Tag: discussions

Discussion: Diversity

Posted 9 July, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

I have this as a prompt in my list of potential discussions — just “diversity”. You all probably know what I mean, given it’s so often talked about in book fandom these days: characters of all types of backgrounds, in terms of culture, in terms of gender, in terms of sexuality, in terms of disability… Basically, there’s been a huge drive in the last few years to encourage books that aren’t just about white men, and books which aren’t just by white men. And I think some people struggle a lot with this and feel like it’s gone “too far”.

One example people have of things going “too far” is when the majority of characters in a book are queer. But queer people are only meant to be a small percentage of the population! someone inevitably cries. Sure, but if you look at queer people in real life… we stick together. I know queer people just because they’re queer and so am I, and it’s not just about the pool of people available for me to date. Queer people often make friends with other queer people because we share experiences that straight people don’t. So it just makes sense that a queer character would surround themselves with other queer characters.

(Also, hey, queer people are people, with the same drives and motivations as everyone else. You’re not reading about an alien with unfathomable motives: what difference does it make if most of the characters don’t share your sexual orientation? If you’re straight, you’re hardly suffering for representation in fiction — you can just pick up another book instead!)

Another worry about diversity is when people not belonging to a certain minority co-opt parts of that experience to write about it or weave a world around it or whatever. I’m not saying it can never be done well, though I’d shy away from doing it myself if I were still writing, because you should respect that experience and do a ton of research to make it right. There’s not a lot of representation of this stuff out there, historically, so adding any is bound to make an impact. Even with all the research in the world, I’d have to ask myself if I was really the best person to write about it.

And of course there’s when people not belonging to a culture outright exoticise it. I mean, there’s a certain amount of the appeal of a different culture that’s always going to be about the exotic, whether it’s actually aliens or just a culture people aren’t too familiar with. But there are right and wrong ways to handle that, when it comes to real cultures, and research is the better part of valour 100% of the time when that’s what you’re doing.

Diversity isn’t easy — it doesn’t come just because you added a couple of black people to your fantasy school body or have a Chinese scientist on your crack team of experts. It also doesn’t have to be about flipping things round and making the minority the dominant group. Reality is diverse (and if yours isn’t, maybe it’s time to consider why)… it’s only right for fiction to follow suit.

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Discussion: Deciding what to read

Posted 2 July, 2018 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

With such a massive reading list, sometimes I end up spoiled for choice. There’s a gazillion and one books I want to read at once, so how do I choose?

Welp, I’ve found that any kind of constraint tends to just make me contrary. Have to review it by next week because it releases soon? Let me ignore it altogether for at least another month. Planned to read it for a readalong? Often, that just leads to meh as well. In the end, I’ve come to terms with this — I had a really great conversation over on Beeminder’s forum about my attitude to books and goals in general a few weeks ago, which really helped elucidate that I was making it into work, and it really doesn’t need to be.

So yeah, you’ll find that I might miss review deadlines by a mile, but review something that’s been out for five years the day after I got it. Or vice versa. In the end, it comes back to something I’ve said on here a couple of times: this isn’t my job. I do this for fun. This may not always be a winning strategy with publishers (ugh, my Netgalley ratio is appalling) but it works for my brain and keeps the dreaded reading slumps mostly out of my way.

So what’s your strategy? Reading lists, never own so many books you have to make choices, whatever’s got a deadline on it…? And how on earth do you stick to it when there’s such new shinies out there?!

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Discussion: Blog Tours

Posted 11 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

It’s Monday morning, and though I’ve been lax lately, that does mean it’s time for a discussion post ’round these parts. This week, “blog tours” feel like an appropriate topic, as I should be taking part in one this week and I’ve put my name down for another. The thing is… I have a confession to make.

I don’t pay that much attention to blog tours. I’d rather read a review of the book. If it’s a book I don’t know anything about, then even a giveaway probably won’t tempt me to join in the feeding frenzy. There are exceptions: an author I love, content that’s actually unique or worth reading (like interviews or lists of recommendations from the author, some other kind of genuine content that sheds light on what they do), books I’m already curious about… But for the most part, I see “Blog Tour” and I scroll on by, because I’ve noticed a trend in them of people just promoting every book they’re asked to promote, books they may not even care about — sometimes multiple books in one day — and just phoning it in. Cover, blurb, Rafflcopter giveaway, done.


(Granted, most people I follow don’t do this at all, which is probably why I follow them. The same is likely to be true of people following me, since I don’t go in for publicity frenzies. Still. Sometimes you just need to say it.)

So my personal commitment with blog tours is: provide something people want to see. Genuine content, chances to win ARCs of an eagerly awaited book, a review of a book I’ve actually read and enjoyed, or at least want to discuss… I will never, I promise, just take part in a blog tour for the sake of it. There’s no point in doing it to get followers, to win brownie points, to fill in a blank space in your schedule. It’s like the boy who cried wolf: if every day you’re shouting about a brilliant new book you don’t even care about, then what’s the point? Readers never know if you’re being sincere or not, and if you’re putting out significant volumes of it, the answer is most likely not.

Be sincere in your choice of books to promote, and then the promotions you do will be more valuable — to publishers and other bloggers alike. Win/win, right?

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Discussion: Romance

Posted 28 May, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

I’m not primarily a romance blogger, or even frequently, but I do pick up the occasional romance — usually not contemporaries, at least not for straight romance, though there’s Susanna Kearsley, but more classic stuff like Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart. (I do read LGBT romance, but that’s a rather separate genre in many ways.) I think that mostly lets me duck some of the rubbish said about romance books: I don’t constantly get shamed for the interest, though I’ve seen that attitude out there. Heck, my grandma always dismisses what she reads as ‘penny dreadfuls’, and as far as I can tell at least some of it is mushy romance and family sagas (though she also likes Dorothy Dunnett, so there’s that for comparison).

I can totally understand people for whom romance isn’t a thing they want to read about — but I do hate the attitude that reading romance is pointless or inferior in general. First off, I don’t believe in disparaging people for what they enjoy, because enjoyment is something humans crave and even need. And secondly, I hate the attitude that reading romance is just escapism or whatever: it deals with powerful emotions that real people feel and have to deal with, and with relationships between people and how they’re negotiated. I don’t know how anyone can act like reading about the invention of flying cars is more important than reading about how to navigate complex human relationships!

Like any genre, romance has its problems. It comes with a whole bag of tropes that can be really problematic, and romance just isn’t a priority for a lot of people (or even an interest at all for some). That’s great. But let’s not label it as pointless for everyone in every situation — and that’s the attitude that comes across sometimes, especially when people just dip into the genre and talk about it as a “guilty pleasure” or “a bit of fluff”… or a “penny dreadful”. It just sounds so dismissive.

Fiction is, for the most part, designed to entertain the reader. Let’s not disparage romance just for being really successful at doing that!

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Discussion: Audiobooks

Posted 14 May, 2018 by Nikki in General / 22 Comments

I really want to love audiobooks. I have a whole bunch lined up on Audible, and I’ll have the odd fit of listening to them while exercising or while crocheting, but I find them really hard to stick to. I want to devour my books at a heck of a pace, which I guess is part of it: sure, I can turn up the speed of the narration, but I’m still very aware I could be reading faster myself. Admittedly not at the same time as crocheting or something, but still, the slowness grates on me. The tedious bits in some books just drag out for ages and ages with an audiobook, whereas in a paperback I’d be past them in a twinkling. (And yet I hate using the skip forward function in an audiobook. What if I miss something?!)

I think I also find it harder to process the story when I’m hearing it read to me. Adaptations are different: if the BBC adapted every book ever into radioplays, I’d be right there and all over it. I love the BBC radioplays — The Lord of the Rings and the Peter Wimsey books are just wonderful, as far as I’m concerned. Okay, sometimes the voice casting isn’t quite right, but most often it really is — sorry, Andy Serkis, but Gollum for me is Peter Woodthorpe, forever and ever amen. (Likewise, Bill Nighy is the real Sam Gamgee.)

So I think it’s probably partly that books are usually written to be read, not performed. An adaptation cuts the stuff that doesn’t work in audio, which is why I get on well with it — in fact, I might even get on better with an adaptation than with the source text if it cuts out the kind of thing I don’t pay attention to, like tons of visual description.

A good narrator can sometimes make an audiobook worth it for me, but still… for the most part, I remain unconvinced.

So what do you get from audiobooks that makes them viable for you? Or maybe you’re like me, and you can’t get on with them?

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Discussion: Did Not Finish

Posted 7 May, 2018 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

This one is a topic that tends to divide bibliophiles: deciding not to finish a book.

I’ll admit, I’m often torn. On the one hand, why should I put in the time on something I’m not actually enjoying? On the other, I usually paid for it or went to some inconvenience like getting on a bus to get on a train to get to a library in order to get the book. Or I’m meant to be reviewing it because I received it free.

My ultimate decision was that I can DNF a book if I’m not enjoying it, and I can still write reviews in that case too — after all, it can be useful to know what made another reader’s interest flag — as long as I state that I didn’t finish the book. Sometimes to write a proper review, I skim through to the end anyway; I’ll usually mention that too.

In the end, it’s come down to my Golden Rule of Reading: reading is not workI’ve read voraciously my whole life as an escape, as a way to visit new places and meet new people. No matter what, I don’t want to compromise that joy in books with a feeling of obligation. Reading is a pleasure that’s always going to be there for me, as long as I don’t make it into a job (I have one of those; well, several, since I’m a freelancer/contractor).

I get the feeling of obligation, I do. And I get those books that you love to hate, too, or feeling like you should give something a chance. But unless you need to read something for a class, why are you doing something in your free time that solely feels like a chore? If you’re not enjoying it at all — if you’re reading only to be finished… I don’t see why you shouldn’t stop now, and read something you’d like better. At least, that’s the way it works out for me, after years of feeling a sort of moral obligation to finish books.

How about you? Do you let yourself DNF?


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Project More Joy

Posted 18 December, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

I don’t know many bloggers who don’t want to grow their blogs, and I think we’ve all heard pretty much the same advice. Post regularly (but not too much), review new books (but don’t make it all ARCs that other people can’t get yet), review the stuff your readers are interested in (but don’t get too specialised), take part in memes and tags (but not too many)… It can get to be an obligation. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find myself picking my next book because “oh, it’s been a while since I reviewed a fantasy novel” or “everyone must be bored of non-fiction reviews, I should pick something else”.

And you know, the advice isn’t bad if you just want to grow your audience, maybe sell some books through affiliate links (not one so far from mine!), be a popular blogger with a ton of followers, get all the ARCs…

But I found myself looking at the books I’m hoping to get for Christmas and briefly thinking I’d like to reread the rest of the series… and then thinking, hm, no, I reread that earlier this year, nobody wants to see me review that again.

Wait, what? Who am I reading for? Why have I suddenly turned my hobby into a job? Why do I have to periodically keep having this realisation?

I don’t follow other people’s blogs because I necessarily want to read the books they do, or want them to review particular things. I follow other people’s blogs to share the joy of reading, and I don’t have to share their taste closely for that. And it’s valuable to me to know if someone whose taste I know has read a book five times in a year, because hey, that means it’s exceptional in some way! And while I don’t read much of certain genres or authors, if I see a blogger tearing through all the books by a certain author, first of all, I’m glad for them, and second, maybe it’s worth a try as a gateway into the genre. Enthusiasm is a real recommendation.

So here’s my endeavour for the year ahead: read the books I want to, not the books I think I should. Reread when I like. Don’t worry about varying my reviews or writing some deathless original prose about a book I’ve read five times now. I’m just going to share what I’ve enjoyed, and why I’ve enjoyed it, and if that’s neither useful or interesting to people, that’s fine. It turns out I’m not here for the audience, for the affiliate link sales, for the ARCs. I’m here to share how much I love reading.

(Not that that means things will necessarily change. I like doing Stacking the Shelves, commenting on other people’s posts, reading and reviewing books of all genres. I just might not worry too much at all about whether I’m posting too many non-fic reviews in a row or whether it’s excessive to read The Goblin Emperor again.)

Hence: Project More Joy. And to share a bit of joy around, here is Breakfast Bun hiding under a cabbage leaf.

Breakfast Bun under a large cabbage leaf almost as big as he is.

“Sssh, I’m a secret!”

Here’s hoping you’re all along for the wild, book-enjoying ride with me.