Don’t ever invite me to play Candy Crush on Facebook or ask me to write a book review! I like to read reviews but I’ve no desire to write one – it feels too much like an assignment for English homework.
What I do enjoy is going to lots of writer events and blogging about the writer’s work and how it impacted on my own writing. I mention books a lot in this blog (as a writer it would be weird if I didn’t!) but I don’t write extensive book reviews on this blog for a few reasons. The main one is that I know how hard it is to write a novel so I’m reluctant to criticise anyone who has gone the distance and managed to have their writing traditionally published – something I can’t brag about! I’m also wary of making negative comments because I know how hurt I’d feel to read a bad review if I ever did get my novel published (take note book bloggers, if the dream ever comes true I’m more sensitive than I look).
Of course, no book will please everyone and if I come across a novel I didn’t enjoy (‘enjoy’ being an unsophisticated term I was encouraged not to use during my MLitt course but that’s mainly why I read) I deal with it by not airing my opinion on social media (or make it as tame as possible) and I don’t pass the book on to my pals to read.
I also don’t review books because there are hunners of great blogs specifically for book reviews (Isabel Costello’s On the Literary Sofa is excellent) so why bother trying to compete with an already saturated market? And my blog is not a big hitter (I can only rely on my best pal to read it) so it wouldn’t generate huge book sales for writers anyway. It’s a skill to write a comprehensive balanced review and my ‘Reading Journal’ was the part of the MLitt course I least enjoyed. I do like to reflect on books; privately and with friends but having to analyse a novel in detail and comment on how I engaged with it isn’t something I want to take the time to write about.
On Fridays, if I remember, I join in with the hashtag #FridayReads on Twitter which is a great way to engage in a bit of chat between chapters with like-minded folk who tweet about what they’re reading on that particular Friday. I’ve picked up a few good recommendations (although my 2014 New Years Resolution apart from the annual ‘lose weight’ plan was to stop buying books until I’ve already read the ones on my To Be Read pile – I’m in denial with that goal as much as my weight problem).
I must’ve been a good girl, or got away with it as Santa was good to me and added another four titles to add to my mountainous TBR pile. One of the books made a big impression on me so I made an exception and went to the very rare effort of writing a brief review on Amazon.
The book is Maggie and Me by Damian Barr and it wowed me – a genuine 5/5 stars! I was wary of reading it because it covers the same time period as my own WIP (mid 1980’s) in a very similar setting (small working class Scottish town). I was worried that the subject matter would be too close to the same issues I’m trying to highlight and it might impact on my own style unconsciously. The theme of sectarianism is in my novel too but that’s where the similarity ends (no spoilers here!). The one thing I do hope to achieve is the authenticity of the narration. Damian’s voice is honest and ultimately inspiring. It was inevitable that the next book I read was never going to beat Maggie and Me no matter how good it was (I won’t name and shame its poor use of stereotypes). I think I’ll struggle to read something else in 2104 as moving, the book captures the gritty reality of growing up in an abusive environment without being a misery memoir and still manages to feature humour from start to finish.
P.S. Unlike some writers who don’t respond on Twitter to a positive tweet about their book or deign to follow a mere reader back, Damian acknowledged my praise and is up for a bit of banter – what’s not to like about the man and his writing? @Damian_Barr