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?
Lots of girls buy too many shoes, handbags or dresses. I buy too many books. Although, I guess there’s no such thing as too many books. In amongst the lovely book blogging community, I’m sure I’m not the only one. And while I’ve found some amazing books and authors through book blogging, it’s also the reason my book collection has boomed in recent years.
My ever-growing hoard of books was fine until I had to move and realised how heavy boxes of books were. Space is fairly limited in our house, so storing my books remains a bit of a juggling act. Whenever I buy something new I practically have to rearrange my entire bookshelf to fit it in. But to be honest, the organisational part of me loves this.
There’s one massive problem with my book collection though. There are so many unread books on my shelves. And no matter how many unread books are on my shelf, I can’t help going to the library and borrowing more, or buying a new release I’ve been dying to read (which I probably won’t read for months).
When I look at my bookshelves, I often feel guilty about those unread books. Embarrassingly, some have been there over three years. But then I get excited. After all, there’s so much potential in those neatly stacked shelves. There are books my friends and fellow bloggers have given me, with promises of brilliance. There are also the books which end a series I don’t want to finish and the books I bought because the cover was just so damn good. There’s a lot of expectation resting on my shelves and perhaps part of me doesn’t want to shatter the perfect book I’ve been imagining.
I slowed down my book buying last year, pretty much only picking up new books while on holiday in places with awesomely big book shops. This year I’m much more comfortable buying more and more books, although I still love a good library visit as well. I’m pretty lucky that my library gets new releases very promptly. Still, I think it’s about time I got stuck into those unread books!
What are your bookshelves like? Do you have masses of unread books as well, or is it just me? How do you manage your TBR pile?
P.S. Yes, those books above are ones I haven’t quite got around to yet…
With masses of books on my TBR pile (which is growing every day), I’ve never been afraid to abandon a book. I used to do it before I started using Goodreads and was picking books at random off shelves at the library. I would say since I started blogging I’ve abandoned less books, simply because I generally choose books based on the reviews and recommendations of people with similar tastes.
But how soon is too soon? To be totally honest, if I’ve borrowed a book from the library and I’m not into it a few chapters in I’ll happily return it and move on. But with review books, things are a little different. If I’m reading a book I requested, I feel a lot more pressure to finish it, even if I’m struggling to get into it. The times I have done this have resulted in some of my (very few) snarky reviews. If I’m really not getting into a review book though, I will give up on it after I’ve read more than about a quarter of it. Surely it should be getting my attention by then? I feel less worried about abandoning unsolicited review copies though.
There are some readers who refuse to abandon a book, and I get that. Part of me is curious to know what happens in the book I’m reading, even if I’m not enjoying it. But part of me is also excited for my next read, especially considering I have such a massive TBR.
Do you DNF books? When’s the right time to say goodbye to a book you’re not enjoying or have issues with?
Before I started blogging, I had no idea there was such a thing as OzYA (or UKYA for that matter). I just read books I really enjoyed, usually borrowed from both my school and local libraries. As it happened, my first upper-middle grade/YA reads were those by Jacqueline Wilson, a British author whose work often involves quite difficult family or personal issues for a young teenage audience. I loved her books. I would borrow them countless times from the library and read them until I knew the stories off by heart. I think part of the reason I loved them was actually their distinct British feel, something which seemed kind of exotic to my 11-year-old self.
A few months ago, the #LoveOzYA movement was born. Basically it’s about bloggers and authors working together to share their love for homegrown YA, and hopefully spread the word to other readers. I’ll leave some links to much more comprehensive discussions below, along with a great Aussie YA reading guide by Danielle at Alpha Reader.
While I’m sure I picked up the odd OzYA book while I was at high school, I didn’t (and still haven’t) read the classic Melina Marchetta and John Marsden novels so many people love. So, I feel like a little bit of a sham talking about the #LoveOzYA movement when I still have so much catching up to do on the Aussie classics myself. But since I started blogging, I have fallen completely in love with homegrown YA. In fact, between my love for OzYA and UKYA, I don’t actually read much American YA, let alone ones which have as much hype as, say, The Fault in Our Stars. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading American YA, but what’s great about the #Love OzYA movement is it’s all about letting people know there are great Australian authors out there, writing some amazing stuff.
Discovering OzYA and a whole bunch of lovely Aussie bloggers has been my favourite part of this blogging journey. I love picking up an Aussie novel and being able to perfectly relate to simple little things like the dialogue and slang, or particular foods and drinks. It also still feels magical when I’m reading a books set somewhere I’ve visited like Sydney or Brisbane. There’s always a strong sense of place in every OzYA novel I’ve read. So while I’ll still be reading plenty of UKYA, because it does still feel a little exotic, reading OzYA will always feel like home.
Over the next few months I hope to share some of my top OzYA recommendations, as well as get around to those books I should have read years ago.
Over at Kill Your Darlings, Danielle Binks offered a comprehensive look at OzYA and the #LoveOzYA movement
On her blog Alpha Reader, Danielle also shared her Aussie reads for fans of popular American YA in three posts. Part one || Part two || Part threeAuthor Ellie Marney wrote about #LoveOzYA after Every Breath was one of only two Aussie YA novels to make it onto the list of Australia’s most-borrowed library booksFor an incredibly comprehensive collection of Aussie YA novels, check out this Readings listIf you’re on instagram, check out this LoveOzYA account, which will add some very awesome recommendations to your feedOver at Loony Literati, Emily suggested some more Aussie ReadalikesDownload your own Aussie Readalikes poster (made by the ever awesome Trinity Doyle) based on Danielle’s recommendations
Readings hosted the first #LoveOzYA event. Read a recap here.
I love sharing my thoughts about books. After all, that’s why I started blogging. But with blogging and reviewing comes a little bit of pressure. For me, there is a noticeable difference between reading a book knowing I’ll review it and reading it purely for enjoyment.
When reviewing, I usually jot down notes on elements like plot, writing style, themes and characters as well as any mentions of songs I like (or songs I think would match the book) and other bits and pieces. Sometimes, I only write down a short list of my immediate thoughts when I finish readings as a way to shape my review. But there are some books which are almost impossible to review because they’re so amazing (here’s looking at you, Code Name Verity) or just so ‘meh’ that I don’t really care.
It sounds silly, but sometimes it’s nice just to take a break and read a book without thinking too much about it. Audiobooks are a little like that for me. Although I enjoy the story while I’m listening to it, I have no opportunity to take notes while I’m driving. I know most bloggers need to take a break sometimes, but being a book nerd I always feel the need to keep reading, even when I’m not reviewing. Books I read without reviewing can be a great pallet-cleanser before I go back to review copies. In some cases I feel my enjoyment is enhanced simply because I’m not wondering how I’ll discuss that level of awesome.
I also hate being restricted to a reading schedule. What I chose to read often depends entirely on my mood, or something (like particular setting/genre) I’ve been craving. Last year, I was writing weekly author/book profiles for a community magazine. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. I was getting to talk to some of my favourite authors about some of my favourite books. But eventually the pressure of a weekly deadline and reading/interviewing/writing the pieces on top of my normal role and blogging got really tiring. I love having the freedom to read whatever I want…even if it means pausing in the middle of one book because I feel like something new.
I try and make sure I regularly review designated review copies, but I love spicing my reading habits up with something I have had sitting on my shelves for weeksmonths years (yes, I am clearly a book hoarder). Do you find reading to review a book different to reading simply for fun? How has your reading changed since you started blogging?
I’ll be honest, there is something that feels inherently different about reading on my Kobo compared to picking up a great big hardback novel. I’m not a huge e-book reader, but they’re a godsend on holidays and make accessing review copies easier through Netgalley.
If I lived in a city where driving to work in 15 minutes wasn’t possible, I’m sure I would use my e-reader 90% more than I do now. When I was interning in Sydney, I would spend most of the hour-long journey to the office with my head in my reader. Apart from my tendency to want to keep my books perfect, my reader is so much easier to fit into my hardback (along with all the other junk I carry around in there, seriously, it’s like Mary Poppin’s bag). But, I definitely miss the feel of reading a physical book; turning each page, breathing in that delicious book smell and admiring the amazing cover art. Also, the hundreds of physical books on my bookshelves make my room look so much prettier.
There is also something a little weird about reading an electronic copy and not being able to visually gauge your progress through a book. It strangely makes me feel as if I’m reading e-books faster than I would a physical book. Generally I feel like I’m ‘turning’ pages faster and flying through an electronic novel. Perhaps it’s because I’m not able to see my (relatively slow) progress each time I take a break?
E-books are definitely here to stay, although I don’t believe they’ll ever replace physical copies (not with a bunch of book hoarders like us around, anyway). With more and more people reading electronically, most libraries have also shifted into a strange new world of lending electronic copies. My library has a fabulous range of e-books which are easy to download and regularly updated which makes holiday reading even more of a breeze.
There is definitely a place for e-books. While my love of physical copies will never, ever die (just like my love of print newspapers and magazines), I also felt lost the moment my last e-reader died after three years. I love the ease of being able to read review copies electronically, as well as borrowing some of the latest releases through my library before the physical copies arrive on shelf. What are your thoughts on e-books?
Being totally obsessed with reading means I’m always looking for a new book to read, even if I don’t necessarily have the time. I always underestimate how much time a book is going to take to read, and indeed the impact work can have on my energy levels. Some days when I leave work on time, I get home and all I want to do is flop on the couch and catch up on TV shows I’ve been recording all week. Other days, I come home, work out, read, blog and generally feel pretty productive.
I’m usually reading one ‘difficult/slow-go’ book which I want to savour, usually for its gorgeous writing (Iain Banks’ The Crow Road is the perfect example, I’ve been reading it since October last year). Then there’s my ‘go-to’ book (usually a physical copy, but occasionally an e-book), that’s the one I have sitting on the coffee table/bedside table while I devour it as fast as I can. Now I’ve added another to the mix: audiobooks. As if I wasn’t reading enough already!
I’d always dismissed audiobooks as not for me. I’m a very visual person and thought I couldn’t possibly concentrate or take in an audiobook the same way I did a physical or electronic copy. That is until I bought my car (oh, and won a really amazing audiobook from my local library). Now I listen to a book every day on the way to work. Ok, so my commute is only 15 minutes in heavy traffic, but still, it’s reading something. I’m surprised by how much I take in while I’m driving and don’t notice too much of a difference compared to visual reading, although I’ve never reviewed an audiobook before.
The best thing is this year I’ve listened to books that would take me months and months to physically read. I’ve discovered a gem in Kate Morton, the author of the audiobook I won. Her books are, quite frankly, massive. I’m talking family sagas with a slow-burning mystery (and nice big twist at the end) which are generally 600+ pages. At the rate I listened to her books, they did still take me a month to finish. They’re totally worth it though!
Caroline Lee narrates Morton’s books and she does a fabulous job. I’ve only listened to two books narrated by others and to be honest, they’ve been pretty disappointing. Although both grew on me by the end, it was jarring initially. I’m currently listening to Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses and loving it. The narration feels spot-on and whenever I’m in the car, I have to drag myself away from listening to the book to go to work.
For me, audiobooks are one of my ‘free pass’ books I can just enjoy without the pressure of taking notes for reviews. I love listening to them during my commute and feel less guilty about not picking up my book when I get home in the afternoon. Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you have any recommendations?
So, I’ve been blogging for almost three years now. It’s really hard to believe that, particularly in light of the way I neglected the blog a little last year. Sure I was still posting, rambling and raving about books, but it was mostly only the ones I really loved.
Last year, I was reviewing books for work. While this was a really fantastic opportunity which allowed me to also interview some amazing Aussie authors, by Christmas I was really glad to take a break. Then the publication I was reviewing for was canned. Suddenly, I realised I wasn’t all that sad to stop. So I decided to launch back into blogging, with resolutions to post twice a week (we’ll see how that goes), meet new bloggers and interact more with blog comments and social media.
When I was only sporadically reviewing books I really, really loved I started to feel a little weird about ratings. When I’d go to rate something 4 stars, I’d start to compare it to other books I’d given 4 stars and so on. But really, a rating doesn’t feel as nuanced as I’d like. My ratings have always been personal, but every blogger has their own system and seeing the number 3 or the number 4 has a different meaning to everyone.
And, to finally get to the point, that’s why I’ve decided to stop using ratings on my reviews. Eventually, I’ll also be removing ratings on my old reviews. This year, I want to read for me and share my thoughts, without the pressure of how a number will be perceived. Hopefully I can express more in words than I can with a single number.