Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Which Social Media Accounts Should You Make For Your Book Blog?


When it comes to social media and book blogging, I have been around the houses. And by "around the houses," I mean that I've tried and quit most platforms. I'm pretty sure that qualifies me to judge them harshly.

(I'm pretty sure that disqualifies you, actually.)

You're probably right. This will not be a fair trial.

Goodreads

Pros
  • This is a handy tool to have when it comes to wrap-ups, because it keeps track of what you're reading and when.
  • Book reviews typically receive more attention on Goodreads than they do on your actual blog.
  • You can join clubs, which allows you to connect with other bloggers.
Cons
  • What cons?
Verdict

An absolute must for book bloggers. If I could only have one social media platform, this would be it.

Facebook

Pros
  • Lets people you know in real life know when you've posted blog posts.
Cons
  • Lets people you know in real life know when you've posted blog posts.
Verdict

Full disclosure, I have never used this one for book blogging. I used it to run a society page at university, and I also have a personal account which hasn't seen a lot of use since I graduated. I do, however, have friends who use it for blogging. If you're not bothered about keeping your blog and your real life seperate, using Facebook is not going to hurt you, but if you like to hide, avoid it like the plague.

Twitter

Pros
  • The book community is booming on Twitter.
  • You can follow people who like lots of things, not just books, or you can go all in and turn yourself into a caricature of a bookworm. It's really up to you. There are some fabulous accounts where people have picked a hill and they will die on it. Try and stop them.
  • You can announce new blog posts. I think this may actually have increased my traffic. 
  • Events are often more active on Twitter than anywhere else. A lot more people post Inktober art on Twitter than Blogger. Trust me on that one.
  • You can follow @TheLibraryHaunter.

Cons 
  • Not all members of the above mentioned booming book community are very nice. I'm talking launching witch-hunts against authors and censoring books that haven't even come out yet based on one person's review. 
  • You can't schedule tweets. 

Verdict


I made a Twitter account on impulse and I had absolutely no idea what it was for or how to use it. My first tweet honestly read something like, "am I doing this right?" But now? I'm still not sure what it's for, but I love it. You can follow accounts for everything that you like all in one place!

Instagram

Pros
  • Pretty pictures.
  • If you're a good photographer, you have the potential to pick up a lot of followers.
  • Bookstagram events where you are given a daily prompt. These cannot be participated in anywhere else on the web.
  • Large, friendly community.
Cons
  • If you don't like photography, this is not for you.
  • Props can be expensive or time-consuming to make. 
  • Photos can be time-consuming to take.
Verdict
Do you take a lot of photos? Do you enjoy photography? Are you interested in improving your skills? If the answer to all three of those questions is no, do not get Instagram. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need it to be a "proper" book blogger. If you think you'd enjoy setting up photos, crafting (or buying) props, and trying to get the perfect shot, then that's great! You'll love Bookstagram. You don't have to be a professional photographer either. If you want to give it a try, do. You'll learn as you go, and the community is very friendly so you're bound to pick up valuable hints and tips along the way. If you don't fancy it or don't like it, you're allowed to give this one a pass. Really.

Pinterest  

Pros
  • Very visual.
  • Simple, easy to use layout.
  • Site takes steps to protect people from misinformation.
  • You can share links here.
  • You can use it to create mood-boards for stories.
  • Another place to share your book photography.
Cons
  • People have to log in to see what you've posted, meaning that a large portion of your readers could find themselves locked out of your Pinterest account.
  • Artists have criticised the site over people reposting their art without permission.
Verdict 

Definitely not essential, but people use it for different things. If it suits you, it suits you. Twitter can be used for all of the same things and it doesn't restrict your readers in the same way.

Tumblr 

Pros
  • There is a bookish community. Booklr.
  • Reblogs spread your content to people who would not otherwise see it.

Cons
  • The bookish community on Tumblr is not as active as the ones on Twitter and Instagram. 
  • People tend to like posts more often than they reblog them.
  • Tumblr has a reputation for being toxic for a reason. You see what I said about Twitter above? More of the same. Except with fans sending other fans death threats.
  • It takes a month for anything you post to show up in the tags, making it hard to gain likes, reblogs, and followers.
  • It's essentially another blogging platform. Would you have a Blogger and a Wordpress blog at the same time? I don't think so. 
Verdict

I honestly think you can live without this one. I love Tumblr, but I don't think it's useful for book blogging at all. 

I don't tend to think about blogging in terms of the numbers, so I really hope this was useful. If you need any help with social media, Evelina @ Avalinah's books has a number of New Bloggers 101 guides which cover social media. (I co-wrote the Goodreads one.)

Which social media platform do you think works best for book bloggers?

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Observations on Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7160173-agnes-grey
2/5

“If a woman is fair and amiable, she is praised for both qualities, but especially the former, by the bulk of mankind: if, on the other hand, she is disagreeable in person and character, her plainness is commonly inveighed against as her greatest crime, because, to common observers, it gives the greatest offence; while, if she is plain and good, provided she is a person of retired manners and secluded life, no one ever knows of her goodness, except her immediate connections.” - Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey

Like 50% of all Victorian heroines, Agnes Grey is a governess. The other 50% are, of course, orphans as well. In fairness to the era, if you wanted to write an active heroine she was going to have to be at least one of the two, or dead by the end of the novel. 

Like 100% of Victorian heroines, Agnes Grey is flawless.One time, she dropped a rock on a nest of birds. It was awesome. Joking aside, nothing Agnes does is ever seen as wrong by anyone except for her employers, who we are not meant to agree with, and she judges everyone around her with impunity. She's basically Esther Summerson with added religious moralising.

Curates were clearly the angst-ridden love interests of the Victorian era as Agnes' relationship with Mr Weston springs up because he is the only person in town who notices her. To be fair, this is in part because she's a governess and therefore invisible in this society, but she's also a bit of a misanthrope. Considering how few interactions they have, Agnes' infatuation for him comes across as a tad obsessive - "Nobody knew him as I knew him; nobody could appreciate him as I did; nobody could love him as I -- could, if I might: but there was the evil."

(Just a tad.)

Now I would like to turn away from Agnes herself and instead talk about her two eldest pupils, Rosalie and Matilda Murray. Rosalie is pretty, girly, flirty, and described as too vain, whilst Matilda is sporty, foul-mouthed, a bit of a tomboy, and described as not vain enough. You just can't win, can you? I previously wrote passionately about Rosalie (and a little bit about Matilda) in In Defence of Rosalie Murray, but I think it deserves a mention here too. Rosalie is vain, and catty, and shallow, but she ultimately marries the man her parents choose for her. In Victorian society, that was considered a daughter's duty. Yet Agnes looks down on her - and the novel punishes her - because she marries for money over love. Once she is miserable, her family turns to forcing Matilda into a complete personality change to make her an attractive prospect. Most notably, they ban her from the stables, taking away something she enjoys. I think, together, Rosalie and Matilda are a damning statement of what it was like to be an upper class woman in the Victorian era. 


How often do you find yourself rooting for the supporting characters over the heroine?

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Hacked (Batgirl Volume 3: Mindfields, writing by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, art by Babs Tarr, Rob Hayes, Eleonora Carlini, Moritat, and Ming Doyle)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28109909-batgirl-vol-3
2/5

I thought the purple suit was a Rebirth thing so, for context, this is set in the New 52 when Batman has amnesia, Commissioner Gordon is running around in a robotic batsuit, and Dick Grayson is off with Spyral. In other words, it takes place right at the end. The book contains two arcs and a stand-alone story (Batgirl: Endgame). If I could have rated them separately, I would have given the first arc two stars and the other stories three stars.

Let's start off with a positive. I liked a lot of the ideas in this book. For example, Fugue, the villain who can hack Barbara's mind. I think he's the perfect villain for this character - someone who can attack her memory and intellect, the two qualities she relies on the most. The writer also did a really good job of giving the scene where Fugue was in her head emotional depth. There's something uncomfortable about reading her memories as he's edited them, because we know that's not what happened, they feel inherently wrong. That said, the Fugue arc is the one that I would have given the lowest rating. The characterisation was seriously lacking. Barbara's personality seems to have been reduced to generic teen girl heroine.

Then there's the supporting cast. A problem present throughout the book is that they simply aren't given personalities. The two exceptions are Frankie, who's a regular character, and Stephanie, who was the catalyst for the plot in the first arc and got a little time to shine, dropping lines left and right. Everyone else was just there. I didn't know anything about Bluebird before I picked this up and I still couldn't tell you anything about her beyond the fact that she's good with tech. In the second arc, Vixen popped up. She has magical animal powers, which were only used in one panel. The really annoying thing is that I love team-up stories. This should have been right up my alley. But it wasn't.


 Team-ups vs solo adventures, which do you prefer?

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Single Issue Review (Young Justice 2019 #5, writing by Brian Michael Bendis, cover art by Patrick Gleason and Alejandro Sanchez, art by John Timms, Kris Anker, Evan Shaner, and Gabe Eltaeb)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45167618-young-justice-2019--5
Variant Cover
5/5

Tim: "Something feels very wrong." - Brian Michael Bendis, Young Justice

I'm supposed to be waiting for the volumes, but this comic made me so happy.

I've said this before, but Steph is my absolute favourite superhero. I'm definitely biased where she's concerned (case in point: have I read War Games Part One yet? No. But I have twice read through the section where she's Robin). Without giving anything specific away, I love that she seems to be getting some of her pre-flashpoint history back. The bits of Steph I've read in New 52 and Rebirth (and that's not a lot) aren't necessarily bad, but, next to the pre-flashpoint version, I do feel like there's a lot missing. This is the first time I've felt like I was reading the character I love in Rebirth.

The romance between Steph and Tim was absolutely adorable, although I question the wisdom of him telling Batman that he's going off to college, driving off in the wrong direction, and then making out with his girlfriend outside of Justice League headquarters. Batman's supposed to be the World's Greatest Detective, after all. Let's pretend for a moment that I don't question that title regularly. Tim trying to include Steph in the life he'd just rediscovered was sweet. Like, do I think he was lying? No. He was way too excited in the last panel about having seen her in his flashbacks for that. Do I think he was overstating her part in it? Definitely. I mean, he did describe it as "my" family before switching to "our". It's also a fair assumption for the character to make though: these are my friends, this is my girlfriend, they must at least like each other. It's not like he's working with a lot of information right now. I don't think Steph was ever an official member of the old Young Justice team (although I have only read volume one, so please correct me if I'm wrong), but I guess there's always the option that they're tweaking the past since this is technically a different universe. The Tim and Steph plotline spins out of some events in Detective Comics. I don't think it's too confusing if you haven't read it, but I've personally read enough odd issues here and there and heard enough on the grapevine to put it together, so take my opinion with a pinch of salt.

In terms of the Young Justice characters, this issue on its own didn't tell me anything about the new members (Amethyst, Jinny Hex, and Teen Lantern), but I loved Jinny's design and it's nice to have a second non-meta who isn't an archer. She seems fiesty. I think I like her. I don't particuarly like Teen Lantern's costume, but the bandanna is a nice touch. Plot-wise, I'm curious as to why Kon told Tim specifically to run during the scene with Opal, although it could just have been because he was stood closest to him so it worked better on the page.

I loved the art. The characters all look fantastic. Details-wise, the hair is great, and I also loved Zatanna's make-up.

I probably won't get hold of another issue before the first volume comes out, and I'm still reading the older series, but this issue has hyped me up for the new one. There were a couple of errors in the dialogue, but I don't have it in me to knock off a star because I can't say it affected my enjoyment of the comic. 


 I've never reviewed a single issue of a comic on the blog before. I tend to buy volumes (I think they're better value and they also keep better), so I can't promise that I'll do it a lot, but would this be something that people would be interested in seeing more of?

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

April Wrap-up


At this point, I'm ready to put this down as a slow blogging year.

News from the Reading Front

I read four books this month
I have a review for the last one scheduled for next month. Hooray! Progress!

News from the Writing Front

https://campnanowrimo.org/campers/midnight_dragon

I'm writing this post too early to tell, as I am going to be busy at the end of the month, but I doubt at this point that I will make it to 20,000 words of edits and rewrites. I am, however, happy with the progress that I have made this month. It might not be a huge amount, but I'm moving forward. For once, that feels like enough.

If you missed it this time round, Camp NaNoWriMo happens again in July. You can set your own target and change it up until the last week of the month, which makes it a much more flexible challenge than NaNoWriMo in November.  

How was your April?

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Broaden Your Bookish Horizons


Most of us have a good idea of what we like to read, whether that's YA fantasy or science fiction, comedic plays or nonsense poetry. There are people who read murder mysteries by the stack and people who curl up in bed with a romance novel every week. Readers who would follow Lucy Pevensie into Narnia, and readers who would rather donate their entire bookshelf. And, you know what? That's a good thing. It's great that you know what you like and you shouldn't let anyone tell you otherwise! That said, if we always stick to genres, writers, and series that we know are safe, we're bound to miss books that we'd love. 

I cannot believe I'm saying this, because I hate change with a passion, but sometimes it's - *shudders* - good to step out of your comfort zone.

(Keep going. You're not doing too badly.)

Different people read at different rates. Some people read one hundred books a year. Others read one a month. If you don't have a lot of time to read, you might be reluctant to inject some variety. After all, if you don't enjoy it, you've wasted your reading time. But if you've had a couple of one or two star reads in the genres you love, a palette cleanser might do you some good.

A good place to start might be borrowing a book off a friend or relative. Trust me, most of the darker manga I've read, I didn't pick out myself. Ditto most of the murder mysteries. Borrowing books costs nothing, and it gives you someone to discuss the story with. If you're not comfortable with borrowing books (because I know an awful lot of bookworms who flee at the very idea of lending books out), you could try your local library. Check out shelves you wouldn't normally and pick up the first book that sounds appealing. You just might find a new must-read writer. A new favourite fictional couple. A new type of hero to follow into hell.

How often do you step out of your bookish comfort zone? 

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Historical Fiction? On My Blog? (The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee)

 (SPOILER ALERT.)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36544848-the-gentleman-s-guide-to-vice-and-virtue4/5

"I have become the Grand Tour horror story, the cautionary tale for parents before they send their boys off to the continent." - Mackenzi Lee, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, page 499


I feel like I say this every other post, but, once again, I am late to the party on this one. 

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is supposed to follow Monty, Percy, and Felicity on their grand tour of the continent, but one hundred pages in Percy makes a questionable decision and the tour is promptly hijacked by an adventure novel.

 I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but I do love history, and a module I took at university gave the eighteenth century a special place in my heart. When Felicity mentioned Eliza Haywood's amatory novels, I almost hit the roof! The version I read had a section about the historical time period in the back, with lots of details about where Lee drew her inspiration for her characters. None of them are conventional for the time period. Monty is bisexual and strongly implied to have PTSD from domestic abuse. Percy is gay, biracial, and epileptic. Felicity is a woman who longs to study medicine. One thing I loved about this novel was that it didn't shy away from the context of the time period. Lee didn't rewrite history to suit her characters, she dropped them into the eighteenth century and asked how people would have responded to them. Despite it's handling of a number of contemporary societal issues, the book remains a lighthearted romantic comedy. 

I found the plot dragged a little for me once they went looking for the panacea. It didn't help that Percy was obviously not interested in it. Anyone could see that, but apparently not Monty. To be fair, his major flaw was selfishness. At least we got a complicated villain out of it in the form of Helena, who was, as all my favourite villains seem to be, driven by love. Not romantic love either.  

The romance was the type of will they/won't they drama that makes you want to throw the book across the room. And I say that with love. It's not that it's a slow-burn, given what happens early on, but there's a lot keeping the characters apart. Monty's mouth, for one. And two. And three. And - well, you get the picture. 


I suspect everybody reading this review has already read the novel, but if you haven't and you fancy a romp through historical Europe, this is the novel for you.

Read any historical fiction recently?