This week is the third in my series of interviews with book bloggers. I've found it really interesting to read what has motivated my interviewees to dedicate their blogs to reviewing and promoting books. Today's is one I am particularly fond of and have been reading for some time.
Anne Mackle has become one of my true cyber friends and I have had just the loveliest contact with her. It started with Twitter, then I followed her personal blog 'Is Anyone There?', and then shortly after I started reading her book blog 'Books With Wine and Chocolate' where she reviews books she has read and been asked to read. What I like particularly about Anne's blog is her balanced and thorough assessment of each book. I also like the way she is scrupulously fair and constructive. If she doesn't like something in a book, she tells you why without making you feel that you wouldn't like it too or putting the book down. A rare and great skill.
As the third and last of this current series of book blog weberviews, I asked Anne to join me on the barge for a chat.
AM: Hi Val! Thanks for inviting me onto the barge. I'm glad the sun is out and the water is calm today!
VP: Hi Anne, yes, I'm glad it's stopped raining too! I've hardly been able to hear myself think these last few days with the noise of the wind and hail on the hatchboards! But Ann, can you tell the readers how long you've been blogging about the books you've read and reviewed?
AM: Well, my book review blog has been going for about seventeen months now although at first I only posted a review every month now it’s every week or more.
VP: So, what inspired you to start the blog?
AM When my children were young I worked in a library and I read every bestseller as soon as it came in. It was lovely to then pass on how much I had enjoyed a book to the public. Later in another job everyone would come to me before buying a new book to ask which was best. Since leaving work I have missed that. After my writing blog was established I suppose it seemed a natural progression for me to blog about books.
VP: I really had no idea you'd worked in a library, Anne. But you live in Scotland and you say you've always loved reading. What books did you read when you were growing up and what was it you loved about them?
AM: The first books I remember reading were by Enid Blyton. I think the first one was called The Wishing Chair. I went on to her Secret Seven books full of daring adventures in castles and lighthouses best read by torchlight under the bedcovers. After that came Catherine Cookston’s Mary Ann series for children which were just brilliant. My mum was a prolific reader so I must get it from her.
VP: Things have changed a lot in recent years with e-books and e-readers. I wondered, then do you read paperbacks or e-books mostly?
AM: I have a kindle and an ipad and tend to use the ipad more because I can read it in bed without the light on. Ebooks are so easy to buy, perhaps a bit too easy but are great for taking books on holiday instead of having to choose what paperbacks to take. But I still love real books especially hard backed ones. The smell and feel of the paper is something an e book will never beat.
VP: Oh I so agree. If I like an e-book, I always buy the real book too! Just out of interest, what's your favourite genre and how do you decide which books to buy or read?
AM: I will read most genres as long as I think the story sounds worth reading. I’m not too keen on straightforward romance books where boy meets girl, falls in and out of love and so forth. I want a good plot or secret at the heart of the book. I would rather not read anything too scary, I’m a bit of a wimp and it would keep me awake at night. I recently turned down a book to review because it said it was a hot, steamy novel, what could I say about a book like that?
VP: Haha, I can't write or read anything like that either. I just get embarrassed. But seriously, what do you think is important when writing a review?
AM: Not to give the plot away. I read so many reviews on Amazon where the reviewer has given away the whole story. It is very hard to say what you enjoyed about a book when you’re dying to tell people the part you loved the most but it’s unfair to spoil it for everyone.
VP: Yes, I sometimes wonder why people feel the need to do that. But can I ask what you do if you don't like a book you've read. Do you still review it?
AM: Luckily I have never hated a book I have been asked to review - only books I have bought myself and then I just wouldn’t review them. I do comment on parts of a book I maybe didn’t think came across as being true but I would never tear apart an author’s work as I know how much blood sweat and tears has gone into it. I get really annoyed at reviewers who say they gave up after reading two chapters as it was the worst book they have ever read. You have to read the entire book if you want to comment on it.
VP: And it's noticeable that you have read them all too! Do publishers or distributors ask you to review books for them? How does that work?
AM: There is a website called Net Galley where book bloggers can apply to join. If you are accepted you can then choose review copies (ARC) eBooks you would like to review. The publisher will get back with a yes or a no. The review has to go on your blog as well as Net Galley, so the more reviews you do, the more books you will be accepted for. I am also contacted by publishers or PR people who send me paperback copies of books to review and sometimes authors get in touch on twitter.
I particularly like reviewing books by debut authors as it’s so hard to get noticed among all the bestsellers these days. I also buy many books and seem to be quite good at winning copies on other blogs and websites.
VP: That's great! It also shows your reviews are well respected. I must say your blog looks very professional and well presented. How much time do you spend on updating and designing it, and how many views do you get on average?
AM: Thanks for saying that Val, I’m still learning about blog layout so it’s all a bit of a hit or a miss, sometimes I spend a few hours playing around with it. My book reviews seem to be getting just over 100 views each with the exception of Jigsaw Pieces by Carol Hedges which has had over 300 views.
VP: She's such a draw card, isn't she? And it's a great book too! What about you, though, do you follow many other people's blogs and do you know how many people follow yours?
AM: I follow lots of writing blogs but not so many book review ones. I do read them but usually when links are tweeted or on Facebook. I think I have about 40 followers but over 100 follow by book blog Facebook page.
VP: Twitter, Facebook and blogs make a good combination don't they. If any of the readers here want to start a book blog, would you have any tips for them?
AM: I have found Blogger a lot easier to use than Word press but everyone has their favorite. My tips would be review books you have bought yourself first for a few months then apply to join Net Galley. Publishers then get to know your name. Don’t take on too many books to read, though. Remember there’s only 24 hrs in a day!
VP That's a good point! It would be very tempting to take on more than you can ever read! And lastly, lastly, Anne, what do you do in your free time when you aren't reading, writing reviews and blogging?
AM: Reading and blogging are my hobbies; I don’t think I could ever be without them. I have a two year old granddaughter and another due at Christmas I help out with her childcare nearly every week I also look after my friend’s three year old grandson two days a week and have done since he was born, so the rest of my days revolve around them, painting, baking and reading stories and I love it.
VP: I'll have to ask you about the painting and baking another time - I didn't know you did that either! But Anne, thanks so very much for coming down from Scotland to the barge here.
AM: Thank you for interviewing me Val and for being so supportive of my blogs. Now where’s the tea and cake I was promised? Let’s go barging!
VP: Oh yes, the cake..... Oh no!! It's fallen overboard! I can see it floating off through the harbour. We'd best cast off these ropes and go after it.....!
While we go off and rescue the cake, anyone who wants to read Anne's blog will find her reviews here:
Her facebook page here:
And her twitter profile here: