Whilst laboriously checking through all the WordPress notifications that had accumulated in my absence, I came across one informing me that I have now clocked up a decade on this platform, most of which is due to this blog, est. 2011. Although it shouldn’t have, that milestone still came as a bit of a shock.
Plenty of things have changed in the preceding decade. My writing and my taste in books in a personal level, but also the blogger generation that I first started with, sadly few are still writing after all these years. I often wonder what the ones who left are up to, in my more melancholy moments.
My life has changed immensely thanks to this humble platform. Travels abroad, new friends met from all over the world – some face to face – introductions to many new books and different ways of experiencing life, forays into the book publishing scene, and those rectangular packages that sometimes arrive in the post. And of course, most recently meeting my wife Crissy and subsequent move abroad. Continue reading “WP 10th Anniversary”
Take That once sing that ‘everything changes but you’. Aside from the inaccuracy of that statement, I am choosing to agree with the inevitability of it, (as if it’s a choice) and making a few alterations accordingly.
After years with the old ‘Choco’ blog theme, it’s finally time to retire it and opt for something new. I kept the old theme purely because I like the snow effect that comes along near Christmas and white doesn’t show it up.
Having spent a lot of time making an effort to fiddle with the various templates and settings, it becomes apparent that a lot of the free templates are basically just the same thing. Still the illusion of a big selection isn’t to bothersome, when finally coming across one that can be tailored sufficiently to my needs. And is free, of course.
After a long, long wait thanks to shenanigans at the local Post Office, I finally have my hands on two new books, kindly sent by authors from England and The United States, respectively. If there is anything to get me back to blogging again, then these packages will certainly be the catalyst.
First off, South of the South Wind is a children’s book that I am very excited to read. Long time readers will know that I have been enchanted with the other books in the series and so this one is, for me a must read. At first glance the book has changed publisher and therefore style, it also smells really good. In the back, there are reviews for some of Nils-Johan’s other books and an excerpt of my review for West of the West Wind is in there, much to my excitement. This has shamelessly been shown off to anybody who came to our house in the last week.
Ocean Echoes came, most probably, the other way around the globe, making me the filling in a book sandwich. Fellow blogger Sheila Hurst sent this and I am now officially the furthest place her book has been sent to, beating both Serbia and the Maldives. The book smells differently, but equally good and the back cover tells the reader that: a percentage from the sale of this book will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect the world’s oceans for future generations. Once again showing how books can and do make a difference, and how independent authors seek to not only tell a good story (and make a bit of money), but also do their part in highlighting and helping with wider issues.
As book-lovers, most of us readers also love to review the books we read. Reviews not only help to record our experience of the book, but also help the reading community in deciding what books to read and why. But that is only as long as a book review is done right.
The first book I reviewed or rather attempted to review was Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. This was five years ago when I did not much know the technicalities. A reader who was a regular book reviewer then, commented saying,
“This isn’t a review.”
After so many years, when I stumbled past my review again, I know why she said so.
As reviewers, we have our own styles and there are certain things that need to remain consistent, as a rule of the thumb. Today, although I am a professional reviewer, there are things I learn every single day and…
A while back, I hinted at some good news that I had to share, and now that it has all been confirmed and no jinxes can put a stop to it, I can finally, and with certainty, reveal said news.
The wonderful folks at the Chinese arm of International publisher, Penguin Random House – you may have heard of them – recently reached out to me, concerning my review for Proust’s Days of Reading. Having first expressed an interest, they have since acquired the non-exclusive rights to the review, which I have been reworking into an introduction for the Chinese language version (translated by somebody else) of this entry into Penguin Great Ideas series.
It feels really good to be getting paid for something I love doing and with possible future jobs being hinted at it, there has been much raising of confidence and spirits (as its rainy season in Ph and we are experiencing our sixth straight day of almost constant rain). I have been working on this blog for years, and working is the right term as well, although it started out as just a hobby to simply chat with bookish folk around the world, it has become so much more than that. Partly, it is through my own drive to pick up more challenging books, to attempt to read into obscurer subjects, and widen my reading circle. More than that though, it is because of the standard of writers whom I come across daily and not only provide thought-provoking interaction but also source of inspiration as well as a standard with which to measure myself and keep me on my toes. This allows me to constantly add to my writing style with new techniques and perspectives, so thank you! My next iced Americano will emphatically be raised to you!
Do you ever read the cover of a book and see all those great quotes; then after reading, wonder what those people saw in the book that you didn’t?
Now I am not saying either of the above comments are engaging in logrolling (the art of individuals agreeing to promote each others work) but they certainly read a different book to that which I did.
My source for the below examples of blatant (and of course, it must be said alleged) logrolling is the proper journalism and satire magazine Private Eye (issue number 1460, the last issue I got my sticky mitts on before leaving home shores). It does go a long way to explaining how so many glowing reviews for average – or bad – novels come about.
David Krynaston selected Joining the Dots by Juliet Gardiner in The Guardian. The two share an agent in Georgia Garrett of Rogers, Coleridge & White.
Debut novelist Sally Rooney ‘loved’ The Idiot by fellow first-timer Elif Batuman, with whom she bonded when they were paired in a Foyles reading. A fortnight after the plug, Batuman was one of the judges who chose Rooney as Sunday Times/PDF young writer of the year.
Hollie McNish picked a book edited by Sabrina Mahfouz – not only are they pals on the spoken word circuit, but McNish and Mahfouz also write a play together.
Craig Raine, both a Faber poet and a former Faber poetry editor, chose Simon Armitage’s The Unaccompanied from Faber, and ‘another terrific Faber poet’ Matthew Francis as his sole TLS picks.
Little known Bojangles Books seems to have only published two titles, both by the investigative journalist Bob Woffinden. Both were picked out (and nothing else) in a Spectator contribution by Richard Ingrams. Ingrams’ book about another righter of judicial wrongs Ludovic Kennedy, (Ludovic and the Power of the Book) was by coincidence praised as ‘an important book’ in the Catholic Herald by…Bob Woffinden.
When you have to research the links between book and critic to get a clear picture of their affiliations, it doesn’t seem worth the effort, which is where we bloggers come in. Giving honest feedback with no agenda makes such reviewers much more compelling to read. I only read reviews on WordPress from my fellow bloggers these days, whose opinion I hold in high regard, and appreciate the fairness with which the subject matter is treated. Not only are the reviews thorough and engaging but when a book does catch my eye it remains in my mind due to the hard work and no compensation that being a reviewer brings. Keep up the good work of sharing the love of books and informing potential readers of what’s about. With Amazon’s new review restrictions squeezing the field for honest reviews even more, it would seem we could have a potentially bigger role to play with authors (and maybe publishers) in the future.