Category Archives: Thoughts and Blabberings

My thoughts about reading, review writing and blogging.

ONE YEAR OLD TODAY!!!!!

This time last year my very first blog post went out to the world! It was my review of Play Dead by Angela Marsons (you can read it here if you want while I cringe at the thought of one of my very early reviews) and if I’m honest I didn’t know what to expect from setting up my blog. I’m not particularly tech savvy and I was clueless about Twitter (I still am and tend to wing it!). I thought it would while away some hours but that nobody would ever actually look at it.

The blog came about following a difficult period in my life. After years of weird and wonderful symptoms, blood test after blood test, numerous visits to less than helpful neurologists, I was finally diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, a name I hate as this illness goes way beyond being tired!). With years of not knowing what was wrong with me and, therefore, not knowing how to deal with it, my illness got steadily worse culminating in seizures and periodic loss of vision. Following diagnosis, my employers of 12 years dismissed me on medical grounds. My whole life had turned upside down, I had lost my health, my way of life, my identity and with it my confidence.

The last thing I want is any kind of pity party or sympathy but I suddenly realised I had set the blog up in May which is ME Awareness Month. This now, with hindsight, seems a bit of a weird coincidence as the blog has been such a positive thing for me and would, in all honesty, not have come about if I didn’t have ME. It was really born out of me wanting to find something I could get into as the things I previously enjoyed doing had become pretty much impossible. I guess that’s why I’m telling you this stuff.

I have been astounded by the friendliness, generosity and support offered by fellow book bloggers, authors and publishers. A huge thank you for the support, sharing of posts and advice over the past year. You guys really do rock! Without this turning into something resembling an Oscars’ acceptance speech I want to give a huge thank you to Noelle at crimebookjunkie, Joseph at Relax and Read Reviews, Emma at damppebbles, Lorraine at The Book Review Café, Mairead at Swirl and Thread and last, but most certainly not least, my blogging buddy Jen at Jen Med’s Book Reviews. You have all been such a support, sharing my reviews, offering advice and being an ear at times. It really is appreciated. There are so many others I want to thank and feel bad for missing out so many wonderful people but I want you all to know how much you are appreciated.

I guess when I started Bloomin’ Brilliant Books my hope was that at least one person may read one of my reviews and go on to read and enjoy that book. It has gone beyond my expectations! I never thought for one minute that part of my reviews would be used in actual physical books, and I still feel as thrilled when it happens as I did the first time. I also found out on Thursday that I have been nominated for Best Newcomer in the Blogger’s Bash Awards! I am still shocked and I’m honoured to be included in a list of really great bloggers. A huge thank you to anyone who nominated me. What really means the most, however, is when I am told that people have read a book based on my review and really enjoyed them.

So the future for Bloomin’ Brilliant Books? I hope at some point this year to have a month solely dedicated to indie authors and publishers but I haven’t yet got this fully organised in my thoughts. And basically to continue to share my love of books.

 

I also have some news I haven’t told anyone (I’m quite shy… until you get to know me!). The reviewing has slowed down a little, and the number of blog tours I take part in has reduced as I’m currently training to be a proofreader with the help of the wonderful Karen Sullivan and West Camel of Orenda Books…and I LOVE it! Karen has given me the opportunity to help out with some proofreading which has allowed me to see how it works in practice, ascertain if it is something I could do properly in the future and fit around managing my illness. I am incredibly grateful for the chances that Karen has given me to try it out ‘for real’ and I can’t possibly thank her enough! I’m not sure I could ever express just how much this has meant to me. It’s steady steps and hopefully something that will come firmly to fruition in the future.  A huge thank you to West too for his guidance and feedback, if I ever become half as good as he is I will be a happy bunny. I know it can be a bit of a pain when you are busy and you have a novice’s stuff to look over, so I want to let you know how much I appreciate this. I am super proud to be part of the amazing Orenda family.

 

I guess what this post shows is that when one door closes another one opens, and the seemingly negative aspects in your life can suddenly turn into something beyond your wildest dreams. I could probably run off a whole load of other clichés at this point, but it’s not really me so I won’t!

I hope you will join me in my second year of blogging. As a thank you for the support over the past year I have a one hell of a giveaway…

One lucky person could win a copy of A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone (it has been read by me

 but is in great nick), Sealskin by Su Bristow, Exquisite by Sarah Stovell, Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson and … wait for it … A SIGNED HARDBACK COPY OF RUPTURE BY RAGNAR JONASSON!!!!!

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rapid Fire Book Tag

Something a little different today and a chance to answer some questions myself as I was nominated by my blogging buddies Mairead at Swirl and Thread and Jen at Jen Med’s Book Reviews to take part in the Rapid Fire Book Tag. So a big thank you to Mairead and Jen. I have to say I really enjoyed answering these quick-fire questions and hope you enjoy reading my answers!

eBooks or physical books?
It has to be a physical book. You really can’t beat the feel and smell of a physical book…there is something incredibly beautiful about them and the possibilities of what you will find inside.

Paperback or hardback?
Aargh! Both! I adore hardbacks but paperbacks are easier for me to hold and read.

Online or in-store shopping?
There is nothing better than browsing in a bookshop so it has to be in-store. Although online is a God-send when there are occasions when you cannot get out of the house.

Trilogies or series?
Both!

Heroes or villains?
Villains every time…I love to hate a character!

A book you want everyone to read?
On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin for its simplicity and its beauty.

Recommend an underrated book
We’ve Come To Take You Home by Susan Gandar. I don’t think it has had the publicity it deserves and it is a book that is wonderfully written and really moved me.

The last book you finished?
Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister.

Weirdest thing you used as a bookmark?
Dog fluff…don’t ask!

Used books, yes or no?
Definitely yes! I love thinking about who has owned the book before and wondering what they got from the contents.

Top three genres?
Psychological thriller
Literary fiction
Historical fiction

Borrow or buy?
Both…then buy a copy of the borrowed book if I have loved it.

Characters or plot?
Character. I love to get beneath the skin of a character…maybe I’m a frustrated psychologist?

Short or long book?
Both.

Long or short chapters?
Short in thrillers and crime novels, long in literary and historical fiction.

Book to movie or book to TV adaptation?
Neither!

Name the first three books you think of

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, Sealskin by Su Bristow and Tess Of The D’Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy.

Books that make you laugh or cry?

Definitely cry…I love an unhappy ending!

Our world or fictional worlds?

Our world. I

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

Unfortunately I do and I really know I shouldn’t.

Series or standalone?

I like both!

NB. The spacing changes towards the end of this post as I forgot to add some of the questions!

I’m now passing the Rapid Fire Book Tag gauntlet to Donna at Chocolate ‘N’ Waffles and Rachel at Rae Reads. Enjoy ladies!

 

Blogger Recognition Award!!!!!

Blogger Recognition Award

I am shocked, surprised and utterly delighted to have been nominated by fellow bloggers Ronnie Turner at Ad Astra and Mairead O’Driscoll at Swirl and Thread for the Blogger Recognition Award!! Bloomin’ Brilliant Books is a new blog and this is the first time it has been nominated for anything  so I’m pretty chuffed, a little shy and give a big thanks to Ronnie and Mairead.

Now there are a few bits of housekeeping to be done before I can raise my award high so let me continue…

Rules of the Award

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

2. Write a post to show your award.

3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.

4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.

5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.

6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide a link to the post you created.

How did I start blogging?

I have always loved reading and get my love of books from my mum. As a child I liked nothing more than going to the library and spending time in WH Smiths! A couple of years ago my life changed beyond all recognition (not going to go into the details as, quite frankly, it will bore you) and one of the things that remained consistent was  my love of books and reading. Books had always provided me with a way to relax and they became ever more important as a means of escapism.

Needing to find a meaning to my life and not having anyone around me who I could talk books with I decided to start reviewing on Netgalley. I loved it and my hubby encouraged me to take it that step further and set up the blog. Being technically challenged I wasn’t sure how I would get on, but to my surprise I managed it and it went from there. I was initially shy and embarrassed about putting my reviews out to the world as I do lack a little self-confidence in my abilities ( a lot to do with the life events) but I didn’t actually think anyone would look at them. 

Anyway, almost a year on and it’s still going! It means so much to have been nominated for this and my heartfelt thanks go to Ronnie and Mairead. I also owe a huge thank you to the fabulous book community who have supported, helped, cheered me on and welcomed me with open arms. Book people rock!!!

Two pieces of advice to new bloggers

1. It has been said before, but I reiterate the saying ‘no’ to requests. Only accept those you really want to read as it will take over your life and your TBR pile will become astronomical! You will have moments of stress when you look at your massive pile and will at times feel overwhelmed and guilty that you are not getting reviews done quickly enough or having to say no. This is overridden though by the positives and the sheer enjoyment you get from blogging and being involved with the book community.

2. Do it your way! It is your blog and they are your reviews. We all have our own styles of writing and opinions on the books we need. Stay true to yourself, it’s what makes the book blogging world so interesting.

The most important thing is to enjoy it! And there is a lot to enjoy, so if you are thinking of starting a blog give it a go!

And now the difficult part…nominating only 15 bloggers for the Blogger Recognition Award. There are so many wonderful blogs and amazing people behind them, I’m going to feel incredibly guilty not including everyone. Right, deep breath, here goes…

So aside from the two fantastic bloggers who nominated me…

Joseph at Relax and Read Reviews

Jen at Jen Med’s Book Reviews

Lorraine at The Book Review Café

Emma at Damppebbles Book Blog

Noelle at Crimebookjunkie

Linda at Linda’s Book Bag

Anne at Being Anne

Magdalena at Bookaholic Swede

Donna at Chocolatenwaffles’ Blog

Wendy at Little Bookness Lane

Karen at My Reading Corner

Kate at The Quiet Knitterer

Cleo at Cleopatra Loves 

Katherine at BibliomaniacUK

Leah at Reflections of a Reader

Sarah at By The Letter Book Reviews

Kate at Bibliophile Book Club

I could have nominated so many more as there are some fantastic blogs out there, all ran by great people. And yes I have cheated by mentioning 17 instead of 15 but hey, it’s my blog and I’m feeling rebellious!

Again thanks for the nomination Ronnie and Mairead…I’m still in shock and it means a lot xxx

 

 

 

Happy New Year!!! My 2017 Resolutions

Happy New Year

So 2016 has come to an end and we are welcoming in 2017. I don’t normally make new year resolutions in my personal life (I am rubbish at keeping them!) however I have decided to make some resolutions for my blogging life.

Bloomin’ Brilliant Books has totally exceeded my expectations! I never anticipated that anyone would even visit it let alone actually read my reviews and I am very grateful for all the support I have been given in 2016. So with that in mind I decided I would set myself some blogging goals to hopefully make it better than ever and help me keep on track with where it is going in the future.

Today I am sharing with you my resolutions. Making them public may help me to actually bloody keep them!!!!

1. Sort out a follow/subscribe option.

Subsribe Follow

Being on a self-hosted wordpress.org you don’t have the ‘like’ button or ‘follow’ button that wordpress.com users have and I have to admit to being a little bit envious of these functions! So this year I am going to try and suss out how to add a subscribe or follow option other than Bloglovin’ which I currently use. Not an easy task as I’m a bit of a technophobe, but hey I managed to set the blog up right? This may come back to bite me on the bum when I get disappointed with the lack of uptake hahaha.

2. Feature at least one Indie author per month.

Indie Authors

There are so many amazing books out there and often those without the might of a publishing house behind them get overlooked. This is a real shame as there are some fantastic novels that are self-published that don’t get the publicity they deserve. To try an help out a bit I will try and feature a review of at least one independently published book per month to try and bring a bit more attention to them.

3. Get organised and get the books I have been sent by authors and publishers in 2016 read and reviewed.

Waiting Cat

Huge apologies to all those who have sent me books to read and review that I haven’t got round to yet. I feel incredibly guilty about the amount of time people have been waiting for reviews BUT I will get them all done, I promise.

4. Read and review one of the books I have bought each month.

Old Books

I have so many books that I have bought that are sitting waiting to be read that I have not managed to get round to yet and I am determined to get them read to stop them feeling neglected!

5. Ensure all reviews are of good quality.

Self Doubt
I admit I often lack confidence in my reviews and sometimes I am not one hundred percent happy with the reviews I have put out. This year I am going to try and take more time over them and be happy with every review I write. I’m not actually sure how achievable this will be as I tend to be self-critical but I will give it a go!

6. Try to gain experience of being a Beta Reader.

Beta Reader

I would LOVE some work within the publishing world and have this as a long-term goal. I would really like to try my hand at being a Beta Reader to see how I get on so if any author would like to try me out and give me the opportunity and experience, please get in touch. I would be incredibly grateful!

So what do you think? Anything you think I should add that I haven’t thought of? Have you made any new year resolutions? If so I would love to hear about them.

Again a huge thank you for all the support in 2016, it’s so appreciated and I wish you all a happy new year and hope that 2017 is a bloomin’ brilliant year for you!

 

Bloomin’ Brilliant Books’ Favourite Reads of 2016

I have pondered over this post for a couple of weeks and it has been incredibly difficult to narrow it down into my all time favourite books because 2016 has been an incredible year. There have been so many books that I have loved but this would be a ridiculously long post if I included them all so I told myself to keep it to ten. Being an emotional reader I have decided to base it on the books that had the biggest emotional impact on me.

You can click on the title of each to read my full review. So, in no particular order, here goes…

The book that made my skin crawl and stuck with me for days…
My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor

My Husband's Son

Deborah’s debut novel is gritty, seedy and the ending totally shocked me. It got right under my skin and I couldn’t shake off the feelings it evoked in me for days. A fantastic debut novel, I can’t wait to read more by Deborah in the future.

The book that totally transported me to a different time and place…
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

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Another debut novel, Goats and Sheep is set during the long hot summer of 1976. Joanna brought back so many memories of that time and the early 1980’s with her rich descriptions that every time I settled down to read it I was living, breathing and feeling that era. Goats and Sheep is also a beautifully written, intricate novel – a truly breathtaking debut that makes you laugh and think.

The book that made me feel as though I was going to have a heart attack…
See How They Run by Tom Bale

See How They Run

Bloomin’ heck this book took me on one hell of a ride. The pace never lets up and it is relentless. Utterly gripping, Tom has written one hell of a page turner with a momentum that never ceases.

The book that sent shivers down my spine…
Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent

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From the amazing first line to the shock ending this deliciously dark book left me open-jawed and gasping. Full of hideous characters (which I love) Liz has written what could quite possibly be the most chilling psychological thriller I have read in a long time. Absolute perfection!

The book which made me read lines over and over again…
Jacques by Tanya Ravenswater

Jacques

This book is poetically written and to be savoured as you take in the sheer gorgeousness of the prose. One of those books that makes you think ’I wish I could write like that’.

The book that totally enchanted me…
Himself by Jess Kidd

Himself

Totally beguiling and wonderfully written, Jess incorporates stunning symbolism and descriptions in this dark yet funny novel. I love gothic novels and Himself incorporated all that I love about them.

The book that made my heart ache…
The Mountain In My Shoe by Louise Beech

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Louise’s book touched me so deeply, she has conveyed the emotions of a child within the care system with empathy, intelligence and real insight. I challenge anyone not to be totally moved by this book.

The book that outraged me…
Untouchable by Sibel Hodge

Untouchable

Sibel has created both a tense thriller and an authentic social and political commentary. A story about injustice and how the elite can get away with literally anything, Untouchable really hit a nerve with me.

The book that made me howl with laughter…
Melody Bittersweet And The Girl’s Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French

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This book totally cheered me up when I most needed it. Melody is kooky and off-the-wall and her antics with The Girl’s Ghostbusting Agency produce hilarious resultsPerfect lighthearted reading.

The book that re-ignited one of my past interests…
The Secret Wife by Gill Paul

The Secret Wife

I have always been fascinated by Russian history but had kind of forgotten about it if that makes sense? Gill reminded me of this interest in her wonderfully written part fiction/part historically accurate account of Grand Duchess Tatiana and cavalry officer Dmitri. Completely capturing the time and setting Gill made me cry with this beautiful tale of love in extreme circumstances.
There are so many other books I have loved this year and could write a post that would take days to read. I want to give a big shout out as well to Helen MacKinven for Buy Buy Baby, Susan Gandar for We’ve Come To Take You Home, Simon Booker for Without Trace, Chris Brookmyre for Black Widow, Sam Carrington for Saving Sophie and Jane Corry for My Husband’s Wife as these six books stuck in my mind (click on the pictures for my review).  And that’s it…time to walk away from this post before I add any more!

Buy Buy BabyWe've Come to Take You HomeIMG_20160615_134144

Black WidowSaving SophieFB_IMG_1464031982080

So what do you think of my choices? Are any of these books in your top reads of 2016? I would love to hear your thoughts.