Jo Talks Books: On Twenty Something Bloggers in The YA Community

Hi everyone! I had totally planned on getting this discussion post to you guys sooner, but November has been a crazy busy month for me, I’ve had basically back to back assignments for the past few weeks, so I didn’t have time to sit down and write this until now. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you will have seen back in February that I did a discussion post on teens in the YA community, talking about the issues relating to them after some Twitter drama earlier in the year. I decided that as a follow up to that, I would write a post about the experiences of twenty something bloggers in the YA community, see how our experiences differ to those of teens and the issues that we face.

Being a twenty something blogger in this community is a strange thing. Not in that there aren’t many of us, on the contrary 20 somethings probably make up the biggest proportion of YA bloggers out there, as a lot of us start blogging in our late teens and just keep going. At some point, every teen blogger will become a twenty something blogger, unless you hit 20 and suddenly decide you’re not going to blog anymore. It’s a strange time, especially when you’re in your early twenties, as we don’t really fit anywhere. We are young adults, but we’re not teens, so by being so prominent in YA it seems like we’re trying to take over their space. There are book bloggers who blog about adult fiction, but it’s a much smaller community than the YA one and we don’t exactly fit in there either, because 20 somethings have different concerns to say 30 or 40 something adults. NA isn’t really a thing, so the community that is the most natural fit for us, is one that doesn’t really exist. It’s a strange feeling and something that I don’t feel is talked about very much, so I decided to speak to some other 20+ bloggers about our place in the community. Here is what they had to say:

Q1: Do you feel like it’s hard for 20 somethings to find their place in the community, particularly those of us who are close in age to teens?

Yes! Especially when YA fiction featuring 18+ year olds are shelved with teenagers rather than a separate YA section. It’s not clear cut what qualifies as teenage fiction and YA fiction, and then there’s NA! I hardly see anything labelled as new adult and it’s not clear just what that is. Some people may feel that people 20 and above are not young adults and shouldn’t be reading YA books, especially people who don’t read YA and consider it teenage fiction.

-Joanne, 21 (no this isn’t me, we just have the same name and happen to be the same age!)

Personally I’ve not found it too hard to find my place in the YA community mostly because this past year or so I’ve been more vocal and involved social media wise because it was the first time I wasn’t feeling anxious or shy to do so. When I was a term and blogging everyone I followed and spoke too was older so I looked up to them and was worried I was just an annoying teen. I can look back on that now and realise that wasn’t the case at all but I was also just far too shy to be that active when I was a teen.

-Lauren, 24

Q2: What have you found to be your biggest struggles as bloggers (related to your age or not)?

Trying not to feel like I’m copying everybody else in terms of reading the same books. But at the same time, feeling like my voice isn’t being heard enough BECAUSE I don’t always read the same books as everyone else.

-Hayley, 21

I definitely feel this one sometimes! I do read a lot of the hyped releases, so sometimes you do just feel like you’re writing the same stuff as everyone else, but then when I write about books that aren’t as well known, I don’t tend to get much interaction on those kinds of posts because not many people have read them, it’s a hard balance to strike!

I haven’t really struggled that much with blogging about YA books, but I think there are certain attitudes about adults blogging that need to change to be honest. *shrug*

-Steph, 28

I would totally agree with Steph here, there are attitudes about adults blogging that need to change. Sometimes on Twitter, it seems like people are so passionate about making a space for teens (which we of course absolutely should be doing) that it sometimes comes across as if people don’t want us adults to be here at all, and that’s not right. We work just as hard at getting our voices heard as teens do and just because we’re a little bit older, doesn’t mean we don’t still have useful things to say. There’s also still an element of judgement around adults reading YA, even within the community, you hear people saying “This isn’t for you” or various iterations of that, and whilst I know they mean we are not the intended age range for YA, it still comes across as rather hurtful.

I feel like the book blogging community has so many young readers & they all want to relate to the people who are reading the same books as them. I don’t think it’s hard for us to find a place in the community, but I think it can be hard for us to have a large following since we aren’t the age of a lot of the people who like our content.

-Temecka, 20

It can be hard as a new blogger to make your voice heard when you are new but equally a lot of us are starting to face criticism for reading YA when we are no longer teens but we can also not be considered sophisticated or ‘adult’ enough for a lot of adult books which obviously isn’t true. However, there are a lot of bloggers our age who are hugely successful in the community.

-Lauren, 22

Lauren and Temecka had very similar points, we’re of an age, where we’re older than teens, so seen as “too old” or “taking up space” by reading YA books but at the same time, we’re barely adults so we’re not seen as an authoritative voice on those either! It’s very hard to win at this age!

Q3: Why do you think people in their twenties gravitate towards YA so much? Is it because of a lack of designated community/very few options for books featuring people in their twenties? Or is it something else?

I think it’s a combination of no designated community for us and the fact that I don’t feel like an adult. I still feel like a teen playing house or playing grown up. I don’t even know about taxes or where I’m going to grad school so I certainly don’t fit in with the adult groups.

-Bayy, 20

This particular comment resonated particularly with me. I turned 21 back in September, but I honestly still feel like a fake grown up! I can relate so much more to YA characters who are still trying to figure their lives out, than to adult characters in books who have careers and families and seem to have everything totally together! Discovering who you are and not knowing what you want with your life doesn’t stop at 18 guys!

I would love to read more about university and those early adult years but don’t seem to find many books that cover your early 20s without being romance. YA is also so progressive when it comes to social issues that I think it is really leading the way in fiction. I also like books I find easy to read and don’t have to really concentrate to understand some hidden meaning, especially if I’m on the train!

-Annalise, 23

This is something that I struggle with a lot as well, I would love to read about university and early 20’s life, but it’s just not out there! YA has so much more diversity than adult fiction.

As someone approaching their mid-twenties, I’ve gravitated towards YA because I can’t find myself in books. I struggle to get my head around a lot of adult fiction and I have to really be interested in it in order to actually pick it up and read it. There isn’t a lot of issues covered in adult books that I can relate to. I also think that YA shouldn’t necessarily include teenagers, because technically YA is people who are 20+ in my eyes as teens are exactly that until that approach the end of being 19.

-Aimee, 24

Aimee is absolutely right, it’s so difficult to find yourself in fiction once you reach your 20s, heck even when you get past about 18 it’s very difficult to see yourself represented as a young adult.

Q4: Have you ever found that teens (for whatever reason) have been hostile to you as adult bloggers on Twitter?

I think a huge difficulty is money, it’s something I struggled with when I started blogging and why I’ve gone through so many blogs before settling. I haven’t found anyone specifically come out and be hostile, but it does hurt when people say that YA isn’t for me. It’s what got me back onto reading at 14, it’s my passion, has been ever since  although it tends to be adults who say it

-Cora, 26

I have never had any backlash at all, from anyone or any age group. I’d argue the book blogging community is one of the most inclusive.

-Rebecca, 22

I don’t ever feel any hostility from teens however,I would like to say that just because YA “isn’t aimed at us” we’re allowed to have a say in the industry etc, even if we aren’t teens.

-Rosie, 23

I was very happy to hear the responses for this one, pretty much everyone said that teens are always lovely to them on Twitter (which has thus far been my experience also) and I found Cora’s response about it being mostly adults saying we don’t belong in this community especially interesting. I think in a well intentioned attempt to help teens voices be heard, some adults have a tendency to try to silence each other and that’s something we need to resolve, we need to all work together to make sure everyone’s voices are heard rather than trying to silence them. I also totally agree with Rosie’s point, we are still a part of this community, even if YA isn’t aimed at us, as part of the community we should get a say on industry stuff, if we want to.

Q5: What can we do to ensure both adult and teen bloggers feel welcome in the community?

I think bloggers just need to listen to each other. Old or young, we’ve shown we have something to say. Supporting each other is also important, as showing people you appreciate them will keep them blogging. 

-Beth, 26

You need to listen and be inclusive. A community is give and take, and the easiest way to help with problems is give more than you get. Comment back, engage in conversation, just be NICE. If someone says that something is harmful to them then listen. Blogging feels like shouting into the void, it’s nice to have someone notice.

-Cora, 26

Q6: Would you like to see more books about people in their twenties, like us?

DEFINITELY. There are so many YA books about 15 and 16 year olds when they are still teenagers! A young adult is 18+ and it’s a shame when books are commonly shelved under teenage fiction. There is definitely a lack of books featuring 20 year olds and above and the trials and tribulations they face, be it in the modern day or in a fantasy.

-Joanne, 21 (again not me)!

I think this is one of the big difficulties of the classification of YA the way it is, technically we should really call it teen fiction as YA does make it sound like we’re talking about people aged 18+, who are technically young adults. The big problem is that NA, which is the classification for people of our age, just isn’t a thing at all, books about 20+ are usually shelved either in adult or YA and publishers don’t seem to put out books about 20+ characters anyway, because even though there definitely seems to be demand for it, there’s no obvious category to market it in.

Definitely! My problems haven’t stopped because I got accepted into college. Now I have grad school to think about and a career. Not to mention first apartments and all sorts of things. I think that part of our lives gets glossed over a lot and it’s not fair. I want to feel less alone. 

-Bayy, 20

This one bugs me a lot too, because there are so many interesting and life changing things that happen in your 20s and it’s a shame that we never get to see that in books.

It depends how they’re written. I’d love to see characters who are my age that I can relate to, but it doesn’t happen very often! I’ve tried reading New Adult before but it doesn’t really appeal to me in the same way YA does. (Not going to lie, all of the NA I’ve tried has way too much sexy time and not enough relatable content)

-Katie, 25

I feel the same way as Katie, New Adult is just not for me because of the abundance of sexy times in there, I actually did a whole post about why we needed NA that isn’t totally romance (or sex) focused, if anyone wants to check it out!

Q7: What do you think 20 somethings have to offer the community which is unique to us?

We’re at that point where we’re having to stand on our two feet and discover the real world as it really is. We learn that everything we learnt in school/uni, etc. isn’t all that important and that there are other strengths and advice that we can offer which wouldn’t be patronising.

-Aimee, 24

We have survived through teenage hood! We’ve got through school and maybe some murky relationships and fights amongst friends and family so we can understand characters and their motives more having been through something similar already. When you can connect with a book because of something similar the character has been through to you, the story feels more real and more likely to invoke emotions intended by the author.

-Joanne, 21

Q8: Do you ever feel undervalued in the community, for your age or for any other reason?

I have never felt undervalued. I just found it hard to be involved in a lot of things because I don’t have a huge following and my emails to publisher seem to always go unanswered.

-Lois, 20

I can definitely relate to this, especially in my first year or so of blogging, I found it really hard to get involved and I didn’t even attempt to get anything from publishers until I got Netgalley last year! It can be hard sometimes when you have a blog with a smaller following to feel like you’re getting heard.

I definitely feel like unless you have that large following or are a publishers favorite you miss out on a lot of stuff. From opportunities, to audience, to connecting with other readers. I feel like it’s a popularity contest a lot

-Bayy, 20

This was a common response to this question, that if you’re not a large blogger, you don’t get as many opportunities. I don’t really know what the solution is to that particular problem, I’m a relatively small blogger myself but I have had the chance to do some cool stuff, I get e-ARCs from Netgalley, I’ve been asked by a couple of companies to do posts for the blog & offered a few ARCs from publishers, but I still feel like I don’t get as many opportunities as some of the bigger bloggers do. Bayy’s absolutely right though, it does seem like a popularity contest sometimes and it doesn’t help that to publisher’s it’s all just a number’s game.

Q9: Is there anything you would like to see change in the community, both for 20 something bloggers and in general?

I’d definitely echo that book events are concentrated in the south east, and I also think publishers can be a little shortsighted and mean when it comes to things like ARCs, etc. By this, I mean not responding to emails (which can feel like shouting into a void), making fans do stupid tasks for books (this happens with a few publishers at YALC) or only sending out books to bloggers with huge followings.

-Annalise, 24

This was part of a larger conversation with the bloggers I talked to, but essentially an issue that was brought up time and time again was that book events do tend to be concentrated around the London area. I didn’t actually realise this was an issue until I moved to Scotland, but it’s very true! From book tours, to book events like YALC, everything is based in the south, the furthest North authors seem to go for author events is Newcastle. I’ve managed to go to a paltry two book tours since I came to Uni. I think as a community, we definitely need to show enthusiasm for events in the North so publishers see that there is a demand and perhaps send more of their authors here!

The location of book events really bugs me. I can’t afford 100+ just for a book event, I also did a mini rant about availiability on my twitter this morning hahaha

-Rosie, 23

I would like to see more of an offline community with events, meetups, and the like, especially outside of London. 

-Kelly, 22

Thank you to everyone who participated in this, it was so interesting to get to talk to other bloggers of around my age and see how they feel about the community! I know this post is an epic tome, so well done to anyone who actually manages to get to the end of it, I’m sorry for the length, I just wanted to make sure that as many people as possible who took time out to answer my questions were featured and I got way more offers than I was expecting to participate in this!

If you’re a twenty something blogger then please feel free to add your two cents in the comments! The discussion we had as a group was so interesting, I honestly wish I could have shared it all with you guys, but alas, this tome of a post would be twice the size if I had.

I definitely will not have any more discussion posts for you in November, as it’s the 30th today, but I will definitely be back at some point in December with a new discussion post (maybe even two as I have the whole of December off!). In the meantime, hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot more from me as tomorrow is officially my last day of Uni, I have a book review and several features for my writing corner already planned for December, so stay tuned for those! I will also be posting my wrap up of this year’s NaNoWriMo very soon, so you have that to look forward to as well!


Jo Talks Books: Tips For Student Book Bloggers

Hi everyone! I know it’s been ages since I last did one of these, but the reasons why actually lead on quite nicely to what I’m talking about today. As most of you know by now, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while (if you’re new, then welcome!), I am a Uni student, in my third year at University of Stirling doing a joint History and Journalism degree. Earlier this year, I did a discussion post about Tips For New Book Bloggers and it was pretty well received, so I thought I’d do another Tips post, but this time for Student Book Bloggers. It’s a big change for anyone, starting Uni and I know that when I started, I was worried about how I was going to balance my blog with everything else. So I thought that today I’d put together a list of tips, things I’ve learned over the last three years blogging at Uni, in the hopes that I will be able to help out next year’s crop of student book bloggers and any students currently at Uni who are struggling to keep up their blog whilst at Uni. I hope you guys find these tips helpful:

  1. Find a schedule (or not) that works for you

I personally don’t schedule my blog posts, I know a lot of people swear by it, but for me, I’m not really a planner so it doesn’t work. I have a rough idea of what I’m doing in any given week/month, Top Ten Tuesdays, reviews, TBR updates and discussion posts are my staples and I write Quarterly Rewinds as and when needed, but I never schedule any of it in advance, I just sit and write in the moment because that’s what works for me. However, if you are a big planner, then a schedule might be the perfect thing for you, you can sit and write all your blog posts on one given day of the week. It all depends on what works for you.

2. Travel is your new best friend

Seriously. You will never have so much free time as when you’re travelling between home and Uni (assuming that you don’t go to Uni in your home town), it’s a great time to get reading done/blog posts written (assuming you’re on transport with Wifi), so make the most of it. When I’m on the train home, I have five hours to spare, and you can get so much reading done in that time. Even if you’re just on the train or on the bus somewhere, it’s a great chance to sneak in some extra reading (if you don’t get motion sickness, I’ve been told a lot that I’m weird for being able to read on public transport, so if this doesn’t apply to you then I’m sorry!).

3. Always set aside some time in your day to read

You will get busy when you’re at Uni. It’s a fact. Between classes, friends, clubs, nights out, essays, it seems like things will never stop and it’s easy to forget about reading. This is why one of my tips is to always set aside some time in the day when you’re going to read. This will give you a chance to decompress, which if you’re an introvert like me, is essential, it’s also an easy way to keep up with your own personal reading whilst you’re at Uni. Even if it’s just half an hour that you can squeeze in between classes, it’s worth it. Personally I read before I go to bed, it’s a habit I’ve had since I was a kid, and a great way to relax and decompress at the end of the day. It also gave me a sense of comfort when I first started at Uni because even when everything was changing, I always had that hour at the end of the day where it could just be me and my book.

4. Pick your reads carefully

I’m sure you all already do this, but when you’re at Uni, it’s twice as important. You will probably have less time to read when you’re at Uni, so you want to pick books that you’re pretty certain you’ll enjoy, there’s nothing worse than being overwhelmed with Uni work and struggling through a bad book at the same time. Also take into account your reading speed and workload when it comes to picking your reads. My first year of Uni, I only managed to read 3 books, I think part of that was just the whole starting Uni thing, but I also wasn’t very good at managing reading and blogging with my new workload. The past two years I’ve managed to read a lot more and part of that is being better at managing my workload, but the other part is picking books carefully. I am a slow reader, one book every two weeks for the most part (summer is an exception, I have more free time and read more), and so I have adjusted that accordingly with Uni. For the most part I read books that are on average between 300-500 pages because that’s what works for me. I save the 500 page plus books for the summer when I have more time to devote to them. It might be different for you, but you have to find what works. If you have lots of assignments or during an exam week, it might be better to read a shorter book. If you’re having a light week, go for that hefty book! It’s all about working out what the best book is for the amount of time you have.

5. Your work comes first. Take a break when you have to/need to

Blogging is a great thing to have and it’s a nice way to relax from Uni, but ultimately you are there to get your degree. Your work always has to come first. If you have to take a few weeks off from your blog because they are particularly heavy with assignments then do that. If you have to take a few weeks off because your mental health is suffering, then do that. NEVER feel like you are obligated to blog. Your readers will understand and be there for you when you are ready to come back, when your work load is less stressful.

6. Reading e-ARCs whilst watching Netflix is a great way to get more read

If you’re like me, then most days, you will feel more like watching Netflix in your down time. However, there is a way you can binge watch your favourite shows and get reading done. When you’re just chilling watching Netflix, you can always knock some of your e-ARCs out the park whilst doing it. This obviously won’t work for everyone, as I know some people like silence whilst they read, but if you’re like me and don’t mind a little background noise, then throwing on an old TV show you’ve watched thousand of times whilst knocking out an e-ARC, is not a terrible idea.

7. Don’t go request crazy and don’t be afraid to turn down offers if you don’t have time

That last one leads quite nicely onto this one. Don’t go request crazy on Netgalley, Edelweiss or whatever other platform you use, or for physical ARCs either. I made that mistake recently and now I’m trying to catch up with 4 or 5 ARCs that all came out in September/October. So be conservative with e-ARC requests when you start/go back to Uni. You may not have as much time as you’d think to read them. You also don’t need to accept every blog tour, review or whatever other requests you get. You don’t want to be overwhelmed with stuff for your blog as well as Uni, blogging is supposed to be fun, if it’s becoming as stressful as Uni, then you’re taking on too much. It’s okay to get a few e-ARCs and do some blog tours if you have time for them, but don’t take on everything. Publishers will be far more understanding if you explain you have Uni and you don’t have time to do everything right now, than if you take on something and then don’t deliver because you don’t have time.

8. Uni doesn’t necessarily have to be a barrier to your blogging. You’re having a whole new set of experiences, use them!

Yes you are busier, yes you might not have as much time to devote to your blog as you did when you were at home, but look at this way, you are having all these new experiences that you can write about! Personally, I don’t blog about Uni much, I tend to steer clear of more personal posts, but if you do write personal posts, then going to Uni could add a whole new aspect to your blog, it doesn’t have to be a barrier, it could be an inspiration!

9. Adjust your Goodreads challenge accordingly

If you’re a student book blogger using Goodreads, which I feel like most of us are, then you likely do the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Now before Uni you might have been managing 70, 80 even 100 books a year. The likelihood is, when you’re at Uni, you might need to adjust this a little. There will be weeks when you’re so overwhelmed with deadlines that you won’t get as much reading done as you’d like. So don’t pressure yourself! If you’re going to do the Goodreads Challenge set it slightly lower than you usually would. That way, you can adjust up if your reading is going well, but you can also adjust down if you have a really heavy assignment week. The point is balance. Be realistic about how much you are able to read alongside your deadlines, it’s all very well challenging yourself, but you don’t want to have a breakdown mid year when you realise a) your assignments are kicking your butt and b) you’re behind on your Goodreads challenge. There also may come points in Uni when you get a bit slumpy because you have so much work to do and you’re just not in the mood to read, so take that into consideration too.

10. Have fun!

I know this is cliche and I included it in my last tips post, but it really is the most important thing, both with your blog and your Uni experience in general. You want to be having fun with it, so make sure your blog is something that you’re doing to have fun, relax and destress, if it starts feeling like a chore or an obligation, reevaluate, take a break and hopefully come back with a fresh pair of eyes and a renewed excitement for your blog.

So that’s it, my tips for student book bloggers! If you are a student book blogger, chime in, I want to hear what your tips for blogging at Uni are. If you’re a book blogger (or any other type of blogger) about to go into Uni, is there anything you’d like to know? Not just about blogging whilst at Uni, but Uni in general? Let me know in the comments!

As it’s so late in October that I’ve got this up, I don’t think I’ll have another post this month for you (I know, I know, the two posts a month thing this year hasn’t always been the best, again Uni), but I will have another discussion post for you next month, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I feel like now’s finally the time to talk about it, so I’m going to be talking about the weird place of twenty somethings in the YA community. I’d like to talk to some other twenty something bloggers for this, so if you are a twenty something blogger with Twitter then please hit me up, I’d love to hear your opinions. In the meantime, I’m planning on starting my new writing feature, hopefully tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.

Jo Talks Books: On The Books That Made Me

Hi everyone! Thank you all for the birthday wishes on my Top Ten Tuesday post yesterday and today, I had a wonderful twenty-first, with friends, shopping, food, cake, presents and the thing that makes all days better, musicals! I had originally planned for something else to be the first post of September, but this was a post inspired by an awesome panel at YALC with Victoria Schwab and Laini Taylor talking about the books that inspired them when they were younger and I thought that since my birthday was yesterday, now would be a perfect time to look back and talk about the books that made me the reader and writer that I am today. I warn you guys, this might be a long one, but I hope you’ll enjoy it!

So I can’t talk about the books that have made me who I am without talking about Harry Potter. I mean I loved to read before Harry Potter and can honestly not remember at time when books weren’t a part of my life in one form or another, even before I learned to read I loved stories, my dad used to read to me and my sister, he read the first Harry Potter book to her when she was little and always jokes about how she used to mispronounce Hermione’s name. My sister has all the books and I would borrow them from her once she was done reading them, devouring each one as it came. Harry Potter was something that we could bond over and share, and it was completely captivating to me. It wasn’t just a book series, it was a part of my childhood, I grew up with the books, by the time the last book was released, I was the same age Harry was in the first book (well almost, my birthday’s in September obviously, so I was still 10 on the official release date). I saw all the movies in the cinema (well at least from number 2, I can’t remember if we saw number 1 there or not, I was only 4!) as they were released, and the first one was among the first books I read on my own. I was utterly captivated by this world where seemingly ordinary people could have extraordinary magic and it was reading these books that made me know that I wanted to be an author. I wanted to be able to create that feeling of wonder and awe for someone.

But Harry Potter is far from the only book that has shaped me as a reader, a writer and a person. If JK Rowling and Harry Potter opened my young mind to the joys and wonders of fantasy, then Jacqueline Wilson was the author who opened my mind to the harsh realities of life. Her unflinchingly realistic portrayal of issues such as death, divorce, adoption, mental illness, friendship, family, poverty etc were wonderful for me to read as as a relatively privileged child who had not experienced many of the harsh realities of life at that point. I remember reading and loving so many of her books as a kid, they were definitely a staple of my early reading diet and then as a teenager, my grounding in Jacqueline Wilson books, led me to Jodi Picoult’s books, who again explores difficult issues but with adults rather than children and she is now one of my favourite authors.

My love of animals was also reinforced through the books I read. From My Secret Unicorn, giving me my first real taste of magical creatures, to Animal Ark which had me seriously considering being a vet when I was older and was one of the first series I ever loved, to The Saddle Club, Heartland, Chestnut Hill, Black Beauty, Blind Beauty and Flambards, which reinforced my love of horses and had me begging my parents for a horse (I started riding at age 8, still don’t have a horse!). Through these books I could read about other animal crazy kids and allowed me an outlet for my love of horses and dogs. My love of animals has always given me a connection with my dad as he is also a big animal lover and one of the first books he ever read to me was Enid Blyton’s Shadow The Sheepdog, a book he read when he was a child, so even before I owned a dog or had ridden a horse, stories like this were very important to me. My dad reading James Herriot books to me was another reason why I ended up loving animals as much as I do, as I loved his humourous stories of working as a country vet in England in the 1930’s-50’s and it was yet another way for my dad and I to bond.

Roald Dahl was also a huge influence on me when I was a kid, from Matilda, to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory to The Twits to Danny Champion of The World, I would devour whatever Dahl story I could get hold of. His combination of somewhat sinister and yet somehow still charming stories were the perfect mix for me. What I loved the most about them was that he never looked down on kids, the kids were always the champions and that’s a great thing to see when you’re a kid! I think Roald Dahl’s books definitely contributed to my love of dark humour, which led me to books like A Series of Unfortunate Events, Skulduggery Pleasant and Unwind when I was older. I also always loved that Roald Dahl’s birthday was the day after mine (ie yesterday)!.

Enid Blyton was another author who turned me into the reader I am today, the Faraway Tree stories showed me the simple joy of reading, of going on adventures with characters to places that you could never go in real life. The Faraway Tree was probably my first ever fantasy love, even before Harry Potter (though I think Harry Potter was the start of my true obsession with the genre). It was the start of my lifetime of longing for adventure, sure I can’t go up a tree and escape into a magical land, but the world is just as exciting and there are just as many different lands that you can escape to! Adventure has always been a huge part of the books I love to read, fantasy stories tend to have some kind or another of adventure and I think that all started with The Faraway Tree when I was little.

I have always loved History, even from a young age and I definitely think that the books I read when I was younger have contributed to the fact that I now do it as a degree. I especially remember loving The Roman Mysteries, the Romans fascinated me even when I was younger and reading those books showed me just how fun history could be. I also had a massive children’s book of Greek mythology (basically the Greek myths but made for kids) which I have no doubt was my grounding for Percy Jackson in the future. The Roman Mysteries was just the start of my historical fiction journey which eventually led to favourite books like The Book Thief, Code Name Verity, Cross My Heart, Between Shades of Grey and The Storyteller. Each of these books showed me how wonderful and powerful history could be and how amazing humans are (sure the characters are fictional but the events are real, they represent a lot of real people) and I knew that I wanted to study it.

Noughts and Crosses was my grounding in dystopia, which eventually led to me reading books like The Hunger Games, Unwind, The Pure Trilogy, Breathe, all really great books but it was also my first real adventure into YA. I remember being a bit reluctant when I was younger to explore the older sections of the bookshop and library as I reached that age because I loved the books I read as a kid so much that I didn’t want to leave them. But as well as being my first experience of reading about racism, this book was also my gateway into YA, so I guess I have Malorie Blackman to thank for my current obsession.

As well as books that have shaped my reading habits and my personality, there are also many books that have turned me into the writer that I am now. I only read the first two Shades of Magic books last year (and the last one this year) but I can definitely say that Victoria Schwab has inspired my writing, the elemental based system in my YA Fantasy This Is Not A Love Story was in part inspired by the magic seen in her books, as well as the magic from the Skulduggery Pleasant books. I’ve always found elemental magic quite captivating, and have loved the idea of being able to manipulate the world around you (in fact my earliest experience of an elemental type magic system was in Linda Chapman’s Stardust spirits, as the girls are all spirits of different types of season and can therefore control different kinds of elements) so it was definitely something in my mind when I was deciding the kind of magic I wanted my world to have. I have also been in no small part inspired by Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass, I was reading Empire of Storms at the time I was writing the first draft of This Is Not A Love Story and I think you can definitely tell in my writing! The snarky humour of both Skulduggery and Percy in Derek Landy and Rick Riordan’s series, two series which formed a huge part of my teen years, were definitely an inspiration in my writing, although I’m not sure Tiffany’s snark is quite as good as theirs.

Tiffany, the MC in This Is Not A Love Story, as well as obviously having quite a lot of me in her (her general cynicism about love, having a comeback for everything, her dislike of most people except for her few close friends and her yearning for adventure), was also in no small part inspired by my favourite fantasy heroines. The Aelin influence I feel is quite clear, she’s very fiery (literally!) and independent. There might be a few shades of Lila Bard in there too, she’s arrogant, headstrong and impulsive and not at all ladylike. She’s a little like Percy in terms of humour but I think hers is a little more biting. The point being, I think you can definitely see my favourite authors’ influences on my work.

The Hunger Games also has had a huge influence on my reading tastes, I mean I’ve always liked stories with female characters who are strong and independent and get the job done, and although Harry Potter had started me in that direction when I was younger with Hermione, I think Katniss cemented it for me, that was what I wanted to see, women being brave and strong and powerful. Sure there are some problems with the whole strong female character trope but when it’s done well, it’s such a wonderful thing to see. I don’t know if this is just because of the proliferation of female authors in YA but when I think of my favourite characters from books, most of them are women and both my WIPs so far have been female centred stories. It’s not that I don’t like male characters, quite the contrary, there are male characters that I love, I just find there’s something so satisfying about seeing women kick butt!

Another thread common to my favourite books is that they all have some kind of theme of friendship running through them. I’ve always loved stories about choosing your family (like in Ballet Shoes) or finding family amongst your friends (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and The Raven Cycle are the three main ones that come to mind here) and that definitely impacted my writing in a big way. I wanted Tiffany to be the centre of her own story yes, and not to be overshadowed by some big romantic subplot, but I also wanted to make sure that friendship was more of a focus as I love it when that happens. In this regard I feel like Code Name Verity was a big inspiration to me, because that story completely centres friendship and I love it. This started with books like The Saddle Club and The Sleepover Club when I was a kid, which had such great portrayals of friendship and it’s something that I’ve sought out in my books ever since.

It’s strange, I’m not actually a huge fan of crying (crying in public is my one big bug bear) but I love books that make me FEEL, and my favourite ones are usually the sad ones, a lot of the books I’ve already mentioned in this post are very hard on the feelings! I’ve always been that way, even as a kid, I loved emotional books, Black Beauty and Charlotte’s Web were two of my favourites and they paved the way for books like The Book Thief and My Sister’s Keeper later on. Humour is also a big thing for me too though and I feel like the best books are the ones that balance the two, that can punch you in guts one moment but have you smiling from ear to ear the next, Harry Potter is an excellent example of this.

Every book I’ve ever read has shaped me in some way. Even the ones I’ve really hated have their use because they’ve taught me what I don’t like. I’ve learned so much from books, taken so much from them and whilst I might have mentioned particular favourites in this post, I can’t think of many books where I haven’t taken something away from them. Books have become such a huge part of who I am and I honestly cannot think who I would be without them, so I’d like to thank all the wonderful authors whose books I have loved over the years, for taking me out of my bedroom, or wherever else I have been reading and allowing me to visit different lands, experience different cultures and times, have innumerable adventures and generally learn about the world around me. You guys are all rockstars!

Over to you! Which books have inspired you, as a reader, as a writer, as a person? Do we share any? Let’s discuss!

I don’t know what I’ll be doing my next discussion post on, I guess I’ll see what I feel like writing towards the end of the month! In the meantime, I will have my review of Glass Sword up very soon.



Jo Talks Books: Bookshop Tour of Edinburgh

Hi all! I hope you’ve had a good week so far, I’ve been up in Scotland since Monday, spent a couple of days with my friend Nicola for her birthday which was nice (she has four dogs so I was basically in heaven!). I know I said I was going to do a post about fan entitlement this week and I totally plan on doing that post at some point, but I did a really cool thing today that I thought you guys would want to hear about.

So I know I don’t really talk about my university town all that much and my life at Uni, I totally intended to do blog posts on that when I first started as a fresher two years ago, but for whatever reason, I never got around to writing any. However, today that changes (well sort of!). I go to uni in Stirling, which is about an hour away from Edinburgh by train. Edinburgh is UNESCO’s City of Literature, holds a two week long book festival every year and has a multitude of bookshops from second hand to independents to chains, which makes it the perfect place to talk about on this blog.

There are many more bookshops in Edinburgh than just the five that I will be talking about today, so essentially you can substitute different bookshops in your own bookshop tour depending on what your particular interests are. All you have to do is google the shops you want to go to (there are lots of articles online about where the best places to go are), get directions from Google Maps and you’re good to go. You could drive or take the bus or tram between your chosen bookshops, but personally I would advise walking as it’s really the best way to see the city.

I started my day pretty early, well at least for me, I got up at 8.30 to get ready before heading down to the station. You may not have to do this if you actually stay in Edinburgh when you visit, but Stirling is about an hour away by train, so in order to get the most shopping in, I decided to leave early. The train I got arrived in Edinburgh at around 10.30 and I set off for my first bookshop, Blackwells.

Unfortunately, the directions Google Maps gave me were not the best and I found myself going in circles so I headed for the second bookshop on my list instead, as I knew where that one was, Transreal Fiction on Candlemaker’s Row (the street in Edinburgh thought to have inspired Harry Potter). It’s a small, independent bookshop which sells Sci-Fi/Fantasy books, so it might not necessarily be for you if you prefer other genres or just aren’t a big Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan, but if you are, I would definitely recommend it. It has a wide selection of Sci-Fi/Fantasy books, from newer to older titles and a great selection of Harry Potter stock, for Potterheads like me. I had decided to set myself a six book limit for the day and I was going to five bookshops, so I only bought one book there, Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives. Victoria Schwab used to go in here and sign her books when she lived in Edinburgh which I think is awesome. The shop owner is also really nice and gave me directions to Blackwell’s which I greatly appreciated.

Once I was done there, armed with directions, I headed over to Blackwell’s, which was actually annoyingly easy to find given how much trouble I’d had earlier! Blackwell’s is a chain of bookshops, they have shops across the UK, mostly at Universities, as I think they tend to lean on the academic side of bookselling, but the shop at Edinburgh South Bridge (this is important as there is another Blackwell’s in Edinburgh!) has a wide range of books, both fiction and non-fiction. The YA section is a pleasing size, not as big as Sauchiehall Waterstones in Glasgow, but it had a decent range of books and I spent a good half hour or so browsing the shop. It’s a lovely looking shop and everything is very well laid out and easy to find, which made my shopping experience very pleasurable. They had a 3 for 2 offer going on for some of their books, which naturally I couldn’t pass up, so I ended up coming out with 2 more books than I expected. I found Crooked Kingdom (pleasing me greatly as I really enjoyed Six of Crows when I read it earlier this month), Inkheart by Cornelia Funke which is one I’ve been wanting to read for ages and Hayley Barker’s Showstopper. They had signed copies of a book I’d bought at YALC as the author had been at the Edinburgh Book Festival, which was minorly annoying, although I suppose I haven’t read the book yet, so it doesn’t matter so much! There’s also a Cafe Nero there so it’s a good place to go around lunchtime as aside from Waterstones, I don’t think any of the other bookshops in Edinburgh have cafes. They do author events at Blackwell’s as well, Victoria Aveyard is going to be there next week in fact (though I’m going to her event in Glasgow).

Once I was done in Blackwell’s, I headed off to the next stop on my bookshop tour, Golden Hare Books. I was a bit concerned I was heading the wrong way, but I managed to find it easily enough. The outside of the shop is beautiful and the inside is just as gorgeous. The YA section however was very small, only one shelf, although it is a small, indie store so that’s understandable I guess, it was just a little disappointing I couldn’t find anything I wanted amongst its selection. There weren’t too many Sci-Fi/Fantasy books either. However if you are a fan of general adult fiction, it is a lovely little indie store with a decent selection of that, so I’d say it’s a worth a visit, even if just to soak in the gorgeousness of the shop itself. I didn’t actually buy anything here, but I did enjoy my trip.

I headed back up the way I had come after I had been to Golden Hare, back towards Princes Street for the next stop on my bookshop tour, Waterstones. Personally, I don’t feel a bookshop tour is complete without Waterstones, I love discovering new indies to go to, but Waterstones is probably responsible for about 3/4 of my bookshelf contents, so it always feels somewhat like home to me. I spent about an hour browsing in Waterstones, it’s a pretty big Waterstones and I actually hit most of the floors this time as opposed to just sticking to the first floor which stocks the YA and SFF books. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t find a copy of Strange The Dreamer there as I was hoping to spend my much hoarded points on it, but I ended up with Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina and Laura Lam’s Pantomime, both of which sound incredible (ironically I put back Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism because I decided I didn’t want to pay £9.99 and then ended up paying more than that for two books!).

After that, it was time for my final stop of the day, Edinburgh Bookshop, another indie (3/5 of the bookshops I went to today were indies, okay I only bought from one but still, I may return to the others!), which is relatively far out, so I would recommend not doing what I did and going there first rather than last. Again, my google map directions were not the best, they sent me down a street I didn’t need to go down, so I ended up on a quick detour through the bookshops of the Edinburgh Festival. These were decent, although the YA choices were relatively limited and I hadn’t actually heard of most of the authors being sold in the adult fiction bookshop. I then made my way back up Princes Street to find a map in order to work out how to get to the Edinburgh Bookshop as my directions were clearly no use! I finally managed to find the right road and began the long trudge to the Edinburgh Bookshop.

It’s relatively easy to miss actually, I had walked all the way up Home Street and onto Bruntsfield Place, the street that the shop was on, totally missed it and ended up on Morningside Road! Luckily, I realised my mistake, turned around and found the shop on the way back, but it’s quite small, so keep an eye out. I had heard that this was UK Children’s Bookshop of the Year 2014 and Scottish Independent Bookshop of the Year so I was expecting great things. Again, I was slightly disappointed. There’s quite a lot of children’s books, from young readers to more confident older readers, but again the YA books are just one small section of the bookshop and I couldn’t find anything that was particularly enticing/anything I didn’t have. And the SFF section was just one shelf. However this is just for my personal tastes, they do have a wide range of general fiction, classics, crime, basically everything, it just happened that for me, they didn’t have what I wanted this time, I would still definitely recommend going there as it’s a very cute little indie bookshop.

And that was it, the end of my little bookshop tour. I could probably have fitted another bookshop in before heading home (although I had an Off-Peak ticket, so if I didn’t get the train before 5 then I would have to wait until 6 to go home), but I was super exhausted by this point (definitely wear sturdy shoes to do this and bring a bottle of water!) so I walked the long walk back to the station (with a quick stop in a charity shop to buy this really cute skirt I saw in their window!) and that was the end of my book shopping day, my purse was quite a bit lighter, my bag was a lot fuller, my legs ached and I was very happy with all my purchases!

So I hope this gave you guys a little insight into what the literary scene is like in Edinburgh and maybe some ideas of places you might want to go to if you ever come out Edinburgh way. There are so many different bookshops in Edinburgh, so whatever your tastes, I’m sure you can find one you like, the literary heritage of the city is one of the many reasons I love it so much!

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? Been to any of these bookshops? Would you like to go? Let me know in the comments!

And for your pleasure, I’ll include some pictures of the shops I went to today (most from the internet, not taken by me!):

Image result for blackwells bookshop edinburgh south bridgeBlackwells Exterior

Photo of Blackwell's - Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Books galore!Blackwells Interior

IMG_0528[1]Transreal Fiction Exterior (I took this one on my first trip in February)

Image result for transreal fiction interiorTransreal Fiction interior

IMG_0582[1]Golden Hare Books Exterior (I didn’t get it in the photo but there’s a little arrow that say Books on it and points into the shop outside, it was so cute!)

Image result for golden hare books interiorGolden Hare Books Interior

Image result for waterstones princes streetWaterstones

Photo of Waterstones - Edinburgh - Edinburgh, United KingdomWaterstones Interior

Image result for edinburgh bookshop exteriorEdinburgh Bookshop Exterior

Related imageEdinburgh Bookshop Interior

So that’s it, my book filled day! I hope you enjoyed my slightly different Jo Talks post this week. I don’t think I’ll do another August discussion post, so in which case, I’ll be moving my fan entitlement post to the beginning of September (unless I get it done in the next week). In the meantime, I’m going to Victoria Aveyard’s UK event in Glasgow on Monday so I’ll have an event recap of that up pretty soon after.

Jo Talks Books: On Mid Series Cover Changes

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week, mine has been relatively quiet for the most part. I wasn’t really sure what to write about for this first discussion post of August, but then this week with all of the talk around the new covers for Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in The Ashes series, I figured that it was the perfect opportunity to talk about one of my biggest pet peeves: mid series cover changes.

I’d like to preface this by saying that Ember’s cover changes were merely an inspiration for this post, I think it’s great that Sabaa Tahir insisted on changing the covers so that POC could see themselves on book covers and I’m excited to collect the series with the new covers, I’m talking about mid series cover changes in a general sense here, it was just inspired by today’s announcement.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this before, you start reading a series, you fall in love, but not all the books are out yet. You wait and you wait and you wait for the title and cover for the next book in the series to be released only to discover….the cover has been changed! The horror! What ever shall you do? Do you buy the series over again with the new covers? Do you collect the series with mismatching covers? Do you stop reading altogether? (Okay that last one is seriously over-dramatic and I would never do that, but you get it, mid series cover changes, big deal for me).

I’m sure publishers have perfectly good reasons for changing series covers, there could be a theme that better suits the book, they want to attract new readers with brand new covers, they want to refresh the series…..I don’t know the reasons could be endless. But for me and I’m sure plenty of other readers like me, I need my covers to match. I need my series with the same covers in the same format. And I wouldn’t be surprised if publishers were exploiting that, knowing that readers like their covers to match, so they release new ones in order to gain even more sales, knowing that die hard fans will buy the books over again so that their covers will match with the new ones. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me being cynical, but it would explain why so many series get multiple different covers!

But here’s the thing: I’m a student, I don’t have endless money to be spending on multiple copies of books when they suddenly redesign the covers mid series. The same goes for the teens who are the primary audience of these books, they’re not necessarily going to be able to afford multiple copies of the same book just because the cover has changed. Waiting until the series is over to publish copies with new covers? Cool, more choice for everyone! Changing the cover mid series, forcing those who really cannot manage having mismatched covers, who may not actually have the money to do so? Not so cool.

Also I tend to find that I don’t like the new covers as much as the original ones? Now of course there are exceptions to this (there are some really great Harry Potter covers out there, the Throne of Glass covers are way better than the original one) but for the most part, cover redesigns don’t usually improve on the original cover. We then end up with an ugly book, alongside our pretty ones, which not only doesn’t match, but is also not as good as the originals? Hell no.

You also get the much feared movie tie in cover, when a series book becomes a movie and suddenly that book’s cover needs to be changed to the movie poster. These covers are usually really ugly and when the movie tie in cover comes out, the original cover suddenly becomes scarce and you can’t get hold of it, meaning you either have to wait until all the movie tie in covers are released in order to have a matching set (which will likely not be as pretty as the original cover), or you have one book with the movie tie in cover and the rest without. Not ideal.

But Jo, you say, not all cover redesigns are bad. And I agree, not all cover redesigns are bad, I’m not saying that the principle itself is a bad thing. Redesigning the cover is basically like a book undergoing a regeneration for future readers and if it helps introduce new readers to the story, that isn’t a bad thing. Harry Potter for instance has undergone multiple cover changes. As have Cassandra Clare’s books, as have The Hunger Games. The difference here is that the series was complete when the redesigns occurred, so no possibility of mismatching covers.

It wouldn’t be a discussion about covers, without some examples, so for the rest of this post, I’m going to pick out some book series that underwent mid series cover change and talk about whether I liked them better before or after the redesign:

First off, the mid series cover changes I didn’t like:

  1. The Bone Season

20590667Before cover change

Image result for the bone seasonAfter

I just started reading The Bone Season series this year (have now read the first two released books and have only the third to read) and I got the first two covers pre cover change as I really liked them. Of course I then realised that those covers weren’t available for book three (I think she did some limited ones with the same covers as books 1 & 2) so I now have a hardback with a different cover (#bookwormnightmare). I actually liked the original cover so much better for this one, you have the Seven Dials, the poppy anemone and the anchor of Scion all represented, plus the blue background is so much more captivating. The new cover with the white background and the red flower is perfectly fine, and it’s not a bad cover redesign per se, but I do think the first one just pops a bit more.

2. Throne of Glass

So the Throne of Glass series has actually been pretty consistent so far, I think there was a cover change at the start of the series but all the UK covers have been the same thus far. Until now. So for some reason the publishers have decided to go with a different theme for the upcoming Chaol book. Now how hard would it be to have a guy in a wheelchair in a similar pose to the one Celaena does normally? No instead, the cover is a symbol on a blue background. Me thinks I smell a rat here……

Original TOG series cover


Tower of Dawn cover:


Not only does the Tower of Dawn cover not really have a cohesive connection with the other books (YOU WOULDN’T NEED THE WORDS A THRONE OF GLASS NOVEL, if it was in the same style as the rest of the TOG books) but the fact that the only book in the series not to have a person on the cover is the book that features a wheelchair-bound protagonist………yeah that’s not cool at all.

3. Young Sherlock Holmes

Image result for young sherlock holmes andrew laneBefore

Image result for young sherlock holmes andrew laneAfter

Okay this one really bugged me because by the time they did the cover change, there were already 6 books in the series out! So I have books 1-6 in the first cover style and books 7 & 8 in the second cover style and of course 7 & 8 haven’t been released in the original style, so yup, you guessed it, my covers don’t match! I wouldn’t say the original covers were my favourite series covers anyway, but I really hate the new covers. The stock model cover photo trend is just not something I like? I would say that both covers need to relate more to the book, as I wouldn’t say you can really tell much about the story from either cover, but I still think the first one is more engaging.

4. Unbound

So the first four books in the Unwind series have this theme:

Unwind (Unwind, #1)It’s cool, it’s creepy, the black, white and red work so well together and they look so cool together on the shelf.

25551332Okay so the unravelling string does kind of go with the theme of unwinding, but it doesn’t match the rest of my books, and I know it’s a short story collection in the universe rather than a continuation of the series, but I feel like it should still match? And the first cover was so much cooler and creepier!

Now, the ones I did:

  1. Throne Of Glass

Yup okay, so I have it on both sides of the list, I know, it’s weird, but TOG actually had a cover change early in the series as well. Luckily it never made it across this side of the pond, but it could have done if it hadn’t been changed!

Image result for mid series cover changes

(Before)                                                                    (After)

So I think we can agree the after is way better right? This is probably just me again not really liking the whole cover model trend, but I feel like the girl on the right is much fiercer than the girl on the left?

2. Shatter Me

Image result for shatter me cover change

(Before)                                 (After)

Now I haven’t read this series, so I can’t speak to which one represents the book better, but I much prefer the floating eye to the girl in the dress, I feel like it’s more striking? I don’t know, honestly neither is my favourite cover in the world, but I think the one on the right definitely has the edge.

3. Tales of The Peculiar

Okay so this is a bit of a weird one as like Unbound, Tales of The Peculiar isn’t really part of the Miss Peregrine’s Series, it’s a collection of short stories set in the same universe as the Miss Peregrine’s series (also one I haven’t read). But unlike with Unbound, I actually prefer the cover of Tales of The Peculiar to the original Miss Peregrine’s series, though I can’t speak to how either reflect the book as I am yet to read them!

So this is the original Miss Peregrines cover:

Image result for miss peregrines cover changeI mean it’s not a bad cover and I know that old photographs are a feature of the book, so it makes sense that this would be the cover, but little girls kind of freak me out so the idea of having this on my shelf……..not great.

And this is Tales of The Peculiar:

29358487This cover however, is gorgeous and doesn’t freak me out at all!

4. Red Queen

This is a slightly different case to the others as there is now a collectors edition of Red Queen as well as the original cover, so you don’t actually have to buy mismatched covers, (can I get a hallelujah?) but I actually like the collectors’ cover more than the original!

Image result for red queen cover changeOriginal Cover

I love the minimalism of this cover and from it, you can see the main theme of the series, the red blood dripping from the silver crown, symbolising the Reds Vs the Silvers.

Collector’s Edition

Image result for red queen collector's editionThe collector’s edition follows the same theme as the original cover, with the crown and the blood, but I think the red background just pops a bit more. Of course, I can’t be sure they’ll do collector’s editions of the entire series, so I won’t buy them, but if they were to do the other covers in this design too, I would be welcoming of the change!

So there we go, some hit and some miss mid series cover changes. It was much easier to come up with the ones I didn’t like than the ones I did! I don’t really consider myself to be obsessive about many things, but I definitely like my book covers to be matching, and books in the same format. It just makes for a more pleasing bookshelf! Having said that, I would never boycott an author’s work just because I didn’t like the cover. After all the contents are the most important thing are they not?

What do you think? Are matching covers important to you or do you not care? Can you think of series that have undergone mid series changes for the better? Or for the worst? Do you like the new Ember covers (if you’ve seen them)? Let me know in the comments!

I will have another August discussion post up, probably quite soon as I know what I’m going to be writing about, I’m going to be talking about fans expectations of authors and whether we’ve come to have a sense of entitlement about getting to interact with our favourite authors. In the meantime, I’m hoping to have a new review up by the end of the week, although I can’t promise anything, it’s dependent on me finishing my current read!


Jo Talks Books: Tips For New Book Bloggers

Hi everyone! YALC starts tomorrow and I’m so excited, I can’t wait to go and see all the amazing authors and get all of the books! Anyone else going to YALC? Hopefully I’ll see some of you there, I’ll be around all day Friday and Saturday! Anyway, this second discussion post of July, is one that I was inspired to do by a question I was asked by a commenter on here, what tips would I give to new bloggers? Now even though I’ve been blogging for over 3 years now (honestly can’t believe how quickly time has passed, it feels like I was writing my first ever post yesterday!), I’m constantly learning and my blog evolving, I honestly cringe when I look back at some of my early reviews here as to how bad they were, it took me a good year to really figure out what I wanted my blog to be and who I wanted to be as a blogger, so don’t worry if it’s your first year and you’re still figuring things out, you’ll get there! Gosh, I feel weird even giving advice really because I still feel like I’m learning it all myself, but hopefully these will be some helpful tips to get you started as you embark on your blogging adventure:

  1. Get involved in memes, twitter chats, conversations as much as you can!

This is a great community, full of warm and welcoming people! I regret that in my first year I didn’t really talk to other bloggers much, and it’s only been in the past two years that I’ve really got to know anyone in this community. Don’t be afraid to get involved, comment on other people’s blogs, chat to people on twitter, get involved with things like Top Ten Tuesday or twitter events like Armchair BEA or #ukyachat, interacting with other bloggers will help you feel more involved in the community and will also help you gain new followers for your blog!

2. Have some form of social media

This kind of follows on from the first one about interacting, but if you’re starting a new book blog and don’t have any form of social media yet, I would suggest getting a Twitter account or Goodreads as this is where bloggers tend to interact the most, Twitter is especially helpful as lots of bloggers use this. This way you have an easy method of interacting with other bloggers, gettting to know them, and also publicising posts from your blog. You do not need to have every single social media platform ever, but a few will be helpful.

3. ARCs are not the be all end all

If you’ve been around the community for a while before starting your blog, you’ve probably seen lots of bloggers receiving free ARCs from publishers. Whilst this is a nice perk of blogging, don’t expect to receive them straight away, publishers expect you to have a decent amount of traffic before they will be willing to send you ARCs. Don’t blog simply on the expectation of receiving ARCs because you will be disappointed. I’ve been blogging for three years and only started getting e-ARCs from Netgalley last year. It’s not the end of everything if you don’t get ARCs, what matters is that you are producing quality content for your blog, not getting freebies from publishers.

4. Don’t just focus on reviews (but equally don’t have purely filler content)

I know when I started blogging the reviewing aspect was what I really started doing it for, but reviews take a long time to write and you obviously won’t be posting them consistently, so you will need other content for your blog as well. Memes are a good way of ensuring that you have something to post every week, but use them sparingly. I tried to do a meme every day for a while and it didn’t really work, so find one or two that you really like and stick with those. Tags and Awards are also fun but again don’t feel like you have to do every single one. Discussions are a great thing to have on your blog because it gets people talking. There is a wealth of possible features out there that you can have on your blog, reviews are important, but they aren’t the be all end all of blogging, get some variety in your posts! It will take you a while to find the right balance for your blog, but don’t worry, you will hit it eventually.

5. Make sure your blog is easy to navigate

This is one from personal experience, when I first did my blog, I had no idea how to set up a menu or anything, so you had to scroll through every single post I had done in order to find the one you were looking for. Not ideal. So when setting up your blog (or if you have a current blog that you haven’t done this for), set up a menu with tabs to cover all the content you have on there, so that it is easy for people to find and get to the post they want.

6. It’s your blog, do what you like with it

Don’t feel like you have to be like other book blogs! You don’t have to do the same features as everyone else, you don’t have to review the same books as everyone else, you don’t even have to purely post about books if you don’t want to, you can talk about other stuff too. Your blog is your canvas to do what you like with, have fun with it!

7. Try to post consistently

You don’t have to post every day, that’s usually not possible, but try and post consistently. I aim to post at least once or twice a week whilst I’m at university and more often when I am at home for the summer. It helps if you post consistently as people will be more likely to come back to your blog if they know there will be consistent new content for them to read. Having said that, don’t stress about it! There will be times when you are busy and can’t post as consistently as usual and that’s okay. If you know you’re going to have a particularly busy week or time, it might be worth it to schedule posts in advance to ensure that you have new content for your readers. I don’t personally schedule posts often but I know other bloggers swear by it. Basically, find a schedule that works for you!

8. Read and comment on other blogs

Reading other book blogs can be helpful in order to see what’s out there and give you a better idea of what you want to be and where you’ll fit in the book blogging community. Commenting will help you forge connections with other bloggers, thereby both making friends in the community and gaining followers for your blog.

9. Be honest with your reviews

You are not going to love everything you read. Period. If you don’t like something don’t be afraid to write a negative review. Even if it’s a well loved book by other bloggers and you feel intimidated to be writing a negative review, still write it! People will appreciate your honesty. And you don’t have to write a positive review if a publisher sends you an ARC or if you don’t like an ARC you request on Netgalley, if you don’t like it say so. You’ll be far more respected for being honest than if you write a positive review just because you don’t want the publisher not to give you any more ARCs. Don’t be rude though, that’s a big no, there’s a definite line between being honest and being rude, make sure you don’t cross it.

10. Don’t get bogged down in your stats

You might have pretty woeful stats your first year, I know I did. But don’t feel like you’ve failed if your stats aren’t sky high right away. It takes a while to develop a consistent following, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Stats are not the be all, end all of blogging. If you’re enjoying it and your audience is enjoying what your putting out then that’s what matters the most, not the size of the audience.

11. Don’t go overboard when requesting ARCs (either from Netgalley or publishers)

There are only so many hours in the day, and you will likely have a lot of your own books to read as well, so don’t go crazy when requesting ARCs. Request what you think you can read (or less) in the time required.

12. Backlist books need love too!

Don’t just review the shiny new releases, chances are, all bloggers out there will be doing that. Review older books as well, just because it’s been out for a while, doesn’t mean everyone has read it and readers love it when you introduce them to books they haven’t heard of before!

13. Be Yourself

The best blogs I’ve found are the ones where the person behind the blog shines through. You want your blog to reflect your own personality, that’s how you make it unique to you. It might take you a while to find your unique blogging voice, I know I’ve really only settled into it in the last year or so, but that’s okay. Experiment, see what works best for you and your blog. What you have at the start may end up being completely different to what your blog evolves to be, don’t be scared of that, as long as your blog reflects you and who you are then people will love it.

14. Have fun!

This is the last, but most important tip. Have fun with your blog! You don’t want blogging to become a chore, you want it to be something you enjoy, somewhere you can share your passion for books. If you’re having fun and that shines through your posts, then your readers will have fun too!

So that’s it! All my tips for new bloggers. If you have been blogging for a while, what would you suggest is the biggest thing for new bloggers to remember? What do you wish you had known when you first started your blog? Let me know in the comments!

I will have my first discussion post of August up at some point during the next few weeks, though I don’t know what it will be about yet, as always, if there is anything you would like to see me discuss on the blog then let me know! In the meantime, I will have lots of YALC related posts for you all following this weekend, so stay tuned for those. Who is coming to YALC? Give me a shout in the comments, maybe I’ll see you there!

Jo Talks Books: On The Pros and Cons of Goodreads

Hi everyone! I didn’t mean for it to be so long for me to get up my first discussion post of July but I’ve been busier than expected. This was actually a post that was inspired by another discussion post I did, when I was talking about how difficult I find it to DNF and how Goodreads is a contributing factor to that, and it got me thinking about Goodreads and all the pros and cons of using it and I figured I could do a whole discussion post on it, so here I am!

I figure most, if not all bloggers know what Goodreads is, but for those of my readers who aren’t necessarily bloggers/don’t use Goodreads, Goodreads is basically a cataloguing site for book lovers, there’s a huge catalogue of books and you can create lists of books you’ve read and want to read and share these with people you know. You can also review and rate books that you’ve read and follow other people’s reviews so that you can see what they’re reading and what they think about it.

The Pros

On the surface, that sounds very cool right? And it is, there are definite benefits to using Goodreads. For one thing, it’s a great way of keeping track of new releases, I find out about most new releases through other bloggers but I can then go straight to Goodreads, find the new release and add it to my to-read list. Then I’m guaranteed not to just forget about it because it’s right there. You can also see what your friends/fellow bloggers are reading, which can result in new reading recommendations for you if you have similar tastes (I mean more books, never a bad thing right?).

Goodreads is also a great way of keeping track of what you read yourself. I mean sure, my blog kind of functions as that as well, but it only has books I’ve read since I started blogging whereas Goodreads has everything that I’ve read (that I can remember of course, I’m sure I’ve read way more books than the total on my Goodreads read shelf) regardless of whether I read it before or after I started blogging. It means that all of the books I’ve read, regardless whether I own them, borrowed them, or have been given them for review are in one convenient place and I can keep track of my reading stats for end of year wrap ups for the blog which is great!

Goodreads also means you can check out reviews for books before you buy them. I’m actually kind of on the fence about this particular aspect of Goodreads and don’t tend to check the reviews of a book before I buy it? I prefer to rely on my gut instinct as to whether I’ll like a book or not and checking out a bunch of reviews before I buy a book, be they positive or negative, probably won’t change my gut instinct about a book but they will give me expectations which I don’t like having, I’d rather go into all books blind (though this is near impossible as a blogger) than with any kind of expectation.  I prefer to check out Goodreads reviews either whilst I’m reading (avoiding all spoiler tabs) or after I’m done to see if other people felt the same way about them. But still, for those who do like to check out reviews of a book before they buy them, this is a definite advantage of Goodreads.

Goodreads is also an easy way of finding quotes that you like from a book that you want to share, as you can just type the book’s name into the search engine under the quotes tab and find the one you want as opposed to having to flick through the entire book for one specific quote.

It’s also a great way of finding presents for your book loving friends as you can find out what they like/haven’t read yet, from their Goodreads! (if they have one of course).


However, as with anything there are drawbacks as well as benefits to using Goodreads. I could probably do an entire separate post on the benefits vs drawbacks of the Goodreads Reading Challenge, but really, it’s just a symptom of one of the wider drawbacks of Goodreads, it can make you feel bad about how much/little you read. When you’re seeing all your Goodreads friends reading hundreds of books a year, it can make you feel a bit bad about your 20-30 odd books a year, even when logically you know that people read at different paces and you don’t have time to be constantly reading. I have been working on getting better with this, but it is hard not to feel a little bad/jealous when you see people having read 60-70 odd books already when you’ve only just cracked 20! I honestly never really thought about how much I read in a year before I started Goodreads, but now I’m constantly thinking about it, and it’s not great really!

I also feel like I have to finish every single book I read (as a by product of both doing the Goodreads challenge and just blogging in general) because if I DNF anything then it won’t count towards my Goodreads challenge.

One of the major cons about Goodreads is that the overall average rating for a book is not always reliable, because readers are allowed to rate books before they are even released based on how excited they are for it. Now unpopular opinion time, I don’t think we should be able to do this. Fair enough, readers who have ARCs of a book rating it when they’ve finished, they’ve read the book, formed an opinion, of course they should be able to rate it even if it’s not released. But readers rating a book before they’ve even read it is not good, because it can skew the rating for an author’s book if lots of people just happen to dislike said author which doesn’t seem really fair to me. I tend not to look at the average rating on Goodreads because it’s pretty unreliable really, you never know how much of the rating has come from people who have actually read the book and how much has not.

Goodreads also doesn’t allow you to use half stars (seriously could do a whole ranty post about this because it really annoys me), so you either have to up your rating or down it if your actual opinion on a book lies between two different star ratings. Sure, you can explain this in your review, but it will again mean that the average rating for a book is unreliable as many people may have in actuality given a book a half star rating but this won’t be shown as Goodreads does not allow you to do this.

Overall, whilst there are things about Goodreads that I would change, it has definitely been a useful tool in my reading and blogging to keep track of what I read and has allowed me to connect with other readers and find new releases, so I am glad that I use it, but I do hope that in the future some changes will be made to the site in order to make it more reliable in terms of finding book recommendations, particularly in regards to allowing people to rate books that they haven’t even read yet.

So let’s chat! What do you like most about Goodreads? What do you dislike most about Goodreads? Do you use Goodreads or a different site in order to keep track of what you read (or no site at all)? What would you change about Goodreads if you could? Let me know in the comments!

I will hopefully have another discussion post up for you soon (the end of the month will be too busy with YALC!), I’m going to be giving tips to new bloggers. In the meantime, the next you’ll hear from me will probably be my new Top Ten post on Tuesday.