Tag Archives: reading

How to Make a Bookish Penguin Gift Tag

If you’re friends with a bookworm, the chances are they are a massive penguin fan and will have a collection of vintage penguin books (guilty) or some kind of penguin lifestyle item hanging around their house.

What better way to jazz up a book that you’ve bought them for Christmas than this handmade bookish penguin gift tag which doubles up as a unique bookmark that can be enjoyed long after the rest of the wrapping has gone?

To make a bookish penguin gift tag you will need:

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Old book page
  • Cardboard (I used white watercolour paper and gold card)
  • Black paint
  • Fine paintbrush
  • Glue
  • Decorative twine or ribbon

How to make a bookish penguin gift tag:

  1. Sketch out your penguin onto a piece of plain paper. When you’re happy with the design, turn your paper over and shade heavily with a graphite pencil. Hold this over your book page and pressing heavily on the paper, draw over the penguin so that the image transfers like the one below.

2. Using black paint and a fine brush, carefully go over your pencil lines then fill in the black parts of the penguin on the book page.

3. When your penguin has dried, cut out an oval of paper which fits around the penguin and trace the shape around your penguin to give it a good border. Cut this shape out and stick it onto a white card background.

4. Cut around the oval to create a white border and then stick the bordered oval onto another shade of card of your choice. I chose gold to make it feel Christmassy. Once these have dried, make a small hole in the top of the card and thread with decorative twine or ribbon to allow you to use it as a tag or as a bookmark.

 

Five Tips for Getting Bloggers to Review Your Book

Most authors know that approaching bloggers to review their new book is a great way to drum up some free publicity that gives their book a word-of-mouth popularity, but when it comes to approaching blog authors with a query, their emails can be very hit and miss, sometimes just plain rude. Based on the emails I receive every day, here are my top five tips to help get your book reviewed with traditional presses and achieve a higher response rate when approaching bloggers about your book, remember you’re asking them to review your book for free so the least you can do is make your query polite.

 

Tip Number 1 – Check the blog’s reviewing policy

I wrote my reviewing policy so that anyone who asks me to review their book knows exactly what to expect when dealing with me – I don’t do paid reviews, I won’t mince my words, I don’t guarantee a review for books that were just blah  and I don’t review self-published novels. I’d say roughly half of the emails I receive asking me to review books are from self-published authors who haven’t spent the time familiarizing themselves with my reviewing policy beyond lifting my email address from it. If their book looks interesting and I know of another blogger who would review, I will try to link them up, but more often than not I have to delete their email without replying.

 

Tip Number 2 – Personalize your emails

No address is just rude, Dear Blogger is a bit annoying. If you’re taking the time to email bloggers, don’t send a clearly mass email in the hope that someone is going to commit at least three hours to reading your book and writing a considered review. Dear Book and Biscuit is acceptable, but most bloggers will have their name in their About Me section, and they won’t mind you using it.

 

Tip Number 3 – Build relationships

Bloggers can be really busy people. I work and have a toddler. Lots of other bloggers do too, or have other really time intensive commitments. If I’m pushed for time and declining reviews, I’m far more likely to make time to review a book by an author or publisher I have an existing relationship with. I doubt I’m the only one who feels like this. Rather than cold email a blogger, take your time to get to know their site, engage with it, comment on their blog, chat with them on social media. It will set you apart from authors who have lifted their contact details from a book reviewers list that many bloggers didn’t opt in to.

 

Tip Number 4 – Use your existing networks

If you’ve written a book, there’s a good chance that you’re a reader too. What existing networks do you have that allow you to reach readers that you’ve already built a relationship with? Do any of those blog, or would they be able to recommend interested bloggers who specialise in your genre? It’s worth reaching out with a personalized email to ask for their help or advice. It seems to me that there can be a lot of ego involved when people start out writing, but the authors I admire and who seem to be really successful are genuinely interested in being part of a community with like minded readers. I guess it’s all part of really understanding your target audience.

 

Tip Number 5 – Don’t pay for reviews

I know that it may seem tempting. And I know that there are unscrupulous sites which tout themselves as blogger networks who will take your money to arrange a blog tour or similar. I found this out when I provided an honest review after another blogger had begged me to as a favour, and the author became very upset because she had paid the other blogger (without my knowledge) and assumed that she had bought a positive review from me. It caused a lot of bad feeling all round. If you put in the work making yourself a part of a reading and writing community, you won’t have to pay for reviews, and you’ll build a more engaged following for it.

 

Fellow bloggers, is there anything else you’d add to this? Authors, what’s worked well in your experience?

The Best Book Subscription Boxes

If you’ve dipped even your little toe in the murky waters of social media recently, I’ll bet that you’ve seen an advert for some kind of subscription service. From make up to meat, surprises to sanitary towels (no, really) it seems that there’s a subscription box for almost everything, though until recently a monthly box for book lovers has been a pipe dream for those in the UK.

But no more! There are now a wide range of book subscription services for bookworms in the UK, so you don’t have to pay a huge postage fee to enjoy a monthly book box from across the pond. And, dare I say it, it seems to me that UK bookworms actually have a more grown up selection of book subscription packages to choose from?

I’ve selflessly gone out of my way to test a few of these (best month ever) and am able to give you a round-up of the best book subscription boxes the UK has to offer. Curated by small teams of imaginative, talented and hardworking bookworms, they really are all fantastic:

Bookishly

bookishly subscription unboxing review

If you’ve ever had wall art envy for an amazing framed literary quote, you’ve probably come across a print from Bookishly. They’ve recently branched out from creating word art with Vintage books and have created a book club that sends out a monthly package containing a vintage book, a luxury tea sample from Jenier World of Tea and a curated item of stationery. If you know a bookworm who loves to curl up with an old book and a cup of tea before writing a thank you note on beautiful stationery, then the Bookishly book subscription is the gift for them. Or you, if you fit that description.

 

Illumicrate

illumicrate subscription unboxing review

Curated by Daphne at Winged Reviews, Illumicrate is the new heavyweight on the book subscription box market and it really packs a punch. Filled with items that match the Illumicrate ethos of “fun, beautiful and geeky” this larger subscription box is released monthly. The perfect gift for a reader who is passionate about their contemporary and young adult literature, the former teacher in me also thinks it would be the perfect way to lure a reluctant reader into exploring literary worlds.

 

Owl and Bear Gift Company

owl and bear gift company book subscription review

If you’re looking for a special gift for a loved one but don’t necessarily share their literary tastes, the Owl and Bear Gift Company Book Subscription service can help you out. Specialists in genre book subscriptions, they have a package to tickle every bookworm’s fancy whether they are young or old, or if their passion is for horror, thrillers or romance. If you’re not even sure exactly what kind of books your intended recipient prefers, they can still help you out with their bespoke subscription service which builds a package based on the recipient’s favourite authors.

 

The Willoughby Book Club

willoughby book club subscription review unboxing

Founded by Adam and Chloe Pollard in 2012, The Willoughby Book Club provides a personalised book subscription service with some really clever package options. Not only do they provide a Contemporary and Classic packages for those who want to hone their reading in a particular direction, they also provide hobby subscription packages for cooks, gardeners and natural historians. The Willoughby package I like the sound of most is, sadly, not for me… The Couples Book Club package which sends out two copies of the same novel so that you can read it together and discuss it. My boyfriend may make wonderful cups of tea and buy me the books I am embarrassed to be seen with in bookshops, but a reader he is not! Still, I think it would make a great gift to share with a close friend and it really is a genius idea.

New Year Reading Resolutions (you’ve probably broken already…)

Have you made a new year’s resolution? I haven’t yet, partly because I think January is a terrible time to make any kind of life change (way too dark and gloomy) and partly because, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been a little bit distracted. But year after year, I see the same reading resolutions cropping up, and I’m pretty sure that they’re never kept.

Here are 5 popular reading resolutions I’ve seen and why, if you’re anything like me, I think they will fail:

Resolution 1- I will read 52 books this year.

A book a week. Perfectly achieveable… if you already read at around that rate and don’t expect to have, you know, life get in the way of your plans if you don’t. You get sick, have a busy week at school or work and the next thing you know you’re behind on your schedule and will start panicking. I hate it when people set numerical reading targets, because for me, reading is meant to be enjoyable, and a pleasurable activity can’t really be quantified in terms of the number of pleasurable items consumed. For example, you might like eating chocolate, but eat too many bars and you’re going to get sick. This doesn’t have to be a book a week either, it’s any arbitrary number that you use as a stick to beat yourself. Just read at your own pace, and love the books you do manage to read.

Resolution 2- I will read War and Peace

Ah, so you’re going to read that fictional classic that you’ve always felt that you should read but didn’t quite get around to despite that fact that you’ve been promising yourself that you will for the past seven years? It’s all well and good, but are you promising yourself that for the right reasons? My feeling is if the book had really called to you, you would have read it already. If you feel you should read a book, you’re probably doing it because it symbolises something to you, an intellectual achievement, a chance to fit in… not necessarily the right reasons to beat yourself around the head with a 1,440 page dusty tome. If you love classics, fine, but if you actually love dodgy sci-fi with giant spaceworms and bigger plot holes? Do yourself a favour and stick to what you love.

Resolution 3- I will read “the greats”

Ever fancied reading the unabridged great books? I tried this when I was in sixth form and thought I should educate myself before going to university. I started with Marx’s Das Kapital because I was studying Nineteen Eighty-Four at the time, and I didn’t get much further than that. The thing is, many of these great political/philosophical works are pretty esoteric or are deeply rooted in their time, with obscure references to people, works and ideas which you may not have heard of or which are very much of their time. Do yourself a favour and if you are going to try this, either go abridged or get a good academic guide which is going to offer you some context.

Resolution 4- I will share my favourite books with my partner…

Ever heard the expression that you can take a horse to water but can’t make it drink? Well in my house, the horse only drinks sports drinks… if you follow the analogy. Best of luck in your own house though!

 

 

What New Year’s resolutions have you seen or made that have struck you as being overly ambitious?

Quote me on that… a half-finished book

A half-read book is a half-finished love affair

Image based on an original by Jain Basil Aliyas under the terms of Creative Commons license.

I loved Frobischer’s character in David Mitchell’s The Cloud Atlas. Everything about his characterization was perfect but I loved the “A half-read book is a half-finished love affair” line. I think it’s something every reader can relate to. Unless the book was by James Joyce, in which case it was almost certainly a dead-end relationship and you’re better off without it….

I will try reading Joyce’s books again one day. But I will need the world’s biggest cup of tea and a huge plate of biscuits to hand.

3rd Anniversary of Book and Biscuit

WordPress has just notified me that today is the 3rd anniversary of The Book and Biscuit. I feel like we should have cake but the occassion has caught me unprepared, so for past cakes try here, here and here.

I started the blog to give myself something to do with all my free time when I finished teaching and to reach out to like minded book geeks, and while logically it makes sense that it’s been three years, it doesn’t really feel that long ago.

Thanks to all my followers old and new for sticking with me through redesigns and moves- your comments always make me smile and sometimes laugh out loud.

If anyone would like to get in touch with comments or ideas for the blog going forward, I can be reached at bookandbiscuit (at) hotmail (dot) co (dot) uk

JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith, so what?

CuckoosCallingCoverIf you’ve been on twitter, news websites or watching television this week, you’ve probably already heard that JK Rowling has released a well-received crime novel called The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. As a pseudonym, it bears all the hallmarks of JK Rowling’s characters’ names reflecting their traits and means Famous Stranger. Well played, JK Rowling, very well played.

But why all the fuss about her writing under a pseudonym? I can completely understand that with such wild success under her belt she would want to see how her work was received by readers who weren’t prejudiced by their opinions of her previous work. (See statement from JK Rowling on Galbraith here). I mean, show me a review of The Casual Vacancy that doesn’t mention, if not compare it, to the Harry Potter books. Even I was annoyed by the reviews that complained it was a departure from the wonderful world of Hogwarts and its inhabitants. Imagine how she must have felt.

Still, while I could understand excitement at JK Rowling releasing a new book (who doesn’t love a new book from one of their favourite authors) I feel that there has been a hell of a lot of negativity and that it mostly seems to stem from the fact that JK Rowling is so successful.

For example:

Suggestions that it was all just a publicity stunt. Maybe it was a marketing ploy, the way it was discovered is a little fishy, but I still think that it’s pretty cool that she did it. As I’ve said, it must have been nice to have her writing appreciated without her name being considered. Let’s face it, publicity stunt or not, it’s not like any book by JK Rowling is at risk of going under the radar. But it does serve to highlight that writing isn’t a get rich quick scheme and even if you are lucky enough to get published what a fickle world it can be. Industry experts like Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown have pointed out on Twitter that until the news broke, the well-reviewed Galbraith novel had sold 449 copies since April. This gives you an idea of why new talent is such a big risk for publishers- they take an awful lot of effort to market when compared to an established name.

People complaining that she felt that she had to use a man’s name as though she’s a gender traitor. Some have said that this allowed her to conceal her identity more effectively, but honestly? It’s just an example of sexism in literature. Male names sell better than women’s names in Crime Fiction. This is why she was told to use her initials rather than Joanne Rowling as a name when she released Harry Potter- because boys don’t like reading books by girls. Pathetic yes, but when did you last pick up a Romance book with a man’s name on the cover? There are plenty of men writing for Mills and Boon, they just use female pseudonyms. Yes it’s sexist. But JK Rowling has done enough to prove that women can right, it’s the attitude of publishers AND the reading public that needs to change here.

Saying it’s all about the money. JK Rowling is allegedly the first billionaire to give away enough money to charity to lose billionaire status. And while it is, admittedly, all relative, it’s annoying to see people giving her a hard time for being successful. Some of the nastier jibes about this have come from agents and publishers on twitter (eg. this tweet from Melville House, below). I wonder if they have a policy of rejecting clients and authors who they deem to be too successful? If so, send them my way. I’m not so fussy.

melville house jk rowling galbraith

So, when The Cuckoo’s Calling is out in paperback, I will be reading it. In the meantime I will continue to read a mixture of established authors and new authors, but to be honest, I’ll be more interested in the content of the book than the name on the cover.

1000 novels that everyone must read?

A friend sent me a link to this reading list on The Guardian billed as “1000 books that everyone must read a definitive list” telling me that it made her miserable  because she hadn’t even heard of most of them. Granted that these lists are supposed (I suppose) to be a little aspirational, but it does make you wonder who decides what should be included on these lists. The Guardian’s Review team and a panel of expert judges apparently.

It’s not really an Everyman’s List, and it’s interesting to see that a lot of the “100 Best Books” titles seem to have been left off in favour of a disproportionate amount of the Amises, Perec and Smollet. Which instantly gives you the impression that the panel weren’t looking at populist fiction.

I’m beginning to fear that a lot of these lists are designed to allow a select set of individuals to preen their intellectual plumage rather than offer suggestions for great reads for the rest of us.

Reading Glasses

Reading GlassesI dream of having eyesight good enough to forget my glasses, but really liked this idea that I saw when we went for Sunday dinner in a local pub called The Greyhound recently. Patrons who forget their reading glasses can borrow a pair from the bowl to allow them to enjoy their book/paper while they enjoy their drink or wait for their meal. Perfect!

Quote me on that… people who sneer at fiction

pleasure in a good novel Austen

Picture courtesy of ShutterHack on Flickr

Facebook is pretty annoying, but when you take out the equation the big, worse-than-annoying stuff you see (racism, homophobia, etc.) by unfriending people, one of the most annoying things I’ve ever seen was someone who wrote in their favourite books section: “I don’t read fiction, I prefer to spend my time on things which actually have some relevance in the world.”

I had to count to ten. And breathe deeply. And swore anyway.

It really annoys me when people just dismiss books as being trivial. They aren’t. This is why books are still banned and still get burned. People are scared of the ideas they contain because they have meaning and power. But you’ve no doubt heard this all before so I will leave you with an appropriate put down from Jane Austen, which you must deliver in your best impersonation of Downton Abbey’s Lady Grantham the next time you see someone utter something so dismissive.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey