my profile for now as I can’t figure out how to link it here.

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If you look closely here you can see to the left of the sunlight a small shell, this rockpool was full of hermit crabs. I’ve never seen them before, well only in an aquarium. I could’ve sat there for hours watching them. The picture to the right (taken by my boyfriend) is another hermit crab that we found on the beach, and the one below.

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Walking along the beach is lovely by itself but when you get to see all the wildlife it’s even better. It was a boiling day and it was lovely to smell the gorgerous sea air and the scent of the sand for a short time.

Summer Reading Challenge

I have finished 8 out of a possible 20 of my Summer Reading challenge. I’m reading two which count to the challenge at the moment. I started reading too many books so I may stop reading one until the challenge is over.

I’ve still got to catch-up on my Netgalley reads and I’m hoping to read some books on writing in September and maybe rereads. That’s if I’m happy with how much I’ve read from my tbr.

I want to gues-estimate that I’ll read around 13 books for this challenge, it is meant to carry over into September and I didn’t start it until late June. I won’t be quick enough to read 20 but 15 I’d be happy with.

I’m reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield at the moment and Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims.

What are you reading? Have you been to Porthcawl?

 

 

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Collecting Classics

I don’t really know how it started. My sister bought some really lovely copies of classics from a charity shop, I learnt about the existence of the Penguin Clothbound Classics which started a conversation with a fellow booklover in work. Internet, twitter. I don’t know.

I did start to buy some signed copies (I blame Waterstones) of modern fiction and I have a gorgeous hardback boxset of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar children but I think the need to have lovely classics came first.

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It must’ve started before all that. I started off buying the classics in paperback, just because that’s what I found first. But I’ve been wanting a hardback copy of Jane Eyre for a while, you can see my first paperback and the later cheap hardback I bought.

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The rest of my classic paperbacks amongst my other books…

I’ve already got a few hardback classics but I don’t think they’re considered collectable and I started looking at the more collectable editions recently. Technically my collection started with this book:

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I can thank a former colleague for this my first clothbound classic, it was a secret santa gift. The plan was to buy more clothbound classics but when I was shopping in Waterstones last they didn’t have Jane Eyre which being my favourite classic I wanted to start with. But then I discovered how many different collectable classics there are. And probably thanks to the Ninjas I heard about the Folio Society classics. The difference between the Folios and the other books I have (except Heidi) is that they have illustrations. I was recently struggling to pick which edition of Jane Eyre I preferred and ended up buying this book:

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The Ninja Book Box had this copy of Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, available in their shop, they shared it on social media and I just had to buy it, in prefect condition. 

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I have read it before and have it in paperback, I think, but collecting classics is about finding beautiful copies of the books you love. Even if you already have them. After all I already had two copies of Jane Eyre (not counting the ebook) and I bought another one recently but I’m tempted to do what a fellow bookblogger is doing (Esmé from Esmoggle Reads) and collect more.

People collect other things why not collect books?

When I was looking for a copy of Jane Eyre on ebay I found this:

 

I hadn’t planned to buy this but the illustrations inside are so dark, it’s probably not the most lighthearted of copies of this book but it is beautifully gothic. The illustrations inside are what sold it for me:

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So I’ve got the bug, but I can’t buy anymore just yet. (The good thing about buying these books is I’ve had to stop buying more books). I’m not sure what books I’m going to buy next and how often I’m going to add to my collection but this is a start.

What do you think about these books? Do you like collecting specific books? Share links to your posts.

 

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The One Where… I Talk About TV

When I hit a bit of a reading slump lately I started watching tv more. I have so many programmes that I want to watch. This would be a really long post if I talked about all the programmes I love and the ones I’m currently watching (just finished Santa Clarita Diet). 

I’m taking holidays owed from work this week and I’m taking a little bit of a break from writing blog posts, I’ve had them all scheduled, so I’m going to concentrate on my writing and reading and TV. So I thought why not write a holiday post all about tv?

(oh, I’m going to a book fare this week so…. I wonder how many books I’ll come back with 🙂 Future blog post) 

I’ve been rewatching Angel recently. I watched it when it was first broadcast and bought it on tape but didn’t think I’d seen them all. Turns out I have except maybe not in order. It was on C4 and in the days before Freeview my channel 4 was snowy (90s kids will remember the fuzzy channels before digital 😂) so I couldn’t watch it.

 

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Buffy was on at 6.45 Buffy was my addiction my favourite show ever. Honestly, it was my sister who introduced me to Buffy, I can still remember the conversation.

Buffy will always be the best for me, I grew up with this show. Every Thursday night at 6.45 I was glued to the television for my fix. I shed tears over this show. Angel was the ultimate broody vampire and their relationship is something I always want to see rekindled, even years later. I often rewatch Buffy. I had them on VHS now dvd. I have the  soundtracks too (anyone else listen to Once More With Feeling?)  It’s great that it’s still popular and you can get new merchandise too. I’ve still got most of my old merch (minus the novels :/ )

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Roswell was on BBC at 6 and I loved it. It was on before Buffy.  Max is an alien from another planet and he saves Liz when she’s shot at work. The last series the time slot changed and I missed it but family bought the dvd boxset for me. I’ve rewatched it a few times, it never gets old.

There’s not many shows I love enough to buy on dvd and rewatch over and over. I watched Farscape too

Image result for farscape but I did miss a lot and keep meaning to watch it from the beginning.

I did watch Friends too but when I was older, I was too into Buffy and all the weird stuff to get into Friends then. But I love it now, I haven’t watched it in a while. I used to watch it over and over but it’s always on tv so it became a bit much.

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This is one of my favourite scenes.

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The Gilmore Girls is my feel-good tv show. I have them all on dvd and they made A Year In A Life!! I’ve watched them so many times, I’m currently watching the last few series again right now. I remember first watching it years ago on Hallmark, but I didn’t have Sky tv in my room so there was just this one episode. Then later E4 started to show it and I realised I’d seen it before on Hallmark. Loved it ever since.

I could talk about Buffy and all my favourite programmes for days. These are my more recent favourites:

  • Poldark
  • Game Of Thrones (final series soon :0 )
  • Firefly (from Joss Whedon who created Buffy and Angel)

And that’s not mentioning all the other amazing programmes I’ve watched on Netflix and tv over the years. Did you ever see Ghost Whisperer? That was a great show but I didn’t like the last season. WHAT HAPPEND TO PROFESSOR PAYNE? 

So many great shows that have finished:

  • House
  • Bones (still haven’t watch all episodes)
  • The Vampire Diaries and The Originals (last series of both ruined, can’t watch anything by those people anymore)
  • Penny Deadful
  • How I met your mother (so good)
  • Downton Abbey
  • Desperate Housewives

I can’t mention all the shows here, my dvds are still boxed up so guaranteed I’ve missed something.

Shows I’m looking forward to watching:

  • Supernatural- it’s on Amazon Prime and I only ever watched a few episodes. I’m so behind.
  • Outlander- I watched it on More 4 and read the first book. It’s all on Prime (sensing a pattern here)
  • Good Omens: I’m reading the book, I must see the show.

Have I missed anything here old or new? Tell me your favourites, maybe I’ve seen them. 

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The struggles of reviewing as a book blogger….. and a writer.

My main struggle as a blogger is finding the time to keep up with my reviewing and write blog posts as well as all the other things… my own writing, work, housework etc etc But there’s a more pressing struggle:

Do you write critical/negative reviews?

This post is about my struggles with reviewing books, not just as a blogger but as a writer. I don’t like to write critical reviews but an honest review might be just that. I don’t want to criticise a book, I rarely do, but then if someone is spending money on a book and reading reviews to see if they’ll like it, shouldn’t I be honest and say if I didn’t?

I only review the books I like, at the moment. But sometimes even if I like a book, there may be a few things I didn’t enjoy. A recent review I published on here was a mix, I enjoyed some of the stories but it wasn’t to my taste and I was honest about it. But it’s a struggle to be honest knowing the author will read the review and they might not like it.

How I began reviewing

I first started reviewing books on Lovereading’s review panel, I chose the books I wanted to read and they’d publish the review on their website. I didn’t have a blog back then and all my reviews were positive because I liked the books. I probably wrote negative ones on Amazon at some point but they were books from my bookshelf not ARCs.

I started my blog ( on blogger which I migrated here) when I joined Netgalley. My reviews were mainly positive, I remember writing one negative review for Netgalley, which was a review of the chapter of a novel I really didn’t enjoy. I had no trouble  writing negative thoughts then.

So what happened?

I started getting emails from authors and from publicists or representatives of authors looking for reviews. It was then that writing reviews became trickier.

I don’t like the idea of  writing a negative review if someone has asked me to write a review for their book, it’s a bit like bad press. For Netgalley it doesn’t bother me but if an author or publicist or someone has asked me it feels more awkward, but then you can’t always tell if you will like a book from the beginning.

I struggled when I had a lot of books to review last year, I turned a lot of reviews down because I didn’t have the time. And then when I didn’t enjoy some of them. I didn’t want to read books I wouldn’t enjoy and I also didn’t want to write a negative review of books that I didn’t finish. I ended up taking a break because of all this (and my house move of course) and came back to reviewing because I enjoy telling people how great a book is.

Question for book bloggers/reviewers? Do you write negative reviews? Do you finish these books or just explain why you didn’t?

I wonder if it’s ok to write a negative review if you don’t finish a book?

Before when I was only reviewing on Amazon etc I would have no problem writing negative reviews but since I’ve started my blog I can’t. My maternal grandmother once told me I was “too nice” and maybe she’s right:

Writing reviews as a writer.

Thinking as a writer I don’t like the idea of writing a negative review of a book that someone has asked me to read. I just won’t review it. It’s my taste and might not reflect others and I really don’t want my review to mean that someone else doesn’t read the book. It’s not that I think I have any influence, I just don’t like the idea that it could happen. The idea makes me feel guilty.

Allow me a chance to argue with myself here: writers get negative reviews whether I write them or not. You have to have a thick skin, one day I will be published (hope) and I may get them too. Everyone is different and likes different things. 

Maybe it’s more to do with how people see me? And I don’t want people to hate me?

Another reason I struggle to review as a writer

Ok, I’m not saying I’m the best writer, I’d love to be half as good as writers like Carlos Ruiz Zafon or Deborah Harkness, to name just two. But when I’m reading my writer  brain will often pick out flaws and ways to improve (after hours of trying to improve my own work it’s  natural) or compare to great writers.

They say you should learn to read as a writer so you can analyse other people’s books and learn from them to improve your own writing. It would be really helpful if my writing brain would analyse the amazing writing too so I could learn, but it just stops and I gush over a gorgeous sentence  (and forget to write quotes down so disorganised) but I can’t see how to write it myself. I’m still learning.

My brain is good at finding flaws but when something is so good… can’t compute… can’t tell me how it is good. Only that it is so fricking good!

The problem with  ‘reading as a writer’ is that I can’t always turn it off. I’ll be reading this riveting story and then my writer brain will go ‘ugh, show not tell, I can’t read this’ and then think of how it can improve it. (not good) Or if it’s first person and there’s been a lot of “I” I’ll start counting them. This spoils my enjoyment of the story. And makes me want to stop.

My writing could be the same, my viewpoint could be all over the place, I know I need to learn more about active writing. But then when I review a book I worry that people will think that I am insinuating I can do better. I don’t know if I can. Should I try and shut off that part? I don’t think it’s possible?

Do other readers who are not writers pick up the same flaws? If not should I mention them?

But I wonder when I read a book where I find flaws: did they have no beta readers? No editor or someone to point out mistakes or things that need to be improved? Should I tell them? If it means their writing can improve they should be told but at the same time, they may be crushed.

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There is the connundrum.

At the moment If I don’t finish a book I won’t review it. And so far I’ve only had that one review that has had any critical thoughts at all (that I can remember). I try to read books I know I will like to avoid having to turn down a review.  I’m bound to eventually read something that doesn’t suit me, that I don’t like. Then I’ll have to decide whether to review it or not.

And at the moment I haven’t read a book that I’ve found flaws etc in but when I do, I’m wondering if I should be honest and explain the flaws? Even if the author may be crushed? The easiest way I can write a critical review is to point out the positive, then tell what I didn’t like.

You might be reading this and thinking just write your honest opinion. It’s difficult, but in being “too nice” I am also not being truly honest? It’s hard to be honest if you didn’t like something. Knowing that the author will know and might feel bad.

What do you think?