Articles, Events

Announcement! Young Writer of the Year 2018

Happy Wednesday dear readers!

I am very pleased to announce that this year I am part of the Shadow Panel for the Young Writer of the Year Award. Along with four other book bloggers, I will be reading the books on the shortlist for the award and choosing a Shadow winner. They all look fascinating and I can’t wait to get stuck in! The shortlist will be announced on 4th November. Keep an eye on the award’s Twitter page here.

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There is a blogger event for the award on Saturday 17th November at The Groucho Club, and this is open to any bloggers that would like to attend. If you’d like to come along, just register here and they will send you an invitation.

The award ceremony itself is on Thursday 6th December at The London Library, and promises to be a wonderful evening.

I will be posting about the shortlist books one by one, and I will also write about both the events and the winning book – as well as our Shadow winner of course! The other bloggers on the panel will be doing the same, so please do have a look at their blogs as well. They are:

You can also read about them all on the award website here.

I’ll be posting on Twitter about the events and blog posts using the hashtag #YoungWriterAwardShadow. I can’t wait to share the shortlisted books with you all.

More soon!

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Summer roundup!

It is the August bank holiday – and I think summer is over. I shed a tear, but I’m also pleased to be able to wear all my nice jumpers. Plus we’re going on holiday to France next weekend, so I can’t really complain.

It’s been a pretty good summer, with both my boyfriend and I starting new (better) jobs, getting a new house for October, and generally having a nice time. I have, of course, read a lot of books. Some good, some bad, and some that were somewhere in between…

MAY

I’m counting May as summer, as we had some really nice weather and I read quite a lot of books. First was The Helios Disaster by Linda Bostrom Knausgaard, which was sent to me by World Editions as part of their launch. I didn’t review this book as it was sent to me unsolicited, and I just did not get on with it – and yet I didn’t have enough to say about it to warrant a review. It was just an anomaly.

Next were some in-between-y books – not great but not terrible either. Hideous Creatures by S. E. Lister was one of the weirder books I’ve read, but not necessarily in a good way. It felt like maybe it was for younger readers? My review here.

2015 paperback edition

2015 paperback edition

After that came Witches: James I and the English Witch Hunts by Tracey Borman (review here), which promised a lot more than it delivered. It was nevertheless very interesting and enjoyable – just not quite enough. I’d still like to read something about this weird phase of history, perhaps something that covers both the British and American witch hunts and trials. Recommendations welcome!

2014 edition (image: goodreads.com)

2014 edition (image: goodreads.com)

I read my first Penguin Little Black Classic this summer, which was very nice – I chose The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen, and it was lovely, like a little dip into Austen’s world of society and social drama. Loved it.

(image: goodreads.com)

(image: goodreads.com)

Finally in May I read two history books, one of which was a bit meh, and one of which was unbelievably amazing. A-bit-meh was The Bride of Science by Benjamin Woolley, a book I had high expectations for. It is a biography of Ada Lovelace, who I had wanted to read about for some time. She was the daughter of Lord Byron and his wife Annabella Millbanke, which is interesting enough, but she was also one of the first ever computer programmers and worked with Charles Babbage on his difference engine. So should make for a great biography right? Uh, no. Benjamin Woolley manages to make the book entirely about the people around Ada rather than Ada herself, and I got tired of this quite quickly. Sigh. My review here.

2015 Pan paperback edition (image: goodreads.com)

2015 Pan paperback edition (image: goodreads.com)

But then came…. The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson. I was in love. I had been waiting for this book my whole life. It is simply wonderful. Just read it. My waffling blog post here.

2015 William Collins paperback edition (image: goodreads.com)

2015 William Collins paperback edition (image: goodreads.com)

JUNE

First up in June was the first of Anjelica Huston’s two memoirs, A Story Lately Told. It has a beautiful cover and is a charming, funny, and very engaging book. I reviewed alongside the second volume, read later in the summer, so I’ll link to it then, later in this post. It’s a good summer read, quite easy-going and very likeable.

Now, I quite often take the time to explore the Recommendations section of GoodReads, as the sheer quantity of stuff on there means that it usually throws up something good, or at least unexpected. My next read was both of these things, and was discovered in said Recommendations section. Forgotten Fatherland tells the story of Elisabeth Nietzsche, sister of the famous philosopher and completely bonkers. She was a complete racist and, with her equally mad racist husband, set up an Aryan colony in Paraguay which they named Nueva Germania. Really. Suffice to say I loved this book. My review here.

2013 Bloomsbury paperback edition

2013 Bloomsbury paperback edition

JULY

And next came… oh dear… the book that people will not stop talking about, for better or for worse… A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I thought I would absolutely love it, and while I did love some parts of it, I really didn’t love others. Now that some time has passed and I’ve read other reviews etc, my feelings about it are the same really – I’m glad I read it, but I didn’t really enjoy it, and I’m not going to rave about it as one of the best books ever, which is the way that most people seem to feel about it. There are sad books, and then are just unnecessarily traumatising voyages into misery. Sorry. My post here.

Picador (UK) cover, 2015. (image: goodreads.com)

Picador (UK) cover, 2015. (image: goodreads.com)

Unsurprisingly I needed some light relief after all that trauma, so I read Watch Me by Anjelica Huston, the second instalment of her memoir. I loved this – well written and structured, genuinely interesting, and very charming and enjoyable. My blog post here covers this and the first volume, mentioned earlier.

(image: goodreads.com)

(image: goodreads.com)

And then, the last four books I read, which I have blogged about more recently: The Last Asylum by Barbara Taylor, which I loved and spoke about here in my first booktube post….

Hamish Hamilton 2014 edition (image: goodreads.com)

Hamish Hamilton 2014 edition (image: goodreads.com)

AUGUST

Then it was Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard, which was good but not excellent;

(image: profilebooks.com)

(image: profilebooks.com)

The Sense of an Elephant came next, which was a quirky mystery that I got on with quite well;

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and most recently Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, reviewed here, which was really weird and really good. I wil definitely be reading more Shirley Jackson!

2013 PMC edition (image: goodreads.com)

2013 PMC edition (image: goodreads.com)

And of course there was the book blogger/booktube meet-up back in July, which was a fantastic day. I finally met Kirsty of The Literary Sisters, as well as lots of other lovely bloggers. We did a bookshop crawl (and I bought some books, big surprise), and had a fab day out in London. It was a bit of an adventure, and something I would definitely do again. My post about it here; this is Kirsty’s video; and posts/videos from Katie, Jordan, and Stevie. And here is Stevie’s great photo of us all, tweeted by Jen Campbell:

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So not a bad summer!!

How was your summer??

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Book blogger/book tuber meet-up!

The brilliant Kirsty invited me to a meet-up of book bloggers (most people were ‘book tubers’, I was like the only person without a YouTube channel) in London on 25th July. I’ve met other bloggers before, but this was en masse, so I was nervous but excited. We met at King’s Cross, by Watermark Books and the Harry Potter shop, and we all milled and said hello – it was amazing to meet Kirsty after talking online for so long, and it was great to meet lots of other bloggers. The day was a bookshop tour, led by Jen Campbell of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops fame, who carried an umbrella like a tour guide and was a fantastic host. We visited:

  • Watermark Books
  • Words on the Water – but it was closed!
  • Hatchards
  • Skoob
  • Persephone
  • The London Review Bookshop
  • Foyles

I was trying to ‘be good’ and not buy too many books, so I didn’t buy anything until Skoob, which is a really cool secondhand bookshop just behind Russell Square station.

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Here’s what I bought at Skoob:

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I read some Mansfield stories at uni and loved them, so I jumped on the chance to read more! And this is a nice edition.

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Can’t go wrong with some Didion! And again a nice edition – I think it’s a US one.

Then it was on to Persephone Books, somewhere I have been meaning to visit forever, but never seemed to have the chance. As I’m sure you know they publish and sell beautiful editions of lesser-known 20th century books, all in their distinctive grey covers. I bought a couple of their Classics, which have illustrated covers, as well as some lovely postcards. It’s a very pretty little shop, and the assistant on duty was very sweet and helpful and spent lots of time discussing books and making recommendations. You’ve got to go there.

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Here’s what I bought at Persephone:

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Next we made our way to The London Review Bookshop, which is just across from The British Museum. There is a cake shop too, and we took the opportunity to rest our tired feet and have a sit. We felt like old ladies after all our walking carrying lots of books!

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I bought a book I’d been meaning to read for ages, and Kirsty assured me Mary Beard is a legend!

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Our last stop was the new Foyles – my first visit there – and I actually didn’t buy anything. I think I was all shopped-out! I also managed to fall really hard on my knee at King’s Cross so I was more than ready to go sit on a train back to Oxford.

Lots of people took photos of all of us, one of which you can see here.

Thank you Kirsty for inviting me, and I am glad to say I have lots of new people on Twitter and Facebook, and new blogs and YouTube channels to follow. A really great day.

Yay for bloggers and books and bookshops!!

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So, about TBR20…

Earlier this year I pledged to ‘do’ TBR20, the reading challenge created by Eva Stalker and taken up by many book bloggers. The aim is to pick 20 books that you own but have not read, and pledge not to buy any more books until you’ve read those 20. Seems like a good idea right? We all have a lot of books we haven’t read. I know I do. So I thought it would be a good idea for me. Well…

I put together my 20 books. I was full of hope. I read a few. But then I realised I didn’t want to read many of the others. A few more yes, but some of them – no thanks. There was a reason they had been sitting on my shelf, unread, for so long. I just didn’t have the interest/desire to actually read them. Some were unsolicited review copies that had appeared, so I think those are fair enough, seeing as I didn’t choose them in the first place.

The thing is, if I want to read a book, I will. If it’s still on the shelf, it either means it is a long term goal (like The Madwoman in the Attic and The Second Sex), or I’m just not that bothered about it. The latter happens quite a lot, and a lot of those books ended up in TBR20.

So, a couple of week ago, I got fed up and took myself to Waterstones. I bought three history books (I’m on a non-fiction kick at the moment), and devoured them all within a week and a half. Two weren’t as good as I had hoped, but it didn’t matter – I had still bought and read books that I really wanted to read, just for me. Not for a challenge, not for a review deadline or the expectations of a publisher or anyone else – for me. And that is something that is supposed to be at the heart of this blog. So I’ve decided I will only do reading challenges if they really suit me, or if I come up with them myself. TBR20 is off, a book clear out is imminent, and reading purely for myself is in. And I’m all the happier for it.

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A Love Letter to… Letters

My cousin and I used to write letters to each other when we were about seven. I have always exchanged letters with my aunt who lives in Austria. I have written to my old teachers. But I don’t write as many letters as I used to – too little time, too easy to write an email, or a text, or a Facebook message. Sigh. Modern life.

Hipsters these days like old photos, taken with disposable cameras and scanned into their Macs, and posted on Instagram. And you know what, I like them too. We are saturated with new technology, and we all (right?) love to watch the Apple events. It’s a fascination – I’m not going to buy an AppleWatch, but I need to know all about it. Obviously. My point is that all this futuristic crap makes us nostalgic for the old stuff, for old cameras and record players, for quality over flash. And I, a blogger, miss writing things down. Since leaving education I (mostly) only ever write to make notes, to jot things down, and my handwriting has suffered for it. I write the odd letter; but I would like to write much more.

Through my faffing about on the internet I have discovered The Letter Writers’ Alliance, an organisation aiming to promote letter-writing and getting people ‘back in touch’ after all this time just communicating on screens. You can become a lifetime member for $5, and get access to all sorts of cool stationery and new pen pals. Check them out here. Don’t you love it?

I also stumbled across More Love Letters. It’s a very sweet project that highlights the best and most charitable side of human nature. The website lists people, nominated by those close to them, who would benefit from receiving some nice letters. They are widowed grandparents, struggling teenagers, children bullied at school – people trying to get on with life despite all the things being thrown at them. They are people that need to know that others care. It’s such a good idea, and I’m thinking about getting involved.

I’ve also been writing a few letters this week – to my aunt, to two of my friends, and to an old teacher I haven’t seen or spoken to since leaving school, but whose teaching I still value (guess what, she taught English Lit). I’m also super up for exchanging letters with you, my fellow bloggers, my ‘other’ community. Communicating on Twitter and our blogs is one thing, but nothing can beat sending and receiving letters and little notes. If anyone already does this or would like to, let me know! Who would you like to write to?

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Of course I had to buy some beautiful new stationery!! Come on.

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#TBR20

In my last post I wrote about the troubles of having too many books to read. I also posted recently about using a book jar, something which I have, and am able to use – but haven’t yet, because really I haven’t needed to. Really it’s there just in case I need it. But frankly it isn’t helping me to work through my TBR. Ah, the TBR. The thing that book bloggers both love and loathe. Our To Be Read list (often a physical heap) is something that gets us happy and excited, but also make us nervous, and can sometimes be overwhelming.

So what is TBR20? It’s basically a way to cut through the TBR, and I think it’s fantastic. It was created by blogger Eva Stalker, who tweets and posts about it regularly. A lot of bloggers I follow mention it often enough for me to have considered doing it. And now I’m gonna!

The premise is: in order to help you work through your TBR, you pledge/actively decide to read 20 books from it before you buy any more. Simple enough, but not buying books is hard. Not any at all?? Not even one? Nope. Doing the TBR20 puts an embargo on book purchases and forces you to pay attention to the books you have, some of which might have been waiting weeks and months (or years…) to be read. Which is just silly and pointless.

So which books do I choose for the list? The only way to do this was to sit and stare at my unread books, look at them all over and over until my boyfriend gave me a funny look, cut out a few, add a few, take away more… and finally manage to wittle the list down to 20. And here they are in all their glory:

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My apologies for the slightly crappy photo. The books on the left are:

  • Havisham by Ronald Frame
  • Freud’s Sister by Goce Smilevski
  • The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
  • Red Room: Short Stories Inspired by the Brontes
  • The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood
  • Girl at War by Sara Novic
  • Tracks by Robyn Davidson
  • The Blue Tattoo by Margot Mifflin
  • The Ladies of the House by Molly McGrann

And the books on the right are:

  • Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
  • The Inheritors by William Golding
  • Nagasaki by Eric Faye
  • The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov
  • Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
  • Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall
  • Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death by Otto Dov Kulka
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  • The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide
  • Nothing Holds Back the Night by Delphine de Vigan

I’ve included the proofs I currently need to read (Girl at War, Ladies of the House, The Ecliptic) as well as several books I’ve been meaning to read for a long (long) time. I’m currently just under halfway through A Clash of Kings, so this project will start once I finish that, so… mid March I expect. I will be posting my reviews as well as my thoughts on the process as I go along. Wish me luck!! Anyone else done/doing the TBR20? The #TBR20 hashtag on Twitter is the perfect way to join in!

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Announcing the Capote Summer Readathon! (with The Literary Sisters)

I am very pleased to announce that I am taking part in my first ever readathon! It will take place over July and August and will feature the writing of none other than Truman Capote. This is a joint readathon with Kirsty of The Literary Sisters.

So why Capote? Kirsty posted a flash review of his first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms, and I commented saying how wonderful it was to see a review of his work. Other than In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, we both felt that his writing is often overlooked in favour of his reputation and notoriety. He was a prolific short story writer, and wrote several novellas as well as his ‘reportage’ that included essays, travelogues, portraits, and of course the seminal In Cold Blood. I own A Capote Reader, which I bought in 2007/8, and it contains some of the best of his writing, including two novellas, The Grass Harp and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as well as twelve short stories and a lot of non-fiction writing. I have an old-style silver Penguin Modern Classics edition:

My old silver edition.

It’s a wonderful book that actually might be good for someone who is new to Capote, as it gives you a taste of pretty much every form of writing that he used. He is brilliant at both fiction and non-fiction, and his writing is both vivid, sharp, and unendingly beautiful. That is why Kirsty and I chose to do this readathon, and try to get his amazing writing out to a wider modern audience.

Our reading will focus mainly on A Capote Reader. It contains a good broad scope of his writing and we felt it was the perfect basis for our readathon. In July we will be reading one of the novellas, The Grass Harp, as well as the first six short stories. In August we will be reading the other novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the second six short stories. We are also going to read one standalone novel, Summer Crossing. The novel was only discovered in 2005 and was written before any of Capote’s other famous work, including his ‘official’ first novel Other Voices, Other Rooms. I read Summer Crossing some years ago and am very much looking forward to revisiting it. I’ve also just discovered that it is being made into a film by Scarlett Johansson, so it will be good to re-read before seeing that.

Kirsty and I would very much appreciate our readers ‘spreading the news’ about our readathon and I would love to hear if anyone else is reading some Capote this summer, whether it’s the texts we’re reading or something else. And of course you can read along with us if you like! Kirsty has detailed our schedule here.

The first posts will be up on 30th July, so keep an eye out for those.

🙂

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The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

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Image via hannahreadsstuff.wordpress.com

I am very pleased to announce that These Little Words has been nominated for a Very Inspiring Blogger award.

This is an award given by bloggers to other bloggers (of any type) and I was very kindly nominated by Hannah Renowden of Hannah Reads Stuff, a fantastic book blog that I’ve recently discovered. I am very grateful for the nomination and urge you all to go and check out Hannah’s blog – she writes insightful and entertaining reviews and I always enjoy reading them.

The award has the following rules:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  • Optional: display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you (luckily I already follow Hannah and I couldn’t resist posting the amazing logo!).

So. The ‘facts about yourself’ bit. Hmm! Here goes…

  • I have always loved reading, but the book that got me into ‘literature’ was Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I studied it for my GCSEs under a very inspiring teacher and fell in love with words –  and analysing them. My battered old school copy is filled with pencilled notes and highlighted sections.
  • I have a terrier cross called Polly, though she lives with my mum. We got her from the amazing Dogs Trust when she was a year old, and she has been our little darling ever since.
  • I am a very proud auntie. My older sister Alex has two little ones – Eddie, who is about to turn three (!), and Seren, who is almost six months old. I adore them and wish I could keep them!
  • I have been known to state that I hate chick lit. This can sometimes sound judgmental, but for me it is incredibly narrow and a huge cliché – and it also represents a negative view of women and women’s tastes that is sometimes purported by the media. I also read some chick lit when I was a teenager and it was awful.
  • I’ve never been ‘sporty’ but I grew up watching Wimbledon (it’s a big deal) and I love rugby too. In fact my boyfriend and I have just got season tickets for London Welsh.
  • I learned to ride horses when I was about four, but I haven’t done it for over fifteen years. I often think about getting back in the saddle (literally!).
  • I’ve only read the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire but I LOVE watching Game of Thrones on TV. Therefore I’m not that bothered when the TV show deviates from the books. Sorry.

Phew!

 

And now for the fifteen blogs that I would like to nominate for the Very Inspiring Blogger award. These are all blogs that I actively follow and read on a regular basis. They are all about books, surprise surprise, and though I do read non-book blogs, I think these are ‘inspiring’ because they are run by individuals who put in their own time and effort to share their passion for books. I’ve also just realised they’re all women, but that wasn’t intentional. But I have found that the majority of book bloggers (that I’ve come across at least) tend to be women – a possible discussion topic? Anyway, I think these blogs and the people who write them are really great at what they do, and deserve recognition and a wider readership. They are:

 

  1. Books and Reviews –  this blog has a big focus on both feminism and crime fiction. It’s written by Elena from Spain who is super passionate and enthusiastic, and who always comes up with very interesting and engaging posts.
  2. Books Speak Volumes – this is written by Leah, who lives in the US. I love discovering new books on her site that are bigger in the US than the UK, and Leah is a great writer too. Her blog also looks great, which is always a bonus.
  3. Word by Word – Claire lives in France and writes a lot about translated fiction, as well as books that might have gone under the radar. She’s also been a great supporter of this blog, for which I’m very grateful.
  4. A Life in Books – a very insightful blog written by Susan, who always picks interesting and thought-provoking books to write about. I like that she chooses slightly unusual books to write about.
  5. The Literary Sisters – this is the only blog on my list written by more than one person, though sometimes you can’t tell! Kirsty and April are both big readers and prolific bloggers – they post more than anyone else I follow, but their content is always top-notch. Look out for their flash reviews to discover hidden gems.
  6. Charlotte Reads Classics – a ‘classic’ book blog written beautifully by the Charlotte of the title. She features a range of books, and her reviews are always intelligent and engaging.
  7. Bloomsbury Bell – this blog started off purely as a book blog but has recently branched out to include a bit of lifestyle too. Naomi’s posts are always lovely and she takes excellent photos. I also like that she is a fellow Oxford resident and writes about it now and then.
  8. Book Snob – another mix of books and lifestyle, brought together to form one stylish package. Rachel writes about travel and her life as a teacher as well as books, and I always enjoy reading her posts.
  9. The Surrey Edit – this is more of a lifestyle blog that features the odd book review. Alice is a friend of mine from university and I was very pleased to hear that she was entering the world of blogging earlier this year. She posts about a wide range of things, from journalism and books to heritage and beauty products.
  10. Girl, 20 – this is a new book blog by the lovely Alice, who themes all her posts, which I like. She writes book reviews and also blogs about ‘Getting Married’, and has a very intelligent and enjoyable way of writing.
  11. 746 Books – Cathy owns 746 unread books. I know. On the blog she documents her journey through reading every single one of them.
  12. 50 A Year – I met Claire at the Penguin Bloggers’ Do earlier this year and have really enjoyed following her blog. It is both attractive and engaging, with great posts about non-obvious books.
  13. Lizzy’s Literary Life – Lizzy is a very successful blogger (doesn’t that sounds nice! – Lizzi) and rightly so, as she covers a range of books and topics, and always writes very well.
  14. Other Sashas – I come across Sasha’s blog through the recommendations in my WordPress Reader, and it was a lucky find. Her blog looks great and I love her content too – it’s varied and interesting, and I like that she has a different perspective on things from her home in the Philippines.
  15. Literary Relish – I’ve followed Lucy’s blog since it was on Ye Olde Blogspot, and love that it’s now on WordPress. She is another blogger who features very varied content, and who doesn’t limit herself by ‘I’m reviewing this specific book’. Worth a read.

 

Well! Fifteen is quite a lot of blogs isn’t it! I hope I’ve kept your attention, and that you will click on the links above and go and explore the wonderful world of book blogging. All these bloggers really deserve this nomination, and I hope you enjoy their blogs as much as I do.

I’ll be contacting the ‘nominees’ now to let them know.

🙂

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In Which I Discuss The Role Of The Blogger And Why I Blog – And How I Am Going To Blog From Now On

Recently I have been looking back through a lot of my old blog posts, from this blog and a previous incarnation that I wrote from 2009 to 2011 while still at university. I only posted on there about 10 times in total and the posts are a bit random and there aren’t really book reviews per se, it’s more like a collection of thoughts and a bit of an online diary in terms of what I was reading and studying. and though it wasn’t perfect, you know what, I liked looking back at it. Partly because of nostalgia, but also because I liked the way that it was not too formulaic or rigid, and the posts felt very organic. I particularly liked the two I wrote about reading Loving by Henry Green, which you can see here and here. It’s also nice for me to read those posts again because I remember really enjoying Loving but I don’t actually remember that much about it. Anyway.

My point is that I think in the last almost-three-years since I started These Little Words I have lost sight a bit of the original reason that I wanted to blog – and that was to have the freedom to talk about the books I read and the things that interested me outside of essays and university; and to reach out to a wider community of readers and writers. The latter has become more and more important, which I like, but the promotion of books has also become increasingly important. In a way this is good, as it means that great books get the attention they deserve, particularly if they come from a small publisher, or are translated, or are older titles that may have been overlooked.

Now here’s where we get to an issue that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately – how books are promoted, and how bloggers fit into that. I have an interest and a little experience in marketing, all in publishing, so I have some idea of how it all works. As a blogger I also know how much publishers appreciate good reviews and a few tweets here and there to draw attention to their books. And from my experiences in publishing I know that a lot of time and money is spent getting proofs ready and sending them out to people who may or may not give them good reviews – or might not even read them at all. There’s a lot of give and take on both sides (though some take issue with bloggers ‘working for free’ to promote books – but the publisher has spent the money on the book, so not sure if it’s totally unfair).

I review books for both big and small publishers, and have had the chance to see the differences in how they operate. Small independent publishers often don’t have the resources to promote their books as much as they might like, which is a real shame, and one of the reasons I am very willing and happy to work with them. Big corporate publishers on the other hand often have oodles of money to spend on marketing (some proof that publishing is not in danger of going kaput) and while some spend this wisely I think others overdo it slightly, foisting their books at you at every possible opportunity. There is also the question raised by my fellow blogger Kim Forrester on Twitter: “Why is [a] publisher promoting a book that would sell anyway when it could use that budget to promote something that might struggle?” I thought about this and saw that she was making a good point – an important point. The sheer number of both publishing houses and published books means that we need to think carefully about where we focus both our resources and our attention. This applies to publishers but also, from my perspective, to bloggers.

When I originally started blogging I just wrote about what was present in my literary life; then I cottoned on to ARCs and review copies, and I wrote about new and upcoming books, which was quite exciting. Now, I feel I do more of the latter, to the extent that my TBR is composed of a pile of books sent by publishers as well as all the unread books on my shelves that I have bought over the years (and there are a lot of those). While I love discovering new books and writers, and feel very lucky and grateful to be sent new and unpublished books, I think they often draw my attention away from some excellent books that I already own and that crucially I chose for myself. When I look at the books I have that I have purchased, I feel a greater urge to read them and a greater excitement about what I might discover within them than the new books I have very kindly been sent. I have a note on my ‘Contact’ page that officially I am not accepting unsolicited books, and that if any are sent to me there is no guarantee I will review them. From now on I will only review books that I want to read, that I am genuinely excited about – whether they be old or new. I am currently reading a book that is not out until July, but I read about it for months and was thrilled to finally have a copy. So, I am more than happy to review it and help promote it. But from now on I’m only going to do this with books I have actively chosen to read – and that if they were not offered to me for free, I still would have chosen to read on my own. That’s the clincher.

I hope I have made it clear that I very grateful for the books I am sent by publishers, and that I still want to work with them to promote great books – whether old or new. I think I just want to get back to what made me want to write a book blog in the first place, and to get back to the books that really make me happy. For without happiness, what is the point?

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Articles, Comment

What Do You Look For In A Book Blog?

As book bloggers and readers of book blogs, we all share a common interest and I’m sure we all look for pretty similar things when it comes to reading a blog – great content, an attractive site, and things that interest us on a personal level.

Today I am thinking about that last thing in particular. We all love books, but we all have different tastes, sometimes dramatically so. This can be in terms of genre and the types of stories we like, the type of writing we like, and the types of issues and themes that we not only like to read about but also like to write about and discuss with our fellow book-lovers.

The writing and the discussion are what we do as bloggers, and I personally adore it. But I want others to have fun too, especially when they are visiting my blog. So, I am carrying out this ‘survey’ (it’s not a formal survey) to find out what makes you, the readers, tick. What do you like and dislike?

What do you want to read about and see more of on These Little Words? What have I posted that you thought was great, or that you weren’t sure about? Do you have any advice or tips, as either a blogger or a reader (or both!)? I welcome criticism that is constructive, so I will not respond to anything that is just plain critical and mean. Book bloggers are a community and we need to stick together!

My reasons for asking these questions are varied. I want to produce a blog that successfully attracts readers consistently, to encourage discussion and further our interests. I am also always intrigued by the patterns of blog hits – sometimes it’s clear why I get high or low hits, but sometimes it seems a bit random, so I want to know what it is that makes you click. How did you first visit These Little Words? Was it via Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instgram, or something else? What did you think when you arrived? What made you visit again (if you did)?  If not, what would attract you back?

I really appreciate any feedback I get from this, and am very grateful to you for reading and responding. The thing about running a blog is that you want it to reflect you, and be your own little corner of the internet, but you also want it to appeal to other people and be a place they like to visit – and this can be tricky. Feedback, discussion and debate are endlessly useful, so thanks in advance if you respond.

I’d also love to hear about other blogs you visit and why – for reference, but also for recommendations.

Big cheers and yay for books and blogging!

Lizzi

 

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