Wednesday 3 November 2010

Books and authors: book reviews, author reviews

Having just knocked over a pile of books (again) and as the collection spills out onto a communal landing, I've begun to realise that I own a few books more than the average person. I've begun to understand why friends mutter about opening a second hand bookshop or make clever comments about Sefton council not having closed all its libraries then ...

It's not my fault though: people keep writing books, people keep selling them - someone has to buy them, if only to oil the wheels of creativity and commerce. And many of them are from libraries, charity shops or (pause for revolting expression) pre-owned. Actually, I blame Amazon for making it too easy to grab a few novels; much like supermarket cakes which don't count in the diet if they're reduced, so Amazon's special offers lure you into a short session of comfort shopping. Before you know it there are nine paperbacks on the floor and a pile of squidgy plastic to mock your green credentials.

"That child always has his nose in a book." True, once upon a time, though I long ago graduated from Biggles. (I still remember him, Ginger and Algy doing dashing deeds in the war and then, as peacetime police, spotting reefer fields in Cornwall - spoilsports.) I've also realised that there are several activities that are vastly improved with a good book; bubble baths, television, lazing, pre-bedtime relaxing, travel. That's not to deny that there are activites where mixing with reading is a bad idea, as girlfriends and fellow footballers will testify. Vehemently. Painfully.

So then, I read voraciously and must feed the maw with ever new supplies. How do I find new books, new authors? Book reviews in newspapers tend to be over-literary and incestuous as "critics" praise each other's efforts. Book reviews on sellers' sites are a mixed bag, often surprisingly badly written: if you can't write a few grammatically-correct sentences, what does that say for the written work you're talking about?

I'm fortunate in having an independent bookstore nearby (Pritchard's, Crosby) but they can't stock everything and the assistants can't read everything to advise.

One favourite way of buying books is finding a good charity shop and whizzing along the racks, dodging little old ladies after Dick Francis and not making eye contact with other shoppers looking at garish green dresses. And they're usually men in cord trousers :) Grab a book, scan the blurb, read a few paragraphs at random, look at the cover review quotations. If the main comment is from the evening paper from a town of less than 20,000 population, put back on shelf and move on.

Even with these precautions though, success is sadly mixed. For every ripping yarn I find, I walk out with a promising effort that transmogrifies on the way home into a tale of a rabid right-winger killing commies and foreigners to make the world safe for him and a bevy of lithe but submissive beauties. I'm cursed to read such efforts as I'm unable to leave a book partially read. All I can do is pass the grudgingly-finished book back to the shop and hope that it doesn't find another mug like me.

If only there were sites where I could read reviews of books and authors written by people like me ... If only I could reach out and find such people ... If only I got off my backside (not literally as I sit down to type) and put out a few such reviews myself, and then I might get feedback, comments, recommendations!

Right, time to start a blog about the books I've read and enjoyed. Lurking on the Web there must be many who like Stuart MacBride , Andrew Vaachs, George MacDonald Fraser and Ross Thomas. Or who might enjoy discovering them perhaps. People who've read about her with the dragon tattoo and are looking to branch out. There's great pleasure to be found in passing on a book when the recipient comes back a few days later, raving about it, so let's see if some reviews here can do that virtually. Coming soon, then, and hopefully in ever-increasing numbers, my reviews of books and authors. Mainly novels, though various writers will creep in as and when I remember them or, perhaps even better, discover them. If just a few people find pleasure from reading something I've recommended then the world will be a better place. And by god it needs it :)

Your comments are welcomed: I'd love to chat with you and hear your book reviews and thoughts. Sadly we can't do it over coffee and cake but the thought is there at least.

A bit of fun for you: go and have a heated debate about which five books you'd choose: Five Favourite Books For A Desert Island

Completely off topic, but a cool tool, and probably of interest to many bloggers: check your ranking by keywords on major search engines (free).

Going for a wider range of reviewed material than I, Bookgasm blog

A professional blog: David Montgomery's Crime Fiction Dossier though sadly he tells me he's no longer blogging.

A very good and stylish blog by an enthusiastic reader: For lovers of good coffee, good food & good books

A geographically wide-ranging crime fiction blog: Euro Crime

And a hilarious post and comments after a review: Author shoots self in foot. Then reloads and does it again.

Something else I've been looking at recently: Squidoo -- a social networking site where you create pages (known as lenses) and can raise money for yourself and for charity. I've been letting my creative juices flow -- please visit some of my lenses:

Earning money online in safety

Five Internet Gurus

Joni Mitchell, my ten favourite albums

Top tens for various bands on iTunes

Valentines Day: A guide for men buying for women

Valentines Day: A guide for women buying for men

A Sixties day out and a ferry across the Mersey to New Brighton

And one that may be of value to fellow bloggers: Common English Errors - helping online writers find and fix common mistakes.

A quick exercise: someone asked me to recommend a few Poirot books but I'm not a fan of Agatha Christie so I just knocked up a list of all the full-length Hercule Poirot stories


Maxine said...

Hi Paul, thanks for your comment on my blog ( will definitely persevere with Adam Bede.

Thanks for the offer to swap links, I happily accept. You are now listed on my site as a blog worth visiting :)

Keep in touch.

All the best.

Paul said...

Thanks Maxine. We may not take over the world but at least we'll read about it :)

Maxine said...

Well said.

Vikk Simmons said...

Hi Paul, thanks for your thoughts about my first lens. Very spot on. :)

Loved the above--a genuine pleasure to read.

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

Hi Paul! Read through some of your stuff and loved it. I too am a voracious reader. In saw you on RedGage and so will add you if you don't mind---


Paul said...

Thanks Audrey - and I'm loving your poetry.

Lover of Sadness said...

Sorry i could not find your email address so i am posting my email here..

i am the admin and the owner of "Lover of Sadness" at i really like your blog. and i was hoping if we could exchange links between our website. Let me know what you think and we will talk more about it.

Alan Kiernan said...

I've just published my first book and I'm hoping someone out there may be able to give me some advice about how I get it reviewed and ways to promote it.

Anonymous said...

1.30 in the morning, checking to see if the new home hub is going to have a paddy like the previous one that insisted on turning itself off from 11.30 pm to 6.30 am and I discovered your blog. I googled Stuart Macbride and found you. Can't add anything to what has been very succintly written by you. Mmm, EXCEPT - Billington and his Thorne series. Maybe Craig Robertson with Snapshot, but not Random. Towering above all - for me - the late Dorothy Dunnett. I'll visit again, Linda Smith
PS Name given as I don't understand the workings of the 'Profile' and also, minor point, the blog shows the date and time incorrectly, did you know?

Self-Publishing Kids Books said...

What is the range of books that you are reviewing? Paperback/hardcover vs Kindle and which genres? Do you want authors and publishers to tempt you with free copy offers or do you prefer to seek out books to review on you own?

Sorry if you already answered this some place on your blog.

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