A series where we ask reviewers what does it for them, and why. Writers/ readers – you do not want to miss this …
Random Things Through My Letterbox will be six years old in March 2017. I’ve been writing reviews of the books that I read for years. I started out as a reviewer for Waterstone’s Magazine (which no longer exists), I also reviewed for NewBooks Magazine and posted my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I noticed that more and more reviewers were starting blogs and I thought it would be a good place to keep all of my reviews together, and where I could shout about the books that I love.
Give a shout out to a blog-reviewer who deserves a bigger readership …
There are so many wonderful blogs out there. I’m not sure how many views they all get, I think most bloggers do it for the love of books, rather than to get ‘seen’.
However, there are three bloggers who I particularly love, their reviews are always spot-on and I’ve ordered many a book after reading their reviews:
Jackie Laws from Never Imitate (@followthehens) https://neverimitate.wordpress.com/
Leah Moyse from Reflections of a Reader (@LeahJMoyse) http://reflectionsofareader.blogspot.co.uk/
Janet Emson from From First Page to Last (@JanetEmson) https://fromfirstpagetolast.wordpress.com/
What books/ writer were your gateway drug into reading in this genre? Have your tastes changed over the years?
My tastes have changed considerably over the years, although I do have some old favourites who I doubt I’ll ever stop reading.
I’ve become more diverse with my reading, picking up and enjoying books that I would probably never have looked at many years ago. I’ve always loved a good crime story, and thrillers, dating back to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys when I was a child, and moving on to police series such as Peter Robinson and Peter James. I loved Patricia Cornwell too, but sadly, her books started to go off the boil for me.
In terms of literary fiction, the one book that changed my whole outlook about reading was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. My boss urged me to read it when it was first published in the UK. It was a book that I would have NEVER picked up. I loved it. I was totally absorbed by it, the story, the characters, the atmosphere. It taught me that I should never be scared to try something new!
Ebook or print? What are your views on the pricing of each?
I really appreciate how the rise of ebooks have benefitted both readers and authors, but I don’t read them myself.
One day, when my eyes are too poor to read print, and my sore wrists really do give up the ghost, I know that I will convert to ebooks, but for now, I’m determined to continue with print editions.
I’ve tried reading ebooks. I just can’t seem to lose myself in them. It just doesn’t feel right at all.
I have a passion for cover art, and for hardbacks. The physical book is my friend, full of memories. When I pass my bookshelves and glance over and spot the spine of a much loved book, I remember where I was when I read it, or who gave the book to me, and always, how it made me feel.
The debate regarding price is a difficult one. I get very frustrated when I hear readers say things like ‘oh, I would never pay more than £3 for a book.’ This is dreadful, this is the author’s living, their craft, their magic. People regularly shell out £3 for a cup of coffee, three times that to go to the cinema to see a film once, yet they consider £3 too much for a story that they can ‘live’ for days or weeks, that they can return to many times. It’s so sad, and an indicator of our throw-away, lets get everything for as little as possible society.
I realise that some people read lots of books, very quickly and that the cost adds up, but there are libraries, and most of them lend ebooks too. People don’t HAVE to purchase everything that they read, and borrowing from the library supports authors too.
I’m happy to spend up to £12 on a hardback and usually spend around £6 on a paperback, and whilst I receive loads of books, free of charge from publishers, I buy lots and lots too. Finished copies for myself, gifts for friends, treats for myself.
I’m not sure that ebooks should be that much cheaper than print books if I’m honest. There is still a whole lot of work behind them. The book still has to be written, and edited and formatted, there is still a cover design. The author has to be paid, the publisher has to make a profit.
For me, a cover is very important. There’s that old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, well lets be honest, everyone judges initially by that first glance. It’s human nature and nothing will change that.
If I’m in a bookshop and I spot a beautiful cover, I will pick up that book, and I will probably buy it. Yes I will read the blurb and the first page or so, but it’s the cover that gets me first.
There have been some amazing book covers recently, but I have to give a shout out to The Muse by Jessie Burton, published by Picador – that cover is stunning, it’s a work of art.
What draws you to an author that was previously unknown to you? (The blurb, the cover, the first page, word of mouth, or something else?)
I do love a debut! Again, if I’m browsing in a shop, it will be the cover, or maybe where the book is placed. If it is alongside an author I already know, on a display, then I’ll take a look.
All of the things that you mention will help me be drawn to an author, but as a blogger, it is probably word of mouth – from other bloggers and book lovers that would make me actually go and order the book, without actually seeing it.
The first page has drawn you in … what keeps you there till The End?
A story that keeps me engaged. I love beautiful writing, but I also need a plot that is interesting, with characters that are well drawn. If I start to skim read, or delay picking up the book, then something has gone wrong, for me, somewhere.
Do you finish every book you start?
No! I’ve never been one of those people who feel as though I have to finish every book that I start. Why on earth would I waste my precious reading time on a book that I’m not enjoying? I really don’t understand those people who struggle on until the very end. People say “I won’t let it beat me”, well, it’s not a war, it is supposed to be a pleasure.
There are no book police! Authors don’t know that you’ve given up on their book (unless you are spiteful enough to tell them!), they don’t need to know and I expect that they don’t want to know.
Years ago, I read one of RJ Ellory’s crime novels. A detective was at a murder scene and noticed that the victim’s book was laying on a table. He wondered if the victim had been enjoying the book and hoped that he had been because wouldn’t it be awful if you didn’t enjoy the very last book that you read?
That has stuck in my mind for years. If I’m struggling with a book, I ask myself; ‘what if this was the last book you will ever read?’ …..
Any trends in publishing that put you off/ you are happy to see continue?
Ahh, trends! I know that people get very annoyed by ‘Title Trends’, you know all the books with ‘Girl’ in the title, or ‘Sister’, or ‘Wife’. It really doesn’t bother me, if the book is good, then I don’t really care what it is called.
I’m not too keen on copy-cat publishing. There was a time when you couldn’t walk through Waterstone’s without falling over tables full of ‘Fifty Shades’ copies. EL James certainly did lots for erotic fiction, but they all looked the same. The same with vampires, after Twilight – the whole store was full of black covers, with red lettering.
Any plans to totally turn the tables and write a book of your own?
No. A big fat no. I have absolutely no imagination. I will leave that to those who already do it very well!
Thanks, Anne for your fascinating answers. To keep up to date with Anne’s work, here’s how …
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