Virtual Book Festival 2019: Event 6 – An interview with book blogger Joanne Baird @portybelle #VirtBookFest #reading #writing

Hello, and welcome to event number six in the Virtual Book Festival. Today it’s a huge pleasure to welcome Joanne Baird to the festival. Joanne is a book blogger. She blogs about all things book related over at Portobello Book Blog which you can find here.

Book bloggers are the most amazing people. They give up their free time to write book reviews, to interview authors, to do cover reveals and book giveaways, and generally support writers and writing. And they do all this for love not money. Book bloggers rock! And Joanne is one of the best book bloggers out there. So I’m very excited to have her here today to do an festival event.

Hello, Joanne, I’d like to start by asking you, what got you into book blogging and how long have you been doing it?

I started blogging in April 2015. I have always read a lot and been a fast reader! Blogging was a way for me to chat about the books I’d been enjoying and to share recommendations with other book lovers. It was around that time that I really became aware of book blogs through some bookish Facebook groups I was in and I thought ‘I could do that!’. I didn’t really think that many people would read it and it started slowly with just a few views each time I posted. I was delighted! As I became more part of the blogging community and started reading and sharing other people’s posts, as well as making contacts within the publishing industry, more people started following the blog and visiting each day. I now have around 7500 followers over all the social media platforms and I find that just amazing!

Anne: Yes, amazing – but well deserved too.

How do you find/choose what to review?

As I am now lucky enough to be on lots of publishers’ mailing lists, I often get emails about forthcoming books asking if I’d be interested in reviewing them. Sometimes books arrive unexpectedly in the post which is always a delight. Sometimes an author will contact me directly to ask if I would like to read their book. I also get ideas from reading other bloggers’ reviews, from social media publishers’ posts, from newspaper book columns,  from whatever my book group is about to read and from friends. There’s never enough time in the day to read all the books I know that I would enjoy so I have to be strict with myself and sometimes say no. That’s not always easy when the books are so tempting! If I can’t manage to fit a book in but like the look of it, I can often offer the author or publisher a guest slot. So that might be an interview or an excerpt or a giveaway. It’s not a review, of course, but can help raise the profile of a book or author when the post is shared on social media.

Anne: There are only so many hours in the day. I don’t know how you don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books that come your way! I can see that sometimes you will have to say no – but I do like your alternative offer of posts that are interviews or extracts.

 What’s the best thing about doing a book blog?

Definitely the book community. I have met so many lovely people both online and in the real world (including yourself Anne) who I would never have met otherwise. I have found the bookish community to be so friendly and supportive. I’ve had the chance to meet up with bloggers and authors at book events in book shops, at festivals, at publishers’ events and at lunches, some of which I have organised. Some of these people I now consider good friends. Sometimes I have been a bit starstruck when meeting authors whose work I have loved but that quickly wears off when you get chatting and realise that authors are really just the same as everyone else!  And of course, getting the chance to read so many books ahead of publication is a huge privilege.

Anne: Haha! Yes, authors are just about human 🙂 And I totally agree the author/blogger community is awesome.

 What is your favourite type of read and do you stick mainly to reviewing that type of book?

I usually read mostly contemporary fiction, often with a romantic element or family based drama. I like books that make me smile and sometimes cry, with characters I feel I can understand or would like if I met in real life. I do enjoy some historical fiction too though it depends on the time periods. I also like some police procedural or thriller books but I don’t like my fiction too gritty or gory. The only kinds of books I don’t tend to read are fantasy, horror or sci-fi. Other than that, I’ll give most things a try.

Anne: Yes, I sort of knew what your answer would be to that one. I know we share the same taste – to my cost – or rather to my book-buying budget’s cost. I can never resist the book recommendations you make – I just know I’ll love them 🙂

 Apart from posting book reviews on your blog, what other types of post do you like to include?

My favourite type of guest post is probably my author in the spotlight feature. It’s basically a chance to be nosy and find out more about authors and their reading habits. My favourite question is the last one where I ask what fictional character an author would like to be and why. There’s been a huge variety of responses and reasons why!

Anne: Yes, the spotlight feature is great. I’ve enjoyed reading many of them. And I’ve enjoyed having you here at the festival too, Joanne. Thank you so much for agreeing to take part and for being in the spotlight yourself.

 

Joanne’s social media links

Blog address – here

Twitterhere

Instagramhere

Facebookhere

 

Joanne’s Bio: I can’t remember not being a reader and always have at least one book on the go. I started my blog, Portobello Book Blog, in April 2015 to share my love of the books I was reading and it’s been great fun. I’m a busy wife and mum to two lovely girls, an avid book reader of course, a nature watcher, a keen cook and baker, always on the go and I love living by the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour Part Two: Book Bloggers Rock! #bookreview #amreading

The blog tour for my new novel, Settlement, ended yesterday. I’ve never done a blog tour before so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But it proved to be a great experience. Yes, it was a bit nerve-wracking waiting to see what the bloggers’ thoughts were on the book, but I needn’t have worried – it all went well.

So I owe a huge thank you to all the book bloggers who took part out of the goodness of their hearts and to Kelly at Love Book Group Tours for organising it all.

And, as I did a few days ago when I posted a roundup of the first three stops on the tour (here), today I’m putting up the links to the rest.

Day 4: A lovely review on The Secret World of a Book Blogger site – here

Day 5: It was another extract from the beginning of the book was shared by Louise on her Bookmarks and Stages blog – here.

Day 6: Another fab review – this time from Kate on her Confessions of an Avid Reader blog – here.

Day 7: I had a guest post on Joanne’s blog – Portobello Book Blog – and Joanne even included a mini-review of what she thought of Settlement so far as she was still reading it at time of posting. You can see my post and her thoughts here.

Day 7: There was a second stop on day 7 at Sandra’s Beauty Balm blog. And with such a wonderful review from Sandra it was a great way to end the journey. You can read what she thought here.

And that’s it. So, once again, thank you to the bloggers, to Kelly, and to all the people who read the posts, and who commented on them and shared them on social media. I appreciate it all. And thanks to readers of this blog too who have also been supportive.

But before I go, I should answer the above mentioned Sandra’s question: Yes, there will be a third book in the Displacement/Settlement series. I’ve just started writing Fulfilment which will be the final part of the set. I will then leave these characters in peace and move on to something completely new.

Book Review: Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky by Jan Ruth

Midnight Sky

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

This a review of two novels, Midnight Sky and its sequel Palomino Sky.

In the first book we meet the two main protagonists of both novels. They are Laura Brown and James Morgan Jones. They are attracted to each other from the start. But the many differences between them and the fact they’ve both lived long enough to have their own complicated backstories mean that for most of the first book the reader is intrigued by the ‘will they/won’t they component of the story.

Palomino Sky 1

And although this question is resolved to some extent in book one, it’s by no means a finished story with all loose ends tied up. There’s lots more problems and dilemmas waiting for Laura and James in the second book.

As in the novel Silver Rain also by this author, the dramatic Welsh landscape features strongly, and, as in her novels Wild Water and Dark Water,  (which I reviewed here) there is once again a strong supporting cast of interesting three-dimensional characters. The main settings of the various houses and of the stables are vividly drawn and easy for the reader to picture.

The issues of early childhood influences, fertility, failed relationships, bereavement and serious physical injury are all sensitively dealt with and form strong story lines throughout both novels.

In both books, there’s a lot at stake for Laura and James. And because they are such interesting and sympathetic characters, the reader is gripped. The second book is even more introspective and intense than the first. And while Laura seems to be doing all the compromising, there is no doubt just how much James loves her. As you read, you are rooting for both of them to overcome their demons and find happiness together.

This is, as always from Jan Ruth, grown-up, romance-plus type of fiction and the endings to both books are satisfying but in no way sickly.

Type of Read: I recommend reading them both back-to-back in a sort of box-set binge way, with lots of tea and cake to hand.

Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky are published by Celtic Connections and are available in paperback and as e-books.

Good Reads and Independent Booksellers

Two main reasons for this post: It’s  Independent Booksellers Week in the UK (20th to 27th June 2015) and I’ve only done one book review so far this year.

It’s not that I haven’t been reading. I’ve read more books than usual since January. I’ve just not made time to get the reviews done. Apart that is from my (ahem – modest cough) prize-winning review of JJ Marsh’s Cold Pressed which I posted here.

So now seems like a good moment to flag up the best of the rest of the books-read-so-far in 2015 and to ask that if you’re tempted to buy any of them, you perhaps consider going to your local independent bookshop and making your purchase there. Even if they don’t stock the book they’ll be able to get it in for you. Independent bookshops offer a real booky atmosphere and a personal touch and they need booklovers to use them. (Yes, I’ve included Amazon links but only so you can find out more about the books before you go out and buy them 🙂 )

I should also mention that my two local bookshops have just agreed to stock my novels and I appreciate their support very much. Let’s hear it for Tippecanoe and for Aros.

To keep it manageable I’m doing mainly brief reviews. The books are an eclectic mix, fiction of several genres, non-fiction, bestsellers and lesser-knowns, established and debut authors.

And so here they are – my five star reads for 2015 so far:

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Torn by Gilli Allan: A contemporary romance-plus novel – no gush or slush – believable, flawed, three-dimensional characters, vividly drawn setting and not one, but two expertly crafted will-they-won’t-theys. An evening or  bedtime curl-up read. [Accent Press]

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Get the Happiness Habit by Christine Webber: (only available as e-book so not one for the book shop) Self-help book on how to improve your emotional wellbeing. Easy to read, practical down-to-earth advice on how to improve your optimism levels and to recognise daily moments of happiness. Focuses on taking exercise, practising altruism, developing an inquiring mind, building resilience, maintaining a social network – in the real world as well as online, finding soul-feeding moments, for example through mindfulness or meditation or just going for a walk or listening to music, adopting a stoical view of life and taking time to care for ourselves. All sensible and doable. [Bloomsbury Reader]

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Us by David Nicholls: It’s David Nicholls so hey, I was expecting an entertaining read. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a contemporary story of midlife crisis and re-evaluation told in first person by husband and father Douglas. His marriage is failing and his relationship with his teenage son is fraught. The holiday he hopes may set things right doesn’t go to plan. This is a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, always brilliant story of a guy whose good intentions pave a chaotic path. [Hodder & Stoughton]

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: Contemporary thriller.  The story is told through the eyes of Rachel, Megan and Anna. Rachel is the girl on the train, commuting to work, fantasising about the people she sees from the train window, but then the fantasy becomes a much more challenging reality, a scary, tense and engrossing reality involving all three women. This is a gripping read – a definite page turner. great twists and storytelling. [Doubleday-Transworld]

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: I quickly followed up reading this book by reading its sequel The Rosie Effect. Both are great. Narrated by main character Professor Don Tillman, both books tell of life as experienced by Don, a brilliant geneticist looking for and failing at romantic love.  He also happens to have Asperger’s syndrome. His unique take on human relationships leads him to set up a project to find a wife. Against all odds it succeeds and the two books follow his finding Rosie and later marrying her. Both books are charming, witty, funny, highly original and are just sublime storytelling. [Penguin]

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: This book, published twenty years ago, is a writing manual – except it’s not. Oh sure it has lots of good advice for writers about facing the blank page, about getting started, persevering, getting support and getting published, but it’s also about so much more. It’s really a sort of wry look at life in a way – in that a lot of Lamott’s advice can be applied generally and not just ti the act of writing. It’s warm, instructive and wise.

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Killochries by Jim Carruth: This was a first for me. I’ve never read a verse-novella before. Carruth is a prize-winning Scottish poet. He was poet laureate of Glasgow last year. This slim wee volume is stunning – brief and beautiful. It tells a redemptive story of two men, distant relatives, both very different from one another. One an atheist poet, the other a bible quoting, stoical Christian. They are forced by circumstances to live together for a year on the older man’s somewhat bleak farm but as they do so they gain a mutual respect and a renewed perspective on life. [Freight Books]

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In the Shadow of the Hill by Helen Forbes: There’s an Ann Cleeves meets Ian Rankin and Kate Atkinson vibe going on here – fans of crime fiction will know what I mean by this.  This book is not just any old crime fiction, it’s Tartan Noir crime fiction, and it’s set in the Hebrides –  so before I even started reading this book it was already ticking important reading boxes for me. This is the author’s first novel and I can’t wait for the next one. It’s starts in Inverness on a slow burn and gradually picks up pace until after several clever, unforeseen twists it reaches its exciting conclusion on the island of Harris. The characters are believable and well fleshed out, especially the main character of DS Joe Galbraith who is both flawed and likeable. I definitely look forward to getting to know him as well as I know Jackson Brodie and John Rebus. [ThunderPoint Publishing]

Bella's Betrothal

Bella’s Betrothal by Anne Stenhouse: (only available as ebook) This is a historical romance and it’s set in Georgian Edinburgh. And with this novel I’d say we’re sort of in Jane Austen meets Bridget Jones territory. But as well as the history and the will-they-won’t-they romance, there’s also a mystery at the heart of this novel. It’s an enchanting story and the author gets the tension level just right. There’s a great cast of characters from Bella’s good friends and her lovely aunt and uncle to her horrid mama and menacing pursuer. Being an Edinburgh native, I loved all the references to places I know and was impressed by the author’s attention to the details of the city’s development as its New Town was being established. Best of all though was Bella herself. Bella is no wimp. She’s resilient and feisty in the face of scandal and suffering and in the face of a real threat to her personal safety. She makes informed choices and she does what’s right even when it puts her at risk.  [MuseitUp Publishing]

So there you have it. What’s your favourite read of 2015 so far? And which independent bookseller do you support? Please do reply below.

 

 

 

 

Book reports – Critical Review or Positive Recommendation?

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Image via Wikipedia

As regular readers of my blog will know, I regularly post about books I’ve read – and I plan to continue to do so throughout 2011. Indeed my first book post of the new year will follow immediately after this.

 But first, a clarification. 

Someone pointed out to me that I liked all the books I wrote about for the blog and that there were no ‘stinkers’ included in my reviews. That’s a fair and accurate point and it got me thinking.

Like everyone I find that some books I read – no matter how carefully chosen – just don’t appeal. I don’t love every book I pick up. In fact I’d say I’m quite difficult to please. That’s to say there are many books I couldn’t get into, the disappointing follow up novels by much loved authors, the badly-written and the downright lazy. The ones I want to throw across the room and wouldn’t want to inflict on the charity shop.

So, should I be posting about the dust-gatherers?

Answer – no. I’ll continue to read and review critically, but I’ll only post on the ones I’ve enjoyed – I want to share the good, the uplifting, the educational, the thought-provoking stuff – in the hope of enriching your own reading list here and there. But I wouldn’t want to damn any book – because good or bad – it’s all a matter of personal taste. However, please, don’t think that I just write gushing reviews indiscriminately about everything I’ve read. To make it to the blog, the book has to have impressed me. Many don’t make it because, in my opinion, they’re not worth any more of my valuable time or yours.

Right I hope that’s cleared that up. Bring on the next review…