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    How to write the perfect book review (by ignoring all the “rules”)

    photo-1527530527470-c55f85665e89.jpgSource: Unsplash

    I have seen quite a lot of blog posts recently detailing the “Seven Steps to Writing the Best Book Review Ever!!!” They tell you how to lay it all out and what should and shouldn’t be included, which sounds like a pretty good idea at first.

    But, the more of them I see and the more I think about it, they are really starting to get on my last nerve.

    Blogging is all about expressing yourself, right? So how can you do that when you have to abide by a specified set of rules?

    I don’t know how other people do it, but no extensive planning goes into any of my blog posts. I know roughly what I want to say, and so I sit down at my desk (or in my bed, more like) and start typing. Sometimes this means that it turns out as the biggest load of crap you would ever read in your life, but that is what editing as for. I am a big believer in just getting it all down and then sorting it after. I write all my essays and stories this way, and it has been working pretty well so far for me. I do a giant brain dump onto the page/screen, and then sort through it all to find what I was really trying to say in there. You don’t have to do it this way, of course, but this is the method that works for me.

    So how can I then work through a set of rules? That would be changing my writing process entirely.

    This is why I am here to tell you – in an equally unplanned ramble – that I don’t think there can or should be a step by step guide to writing a book review, or any kind of blog post. Sure, it might be helpful if you are starting out and need a helping hand. If using these guides works for you, then great! I don’t want to stop you or tell you you are wrong for doing so.

    What I am trying to say is that things like this feel to me like they are taking the creativity and spontaneity out of blogging, which is part and parcel of the fun. If I don’t want to list the five million places you can buy a book, then fine! If I want to say that I can’t decide whether or not I like a book, cool. If I do or don’t want to use some sort of star rating system, great.

    We all have our style of writing and our own process for getting our thoughts out there, which is why no two blogs are the same. It would be pretty boring if we were all regurgitating the same few things on every blog you clicked onto.

    I, for one, am going to continue abiding by own blog “rules” – and that is that there are none.

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    FEATURE | Are our book boyfriends giving us an unrealistic outlook on love?

    what makes a good book 1I have no shortage of so called “book boyfriends”.

    These are the boys – or men – that you read about in books and think ohhhh I’ll take three of those, please. They are ruggedly handsome, with messy hair and The Jaw (as my dad calls it – apparently the male lead in movies always have a prominent jaw line? I hate to admit it but I kind of see his point and it really does make me laugh).

    As someone who has been reading romance novels for a very long time now, starting off light and simple all those years ago with the classic Jacqueline Wilson novels and slowly progressing into the steamier alternatives of contemporary romance and the delightful fantasy romance of Sarah J. Maas, I am no stranger to this idea of the ~ultimate luuuurve story~.

    You know the one. There is either a ‘meet cute’ situation, or a hate-to-lovers epic story, or even a friends-to-lovers, but they all pan out the same way. They meet (or re-connect), get to know each other, their first impressions of each other were probably wrong, something comes along that derails it for a short time (an ex, a lie, a wrongful assumption) before they realise they are just right for each other and absolutely cannot live another day apart and off they prance into the sunset.

    So where is this in real life?

    The closest I get to a romantic story is a drunken snapchat from a boy with barely legible typing of words that I shall not even repeat.

    Where is my Rhysand, my Cardan, my Heathcliff, my Darcy, my Grey (lol), my big story? (Ok, maybe not Cardan. He’s a bit of a dick isn’t he. BUT, I haven’t read The Wicked King yet and I can’t wait to hate to love him more)

    I mean, I guess I am only twenty one years old. Maybe it just hasn’t come along yet. But I also think I am kidding myself on if I think it will ever be anything like I have read in any book.

    We have to remember that these men are fictional characters. As much as we really wish they did, they don’t exist in real life, and they never will.

    So are our book boyfriends giving us an unrealistic outlook on love?

    I would say they are. For years I have imagined this perfect love story that I am finally mature enough to know will never happen, but a girl can still dream, right?

    There lies the problem, though. I love reading them! I love pretending that this could happen to me or someone I know someday! I want to live in that fantasy world where men act like that! I want to end all my sentences in exclamation marks to express my pure and utter joy!

    (In fairness, if it happened in real life, I would probably be cringing and saying wondering if he was being serious.)

    But will I keep reading these books till the end of my days?

    Abso-freakin-lutely.

     

     

    Edit (14/1/19): Something occurred to me last night, after posting this blog post. I don’t know if it was something I read on Twitter and subconsciously took in as I scrolled mindlessly, but it popped into my head that this post isn’t the most inclusive. I think it is important to check ourselves and call ourselves out when we find ourselves wrongly missing out an important bracket, or there will be no real and positive change in the future. I talk about book boyfriends in this post, because that is how I see it in my head. But, this doesn’t apply to everyone reading this I am sure. I thought about going back through the post and changing the language to be inclusive of all sexual orientations, but decided that I wanted to write this instead after noticing my mistake. The feelings that I talk about throughout this post are universal, I’m sure, no matter whether it is your book boyfriends or book girlfriends that consume your thoughts. What’s important here is that we are all day-dreaming and enjoying reading and having our love/hate relationships with this fictional characters. Ok. That’s all. Make sure to check your writing too, and everything else you say online and in person.

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    feature, life, lifestyle, personal

    A 2018 Re-Cap

    photo-1482329833197-916d32bdae74Happy new year everyone! I know we all say it every year, but I really can’t believe 2018 has already been and gone. So much happened throughout the year, both for me personally and across the world, but at the same time, it also feels like it has absolutely flown in.

    2018 saw me start my fourth and final year at university. I definitely don’t feel ready to (hopefully) graduate in a few months time – I should still be that little fresh-faced eager first year who hasn’t a clue what is going on around me! My flatmate for the past three years also went off on her year abroad to Spain, so it has been a very different few months living with my school friend who took her place in the flat. I also started a new part-time job in September working behind the bar in my student Union, a job I absolutely adore. It is a surprising amount of fun working with only other students, serving students. Working nights doesn’t bother me in the slightest either, probably because I am a night owl anyway.

    My sister, her husband, and their three young children also visited in the summer. They live in America so it was an absolute delight to catch up with them properly and hear “Aunt Holly” coming out of their little mouths. At Easter, I spent two weeks on the east coast of Spain in a small town called Los Alcazares, which is the third time I have visited there now. I really love it there. It isn’t super busy, and everyone seems to know each other. Our favourite bar owner remembered us, and we would sit and drink the ridiculously large measures of gin into the small hours of the morning, chatting to the staff and the ex-pats who frequented it too.

    I also turned 21 just last week. I am officially an adult. To be honest, I was always kind of forgetting that I wasn’t already 21 because my friends’ birthdays are all earlier in the year so they have been that age for a little while. But still, it is pretty exciting, even if I do feel like I have to get my shit together now. And I can legally drink in America!! As if I haven’t been drinking in Scotland for years… Speaking of which, wow hangovers are a BITCH now that I am old.

    All in all, it was a pretty damn great year. There were many lows as well of course, many moments of self-doubt, lack of motivation, and generally feeling like shit. But, I am looking forward to 2019, and everything that it is set to bring. I hope to look at myself in the mirror and think, ‘actually, you’re not too bad.’ I hope to put in my best effort possible into my final semester, so I don’t come out the other end wishing I had done more, or tried just that little bit harder. I hope to graduate from university with a grade that I am proud of. I hope to plan what I am going to do next, which may include applying to study for my masters. I hope to do so some solo travelling, most likely to visit my best friend on her year abroad. I hope to be adventurous in the summer too, and maybe even work in that little part of Spain that I love so much. I hope to continue to write for fun, whether that is here on my blog, or articles for The National Student. I hope to read for fun, and not just because I have to attend a class on that book or topic.

    Here’s to all of us having another great year.

     

     

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    FEATURE | Is ARC reading a chore?

    is arc reading becoming a chore.jpgI’m sure every book blogger reading this post right now will be able to relate when I say getting an ARC of a really interesting book sent to you is one of the best perks of the job.

    Free books, you say? Yes please.

    When I first started my blog just before the summer, the idea of getting FREE books was incredible. Don’t get me wrong, it still is. I couldn’t wait for the first offer, waiting for it to just fall into my lap. Then, I got an email from a very obscure writer offering me a weird children’s fantasy book that made me physically cringe when I read the description and I thought I maybe had it all wrong.

    Fast forward a few months and I am now on a couple of different blogger/PR lists and regularly get sent emails that actually do fit with what I like to read, and I am receiving opportunities to receive free books left, right and centre. If I wanted to, as I am sure is the case with most book bloggers, I could probably manage to not actually buy any books again and still be kept going well into next year.

    And that right there is my issue. I often find myself getting a little bit overexcited and agreeing to all different blog tours and reviews and you name it, only to find that, actually, I don’t really have time to read all these books. As an English Literature student in their final year, I already have plenty to read without doubling the number of pages every week. The books I have been sent to review are piling up and are going to take me the rest of the year to catch up on, never mind all the ones I most likely agree to in the meantime. We forget that these free books are all fine and dandy, but we have to actually then find the time to read them.

    I am definitely what you call a ‘mood reader’, preferring to choose my next book to read purely by what I fancy picking up at the time. I already struggle to read my books for classes for this reason, absolutely hating having to read for a deadline, and reading because I have to instead of because I want to. Sticking to a strict date for book reviews is incredibly difficult when you have a busy life going on outside your blog, which is like a part time job in itself. I am in my fourth year of my degree and have two (paid) part-time jobs, as well as being the Arts editor of the student newspaper on campus, and also quite like to have a bit of downtime and occasionally – heaven forbid – a social life.

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    Learning Basic British Sign Language

     

     

    A little bit of a different kind of post today. For the last couple of weeks, I have been attending a Beginners British Sign Language course run by my university. The course is 20 lessons in length, with two-hour classes one night per week. BSL is something which I have wanted to learn for some time now, probably ever since I watched Switched at Birth and was fascinated by this language told completely in hand gestures and facial expressions.

    And then, during the summer when I was working in a local café before going back to uni, I served a deaf couple. They were very understanding, and didn’t expect us to know anything in the way of sign language at all. They wrote down what they wanted to ask us, and were able to make very simple signs and point at things to order. But, this encounter has really stuck with me ever since. All I could actually say to them that they could fully understand was ‘thanks’. That’s it. An entire language, and I can say thanks.

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    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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