Turning Tables – Gordon McGhie of Grab This Book

Turning Tables

A series where I ask the reviewers what does it for them, and why. profile-skull

Writers – you do not want to miss this …

When did you first get into blog-reviewing?

I set up Grab This Book in March 2014. I had just finished reading Natural Causes by James Oswald and I had really enjoyed it. I decided then that I would finally be more proactive in spreading the word about books that I felt people should read.

I set up a blog space and a Twitter account and rattled out a review (let’s just call it “raw”).

I immediately worried that James may see it so I did not do much more about it.  Over the next few days I did a couple of posts about why everyone should read Agatha Christie and also the upcoming World Book Night.  Very Low Key.

Eventually I plucked up courage to actually review a second book.  I picked James Herbert’s Ash.  It was terrible story which I had hated with a passion but the author was dead so the chance of negative feedback was low. I got a bit bolder by that point (and Ash remains the worst book I have ever reviewed).

It was not until June 2014 that I actually made a proper go of the blog and started to post regular reviews.

What’s the best thing about blog-reviewing?

Receiving a “thank you” message from an author if they liked my review of their book is hard to top.

Sometimes I will pluck up all my courage and contact authors to ask if they would like to take part in a feature on my blog. Every single time someone agrees and offers to help is both humbling and terrifying. I am in eternal gratitude to all my guests.

Give a shout out to a blog-reviewer who deserves a bigger readership …

Cor this was a tricky one. Most of the bloggers I regularly read seem to have a bigger readership than I do and I aspire to emulate THEM.

I do enjoy receiving random late night food related tweets from the lovely Emma at Emmathelittlebookworm.blogspot.co.uk (@emmamitchellfpr) and her reviews are pretty darned good too.

Ebook or print? What are your views on the pricing of each?

I love the story and care not how it reaches me. I have shelves of books, two e-readers and the Kindle and Kobo apps on my phone.  I will read on any format just so long as it means I get to read. Oh did I mention audio books?  I use them too.

Pricing is tricky.  I have no hard and fast rule over what I will pay for a physical copy of a book.  I really grudge £7 or £8 for an Ed McBain  book or an Agatha Christie novel as I know I can read these in a single sitting. But I would be happy to pay that price for a Terry Pratchett book as I will always read it several times over.

Last month I was in the US and I spotted a copy of my favourite book (IT by Stephen King).  It is a monster of a novel and clocks in at over 1000 pages but the paperback was $20 – that was too much to even consider paying. My hardback copy cost less than that.

On a digital book I am a bit more “Scottish” about it. If the physical book and the Kindle copy are broadly similar in price I will go for the physical copy every time, the digital copy should never cost more than the physical release.

How important is the cover? Give a shout out to the cover that has done it for you recently.

willow-walk-1I am not too bothered about the cover as it is the words behind it that I am interested in.  Jumping back to the US paperback edition of IT – I found that striking and it immediately became a favourite.  Closer to home I think my favourite while I have been blogging is Willow Walk by SJI (Susi) Holliday.

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 think I am more influenced by word of mouth now that I am trying to write reviews. I get to hear about so many books that I have to be realistic in what I can actually find time to read.  There are three bloggers that I can be convinced by (I shall not embarrass them by naming them) but if one of that trio tells me to read a certain book I generally do. Eventually.

Many moons ago I worked in a bookshop in Inverness (my first Saturday job as a kid).  One of the tasks they gave us kids was to dust down the books and polish the shelves.  As a fast reader I could scan the blurb on the books while I cleared and polished a shelf. I read so many book blurbs I knew exactly what I wanted to read next. My staff discount came in handy too.

The first page has drawn you in … what keeps you there till The End?

Blog tour deadlines! Ok seriously, I need a story to flow and hold my attention.  I am a skim reader and I always have half a dozen or more books on the go at one time.  If the story is slow, overly descriptive or self indulgent then I will be tempted to put it down and not pick it up again (and this is why I have never read The Lord of The Rings to the end).

I tend not to stray far from crime fiction so generally I stay to The End to see who the killer was or if the hero manages to catch the culprits.

Do you finish every book you start?

Nope. And short story collections never get finished, I cherry pick the ones that sound interesting but ignore the rest.

Earlier this year I got the chance to read a book for review and I was totally loving it. It was a serial killer thriller from an author I had not read before.  I got right to the end of the story and something happened which made me put the book down right there and then.  I had about 5 pages to go and I won’t finish it. Nor will I ever review it.

That’s the furthest into a book I have gone without seeing it out and I made a conscious decision to stop reading. Generally I just drift away from a story and eventually return the book to the bookshelf knowing I didn’t enjoy it enough to see it to the end.

Any trends in publishing that put you off/ you are happy to see continue?

Don’t tell me a book is “The New Gone Girl” or “The Next The Girl on the Train”.  It seemed for a while that EVERYTHING was the next Gone Girl.  I actually didn’t enjoy Gone Girl (not even a teeny bit) so to pass me a new book and compare it to something I wish that I had never read is not the best way to pitch a story.  The Girl on the Train was great though.

Give a book its own voice!

On the positive side, I am quite liking the trend of releasing some hardbacks with a £5 price tag.  I saw Nomad (James Swallow) and The Girl in Cabin 10 (Ruth Ware) in my local supermarket at £5 each. As I browsed the books (I always look to see if any of my friends have been quoted in the new releases) I saw two people picking up the £5 books and reading the blurb – they did not pick up any other books from the shelf. If the lower price will encourage people to browse and maybe pop a book into their shopping basket then is that not a good thing?

Any plans to totally turn the tables and write a book of your own?

Dozens of ideas, no talent.

During the recent Bloody Scotland festival I had dinner with an author, an editor and another blogger. Over dinner I got to hear about the process that goes on between the first draft being written and a book eventually going to print.  I don’t think I could cope with the edits!

Fantastic! Thanks for taking part, Gordon.

You can keep up with this dedicated reader at the following …

T – @grabthisbook

Blog – http://grabthisbook.net/

FB – https://www.facebook.com/gordon.mcghie.50?fref=ts


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