Posted in discussion

Knowing When To Quit On A Book

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I took a very long time for me to feel comfortable not finishing a book. As a writer myself, and in the age of social media where famous authors are easily accessible, I know only too well how much effort goes into crafting a story. I felt, as a reader, I owed it to them to read every single page, even if I didn’t particularly enjoy it. As you can expect, it negatively impacted my reading life and often I had spells where I didn’t want to read at all. Statistically 50 pages is the “make or break” point where people give up on a book. Often I would far exceed that point.

Eventually I reached a point where my current read was something I hated so much. So I made the leap and tossed it aside. You know what happened? Nothing. The world didn’t stop turning. The book didn’t set on fire. I simply move on. I will happily disown a book a few chapters in, and when it comes to audiobooks a bad narrator can make me give up after just a few minutes.

By giving up on a book I don’t like, I’m making the journey to one I love that little bit shorter.

Do you give up on books?
How long does it take before you decide a book isn’t for you?

 

Posted in discussion

When A Book From Your Favourite Author Misses The Mark

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We all have writers that we’d die for. We spend hours in queues with armful books waiting for that memorable encounter, we buy endless editions of their books, feel close to them on social media platforms. But what happens when you don’t like a book from them?

Learning as much as I have over the past few years about the best ways to support authors, it’s no surprise that number one is… actually buying their books. I’ve had many instances of starting a new book from an author I love with every fibre of my being, only to really not enjoy it at all. I’ve watched all the five star ratings roll in feeling like I’ve completely missed something, when really it was just the simple fact that the story wasn’t for me. Big name authors are not exempt from this: every book from F.Scott Fitzgerald that isn’t The Great Gatsby, V.E.Schwab’s This Savage Song, even The Magisterium Series which is co-written by Cassandra Clare hasn’t managed to avoid this issue.

I did a whole separate blog post about how even old favourites have fallen prey to this revelation. Books that I once screamed from the rooftops about are now stuck with 3 star ratings, others I couldn’t finish because I didn’t want my old memories of them to be sullied by my lack of enjoyment.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that the way to show the authors I love how much they mean to me is by… well… what I’m doing right now: talking about them and promoting them at every opportunity. Because if I love them, there’s sure to be other readers out there that will too.

Are there any books from beloved authors that you didn’t like? Are there any you wish you loved because of the hype?

Posted in Charlotte Writes Things

Charlotte Writes Things | Coming Back After A Break

“One day I will find the right words and they will be simple.” – Jack Kerouac

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While hard to admit, writing breaks are sometimes very much needed. I wrote a  post recently talking about the immense pressure I put on myself when it comes to writing and how, as a result, I hit a massive wall. For the first time in a few weeks I found myself thinking about writing again; thinking about the worlds my mind had created. I felt that itch to return to my stories in a way I hadn’t for such a long time. It felt like an actual want rather than a obligation.

Of course, with the decision to return to writing comes the crippling self doubt. Have I lost my flow? Do I even remember how to write? What if it’s been too long and that spark won’t stay lit for very long? Obviously, it’s important to push those natural feelings aside and remind myself than even the most successful of writers goes through this when starting something new.

The additional issue I have returning after a break is working out exactly where to start. I never immediately go back to the project I was working on. So one of my working progresses is very much shelved into I can work out the knots in the tangled threads. I have many books at various stages and it took a while to work out a course of action. During my break, I received more rejections from agents, so I’ve started reworking my query letter and synopsis along with doing research into more agents I feel could represent me. It’s hard not to constantly think “is this sellable” whenever I’m working on something, but when I start actually writing aspects of one of my stories again I will limit my sprints to 10 minutes rather than 30. Less pressure= more opportunity for success. The less restrictions the better. After the queries are in the wild, I might properly plan my new idea, or just focus on editing to remind myself of my own writing style (you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget your own voice).

So slowly but surely, I’m working my way back. I am nervous but refreshed, and ready to create more magic.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Outgrowing Favourites

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The reason I love books so much is because they’re almost like time capsules. I can take any mound of paper off my shelves and tell you the story behind it. Not just the magic woven into the pages, but my story; the story of who I was when I bought that book, the milestones it marked. The collectors edition of Divergent was a reward to myself for handing my in dissertation which marked the end of my university degree, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story helped me see the light when I didn’t want to live any more, City Of Bones made me realise that writing YA fantasy is where my talents lie. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Like every other reader on the planet, I have favourite books. While I am very much a “I love it or I’m indifferent to it” person when it comes to all types of creative art, when I say a book is my favourite I really mean it with the very core of my being. Those books are have massive sentimental value as well as maybe being a big turning point in a series, or something significant happened that I come back to time and time again only to receive that same joyous rush as if it’s the first time I’m reading it. However, we never stay the same person forever and, as a result, we never stay the same reader. Genres that once enticed us no longer fill up with excitement, plot threads we once loved are now deemed wildly problematic once viewed with an adult perspective. So what happens when books that used to be our favourites no longer are? Trust me, if I’d worked out the solution, I’d be a millionaire from selling vials of the stuff.

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself gravitating back to old favourites and then leaving the experiences slightly terrified that they didn’t have the same impact. Shatter Me, which I last read in 2015, I rated 5 stars and boldly claimed it was the best YA dystopian I’d read. Revisiting it recently led me to drop that rating to 3 stars because I just didn’t connect with the story and the characters as much as before. I never understood why non-fans of Cassandra Clare said her writing was so bad in The Mortal Instruments series until I reread City Of Bones and noticed the issues in the writing even though it was her debut and she’s improved dramatically since then. That series has a massive place in my heart because it was the first time I’d seen bisexual representation in a book. It meant the world to me and yet, I don’t think I can ever go back to that particular series. Sure I can consume the new stories, but it won’t be the same for the old. I tried to read The Book Of Lost Things which I’d declared one of my favourite books of all time, only to bow out of it at the 100 page mark because I wasn’t enjoying it anywhere near as much and didn’t want my memories of what it felt like to read it the first time be tainted.

Admittedly, it’s left me afraid to reread any other favourites in case I pick them off one by one. But I guess the empty spaces left behind are opportunities for new books to take over.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Posted in discussion

Why I Love Audiobooks

“Some critics — the always tiresome Harold Bloom among them — claim that listening to audiobooks isn’t reading. I couldn’t disagree more. In some ways, audio perfects reading.” – Stephen King

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As UK print sales continue to slowly dwindle, and audio sales continue to soar, there’s no denying it: people are changing the way they read. With so many audiobook specialist services cropping up, and Audible famously dominating the market, the exclusivity from these platforms has listeners old and new spoiled for choice.

Audiobooks have a childhood nostalgia for me. My main exposure to them was having the bulky CD boxes stuffed in the glove compartment on a long car journey for the school holidays. Normally they’d be the latest Artemis Fowl or something of a similar ilk. More often than not I’d sit in the back of the car reading along with the book as the narrator weaved the story. I lost touch over the years with the format, but more recently, I’ve fallen back in love with them.

However, with the rising popularity comes a lot of criticism. With columnists rising in their droves to label people who listen to audiobooks as “lazy”, I thought I’d take some time to talk about why I love the format so much.

ACCESSIBILITY

Did you know that audiobooks were initially created for blind readers? It’s true! In the 1930s they were known as “talking books” and growing technology allowed them to be distributed in cassette form. While mass consumption over the years has allowed for more investment and innovation, it’s important to remember the origins and the history being attacked when those choose to voice their distaste of the format. For some story lovers, there isn’t the option to just “pick up a real book.” Reading is inclusive in so many ways and we should champion that rather than trying to score points.

CONVENIENCE

Yes, I’m following up with something immediately counteracting previous points.  While I truly miss the endless days when I could be snuggled up on the sofa for hours on end reading, the reality of adult life means that sometimes other things need to take bigger priority. As a result, often when I have that time to read I’m just too tired to focus on the words. I recently did a blog post about how my reading has changed and how my main source of reading is audio based. If it wasn’t for this format, I would not be reading now. In a full time office job I can fly through many books while going about my daily business without feeling the guilt of missing out on new stories.

“Audio is merciless. It exposes every bad sentence, half-baked metaphor, and lousy word choice.” – Stephen King

LISTENING IS MAGIC

There’s something about listening to a story being told that adds this special feeling that I just cannot really explain. If it’s a beautifully poetic book like Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe, the words have so much more weight to them. I often find I can appreciate the writing style of books even more when the narrator delivers the lines.

NARRATORS

The worth of a good narrator is completely underestimated. Services like Audible are bringing in big names such as Michael Sheen to tell their stories. For me, the person telling the story is massively important. If I can’t gel with the narrator, it’s easy to miss out on what could have been a really enjoyable book. But getting the narrator that you can just tell is as invested in the plot as you can make for an incredible experience. A big stand out for me was the cast for The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. My heart still aches with so much love for that production. I’ve even found myself seeking books outside of my usual reading tastes just because it’s a narrator I’ve previously loved.

What’s your preferred reading format?
If it’s audiobooks, what are some of your favourite of the year so far?

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Posted in discussion

Why I Love Book Acknowledgements

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Back in the day, before the internet, (yes I am that old) the only way I could learn more about those people behind the books was through acknowledgements. I didn’t even know what my favourite authors looked like, so it was a chance to peek behind the curtain in some way.

Book acknowledgements are stories in themselves. A name that could mean nothing to me, means everything to someone else. Did they sit there over coffee with the author who groaned endlessly about a chapter that didn’t work? Have they been life-long friends? Maybe they’re another writer who understands the plight of creating a new world. As social media has developed and expanded, readers can now interact with their beloved creators on a daily basis. We feel closer as we see their friendships play out in the virtual world (take Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera and Angie Thomas, for example). Those names littered in the acknowledgment are often familiar now, but it doesn’t make them any less magical.

When a close friend of mine, K.M.Robinson, released her debut book Golden, I was overjoyed to read it after hearing about it for so long. At the time of writing this (I say that because she is a machine and could have written five more by the time this is posted), she has sixteen books out in the world. As I reached the inevitable end, I turned to the acknowledgements and froze when I saw not just my name, but a whole paragraph dedicated just to little old me. I will be grateful for this for the rest of my life.

My favourite thing about it is that it’s a collection of inside jokes. To anyone else, this is jut nonsense;  a weird footnote in a list of thank yous. But to me, it is everything.

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Posted in book event, discussion, poetry

Poetry Event | Neil Hilborn

“I saw the future, I did,
and in it,
I was alive.”

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I never used to really be into poetry. Despite having a degree partly in English Literature, having to constantly analyse poems made it really hard to love them outside of a classroom. A friend of mine is a poet and, when I shared these concerns, introduced me to a channel called Button Poetry and his favourite performance poet Neil Hilborn whose main focuses are around mental health as he has OCD. When the announcement of a UK tour was made, it seemed wrong to pass up on it so me and a couple of friends – who all love his poetry – decided to make it a small friend reunion.

I try to pretend that my anxiety disorder is not as crippling it is because sometimes it makes me worry about completely unnecessary things but it’s been a just over a year since I passed my driving test and driving places I’ve never been before still fills me with a sense of dread. But I knew I needed to push myself and one of my friends had driven to Birmingham before so was able to help me navigate along with a sat nav. I am so ridiculously proud of myself for forcing myself to do it; even if my muscles were clenched for the whole journey. We met up with my other friend who’d got her train to Birmingham to meet us and we had dinner to catch up and explored the city. Of course, we took a trip to Waterstones and I was quick to pick up a copy of the newly released Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo.

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We then indulged in more food and made our way over to The Glee Club which was the venue for the performance. The capacity was 420 people and the event was sold out. I’ve been to poetry nights before but never solely to see one poet so I had no idea what to expect.

It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to experience something. Especially when it’s visual. Neil Hilborn’s poetry is so deep, intricate, and complex. To watch him on that stage, pausing as he looked at the floor and taking a deep breath before putting all of his heart and soul into getting those feelings across in his performances felt almost like we’d stumbled into something that was meant to be private.  He even broke away halfway through poems to joke about some of the lines he’s written which just added a little extra humour and a more human element to it. But honestly, I forgot that I was in a tiny room in a comedy club in Birmingham. Listening to these poems with the actual poet in front of me felt like being in a different world.

Surprisingly, after his show had finished, there was the opportunity to meet him. I felt bad not having a copy of his book (I read it on Kindle) and no cash to buy any that were available at the merch table so when I finally did get to meet him I started off by pointing this out and how I felt terrible. He shook my hand and I told him about my anxiety and how listening to his poem The Future helps me when I get into a state where doing every day things becomes difficult. The irony of the situation was that I was on the brink of having a panic attack while thanking him for helping me… not have panic attacks. But I mean, one of the greatest modern poets was sitting in front of me, staring at me and listening to what I was saying. After that, he signed a little card for me and we got a photo.

We then said goodbye to the friend who’d gotten the train and got back in my car where I had to do the whole awful journey in reverse; which turned out to be very eventful as the junction I needed to get off the motorway was closed so we ended up with a lengthy detour.

I feel so honoured to have this experience and getting to meet the man behind all the words and videos I’ve consumed over the past few years. I often find it’s too easy to see people through a screen and forget that they are just that: people.

I’m going to end this post with Neil Hilborn’s performance of The Future which I hope will encourage you to look further into his poetry.