Uncategorized

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.

woman working girl sittingPhoto by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

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?

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Blog Tour, review

Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five by R.J. Furness

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I was so intrigued when the author contacted me and asked me to review this book for this blog tour. The cover intrigued me, (I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover). I actually read this book twice, I read the ARC ebook and I was just about to reread when this package came:

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The yo-yo and the sweets tie into the story. This package made my day!

There’s something special about this series of books. It’s  going to be serialised, like Dickens used to do, releasing it in small bits at a time. A bit like watching an episode a week of your favourite tv show. It’s different and I like it. There’s more explanation at the beginning of the book.

So you’ve seen the cover, here’s a note from the author:

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My thoughts

After reading the author’s introduction I was riveted. Straight away I knew this was going to be unique and not like anything else I’d read. An wonderful imaginative fantasy world (well R.J.Furness did bring Orgos into the world) and it’s only the first book!

Sapphire Smyth is kicked out of her foster carer’s home on her 18th birthday, they tell her that they can’t afford to keep her anymore. No money from the government. She feels unwanted, her father abandoned her and now the people who brought her up have done this. I felt so sorry for her, she’s a strong character though, no ‘damsel in destress’ you like her straight away:

“Sapphire didn’t need saving by Ben – or anyone else.”

If being kicked out wasn’t hard enough she then ends up on the wet streets to find somewhere to sleep and weird things start happening.

I don’t want to give too much away so I’m not sure how much to tell you. But it’s good!

R.J. Furness does a good job of whetting your appetite with this first book in the series. There’s so much tension and suspense you will end up reading this book in one sitting. I got to the end to the words ‘To Be Continued…’  and it’s a lot like a cliffhanger to your favourite show, and you feel like shouting: wait, what happens next?

I loved this book so much I read it twice. Looking forward to the next one in the series, that’s if I don’t read it again by then…..

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If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of this book, you can get it on Amazon Kindle and Kobo.

Of course if you prefer a physical book you can buy that too.

Check out the author’s website https://rjfurness.com/ for more info about this book and the others. And here’s the GoodReads link.

 

review

Treading The Uneven Road by L.M. Brown

Treading The Uneven Road

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. It will be released Friday 15th March.

Synopsis from GoodReads:

“The stories in this linked collection are set in a small village in the Northwest of Ireland in the early 1980’s and 90’s. A by-pass around the village has rid them of their once busy traffic. The residents feel forgotten by the world. The need to reach out and be heard is explored in every story, from the young woman who starts to have phone conversations with her husband’s gay lover, to the dyslexic man who confronts his cruel teacher years later. 

The collection is not only about the characters need for salvation but it is about a society that is unraveling. In Amends, we hear about the Bishop who has fathered a child. A priest is beckoned by a dying man to be mocked. The world inside and outside the village is changing. In every story the characters need to make a choice on how they might carry on. “

My thoughts

Treading The Uneven Road is a collection of character driven stories that sometimes span the majority of their life. The characters are so well developed with plenty of description and an insight into their thoughts and feelings. The author does a good job of making you care about the characters and of presenting a good sense of place and atmopshere.

The collection starts with ‘The Lady On Thhe Bridge’ an intriguing story of a woman who suspects her husband of having an affair, after finding a number she believes belongs to his lover she calls it. I enjoyed this story, the characters felt so real, and I was riveted. I just wish it didn’t end so soon, I wanted more.

I couldn’t decide if that one was my favourite or a later story ‘The Wrong Man’ about two friends who leave Ireland: Moire and Ester. Moire starts working late and their friendship changes when she moves in with her much older boyfriend. Ester becomes concerned. I enjoyed this story, and how it spans Ester’s life, she looks back as she is older with regrets.

Some of these stories are linked, you’ll read a story about one character and then later on a minor character from the same story will feature, I liked that.

I enjoyed some of these stories but generally felt that they meandered and I couldn’t always follow the plot. It’s interesting how they span a whole life rather then give you a short snapshot. But they were longer than I expected and I usually read shorter stories because I like to read them on my lunch break or when I want to read but don’t have the time to read a novel.

The tone and style perfectly suit the character driven stories and other readers may find that they are exactly what they are looking for. This style and length just isn’t for me. You should defintely have a read and make up your own mind. Check out the other reviews on GoodReads

review, Uncategorized

The Little Shop Of Happily Ever After by Jenny Colgan

The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by [Colgan, Jenny]

I love Jenny Colgan books, I love The Little Beach Street Bakery series. I found this book in the library and it was the perfect time to read a lighthearted book after reading the dystopian novel 84K.

Nina loves books as much as me, she has two copies of the same book, one in hardback and a first edition, she also has a huge to be read pile. When the story begins she’s working in a library, a book lovers dream, but they’re making the libraries smaller and closing to reopen more of a community hub (weird coincidence as they’ve done that to the library I got this book from)so they’re making a lot of people redundant and she may lose her job. She thinks about doing something I’d love to do (but can’t practically): open a book shop.

I could relate to Nina’s love of books obviously and also her shyness and introverted nature.

I enjoyed this lighthearted read, just like Little Beach Street series it is realistic, even when things seem to be going well for Nina and she thinks she has it all she still feels lonely and isn’t happy. I love how Jenny Colgan can write a lovely fictional story you can get lost in but at the same time put so much of reality in there that you can relate and maybe learn too.

The characters are amazing and you will care about them all. I don’t think you can go wrong with Jenny Colgan books, they’re great! The setting of Scotland was amazing, I’d love to go to Scotland.

I did prefer The Little Beach Street series, (there was a slight mention of Polly from The Little Beach Street Bakery) there seemed to be more going on and it seemed longer? Maybe I just read this book quicker.

I did have quotes and things to add to this post but there was a huge delay and I took the book back to the library. :/

Jenny Colgan books are the literary equivalent to eating chocolate cake: they give you a lovely warm feeling inside. 

Books, review

World Book Day Special: Heidi Review and Books I Read As I Child

Heidi is a children’s classic book that everyone will enjoy. I did read this as a child but can’t remember it all. I decided to read Heidi as in the ‘read a classic a month’ challenge thread on readitswapit it was the book for Febuary and since I already have this lovely hardback copy I decided to join in. And then have one less book on my tbr (like it gets smaller)

WARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

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Synopsis from GoodReads

“Little orphan Heidi goes to live high in the Alps with her gruff grandfather and brings happiness to all who know her on the mountain. When Heidi goes to Frankfurt to work in a wealthy household, she dreams of returning to the mountains and meadows, her friend Peter, and her beloved grandfather.”

My Thoughts

Heidi reminds me of other books like ‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’. It’s a lovely read just like them. And also it’s similar because Heidi  is an orphan who goes to live with her grandfather. He has a reputation for being a horrible person but people’s opinion does change when they realise how good he is to Heidi.

I loved the setting of  the Alm. It’s described brilliantly, you feel like you are right there and don’t want to leave. The characters were interesting and I enjoyed reading this book but there were a few things I didn’t like:

  • Peter jealousy towards others who has Heidi’s attention. And his childish behaviour of shaking his fist, it’s a bit chessey. I also didn’t like that he intended to hurt one of the goats. However considering the time it was written and that it’s written for  children I can understand that it may have been seen differently in the past. I thought he was self-centred and don’t know if it’s explained why, but he is a child.
  • I have no idea what illness Clara had. In ‘The Secret Garden’ the boy can’t walk and they do explain his fear and how their overindulgence of him has prevented him from trying.  But there’s no explanation in Heidi, Clara can’t walk and gets tired easily and then after spending time on the Alm there’s a miracle and she can walk again. I didn’t like that.
  • Not much happens but it’s still an enjoyable story.

I didn’t mind the religious themes in the book, Heidi is given advice that a Christian would be given which makes sense as in the time it was written society was predominately Christian and not really concerned with other faiths. It does jar with me when books from this era like ‘Little Women’ seem to press Chrisitianity on the reader (I don’t agree with making children believe in something before they can make up their own mind) I understand why though, it was normal in that era and the characters are believers. (Maybe I take it too personally) However the advice given to Heidi is kind and it’s lovely advice even if it is religious in nature. And I enjoyed reading those parts even though I could not relate to the religion.

Heidi is a light hearted read and an easy classic book to read and enjoy.

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Since today is World Book Day I wanted to do something special and being short on time thought I’d share with you other books I read as a child. Some like Heidi I may have forgotten what happens but others I read so many times I could never forget. Some are my own photos but where I no longer have the books I borrowed from the internet.

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These are a few of my Famous Five books. I read a lot of Enid Blyton books, including The Wishing Chair books and some short story anthologies. I remember reading The Amelia Jane books and The Naughtiest Girl books. My favourites by Enid Elyton where the Willow Farm books which I no longer have, I keep thinking about buying them again though:

Enid Blyton: 2 titles: The Children of Willow Farm and The Children of Cherry Tree Farm

I love Roald Dahl books too:

I read Esio Trot recently, it’s a very short book and I loved it. Matilda was my favourite as she loved books as much as me.

I reread Black Beauty so often as a child, I still have my copy but the dust jacket has been lost:

Other books I remember reading:

What Katy DidCharlotte’s Web by [White, E. B.]

I loved these:

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark (Character Classics) by [Tomlinson, Jill]Septimouse, Supermouse!

Has I got older I started to read more scary books, my favourites where the choose your own adventure, I didn’t read all of these.  Every once in a while as a kid, you were in the mood to be spooked. And it was exciting because, in a way, you were in control of how scared you wanted to be. You were careful to choose your Goosebumps book based on the cover art and how much creepiness you thought you could handle.

It’s hard to remember everything I read, I can barely remember the picture books I enjoyed. I remember a Hairy McClary book, the Zoo, the funny bones. And of course all the classic fairy tales. A gorgeous copy of Hans Christian Anderson, books I wished I’d kept.

Have you read Heidi? What did you love reading as a child? If you didn’t read much then what was the first book you remember enjoying?

Blog Tour

Blueberry Pancakes by Anton Lee Richards

 

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DIGITAL READS BLOG TOURS presents:

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Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this tour, this book sounds like a good read:

Book Blurb

Writing songs for a would-be pop star is painful. When young, gay songwriter Duncan falls in love, he writes a love song. When he gets dumped, he writes a break-up song. Luckily for his songwriting career, his love life is a roller-coaster.

When his long-term boyfriend breaks up with him, Duncan finds solace in music. And pancakes, of course. With the help of his sassy diva singer and best friend Marlene, her ex-boyfriend guitarist, and a local music producer, they form a musical dream team to produce songs to pitch to agents, and for Marlene’s promising singing career.

A new guy here, a new guy there, they are delicious distractions, but this drama fuels new and better songs. And that ex? He just won’t seem to go away. But it all pays off when they have their first number one hit with a teenybopper all-girl band.

Not everything in their favorite hangout-a breakfast restaurant called Pancake Heaven-is rainbows and maple syrup. The all-girl band drops them as songwriters, and they squabble with one another over their musical future. Will they find the success they can be proud of?

Blueberry Pancakes is a contemporary gay drama about falling in and out of love, the price of success, and walking through the world with confidence.

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If that doesn’t grab your attention, here’s an excerpt:

Book Excerpt

I don’t remember how many couples he introduced me to at this party, and I forgot most of their names. In each case, Christopher introduced me as my Duncan. I never thought of myself as being so much of a catch that somebody would be proud to be with me, the way I felt proud to have Jesse when we were together.
“I need a drink,” I whispered in his ear.
“Just a few more,” he said.
Bradley approached us again, and three more couples followed. We made a circle, and everybody shot off questions in rapid succession. It started off easy with questions about my work and where I grew up, but then developed into an interrogation of whether I owned summer homes and stock portfolios. Was I supposed to feel bad I didn’t? One guy leaned in and asked how attached I was and if I wanted to keep my options open. He wore thin-rimmed glasses that fell down his nose as he raised his eyebrows.
“I’m happy where I am,” I said. I wasn’t sure if that was a lie or not, but I certainly didn’t want to get it on with a guy asking people if they would cheat on their partners after just meeting them.
“You’ll break soon enough,” he said, winking. “When it happens, I’ll be there.”
A flamboyant guy with a pure-white, faux-fur sweater and hot pink jeans chimed in. “I have a brownstone in Lincoln Park. You should come see it sometime. It has a hot tub on the rooftop with a nice view of downtown.” I couldn’t concentrate on remembering his name because the sweater was distracting me.
“I bet you like being the pretty one,” said a voice behind me. Behind me, a drag queen with a Jackie O wig smiled at me. She had really broad shoulders or was just wearing shoulder pads underneath her shimmering black dress. “You’re the pretty one. Don’t act like you don’t know it.”
The notion stopped me in my tracks. Was I? Is that why Christopher was so adamant about calling me arm candy? Jesse was always the pretty one when we were together. I scanned the room and mentally ranked the attractiveness of each person. At first, I hated myself for being so shallow, but then I told myself it was in the name of scientific research. I guessed I would rank decently in this crowd of gay men who ranged from their mid-20s to their 50s. There were so many hotties. I came across a guy standing near the fireplace and figured he was without a doubt cuter than me. He had a nice body and was not afraid to show it off. This was the first time another guy caught my eye since I met Christopher.
“If I were with you, I’d tell you how pretty you are every single day,” said the drag queen. “I’d praise the day someone like me could get someone like you.” She opened her arms to hug me, and I demurred. Where was Christopher to save me?

 

About the author

Anton author pic.jpgAnton Lee Richards is a queer writer from Chicago. In a previous life, he worked in IT. In a previous life before that, he was a songwriter. He lives in Chicago with his partner and his Instagram-star bunny.

 Contact Details and Social Media

anton@antonleerichards.com
http://www.AntonLeeRichards.com
https://www.facebook.com/antonleerichards/
https://twitter.com/antonleerichard
https://www.instagram.com/antonleerichards/

 

 

Month In Review

What I read In Febuary

I haven’t read so much this month, I found more books to read and my reading has been slower. I’ve been behind on reviews also. I seem to be reading books  but not getting around to reviewing them, I might catch up one day.

Books I finished

The Little Shop of Happily Ever After by Jenny Colgan (library book review to come)

The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by [Colgan, Jenny]

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G.Drews (previous review)

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Orgo Runners: The First Run by R.J. Furness (Free ebook from Amazon, reviewed on GoodReads)

ORGO RUNNERS: The First Run (Book 1) by [Furness, R.J.]

Heidi by Johanna Spyri (review to come) 

Treading the Uneven Road by L.M.Brown (review copy from author)

Books I’m still reading

Paint Me A Picture by Patsy Collins (library book enjoying it, great character, almost finished and then review to come)

The Ice House by Tim Clare (ARC from Netgalley, wow good fantasy world)