Me vs. Netgalley: The week ahead in REVIEWS

books

I have read a number of rants recently on people who are taking advantage of the system, accepting review requests or requesting books from Netgalley and not fulfilling their duties. All aforementioned authors and bloggers were just plain mad over the nerve of the average blogger when they took on a book and then a post appeared sometime later saying that life had popped up and stopped them from reading or reviewing. I have to admit they most definitely had a point.

In recent weeks our iPad, my laptop and phone all ceased to exist in quick succession. Our internet, as we live in the country (oh there’s a post coming on this one, believe me;)) started to only appear for minutes at a time, generally choosing a vital part of the day to cut me off from the world. My husband, who had been off work for some time with health issues, returned, taking HIS laptop with him then running programs by night so I couldn’t get near it. I lost a bit of my zest reading, blogging and writing-wise, have had kids wake up nightly, and also returned to writing (a good thing!). There is a chance that this period of time has had enough physical interruptions to justify my absence from my blog and indeed from the Netgalley books I took on, but actually I don’t really think so.

If I had a book on Netgalley I’m pretty sure seeing the requests appear for my book would get me very excited as to the buzz that was going to be created for my work, thus telling me that my (or my publisher’s) substantial fee was justified. I am telling you this as an author myself, one who got two thousand free downloads of her book which resulted in just two reviews on Amazon. So in the same breath that I’m telling you that not only am I back writing and motivated again on the creative front (the Wexford Literary festival led by the great Carmel Harrington and including authors such as Hazel Gaynor, Siobhan Davis and Catherine Ryan Howard and a refreshing Frankie Gaffney and Jax Miller and industry experts such as Margaret Madden and Mary McCauley was my tonic -yay!!), the breath that should be telling you I’m slowing down on the blogging front, I’m actually going to tell you instead that I am going to get going on clearing my Netgalley backlog and will review every book I ever requested. Because they’re worth it.

Do you ever struggle with commitments to reviewing?Does the word ‘tbr’ make you shudder? Let me know in the comments!

Blogger Interview: Sharon from Shaz’s book blog

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Firstly I am beyond honoured to have Sharon from Shaz’s Book Blog  here to talk to about her reading habits. As I have said before, before I started to blog, there were a handful of blogs that I read daily, and bloggers that I looked up to to see their opinion on given books. Sharon’s blog is contained in that elite armful, as well as being someone was lovely enough to give me some inspiring advice that helped get me started and so I am so  truly honoured to have her here today!

Hi Sharon, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Eeek. I hate these questions as am hopeless at selling myself. I’m a 40 something booklover who would eat, sleep, breathe books if I didn’t have to go out to work to pay the bills!

Can I ask, how did you start blogging?

It was actually a friend’s suggestion as a means to keep a track of books that I’d read as whilst on holiday I bought a book I thought I hadn’t read but as soon as I started reading I realised I had!!

Do you remember your first blog post?

It was an introduction to myself, most of which is part of the About Me page on the blog although wording has changed over time! My first review was for Bad Sisters by Rebecca Chance.

Your blog has a number of guest reviewers, can you tell me how that came about?

When I first started blogging, I was mainly reviewing books I’d bought myself or won but over time I was then offered books from publishers. I think the very first guest reviewer came about because I was sent a book that wasn’t really to my taste so I asked on Twitter whether anyone would be be interested in reviewing it for the blog.

As the blog got busier I started to receive a lot more email review requests from authors direct so, as these are the easiest review books to pass on, I asked for guest reviewers who’d be interested in reviewing and it’s gone on from there.

Do you ever scrabble for the same book to review or does everyone have different interests?

It has happened on occasions, especially between Emma and I as we have very similar tastes in books. If we’ve both been lucky enough to have been sent the same book, one normally reviews on the blog and the other reviews on Amazon.

Some questions to answer without thinking about it at all … and go!

* Genre of choice? At the moment psychological thrillers

* If you walked into a library would you know the section you were heading to or would you have to think about it? Normally when I go to the library it’s because I’m after a specific book so would know where I’m heading

* First choice: e-book or paperback? If you’d asked me this years ago it would have been paperback hands down but nowadays I tend to read more eBooks as running out of space for physical books!

* Do you head for well-known books/authors or look at for example covers to guide you? I do have a few authors who’s books I look out for every year but since blogging I love disovering new authors. I have been known to buy a book without reading the blurb just by looking at the cover!

* Do you prefer sequels or standalones? Standalones, I don’t mind reading books in series that are standalones but I’m too impatient to wait for books where the story continues in the next book!

* Weepies or comedies? Weepies

* If you didn’t like a book would you cut it short or soldier on? I do try and give each book a fair go but as I’ve been told recently life is too short to get hang up so if I cannot get into a book at the second attempt of reading then I do give up. Fortunately, it doesn’t happy that often.

* If I was to ask you to name one book that jumps into your head what would it be? It would have to be Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes, it’s a book I have bought for others and recommended numerous times. I was even a World Book Night giver for it a few years ago. I’m really looking forward to the movie later this year to see how true to the book it is.

And to finish, if you had to choose a book that jumped out at you in 2015 (not necessarily your favourite) what would it be? The New Woman by Charity Norman.

Well, thanks so much for agreeing to pop in today, Sharon, great answers, I really enjoyed hearing them and I’ve loved having you over!:)

Sharon can be found on:

Shaz’s Book Blog
Shaz’s Book Blog FB page
Shaz’s Book Blog Twitter

 

The Valentine-Free Zone: A Love Maybe eShort by Fiona Gibson

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Amazon UK

Amazon US

What they say: The Funny One: Part of the Love…Maybe ebook short story collection.

Jenny’s teenage son Cameron wants her out of their flat while he cooks a special Valentine supper for his girlfriend… so how on earth is she supposed to spend the most romantic night of the year?

A laugh-out-loud Valentine’s read, perfect for fans of ‘Outnumbered’ and Fern Britton.

***This is a short story, which you can also buy as part of the Love…Maybe Eshort Collection***

 

The Review: First off change ‘Jenny’ to ‘Sally’ and ‘Cameron’ to ‘Riley’ in the blurb above (wires crossed somehow)!!!! When I was looking up Valentine’s reads this jumped out at me after reading and adoring ‘As Good As It Gets‘ by Ms. Gibson, as well as while looking forward to ‘The Woman Who Upped And Left‘ by the same author (out soon and I can’t wait!).  Here we meet 39 year old Sally, a full time beauty therapist, who is with Michael, a man whose interests don’t quite mirror her own. Wandering around an art gallery on Valentine’s day, listening to Michael bemoan all things romantic, and thinking about her son Riley’s impending departure from the family home, Sally wonders if this is all there is  is to her life. Cue Valentine’s evening and Sally has been told to vacate the premises so Riley can have a Valentine’s night in. Michael is busy and Sally is at a loss. Enter a night out with some friends where a ‘Valentine’s free zone’ is declared and Sally begins to realise what life is all about.

There are books, or in this case short stories, that cause you to gush and exclaim and proclaim and then there are tales that don’t need it. This e-short, part of a larger collection that I’m sure to check out later in the year, is simple, easy going, cliched (in the best possible way) chick lit at it’s very best. We have an idea where it’s going and yet we want to head along on the journey anyway, and savour and enjoy. I sat down with it and then didn’t move until it was finished. There was romance, fun, misunderstandings … everything you want with a short such as this. Very much recommended and I’ll continue to watch for Fiona Gibson’s work.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor

the astonishingreturnofNorahWells

What They Say: One ordinary morning, Norah walked out of her house on Willoughby Street and never looked back. Six years later, she returns to the home she walked away from only to find another woman in her place. Fay held Norah’s family together after she disappeared, she shares a bed with Norah’s husband and Norah’s youngest daughter calls Fay ‘Mummy’.

Now that Norah has returned, everyone has questions. Where has she been? Why did she leave? And why is she back? As each member of the family tries to find the answers they each need, they must also face up to the most pressing question of all – what happens to The Mother Who Stayed when The Mother Who Left comes back?

From the author of What Milo Saw, comes this powerful, emotional and perceptive novel about what it takes to hold a family together and what you’re willing to sacrifice for the ones you love.

 

The Review: First off thanks to Netgalley and Sphere publishers for the copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Let me start the review by saying that when I tweeted first about this book I accidentally called it ‘The astonishing return of Virginia MacGregor.’ This was obviously a slip up on my part but actually, quite apt, as it WAS astonishing that the person who gave us such a gem as ‘What Milo Saw’ (click for review) should give us a second book that was so different and yet equally as unputdownable! Oh and just to add, if some of this review, rings bells with any of you, it’s because I reviewed this book as part of the Bout of Books readathon a while ago,

It is about two mums ‘The Mum who left’ (Norah )and The Mum who stayed (Fay). The Mum who stayed is credited as having kept everything together when the mum who left walked out six years ago, but now the mum who left is back.  The setting of ‘Astonishing Return of Norah Wells’ is 77 Willoughby Street, and we are transported there early on to meet the inhabitants, the husband, Adam, teenage daughter, Ella, and a child, Willa, who calls the mum who stayed ‘Mummy.’ The story is told from the viewpoint of the two mums, the husband and the two children, and looks at at the disruption and confusion caused by Norah’s return.

‘The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells’ makes us think about who the mother really is and thus started me thinking about for example the questions that arise as a result of surrogacy, adoption, fostering. Is a mother a mother because she gave birth to a baby or is it the person who raises the child? I loved that it wasn’t black and white, as life never is, and some of my prejudices towards one of the mothers were addressed, hence I learned something about both myself and my (sometimes biased) attitudes as a result of reading. Always a good thing.

I had a bit of a lull before the 50% mark, the pacing was a bit up and down for me but in general surprises were brilliant, and excellently done, and I would never have dreamed of putting it down. The telling of the story from an overseeing voice at times is magnificently done, I’m sure other authors, had they seen that it could have been done this way, could have tried to do it for the whole book, but I don’t think it would have worked, the different characters’ points of views put with this voice work gorgeously.

This book had it all, the tension, the surprises, I cried, I laughed, and at one point I laughed through tears, which a book has never caused me to do before. It was atmospheric, beautiful and had characters that were vivid and very, very real. The ending was unusual and unexpected, and I appreciated it. One thing to look out for is the relationship between little Willa and the dog, Louis. It’s a special one that will wow you.

This is one to put on the wishlist (unfortunately, at over £7 at time of posting this review, it’s a bit of an investment, though when you look at all the 99p books we buy without thinking, maybe some of these could be sacrificed?) Anyhoo, as I said before, hopefully this book will do really well and we’ll be seeing a lot more from Virginia MacGregor. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.75/5

Jenny in Neverland: Blogger Interview

jennyinneverland

Firstly I am so excited to have one of my blogging idols, Jenny from the bookish lifestyle blog, Jenny In Neverland here to talk to about her reading habits (just look at the pretty banner above: gorgeous!). Jenny’s is a blog that, from the start of my own blogging journey, I’ve consistently followed, actively seeking her out (I especially love sitting down to devour it on a Sunday morning). She is in my Top 5 bloggers as well as being one of the most popular bloggers in the circle I follow (note to self: must let you all know about the  bloggers I never ever miss posts from) and also helped me when I began blogging so you can imagine how happy I am to have her here today! Anyhoo, lets get going!

Hi Jenny, great to have you here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi Bernadette! Thank you so much for having me on your blog today! I’m Jenny (obviously), book and lifestyle blogger from just outside of London. I love reading, writing, cooking, Formula 1, Disney and animals. I also own my own online book touring business for authors. Ummm, I hate this question, it always makes me sound really boring haha! I love cleaning…

Can I ask, how did you start blogging?

I was actually searching for reviews of the book I’d just finished reading at the time (I still remember which book it was too, The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson) and I came across a book blog (Bookboodle). I didn’t know much about blogging at the time – any type of blogging – but I was in a pretty shitty place; mental health wise and I’d just quit my college course and my placement because it wasn’t going the way I’d planned. So I contacted her and asked her for some information and advice and she helped me set my blog up and you know what they say, the rest is history. I really do owe everything to Lindsay from Bookboodle because I’m 100% certain I wouldn’t be blogging if it wasn’t for her.

Do you remember your first blog post?

I do indeed! It was a book review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, one of my all-time favorite books. Looking back now, in all honesty, it wasn’t too bad for a very first post. It’s a lot less embarrassing than some of my others haha!

You made the move from book blogger to lifestyle blogger (albeit with so many glorious bookish elements to your blog that I still call it a book blog!), can you tell us how it came about?

You know what, I don’t really know. It’s not that my love of books was disappearing (that will never happen) I think it was because of review copies. I was getting so stressed out with all these books being sent to me and having to review them by a certain date that I was falling out of love with book blogging a bit. I very nearly almost quit blogging about books altogether but I’m so glad I didn’t. I still accept review copies now but only ones I’ve specifically requested. I no longer have a review requests form on my blog either because there were just so many coming through that it was overwhelming. From the beginning, I always wrote “other” posts as well – mostly about book related topics but not specifically book reviews and really enjoyed the freedom in writing about whatever I wanted and these “other” posts just became more and more over time that one day I looked at my blog and realized, “Actually, I’m a lifestyle blogger now”. But I’m really glad you still see me as a book blogger – books will always be the reason I started blogging and I’m hoping to blog about them more in 2016! Go back to basics.

Some questions to answer without thinking about it at all … and go! (Ooooh, I love these kind of questions!)

* Genre of choice? Young Adult

* If you walked into a library would you know where you were heading to or would you have to think about it? I’d probably have to think about it

* First choice: e-book or paperback? Paperback

* Do you head for well-known books/authors or look at for example covers to guide you? Erm, bit of both. I’m a sucker for a good cover though.

* Do you prefer sequels or standalones? Oh no. Erm, both. Depends. Some books don’t need sequels – they’re perfect just as they are with no further explanation of the characters or events. It just is what it is. Standalones.

* Weepies or comedies? Weepies. I love a book that makes me cry!

* If you didn’t like a book would you cut it short or soldier on? If I was reviewing it then soldier on but if not, cut it short. Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy.

* If I was to ask you to name one book that jumps into your head what would it be? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

And to finish, if you had to choose a book that jumped out at you in 2015 (not necessarily your favourite) what would it be?

Every Day by David Levithan. Very rarely do I read a book in less than 2 days but this one took me about 24 hours. It was one of the most beautifully told and unique books I’ve ever read.

Well, thanks so much for being here today, Jenny, it’s been amazing having you over:)

Jenny can be found at (and I defy you not to stay over there for some time;)):

Bout of Books 15 readathon (Come on, join in!)

the astonishingreturnofNorahWellsfriendslikethesethegreenhillsofhome

So to start off, where better to find out about the Bout of Books 15 than from the bout of books blog itself?!

They say: You were going to read that week anyway, right?  Read with us.

The Bout of Books Read-a-Thon was created by Amanda @ On a Book Bender on a complete whim in August 2011*. It took on a life of its own and was such a hit that Amanda decided to do it again and turn it into a somewhat regular occurrence.

  • Bout of Books is a week long read-a-thon, usually from 12:01am on a Monday through 11:59pm on a Sunday in whatever time zone you are in.
  • It is low pressure, meaning participants are only asked to push themselves to read more than they normally would during any given week. There is no competition between readers.
  • How much time a reader wants, and can commit, to read, tweet, or network with fellow bloggers is left to individual preference. All challenges and giveaways are optional.
  • Networking with fellow bloggers is actively encouraged, though never required.
  • Use Twitter to post updates throughout the read-a-thon. Everyone will be tweeting with the #boutofbooks hashtag.

So, anybody with me here?

They say as many or as little as you want, so I’m going to aim for three and if I get more read than that happy out and if I don’t I’ll just slink away in defeat(must get three read, must get three read!)!

It started up yesterday, Monday 4th Jan 2015, but entry is open until the end of Tues 5th Jan 2015.

Anyhoo, here’s my three and I’ll keep you updated daily to let you know how I’m doing.

My three books are The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor, (Available for preorder now, and thanks so much to the publisher for the advance copy, I cannot tell you how happy I was to get this after reading and adoring What Milo Saw) I started this last night and am hooked already!) Friends like these by Hannah Ellis, which looks like a nice, easygoing read and The Green Hills of Home (which is substantially shorter, a bit of a cheat you might say, especially given how much I adore Ms. Bennet’s writing, but as I said I’ll top up if I get the chance to!) Happy Reading!!

Berni:)

DAY 2!

Am nearly 50% into The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor, because it’s just that good. I was actually irritated with my husband last night that he wanted to spend quality time and watch a movie, I swear I would have finished it! So it’s about two mums ‘The Mum who left’ (Norah )and The Mum who stayed (Fay). The Mum who stayed kept everything together when the mum who left walked out six years ago but now the mum who left is back.  The story is told from the viewpoint of the two mums, the husband and the two children, one of who calls the mum who stayed ‘Mummy.’ By the way it sounds like I’m giving you spoilers but it’s pretty much all in the blurb. I have been on the edge of my seat numerous times, and can’t wait until tonight to get to the other half!!

 

DAY 3

It bothered me a little that I hadn’t mentioned yesterday that I had a bit of a lull before the 50% mark, the pacing was a bit up and down for me but am now up to 80% and the surprises have been brilliant, and excellently done. I’m really enjoying and still not sure as to how it’s going to end. The telling of the story from an overseeing voice at times is magnificently done, I’m sure other authors, had they seen that it could have been done this way, could have tried to do it for the whole book, but I don’t think it would have worked, the different characters points of views put with this voice work gorgeously.

DAY 4

Am finished and now cannot wait to write the review (and yes, I do realise this is a review of sorts!) This book had it all, the tension, the surprises, I cried, I laughed, and at one point I laughed through tears, which a book has never caused me to do before.

 

DAY 5

20% into ‘Friends like these’ and I’m really enjoying it. Is light and bubblegummy, perfect for the time of the week. It starts with Marie, in a pharmacy looking for a pregnancy test just weeks after she ‘caught her ex boyfriend in bed with some dumb blonde.’ There’s been few mix-ups and ‘oops’ moments so far and it’s flying along. The protagonist is a tad negative, but as you probably know by now I generally find it difficult to warm to a lead and instead empathize with their best friend, so at least I’m sticking to my normal reading pattern!;) Will keep you posted!

 

DAY 6

So in ‘Friends Like These’ Marie is losing her best friend who is moving to New York. She feels she has nobody else and as the story goes on we’re meeting more and more possible friends and boyfriends for her. There are some very funny scenarios, including Marie ending up in an Overeaters Anonymous type club which she actually thinks is speed dating and a ‘Hangover’ type morning after. I finished up at 58% (went to see the new Star Wars movie, which was AMAZING!)

DAY 7

Finished Friends Like These. It absolutely flew by. I beyond enjoyed it, though I found it hard to connect with Marie sometimes, and there were times I found that there was so many things happening, and this, coupled with the range of characters got a little bit confusing. A fun read, light, funny and fluffy. Review to come. I’d love to say I got into The Green Hills of Home then, but I actually started to write a new short story tonight so happy out:)

Conclusion: Obviously I didn’t even get to my quota of three books, but I enjoyed the week, in particular I liked that I had a definite plan in place, plus I loved reading reviews from other bloggers.

 

 

My Christmas Wrap up (and an extra little something for Christmas…)

Well, all that’s left is to give an overview of all the Christmas books on my blog. I have to say I enjoyed the books of the festive season so much, they really brought forward all the excitement and cheer of Christmas so that I got into the mood in early October! They were so diverse that I have a few favourites. Not only that, but there’s a few I have no doubt I’ll be recommending a few years on, they dragged me in and wouldn’t let me out of their warm, beautifully festive clutches! You’ll guess what they are from the reviews.

So here it goes. Obviously the list isn’t complete due to the demise of my right hand, my Kindle, but I’ve covered those that I would have gotten a chance to read had my one year old not been curious about the device he sees in my hand most days (read all about it and take a look at the books I had to leave behind here!) The reviews are linked in with the name of the books to make it easier for you. Enjoy and merry Christmas!

If you like them a little bit dark,  geeky … and brilliant The Art Of Christmas (a short story) by Jane Lovering is for you

the art of christmas

If you like them warm, beautiful and magical, with lashings of fairy dust and charm, then Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington is for you

everytimea bell

If you like them charming, funny and gorgeously festive, with romance and a nice hint of suspense, then Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence (a novella) by Holly Hepburn is for you.

Snowdrops

If you love a bit of a dash to the altar, coupled with warmth, beauty, festiveness and all in between then Snowed in For Her Wedding (a short story) by Emma Bennet is for you.

Snowed In For Christmas

If you like short, hilarious, mad cap ‘mom lit’ that’ll make you laugh out loud and while away the hours after the kids are gone to bed, then Survival of The Christmas Spirit by Aimee Horton (short story) is for you.

SurvivalOfTheChristmasSpirit

If you like them spooky, kooky and yet warm, christmassy and funny then Make A Christmas Wish by Julia Williams is for you.

make a christmas wish

If you like books with  beautiful characters, stunning Christmas scenes and gorgeous romance with some comedy in there too, then Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan is for you.

ChristmasEverAfter

If you like a warm, magical, festive ‘dreams can come true’ romantic comedy, then Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale is for you.

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses

If you like them to be all about family getting together at Christmas, with pandemonium and brightness and festiveness, tears and smiles, then An Endless Christmas (a novella) by Cynthia Ruachti is for you.

Anendlesschristmas

If you want to go on a Christmassy road trip, that’s bright, festive, and all about goodwill and cheer, with a reminder of the holy side of Christmas, then The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson is for you.

TheChristmasJoyRide

I’ll finish with All I Want for Christmas, a piece I’m very proud of as it was written by our Imagine, Write, Inspire writing group led by the amazing Carmel Harrington (I know, blatant self promotion here, but I honestly think you’ll enjoy!). So if you like one long festive, quirky romantic comedy, narrated by different people to give different parts of our lead character’s story, then All I Want for Christmas is for you!

alliwant