Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Bookish Ramblings part 23: Book mail is a go!

I have been very blessed with bookmail this week!  There are 2 indie authors who I am a huge fan of and I received goodies from both.  Firstly from M.A. Phipps!  I took part in a takeover she was hosting a little while ago and I was lucky enough to win a signed paperback copy of Ultraxenopia, which is book 1 in her Project W.A.R trilogy, what was even more awesome is that it has the new release cover from Seven Sisters Publishing.  As I am such a huge fan, I am also part of her Phipps Phanatics group on facebook.  If you are in this group and you have reviewed Ultraxenopia you can apply for exclusive trading cards - 2 will be available for each book in the trilogy and I have started off my collection with Wynter and Ezra!

The next bookmail was from the ever wonderful Jo Michaels.  At the end of last year Jo released Utterances, a NA Fantasy with one hell of a twist!  You can check out my review here. I was not only lucky enough to be part of her ARC team but I was also honoured to host a read along with my fellow advance readers.  Through being part of that team I was able to get my mits on an exclusive wrap bracelet which is beyond beautiful and as an extra special surprise I also received a signed paperback copy which I was blown away to receive, thank you so much Jo!

I think the only dampener on this week was the discovery that the great and powerful Zon has again shoved a wedge between authors and readers.  A couple of ramblings ago I spoke about a great facebook book release party I had attended, I was so excited as I won 3 ebooks from taking part in that and I was really looking forward to entering a new to me genre of Steampunk.  Sadly all the authors were only able to gift to me from amazon, who no longer allow US accounts to gift to UK accounts.  I invited the authors to redraw so others could get the chance, but this was a little sucky for me. I'm determined to find the time to give this genre a go though, and who knows maybe it will be another avenue for this blog to move into in the coming months!

Breaking news:  I have just been auto approved by a publisher on netgalley - I had no idea such a thing existed, I'm so happy!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Review of Protogenesis (Before the Beginning) by Alysia Helming

17 year old Helene Crawford is a California girl struggling to fit in with her peers, she lives with her mother and their hoard of cats.  After a day at school like any other, Helen comes home to chaos, her mother is missing presumed dead and in the space of just a few hours, she goes from school girl to running for her life - the only person Helene can go to is a Godfather she has never met or even heard of before.......who lives in Greece.  When Helene arrives she is swept up into a world of myths and legends whilst trying to find out what really happened to her mother and balancing that with rebuilding her life in a new Country.

There is a ton to love about Protogenesis and for the most part I didn't want to put it down. It's a fantastic adventure full of mysteries to be solved, hidden rooms, strange portals, Gods and Monsters.  There is a seamless science fiction element woven into the mythology which I really enjoyed. Helene is a difficult character to pin down though, at times I really enjoyed her snark and her willingness to boldly jump into all sorts of situations to help her in her quest. But she is also incredibly ditsy and I often struggled to reconcile the fact that she was so easily distracted from her task of finding her mother.  Granted, her search is hampered by her Godfathers insistence that she attend school but her all encompassing distraction by the "Greek boys and their eyes" gets a little tiresome and is one of my biggest pet peeves - what I did enjoy however is that the author herself has a little tongue in cheek dig at this, which was refreshing.  I enjoyed the school element however, it really drove the plot forward and I liked seeing Helene being able to open herself up in way she never could in her old school, it brought balance to her life and I found this more believable than a 17 year old being allowed to run amok in a strange country on her own.

I sometimes found it difficult to put an appropriate age bracket on this book and I'm mindful that I am not the target audience, in light of that I found it easy to forgive a lot of the angst and bratty elements but there was one paragraph that was filled with really bad language which was really out of tone and felt a bit forced.  

The start was shaky but once we got to Greece this book really comes into it's own, it gives you a nice little reminder of Greek mythology and I found the world building nicely paced with just enough information to really have you wanting more for the next book in the series.  Keep an eye out for Bestat, she is a bit of a scene stealer!  This is a really light and easy read which quickly pulls you in and despite the bits which weren't really for me (it's quite tropetastic in places) I found it actually quite a joy to read and it's a series that i will want to stick with!


Monday, 15 January 2018

Bookish ramblings part 22: I'd like my honest review with a little less honesty please.

I have been dabbling in twitter now for about a couple of months, I'm not finding it the greatest of mediums but it's one hell of a way to soak up time.  The other day something caught my eye, which had pretty much died down when I saw it and the offending account had been deleted.  The bulk of my understanding came from #authorsriseup where an "author" had campaigned against a blogger in response to a negative review on Goodreads.  I like Goodreads, it has a lot to love about it, however, I have always said that when it comes to reviews though it can be like a no holds barred playground for negativity.  As bloggers, we have have all seen it - authors offering an ARC in return for an honest review but then not really enjoying the honesty part of it if someone has something unflattering to say.

Of course there are ways of a reader saying they didn't like your book which are tactful and educational and there are ways which are, quite frankly, not.  I can imagine it was a review which fell into the latter category that prompted #authorsriseup to post.   I'm not sure what was to be achieved by it.  From the user name it appears that they were after some solidarity and for other authors to add their voice, unfortunately for them, bloggers banded together and the opposite happened.  If you put your book out there to the masses you're going to have to take the rough with the smooth, treat things as a learning experience and keep you head held high.  I know an author who printed out and framed both her first 1* and 5* review as a reminder that with good comes bad and visa versa.  At the end of the day attacking someone because they didn't enjoy something will achieve nothing, especially if they have parted with money for your book; they are under no obligation to write a good review.

Now the thing that did sting in the tail for me a little bit was when I was reading through the comments thread. One user said that they didn't trust reviewers that never posted a bad review and that reviewers should have balance. I have balance, I just choose to not publicly stamp all over someones dreams. I did find it concerning though that perhaps, to some, my reviews may not be taken seriously because I never "balance them out" with kicking people in the teeth.  I'm always 100% clear about my policy of only sharing reviews about the books I love, but perhaps to the casual observer that may not be clear.  I don't think that there is anything I can do about this, but I would hope that followers of this blog know what to expect from me and to not judge me on it.

I think it helps me that I don't sign up for every arc under the sun, I am careful about what I sign up for and have only just started venturing back out there with receiving books for the sole purpose of review.  I have to love the blurb, the genre, and the feel I get for it when I look at the cover, that way I have the best chance of being able to leave a good review.  Life is to short to read books that I am not going to enjoy and it's certainly too short to start a campaign against one person because something they said on the internet.  To any authors out there reading this, not everyone will love your book but to some readers out there it will rock their world, let those readers be your focus and who knows what will grow from it <3

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Bookish Ramblings Part 21: Finding a balance and a new route for reviews

As you know from my end of 2017 round up, one of things I have been struggling with is finding a balance between reading and reviewing Indie alongside Traditionally published. Towards the middle of last year I fell out of love with indie publishing, not because of the books but because the amount I was doing as part of the community had wrung me out.  I'm getting back out there now and whilst I am still sad at how easily I had been forgotten by many, it has given me a clean slate with building new relationships and solidifying those who have stayed with me.

A couple of days ago I took part in something that I had not done for a long time.  I took part in a facebook book release party.  For a long time I stopped attending these as I found they weren't engaging and facebook had become saturated with them.  This one though was a breath of fresh air!  There were a ton of readers in attendance, the authors were funny and engaging and their posts were fun!  I even made some new author friends out of it and plenty of connections insofar as content for this blog is concerned.  I felt part of the community again and it felt good.

Where is all this leading to you ask?  Well it's made me realise that there are still a ton of indie books out there that I want to read and the easiest way of finding a balance is to simply take it in turns.  I have decided that I will alternate between reading a traditionally published title and an Indie title, that way I am dedicating the same time to both, and helping this blog stay relevant in both book communities.  I am also going to try and feature an indie title at least once a week in my bookstagram photos although that is a collection I need to build on if i'm looking at getting some in paperback.

So how does this impact on reviews. Simples, you will see more indie reviews from me and i'm also going to cut down on publishing reviews on traditional titles for books that have been out for a long time (for instance I read City of Bones by Cassandra Claire last week but it's been out for 10 years so I doubt i'll have anything fresh or new to say about it!).  I am also reconsidering the way I write reviews but I that's still something I'm musing on.  One thing that won't change however, is that I will still only post reviews for books that I have really enjoyed.  I am still dedicated to not slamming peoples hard work and I will only post reviews that are 3* and over.

I have a couple of beta reads to do in the immediate future but I fully plan on starting this new system at the beginning of February so watch this space!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Bookish Ramblings part 20: Why I can never part with my Kindle

For those of you who have recently joined me you won't know that I had a bit of a renaissance with print books last year.  I had spent pretty much most of 2 years reading solidly indie titles on my kindle.  Since then I have pretty much left my kindle to gather dust in favour of print.

Recently though I have started to miss my old Kindle, not so much because of the reading experience it gives me as a device, (as I don't think I can move away from print entirely again now) but because of the world of books available to me on it.   My love of Indie writing hasn't gone away and e-readers remain the number one device to read Indie on. 

Why is this?  Digital is a cheaper medium, new authors can put out their work for 99p or even for free which is attractive to readers.  Readers are more likely to take a chance on a new to them author if they don't have to part with a lot of cash - I could go on about this, but it's not the point of this post.   In all honesty, digital is the indie playground and traditional publishers can't touch it.  Indies control their costs and can amend their pricing to reflect what they want, indies can pitch their book at 2.99 and still be competitive against their traditional counterparts.  Indies are also the lifeblood of Kindle Unlimited, I subscribe from time to time and it's basically an indie all you can read buffet. If you're after a traditionally published ebook on there though, you're likely out of luck. I'm not sure why this is.  Traditional publishers also just can't get the pricing right.  For instance at the moment you can by Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone for £5.99 for ebook but at £4 for print - which would you choose?  On the flip side the first book in my favourite indie paranormal series is £1.49 on kindle, but £11.23 for print - see what I mean?

Sadly the print on demand business model for indie published print books just can't be competitive.  They don't benefit from huge print runs to bring the cost down so as a reader you are paying for every single printed page.  For most standard sized books there isn't too great an increase (maybe £1 or £2) on what you would pay at a rrp retailer such as Waterstones, but for your 600 pagers it's likely to end up costing you more that a traditionally published hardback.  It's this business model that needs to be reformed, I would love to purchase more indie published print books (the ones I have, I have managed to get at signings or have been lucky enough to win) but sometimes the print cost on bigger books makes it a hard sell.  I would love to petition amazon about this, after all if they are printed via their own createspace service they get a portion of the profit.  Surely it's in their interests to make indie print books a bit cheaper? Print has seen a huge upsurge especially when you factor in the huge bookstagram community.  But it's likely that they wouldn't even give me a response.

So as long as I love indie I will also love my kindle.  It is accessible and allows those who may not want to be traditionally published to have a voice.  I have discovered some amazing authors and made some great friends through the indie world and all because of one little device <3

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Bookish Ramblings part 19: Banishing my January bookish blues

You might remember that last month I got myself so bookish goodies on order to arrive in January to make up for the fact that January is often a bit of a quiet month after the excesses of Christmas and New Year.  There is still one thing left to arrive but I don't think Book and Nook dispatch their boxes until later in the month.  The first thing to arrive, much earlier than expected was my new Funko Pop, which is Sarah and Worm from Labyrinth - it's my favourite scene of the film and by complete chance is was also on the TV the day it arrived!

Next were my beautiful goodies from Ink and Wonder, I got two of their trademark woodmarks.  "Purrmione" was a gift to Little Miss Playground as she reached the level of free reader at school, the school library is her oyster now!  The second features a quote from my favourite read of last year, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas. "To the stars that listen and the dreams that are answered" even reading that quote gives me shivers thinking about that glorious scene. Finally, and sticking with the ACOTAR theme, I ordered a beautiful map of Prythian.  I'm really happy with all of these, they are really high quality and considering they came from Australia the shipping was really fast and reasonably priced.

When I received my first fairyloot box, one of the items was a fruit tea from Bookish Teas and it tasted fabulous.  Sadly the tea I got was a fairyloot exclusive and i'm nearly out - wah!  But on their website they offered Mysteary Boxes for less than 16 Euros and with a 20% first order discount code this was an absolute steal.  I received 5 teas and some amazing bookish extras, considering their tea is normally 7 euros per bag this was amazing value (although I see that these boxes now contain 3 teas - which is still a bargain IMO).  The owners are fabulous, I let them know which fandoms I was into and I got a ton of Throne of Glass inspired teas and goodies as well as teas based on the lunar chronicles (I'm drinking Cinder at the moment - it smells lush as it's plum and cinnamon) and one of them almost tastes like my original fairyloot tea which is good enough for me!  I can't compliment this small business enough, they are so sweet, their teas are amazing and their boxes are packed with goodies. They are based in Germany but again shipping was reasonable as the teas are lightweight and the box arrived really quickly.  I'm definitely going to be buying from them again.

These lovely deliveries have already brightened up the beginning of January for me, be sure to keep an eye out on my bookstagram to see them being featured in posts!!

Have any of you treated yourself to anything (doesn't have to be books) to brighten up your new year?

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Bookish Ramblings presents: My most anticipated reads for 2018!

2018 promises a wealth of awesome new reads and I'm still utterly in love with my rebuilt relationship with traditional publishing and paperback books.  I still have a special place for my Indie roots though and there are just as many great books coming out from my Indie favs too!

Highest on my list is "A Court of Frost and Starlight" by Sarah J Maas, this is a novella set between the aftermath of ACOWAR and the new books focusing on the relationships outside of Feyre and Rhysand.  *****Spoilers***** This is pegged to be set during the rebuilding of Velaris after Hyburn's attack and whilst I'm hoping that for the most part this will be a light hearted retrospective from the characters, I'm also hoping that it will reveal Rhysands plan to actually not allow members of the Night Court access to Velaris in quite the way they hoped.  Sarah J Maas was my break out, new to me author of 2017 and I can't wait to soak up more of her work in 2018.

Next up is "Legendary" the follow up to Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  I have to say that I thought long and hard about adding this to my list.  Caraval was an awesome read, I loved the world and the creativity and how I found myself trying to solve all the riddles myself (yet always coming up short) and ultimately missing the important clues I needed.  But I found that Scarlett's easy distraction from her task by boys irksome.  Even with that though, Legendary is a book that I'm looking forward to reading, I loved the concept of Caraval, the beautifully woven world and the characters, if there is more of the same to come with Legendary then I'm going to be a very happy girl.

"Subject Zero" by M.A. Phipps is the conclusion to the Project W.A.R trilogy.  The books are now being published through Seven Sisters Publishing, the first book Ultraxenopia has been through a re-release already, With Type-X being re-released soon, both with gorgeous new covers.  I'm so excited to get to the conclusion of Wynter's story, she has been through so much already; going from normal a girl to a science experiment, to a weapon and to a rebel, it's hard to begin to fathom what she could be faced with next.  Details are few at the moment but given how much I love the first two books I just know I'm going to love it.

Deranged Angels and Cannibal Hearts, book 3 in the Dead things series by Martina McAtee.  This is such a gorgeous series with diverse characters and plenty of snark.  I have been lucky enough to get some sneak peeks of both the cover and some excerpts though her fan group on facebook, Martina's Deadlings.  If the teasers I have seen are anything to go by, I'll be dropping everything when this releases.

My final book that I am looking forward to is back to Sarah J Maas and her contribution to the DC Icons series.  Catwoman, Soulstealer has a back story I already know (I struggled last year with Leigh Bardugo's Wonderwoman as I didn't really know much about the character)  I can't wait for the direction that she takes with this as it's likely to be the most contemporary book she has written.

I was able to briefly chat with Lydia Sherrer as I was hopeful that another instalment of the Lily Singer Adventures might be on its way, she is super busy with projects at the moment so we may not see more from Lily herself in 2018 but I have my fingers crossed!