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July 2018

    books, discussion, feature

    FEATURE | What Makes a ‘Good’ Book?

    Hi! I’m back! Did you miss me? Did you notice I was even gone? I had some much needed R&R while my sister, her husband and three kids came for a flying visit (literally) from where they live in America. I was still at work while they were here, but I spent my days off doing fun activities like going to beach, the arcade, a local farm park where you can feed animals, as well as the youngest two getting christened. It was good to hear “Auntie Holly” coming out of their little mouths again. It’s like music to my ears.

    Now, though, I am back to business and have some exciting posts coming up on my blog in August that I am so excited for you to read! I have a couple of RC book posts, some more discussion-style pieces like this one, and some uni-related things in preparation for my final year starting in September.

    This post is something which has been a long time in the works because it has been in my mind a lot recently. Thanks to the other bloggers who contributed with their thoughts too!

    So, what exactly do we mean when we say, “I read a really good book this week”?

    What is a good book?

    Is it one that makes us feel good about ourselves? One that makes us cry? One that gets us thinking? One that is written well? One that has a well-thought out plot line?

    What exactly is it that makes us rate a book as 5 stars on Goodreads, or 1 star, or mark as DNF?

    Is there one answer? 

    What I may call a ‘good’ book, the next person might deem it one of their least favourites. That poses the question of what we actually mean when we call it this. I think we are all often so quick to say that we liked a book, but we often don’t stop to think what it was about that particular book that we actually liked so much.

    This is something I often see in book reviews too. People rave about a recent read that they absolutely love, and they recommend it to all of their readers because it is relatable and they had a good time reading it without getting bored. But does this mean that it is ‘good’?

    If I was sitting in my creative writing class at university, a good story would be one which is well planned out, each sentence has proper syntax, there are different techniques employed throughout, and lets not forget the oh-so-important consistent use of the senses, to name but a few things. But, as readers, is this really what we are noticing when we are reading for fun?

    Sure, it is engrained in me as a literature and writing student to pick out little details in any sort of text. I’m a stickler for punctuation and spelling, and will 100% stop reading a book if the writing is sloppy and full of errors. That is just bad editing and lazy writing. But maybe this shouldn’t be the all-or-nothing idea behind a good book. The story might still be really great itself, and deserves its reader to persevere and read it to the end.

    I asked a few other bloggers what their thoughts on a ‘good’ book were:

    @Hannah_Dadd from Books, Life and Other Oddities said, “Humour! I always prefer funny books.” And she is right – I love when a book makes me actually laugh out loud, which doesn’t happen very often. My most recent experience with this was Save the Date by Morgan Matson.

    Jamsu Dreams thought it was “a good plot and romance. Also characters that don’t make me hate them.” It is so important for writers to make their readers actual feel something about their characters, although this necessarily doesn’t always have to be good feelings. It takes a good writer to get you to care about their characters, and it takes a great writer to make you detest them.

    Kirsty (@purplekizz) really had her idea of a ‘good’ book down. She said: “A depth to the characters, whether good or bad – I want to know what motivates them. A good pace to the book. I read a lot of fantasy so I love an author who can world build and make me think I am actually in the world they have imagined.” When we spoke about Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher, she said, “There are two characters that have no redeeming features and you never find out why or what motivates them – it really bugged me!”

    I think this description is one which resonates to me the most, and could probably help me as a writer myself when I am working on my next piece of writing. Each character should have a purpose, be it major or minor.

    I’m aware this post is not really saying very much (lol love a good ramble). But that is probably something to do with the fact that there is really not one answer as to what a good book actually is. All I am asking is that we think about what we are really saying when we are writing our book reviews as bloggers. Why is it good?

    (God, I sound like my university tutors. “But WHY do you think that?” Someone stop me.)

    Ramble complete. Over and out.

    Tell me your thoughts! If you can figure out what I am actually trying to say here because I sure as hell can’t.

    Make sure to follow me on Twitter to keep up to date with other random thoughts in my head and for opportunities to be quoted/linked in future features/discussions. 
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    books, currently reading, fiction, list, recommendations, WWW Wednesday

    WWW Wednesday #1


    WWW WEDNESDAY is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words
    After randomly coming across Books and Sensibility on Bloglovin and deciding to follow Jess’s blog, I also spotted a blog post titled “WWW Wednesday”. It had a cute little graphic and so I clicked on it, to find it was a lovely little weekly post with a very simple idea behind it, and I knew I had to start doing it too. 
    THE THREE W’S ARE:
    • What are you currently reading?
    • What have you recently finished reading?
    • What do you think you will read next?
    CURRENTLY READING
    I am currently reading I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson. It was specially written for World Book Day 2018 and focuses on a fourteen year old girl with severe cerebral palsy. She can’t walk or talk or communicate at all, but her mind is completely intact. She can see and hear everything happening around her, something which she says people often forget. She relies on her family and her carer for everything, and knows all sorts of secrets about everyone. These are harmless, until someone tells her a secret that changes everything. I am really enjoying this so far and I love how unique the perspective is! 
    RECENTLY READ
    I have just finished reading A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. I have always said I’m not much of a fantasy gal, but this has totally changed the game for me. I don’t want to say too much on this subject right now because I am planning on doing either individual reviews for the books or a series review once I have read Wings and Ruin. If you follow me on Twitter, you will know how much I have been raving about this series recently and how much I feel like I have missed out on by not reading much fantasy romance till now! 
    READING NEXT
    Carrying on from that, I plan on reading book 3 in the ACOTAR series, sooner rather than later. I also want to read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng which has had a lot of hype surrounding it recently, and The Party by Elizabeth Day. 
    What are you reading at the moment? 
    *****
    Help a fellow book gal out – shop your TBR list on Book Depository using my affiliate link here. Thank you so much! Will pay back in long rambly blog posts and overly enthusiastic book reviews. 
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    books, personal, tag

    Behind the Screen – A Book Blogger Tag

    Happy Tuesday! If you live in the UK (particularly Scotland) and enjoy sunny weather, you will have been basking in the heat as much as I have and spending every waking second outside in the garden when you aren’t stuck in your sweaty place of work with a disgusting amount of perspiration leaking from every pore on your body. I even have a ~tan~ in SCOTLAND. Unheard of. If the weather was like this every summer we would never need to spend so much money on holidays to Spain! Mind you, I do still enjoy a proper authentic sangria or two…

    Anyway, I was so happy to get a Twitter notification the other day telling me that I had been tagged in my very first tag. I have already done the writer tag, but I found it and chose to do it myself rather than being tagged by someone, so thank you Adrianna! You can find her blog, For The Love of Books, and read her answers to these questions here.

    The “Behind the Screen” book blogger tag was first created by Amber at Du Livre, who I am so glad to have found now as her reviews are amazing! You should definitely check out her blog, as well as Adrianna’s and the ones I am going to be tagging myself at the bottom of this post (especially my new blogger friend Noly).

    I love tags, and this is a long hearty one at that. They let me ramble to my heart’s content, but you also get to know the person doing the rambling too, so let’s just have at it, eh.

    WHEN DID YOU START BLOGGING AND WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST REVIEW?

    I have only been blogging for just under two months now, and I am loving it so far. My first review was Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher which I have no doubts you will have at least heard of by now, if not read it yourself. I am so excited for the rest of the trilogy if the first instalment is anything to go by!

    WHO/WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START BLOGGING?

    I really wanted somewhere that could let me write more, especially as I am about to start my final year of university studying English Literature, Journalism and Creative Writing. I also know a lot of authors started out as journalists and bloggers and that is exactly where I would like my life to end up. It also meant the ability to connect with people who love books as much as I do and would understand the struggle between choosing whether to organise my bookcase in alphabetical order by author surname or to colour co-ordinate it.

    WHAT IS A BLOG-RELATED GOAL YOU HAVE?

    I’m not necessarily huge on numbers (although I love seeing the follower count rising – such a good feeling knowing that people have found your blog and like it enough to stick around for more) so instead I would like to find ~quality~ readers who it is fun to interact with. I love my blog twitter account for this too. I would also love if my blog provided me with some outside writing opportunities in the future, so hit me up people.

    WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH SOMEONE TOLD YOU ABOUT BLOGGING?

    God, isn’t it TIME CONSUMING. There’s the actual writing process, taking the photos and editing them, not to mention coming up with ideas, designing your blog, promoting yourself on various social media, the list goes on. It’s a good thing it is fun.

    WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST BLOG-RELATED ACCOMPLISHMENT?

    Working with people from the real book world! I was lucky enough to take part in my first cover reveal last month for Katie McGarry’s newest book, and next week I have a review of Alexandra McCann’s New Adult novella Angels Can’t Swim, as well as a short Q&A with her. It feels like quite an accomplishment for a new blogger as I was contacted by her and asked if I wanted to review it. She actually read my blog and wanted me to do an unsolicited review! This might not seem much for established bloggers and probably happens every day for them, but I’m sure you all remember your first review request and how exciting it was.

    WHAT TYPE OF POSTS DO YOU ENJOY WRITING?

    I love writing lists (like my 7 Tips for Studying An English Literature or Creative Writing Degree or 8 Of The Best Kindle 99p Bargains) and rambly posts that aren’t about one particular thing. I’m terrible for just writing and writing when it could have been so much shorter – as my university tutors are well aware of when they frequently comment on how ridiculously close to the top margin of the word count I am – but I love the ability to just write as much or as little as I want on any topic. Imagine blog posts had a word limit too?!?! We would all be doomed.

    WHERE DO YOU USUALLY BLOG? WHAT IS YOUR SET-UP LIKE?

    Ignore how absolutely vile my laptop keyboard is. It needs a scrub, seriously.

    So far I have written every single blog post from the comfort of my office, also known as my bed. I really want to be that person that sits in a coffee shop with their cappuccino and their laptop though so maybe one day (who am I kidding).

    WHAT WAS YOUR LAST FIVE STAR READ?

    I have just finished reading A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas and it was BREATHTAKING. I thought ACOTAR (book 1) was good, but this was a whole other game entirely. Planning on doing a full review of either the book or the series so far, but for now, you can read my Goodreads review of this book here.

    WHAT WAS YOUR LAST ONE STAR READ?

    I very rarely rate a book as one star, but the last book I marked as DNF was Things Liars Say by Sara Ney. I thought it was going to be a nice, easy, light-hearted read but I couldn’t get past the majorly cringe-worthy dialogue to actually enjoy it.

    WHAT ARE THREE WORDS THAT MAKE YOU PICK UP A BOOK?

    Love. Forbidden. Breathtaking.

    WHAT IS YOUR HOGWARTS HOUSE?

    Hufflepuff all the way.

    WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE READING ENVIRONMENT?

    Talking of warm sunny weather, I love reading out in the garden lying on a sun lounger or deck chair. In winter, I like to get all wrapped up in my bed under a million covers. Never the couch, for some unknown reason.

    WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO NEW BLOGGERS?

    I’m not sure I am quite qualified to give advice yet when I am such a new blogger myself, but I would definitely suggest setting up a twitter account for your blog as the majority of my traffic and new followers have found me through that. It is also great to find other blogs like yours to follow that you would never otherwise know about, and get the chance to interact with people who love your chosen obsession as much as you do!

    Thanks again for tagging me, Adrianna!

    I tag:

    Here are the questions all together to make it easier for you all (it’s a nice hearty, long blog post for when you are really in the mood for a good ramble and some typing):
    • When did you start blogging and what was your first review?
    • Who/what inspired you to start blogging?
    • What is a blog-related goal you have?
    • What is the one thing you wish someone told you about blogging?
    • What is your biggest blog-related accomplishment?
    • What type of posts do you enjoy writing?
    • Where do you usually blog? What is your set-up like?
    • What was your last five star read?
    • What was your last one star read?
    • What are three words that make you pick up a book?
    • What is your Hogwarts house?
    • What is your favourite reading environment?
    • What advice would you give to new bloggers?
    Looking forward to reading your answers girls! If you have done the tag before, feel free to leave a link to it in the comments – I’d love to have a nosy.

    Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!

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    books, ebooks, list, recommendations

    8 Of The Best 99p Kindle Bargains

    Writing this post has somehow just managed to cost me £6, because apparently I am incapable of compiling a list like this without buying every single book on it minus the two I already owned. It was even originally titled ’15 of the best Kindle ebook 99p bargains’ until I realised the trend and had to stop midway for the good of my bank account. I am the worst for rationalising my purchases by saying that they were only a couple of pounds so it is no big deal. But those few pounds add up when you spend them all the time.

    Whether you are going away on a relaxing beach holiday soon, or simply enjoy the amazing heatwave we are having at the moment, there’s no better time to stock up on some books for your kindle as when there are some crackers reduced to just 99p each. I definitely didn’t need any more books after just buying a box load of paperbacks in the two for £7 deal on Amazon, but I couldn’t help myself (and I’m telling myself I’ll be thankful of it when I have ‘nothing to read’, as if that ever really happens) (also see above paragraph on excessive spending).

    I have tried to keep the list as varied as possible so that there is something for just about everyone. There is the LGBT+ novel that everyone has been talking about lately by Becky Albertalli, as well as one of my favourite books of all time in The Secret Life of Bees. Shadow and Bone is one for all you Sarah J. Maas fans out there (me included now as I have just finished book 1 in ACOTAR), and the hilarious Sarah Millican offers a non fiction option if you like biographies. If you like more of a thrill, then maybe The Missing is more up your street, or The Cows if you are looking for something heartbreaking, yet somehow still witty and entertaining.

    Have you read any of these books already?

    THE COWS by Dawn O’Porter
    THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd
    THE MISSING by C. L. Taylor
    HOW TO BE CHAMPION by Sarah Millican 
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    books, currently reading, fashion

    Currently Reading #1 — Reading As Party Prep

    Some girls might fake tan the night before a big night out.

    Not me. I have spent last week either curled up in bed after a long day at work or surrounded by bubbles and delicious scents in the bath reading a very appropriate book in the lead up to last weekend.

    It was one of my best friends’ 21st birthdays last Friday, and on Saturday evening she had a party in a function room upstairs in one of the pubs in our home town. And of course, she couldn’t have just a regular party where all the girls wear normal pretty dresses and the boys dress semi-smart but look kinda just how they always look. No, she had to be extra and host a themed party. And the theme she chose was Gatsby. (That’s not a complaint in the slightest – it was SO much fun and great to see everyone really getting into it!)

    When she first started planning in months and months ago, I thought it would be so easy to get a dress and a couple of accessories and I would be good to go. Turns out getting a 1920s style dress in a high street store is not such an easy task, but I managed to find a really pretty coral fringe dress on Asos that did the trick. I wanted a dress that mostly fit the theme, but wasn’t so outrageous that I was only going to wear it the once and then it would be shoved to the back of the wardrobe, never to see the light of day again. My mum did say when it arrived in the post that she doesn’t know if many ladies in the roaring 20s wore short, strapless dresses and shoes like these, but oh well.

    Anyway, it was such a successful night and I felt quite pretty in my tassel get-up. My accessories never arrived in time which was so annoying (I mean, I had months to order them and waited till a few days before…) so I had to make do with some pearls wrapped round the top of my head, and old pearl bracelets I used to wear. Some people went really all out and had the most incredible outfits. Mind you, several vodkas in and I couldn’t care less what I looked like. And have you tried pink gin before? Delicious, but beware. Lethal. Tastes like juice. Slides across the taste buds with far too much ease to be legal. Results in extreme intoxication. (It’s all worth it though.)

    I then finished off my weekend by doing the Crohns & Colitis UK sponsored 10k walk in Edinburgh on Sunday morning EXTREMELY HUNGOVER. I would not recommend doing this in the sweltering heat up and down those Edinburgh city centre hills after leaving the house at 7:30am to make the long journey to the capital, after rolling into the house at 3am with sore legs and feet before the walk even starts from wearing the night before. We did manage to raise around £600 for a cause which is very dear to my heart though! So it was all worth it in the end.

    Hope you all had a good weekend too!

    (“Currently Reading” is a new feature on The Writing Finch where I ramble about a more personal topic sort of related to a book that I am reading at the moment, or that explains why I am reading the book, etc, but it isn’t a book review per se.)

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