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.

Spoiler Mini Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

SPOILER WARNING: As the title suggests this review is full of spoilers.

I have a like hate relationship with this book series. The ONLY reason I made it to the third book was because I love enemies to lovers relationships and I needed to know how Jude and Cardan ended.

So this mini review is going to be biased as I’m not really a fan.

But from a none fan’s perspective Cardan turning into a huge ass snake that death was the only escape from was…a very questionable choice for a finale.

I felt like the book fell into the trap of high drama but for me without properly engaging my emotions and building up to these moments it feels like I’m being flung from one dramatic moment to the next without any real meaning to them.

This has always been a pet peeve of mine so I’ll digress.

For those of you who need to know yes Cardan and Jude do end up together. He announces Jude is his wife when she falls from the ceiling after trying to save him from a suspected assassination attempt.

As far who is going to rule Faerie it looks like Jude still intends to give the throne to Oak but honestly it’s never really discussed or finalised.

Oh and the whole banishment thing was easily solved by how everyone suspected. Jude could pardon herself.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Your pain gives me power: Leigh Barudgo Signing Event in Leeds

I recently attended the Leigh Bardugo signing event in Leeds and as usual the trains were mayhem. So coming back included fleeing from one platform to another with 200 other people (who had all been stranded in Leeds for hours) because of a last minute platform alteration. And it being a Saturday Night in Leeds our journey home was filled with men and women chanting “where’s Gary gone?”

Who the f**k Gary is is anyone’s guess.

ANYWAY.

Leigh Bardugo is Queen.

She’s very funny in a self deprecating kind of way and I loved hearing her insights and stories. The event in Leeds was styled as purely an audience Q and A with a brief discussion on Ninth House.

Unfortunately for Leigh audience questions are not readers forte. There was a few dull questions and a few why do you even want to know that? questions.

Some cool facts I did learn was that Six of Crows was never meant to happen. King of Scars was always planned however and the sequel will probably be out in 2021. ALSO there should be a 3rd six of crows book in our future to finish the Grishaverse.

I also found out Kaz was supposed to be called Baz Brekker so I’m super grateful to Rainbow Rowell for taking that name because Baz Brekker just isn’t sexy.

Unfortunately for you guys I don’t remember all the Ninth House characters Starbucks order.

After the Q and A I asked to go to the front of the queue of the signing as all my trains were cancelled barring one that was in 40 minutes. The staff didn’t mess around and it was very much say hi, throw your books down and get moving.

For me I was longer because Leigh complimented my hair colour and we chatted about hair dye for 20 seconds.

Afterwards I ran back to the train station and bedlam ensued (as mentioned above).

But guys we did figure out who Gary was!

Some lady held up the train screaming for Gary after people had been chanting for an hour where’s Gary gone. Turned out he was just passed out on his own down the carriage and we finally got to see who he was when he stumbled off the carriage. This man had a whole carriage chanting his name for an hour and didn’t even react.

Then some girls started chanting Steve!

And you probably guessed it. A man started singing “who the f**k is Steve?”

10/10 would meet Leigh again.

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.

Angel Mage Book Tour: Book Review

Synopsis:

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara. 

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, a genius at making icons to summon angels, and supremely adept in forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath already knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighbouring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendents. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will become ashes, or they will turn into beastlings. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who fix her interest, for they are the key to her quest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. 

The four feel a strange, immediate kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. Only Liliath knows their secret, and she draws them in to her complex plot, just as she manipulates Queen Louisa and her musketeers; King Ferdinand and his guards; Cardinal Duplessis and her pursuivants; and the Refuser Night King Biscaray and his criminal gangs.
All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else.

And if that synopsis doesn’t have you hooked there might not be much else I can say to convince you to pick up Angel Mage.

Admittedly this book will not hold your hand. You are thrown right into a beautiful, vivid and established world with fully fleshed out characters, lands and histories that you are left scrambling slightly to catch up.

Liliath is one of the best female villains I have ever read and her chapters were definitely my favourite. We don’t often get to read books from a villains perspective and Liliath is a vicious, determined and captivating character that forced me to absorb page after page.

The other thing I loved about this book is the magic system. It’s unique and I think simple to follow whilst not being too rigid. There’s a handy little hierarchy in the beginning of the book too that helps you clarify which type of angels are more powerful compared to each other.

I highly recommend this book for people looking for a unique magic system, beautifully built fantasy world and love reading books from the villains POV.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Gollancz for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Spoiler Mini Review: Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

I hate endings.

I particularly hate bad endings. Bad endings have the ability to trash an entire series for me so picking up Darkdawn made me a little nervous. Nevernight is one of my all time favourite series. It’s basically me in a book and I’ve been eagerly anticipating and kind of dreading reading Darkdawn.

I finished it today…

And…

I didn’t hate it but I’m not in love either.

I’m not disappointed (maybe I kinda am) I just think Mia’s ending never really interested me as much as her life did. Plus if you don’t like Ash then a lot of the emotional impact is lost. For example I LOVED Chapter 35 because I hate Ash, but I can imagine a lot of other people were crying. Honestly Mr Kindly being told to piss off upset me more and Eclipse’s death was the worst.

Things I loved about Darkdawn:

Mia. She’s probably my favourite female character ever. Tric because he’s just the best, Mercurio and Eclipse. I also loved the story of the sun, the night, their son and the four daughters.

Things I didn’t like about Darkdawn:

The insertion of the books within themselves just felt messy. The constant inside jokes which I laughed at a few times but there must’ve been at least six character jokes about footnotes. It felt a bit like, dare I say it, fan service? There was definitely a few things that I felt were noticeable. Particularly Adonai suddenly getting a much larger role.

Ultimately I don’t like the ending cos I don’t need Mia and Ash together in the Afterlife. I was told Mia died and yes she’s technically dead but I don’t need plot twist of dead Mia coming back to dead Ash to live happily ever after. Forever.

Honestly I feel like Mia is so much more than Ash’s obsessive love and I just didn’t need it. She should’ve dropped her for Tric as far as I’m concerned. Imagine if Ash was a man telling Mia to stay with her and not do what’s right and acting like she’s the only one who cares about Mia? That’s controlling and I’m not into it. She wanted Mia to herself but Mia is a person not a thing to have.

The book also felt a bit too bloated I found my self skimming which I never did before. The final battle was probably about 30 pages too long in my view.

OVERALL I love Mia Coreve and HER story but it came too obvious to me the book kinda played up to fans and jokes that exist outside the books which I would not have minded but they began to become excessive.

My burning love for this series has unfortunately waned.

This was supposed to be a mini review so I’ll stop now.

Rating: 3/5 stars

“I didn’t go out and kill people. I just made it up” – Jay Kristoff, Darkdawn Event, London, 2019

Life Achievement Unlocked: Meet one of my favourite authors of all time.

Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with the Nevernight chronicles. The humour, the world, the cat familiar, this series speaks to my soul. My first awareness of Jay Kristoff was on twitter when he made a thread asking fellow authors what words should never be used in smut. If you can find it again it’s hilarious and definitely worth reading.

Several twitter interactions later I knew if Jay ever visited the UK I was going to do everything I could to go. Luckily I was linked to the tickets to the London event before it was announced so I didn’t have to stress about getting one.

The day of the event was a long day for me. I went to work at 6am, got the train at 2pm, got into London at 4pm and queued till we were let in at 7pm.

The first hour of the event was a talk with Samantha Shannon and it soon became apparent that I stalk Jay Kristoff way too much on social media as I knew most of the stories. Most particularly I knew the origin story of how Nevernight started from an argument about the c-bomb.

After the talk there was the questions which were a bit bizarre in some cases. One girl asked who he chose to bang in The Witcher game and one girl said she worked with bodies and wanted to know how he wrote death so accurately?

Next came the signing which started at 8pm and I finally got to meet Jay Kristoff at 10:30pm. The queuing for the event was stressful and long and one girl managed to get to the front of the queue twice and a few others tried to push in front and it was chaotic.

So I finally got to meet Jay Kristoff and..I was basically a zombie. I gave him three books and was trying to get two personalised instead of just the one. He nearly personalised the wrong one and I kept trying to explain if he could personalise the other two that would be great but I know he’s not supposed to so it was up to him.

Then the girl who was supposed to be organising the books said I was making things complicated.

I still remember this comment because it kinda ruined the whole moment for me. Like I don’t need criticism when I’m tired and nervous? I don’t know.

I then gave Jay my metalmarks or I might have done that before the confusing book stuff I’m not sure. He said they were cool anyway and would give the aurora rising one to Amie.

Finally I got a photo and made a joke about our height difference before leaving.

Overall this day was bitter sweet I got to meet Jay which was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was however contrasted with a very bad day due to completely unrelated and building mental health issues I had which meant I spent more of my day crying silently or to my boyfriend. You may wonder why I mention this but I think it’s important to be honest that it wasn’t all fangirling and excitement.

You can have good moments in the bad days too and I’ll remember the day I met Jay Kristoff for many reasons.