This is going to sound strange, but I very rarely read book blurbs. Most of my recommendations come from fellow bloggers, friends or podcasts but even if I’m browsing through a bookstore, I’ll never base my decision solely on the blurb.
Here’s the thing: blurbs ruin books for me. Often they reveal way too much information which puts a dampener on the opening chapters. I also find they give me certain expectations for how the story will unfold and, when it doesn’t, I get disappointed in a book which I probably would have enjoyed otherwise. Read More
This post will probably make me sound like a big grump, but when it comes to choosing books I try to avoid reading series as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of positive things about reading a series. If you love the characters, you get to revisit them over and over in new and exiting situations. In recent years, it has also been the ‘blockbuster’ series which have been made into seemingly endless movie adaptations.
Since I started blogging, my book collection has exploded. I’m buying more than I ever did before, but I’m also being sent dozens of new books for review. Unfortunately I’m not as ruthless as I’d like to be when it comes to my own little library. Really, I’m rather sentimental and it takes a lot for me to let go of books.
This year I’m pretty excited to be starting a Masters of Arts (Writing and Literature). However, I’ll be juggling this with my full time job as as journalist and trying to (hopefully) maintain some sense of a social life and fitness routine. We’ll see how that goes! I would like to try and publish at least one blog post a month or 12 in the year. When I was doing my undergrad, my blog was my happy place and I would hate to lose that in the midst of everything I’ve got planned this year.
Before blogging, I was a very different reader. I’ve been blogging almost four years and in that time my tastes haven’t changed so much as been honed on genres I didn’t even know existed in high school. During those years, the blogging community and the act of reviewing has had an immense impact on my reading habits, in all the right ways.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about film and television adaptations of books; the good, the bad and the benefits of transitioning from page to screen. I know many people who swear the book is always better than its film counterpart. But I don’t think that’s always the case. Adaptations can be a brilliant tool to encourage reluctant readers or expand the horizons of bookworms.
For readers, an adaptation of a favourite book is often met with excitement and slight trepidation. I know some worry about whether screenwriters will be able to accurately translate the world they’ve been immersed in. In some cases, authors are involved in the adaptation process. In others, they’re not. In My Sister’s Keeper, the conclusion of the story was completely changed (to the outrage of many). The one that always bugged me was the battle being cut out of the end of the sixth Harry Potter film.
One of the best things about an adaptation is it can introduce the novel to a whole new audience. I don’t think this necessarily has to translate to a new readership; books and adaptations can exist independently of one another. However, in many cases I think they go hand in hand. Fans of the book will most likely watch the adaptation, but those who enjoy the film or television series independently can also be drawn back to the books. Series in particular may also get reluctant readers interested in books. I’ve no doubt hundreds of people who wouldn’t consider themselves big readers bought the Harry Potter, Hunger Games or Divergent books after seeing the films. And I’m sure The Fault in Our Stars introduced a whole new audience to John Green’s work.
I’m more likely to be attracted to new books through television adaptations. I’m currently reading The Crow Road, a brilliant book I only discovered after falling in love with the mini series. The adaptation mirrors the book quite well, with a little less depth around some characters than the book allows for. However, I didn’t feel the same about Call the Midwife. I read the book after really enjoying the television series, but it just didn’t work as well for me. I enjoyed it, but I’m satisfied to let the story play out on screen rather than also reading the books. Watching Pillars of the Earth, One Day and Brooklyn also convinced me to invest in copies of the original books.
However, seeing the adaptation before reading undoubtedly has an impact on the way I take in the novel. Even though I didn’t watch any of the Harry Potter films until I’d finished reading the first six books, simply having seen the posters influenced how I pictured most of the characters. Reading The Crow Road, I can perfectly picture the characters and settings based on the mini series. And of course, Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie will always be Anne and Gilbert for me. It sounds silly, but I actually really like being able to clearly picture a character, even if that is based on an adaptation.
Sometimes, I find having seen the adaptation first makes my reading experience better. I’ve found this to be particularly true with classics. I watched adaptations of both Pride and Prejudice and The Great Gatsby before reading the books and I found them far less intimidating. I’d say the same for The Crow Road as well, where the thread of mystery is much more present and compelling in the adaptation. Knowing this has kept me reading the book, which has a much slower pace and more reflective moments for characters.
Adaptations have introduced me to new authors and have helped me conquer my fear of intimidating classics. They may not always please fans of the books, but they have the potential to tell a story to a whole new audience. Those done well only add to the life of a book or series, bringing stories and characters to life in an exciting new way. What do you think of book adaptations? Do you have a favourite?
Reduce pressure, revisit old favourites
I’ve always pushed myself to read more every year with the dreaded Goodreads challenge. I hate the way my goal just sits in the back of my mind all year, but I’ve taken part in the challenge every year since I joined the site. I find wanting to reach a goal pushes me to read new-to-me books and this year, I’ve been lamenting the fact I never re-read anything. So this year, I’m planning to boycott the challenge with the intention of re-reading more of my old favourites. I’m also hoping it will help me just read for myself and not read just to reach that goal.
Discover more classics
I know it takes me a long time to finish a classic, so often I put off reading them in favour of smaller novels (so I can reach the darn challenge goal). Before last year, I had only read Pride and Prejudice in high school. I’ve always been intimidated by classics, but reading The Great Gatsby and Wuthering Heights last year inspired me to discover more (especially the ones I already have in my bookshelf).
Focus on feminism
I’ve always considered myself a feminist, but until last year I didn’t feel particularly passionate about it. That’s something I want to change in 2016. I’m hoping to read more non-fiction feminist books, like Clementine Ford’s upcoming Fight Like a Girl. I’d also like to read more fiction, particularly YA, with feminist themes. One that’s high on my wish list, and blurbed by Clementine Ford, is Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar.
Explore mental health
I’d love to read more books, particularly YA, which explore mental health issues. I’m particularly keen to read books with discuss anxiety and already have Holly Bourne’s Am I Normal Yet high on my TBR list.
Make my bookshelves a priority
As I’ve discussed before, blogging has seen my book collection boom. This year, I’d love to focus more on reading my own books, rather than buying new copies or even visiting the library. Some of my books have been on my shelves for years, so I’ll be prioritising those books over buying new ones.
As well as continuing to post fairly regularly, I would love to stay connected with other bloggers through blog comments and social media. Last year, I met so many lovely bloggers and authors through #ukyachat and #loveozya, something I’d like to build on this year.
It’s been a great reading year for me, although I didn’t manage to finish quite as many books as I have in previous years. Despite this, I read some fabulous books and ventured outside my contemporary comfort-zone to non-fiction and classics once or twice.
Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James
A heartbreaking and utterly compelling contemporary, this is a beautiful and thrilling novel || Full reviewSaving Daisy by Phil Earle
This book just broke my heart. Honestly. I couldn’t get Daisy’s story out of my head and felt a real ache in my heart for her. One of the most powerful and achingly real contemporaries I’ve ever read || Full reviewMr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
I loved the way this tackled taboo issues, the same way the television series did. Bonus Logan and a puppy make this is a sentimental favourite for me || Full reviewThe Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams
This was such a quirky, fun read, packed with honest emotion. It was stuck in my head for days and I loved that it was based around a real Australian mystery || Full reviewLobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
I loved this so much I read it twice. This is the best example of a sweet, awkward and beautiful British contemporary. I can’t wait to read more by Ellen and Ivison || Full reviewCrow Moon by Anna McKerrow
I’ve talked about this book so much throughout the year because it was amazing. I don’t often read outside contemporary, but I’m so glad I did this time || Full reviewThe A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah
I read this with the lovely Jasmine and it was something I never would have read otherwise. A beautiful and poignant novel which follows a dying man as he reflects on his life || Full reviewHeart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
This was stunning. A compelling, beautifully written and strangely dark YA thriller which challenges the perceptions around victims and villains || Full reviewHow to Be Happy by David Burton
Hilarious and totally honest, this was a genuine pleasure to read. I loved Burton’s writing and hope he continues to write for a YA audience because he’s brilliantly engaging || Full reviewThe Anti-Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland
This book is so fabulous for its honest and unflinching exploration of so many taboo topics in such a hilarious way || Full review to come
Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield
It’s a big call, but I consider Wakefield one of Australia’s most talented writers. A beautiful novel set in a stifling small town, this is a must-read for contemporary fans || Full reviewNight Beach by Kirsty Eagar
This was so atmospheric and totally chilling. I could just feel Abbie unravelling and was completely sucked into the story. Brilliant || Full review to come
Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly planning a trip to the UK in 2016. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for about a decade and I’m so excited it looks like it will finally happen. I can’t exactly pinpoint why, but I’ve always been fascinated by British TV shows and, naturally, books. Perhaps it’s because I first fell in love with YA when I started reading Jacqueline Wilson’s books, which seem quintessentially British. Since I decided to make this trip happen I’ve been reading more and more UKYA, seeking out books with specific settings like Scotland or Wales.
It may sound crazy, but I love ‘travelling’ through books. I feel there’s so much knowledge about a culture which can be gained through reading or watching the right things. It’s something I definitely see while reading OzYA. From subtle little things like slang words to books featuring places I’ve walked through, I always feel right at home. Some of my favourite contemporary OzYA authors are brilliant at capturing Australia in all its forms. And so are UKYA authors. One book which comes to mind immediately is Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow. Reading that was delicious, simply for the lush Cornish setting (the rest of the story was also pretty darn amazing).
It’s always ridiculously exciting to read books set in places I know and have visited. As I continue to plan, it’s equally exciting to read books set in places I want to visit. Recently I read Keris Stainton’s Counting Stars, set in Liverpool, which I obviously want to visit because of my love for The Beatles. I’m hoping to read more books set all over the UK (both adult and YA) before I finally set off abroad.
Do you ever read for a particular setting? How important is setting to a story? Do you have any recommendations for books set in England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales? While I’ve focused on discovering more UKYA lately, I’d also love to hear about your favourite books set in other locations.
Apart from sharing my love of books, one of the main reasons I took up blogging in my first year of university was the number of friends I’d made through Goodreads. Nearly four years later, blogging friends are one of the main reasons I keep sharing my bookish thoughts on this little space. In that time, my circle of bookish friends has changed dramatically. I’ve been through productive and sluggish periods and many of the people I started blogging with have since stopped. This year I was determined to start blogging again with gusto and to find a bunch of new blogs to follow.
So far, that resolution has been successful. I’ve made some wonderful new friends through things like #ukyachat and a book club I started with another blogger when she approached me about collaborating on the project. While I’d probably still be motivated to share book reviews without these people, I’m sure I wouldn’t have the same passion when it came to blogging as a whole.
While the book blogging community is incredibly friendly and welcoming, it can be a little daunting at the start. I’m constantly learning from other bloggers, but I do have a little bit of advice to share. Read other blogs and, if you want to, leave a thoughtful comment. Follow your favourite authors and bloggers on Twitter or Instagram; if you like their work, you’re sure to find new book recommendations and might also strike up a friendship with them. Take part in twitter chats and, if you’re comfortable enough, join in. They can be a little daunting at first, but I’ve found those on #ukyachat and #ozyachat to be incredibly welcoming.
Personally, bookish friendships are so much more important than the number of people following my blog. I want blogging to be a meaningful experience for me and consider the social side just as important as the books. After all, without blogger friends, who can I squee about new releases with?
Do you enjoy the social side of blogging? Why is it important to you? How do you connect with other bloggers?