Why I love negative reviews

Negative reviews are absolutely for the reader and no one else. This is a hill most people would happily die on.

I have seen many arguments about negative reviews in my years of blogging and it usually ends up coming down to who reviews are for and if authors should know about them.

It’s quite easy to start reviewing books and thinking the author needs to know your thoughts or how will they improve their writing next time, right?

Wrong.

Some authors hate any sort of criticism even if the rest of the review is glowing, some authors think anything under five star is crap and most can agree they don’t like to be tagged as they can’t respond/do anything about the criticism being offered.

After all the book is published now, they can’t go back and edit it.

This entire argument is nuanced and there’s been bad behaviour by both authors and readers alike so my advice is simply this: Don’t stop writing negative reviews, just stop making authors aware of them.

So while I enjoy negative reviews immensely I have learned that my reviews are for me and you and no one else.

My reasons for loving negative reviews are:

They are very often hilarious

Most of the reviews I read that genuinely make me laugh out loud are negative reviews. Nothing gets people inspired like a book they hated. I’ve genuinely laughed at negative reviews for books I thought were amazing. Just because I love something doesn’t mean I can’t see it’s flaws. A perfect example of this is Readwithcindy’s reviews on ACOTAR, which had me crying actual tears despite the fact I really like that series.

What you hate I might love

A review that says everything is amazing is great for the author but doesn’t really help me discern if I will like that book. I usually know better what I won’t like than what I will like. So if someone writes an essay-like rant on a book series that they felt had too much fan service, that tells me that I probably won’t enjoy the book either. As I hate when a book series ends up playing up to the fans and loses itself.

Negative reviews can inspire new readers

Negative reviews can have the opposite effect and inspire people to pick up a book rather than put it down. I am very much a “I would rather see for myself kind of person” and I am not usually put off by negative reviews unless they mention specific tropes or themes I don’t like. EVEN THEN I might read it for the hell of it.

I think negative reviews in general appeal to a certain type of reader. I myself don’t generally read reviews until after I have already read the book. I am usually just looking to see if anyone else has the same opinion as me.

How to Bookstagram: Your questions answered.

To be honest I don’t get a lot of questions about my bookstagram. I have a reasonably well-grown account and I’ve been lucky enough to use my account to grow my own small business. I wouldn’t say I am well-known within the bookish world by any means but I wanted to do a Q+A to share how I got started. So I did ask you guys for questions and some of you did respond so here goes:

How did you grow your bookstagram? Did you start off slow or did it gain quicker than expected?

Growing my bookstagram definitely started off slow. I started in August 2017 and I had 900 followers by January 2018. After that my followers started to shoot up when I was invited into a Bookstagram pod group. They are quite popular on bookstagram as a way of beating the algorithm. My account definitely benefited from having 10 people comment on my posts daily and it also helped me as I was commenting on their posts everyday.

Now I know that interaction is key to growing an account and you definitely need people to be engaging with your content just as much as you need to be taking the time to comment on other people’s posts.

The bookstagram group I joined was actually how I met one of my bookstagram besties Sammy! and still exists today.

How did you find your theme? And what inspired you to have it as it is now?

So I’ve always used a vintage paper background from my scrapbooking days as a backdrop in my photos. I discovered I was better at flat lays than any other kind of photo and using potpourri as a prop happened when I saw other people using dried flowers and I got confused.

These three basic elements have inspired nearly every photo I have done since. I have gone through many different phases on my bookstagram but I would say my potpourri art pictures have been some of my most popular posts.

I love using bright colours and colour matching so I stuck with the rainbow of potpourri for a long while until I decided to change it a few months ago.

I’ve always admired to the out of focus, creamy, simple yet sometimes extravagant posts I see on some of my favourite accounts and so I decided to use less rainbow potpourri and more natural looking elements. My inspiration for this was out of a desire to make my photographs simpler to take. The potpourri artwork was lovely but the clean up was horrendous and time consuming.

What are some ways to gain a loyal following?

I think a loyal following can be quite hard and I am not even sure I’ve managed it myself. I can go months without really engaging with my followers at all despite posting everyday and this doesn’t help to build relationships. I do see some people taking the time to post and comment on my stuff, and I have my book friends who will DM me but I am not nearly as engaged as I would like to be.

So I guess being someone who takes the time to reply, takes the time to go onto other people’s profiles, like their pictures, replies to stories and responds to DMs. That is how you will get a loyal following.

What do you think attracts others to your profile?

Haha I honestly wish I knew as I would definitely focus on that. I am just myself. I can be ranty and opinionated, or be sharing personal stuff, sometimes I’m posting a new design or I’m shouting about an amazing event I went to.

I guess that just clicks with some people.

Her Bookshelf Challenge: February 2020

I thought it would be fun to start a monthly bookshelf challenge focused on reading the books I actually have sat on my shelves than on new releases. So if you are looking to tackle your tbr take a look.

All challenges are bookish/pop culture/fandom related which you will probably enjoy if you have the same sense of humour as me.

I watched the first season: A book series you abandoned after the first book.

I’ve already started this as I read the first book in the Mistborn trilogy last January and now I’m reading the second book The Well of Ascension.

A nice murder that will cheer you up: Read a murder mystery novel

I’ve been meaning for ages to read my Deanna Raybourn book as I love her other series.

A court of definitely not ya and please shelve properly: A book that is often classed as YA but isn’t.

For me this will be The City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty which I often see in the young adult section.

I’m just here for the pretty cover: Read a book by an author you’ve never read despite owning lots of their books.

I am going to read a book by Mark Lawrence as I own 8 of his books despite never reading anything he’s ever written. My choice for this challenge is The Girl and the Stars.

Let me know if you are participating below and what books you would read for each challenge.

Blog post ideas for book bloggers who don’t have time to read a lot

This year I set myself the task of blogging once a week.

Simple right?

Well not quite because book blogging becomes difficult when you aren’t reading enough to make new content every week and it’s even more difficult when you haven’t been able to read much the past year.

So how do you talk about books when you don’t have time to read lots of books?

Here’s some ideas to get you started.

Opinion Pieces

I’m going to kick straight off with the controversial one but we all have opinions so why not share them? The book world is never short of drama that you can offer your perspective on as evidenced by my blog here, here and here.

How to guides

I don’t know about you but I usually search the Internet because I’m looking for a solution to a problem. For example right now I’m looking for any content I can find on how to be successful on my latest venture: Pinterest. Being able to offer helpful information will always make your blog valuable. This can be on photography, content writing, best cameras for booktube, how to edit videos, how to organise your blogging activities and so much more.

Book events

I have blogged about attending VoyagerCon, YALC, Jay Kristoff signing in London and seeing Leigh Bardugo. I love doing these posts as they act almost as diary entries whilst also giving people who didn’t attend an idea of what the event was like. For these posts I’ve found it’s particularly important to remember the authors answers to any questions and any anecdotes. This is the information that will set your blog post apart and I’m guilty of not remembering enough of what authors said later!

Lists

Lists makes content easily consumable and you can pretty much make lists for anything remotely bookish. I’ve done lists for my favourite covers and book haulsto name a few. You could do lists for anything; favourite reading spots, favourite bookish merch shops, most disappointing reads, most anticipated releases, favourite ways to procrastinate reading. Thinking about your blog posts in terms of ordered lists will really help you come up with new ideas.

And if all else fails..

Ask the audience

I do this a lot recently because it’s always good to know why people read your blog and what content makes people click.

Let me know your favourite blog posts to write that aren’t focused on reviews below.

Top ten favourite book covers in 2019

You aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but I can’t help it when books looks this good. I can honestly say I’ve bought four of the books in this list for the cover alone without having an idea what the book was about. I blame it on my designer background but I just really appreciate beautiful artwork and I can’t resist a gorgeous cover.

Here are my Top Ten Favourite books covers in 2019. Note: I haven’t put these in any order as it’s impossible to rank them!

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Deep light by Frances Hardinge

Synopsis: On the streets of the Island of Lady’s Crave live 14-year-old street urchins Hark and his best friend Jelt. They are scavengers: diving for relics of the gods, desperate for anything they can sell. But there is something dangerous in the deep waters of the undersea, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.

When the waves try to claim Jelt, Hark will do anything to save him. Even if it means compromising not just who Jelt is, but what he is . . .

I genuinely had no idea what this book was about until I copied and pasted the synopsis for this blog post. I got this beauty for Christmas with the gorgeous orange sprayed edges.

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Stormtide by Den Patrick

Synopsis: Book Two in stunning Scandinavia-inspired fantasy trilogy The Ashen Torment.

I’m deliberately NOT posting the synopsis for this book as it’s book two and we all know the synopsis for sequels spoils the crap out of the book before. I bought this book as I was attending VoyagerCon and was investing more in adult fantasy.

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The Binding by Bridget Collins

Synopsis: For a Bookbinder’s trade is like no other. In the house set deep in the marshes, Emmett learns the skills to make exquisitely beautiful volumes, every one as unique as the last and each holding a dark and peculiar secret: a person’s most unconscionable memories. And to Emmett, they whisper in the darkness. Then one day he discovers a book with his own name on it and is forced to choose between forgetting and the dreadful, tantalising promise of remembrance.

Conjuring a magic all of its own, The Binding is a richly imagined story of boundary-defying desire and prejudice wrapped in layers of enchantment, enigma and stunningly evoked detail. Peopled by fully-fledged characters that live and breathe from the book’s pages, it is a novel to fall in love with.

This book wasn’t on my radar at all until I started seeing other people’s copies arrive. I looked for the purple sprayed edged edition after the release and I couldn’t find it anywhere Later on I saw some on someone’s story so ending up reserving it from one Waterstones and getting it sent to my local Waterstones. If I had bothered to check my local Waterstones first I would have seen they had some in stock so I didn’t need to go through so much effort!

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Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

Synopsis: The third book in the Nevernight Chronicles

Again I am not posting the synopsis as it will totally ruin the Nevernight series for you. This book was without a doubt my most eagerly anticipated and brutally disappointing read of 2019. You can check out my full review on my blog. Still love the cover though.

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Descendent of the Crane by Joan He

Synopsis: Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own. Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

I got this beauty in an illumicrate box and I am so glad I did because I am weak for sprayed edges.

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The True Queen by Zen Cho

Synopsis:
The enchanted island of Janda Baik, in the Malay Archipelago, has long been home to witches. And Muna and her sister Sakti wake on its shores under a curse, which has quite stolen away their memories. Their only hope of salvation lies in distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal runs a controversial academy for female magicians. But the pair travel via the formidable Fairy Queen’s realm, where Sakti simply disappears.

To save her sister, Muna must learn to navigate Regency London’s high society and trick the English into believing she’s a magical prodigy. But when the Sorceress Royal’s friends become accidentally embroiled in a plot – involving the Fairy Queen’s contentious succession – Muna is drawn right in. She must also find Sakti, break their curse and somehow stay out of trouble. But if fairyland’s true queen does finally return, trouble may find her first . . .

I picked this book because the author was at YALC. Originally I thought this book was the sequel to The Sorcerer to the Crown so I convinced myself I didn’t need The True Queen because I didn’t have the first one. However my friend Emily and I decided to look on ebay for the Hardback of Sorcerer to the Crown and found it. So we took it as a sign to both buy The True Queen and Sorcerer to the Crown and get The True Queen signed.

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House of sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark

Synopsis: The third Empires of Dust novel

This book is a sequel so you know the drill by now. I bought this one for the same reasons as Stormtide. I was attending VoyagerCon and decided to buy the entire series after seeing this cover for the final book on Twitter. I was deliberating between paperback and hardback before my friend Sammy decided on hardback for me. I got them all signed at VoyagerCon and I can’t wait to read them.

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The Cerulean by Amy Ewing

Synopsis: Sera Lighthaven has always felt as if she didn’t quite belong among her people, the Cerulean, who live in the City Above the Sky. She is curious about everything–especially the planet that her City is magically tethered to–and can’t stop questioning things. Sera has always longed for the day when the tether will finally break and the Cerulean can move to a new planet.

But when Sera is chosen as the sacrifice to break the tether, she feels betrayed by everything in which she’d been taught to trust. In order to save her City, Sera must end her own life.

But something goes wrong, and Sera survives, ending up on the planet below in a country called Kaolin. Sera has heard tales about the dangerous humans who live here, and she quickly learns that these dangers were not just stories.

Meanwhile, back in the City, all is not what it seems, and the life of every Cerulean may be in danger if Sera is not able to find a way home.

I absolutely love everything about this cover and I didn’t know anything about the plot until now. Unfortunately it’s not a book I own..yet.

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Spin the dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Synopsis: Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

This book was very popular on bookstagram this year and yet somehow I still don’t own it.

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The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

Synopsis: The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

I really don’t know anything about this book I just stumbled across it when I researching this blog post. However it has witches in and I’ve always loved stories with witches.

Comment your favourite covers below ♥️

Here’s a pretty picture of a book I hated: A guide to bookstagram

I started bookstagram over two years ago and I feel like I’ve learnt enough to be able to help other newbies just starting out. Before you read my advice just remember there is no magical formula to growing your account. I do believe that who you are, what you read and what you offer your audience ultimately decides how your account grows and not necessarily your pictures themselves. That said hopefully this rather comprehensive guide will help you a little bit particularly in avoiding common mistakes that I myself made when I was just beginning.

Avoid spammy shoutout for shoutouts.

Controversial I know and I am very guilty of doing this myself in my early days on bookstagram. I’ve both followed new accounts I’ve seen in shout outs and unfollowed people for spamming there story on a regular basis. So my advice is to avoid shoutout for shoutout sessions/posts altogether and keep how many accounts your shouting out to a minimum. Honestly there’s nothing more annoying than loading and clicking through 40 shoutouts just to see that account finish with “I’ll catch up with the rest of the shoutouts tomorrow”.

Don’t get locked into a theme

I see people so many times saying they are bored of there theme and want to try someone new but are worried about losing followers? Unless you basically stop being a bookstagram changing your theme will not cause 100s of accounts to unfollow you. Experimentation is good and helps you grow. Your pictures will only get better. I’ve changed my theme a bunch of times and I’ve never noticed a mass exodus. If anything I think followers like seeing something new and also while I’m talking about themes…

Please don’t use theme dividers

Pointless pictures that fill up my feed is what theme dividers look like to me. Why people even feel the need for dividers in the first place is beyond me. Just change your theme.

Try not to interact with people just to get them to follow you

This includes following, liking all their pictures, commenting etc. If you are just doing it for follows you are going to be disappointed. I’ve totally done this myself when all I wanted was my account to grow and in the beginning it’s hard. Definitely engage with and follow accounts you like, like however many photos you want but don’t do it with the expectation you will get something in return.

Be yourself

I’m quite a ranty person and I’m not afraid to share my opinion. My bookstagram is entirely me and not a version of myself that people might find more acceptable. I’m sure there’s people who find me negative or opinionated etc. But in being myself I’ve found other people on bookstagram who are like me who I now consider friends. Don’t change yourself or your opinions (just to be clear I’m not saying being racist, homophobic or anything is okay cos duh that’s not). Didn’t like a book? Love an unpopular series? Share it.

Invest your time

I see people post once every few weeks and then complain that they don’t have a big account. Well you won’t because there’s thousands of bookstagram accounts and you need to be consistent. Unfortunately if you’re looking to grow your account going part time just won’t work. There’s very few accounts I have seen do this and they are hugely popular booktubers with 100k followers. Most of time you need to be posting at least once a day. You need to be liking posts, commenting and replying. Starting conversations and asking questions. Sharing things on your story. It’s a huge commitment and you need to spend your time everyday to grow your account.

Give people something to respond to

I will like every photo but I only comment when the caption gives me something that I can easily respond to. Ask questions, play games, do a vote. Try to be original and creative.

Find your unique selling point

Pretty pictures are fine but you need something that helps you stand out. Do you have lots of beautiful rare books? Do you love to give recommendations based on popular books? Do you get sent a lot of arcs? Do you have a pet hedgehog or a cute cat? Do you make book merch? Do you go to a lot of book events? Do you have a book buying problem or buy a lot of merch? Do you primarily read romance or fantasy or horror? Play to your strengths. Being known for anything on bookstagram will hugely when it comes to being recognised and growing your account.

Your pictures aren’t original.

Okay maybe they are but mostly they’ve been done before in some form or another. We are all taking thousands of pictures of books everyday. There’s going to be some crossover. I’m guilty of this and I’ve seen this a few times but getting mad at people for taking a picture similar as yours is never going to end well. If they are genuinely copying your every photo just block and move on. There’s nothing you can do at the end of the day and it won’t impact your account.

Use your stories

Honestly I love peoples stories most of the time. Particularly unboxing of book boxes I didn’t buy. I went on holiday recently and I was asked by someone to put my holiday snaps into a highlight. Stories let us see the person behind the account (if you don’t take photos with yourself in them) and I get a much better feel for your personality.

Don’t tag authors in negative reviews

I’ve done this, people still do it, and authors don’t like it. I was once in the awkward situation of being asked to review an authors e-book. I did and I gave it 3 stars and explained why I didn’t like it that much. I tagged her in the review like she requested and she went off to read what I had said. I didn’t hear what she thought but I wasn’t exactly nice in my review. I wouldn’t say this was strictly my fault but I’ve since learned in that situation the best thing to do is not review at all and definitely don’t tag.

Im going to stop this guide here before it gets too long but look out for Part 2 in the fire. I hope reading about my own experiences on bookstagram will help you with your own account.

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective (i.e mine) is no one seems to know who YA is actually for anymore.

I came across a thread recently of several authors lamenting the fact that some reviewers were reading their books and then giving lower ratings because of several YA aspects in the story. For example the MC was too immature. Reviewers have actually have gone as far to state that they would have loved the book if they were a teenager.

So why does this happen? Why are adults apparently reading books they find too immature and slamming them for being something a 12 year old would want to read?

I think the answer is simple.

It’s because they aren’t being marketed as if they are for teenagers.

Let me be frank, YA is a hot mess of a genre. Even the name Young Adults implies the books aren’t for teenagers. But technically YA is meant to be for anyone between the ages of 12 – 18. However when you have books like ACOTAR and Six of Crows sitting in the YA section things get confusing. A lot of people wouldn’t read ACOTAR at 12 and Six of Crows deals with adult themes like sex slavery and addiction.

Now inclusion of sex doesn’t automatically make a book not YA but that’s not the point I’m making.

My issue is that YA books today are heavily marketed towards adults and you can tell this alone from the price tag.

What average 12 year old can afford special collectors editions that are about £20? Hell, you only have to turn up to YALC to see a serious lack of anyone under the age of 16 at a convention for YOUNG ADULT literature.

Clearly adults have more disposable income and while these books are written for teenagers they are sold to adults. I think it’s great that YA has great cross over appeal but the reason these debates start is people think adults are intruding on teenagers spaces despite the fact they were basically invited.

A perfect example of this is The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. Two book boxes are doing collectors editions of the entire series with new covers. One book box has always done a special edition. That’s three different sets of covers for books that is supposed to be for teenagers? I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on books until I had a full time job which only happened this year and I’m 26.

Also, young adults, like myself (I.e not a teen) see “young adult” as something they should enjoy. And I personally (without specific industry knowledge of the genre age range) spent a good year reading YA and wondering why it was too immature for me. I remember very clearly the only YA books I enjoyed immensely was ACOTAR and Nevernight. The two books that are commonly seen as YA that aren’t. Do you see the problem?

I would love for publishers to finally stop the YA marketing hype and make New Adult a thing. The introduction of New Adult would provide a space for older teens and actual young adults and stop books like Nevernight getting into the hands of an audience it was never meant for.

In the future I do think reviewers should consider the audience of the book when complaining about immaturity etc. But when said book has been put into the hands of adult readers, book bloggers and book tubers I can’t blame them for reading it thinking it was meant for a reader more their age.