#LetsDiscuss2018 – Is Variety The Spice of Blogging Life?

Gossiping Women

Last year around this time I was struggling with how I follow blogs.  I was using Google+, Bloglovin’, WordPress Reader, and email plus Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Some bloggers I followed in every which way, others only one.  Because of that, I was missing out on some great posts but seeing others two, three or four times.

It was more than a little frustrating and, as a result, I made the decision that, social media aside, I was going to use Bloglovin’ as my main blog following tool.  For the most part it’s worked.  Recently, though, I’ve started to feel overwhelmed again and I think it’s because I’m following too many people.  If I add everything up, it is close to 300 individual blogs yet I probably only visit 30 or 40 on a regular basis.  

Discussion Challenge 2018

Gossiping WomenLast year, I took part in the 2017 Discussion Challenge.  The aim was to build up the courage to write more than reviews, to start expressing my opinion beyond my thoughts on what I had read, even if only just a little bit.  I’m not going to lie, it was hard.  There is something about writing a discussion post, the putting myself out there that had me thinking twice more than once.

In the end, I wrote six posts that I classed as discussions (including one on what made a discussion a discussion, a question I still haven’t quite answered for myself).  This made me a “discussion dabbler” but it was kind of where I thought I would end up.  This year, I want to do more, in fact it’s one of my new year blogging resolutions.  How much better I’m not sure but I’m aiming to at least double my discussion posts to 12 – one a month.  Hopefully, I’ll succeed!

When is a discussion a discussion (or not?)

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This year, I am taking part in Feed Your Fiction Addiction’s discussion challenge.  I’d like to say I’m doing well, though I’m not really.  Just doing an update of where I was for this last quarter of the year, though, I started to wonder if maybe I was doing better than I thought and if some of the posts I had written, that I hadn’t classed as discussions really were.  Confused?  Yes, me too!

So, last month for example, I wrote two non-review, non-linky related posts.  One, Crime series I’m officially given up on catching up on…, I tagged as the discussion challenge.  The other, Rarely read genres – suggestions please…, I didn’t.  Why was one tagged and not the other?  The first had a question at the end that asked whether people had series they had given up on or would never get rund to finishing either; the second asked for suggested books I could read. This month, I talked about my favourite female detectives and tagged that too. Again, there was a question at the end.  

Month in review: August, 2017

Month in reviewSo it’s here – September – the time of year in my neck of the woods where the weather turns (or not, the last couple of years we’ve had indian summers), the nights draw in, and the sweaters come out of hiding.  I quite like it to be honest.  It makes the world a little snugglier (if that’s a word) and I’m sure I get more reading done as I’m not taking time off to enjoy the sun (well, when there is sun!).

Saying that, I didn’t do too bad in August with some great reads.  In fact, there wasn’t one duff book amongst them.  Here’s what I read, and how I felt about it…

Crime series I'm officially given up on catching up on…

For the Cloak and Dagger reading challenge I have set myself a mini-challenge of finishing up (or catching up rather) with two series – M. J. Arlidge DI Helen Grace series and the Nikki Galena series by Joy Ellis – and I have to say, with so many other books on my to read list and September fast approaching, I am starting to panic a bit.  The books are all loaded up on the kindle or the shelves but others keep making their way to the top of the pile.

Reading concept. Vintage tone of  woman selecting book from a bo

Sitting there, thinking about when I might find the time to read them (or which books I wouldn’t read instead), I got to also thinking about all the other series I had planned at some point to catch-up on and decided to have a bit of look on goodreads to see if my plans were every likely to become a reality.  For three, I have officially decided they won’t be.  After reading the first book in each series and a couple more along the way, I have decided I am just too far behind and I’m giving up….

Rarely read genres – suggestions please…

read-1342499_1920I often say I never read romance novels, or historical fiction, or sci-fi, but none off these are completely true…well, maybe other than romance novels as I am not much of a hearts and flowers type of girl, even in real life.  I’ve also never read a graphic novel.

Looking back over my list of reads for the past year or so, I have definitely read books that would fall into the sci-fi category (though likely only just…none have been set in space, which probably shows my ignorance of what makes a sci-fi book sci-fi) and a few were set in the past, which means they classify as historical fiction (I think?).

My perception of what falls into these genres is part of my problem – so thinking sci-fi books should be set in space for example or my initial reaction each time someone uses the term historical fiction to think of Philippa Gregory and her Tudor set novels.

Are you the same – do you have genres you stay away from (which ones and why?) or perceptions about what you might be reading if you pick up a book from a particularly type?

As I try to stretch my reading chops, I have decided that reading genres I say I don’t read would be a good way to go.  And, rather than floundering about and picking books which end up just confirming my perceptions because they aren’t the best of their ilk, I thought I would ask my fellow bloggers out there for suggestions.

So, if you love romance (pun intended), sci-fi or historical fiction, what should I read – new or old – what will convince me that I do like these genres after all?

I thank you kindly in advance for your suggestions.

Emma x

 

Note: image courtesy of Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California reading

imageAnyone who spends any time on my blog will know that I am more than a little excited about my upcoming holidays, half of which will be spent in California, one of my favourite holiday destinations.  Slowly but surely, my hubbie and I are working our way around the state and, this time, I get to visit San Francisco for the first time which I am really looking forward to.

In honour of our upcoming trip, I thought it might be fun to share my five favourite books set in California…

Reading red lines?

spray paintEarlier this month I read a book that had scenes in it of a paedophile grooming a young girl.  They have haunted me since.  I keep flashing back to one scene in particular that made me squirm.  Even though I really enjoyed the book, there is part of me that wishes I hadn’t read it because I still don’t feel comfortable with what was written.

The other part of me though would still recommend the book – because it was well written and a good story.  Without the uncomfortable scenes it wouldn’t have been the same book (and definitely not as good).  My review mentioned that there were parts of the story that made me uncomfortable but I didn’t go further because it would have meant spoilers in the story.  I am now wondering if I should go back and be more explicit?

I know other bloggers do this and I have to say this has put me off some books, books which I think I might actually have enjoyed and I wondered what others thought about “warnings”?.  It’s a fine line I suppose, because we all have personal red lines, ones we don’t or won’t cross when reading books or watching TV.

Based on comments on some of my recent reviews, where there seems to have been a bit of a glut of books with missing children or children in danger, that seems to be a red line for a lot of parents (or at least parents of younger children).  They can too easily put themselves in the place of the central characters, imagine their own children missing.  Yet, as a parent myself, I can’t say I have that reaction.

For me, rape is a difficult one to read about.  When it’s mentioned in a blurb or review I tend to steer clear.  But then I read He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly not so long ago, where rape – and it’s aftermath – was the driver for the story and I was o.k. As with the book I read recently, He Said / She Said was well written and thought provoking as well as a great story that kept me wondering where the truth lay right till the last.

I’ve also found that I can no longer read books which portray violent or graphic scenes anymore (something I never batted an eye at a few years ago).  I used to be a big fan of the Graham Masterton Katie Maguire series, for example, but the fact that there always seemed to be at least one (and generally more) gruesome deaths – described in quite a lot of detail – meant I’ve had to stop reading them.

The problem is, how to do you know unless you read a book?  But if you do read it and your reaction to it is negative, have you done yourself any favours – especially if, like me, books stay with you for a while?  What are your thoughts – do you have reading red lines, and what are they? And would you prefer to know more or less about whether there might be something upsetting in a book?

Emma

This post is part of the 2017 Book Blog Discussion Challenge, linking in with Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon at It Start’s at Midnight.

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Note: Designed by Freepik

Blogging rules (a.k.a. myths) I'm not very good at following

58548-O99UXY-183Recently I realised that I had been blogging now (if you include my previous blog) for about three years.  I can no longer say I’m new to blogging (how am I going to get away with making mistakes now?).

In one way, it’s a long time. In another, I feel like I just started yesterday and, whilst I’m a bit more confident now than I was, bit is the operative word.  Every time I hit publish I am excited to be sharing my thoughts and terrified about how people will respond (if they respond at all) in equal measure.

I’m also still daunted by how good I feel some bloggers are and determined to do the best I can to make my blog the best I can.  The big difference is probably that I now try and do it my way not the way I thought I needed to do things when I started.

Then, I read a lot on how to blog and found a lot of rules I tried – and have since failed – to follow.  I’m sure I’m not the only but for those out there like me, finding my way in this online world, I thought I would share the ones I no longer live by…

apple-1867752_1920post often, but not too often – I have come across this confusing piece of advice more than once and more than once I have wondered, how often is too much and how often is too little.  Apparently it’s enough to keep people interested in what you had to say but not enough for them to get bored with you.  A couple of posts put a figure on it, saying four to five times a week was a minimum but every day was better. But only once a day.  Starting out, I was lucky to get three posts up a week. Now I’m at the magical four to five most weeks.  Every day seems like a goal I won’t reach. And I’m not sure I want to.  Where does the rest of the fun of blogging fit in then? Where does the reading go, the reading on other people’s blogs?  I know some of the bloggers I follow out there manage it, some posting more than once a day and I admire them, but most don’t and it doesn’t stop me visiting their blogs.

clock-1392328_1920…post early – Again, what is early? Before breakfast, before lunch? And early for where in the world? The idea, I think, is this way you’ll get more visits, more comments, more likes (you get the picture) and your blog will be more popular.  Sometimes I follow this rule but it’s not normally that well thought out – occasionally I get posts scheduled but often it’s because I write early before anyone else at home is up and I have peace, quite and space to think about what I want to say.  A lot of times I don’t till the afternoon or later (hello this post) and it doesn’t seem to make much difference…in fact, I’ve just had a look at it seems 1 PM is my magic posting number, the time when I get the most hits so it just goes to show.

crowd-1699137_1920…don’t look at stats – they don’t mean anything, or at least that’s what they (the rule makers) would have you believe.  But they do.  They aren’t the be all and end all but the do make you feel good about what you are doing, that you are reaching people with your reviews (which is what it’s about in part isn’t it – sharing your opinion).  It’s nice to know you have followers (would you honestly post if you didn’t?).  Stats also help you get better at blogging – showing you what posts are more popular you can maybe figure out why.  Plus, when it comes to getting ARCS etc. I’m pretty sure they matter there too – though maybe not (others can probably answer this better than I can).

wordpress-552924_1920…you must self-host – whilst I do, a lot of my favourite blogs don’t and they are all just as good if not better than some of the ones that self-host.  They don’t seem to have trouble getting followers, comments or review copies.  There are benefits (which I should take more advantage of) of self-hosting, but platforms like wordpress are more than fit for purpose and they’re FREE.  Last time I checked free is good.

less-is-more-791109_1920….don’t use the “more” function – because people like to read posts all in one go.  Now this is something I do do but more because I’m lazy than anything else.  Never has the continue reading option stopped me reading a post I wanted to read and I don’t think it ever will.  I actually prefer it because I can see more of what people have posted.  In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I might start using the option myself…

There are more, lots more probably, but I’m over the maximum word count a post can be (700 in case you are interested, though 500 is better) so I had better sign off.  What about you, do you follow these rules or others or do you just say rules be damned and do what you want?

Emma x

This post is part of my discussion challenge2017-discussion-challenge3.

p.s. Blogging image was designed by Freepik, all other images courtesy of Pixabay.

Books at the bottom of the pile

Earlier this week, I wrote a review for The Dead Room by Chris Mooney, a book I had had sitting on my Kindle since 2012.  There was no reason why I hadn’t read it other than I had bought other books and they had risen to the top of my “want to read” list quicker.  I know that other bloggers have talked about this problem and there is a read the books you buy challenge but it isn’t a problem I thought I had a) because I don’t review a lot of ARCs in the grand scheme of things so don’t have to prioritise those most of the time and b) because when I look at my book shelves there are very few books I haven’t read and most of those aren’t that old – no more than a year, which I think is perfectly acceptable.

Thinking about it though I realised I often said in my comments on other people’s reviews “oh I have this on my Kindle ready to read” so I decided to take a good hard look at just what was on there, plus on ibooks which I rarely go on anymore but know has books still waiting for me to read.  There are a lot over a year old, quite a few over two years old and more than I imagined or care to admit to older than three years (and no, I won’t share the number).

As I’m already taking part in several challenges this year, which is more than enough for me, I am not going to sign up for read the books you buy but I am going to give myself a bit of a goal to work towards and, between now and the end of June, I am aiming to read the three books I’ve owned the longest.  They are…

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Anna Bella Nor is just two weeks away from revealing her controversial research on the evolutionary origin of birds when her supervisor Lars Helland is found dead . . . his tongue and a copy of her thesis in his lap.

As the police investigate the most brutal and calculated case they’ve ever known, Anna remains convinced someone is trying to stop her research coming to light. She must fight to prove her innocence . . . and fight for her life.

Owned since October 2012

 

5043The vast forests, the walled towns, the castles, and the monasteries…Against this richly imagined and intricately interwoven backdrop, filled with the ravages of war and the rhythms of daily life, the master storyteller draws the reader irresistibly into the intertwined lives of his characters into their dreams, their labours, and their loves: Tom, the master builder; Aliena, the ravishingly beautiful noblewoman; Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge; Jack, the artist in stone; and Ellen, the woman of the forest who casts a terrifying curse.

Owned since January 2013

 

17262366In summer 1927, America had a booming stock market, a president who worked just four hours a day (and slept much of the rest), a devastating flood of the Mississippi, a sensational murder trial, and an unknown aviator named Charles Lindbergh who became the most famous man on earth.

It was the summer that saw the birth of talking pictures, the invention of television, the peak of Al Capone’s reign of terror, the horrifying bombing of a school in Michigan, the thrillingly improbable return to greatness of over-the-hill baseball player Babe Ruth, and an almost impossible amount more.

In this hugely entertaining book, Bill Bryson spins a tale of brawling adventure, reckless optimism and delirious energy. With the trademark brio, wit and authority that make him Britain’s favourite writer of narrative non-fiction, he brings to life a forgotten summer when America came of age, took centre stage, and changed the world.

Owned since December 2013

If I manage these three, I’ll add three more till I’m all caught up and the guilt I have been feeling for the last week or so will disappear and I will be a happy bunny again.

How about you? Have I got you beat with how long I’ve owned these books are have you had ones on your shelves / kindle longer?  Do you feel guilty or not worry, knowing you’ll get to them one day?

Emma

p.s. I only picked three because the last two (Follett and Bryson) are really, really long – maybe why I haven’t read them yet?