Tag Archives: reviewing

My free reading challenge: pay with a review

My challenge to keep reading without paying for a book for myself until Christmas continues…

This week I have been mostly fighting my TBR pile, which – even containing only free books – has reached teetering levels. I’ve spent this week reading, reading, reading in a vain attempt to slim down my teetering TBR pile (it’s okay, I love it really – if my TBR pile ever ceased to be dangerous I’d start to get worried about running out of things to read).

As a writer myself, I do feel a little guilty at getting free books, but as a writer I also know the value of getting an honest review from a reader, so I’ve promised myself that I’ll write a review for every book I finish – at least while this challenge is on, but I do try to review books I read under any circumstances.

Drowning in books

This week I’ve written and scheduled reviews for two books I got as free review copies, cross-posted blog reviews to Goodreads and Amazon, and I’m also working my way through (reading and making review notes) my downloaded giveaway books from a fortnight ago, with one of those reviews live this week, another scheduled, and another partway through reading. Phew.

All my reviews can be found on the Paisley Piranha blog site. The Paisley Piranhas are a group of four YA writers who review YA books (and the occasional film) on our site, as well as hosting book blitzes, cover reveals and author interviews. If you’re looking for something good to read, check it out.

I’ll be back next week with more on my free reading challenge. It’s midway through September – can I last until Christmas?

My free reading challenge: I bought a book

When I started my free reading challenge, I knew it was going to be difficult, so I gave myself some let-outs.

This week I used my joker to buy a book from an author I’ve read a free book from in order to help with their launch.

Like one – Love the next

A couple of weeks ago I read Kelly St Clare’s Fantasy of Frost (free in a giveaway). A high fantasy YA novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it. So when I discovered she had a sci-fi/dystopian novel due out 30th August, The Retreat, I wanted to support her launch. I asked for and got a review copy and loved The Retreat even more than I had Fantasy of Frost.

Cover of Kelly St Clare's The Retreat
Click for the preview

Pay with a review

So, all’s well so far, and I could just have stuck to my free reading challenge and “paid” with a review (which I have, check it out on the Paisley Piranha site).

Amazon are at it again

But I’ve also seen a lot this week about Amazon doing yet another purge of anything they consider less-than-ethical reviews, which always seems to mean removing reviews from legitimate independent authors, while leaving them to help spam-bot rip-off merchants.

Now, I know we authors get very exercised about vanishing reviews (they are – fortunately or unfortunately – very important), but as a reader I’m pretty cross about it, too. If I take the time to read a book, then further time and effort to arrange my thoughts about that book into a review, I don’t think it’s acceptable for Amazon to arbitrarily decide my review isn’t valid (especially since it’s evaluated by software, not a human being: way to wind up a human – make a machine more important than them!)

The value of ‘verified’

So, I bought a copy on the basis that a review from a “Verified Purchase” would be less liable to interference from the ‘Zon (and because I really wanted to support this 5-star read).

And now I’m scratching my head, wondering how come a dislike of Amazon’s practices means I’ve made an additional purchase with them…

Free reading challenge: When FREE isn’t free

So, I’ve now been satisfying my reading urges with only free books for two weeks.

Philippa Fusspot

My chief learning point for the past fourteen days is what a very fussy reader I am (actually, I already knew that; this exercise has just confirmed the fact). I often find it hard to discover books I enjoy because there are just so many out there, and so very many of them (I’m sorry to say) are absolute junk (imo; tastes may vary). Now that a big chunk of potential reading material has been cut off, I’m finding it even harder to find books I want to spend my time on – and I’m appreciating the Look-Inside feature even more than before.


I have also confirmed that there’s very little point to trawling through Amazon’s FREE lists to fill my kindle. I was very surprised given Amazon’s customer focus and their much-vaunted (if esoterically obscure) logarithms which I thought were intended to deliver exactly what the customer wanted, to discover how random the free lists were. I don’t mean the quality, which I was expecting – but rather, when I search for YA fiction I don’t really expect to find that a notable number of titles were actually erotica.

When free isn’t free

And then there’s the FREE element. A large proportion (like 8 out of 10 of the top ten) weren’t, in fact, free. It always winds me up when authors promote their books as FREE … on Kindle Unlimited, because that’s not free, it’s included in the cost of subscription. Quite how authors had managed to get their £3.99 books listed in the free category was a puzzle. Maybe it gets the books seen more widely, but I couldn’t help thinking a lot of readers, like me, would be annoyed by seeing books, in effect, shelved wrongly.

Pay it back with a review

A more positive development is that I’m jumping more firmly down the read-for-review route to free books. I’ve requested a couple with YA Bound and Xpresso Book Tours, and I even approached an author directly to ask for a review copy, which she was happy to send (that’s Laura Diamond’s Under My Skin, which I’m loving).

So, at present: On-line browsing- 0; Reviewing – 1. We’ll see if that changes over time. I’ve signed up for a couple of Free book Newsletters to see if they can help narrow down my options. I’ll keep you posted – can I actually make it to Christmas without buying any books for myself?

Spread the (book) love

I love books. You might have noticed. I don’t love ALL books, though, that would be impossible (and ambitious, given how many now exist in the world). I have my go-to genres, and even within them there are books I pick up and put down, books I abandon after reading the first couple of pages, those I read and enjoy, and those I LOVE.

We all have them – books you adore and want to foist on complete strangers in the street because they are SO GOOD.

Now, I’m British so I would never dream of foisting anything on a stranger, which may or may not be an opportunity lost to the authors I love. But there is another way of shouting about brilliant books.

It’s reviews, of course – a way to tell the world about a great book and help recruit a new audience for it. I participate in a book blog (as one of the Paisley Piranhas, check us out), and I also post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Please, if you enjoy a book, tell people so. I promise, you will make the writer’s day.

Tell the world

This next bit is for hardcore fans, or book reviewers who want to get a bigger audience for their reviews because, I’ll be honest, it is a bit more work. However, it’s not a lot more work for the impact it has.

I’ve just discovered (apologies, I can’t link to the original post because I didn’t save it – I didn’t think it couldn’t possibly work until I actually tried it – my bad!) that it’s possible to share reviews across numerous Amazon platforms with very little effort – and given that you’ve exerted yourself to compose a review, don’t you want the biggest possible audience for it?

If you want to shout about a favourite book or writer and make sure EVERYONE hears, all you need to do is follow the steps below:

1. Open up your local version of Amazon and find the book you want to review. I’m using Kim Curran as my example because her books are fabulous and should have a bigger audience (i.e. everyone), and also because this is the first review I’ve done using this method and I’m wired that it works.

2. On the address line, you’ll have something that looks like this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/GLAZE-Kim-Curran-ebook/dp/B00K9UYLR4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1453468983&sr=1-1&keywords=glaze+kim+curran

Yeah – snappy or what?! Remove everything except for http://www.amazon.WHATEVER/dp/B00K1REF321/, so it looks like this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00K9UYLR4/

3. Copy this shortened address and paste it into a new line. Change the .WHATEVER to the alternative Amazon location where you want to leave your review (I ended up with a row of address lines with .com; .co.uk; .ca; .com.au to cover the main English-speaking sites.

4. Write your review at one of the addresses.

5. Cut and paste it to the other locations. Save them all.

Ta da – four reviews for the price of one, and a couple more continents full of readers have the benefit of your views on the book you loved so they can decide whether to try it.

I’ve just done my second review, for the equally fantastic The Territory by Sarah Govett and it was even faster than my first. Do give it a try!


Share the love

Books are wonderful things. I love reading them, I love writing them, I love enthusing about books, and over time I’ve grown to love reviewing books, too, which I do with other YA-loving friends on the Paisley Piranha site, as well as posting to Goodreads and Amazon.

I read an interesting piece this week (Jenny in Neverland’s blog) about how much work goes into a book review, and she finished up stating why she reviews when it takes time and effort.

No time to waste with this lot waiting, eh?
No time to waste with this lot waiting, eh?

It’s that part I want to focus on now – why I review when I could use the time writing and posting a review to start the next book on my ever-enormous TBR pile.

The first reason is because I love books and I love to share that enthusiasm. There are few sensations finer than chatting with someone who clearly enjoys your kind of books and being able to say, “Oh, if you like X, you should try Y, I know you’ll love their books.” Posting a review makes that kind of conversation more permanent – someone who’s been pointed to a book you liked once can come back to find other recommendations they might enjoy.

Secondly, it helps authors, and I want to help authors because they’re the people who write the books I love so much. There are so many books published these days that finding something you love can be like searching for the proverbial needle: how come I’ve got nothing to read when there are millions of books out there? And the writers I already know never seem to write fast enough. By reviewing a book I’ve loved I can add my voice to that of other fans and (hopefully) help the author become a bit better known so they can keep on writing.

And thirdly, as a writer, reviewing helps me develop my writing skills. Knowing that I’m going to review a book makes me read it a little bit more critically – with half an eye on technique rather than purely enjoyment. A review can’t just say, “I liked it/didn’t like it,” – to be helpful to other readers there has to be a ‘why’. And thinking through that ‘why’ enables me to pinpoint techniques that I can use to improve my own writing.

So that’s me – why do you review or not review the books you read? Leave me a comment; I love to hear other views.

Tell the world

Bias on my bookshelves

I’ve been reading articles lately about gender bias in book reading and reviewing. It seems that men don’t read books by women, and ‘serious’ (whatever that means) publications are reluctant to review commercial fiction by women.

They’ve made me think about my own bias, because if there is one, it definitely runs the other way. I blog YA book reviews regularly on the http://www.paisleypiranha.wordpress.com site, where the vast majority of books I’ve reviewed have been written by women.

But I don’t think this is a conscious bias towards women writers (there’s plenty of Anthony Horowitz and Nicholas Fisk and Isaac Asimov on my bookshelves, too). If anything, it’s a bias towards female protagonists. Like (I would imagine) all readers, I want books that interest me, and I want to sink into the world of the book and become the main character for as long as it lasts. It’s easier for me to do that with a female main character because she’s “like me” from the start. These are mostly written by women, so most of what I read is written by women.

It’s probably also a result of the fact that the majority of my friends (both writing and not) are also female, so book recommendations tend to be from females, and they all seem to like female protagonists and women writers, too.

When I look back over recently-read books, and cast an eye over my bookshelves or my eReader, I see that they are mostly female main characters, but there is enough variety that I’m not worried by a potential gender bias – I’m more concerned by what looks a lot like a white-British middle class bias. There are few books I read that feature characters who aren’t – or can’t be imagined by me as – white and British. Part of that is probably because I imagine the characters as some form of ‘me’ whether they are or not (and that might be a good thing, because we’re all human in the end), but I’d like my reading to take me out of myself now and then, as well as taking ‘me’ into a different world.

So, it looks like I need to gain some variety in my to be read pile by adding books that don’t feature white, well-educated, able-bodied heterosexual Brits (but still commercial and fast-paced, please) – any recommendations, anyone?