Bye Bye BEA

Just a quick post today to bid farewell to Armchair BEA.

I really enjoyed taking part in this, I just wish I’d have found out about it sooner… but next year I’m on it! I would have loved to have had more time to explore the topics more, but the fact that it’s exam time and I’ve been taking part in BEDM has left me quite succinct!

Hands down the best part about this conference was discovering some amazing new blogs, and hopefully some new like-minded friends. I’m slowly working my way through all of the participants’ blogs so I don’t miss anything (click here to browse through yourself).

Check out some of my BEA posts and leave some love 🙂

Introduction

Classics

Blogger Development

Genre

Keeping it real/Ethics/Non-fiction

I’ll be having a much-needed revision break from my blog over the next few days, but I still have some scheduled posts for you so hopefully you won’t miss me too much!

D x

Keeping it Real. Keeping it Right. Keeping it Factual.

Heyyy, I’m back for another Armchair BEA chat, and here’s what I’m going to touch on today:

Keeping it real – How do you keep your material fresh? How do you continue to keep blogging fun? How do you not only grow an audience, but how do you keep them coming back for more?

The main thing I do to ‘keep it real’ is to be 100% honest at all times. Sometimes it’s difficult… if you’ve been given something to review or you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings there’s a bit of pressure to avoid saying anything negative. I always make the effort to avoid this. Say I’ve read a book I didn’t enjoy, I’ll explain exactly why I didn’t like it, but I will also note a good point or two. (And usually I’ll remind everyone that this is just my opinion).

One thing I find fun is taking part in blogging challenges and memes HOWEVER they can also be quite stressful. It’s not unusual to get so sucked in and feel like you ‘have to’ post certain things. I’ve fallen into that trap before, both with memes and ‘blog series’ that I’ve started. Now I tend to avoid advertising my blogging intentions, so then if I don’t feel like doing something, there’s no guilt to deal with! I passionately believe that you should only write about the things that you enjoy.

If I’m honest, I don’t focus on finding new readers. I love it when new people start to read my blog and interact with me, but I don’t do anything special to attract them. The only thing I can think of that brings your audience back is keeping your integrity – keep writing about the things you enjoy, in the way that feels natural, on a regular basis.

Keeping it right – Ethics in the blogging world. Disclosure. Copyright and credit. Plagiarism. Succeeding without selling out.

Putting something on the internet puts you at the risk of plagiarism, no matter what steps you take… that’s just the way it is. You really only have control over the way you behave.

I am a die-hard linker. I link to memes. I link to challenges. I link to prompts. I link to things that inspire me. I link to posts I just enjoy. I do this for a number of reasons, for starters it’s the right thing to do! But I also like the idea of connecting my readers to things they might not have come across on their own, and promoting the things that I enjoy.

But nobody’s perfect, there’s one bad thing I always end up doing… If I upload images of book covers I always forget to link them to the source. I write posts and schedule them, and always intend going back to add in the boring bits (like links), but sometimes I just forget to do the images. But I’ll tell you now, they’re either extracted from my Kindle or borrowed from GoodReads. Sorry. I’ll work on that.

Keeping it factual – History, biography, current events, science–the Genre of the Day is Non-fiction! Do you read it?

When I first saw this topic my thought were along the lines of “Crap! I need to start reading non-fiction!”, but now that I think about it, I actually do.

This year I’ve read a bunch of memoirs (some have been disappointing, some have been amazing) – reviews pending over the next couple of weeks! I also have an obscene amount of cookery books, and my text books barely leave my side.

However, I think I would like to start reading more non-fiction. My two favourite subjects are History and Psychology, but ever since my A-Levels I’ve pretty much avoided them… maybe I could find a few more factual books to entertain me over the summer… any recommendations?

Hop over to this page to check out a few more great book bloggers!

D x

Talking Genre

As I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, this week I’m taking part in the Armchair BEA, an online conference for book bloggers. Each day the hosts give us a couple of topics to discuss, and as I’m a couple of days behind I’m going to mix and match.

Science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, romance…  Though often dismissed or ridiculed by the more “literary” minded, these novels often deal with complex themes and issues and some of the world’s most beloved authors write in these categories.

If you’re a reader of genre fiction do you have a favourite author or series? And what keeps bringing you back for more fantasy/sci-fi/horror etc? And if you don’t read one (or more) of these genres what is it that deters you from those sections of the bookstore?

Let’s face it, I’m all over the shop when it comes to reading… I like variety and I’ll give everything a go but I do have a few firm favourites. For starters, I love crime fiction (I love crime dramas too, but we’ll discuss THAT obsession another day). I’m quite picky though- I like my novels to be character drive… you can have the most ingeniously mysterious plot on God’s green Earth but if you don’t have a solid base of character it’s just a pointless read.

When I was younger my favourite genre was probably fantasy. I used to devour any books that even hinted at ghosts, witches and vampires. I’ve moved away from the supernatural in recent years, but that’s purely because I haven’t found any series to sink me teeth into (forgive the pun) – recommendations welcome!

Sci-fi is not a genre I’ve ever felt compelled to read. Don’t get me wrong, Star Trek and Quantum Leap were pillars of my childhood, I’m just not sure I’d get along with them in book form. And I don’t think I’ve ever read a horror. This wasn’t intentional… I have an extensive collection of Stephen King novels, I just haven’t got to them yet! Romance is an iffy area. Typically if a book is marketed as a romance I won’t enjoy, I just need a bit more substance HOWEVER most books do benefit from a hint of romance.

Literary Fiction: Are there any misconceptions or things that you’d like to clear up for people unfamiliar with literary fiction? What books have you read this year that would fit into this category? Is there anything coming up that you’re particularly excited about? What authors/novels would you recommend to someone new to the genre? 
Let’s start with my definition of ‘literary fiction’ because it’s a pretty vague term. As far as I’m concerned, literary fiction is
a) mainstream
b) non-canonical
and as such comprises the majority of books we come into contact with. It’s one of my pet hates when I’m trying to talk books with someone and they say ‘I don’t really like literary fiction’ because
a) that just sounds pretentious.
b) what do they read then, the dictionary?!
c) unless they’ve read every single piece of literary fiction they should button it, because it comprises SUCH a huge selection of books!
As time goes on I’m starting to read more and more books that I would class as literary fiction (mostly because I need a rest from those classics!) I’ve had a pretty good year for reading so far…
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Circus of Ghosts by Barbara Ewing
Are three that I’d definitely recommend to anyone and everyone who’ll listen to me!
Over the summer I’m also going to be taking part in the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club Challenge, so I’ll be reading a fair few more, stay tuned for upcoming reviews!
So tell me, what’s your favourite genre? Are you for or against literary fiction?
D x

Every Day in May

So here we are, the 31st of May, and it’s official… I’ve managed to Blog Every Day in May!

This is Rosalilium’s final blogging prompt of the month:

Hoorah! Well done, you have made it through the month. How was it for you? Did you learn anything? What did you enjoy? What did you dislike? Sum it all up!

I have to say that although it was challenging at times, I really enjoyed pushing myself to blog each day. More importantly, I enjoyed pushing myself towards different topics. I think since I started this blog that has been my main concern… the what. When I started out I was blogging exclusively about my studies, and in that first year I only blogged 30 times. I kept telling myself that my blog was about this, so I could only post that. What a huge mistake! Since branching out into different areas I’ve enjoyed writing so much more (plus, this year I’ve already posted 104 times!). Now, rather than viewing my blog as a chore, I see it as a playground.

In the past month, I’ve also discovered how much I love engaging with other bloggers. It’s strange that I’ve avoided that for the past couple of years… but I think I always worried that (this is going to sound lame) they’d be mean. I didn’t really consider myself a ‘real’ blogger. I was so, so wrong. I’m sure there are blogging demons out there, but my experience so far (particularly of the BEDM bloggers) has been entirely positive. I hope to stay in contact with the ladies I’ve ‘met’ over the past month… I really feel like I know them. I think in the coming months I’d really like to start collaborating with other bloggers more… I’m not even sure what with, but I’m available if anyone has any ideas… I like to have a project! I’ve also jumped straight into another blogging challenge – Armchair BEA, and hopefully I’ll manage to connect with some like-minded people…

I’ve started to embrace that the only way I’ll be able to develop this little corner of the internet is through trial and error. I experiment and if I don’t enjoy something I’ll stop, if I love it, I’ll think of ways to do it more. In the past I’ve tried having a more rigid blogging schedule and it just wasn’t fun. I want freedom here, not ‘work’. You can’t jump into this whole malarkey and be as great as the people who have been doing it for years… and if that’s what you expect then you’re going to end up so frustrated that you give up on blogging altogether. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to write for yourself and not the readers, because any writer has to have their readers in mind, but try to do what you enjoy, not what you think others expect from you.

If you stay with me and my blog over the coming weeks, months and years, I’m sure you’ll see a lot of changes. Some will be fab and some will make me cringe in hindsight, but hey, the same could be said about my hair.

I’m in no position to give anyone blogging advice, but how about you? If you had to offer a nugget of wisdom to a blogger what would it be?

D x

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The nineteenth-century novel

Today is the second to last day of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May challenge, and the topic of the day is all about inspiration. The obvious thing for me to do would be to talk about the artists that inspire me, but I’m considering a blog series along those lines, so instead I’m going to talk about my studies.

As you probably all know, I’m currently working on a Literature and Creative Writing degree with the Open University, and this year I’ve been studying AA316 (the nineteenth-century novel). Last summer when I was picking my courses I remember been torn between this one, ’20th century literature: texts and debates’ and ‘Shakespeare: text and performance’. What was the deciding factor, I hear you ask? Classics. I love ’em. I love reading books that take a bit of deciphering, that contain beautiful writing, not just an engaging plot. I love the total delusions of a lot of the characters. I love the quaintness of times gone by. I love the romance and the tragedy. Mostly, I love costume dramas.

One of the things that inspired me to do this module was sheer book envy. That feeling you get, when you’re convinced you should read something but just never seem to get to it… that’s what pushed me into the world of the nineteenth-century novel.

Working through my set books, I’ve come across some real gems. I’ve discovered some things I’ve LOVED and some things that are headed straight to the charity shop… even though I really did hate some of them, I’m glad I suffered through (because at least now I know A- who to avoid and B- that a lot of the time other people are WRONG).

So these are those infamous books I’ve had to read (linked to reviews) –

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

My first ever Austen… underwhelming at best.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A book I’ve read many a time before, and will undoubtedly read many a time again.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

The book that changed my mind about Dickens! Despite my love for all BBC adaptations, my torturous experience of reading Hard Times really put me off… but I absolutely LOVED this one. Enough to download the rest onto my Kindle (thank God for Project Gutenberg!)

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

I enjoyed studying passages from this novel more than actually reading it- there’s some truly stunning prose, but the dialects really bug me…

Middlemarch by George Eliot

In a word… long. Came from a snobby hypocrite, but an enjoyable read.

Germinal by Emile Zola

Enjoyed it waaaay more than I thought I would, could never be described as ‘nice’ but I’d recommend giving it a read… I’m currently trying to track down the rest in the series (not as easy as you’d think!)

Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

After a slight struggle with the first chapter I really got into this one only to be left a bit cold at the end, not one to read if you’re looking for a bit of action!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

DREADFUL.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Again, long. A lot of build-up for a kind of boring scandal… I guess times have changed…

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

A good classic to start off with… purely because it’s so short! I thought it was ok the first time I read it but have enjoyed it more and more as I’ve had to study it. An appreciation for symbolism is required for this one.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Enjoyable, if well-known, story. It’s just a shame about the insipid declarations, total chauvinism and two-dimensional characters.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Started to read and couldn’t get into it, then I realized I wasn’t going to get examined on this one so I’m leaving it for another time, and doing some revision instead!

I’ve definitely got a lot more classics on my ‘to read’ list that I’m hoping to get through…

So what do you think of classics? Do you read them because you enjoy them or because you just feel like you should? Do you just stay away altogether?

D x

Armchair BEA

The BEA (Book Expo America) Conference took place today in New York City, but for those of us who can’t make it there’s the Armchair BEA… which is exactly what it sounds like, a book/blog conference you can attend from the sofa!

Each day we’ll be given two themes to blog about, sounds like fun right? I’m a couple of days behind, but hopefully I’ll manage to get all my posts written by the time it all ends! And hey, who needs revision?

This post is a little introduction, so I’m going to answer a few of the set questions suggested by the ABEA team:

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I started my blog a couple of years ago with the intention of writing about getting my English degree via distance learning. The topic didn’t manage to keep me massively inspired, so I started to branch out a little. Now I focus mostly on my reading exploits and creative endeavours. It’s kind of haphazard, but I’ve grown to love my little corner of the internet…

2. Where in the world are you blogging from?

Nottingham, England, also known as the city obsessed with Robin Hood. People seem to conveniently forget that it was actually the bad guy that was from Nottingham… but now we actually have a street called Maid Marian Way, and bi-yearly Robin Hood festivals.

3. What are you currently reading?

I just finished Circus of Ghosts by Barbara Ewing (which was great), so currently I’m between projects… any recommendations?

4. What literary location would you most like to visit and why?

No brainer, Hogwarts! For the thousand obvious reasons.

5. If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?

Roald Dahl, because I think he’d have some really great stories… and I can’t think of a single book he’s written that I didn’t love!

So I’ll be back tomorrow with my next bookish post, stay tuned!

D x