Friday, 23 June 2017

The Blog Squad: A Blogger Collaboration - Part 15

We are a group of three book bloggers situated on different continents but brought together by our love for books and a penchant for talking about them. We’ve joined our forces to create a collaborative series of posts about book blogging and we hope you’ll enjoy the discussions. 


How do you handle review requests for a book series? 

I actually get a little scared when someone offers me a book that is a part of a series or I want to request a book that is a part of a series! Starting ANY book is quite a large commitment, right? A series even more so. Now we’re talking about an ENTIRE series for review? WOAH!! 

If an author or publisher contacts me about a series for review I’ll always ask them if I can take just the first book and see how it goes. There have been two exceptions to that and thankfully, both have turned out remarkably well. 

The first exception was the Poison Study series where I actually requested a book that was #6 in the world that Maria Snyder had built. Poison Study had been on my TBR forever though and when I got accepted to review Dawn Study I binge read the ENTIRE series to read and review. 

The second exception was the Red Winter Trilogy. I actually only MEANT to request the first book but I think I made a mistake and actually got the entire trilogy from Xpresso Books… BUT I AM SO HAPPY THAT I DID. Another firm favourite in my ‘best series of EVER’ list.

Good question! I always get a mini heart attack when that happens. Like Di, I mention that I’ll read book 1 and then decide if I want to continue with the rest of the series. Taking on an entire series is a huge deal even if you aren’t reviewing the books! I’d hate to receive an entire series from an author only to find out I don’t enjoy book 1 and plan not to read the rest. 

Once after i received book 1 from the author and was still in the middle of it, she mailed the rest of the trilogy too and honestly speaking I was annoyed. And now I haven’t read the final book because I didn’t enjoy book 2. And even though she sent the books without me asking, I feel bad that I haven’t read or reviewed book 3 yet! I hate leaving things incomplete! 

So basically I’d prefer if authors would just request book 1 to be reviewed first and depending on how I like it, offer or not offer the rest of the series.

Do you think it's okay to DNF a review copy? 

I actually do… If you have, in all fairness, given the book every chance you can and you still can’t do it? If it doesn’t matter how much you read and your rating will still be negative - don’t force yourself.

The reason that I blog is that I enjoy reading and even if I’m given a book for review I still want to keep that fact in mind and enjoy the ‘work’ that I’m doing. Sometimes it’s worth pushing on with a book that isn’t something you might normally pick up, but only if you can still rate and review it objectively. 

Publishers and authors are people too and they generally do understand that not every book is going to be for every reader, especially if you take the time to explain to them that the book just wasn’t the right fit for you and either you will review it negatively or not at all. 

That being said I’ve only ever DNF’d one book so far and while it was unfortunately a review copy I knew there was no way I could enjoy the book.

I think every reader has the right to DNF a book, review copy or not. That being said, I’ve literally never DNF-ed a book in my life as a reader and that’s because i HATE leaving things incomplete. So even if I don’t like a book, I end up completing it. I have DNF-ed serieses though!

But yes, that’s just my weird ‘gotta complete’ attitude but otherwise hell yeah, you can DNF review copies. If you don’t want to complete a book, why try to just because it’s a review copy? I think authors and reviewers alike should understand and accept that not everyone is going to love every book. There are going to be different opinions and unpopular opinions with every book. If you’re like me and HAVE to complete the book, then go ahead complete it and review it but if you are not so and feel like DNF-ing it, go ahead and do that instead of torturing yourself to plough through because it’s a review copy.

How do you handle writing negative reviews for review copies? 

I always send in my reviews, even if they are negative. If the author/publisher wants me to remove it from my blog I normally will but I’ll let the review stand on Goodreads. 

What I don’t ever want to do though is tear the author or the book apart, even if I didn’t like it. The author spent a LOT more time creating and crafting their book than I did reading and reviewing it. 

If I’ve actually been approached by an author or publisher to review a book (as opposed to requesting it from them myself) and the review will be negative, I like to go back to them first with the news of the negative review and ask if they would prefer it if I don’t put the review on my blog. Sometimes they still want the publicity because if the review is polite and I put forward the reasons that I personally didn’t like it, it’s still garnering attention and getting their book out there which is the actual purpose of giving out review copies.

Thankfully, so far I’ve never had to write any 2 or below stars review for any book I’ve got from authors. I’ve had to write super negative reviews for books I received from NetGalley but that doesn’t feel so hard considering you aren’t directly conversing with either the author or the publisher! 

But even in my negative reviews I don’t just say “Guys I hated this book. Don’t read it.”. I don’t bash books or authors. I explain why I didn’t like the things I didn’t like in the book and I also make sure I mention the things I did like about the book. 

It hasn’t happened yet but if I someday receive a book from an author and end up rating it less than 3, I believe I’ll let the author know how I feel about the book and let them decide if they want me to publish or not publish the book on my blog. But as Di says, the Goodreads review stays whether the author likes it or not.

Come check out my answers over at their collab posts!: 

 We hope you’ve enjoyed Part 15 in our series of discussion posts! Please talk to us and let us know YOUR answers below. What do you think of our responses? 
 If you have any specific questions you’d like us to address in the future, please let us know in the comments section below. Stay tuned for next week’s questions!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #38: FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS - by Julie C. Dao

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme originally hosted by Breaking the Spine and now taken over by Wishful Endings that highlights upcoming book releases we're excited to read. On my blog, I include movies as well.

Publication Date:  10th October 2017. 

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl's quest to become Empress--and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny. Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins--sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

This looks so amazing!! I love the idea of the world and the characters, and it sounds so fascinating and unique and eerie!! And I LOVE re-imaginings and retellings!!!
AHHHH I SO desperately want a copy!! 

But the cover makes me nervous. Snakes. I really really hate snakes. Please let there be no graphic descriptions of snakes in this otherwise beautiful book. 

Anyone else excited for Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

SHADOW AND BONE (The Grisha #1) - by Leigh Bardugo

SHADOW AND BONE - by Leigh Bardugo
Published: June 2012 - by Indigo.
Pages: 308.
Genres: Young adult / epic fantasy / romance
Source: Library.
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka. Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free? The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him. But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?

I buddy-read this book with the wonderful Di @ Book Reviews By Di. Since it's Leigh Bardugo, we ended up racing through it in under a week! Check out her review HERE.

My feelings are incredibly mixed. For more than half of the book I thought it'd end up being a 2.5 flower read for me, and that killed me. I loved Six of Crows SO SO MUCH that my expectations for this book were very high, to say the least, and eventually I just had to force myself not to compare them. This is Bardugo's debut novel, after all, and although I think Six of Crows is a million times better, this book isn't a bad start to a promising trilogy.
But I was still disappointed.

“I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”

The writing is mediocre, almost amateurish (although that feels sinful to say considering it's Leigh Bardugo). I didn't think first person worked at all, and I struggled to get into Alina's head. The narration is awkward and extremely dry, and there's too much of Alina saying "I felt" - instead of just going with the emotion. That infuriated me.

The world building is achingly limited. To put it metaphorically, if the Grisha world is a huge patchwork quilt this book feels like it's happening in only one of those tiny squares - it's distant, removed, and although it improves as the story progresses, by the end I still felt like I'd been given an extremely cramped and restricted view of the world.
However, I did love the nods to Russian folklore subtly intertwined into the story.  The Russian elements are rich and unique, and Bardugo clearly did her research.

Then there are the incidents in the novel. For most of the story, everything just seems like a petty non-event with little significance. There's no real drama. Every incident feels underwhelming and the stakes extremely weak - or at least weakly portrayed. BUT: it did improve a lot towards the end, and for the last half quarter of the book I was riveted. I'd never been bored, but towards the end everything got so much stronger.

“I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I'd catch myself just walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I'd seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I'd realize that you weren't there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I've risked my life for you. I've walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I'd do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don't tell me why we don't belong together," he said fiercely.

The characters are okay. Bardugo manages to pull off the Chosen One trope, and I also loved how blunt, normal and average Alina was. (The only pitfall is the first person narration which I struggled to connect with.) I didn't love her character (she's too much of a damsel) but I didn't dislike her either. She's an ordinary, plain, flawed girl, and that appealed to me. I just wish she'd had more fire.
As for the other characters, most of them came across flat and even a bit stereotypical. The Darkling's supposed to be "the bad boy" but he really doesn't come across that dark or strong a character. Admittedly, at this stage there's still a lot of unknowns regarding his back story and character, but I just didn't find him very compelling or frightening.
The secondary characters easily fade into the background; however, I did love Genya. She's a clear, strong character, and I hope I'll see more of her in the second book.

The romance is beautiful. I definitely ship Mal and Alina, and their relationship arc is probably the strongest aspect of the book. It's beautiful, gut-wrenching, swoony and realistic. I loved them together, and had tears in my eyes towards the end when things got tough for them.

Shadow and Bone is a decent and original fantasy novel, but I struggled to connect through the first person narrative and found the writing and characters very unimpressive. 
But I loved the romance, and considering it's Bardugo, I have extremely high hopes for the second book! 

Monday, 19 June 2017

A GLEAM OF LIGHT (The Survival Trilogy #1) - by T.J. and M. L. Wolf

A GLEAM OF LIGHT - T. J. and M. L. Wolf
Published: December 2016 - by Createspace.
Pages: 331.
Genres: Speculative fiction / adventure / contemporary /
Source: Thank you to the authors for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
In 1995, at the age of eight, Una Waters survived a terrifying encounter at 30,000 feet aboard Flight 564 from Dallas to Las Vegas. It changed her forever. After 21 years, and a decade away from the Hopi Reservation where she grew up as a child, a surprise plea for help brings Una back, to solve a mystery that threatens their traditional way of life. The U.S. Army's sudden interest regarding a cave discovery in the Sacred Peaks has triggered alarm, leading to violence. With the help of friends, new and old, Una must confront her painful past, seek proof to qualify the ancient site for protection under law, and stand up to a stiff-necked general, whose agenda is more concerned with retrieving a mysterious power source.

This was a fun book! It's quite different from the books I usually read, and although it didn't blow me away, it was a fun, solid novel that kept me entertained.

The writing is good, and although it's in third-person the narration is smooth and very engaging. The scenes are strong and easy to place, and there's just the right amount of description for them to be vivid but not overwhelming.

It's a sparkling story. Richly, deeply researched, and overflowing with diversity and a side of history I've personally never heard about. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into Hopi culture and way of life, and the story makes the facts interesting. But it is a very complicated story, and in part due to the structure (which I'll get to in a bit) it does get very confusing towards the end. I honestly struggled to understand the ins-and-outs of Una's mission.
One of the biggest issues with this book is the structure. It's a mess, with no clear plot points and terrible direction.  There's also far too much exposition, and the info dumps unload information that's cluttered, complicated, and hard to follow. I was frequently confused.

The dialogue glows with characterization, but unfortunately it's also rather on-the-nose. That gets distracting as the story goes on, and it personally irritated me.

The main characters are clearly defined and Una is a strong and capable heroine. She grows a lot throughout the course of the book and has a nice heap of back story, but I also felt like she was missing something. Maybe I would've liked to have seen more of her childhood and relationship with her parents (which is so frequently referred throughout the story) instead of it just being mentioned and addressed in the story. I needed the hint of back story, and I needed to see it in action. I didn't feel like that was properly balanced.
The romance is basically nonexistent, and that left me with mixed feelings. On one hand, it's nice to see Una's motivation so focused on her people, and yet it's also hard to believe Jack and Una's friendship is so completely clean. Their relationship lacks even the commonplace male-female sexual tension, and is so completely neutral that it feels unrealistic. That was something I struggled to understand.

A Gleam of Light is a rich, solid story sparkling with engaging writing and historical detail. But the structure is a mess, and the plot itself could use a lot of work. It's a good book, but not an amazing one.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Weekly Round-Up: Reading

It's been another slow week blogging wise, and I'm feeling a bit guilty about that. But this coming week will be a lot busier because I have reviews to get up. 

I haven't done much writing this week, and have mainly been reading. Last night my family started watching series 3 of Broadchurch, and it's AMAZING. Almost as good as the first season and definitely better than the second; we're so gripped, and can't wait to see what happens. 

Posts of the week: 

 I'm still slogging through Passenger, although perhaps that's a bit harsh. I do like it, but it's also disappointing me in a lot of areas.   

Finished this week: 

Di and I raced through Shadow and Bone and finished it on Friday night :) 
Both reviews will be coming this week. 

Next Up...

Di, Uma and I are starting a threesome buddy-read of Siege and Storm sometime this week! I'm so excited! 

And I also got The Darkest Part of the Forest from the library, so I'm starting that today :) 

Melissa asks Where is the Light?  in writing. 

Audrey talks Perfectionism in Writing  

The Blog Squad is a series of discussion posts Di, Uma and I do every Friday, and if you have any bookish or blogging related questions for us to feature, comment below! 

Did you have a good week? What are you reading or watching? 

Saturday, 17 June 2017

"Books I've Read So Far In 2017" - Guest post from Ruby Rae Reads

Happy Saturday everyone! I am so excited to have the amazing Ruby from Ruby Rae Reads on the blog today, and she'll be sharing the books she's read so far in 2017 and what she liked or didn't like about them.
Go for it, Ruby!
I haven’t read many books this year, unfortunately, which is silly because I don’t know what’s been stopping me. So, I’d like to tell you what I’ve read so far this year, what I liked and what I didn’t like and my general thoughts on the books. 

1. The first book that I started at the end of December and start of January was Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. I flew through this book so fast, because it’s such a small book. I found it very entertaining. I’ve never read this kind of book, so it was quite interesting. It was a very enjoyable read, and I found it very fun. It gets a little weird at some parts, but they are faded out due to the plot of the story. Such a fun and quick read!

2. I also re-read a book this year during my exam times, and probably about 5 times after the other because I never got bored with this book, because it’s just that amazing and wonderful: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This book is about Anna who attends a boarding school in Paris and who meets a boy, who is already dating someone else, which is a slight problem. The characters are so diverse, and have so much depth to them. The story falls together in just the right way due to its loving writing, and it’s just wonderful and lovely. If you haven’t read it yet and you’re in the mood for an amazing yet easy story, then I highly recommend you read it. There are also two companion novels (Lola and the Boy Next Door & Isla and the Happily Ever After) that mix in with the story, so there is always more to read.

3. Over the holidays, I also read the first two books of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Lux series: Obisidian & Onyx (click here to see my full review). I enjoyed these books. I read them at a time when I just needed a light-hearted quick fantasy book and these definitely are just that. They’re very humourous (sometimes for me a little too much at some points but not too often) and very fun.

4. I also recently read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. I went into this book not knowing much, and I learnt quite a bit from this book, but I was also disappointed because I expected more from it. The story was not what I had hoped for, but I did enjoy what I learnt from it. I liked learning music from the different playlist images in this book and all the little pictures in it, but the actual romance for me wasn’t the most impressive compared to other novels. But I still found it very entertaining.

5. The most recent book I read is Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I adored this book. It was more than what I expected and it was so beautiful. I am sure you already know what it’s about seeing the movie just came out, so I won’t say much, just that I had so much fun with this book. It was heart-warming and really funny. I LOVED this book.

Those are all the books I’ve read this year so far. I have a reading challenge to read 30 books this year, so I still have a long way to go, but I hope that you enjoy these books I much as I have, because they were all so fun. Happy reading!!

Meet Ruby: 

My name is Ruby. I love to read and want to share it with you. I have a blog, Ruby Rae Reads, where I like to talk about books and all things bookish related. I also like to give weekly reviews of TV shows I enjoy watching. One day I hope to become a filmmaker.

You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Bloglovin’ and Goodreads. Have a super reading day xo
I hope you enjoyed reading this post! And thanks so much to Ruby for sharing her thoughts ;) 

Have you read any of the books she's mentioned? Did you enjoy them? 

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Blog Squad: A Blogger Collaboration - Part 14

We are a group of three book bloggers situated on different continents but brought together by our love for books and a penchant for talking about them. We’ve joined our forces to create a collaborative series of posts about book blogging and we hope you’ll enjoy the discussions. 


Do you have any book blogging hacks? 

There is NOTHING out there that’s going to create our content for you and respond to comments for you and go visit other blogs for you… There just isn’t. That’s gotta come from YOU. 

However there are some things that you can do to help the entire process go a little smoother. 

SCHEDULING: Schedule EVERYTHING. Create a calendar that you will use - either a physical copy or an online calendar or whatever works best for you. Personally I like an online calendar because this allows me to easily change stuff and drag stuff around when my schedule goes haywire. You don’t HAVE to post on those exact days, but at least you know what you have coming up and are more able to be prepared. 

REPURPOSE YOUR WORK: You spent a lot of time creating Bookstagram shots? Use them as your headers or as eye rests in your posts! You wrote an awesome review? Use a line from it to ‘advertise’ your post on your social media. 

SCHEDULE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA: There are a bunch of paid and unpaid tools that you can use to help you schedule your social media. Basically you load all of your posts in and then stagger them over the upcoming days/weeks. I myself use Buffer which can post to many platforms - more on that in the final Q of this week’s post!

Okay I wouldn’t call them hacks, but I do follow certain ideas and ways to make the blogging process both easy and fun for me. It’s no fun if the process becomes stressful now is it? 

SCHEDULING: I have a diary where I schedule all my online bookish posts - Blog, Bookstagram, reviews on Goodreads etc. I schedule every weekend when I have the time. I decide what I will post in the following week and put everything in one place so when the day comes, all I have to do is open the diary, read and post. Of course I don’t get to follow my plans to the T every single day but scheduling helps a LOT! 

STAY ORGANIZED: I have an organized blog roll, a separate label in my gmail for blog emails, author emails etc. This goes a long way in making sure things are easily accessible and don’t get lost or forgotten. Visiting other blogs and exploring is a huge part of being a book blogger and this helps a lot! 

PROMOTION: Go ahead and mention the fact that you have a blog on social media and other sites you use; such as Goodreads, Twitter, instagram etc. I mention in my bookstagram posts that reviews for certain books can be found in my blog. I’ve had quite a few visitors who come here after seeing that on instagram. Twitter is also a huge traffic source for me.

What social media do you use the most for your blog and what for? 

I use both Twitter and Facebook, but Twitter is definitely the place to be as a book blogger looking to interact and help drive your traffic stats. There’s a huge amount of other book bloggers and authors and publishers on Twitter and it’s great to see what’s happening in the book world right now!

I use Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. Every post I publish is simultaneously shared on Google+ and I share almost all reviews on Twitter too. Both these places drive a lot of traffic to the blog! Also I have my blog added to the website part of Instagram and according to my stats I get quite some traffic from there too.

How do you use social media efficiently? 

I’m not sure I’m really qualified to answer this question! ;) HOWEVER! I like to use an app that connects to multiple platforms and schedules posts for me. Specifically I use Buffer which I can access both on my desktop AND off my phone and it posts to pretty much everything I use. It can even be used to schedule Instagram posts although to do this it just brings up a reminder on your phone and you do it manually. It’s still pretty nice though! 

I like to try and line up a few days worth of posts including interesting bookish things I’ve found around the web, my own blog posts and random tweets etc. I’m not sure that this really counts as efficient, but it’s what works for me.

Okay truthfully speaking, I don’t think I use social media as efficiently as I’d like to. I want to be more active on Twitter but the only place I’m even more active than on my blog is my Instagram. And while it doesn’t drive as much traffic to my blog as Twitter, I enjoy Bookstagramming and I daresay I’ve gotten good at it! :) 

I plan to get back to taking part in Twitter chats and such as a way of being more active on there and meeting new people. I’m also planning to start a Facebook for my blog. I actually don’t like Facebook for some reason but I’m planning to still give it a try.

Come check out my answers over at their collab posts!: 

 We hope you’ve enjoyed Part 14 in our series of discussion posts! 
Please talk to us and let us know YOUR answers below. What do you think of our responses? 

If you have any specific questions you’d like us to address in the future, please let us know in the comments section below. Stay tuned for next week’s questions!