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!

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 ❤

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?

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!

Review of Our Dark Stars by Audrey Grey and Krystal Wade

Talia is a Starchaser.  Eldest sibling in an ailing dynasty her 18th birthday should be a time to celebrate, however, it marks her shift in adulthood and sovereign in waiting.  Her first task?  She must accept a betrothal to the cruel Cassius, a lesser match but from a planet rich with Ore.  Up until this time Talia has had a steadfast companion to share her dream, not a human but a “mock.” a humanoid droid named Ailat.  When Cassius forces her to chose between saving her family and saving her best friend, Talia makes the only choice she believes she can.  Her choice is far reaching and through a series of events Talia finds herself in an escape pod, floating into space.

100 years later, Will Perrault and his rag tag crew of misfits are on the hunt for salvage and after discovering Talia’s pod they suddenly discover that they are targets with some very high profile hunters on their tail. A lot has changed since that fateful night for Talia and the tables have turned completely as mock became master and human became slave.  As Talia awakes she cannot even begin to comprehend what has happened. As the truth of both the length of time Talia has been in stasis and the uprising of the mocks unfolds before her, Talia must fight to put right the wrongs of that terrible night.

Our Dark Stars is a gorgeous read, from the beautiful cover design to the words themselves.  Talia is a wonderful character, full of both strength and vulnerability, she is able to hold her own and put aside her fears and grief to put right her wrongs.  The chapters covering the fateful night 100 years prior are full of real heart pounding and also heartbreaking moments as Talia must choose between loyalty to her family and loyalty to her friend.  Will’s crew are a great bunch of characters, if you were a fan of the show Firefly you will find a lot to love with them as they bring humour to the darker sides of this story

Whilst I saw the reveal coming a mile off, it didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the moment, which was terrifying in the face of how Talia came to be in that position.  Our Dark Stars has some truly epic moments from space battles to strip clubs, but it is also a story about friendship, betrayal and redemption and how hope can be found in the most unlikely of places.

I really loved this book, I read it in 2 sittings and struggled to put it down.  It’s such an easy read, page after page just flow together – i’m glad the story was rounded off well but i’m also intrigued that there could be more of these characters story to come.


Review of Everless by Sara Holland

The estate of Everless is formidible in Sempera.  For Jules it is a symbol of what life was.  Both she and her father had been cast out several years before and now live in squalor in the village of Compton, struggling to survive.  In Sempera however there is a way to make money, it is terrible and dangerous and has brought her father close to death – blood iron.  Time distilled through bloodletting. An hour, day or even a year can be taken but clearly with a toll for those who rely on it to as a means to survive on only the most basic of means.  When an opportunity arises to gain work on the Everless estate, Jules sees an opportunity to lift her and her father out of debt, as long as she can remain unnoticed by the Gerling children, her childhood playmates.  However, the work being offered is preparing the estate for the upcoming wedding of her childhood beau Roan and the Queen of Sempera’s Ward, Ina; will Jules be able to stay away from her past?

As Jules becomes more embroiled in the wedding preparations she finds herself forging an unlikely friendship with Ina and stumbling down a path that reveals more about her past than she ever could have imagined and also a danger which shakes her to the very core.

Everless for me was a really enjoyable read.  When I read the first chapter, I had to eye roll massively as we start out with Jules, the young female protagonist out as a huntress in the forest, searching for food for survival, this was thankfully one of only a few tropes and it quickly found it’s own feet.  Despite the shaky start for me, Jules is an immensely likeable character.  She feels horribly wronged by the Gerlings and with good reason, she saved Roan’s life, but in one of Everless’s best kept secrets she was simply blamed for the burning down of her fathers forge on the estate and they had to flee.  Her father, once highly skilled, has now suffered so greatly by the giving of time through blood iron that he hangs on by barely a thread.  She shows immense bravery by wanting to attend the blood letters herself to pay the rent debt, but like so many things in the story her best intentions are always taken out of her hands.  Only just 17 and having been treated so badly in the past, she is incredibly trusting, despite outwardly projecting otherwise. I was surprised how easily she was able to forge friendships, however there is much to be said for solidarity.

Her inquisitiveness far outweighs her common sense though and despite many warnings she continues to follow a path of investigating her heritage born out by a strange ability to slow the passing of time when she is emotionally heightened.  The twists and revelations in relation to this are fantastic, there was so much I didn’t see coming and I really enjoyed the excursions out of the Everless Estate (perhaps a lovely map wouldn’t go amiss in book 2) which really helped prevent the story becoming stagnant in a single setting.

Everless was a huge page turner for me, I really love this kind of traditional fantasy and although there were a few points that didn’t really work for me (like why would she throw away a year blood iron into the lake a breath after saying she would search through the mud if she has lost one) for the majority I found the story to be utterly engaging with a huge amount of originality. I am looking forward to hopefully having some aspects of the story explored further in book 2 as the true story of Jules’s heritage for me was captivating.


Bookish Ramblings part 18: Happy New year and trials with Audiobooks

Wow it’s 2018 already and I’ve realised that I have not done a traditional bookish ramblings for a little while now, So here is a happy new year post, cunningly disguised in a ramble about audiobooks.

Before Christmas I decided to give Audible a go, I had a ton of children’s Christmas presents to wrap and I was a bit full to bursting with Christmas music (my usual go to wrapping background) so I decided to take up an Audible free trial.  I have a lot of time for the concept of audio books, earlier last year Mr Playground and myself were thinking of starting up an audio book business, given his skills, but it didn’t really amount to anything, sadly.  But during that process I realised that I had never actually listened to an audio book in totality.  So I chose “This Mortal Coil” by Emily Suvada as I had been utterly pulled in by it’s tag line of “There’s no DNA code for run like hell” when it formed part of some swag contained in a fairyloot box.  I went in with an open mind about it and had it merrily playing along in the background as I wrapped.  Trouble is that by completing another task at the same time I wasn’t giving the story my full attention so I was missing things and had to keep on pressing the “go back 30 seconds” button. The other thing that made my mind wander was the monotone of the narration – now, i’m not banishing the narrator; reading aloud for hours is a skilled process which needs to be measured, I get that.  Again however, I found myself distracted by the fact that I would have put a different inflection on the end of a sentence or pulled a completely different tone from the written words being spoken aloud.  I decided at that point that my stress at getting the gifts wrapped in time to go and see the new Star Wars may have been the problem, so I switched to listening in the car, which was pointless as I had to (obviously) concentrate on the road, so again I was missing important information, and when driving it was not cool to start hitting the back button, even with it’s handy car feature.

Throughout this tribulation, one thing that stood out for me though was that this was an awesome story, it was heart stopping in places and all I could think throughout was how much I wanted to actually read this as a book!

So with 6 hour of audio left, I decided to delete the app and cancel my audible subscription.  I went to Waterstones with my Christmas gift card and picked up a good old fashioned paper copy (with gorgeous formatting that I need to learn how to do.)  Why?  Because even with my 50/50 attention to the story I loved it and I knew I wanted to read it in my own voice.  I didn’t want to spoil the ending for myself so I did what I should have done hours of listening ago. 

It’s currently in my TBR pile and I’ll probably get to it in a few months but I’m ok with that, I feel that through my many distractions there was a large percentage of the story that didn’t sink in and that it will be like reading a brand new book when I get to it, and I still have no ending spoilers!

If you are an audio book lover please don’t feel affronted by this, Audio is fantastic medium for books, just not for me.  I am too easily distracted and I can’t just sit and listen to a book for hours without doing something else.  The only true relaxation and enjoyment of books I get is by sitting and reading either a paper or kindle version

I’m glad I’ve given it a go, but I’ll be sticking to paper from now on.  How about you?  Have you given audio books a go, do you rate them?  Do you have any tips on how to minimise distraction?

Bookish Rambings: Becoming Bookish, both a look back and a look forward.

So this is going to be a long one, sorry, but it’s best I get it all out now so I can move on.  I started typing this out last night after a few glasses of Prosecco and had initially titled it “2017 a Retrospective” but then I realised that there was a lot that went on for me in the book community last year which wasn’t so great and I didn’t want it to become a whiny meandering post.  Lets just say I started last year a large part of something which had been good, but had become something which took up the lions share of my time. It was also something I was doing entirely for free for the betterment of others which for the most part had become an utterly thankless task.  As a result I shut myself out of the Indie community; the saddest part is that out of the many that I have helped, I can guarantee that about 90% haven’t even realised i’m not around any more.

So, whiny stuff out of the way, how did I get to talking to you about this now?  I can say that it all started at Chapter.con in London in August.  Although I was only there for a small part of the conference, it had a huge impact on me.  At this point I had pretty much decided to jack it all in, but I had the opportunity of seeing a dear friend who had travelled over from the USA, and no matter what I was feeling about the book world I just wanted to spend time with my friend.  Chapter.con concluded with an awards ceremony, which I was humbled to have been nominated for in 2 categories.  One gave me the closure that I needed and one gave me a huge shock.  I had no idea that I had been nominated for best blog!  Through inspiring talks with others over the weekend and having this surprise nomination gave me a real sense of purpose to not only carry on with blogging, but to also completely change up the way I was doing things.

It’s fair to say that when I started blogging I actually had a very twisted view about what a book blog did.  Much of my blogging experience had come from facebook page blogs, which contained mainly promo for authors (which is of course amazing as it’s getting those names out there) but not always as much talk about books. Which is why for so long I didn’t really know what I was doing and followed suit. Whilst thinking of how to reinvent my blog I came across a term, which actually made me feel right at home.  I am “bookish.”  I realised that this is a platform for more than just promo and reviews, it’s away to communicate with other bookish people and people in general.

I love this term so much and it makes me feel both part of something bigger and also that it’s ok that I am now doing all this just by myself.  I love my bookstagram account, through which I have discovered a whole world of bookish merchandise (I’m currently drinking a tea blend from Bookish Teas) and have also rediscovered my love for actual paper books.  Fairyloot has also helped me on my way by meeting tons of great people through their associated groups.  I’m still struggling with Twitter, but hey, I can’t win them all!  I have retained a few friendships from my time doing other things last year, which I am grateful for.  It keeps my connection to not only them but also to the Indie community that I so nearly lost entirely. 

What will 2018 bring then?  Well, I’m happy to say that I’m still going to be doing this on my own.  I have never felt happier in the book community since my choices last August, i’m doing things in my own time, in my own way and in a way that also lets me spend time with my family.  I will be happily continuing with my bookstagram, my sister facebook page and I’m also pleased that I have just been accepted again by Netgalley!  Twitter, well……

The hard thing for me this year will be to try and bring balance to blogging both about Indie and Traditionally published books.  Being involved in one inevitably leaves the other behind.  I think for Indies, the challenge is going to be battling high “print on demand” costs for their paperbacks.  This is something that I really hope gets rectified soon as I have a feeling that I am not the only one who has moved away from reading from a screen.  Either way, I am going to ensure that I try and dedicate equal time to both and hope that I don’t alienate each audience by doing so.

I step in to 2018 full of hope for this blog and where it takes me, I would love to get to a point where my followers start to comment on my posts and I can connect with them more personally. But really, just knowing that people continue to read about me talking about books is plenty.  If you’re still reading, thank you for sticking with it and here’s to an amazing 2018 for us all!