It’s not often I veer off the path of reviews, but something caught my notice this morning and after a mini-rant with a fellow blogger.
It’s all to do with likes.
I often wander through my WordPress reader or my fellow bookbloggers’ blogs looking for something interesting to read. And if I find a review that I like, I click on the little star and, erm, like it.
Often if I’ve liked something, I’ll share it too. Because if I liked it, then chances are other people might like it too. Share the joy.
There are some bloggers who I know well, who are posting reviews of books that I’ve read and liked, and I may click retweet *then* go and read their posts, but you can count that list on the fingers of one hand.
And, from time to time, people stumble across *this* little slice of the internet, and click the like button and share the post. And for that I am eternally grateful, and I really do appreciate every like and share.
They mean a lot. Like, totally a lot. When you’ve put your time and effort into crafting a review (yes, I do craft them, there’s no need for that), it’s nice to see that someone has, you know, liked it.
Then you stumble across a blog which has HUNDREDS of likes. Much like (sorry) the one above. Over three hundred likes.
But… I do wonder with some of these blogs whether it’s a mutual you follow me/I follow you thing, with people autoclicking the like button.
I know of some bloggers who seem to go through and retweet a bucketload of blogposts. It’s entirely possible that they’re reading them all and genuinely liking/sharing, but the sceptic in me wonders if they’re just going down the list in WordPress reader and liking/sharing.
Now me, I’d love the likes, but would far rather someone retweet/like a post because they’ve actually *read* it and liked it.
Well, yes, books. Obviously there are books. Lots of books.
But I look at this and see something else.
As a book blogger I’m hugely fortunate enough to be sent books to review from publishers. And I’m grateful for every single one of them, believe me. But some days I feel a creeping sense of guilt about those books.
Each one is a microcosm of an author’s hard work, months (if not years) of hard effort, rejections upon rejections until the joy of getting a book deal. Then there’s the work of the editors, proofreaders, cover designers, publishers and PR folk who send these books out into the wild.
Then they land on my shelf. Sometimes they’ve been preceded with an email asking if I’d like to take a look at the book. Sometimes they turn up unannounced, in large brown padded envelopes addressed to “Dave Espresso Coco”, with a press release tucked in the the pages. Occasionally they turn up with little tchotchkes, gift wrapped in fancy string or ribbon, with chocolate or, in a couple of instances, little miniatures of booze (I like those ones!)
But there are also the other books on those shelves. Books that I’ve bought myself, bought despite knowing exactly how big my TBR pile is, books that I’ve thought sound too fabulous to resist, or by authors whose earlier books I’ve read and loved, but now their books sit nestled amongst the others, vying for my attention at the point where I finish a book and sit back to ponder what’s next?
What will catch my eye? Will it be the book that I agreed to read three months ago for the blog tour that’s due next week (*cough* two days’ time)? Will it be the book that turned up yesterday that just looks *so* good? Will it be one of the many, many bought books? Or one which sounded so interesting from the PR’s excited email that I just couldn’t resist saying yes to?
I look at these shelves every time I go up and down the stairs. I look at the set of shelves next to this one, which is similarly stacked high with books. Or the pile of books on the dining room table that arrived this week.
And that’s not counting the virtual pile of books on my kindle, or the NetGalley copies which, despite my self-imposed NetGalley ban in an effort to get my read/reviewed ratio up, seem to be breeding.
So many books. So little time.
So much guilt.
I’ve started to say no to some of the blog tours – reading to order and to deadline was starting to add unnecessary stress, especially after hitting a couple of books which didn’t really do it for me. I should probably start saying no to more of the ‘Dear blogger, would you be interested in [AWESOME BOOK]?’
Inspired by Splodz and The Urban Wanderer, I thought I’d put together a little A-Z of me as a bit of a change to the usual OMG THIS BOOK IS TOTES AMAZE YOU SHOULD READ IT.
It is *def* totes amaze, and you should *def* read it, ok?
A is for astrophysics
So yeah. I studied astrophysics at university. It was fun, hard work, and sounds great.
I wasn’t very good at it. Should have done maths. 🙂
B is for books and blogging
As you’ve probably guessed, espresso coco is pretty much entirely a book blog. I read a lot of books, but not as many as some of my #bookblogger chums, who seem to churn through a book a day, and are constantly putting out fantastic reviews. I’m aiming for 60 books this year, which will be a new record for me.
C is for coffee and cycling
I love coffee. Start the day with an espresso, and spend entirely too much time and money in Leeds’ many and varied indie coffee shops.
I also love cycling, and have written a couple of cycling adventure posts, on turning left and getting off the beaten track. I’ve got several bikes – four (and a half) of them – and love nothing more than going for a cycle through the woods.
G is for gaming and Guinness
Apart from reading, I love playing games on my XBox or Nintendo Switch. I’m fairly terrible at games though, but it doesn’t put me off. I’ve also tinkered with writing about games – see The Fallout Diaries. I also loved playing Skyrim and lost months of my life to it. I could tell you such tales, like the time I got married to Farkas – lovely wedding, all our friends came then he went mysteriously missing for three weeks of game time because the beautiful idiot decided to walk home ACROSS THE ENTIRE MAP. Then kept rearranging my troll skull collection, and was often found with the Captain of the Guard in our house. Maybe it was him who messed up my troll skulls. Or the time a horse fell on me up at the top of a mountain, or when a dragon fight ended up with a dead dragon skeleton on my front lawn…
Ed and I thought of setting up a YouTube gaming channel where I’d play games whilst he mocked me for being RUBBISH and unable to hit anything with pretty much any kind of weapon ever. We’d have been a smash hit.
Two of my favourite books. I’ve read the Harry Potter books multiple times, and listened to the audiobook on car journeys more times than I care to count. I got Harry Potter trivial pursuit for christmas, but had to stop playing in the end because I kept winning. I’ve also written a couple of posts about how death eaters got their name and how wizards get their wands.
Howler refers to the Red Rising trilogy, by Pierce Brown. Stunningly good, I highly recommend that you read them. Though I’ve probably recommended them to you before. Have you read them yet? Also Pierce is a thoroughly nice chap. Met him at the Howler Party that Hodder threw for the launch of book 3, Morning Star.
I is for ice cream
Vanilla, or mint choc chip. Never chocolate. It’s weird – I like chocolate, or chocolate cake. But not chocolate ice cream.
J is for juggling
I’ve been juggling since I was at university *cough* years ago and I find it enormously relaxing. There’s something hypnotic about juggling. It forces you to be in the moment. All other worries fade to one side as you get into the rhythm of throw, catch, throw, catch. It’s all very zen (and there’s an excellent book called The Zen of Juggling by Dave Finnigan).
I’ve taught quite a few people to juggle over the years too – and you’d be surprised at how many of them started with “oh, I couldn’t possibly/I’m too clumsy/I’ve got no co-ordination”
I moved down to Leeds to go to university nearly 30 years ago and never quite left. I got a job working in the university library washing shelves and moving books around, then ended up there for a year before doing a postgrad course in librarianship, which turned into a job for three weeks at a law firm in their library, which turned into a job at a different law firm’s library for a few years. Now, five career moves later, I’m still here. Well, just down the road in Wakefield, but I work in Leeds and love my adopted city. I also love taking photos of Leeds.
M is for Monty and maps
I’ve been calling myself a writer for some years now, and always feel slightly guilty about it. I’ve written more than a few scenes or short pieces featuring Monty, gentleman thief and drinker of coffee. They’re great fun to write, and I really should try and do some more. Whether it’s him making prank calls, not being drunk, encountering a minefield or making a getaway, I love coming up with new adventures.
I also love maps. There’s something glorious about them, translating the physical space into two dimensions. I’ve also written about maps elsewhere on the blog: Maps. What’s up?
So that’s part 1 of the A-Z of me. Watch out for Part 2, coming soon…
Hello you lovely readers. It feels like a while since we last had a chat which didn’t revolve around me going OMG BOOKS THIS ONE IS GREAT READ IT NOW.
It is still book-related though. You looked nervous. Maybe a little concerned?
So, I’ve read a lot of books recently. Mostly they’ve been really good, but every now and again you get a book where some little detail jumps out at you and jars you out of the story. I’ve had a few over the years, and often wondered what to do about it.
Do I mention it in the review? Should I drop a note to the author? The publisher? Do they even care at this point? After all, the book is out in the wide world, and they’re unlikely (or indeed unable) to fix it at this point.
Case in point – I was reading a book recently which was set in London, but one of the characters came from Yorkshire. The book continued, and it transpired that the character in question came from Sandal & Agbrigg.
Whoa. That’s near where I live. Like, really near. Literally around the corner from my house.
The trouble is that Sandal & Agbrigg isn’t a place. Well, it is, but it’s a train station, between Sandal and, you’ve guessed it, Agbrigg. You’d either say you lived in Sandal, or you lived in Agbrigg, but you’d never say that you’re from Sandal and Agbrigg. Sandal’s that side of the train line, Agbrigg is the other, more or less.
I can see what the author has done – they’ve taken a map of Wakefield, picked a place at random and thought ‘great! A nice little suburb, that’d be perfect for this character’s backstory.’
It’s a tiny, tiny detail, and one which will only be picked up by people who know the area really well. Doesn’t affect the overall story in the slightest, but jarred with me. It’s like seeing a TV show set in your city but the characters turn left down a street and end up on the wrong side of town. You can’t get *there* from *there*, it’s just not how the roads are set up. Or in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves where Robin arrives at Dover, takes a short lunchbreak and Hadrian’s Wall (boy, was he lost) then home to Nottingham in time for tea.
Worth mentioning to the author? Who can say. Thoughts welcome!
 Yes, this is a tortuous Princess Bride reference. You win ONE MILLION POINTS. Well done.  Occupational hazard of being a #bookblogger, I guess  Actually literally.  Well, I can assume what they’ve done  Or live literally round the corner
I’m not entirely sure where this exact moment fits, but it’s one that I don’t want to lose in the hurly-burly of life. Regular book-related shenanigans will recommence shortly.
I was heading back from GollanczFest at the weekend, and for reasons best known to the train operators, my train went from St Pancras rather than King’s Cross. I found myself with some time to kill, so was wandering through the lower level of the station when I noticed a group of people standing around, phones out recording something.
That something turned out to be two guys playing the piano. The same piano, at the same time.
The taller one sat to the left, with what I initially thought was his son on his right. When I got a little closer I could see that the shorter of the two was older, wild hair flicked into a comb-over. They were wearing identical jackets, deep blue with flecks, and matching socks. They played with a joy and synchronicity which was a sheer pleasure to watch. They’d take turns flicking the pages on the music with a dramatic flourish, sometimes pausing to push the book back up onto the stand, the other taking up the playing as they did so.
They clearly did this a lot. Hands would cross, fingers picking out the melody. The older would sit back, smooth down his errant hair then launch back into playing. The younger would occasionally glance across at his partner, a smile on his face.
They’d drawn a small crowd of onlookers, tired passengers on their way to far-flung places. Most had their phones out, recording the moment for posterity.
Me? I just stood and watched, and listened.
Sometimes it’s not about the photograph, the video, putting the camera between you and the moment. Sometimes you just need to live it, to soak up the experience, to be *there*.
But then sometimes you just want to try and catch it later, fleeting as it was. I know that this will mean virtually nothing to you, dear reader. But I hope that in the years to come I’ll look back on this and remember those two guys playing a piano in a station in London, and it’ll bring a smile again.
Just watched this video by Shay Carl and Colette of the Shaytards.
Do you watch their YouTube channel? I started a couple of months ago. Young Miss LB was sat watching various YouTube things and the Shaytards came on. After a couple of episodes I was left wondering – who are these people? Why do they video EVERYTHING? How do they find the time?
Wait. How many subscribers??
Fast forward a couple of months and we’re regular visitors to the Butlers’ lives. Love it.
So, it was a bit of a surprise to see the above video. And… not a surprise. [short version for those who didn’t watch the video – next March the Shaytards are taking a year off the internet, for various and very good reasons]
A YEAR OFF THE INTERNET.
The mere thought makes me twitch. Could I take a year off Twitter, FB, this blog? (ok, probably yes to FB).
How about you? Could you take a year off posting stuff online?
Or: He Took A Bite Of His Sandwich: You Won’t BELIEVE What Happened Next.
This morning, as I was making my daughter’s packed lunch, I realised with some joy that there was sufficient leftover tuna mayo for a whole other sandwich. That’s lunch sorted I thought. Two slices of bread, scrape of butter (not too much), dollop the rest of the tuna on, chop it in half, boom. Done.
Casting around for something to put the sandwich in, I found a tupperware box about the right shape and size. Sandwich in, sorted.
Pleased with myself, I finished loading up LB’s lunchbox with her tuna wrap, popped my plastic box into my bag and set off for work.
At lunchtime I retrieved the box from the fridge, eager to munch on my delicious tuna sandwich.
I took the first half of the sandwich. Hmm, I thought. That’s got more tuna in than I remember. Munch munch, yum.
Still peckish, I took a bite of the other half.
Something was amiss. Awry, even.
There was something fishy about this tuna sandwich…
Actually, there wasn’t.
I opened the two slices of bread. Small flecks of tuna lay nestled on their buttery bed, forlorn.
ALL THE TUNA HAD SLID DOWN INTO THE FIRST HALF.
This was like the WORST TUNA SANDWICH EVER.
Worse even than when you go to a sandwich shop and they’ve helpfully cut the sandwich diagonally so you can see all the delicious filling and it looks really nice and then you buy it but it turns out the filling is all actally up against the visible edge so you’re left with a huge bready margin to your sandwich.
The first half was awesome though.
 not *actual* Tupperware. Other plastic containers are available.  actually, I’m sure it *was* the worst tuna sandwich ever.  diagonally-cut sandwiches taste better. True fact.
Walking in London with a friend from America who works in film. I stopped at a roundabout near Covent Garden, looked up. He asked what I was looking at. Everything, I said. It’s my practice. I take five minutes every day just for me, to look around and see where I am and be there.
It’s easy to feel like you’re living on borrowed time, and that time is running out. For five minutes a day, I like to turn the hourglass the other way. I’ve stolen six hundred hours from the countdown clock that the world would have drained away from me had I let it.
In the chaos in which we live our lives these days, with the constant pinging of notifications, the deluge of media and advertising, the constant thrum of people doing stuff, wanting stuff, needing stuff from everyone else, it’s important to stop and take a moment.