Change is Afoot! Jump on the Bandwagon!

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Good morning, lovely people! I am very excited this morning, because I’m announcing some changes to the blog, and new opportunities for authors and bloggers to take part. There’s nothing I enjoy more that a bit of collaboration, it really freshens up the site and prevents my readers getting exceedingly bored of just listening to me droning on, so I’m really looking forward to it. A change is as good as a rest, as my granny always used to tell me.

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So, the first (and unexciting, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way and build up the suspense for the new developments) announcement, is that the 2021 diary is now open and just begging to be filled. So if there is anyone out there who has a book coming out early next year and would like to book in a guest post, or appear on my Friday Night Drinks feature, or is organising a blog tour for the beginning of the year and would like me to be involved, now is the time to book that place in the diary. I also have a few Friday Night Drinks slots available for December, these are open to anyone in publishing – authors, publishers, bloggers, blog tour organisers, editors, cover designers, proof readers, booksellers…. All welcome.

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Now for the two new features I am introducing.

Firstly, I am introducing a new regular interview feature for RNA members, where I will be asking you to tell me why you write romance, which romance writers and books you love and inspire you, and what you love most about the RNA. The feature will take place every other Tuesday, to tie in with #TuesNews, and will kick off in September with the winner of my #underwatervampireerotica competition (see more below if you are baffled, and why wouldn’t you be?), but slots are open thereafter for any published authors who are members of the RNA. (If this is successful, I may expand to other genres at a later date. To start with, this is my way of giving something back to the RNA, an organisation which is supporting me through my own writing journey.) I’m calling this feature Romancing The Romance Authors, so let me know if you are interested.

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The second new feature has been inspired by the fun I have been having this year choosing and re-reading the twelve books I would want to have with me if I knew I were going to be stranded forever on a desert island. You can find out which I have chosen by following my monthly Desert Island Books posts and, I’ve enjoyed this so much that I’m going to carry on next year with my twelve Desert Island Children’s Books. But now I’d like to know what your Desert Island Books would be, just because I’m nosy. So, again this feature is going to run every other week on a Wednesday (at least to begin with, I’ll expand it if it is really popular), starting on Wednesday, 9th September. I’m going to be mean to you and only let you pick FIVE books to take, and you’ll have to tell me why you’ve chosen these particular ones. This feature is open to anyone who wants to take part.

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Finally, I wanted to announce the winner of the #underwatervampireerotica competition I ran during my seminar at the RNA Conference. The person who got closest to guessing how many blog tour/NetGalley books I had bought after reviewing them was Claire Huston, who guessed 142. The actual number was 118 (I feel like I have let down all the people who thought it was all, or almost all, of them but I’d be bankrupt if I bought them all!). Clare, I know I have already bought and reviewed your book, so you have credit in the bank with me for the next one, and you get to be my first guest on Romancing The Romance Authors on 1st September, and I’ll be in touch about that shortly. Thanks to all who entered.

So, if anyone would like to be featured on the blog in any way, including Friday Night Drinks, Romancing The Romance Authors or Desert Island Books, please get in touch by emailing julie@alittlebookproblem.co.uk, filling in the contact form on the blog or sending me a DM via social media and we will put something in the diary. Requests are dealt with on a strictly first come, first served basis. Look forward to featuring as many of you as I can fit in!

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Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year 2020: International Shortlist Revealed For Crime Writing’s Premiere Prize

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The shortlist for the 16th Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year has been announced, taking the reader on an international crime spree from New York to Calcutta, London to Lagos via Glasgow and the Australian outback.

Chosen by a public vote and the prize Academy, the titles in contention for this most prestigious of prize’s – which feature five Theakston award alumni and one debut novelist – showcase exceptional variety and originality, including spy espionage, historical crime, gallows humour, outback noir and serial killing siblings.

The news coincides with updated lockdown reading research from Nielsen Book showing that the genre is continuing to soar in popularity, a trend led by younger readers and men. Alongside an increase in the overall number of crime and thriller novels in the bestseller charts, even more people are turning to the genre in lockdown, particularly younger readers (18-44). Of the three quarters saying that their fiction interests have changed, 26% say that crime and thriller has become their genre of choice.

Marking a meteoric rise since being selected by Val McDermid as a spotlight author in the 2019 Festival’s highly respected ‘New Blood’ panel, Oyinkan Braithwaite remains in pursuit of the coveted trophy with the Booker nominated My Sister, the Serial Killer. Based in Nigeria, Braithwaite is the only debut author remaining, and one of the youngest ever to be shortlisted. Inspired by the black widow spider, Braithwaite turns the crime genre on its head with a darkly comic exploration of sibling rivalry, exploring society’s feelings towards beauty and perfection.

The remaining five authors on the shortlist are all previous contenders hoping 2020 is their year to claim the trophy. The legendary Mick Herron, likened to John Le Carré, has picked up a fifth nomination with Joe Country, the latest in his espionage masterclass Slough House. A former legal editor, Herron’s commute from Oxford to London led to the creation of this much-lauded series, which is currently being adapted for television with Gary Oldman taking on the iconic role of Jackson Lamb.

Scottish-Bengali author Abir Mukherjee is vying for the title with Smoke & Ashes, described by The Times as one of the best crime novels since 1945. Accountant turned bestseller, Mukherjee was shortlisted in 2018 for the first book in the Wyndham & Banerjee series set in Raj-era India, The Rising Man. Smoke & Ashes – the third  instalment – is set in 1921 in Calcutta, where Mukherjee’s parents grew up and where he spent six weeks each year during his childhood.

Authors making it through to the shortlist for the first time include Glasgow’s Helen Fitzgerald for Worst Case Scenario, which marks her first appearance on the Theakston list since The Cry, adapted into a major BBC drama starting Jenna Colman, was longlisted in 2013. Packed with gallows humour, Worst Case Scenario takes inspiration from Fitzgerald’s time as a criminal justice social worker in Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison, alongside her experiences with depression and going through the menopause.

Despite receiving international recognition, before Belfast’s Adrian McKinty started writing The Chain – for which he picks up his second Theakston nod – he had been evicted from his home and was working as an Uber driver to make ends meet. Persuaded to give writing one last go, McKinty started on what would become the terrifying thriller that sees parents forced to kidnap children to save their own, and for which Paramount Pictures has acquired the screen rights in a seven-figure film deal.

The final title on the shortlist is The Lost Man by former journalist Jane Harper, who was previously longlisted for her debut The Dry in 2018, for which the film adaption starring Eric Bana is due to be released this year. Inspired by the beautifully brutal Australian environment, The Lost Man explores how people live – and die – in the unforgiving outback and is a moving – particularly topical – study in the psychological and physical impact of isolation.

The full shortlist for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020 is:

 

–                 My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic Books)

–                 Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald (Orenda Books)

–                 The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Little, Brown Book Group, Little, Brown)

–                 Joe Country by Mick Herron (John Murray Press)

–                 The Chain by Adrian McKinty (Orion Publishing Group, Orion Fiction)

–                 Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee (VINTAGE, Harvill Secker)

Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “Seeing the huge variety and originality within this shortlist, it comes as no surprise to hear that crime fiction is dominating our lockdown reading habits. Offering both escapism and resolution, these exceptional titles transport readers around the world and I can’t wait to see where we settle on 23 July when one of these extraordinary authors takes home the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier cask.”

The award is run by Harrogate International Festivals and supported by T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith and the Express, and is open to full length crime novels published in paperback from 1 May 2018 to 30 April 2019 by UK and Irish authors.

The shortlist was selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee, representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd, the Express, and WHSmith, alongside a public vote.

The shortlist will be promoted in a dedicated online campaign from WHSmith, digital promotional materials will be made available for independent bookstores, and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s online community – You’re Booked – features exclusive interviews and interactive content. This forms part of the Harrogate International Festival virtual season of events, HIF at Home, which presents a raft of live music, specially commissioned performances, literary events and interviews to bring a free festival experience to your own digital doorstep.

The public vote for the winner is now open on www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com, with the champion set to be revealed in a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday 23 July marking what would have been the opening evening of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The legendary gathering – which formed part of Harrogate International Festival Summer Season – was cancelled, with much sadness, due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The winner will receive £3,000 and an engraved oak beer cask, hand-carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from Theakstons Brewery.

 

Blogging in a Time of Coronavirus & a severe case of Can’tBeArsed-itis

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Hi guys. Hope everyone is keeping well and staying safe, whatever the situation is where you are. What a strange time we are living through.

I know the blog has been really quiet lately and I can only apologise. It’s not just been the blog either. All my social media, participation in Facebook groups, WhatsApp chats, online friends and family meets – I haven’t really been doing any of it. Truth is, I’ve been suffering for the last month from a severe case of Can’tBeArsed-itis.

It hasn’t been quite as bad as the photo above suggests. I haven’t been laying motionless face down on the sofa (with my shoes on? Who does that? What are we, savages?). I’ve actually been really busy. I’ve just been doing it all within the confines of my home and garden.

When lockdown first started, I was like everyone else. Chatting with friends and family on Zoom, probably more than I did pre-quarantine. Taking part in loads of online challenges and chats. Blogging and Instagramming up a storm. Then I had a little accident and gave myself quite a severe burn on my hand which necessitated a trip to A&E late one Friday night. (The absolute last place I wanted to go at the height of a pandemic and it was as awful as I expected. If anything convinced me how completely unlike normal life is, it was that trip to A&E on a Friday night. It was an eerie, zombie-apocalypse-movie-like experience.) As a result, my left hand was completely bandaged for a week and I had to type one-handed, which brought blogging and writing to a grinding halt and, even as I gradually got the use of it back, my mojo seemed to have disappeared.

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Back in February, I took the decision to cut right back on blog tours for the spring and summer to try and get through my NetGalley backlog, so luckily I had few commitments that needed meeting and I could embrace my lack of enthusiasm for blogging for a while. (I wonder now if I had some weird premonition. I also wound up my travel business in Autumn 2018 because I had a bad feeling about where the industry was headed, and I’ve never been so glad about a decision in my life now. Spooky!) Instead, I have been focused solely on myself and my daughters and our life at home.

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I’ve been quite lucky on the homeschooling front as my daughters’ school are providing real time lessons for them as per their normal timetables via Google Classroom. However, this has still necessitated constant interaction, especially for my 12-year-old who is very gregarious, is missing her school friends desperately, and has co-opted me into the role of new best friend. For someone who is used to working from home and spending many hours by themselves every day, being on constant call is mentally draining. Honestly, I always had a lot of respect for teachers (my sister is one) but now my admiration knows no bounds. The strain is exacerbated by the fact of being a single parent, solely responsible for all of this as well as running the house and all the attendant tasks that go with it (oh, the endless dishwasher emptying and re-stacking…). After spending hours explaining the difference between direct and representative democracy, analysing Beatrice’s role as a woman in ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ timing circuit training exercises and playing netball for PE lessons, searching for photos of the friezes on Trajan’s Arch, dissecting the contrast between socialist and capitalist viewpoints in ‘An Inspector Calls’ (which I had to read first), to be honest, I’ve had little brain space left for any intelligent commentary on the books I’ve been reading. It’s also almost impossible to concentrate on anything when you know there is a strong possibility of being interrupted any second. (My daughter required my help three times just during the course of typing this blog post.) To all you parents who are doing all of this whilst trying to hold down your normal full-time job in this abnormal environment as well, I salute you, I have no idea how you are doing it.

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Instead, the girls and I have been doing lots of fun stuff together. Playing badminton and giant Jenga in the garden. Walking our dog in the fields behind our house. Baking up a storm, making our own pizzas, having cooking lessons. Building Hogwarts Castle from Lego. Doing jigsaws. Sharing TV shows we love. I’ve been introduced to Riverdale and Brooklyn 99 and my daughters are now being spoonfed Buffy the Vampire Slayer from the beginning. It’s been great fun spending proper, quality time with my girls. They are growing up so fast, savouring this time with them is something I will remember as a positive once this is over.

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Basically, over the last month, I’ve pulled my head and tail into my shell like a turtle and shut off the outside world. I guess it’s been a form of self-preservation. The constant negative news, combined with missing family and friends, was dragging me down so I withdrew from it all. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I saw on Twitter some other bloggers discussing the fact that their page views and follower numbers were up, but interactions on the blog were down. I think maybe people are looking for content to consume while they are stuck at home, but the constant need to interact in the virtual world has become draining. I read a fascinating article about why this may be the other day. It suggested that it just reminds us of what we are missing in real life, a momento mori of the lives we had before which are not going to be the same again for a long while. This certainly resonated with me.

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Anyway, I now have a massive backlog of reviews to do, so I’m making a concerted effort to get out of this funk and back into the real world. But for anyone who just doesn’t feel like blogging at the moment, don’t beat yourself up. The world is topsy turvy and we all need to do what we gotta do to stay sane and get through. We’re all adjusting to our new normal, and are doing the best we can. And, if all else fails, there’s always Buffy.

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Take care and stay safe.

Let’s Talk About #Bookstagram #tipsneeded #bookbloggers #bookblog #bookblogging #instagram #helpme #advicewanted

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So, I’ve been thinking a lot about Bookstagram lately. I’ve noticed more and more requests for Instagram tours hitting my inbox. Anne Cater mentioned in a post a week or so ago that publishers were starting to look for minimum numbers of followers on Twitter and Insta for people taking part in their blog tours. I am enjoying and envying other people’s lovely book posts on my Instagram feed. My Instagram feed is sad and limp and neglected; I could never take part in an Instagram tour of a book using my currently tragic and slapdash efforts.

I decided more effort was required in the area of Instagram if I want to grow my blog. Plus, who doesn’t like looking at beautiful photos, especially of books? And I thought it might be an interesting creative outlet as an alternative to all my current, word-related hobbies.

So I started reading some posts about how to create a lovely bookstagram feed and, wow! I came away feeling simultaneously impressed, daunted and confused. I have more questions than answers and decided to reach out to you, my bookish colleagues for help. I am calling on your wisdom and experience to help me figure out how to improve my Instagram game with the limited time and talent at my disposal. I am begging you for any advice, tips and tricks you have to offer that have worked for you.

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Firstly, how important is Instagram in the current world of book blogging, especially for those of us who have not hit the heady heights of the top ranks? I have read that Instagram is now the fastest-growing and most influential platform, but does it drive traffic to your blog? Are you finding you are getting more interaction in general and on your blog if you are active on Bookstagram? What I am asking is, do you find it is worth the effort?

Secondly, I read a lot about the importance of a theme and consistency so that your feed looks curated and your grid is balanced and, if I look at some of my favourite bookstagram feeds, I can see how this works.

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This one always has very busy and interesting pictures in muted tones.

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A lot of you will recognise Cait’s feed with her bright colours and lots of flowers.

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All of the photos on this one have a sepia wash.

I looked at my feed and realised my theme was ‘Busy, middle-aged woman who takes random photos that she posts sporadically and can’t be arsed with filters.’ Not sure this is a heart-winner as far as themes go. So, how much time and thought do you all put in to your overall feed to be successful? I have read that people spend 3-4 hours A DAY curating their instagram feed. I mean, there is just no way on earth that this is a possibility for me with all the other commitments I have going on (these must all be young people with no children, remember those days?). How little time can you reasonably spend on Instagram and it still be worth it? If I just do one photo (which I have not spend 3 hours staging, taking and editing), can I still have a reasonable insta following?

What are the best things to post? What do you like to look at on bookstagram? Does an insta feed just have to be books or are other things interesting to you as well? How often do you post?

What about your reviews? Do you post your whole reviews on Instagram and does that get a good response? I had toyed with the idea of posting a photo and an abbreviated review on Instagram rather than the whole thing, but will people visit the blog to read the whole thing? There is just so much to think about!

Hashtags. How many to use? Which ones are best? Where do you put them? I have read advice that says to use 5-30 and put them in the first comment, rather than in the caption as it looks neater. Have you tried this? Does it work better? It is all so confusing!

Instagram stories? I don’t understand them. What are they, how do you use them and should I be doing it? God, I feel like such an old fogey!

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If anyone has any fabulous advice on how I can improve my bookstagram game without having to spend more than 15 minutes a day on it, using anything other than my iPhone or the filters on Instagram itself, I will gratefully listen. What works for you? Have you read any useful articles? Can you recommend anyone whose feeds I should follow.

Or am I just a dog who is too old to learn new tricks?

 

 

LAST CHANCE TO ENTER! #RNA60 Romantic Fiction Book Club Facebook Group Launch Competition. Win 60 Romantic Novels from 0ne More Chapter! @RNATweets @0neMoreChapter_ #Competition #Giveaway #RomanticFictionBookClub #RomFicBookClub

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Today is the closing date for the Romantic Fiction Book Club’s huge launch competition, so if you haven’t already join the new Facebook group for readers, authors and bloggers who love Romantic Fiction, you’d better get on to it quickly!

As a reminder, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and, to celebrate this momentous occasion, the RNA have launched a new Facebook group, the Romantic Fiction Book Club, which aims to be a warm and cosy place for lovers of romantic fiction to engage with other readers, bloggers and authors of romantic fiction. The group is open to anyone who loves to read any type of romance, bloggers, and all authors of novels with a romantic element, not just those who are members of the RNA.

To launch the new group with a bang, we have an amazing competition for you. In conjunction with publisher 0ne More Chapter, members of the new Romantic Fiction Book Club Facebook group have the chance to win an amazing bundle of 60 romantic novels, donated by 0ne More Chapter. There are also 60 runner up prizes of a single, signed romance novel, so there are a total of 61 prizes up for grabs. What amazing odds of winning something! The competition is running from 14th to 29th February., i.e. TODAY!

All you have to do to enter the competition is join the new Romantic Fiction Book Club here and then follow the link below to the competition:

One More Chapter & RNA Diamond Anniversary Giveaway

There is detailed information about how to enter on the new Facebook page, including how to increase your chances of winning by subscribing to the RNA and 0ne More Chapter’s social media links, plus, there is lots of fun interaction going on in the group. UK entries only I’m afraid. What are you waiting for, go and sign up now!

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#RNA60 Romantic Fiction Book Club Facebook Group Launch Competition. Win 60 Romantic Novels from 0ne More Chapter! @RNATweets @0neMoreChapter_ #Competition #Giveaway #RomanticFictionBookClub #RomFicBookClub

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Calling all fans of Romantic Fiction! This year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and, to celebrate this momentous occasion, the RNA are launching a new Facebook group, the Romantic Fiction Book Club, which aims to be a warm and cosy place for lovers of romantic fiction to engage with other readers, bloggers and authors of romantic fiction. The group is open to anyone who loves to read any type of romance, bloggers, and all authors of novels with a romantic element, not just those who are members of the RNA.

To launch the new group with a bang, we have an amazing competition for you. In conjunction with publisher 0ne More Chapter, members of the new Romantic Fiction Book Club Facebook group have the chance to win an amazing bundle of 60 romantic novels, donated by 0ne More Chapter. There are also 60 runner up prizes of a single, signed romance novel, so there are a total of 61 prizes up for grabs. What amazing odds of winning something! The competition is running from 14th February (of course!) to 29th February. Take a look at some of the fabulous titles up for grabs.

All you have to do to enter the competition is join the new Romantic Fiction Book Club here and then follow the link below to the competition:

One More Chapter & RNA Diamond Anniversary Giveaway

There is detailed information about how to enter on the new Facebook page, including how to increase your chances of winning by subscribing to the RNA and 0ne More Chapter’s social media links, plus, there is lots of fun interaction going on in the group. UK entries only I’m afraid. What are you waiting for, go and sign up now!

I’ll see you there!

(There was an interesting article about the new group and how it came about in Frost Magazine earlier this week, you might like to check it out here.)

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The Etiquette of Book Blogging: A Growing Minefield #bookblogging #bookbloggers #bookblog #amreading

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I thought the thing that was going to get me most riled up yesterday was our exit from the European Union. However, having decided early on to focus solely on bookish Twitter and avoid the worst of the Brexit furore, I managed to stay relatively calm, if deeply saddened, on that front. Little did I expect that it would be bookish Twitter that would end up getting my dander up! (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase somewhere and never had the chance before.)

The cause of the annoyance? A tweet from an author stating that it was ‘pretty rude’ for readers  to tag authors in our reviews, and that most authors are of this mindset. They must just have been talking about negative reviews, I hear you cry. You’d think so, but apparently not. It’s all reviews, and tweets about reading their books, or in any way letting them know you are engaging with them at all, seemingly. Yes, letting authors know you are actually reading the books they have written for this purpose stresses them out and they would rather be left oblivious to the fact this is happening at all – save presumably for when their royalty cheques come rolling in.

I apologise for sounding a little narked, but it’s beginning to get extremely difficult for book bloggers to know what to do correctly in any given situation these days. I mean, what is the actual etiquette for blogging about books? Any new bloggers could be forgiven for not having a freakin’ clue what authors or readers want from them, there are so many conflicting opinions and reactions out there. The fact this is happening was borne out by reactions to the author’s tweet – lots of surprised ‘really?’ type responses.

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Now, I never write posts like this, by which I mean opinion pieces on book blogging. I don’t tend to engage in any controversy, because book blogging is a fun hobby for me and you can guarantee that sticking your head above the parapet isn’t the way to a quiet, happy life. There is a lot of viciousness out there, and all I want to do is spread the book love. That is it. I love books, I want to talk about them all day long to like-minded book nerds, discover new books and authors and spread the love of the books I’ve adored, support the authors I love – and, yes, tell them what their books have meant to me. I am a happy, little, sunshine-y bookworm who blogs about books for fun. That’s all there is to it. But a lot of the current negativity is taking some of the fun out of it for me, and I just wanted to talk about this a little.

Look, blogs are our personal spaces, we can do what we like with them, that is the joy of our little corners of cyberspace. But equally, it is a responsibility and, if you want to play nice with others and not be considered a douche, there are a few basic tenets of good manners we all understand. Don’t slag off books you haven’t read or were delivered damaged by Amazon. Don’t use book blogging as a way of scrounging books you have no intention of reviewing. If you volunteer for blog tours, do post what you’ve agreed to post when you’ve agreed to post it and, if you can’t, contact the organiser in good time to say why. And the biggie, the number one cardinal rule – NEVER, EVER, EVER TAG AUTHORS IN NEGATIVE REVIEWS!

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Aside from these, are there really any other blogging rules? I don’t think so.

Do you have to review everything you read, good and bad, to be taken seriously? I personally choose not to write negative reviews at all. This is an individual decision based on a number of factors: 1) I’m trying to write a book and it’s HARD, so anyone who has written one and got it published deserved a round of applause, not a kicking from me, even if I hated it; 2) Opinions are subjective and just because I disliked something doesn’t mean others will; 3) My blog is to celebrate books I love, not pull others down; 4) My mother always told me, ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’ However, I realise other people have a different opinion and review everything they read, good and bad. That’s fine, it’s your blog, you do you. JUST DON’T TAG AUTHORS IN YOUR NEGATIVE REVIEWS, that’s just not cool.

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I’ve received criticism for this approach, mainly on the basis that a) I’m not being honest and b) people can’t tell if they agree with my reviews if they can’t read the negative ones. I disagree. a) All of my reviews are 100% my honest opinion of the book, I just choose not to share the negative ones. This does not alter one word of the positive ones, they would read exactly the same even if the negative ones were published! b) Read my review of a book you have also read, if our opinions on that gel, you should be able to tell whether our views and tastes align or not. If you can’t, no harm, no foul, you aren’t obliged to read my blog, it is entirely optional and if you choose not to, I won’t hold it against you. My reviews are there for the people who find them helpful.

Bloggers have come in for a lot of criticism again recently for not being ‘real readers,’ whatever that means (this is a recurring debate.) Presumably this criticism is levelled at us because somehow our opinions are skewed because we have been asked to read books in advance by authors or publishers, or been given complimentary copies for review, rather than buying them ourselves. Well, I call crap on this. All the book bloggers I know are the most avid and passionate readers out there. This is why they started blogging in the first place. They read hundreds of books a year, some gifted and many not. They buy more books than anyone else. They are absolutely readers, first and foremost, and I know that the vast majority, like me, would never contemplate writing a less than honest review of a book, just because they had received a free copy. And Joanne Harris agrees.

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So, to the current case in point, is it rude to tag authors in positive reviews? I don’t think so and, until today, I have never had an author ask me not to tag them. The opposite is true, I am often asked to make sure I do tag the author and the publisher so they can find the reviews. In fact, in my experience, authors and publishers are desperate for good reviews and want to shout about them far and wide. They pay for blog tours and send out advance copies to generate them, they beg us to put them on Amazon and Goodreads to help boost visibility, ranking and, hopefully, sales. They share them to generate buzz about a book. For small publishers and indie authors, they are the most important publicity tool they have at their disposal. Or so we have been led to believe. Which is why tweets like this one are so confusing and disheartening. It feels like all the work we do to try and promote authors is being thrown back in our faces.

Reviews are for readers, we know this, but it would be dishonest of me to deny that engaging with authors is one of the highlights of being a book blogger. Being able to get to know our favourite authors and discover new ones, get advance notice of their new books, get an insight into their writing process, get to interact with them on social media, and even in person, is one of the joys of this. It isn’t why we do it, but it makes doing it really worthwhile. So for an author to tweet like this, in a way that makes us feel like an unwelcome intrusion in their day, that they don’t have room for engagement, or even want to know that their readers exist and are loving their books, and to assert that they speak on behalf of all authors – well, it’s a bit of a slap in the face. A ‘we’ll take your money but please don’t bother us’ vibe that is unedifying.

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Look, when I tag an author in a post, I’m not expecting them to engage with me. Don’t get me wrong, I love it if they do, but it’s not anticipated. That isn’t why I do it. I do it so they can see the review and share it if they think it will help publicise their book. I do it so they can read it if they wish and, knowing someone loved their work, feel a bit happier and a bit like what they are doing has meant something to somebody, somewhere. I do it so the readers who do read my posts can go to their feeds and maybe find out more about the author and their work and engage with them. For me, it is about being part of a community sharing a love of books. If you don’t want to engage, that is fine, just ignore me. But please don’t accuse me of being rude.

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I’m sure being a writer isn’t easy, even my limited experience so far has given me that much insight. However, insulting the very people who are your biggest fans, who are most firmly on your side and who are going out of their way to tell the world and its wife how brilliant your books are and how much they love them, isn’t the way to win friends and influence people. It’s just likely to mean the people who are most likely to buy and read your books avoid doing so. The more obstacles, insults, hurdles and criticism bloggers face for expending time and energy and love on doing something for free, the less they feel valued and and the more they feel denigrated for doing it, the more likely it is they will simply stop. Because, if it’s not fun any more, if we can’t do right for doing wrong in someone’s eyes, what exactly is the point?

There must be ways around this for authors who don’t want to be notified of book reviews. Make a note in your profile that you don’t want to be tagged, maybe? Most reasonable people would respect this, and the unreasonable ones are going to do what they want whatever you do or say in any event. Make your account private, or don’t be on social media at all if you don’t want to interact with your audience. Unfortunately, social media is not a one way street, interaction is the whole purpose of it. Just ignore those tweets, no one is going to think the worse of you for it, that is your prerogative. I fear, however, that putting your work out into the public domain is opening yourself up to some interaction with the public, however much you wish that weren’t so, it goes with the territory. It’s always a risk, a bit like this blog post in fact.

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Maybe this post is unwise. Maybe I’ll get up in the morning and delete it without posting it. Maybe I’ll get a barrage of abuse, or it will pass by unnoticed. Or maybe, just maybe, it might help us see one another’s perspective. I love book blogging. The bookish community is the happiest, friendliest place I’ve found to be and I’ll keep doing it as long as that continues to be true. If there are rules I’m not following, let me know, the last thing I ever want to do is upset anyone, truly. But, until I hear otherwise, I’ll keep doing what I do, how I do it, including tagging authors in my reviews and, I hope they will appreciate that I do it, not to be rude, but because I have loved their book and I want to tell the whole world that it was great (or at least the very minuscule part of the world that reads my blog.)

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Big Birthday Giveaway! @stacey_halls @laurajm8 @MargaretAtwood @AlexMichaelides @hannahbeckerman @ConcreteKraken #Giveaway #BookBloggers #BookBlog #Birthday

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It’s my birthday! Well, it’s my blog’s birthday actually. Yes, three years ago today I posted my first ever blog post on A Little Book Problem. Where did that time go? And look how far I’ve come. I never would have guessed when I started this blog just to keep track of a reading challenge where it would end up or how much it would give me along the way.

In order to celebrate this milestone, I am going to be giving away a little prize (although, aren’t people supposed to give me presents on my birthday?) It seems to be one of the inevitable side effects of book blogging that I end up with duplicate copies of some fabulous books, and this year has been no different so, in the prize bundle are brand new, unread copies of the following books:

The Familiars by Stacey Halls (Hardback)

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In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all . . .

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

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Maria Weston wants to be friends with me.

Maybe that had been the problem all along: Maria Weston had wanted to be friends with me, but I let her down.

She’s been hovering at the edge of my consciousness for all of my adult life, although I’ve been good at keeping her out, just a blurred shadow in the corner of my eye, almost but not quite out of sight.

Maria Weston wants to be friends.

But Maria Weston has been dead for more than twenty-five years.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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‘I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.’

Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford – her assigned name, Offred, means ‘of Fred’. She has only one function: to breed. If Offred refuses to enter into sexual servitude to repopulate a devastated world, she will be hanged. Yet even a repressive state cannot eradicate hope and desire. As she recalls her pre-revolution life in flashbacks, Offred must navigate through the terrifying landscape of torture and persecution in the present day, and between two men upon which her future hangs.

(The edition being offered as a prize has a different cover to the one shown here.)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

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Alicia Berenson lived a seemingly perfect life until one day six years ago.

When she shot her husband in the head five times.

Since then she hasn’t spoken a single word.

It’s time to find out why.

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

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Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

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One body. Six stories. Which one is true?

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby. 2017.

Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivaled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth.

As well as the books above, the prize bundle includes a voucher for an Italian meal for two at the Prezzo restaurant of your choice and an enamel book pin.

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All you have to do to win, is make sure you are following the blog, either by email, on WordPress or on Twitter and tell me what book you would send me as a surprise birthday gift.

Competition will be open until 31 January. UK entries only please. Winner will be chosen at random and announced here and on Twitter.  Prize will be posted out as soon as I receive the winner’s address. If the prize is not claimed within seven days, prize will be forfeited and I will chose a second recipient. No cash alternative is available.

Good luck, and thank you for supporting the blog, I do greatly appreciate it.

Goldsboro Books’ Book of the Month Club @GoldsboroBooks @adamhamdy @AmyLloydWrites @LizMooreBooks #bookclub #firsteditions

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So, if you have been following my New Year posts, you will know that I have vowed not to buy any new books this year in an attempt to make some kind of dent in my out-of-control TBR, which is threatening to consume my house like one of those nightmare dwellings they visit on the TV hoarder shows, except hopefully a bit cleaner.

That being said, a bit like a smoker that needs nicotine patches to take the edge off giving up cold turkey, I knew I needed something to satiate my constant craving for new books while trying to cut back, and the solution I came up with was to join Goldsboro Books’ Book of the Month Club..

My rationale was that getting one beautiful, signed limited first edition title per month would be enough to keep me happy, as well as being a good investment in a possible future collectible title. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

I signed up in December, rather than wait for January, because I really wanted the lush special edition of Black 13 by Adam Hamdy, which was the December Book of the Month. I also got a signed copy of The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd as a free gift. Both books are numbered copies of first editions and came packaged beautifully and carefully, like the precious items they are. Watch out for reviews coming soon.

I am currently waiting for delivery of the January Book of the Month, which is Long Bright River by Liz Moore. Watch out on the blog for reviews of this and the future monthly titles.

Desert Island Books #bookblogger #bookblogging #amreading #readinggoals

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After my dismal failure to keep up with this last year, I am going to have another stab at introducing this new feature called Desert Island Books.

The premise is fairly simple and not particularly cryptic, the title says it all. I will be revealing and reviewing the twelve books that I would take with me, should I be stranded alone forever on a desert island. One per month throughout the coming year. I’ll tell you what it is I particularly love about them; why they are books that I can read over and over again without getting bored and why they would be my ideal forever companions.

To be honest, the feature is really just an excuse for me to reread some of my favourite books of all time and share them with you, but it is also an interesting exercise. Could you narrow down the twelve books that you could bear to read over and over again in perpetuity without getting sick of them? Would you take books you have been meaning to read for years and never had time to tackle (risky if you end up hating them!) Old favourites to keep you company (but would you ruin them for yourself if you had to read them forever?) A mixture of old and new? What genres? Fiction or non-fiction? Food for the mind or the heart? Uplifting? Challenging? Comforting? Scary?

There is probably a psychological profile in our choices somewhere!

I will be reading one of my twelve picks per month and reviewing it on the last day of the month but, as a precursor, I thought I would reveal the thirteen books which made it on to the shortlist but fell at the final cut. A sneak peek of what is to come maybe.

I hope you will enjoy a little glimpse this year into some of my favourite books of all time and the kind of literature I would choose to read on a daily basis if I never got to pick up a new book again, and I’d love it if you’d like to share your own Desert Island Books with me, either in the comments here or on your own blogs with a link back.

So here are books 13 to 25 on the list of books I’d take to a desert island. The ones that didn’t quite make it on to the life raft with me, but over which I would weep as they sank beneath the waves.

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Jamaica Inn  by Daphne du Maurier

I love du Maurier’s books, and it was a toss up between this and Rebecca, but in the end I think this is my favourite just because it is such a marvellous combination of wild adventure story, mystery and romance, and perfectly captures the isolation and cruel beauty of the north Cornish coast and moors, and it fills me with the same thrill and dread every time I read it as it did the first time. And the heroine, Mary Yelland, really has some gumption!

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Rivals by Jilly Cooper

I would say Jilly Cooper’s books were my guilty pleasure except I don’t feel remotely guilty about loving her. Her novels are great fun, and written so tongue-in-cheek that you can’t be snobby about them. Rivals is my absolute favourite of her books because this is when Rupert Campbell-Black redeems himself  and becomes worthy of the love of the gorgeous Taggie, plus it has a hunky Irishman in it. The ultimate beach read.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Oh, how it has broken my heart to jettison Wuthering Heights and if I could have squeezed one more book under my life vest, this would have been it. However, when it came down to balancing the twelve books I was going to be reading repeatedly forever alone on a desert island, I decided that this bleak tale of destructive love may just be too depressing to keep my spirits up, and I chose another classic love story that was not doomed to end so badly, as you will see.

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The Russia House by John le Carre

The perfect spy thriller, for me. I fell in love with Barley Blair the first time I read this book, and it is a love that has endured. A reluctant and damaged man finds himself in a situation he is ill-equipped to deal with, and it has another doomed love story at its heart (I’m sensing a pattern developing!)

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Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

I’m going to make a controversial statement now – I have always preferred Through The Looking Glass to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’m not sure I can explain why. Maybe it is because it hasn’t been done to death in movies, but for me it has a more interesting premise (a giant game of chess), better characters (the contrasting Red and White Queens) or the really imaginative writing (the Bread-and-Butterfly and Rocking Horsefly, with attendant illustrations, appealed, and still do appeal, to my childish heart). One of my favourite childhood books that takes me back to the days when my love of reading started and will always have a place in my heart.

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The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman

One of my favourite ever historical novels and the root of my abiding fascination with Richard III. Before Philippa Gregory, Sharon Penman was my go to author for history told through fiction and this book gives a detail glimpse into the life of Britain’s most controversial monarch from a different perspective. This was one of the first books that taught me that people can have different interpretations of historical ‘facts’ and that perspectives can be questioned. Plus the writing is vivid and beguiling.

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A Room With A View by E. M. Forster

I love to read novels that take me to foreign soil and this is the ultimate in travel literature. I defy anyone to read this book and not want to book a flight to Florence immediately. And the writing is sublime. Gorgeous, but as I’ll be having an overseas adventure of my own, I have very reluctantly let it go.

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A Time To Kill by John Grisham

I love a legal thriller and courtroom drama and, regardless of what you think of him personally, Grisham is the king of the genre. A Time To Kill was his first book and he would probably be horrified to know that I don’t believe he has bettered it. This book has everything, tight plotting, action and a moral dilemma to wrestle with. Is killing ever justified? Even though I have read this many times, it still keeps me on the edge of my seat.

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Staying On by Paul Scott

Whilst Paul Scott is more famous for writing the Raj Quartet, including The Jewel in the Crown, it was Staying On that won him the Booker Prize in 1977 and I think it is easy to see why. The story of Tusker and Lucy, trying to hang on to their old life in India after independence as the world around them changes faster than they can keep up, will break your heart. Actually, I’m not sure I can leave this one behind after all.

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The Harry Potter Series

I doubt this needs any explanation. The rich world that J.K. Rowling has built around Harry Potter would be the ideal thing to stave off boredom and loneliness on a desert island. I know taking all 7 may be classed as cheating so, if you twisted my arm, I would choose Goblet of Fire as my favourite.

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The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

There are historical novels, and then there is the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel. Set at the time where Homo Sapiens first starts to walk the planet, her books give a fascinating glimpse into how our ancestors came to be and became the dominant species against the backdrop of an extreme landscape. This is the first book in the series, and sets modern man in direct comparison to the species that came before. The way the story is told is a fascinating method of illustrating the history of this period and the level of detail in the books is mind-blowing. It is obvious Auel did copious research, but this is fed into the books appropriately and seamlessly. These books are a stupendous achievement.

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Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

Another story about a hapless and unwitting stooge who is co-opted into espionage by circumstances outside of his control. However, unlike the le Carre book, Our Man in Havana has a thread of wit and humour running through it that just makes it a joy to read. The thought of James Wormold and his enlarged vacuum cleaner parts never fails to raise a smile. The fact that Greene himself worked for the intelligence services before writing this book adds a frisson of credibility to the plot and the setting of Cuba is another attraction. A perennial favourite.

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The Bafut Beagles by Gerald Durrell

Everyone is familiar with Gerald Durrell’s book, My Family and Other Animals, detailing the years of his childhood spent in Corfu with his eccentric family, but fewer are familiar with the rest of his vast body of writing. However, as a child I was obsessed with the books he wrote detailing his collecting expeditions and his life at his conservation trust and zoo in Jersey and I read them all, over and over. We never travelled abroad when I was young, and these books were my first gateway to a host of impossibly remote and alien countries in Africa and South America, and hundreds of exotic animals that I had never heard of before. These books fuelled my obsession with travelling, as Durrell’s writing is so descriptive and enticing. The Bafut Beagles, detailing his 1949 trip to Cameroon, was my favourite and, although I would like to take his whole collection to the island with me, if I had to choose one it would be this. However, there isn’t any room on the raft, so I’ll have to be my own naturalist on my desert island.

So, these are the thirteen that didn’t quite make it. Join me on 31 January for the unveiling of the first of the books that are in the top twelve.