My Little Ramadan

It would be fair to say I have a complex relationship with food, Bookaholics. If I’m happy, I eat. If I’m sad, I eat. If I am breathing, I eat. (I haven’t had a chance to try eating from beyond the grave yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll find a way to do that too). I have huge respect for people capable of any type of fasting, whether it be for health or religious reasons, and find it hard to imagine doing so unless under significant duress. I am consequently very much in awe of the protagonist of My Little Ramadan by Abigail Yardimci, who attempts to replicate her husband’s spiritual fast. This is a touching, often funny and surprisingly philosophical tale that truly made me smile, and tugged on my heart strings on nearly every page.

Married to her Turkish soulmate, Mesut, and mother to a young son, Jess is having a tough time. Living above a noisy pub where her husband is working every hour he can to build a new life in Scotland, she struggles with the realities of raising a small child in a far from ideal environment. When Mesut embarks on 30 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset for Ramadan, Jess offers to do the same in solidarity with her husband, despite not sharing his religious beliefs. She charts her progress through a warts and all blog published online, and as its popularity grows, she faces increasing negativity from a number of her readers. With Mesut growing concerned about the publicity, and Jess struggling to follow her heart whilst keeping him happy, complications ensue. When catastrophe strikes, will she have the strength to make it through the 30 days or has she bitten off more (or maybe much, much less) than she can chew?

I was initially a bit concerned about the premise of this novel, apprehensive it may minimalise an important religious event. Given I’ve read other work by Yardimci, I should never have feared – the author tackles cultural difference with sensitivity, humour and respect. Jess’ attempt to replicate Ramadan is driven solely by the purest of intentions: love for her husband, appreciation of all he has given up to be with her, and a desire to reach a more spiritual understanding of the world around her. The book tackles some pretty tough topics, not least the racism that pervades our society despite many pretending otherwise, but counterbalances this with a poignant portrayal of love in all its fabulous forms. From family to friends to folk newly encountered, Jess has a life blessed with so much affection, and you can’t help but fall in love with her as much as all the other characters around her seem to.

This is an incredibly uplifting story and I’ve had a smile on my face ever since finishing it. If you are looking for something funny yet moving, inspiring yet real, My Little Ramadan is the novel for you. Just one small warning: I swear all that talk of not eating made me want to eat more. But maybe that’s just me…


Maybe It’s About Time

I went to London on Sunday, Bookaholics, and it felt like the pandemic had never happened.  There were no masks, no social distancing and no indication that just 3 short years ago we were on the brink of worldwide social and economic disruption. Whilst in some ways it is heartening to see people once again living their lives to the fullest, it also feels strange to entirely dismiss the experiences of 2020 as if they didn’t happen, and I was grateful to walk on past pubs that were literally bursting at the seams with raucous crowds.  Until now I have adamantly avoided any books that use Covid-19 as a key narrative driver because in essence it just felt too soon, and I admit when I first saw the synopsis of Maybe It’s About Time by Neil Boss I did wonder if I was really ready.  Needless to say I am so, so glad I chose to say yes to reviewing this, as it is undoubtedly one of the best things I have read in the last year.  And I read a lot, folks.

The novel opens at the start of 2020, where our two protagonists could not be living more different lives.  Marcus is a high-flying business executive, a partner with The Firm, and lives a privileged life split between his home in Weybridge and his pied-a-terre not far from the City.  A 50-something dad of 2 (Libby in her final year of A-Levels and James in his last year of uni), he is beginning to question some of his life choices – maybe money does not always equal happiness?  Conversely, Claire is a 20-something single mum to 2 small children, making the best she can of living on benefits in a run-down flat within sight of Grenfell Tower.  The children’s father vanished to Australia following an affair and it is only the support of her neighbours and social worker Gavin that keep her sane. As the threat of the pandemic begins to grow and both characters struggle with their own challenges, a chance meeting sees the start of an unlikely friendship, one that will become make or break for both of them as lockdown grips the country. What follows is intensely moving and I feel like my heart has been on an incredible rollercoaster ride of emotion.

Despite the fact this book is epic in length (and I really need a shoulder massage just from holding it) the writing is so engaging I was utterly hooked from page one.  There are strong echoes of Tom Wolfe in the narrative style, with a focus on class and a scathing social satire that rings so painfully true.  The company where Marcus works is beset with the type of “innovative” developments we have all rolled our eyes at a hundred times in the work place, with my favourite scene a client presentation delivered in hard hats and hi-vis jackets.  (Shiny suits are so last year). Every page is littered with cultural references that truly brought the story to life for me (if you have never seen The Chase, I highly recommend watching before reading this book) and the dialogue is so fresh and real that I felt like I could step right in and talk to the characters.  I did have to suspend my disbelief a little over Gavin’s relationship with Claire (I work in a social care environment, and believe me no-one has the time or can afford to break boundaries like he does) but this slight niggle was utterly overridden by how powerfully Boss portrayed the events of 2020.  Writing this addictive deserves greater accolades and is one of the reasons we should all step outside best-sellers lists sometimes to find truly fantastic story-telling.

I am a little bit broken having just finished the final pages, but that won’t stop me recommending this to anyone who will listen.  According to his bio, a sequel is planned, and I will be first in the queue to find out what happens next.  Emotionally provocative, with characters that will stay with you long after the final pages, Maybe It’s About Time is a timely reminder of all that people went through and indeed continue to live with.  If you ever take one of my recommendations, please, please make it this one.

Fabulous Females

I am blessed with so many incredible women in my life, Bookaholics. From the unconditional love that my mum and sister unsparingly deliver, to the invaluable guidance and wisdom of my colleagues and friends, each individual has helped me grow into the person I am today (although my mum has the slight advantage there, given she literally grew me).  But I also credit much of my personal development to the books I have read and the inspirational heroines who have taught me so much about who I want to be.  As a (slightly late) tribute to International Women’s Day, here is a list of the top 4 feisty females who have fed my feminist feelings:

1) What better way to start than with Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice? Given the time that she lived in – and the stifling expectations placed on the female role – her every small act of rebellion is exceptionally potent.  She values people for more than just their physical appearance or financial worth (gasp), refuses to marry the man her mother is adamant she must become engaged to (double gasp) and repeatedly deploys her wit with such intelligent repartee that men are often left far behind the conversational curve (swoon).  So often when I am under pressure I find myself asking “what would Lizzy do?” (although this is admittedly more of a challenge when internet dating or deciding whether to get a tattoo).  She may not always be the best judge of character, but who hasn’t fallen for a charmer like Wickham at some point?  It just makes her all the more real.  Be more Lizzy, folks.  It’s the way forward.

2) I also have enormous respect for Nora, the heroine of Book Lovers by Emily Henry. On a superficial level she has a job I envy (I would love to be a literary agent) and the ability to run verbal rings around almost everyone she meets  (seeing a pattern here yet?).  But most of all I admire her depth and courage in facing a really tough emotional journey. Battling grief, loss and a sense of responsibility that is fundamentally limiting her life, she ultimately finds a way to identify what truly matters.  I am also a big fan of the way this novel turns on its head some of the clichés of the “happy ending” and I feel empowered by the fact Nora does not have to sacrifice her dreams to find romantic contentment. (I would shout “girl power!” at this point, but don’t even get me started on how reductive that is as a campaign slogan).

3) When it comes to admiring those who buck against expectation, heroines don’t come much stronger than Lucrezia di Cosimo de’Medici from The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell. As a 16th century woman born to be a political pawn in the diplomatic games of powerful men, she is caged by patriarchal expectation, and is probably an unexpected feminist heroine given her state of suppression.  Yet as the story follows her through childhood to early womanhood, the rebellions are small but meaningful.  She develops an artistic skill that reflects a quiet mutiny against those who dominate her; she seeks escape from oppression through separating body and mind when physically subjected to her husband’s urges.  Without wishing to provide any spoilers (you have to read this book, it’s beautiful) I would simply say this is an inspiring example of quiet insurrection and reminded me that protest is as much about what is in your heart as what you shout out loud.

4) That’s not to say, however, that patriarchal mutiny cannot be delivered effectively with a bow and arrow. My final literary legend is the personification of physical and mental female strength: Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  From the moment she volunteers as tribute to protect her younger sister, Katniss embarks on a battle against evil forces that proves her ability to survive in the toughest of conditions.  Whilst she can come across as sarcastic and at times socially challenged (you can see why I relate), her values are strong and her calm under pressure unsurpassed.  I would definitely like to be her when I grow up (assuming one day I do) even if it’s just to be brave enough to wear a dress that’s on fire. (NB: must buy a fire extinguisher).

My list of fabulous females evolves all the time and I am constantly discovering new protagonists who make my feminist heart sing. But enough about me – what about you?  Who are your female literary legends?

The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone

I can clearly remember the day I fell out of love with cooking, Bookaholics.  Picture the scene: a year 9 Home Economics class, somewhere back in the early 90s.  13 year old Bex (spotty, extremely geeky and determined to marry Gary Barlow) has spent 2 whole hours perfecting a coffee sponge.  For someone who generally feels like she is rubbish at anything creative, I am pretty bloody proud of the end result – the cake is fluffy, perfectly golden and the filling glistens between soft pillows of glutenous goodness. Considerable thought has gone into the pattern that decorates the top, with each almond placed precisely to look as professional as possible.  As I skip off to grab a sausage roll from the canteen for lunch, I can’t wait to hear the feedback. I return to find a slip of paper with the 5 simple words that led to both weeks of torturous teasing from my classmates and the instantaneous death of any future gastronomic goals – “Your nuts are too big”. I never baked again. I am pleased to report, however, that this traumatic incident did not kill my obsession with watching cookery shows nor did it stop the inexorable draw I felt when I initially saw the synopsis of The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone by Will Storr.  If I thought my culinary experience was bad, this brilliant novel has shown me in gruesome detail how much worse it could have been.

As the product of a challenging childhood, Killian is a shy and troubled boy.  Physically and emotionally abused by his mother and bullied repeatedly at school, his only solace is spending time with his Great Aunt Dorothy in her ancient cottage kitchen experimenting with food.  He loves to cook, idolising celebrity chef and media sweetheart Max Mann, and is thrilled to get a place at a local college studying catering.  When the opportunity arises for an apprenticeship in the fine dining restaurant his hero presides over, Killian knows this is his chance to become the next big thing and to become best friends with the object of his obsession.  But behind the closed doors of this Michelin-starred eatery, all is not what it seems.  Will our protagonist succumb to the bullying and aggression of his new work place or does he have a secret something up his sleeve (or in his apron) to help him succeed? And what price success?

I absolutely loved this novel and devoured it in just 3 sittings, obsessed with knowing how the drama would play out.  Both Killian and Max are complex individuals who grow more intriguing as the juxtaposition between hero and villain begins to blur, and I found my initial assessments of certain characters truly tested. Killian is very much a product of his past and that trauma plays out not only in his response to authority but also through his burgeoning relationship with Kathryn, a fellow apprentice.  I particularly enjoyed the way the book explores the concept of loyalty, with parallels in the way the characters’ allegiances are tested alongside those of the reader. But most of all I loved how Storr plays with the boundaries of genre.  The story starts almost as a kind of confessional, then flirts throughout with elements of magic realism, and it was this fine balance of the 2 that really drew me in.  This narrative is haunting, unforgettable and expertly crafted by an author who knows how to keep his readers completely hooked.

Yes this book is dark in places (and one scene in particular truly disturbed me) but don’t be put off by garish comparisons to American Psycho – this is nowhere near that graphic. The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lowe is an addictive and engrossing tale of what happens when others wield power over us and beware that if you have dreams of working in a professional kitchen, it may put you off for life.  This is one of my must-reads of 2023 so far and I highly recommend it.

The McMasters Guide to Homicide

Be honest, Bookaholics: if you had to serve prison time for every dark thought that ever crossed your mind, how long would you be sentenced to? How often have you been so enraged that you’ve dramatically declared you could really, truly kill someone? Truth is, you are unlikely to ever follow through on these empty, meaningless threats and that anger ultimately dissipates into other, less violent activity. But what if it didn’t? What if someone truly deserves to die? In that case, you may just need my most recent book: The McMasters Guide to Homicide, Volume 1: How to Murder Your Employer. This is an incredibly clever, engrossing and highly entertaining novel that you truly have to read to believe.

Presented to the audience as a handbook for those unable to attend the prestigious McMasters Academy in person, the premise is quite simple: we are to learn both the skills required for deleting our most deserving enemy and the dangers we may encounter in doing so. The school is based in a mysterious location that nobody knows (it sounded disturbingly like my old university, to be honest) yet provides a most thorough education in everything from poisoning to electrocution and eroticide. We are provided with 3 intertwining case studies from pupils who attend the school together to outline the positives and pitfalls. Firstly there is Cliff, determined to delete the loathsome leader of an aviation company he worked for, responsible for the death of 2 of his friends and about to knowingly launch a new plane with a deadly cost-cutting design flaw. Then there is Gemma, being blackmailed by her NHS manager who has somehow discovered her one dirty secret, and lastly Doria, a once famous Hollywood actress sidelined by a lascivious studio boss. Once each of these individuals has proved the fitness of their “thesis”, they graduate into the real world to put their education to the ultimate test.

I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up but I absolutely loved every last page. The plot is so unique, the humour so clever and the characters so well-evoked that I found myself truly immersed in the McMasters world. One of Holmes’ greatest attributes is his use of unexpected twists and turns that continue to the novel’s very conclusion. In a time when author’s often over-rely on one big plot twist as their key motif, to find this embedded as a key narrative driver is incredibly refreshing. This is mesmerising writing of the highest order.

Admittedly it is difficult to explain the premise of this story without it sounding completely insane, but take my word for the fact this is destined to be one of the top books of 2023. Utter escapism, total immersion and intensely entertaining, if you ever listen to one of my book recommendations, this is the one to follow.  Immediately. I insist

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

I am always sceptical of anything that has been heavily hyped, Bookaholics. From the devastating disappointment of prosecco (it’s just overrated bubbly blandness, folks) to the agonising anticlimax of The Traitors (yawn), I have learnt the hard way to expect the worst. For this very reason I try to avoid any book that has been universally lauded, as chances are it just won’t be able to reach the level of expectation that’s built up around it. Time and time again, this has been the case, and nothing has disproved my theory.

Until now.

When a young boy called Sam meets a little girl called Sadie whilst recovering from a car accident, little do either of them know how intensely their lives will intertwine. The pair bond over their love of games, soon forging a connection so strong it transcends their circumstances – until the blossoming friendship breaks down over a simple misunderstanding. Life has moved on significantly when they meet again as undergraduate students, but one thing hasn’t changed, and it is this love of gaming that unites them in a quest to create something incredible. As we follow their progress chasing that dream, the blurring of lines between the real and virtual worlds begins to amplify. Can their friendship survive the trials and tragedies that life has in store for them?

I’ve spent the last 3 hours trying to find the right words to do this novel justice and I just can’t no matter how hard I try. The world Zevin evokes is so powerful, the characters so vivid, that I’ve spent the last 3 days of reading utterly obsessed with Sam and Sadie. It doesnt matter that I’m not a gamer or that programming is a foreign language to me. The story just works. Yes this book brims with universal themes that interweave seamlessly with every element of the plot (love, loss and the power of the imaginary to heal are three of the most prominent) but my appreciation of this novel transcends this type of cerebral analysis, stemming not from my brain but from my heart. I kid you not when I say I barely breathed for one whole chapter towards the end of the text, the writing was so powerful and so incredibly moving. The author has produced a fundamentally unique approach to exploring what it is to be human and I feel like I’ve just come off the most challenging emotional rollercoaster ride of my life – but my god I want to ride it again. And again. And again, until I run out of lives.

Whilst it may be too early to call the best book of 2023, this is such a strong contender it’s a safe bet it will make my final 3. Likelihood is you’ve already read it (no doubt being far less precious than me about hype) but if you haven’t, wait no longer. You’ll thank me, for sure.

How Kyoto Breaks Your Heart

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the best life advice is usually given at the worst possible times. Exhibit A: a few years ago a friendship I treasured dearly ended very suddenly, not through my own choice and without much to explain what led to the termination of our intimacy. With the best of intentions another friend tried to explain that life is like a railway journey: some people climb aboard simply for just one stop and others share our carriage for the duration. Whilst at the time I genuinely wanted to punch said acquaintance for such a trite synopsis of something that hurt so badly (don’t worry, I didn’t), once the dust settled I could see the wisdom in his words.  So when I opened the cover of How Kyoto Breaks Your Heart by Florentyna Leow for the first time and saw the dedication (“for everyone who has ever lost a friend”) I felt an instant emotional connection with the writer that was successfully sustained through all 140 pages of this beautiful novel. This is a poignant presentation of that persistent paradox – a relationship that can burn so bright and so intensely, yet be lost so suddenly.  It evoked much emotion for me.

When an old friend from university contacts Florentyna with the offer of both a job and a place to live, she jumps at the chance to move to Kyoto to work for a tour operator.  Taking wealthy customers on expensive excursions, our protagonist presents Japan through a very unique lens, as someone both familiar and a stranger to the city she comes to love.  Through a series of powerful vignettes that bring individual people and places to life in a deeply distinctive and captivating way, Leow offers the reader a fascinating insight into the complexity of the human connection to place. But bubbling behind her exhausting role as guide, historian and even emergency medic for those she escorts, is the friendship Florentyna has with the woman she lives and works alongside – until one day, it is over.

Leow has a way with words that carried me into each moment so evocatively that I devoured this short novel in one session: there is a lyricism to every description she delivers. Yet one of the things I found most striking about this book is the way the narrative gaps tell a story all of their own.  Very little minutiae is shared of this friendship beyond snapshots of moments they shared in Kyoto, but a sense of loss pervades the writing so movingly that what isn’t being said runs as a powerful parallel to the content of each chapter. We are all familiar with the concept of a place becoming so innately linked to a particular person that being there without them is a form of grief, and this truly spoke to me the whole way through. Whilst disappointed that the author chose not to share more specifics regarding her mental health struggles, I could hard relate to the sense that “everyone else is just handling life better than me” and once again there is an argument that the lack of disclosure says more than the detail.

The pinnacle of this text is the final chapter, which left me deeply moved in its simplicity and emotion.  The writing is beautiful, the language evocative and the experience of reading this one to remember.  I definitely recommend getting hold of a copy when it’s published later this month.

Wilder Girls

Spending 6 years at an all girl’s school was both the making and breaking of me, Bookaholics.  On the positive side, I never would have achieved so much academically had there been boys to divert me from my studies – it was distracting enough to indulge in the occasional rush to the fence to see a boy (a boy!) and observing this alien species outside of its natural habitat.  But on the other hand I struggled with the intensity of such a ferociously female environment and from the lack of opportunity to build normal relationships with the opposite sex.  I can’t even begin to imagine how much worse it would have been if it was a boarding school with no escape at the end of the day.  So you can imagine how much I would have hated being quarantined with my classmates for over a year by some mystery virus no-one had ever heard of before, unable to see friends, family or even leave the grounds of said school. It would undoubtedly be hell on earth.

Welcome to Raxter Island.  Welcome to the Wilder Girls.

18 months ago the prestigious Raxter School for Girls was hit by an unidentified illness that seemingly came from nowhere.  Branded “the Tox”, it has no consistent symptoms but has systematically wiped out all but 2 of the teaching staff and many of the students, with others left maimed in curious ways: some have bruising that gradually spreads despite no apparent injury; others develop a glow that lights up their hair like an aura; one girl grows a second spine.  Quarantined on the island where the school is located, their safety is threatened on a daily basis as even the natural world is infected by the Tox, with animals more vicious and dangerous than before the land became infected.  Food is delivered sporadically by the American authorities and the girls are told the world is working hard on a cure so they can be set free from their isolation.  But when Hetty is promoted to the pivotal role of collecting these food supplies, she witnesses events that lead her to question everything the students have been told.  Is a cure really being sought?  Do the remaining teachers actually have their best interests at heart? And, when the world around you slides into dystopia, who can you truly trust?

I rarely read Young Adult fiction, but this came highly recommended and I can see why.  The narration is alternated between Hetty and Byatt, 2 of the girls on the island, and this means shards of information are shared with the reader as we learn more about their situation.  Both voices are absolutely gripping and Power expertly explores the intensity of female friendship and loyalty in such an extraordinary setting.  I loved the way the island becomes a character of its own as it evolves under the influence of the Tox, and the meaningful portrayal of the complex relationship between humans and nature.  The novel is gory in places but never unnecessarily so – the descriptions augment the story, evoking clearly the horror of Raxter and the virus consuming it.  Published in 2019 this can have been in no way inspired by Covid, yet the way these characters respond to fear of the unknown gave me strong echoes of our own pandemic experiences.  Having lived through that time, I no longer believe that something like this couldn’t ever happen. This could be true.

I am still reeling from the epic climax of Wilder Girls and I have a feeling this one will stay with me for some time.  If you like dystopian fiction that plays with the boundaries of reality, this is one for you – its an excellent piece of writing that blew me away. Let’s just hope it remains fiction…

The Murder Game

Murder mystery dinners have never really been my idea of fun.  Admittedly I have only ever been to one – a work Christmas party some 15 years ago now – but the occasion did nothing to convince me differently: the acting was amateur, the plot full of gaping holes, and the ensuing shenanigans simply an unwanted distraction from the food and drink, which was the only reason I was there. However, deep down my main motive in avoiding these sorts of events is a completely irrational dread that someone may genuinely end up dead. I know it’s completely illogical (and clearly I have been watching too many episodes of Midsomer Murders) but I cannot shake the impending sense of doom no matter what I do. So it was with some trepidation that I began reading The Murder Game by Tom Hindle, set as it is in an old seaside hotel during one such murder mystery evening. Turns out my fears were unfounded: not only is this a brilliantly written mystery that keeps you guessing till the very end, but it has also utterly endorsed just how dangerous these occasions can be. This book is page-turning perfection.

Set in the small seaside settlement of Hamlet Wick, we meet our key characters on New Year’s Eve, as they prepare to attend a special 1920s murder mystery dinner.  We have Nigel and his wife Sylvia, owners of the local construction company which is controversially renovating the local lighthouse despite significant opposition from locals; Gwen and her husband Hugh, who had their own plans for the lighthouse outsmarted by a wealthy developer; plus local shop owners Edward and Martha who attribute their recent burglaries to the men brought in to complete the building work. Mix this flock of frustrated folk with one antagonistic journalist, one host with a horrific history and one rather inconvenient dead body, and you have a recipe for chaos. Everybody has a motive for murder.

This is a perfectly crafted mystery novel and it is easy to see why reviewers compare Hindle to Agatha Christie. Each scene is so vividly set, and every character so vibrantly portrayed, that I actually felt like I myself was a resident of Hamlet Wick. (For those of you familiar with the west country, I couldn’t help but feel Porlock Weir vibes from the setting). More clues are introduced with each new chapter – balancing individual back story with the events as the evening progresses – and I found myself piecing together the evidence as if I was the police officer at the scene. The story is complicated enough to stretch the reader’s brain without ever becoming convoluted and I absolutely did not see the final twist coming at all. (Maybe not enough Midsomer after all).

Whilst I still won’t be rushing to book onto a murder mystery evening (it’s way too risky), The Murder Game has reminded me just how much I love a really well crafted plot that engages my brain fully in trying to crack the crime. This is an excellent whodunit and one I highly recommend you purchase as soon as it is released on 2nd of February.

14 Things I’ve Learnt By Blogging

I was never really popular at high school, Bookaholics. From the heady heights of winning “Person of the Class” when I was 12, it was a long slow slide into teenage anonymity, as the definition of “cool” suddenly shifted sideways: being smiley and good at maths was no longer the way to people’s hearts, now it was all about boys and smoking. So it is with incredulity that I discover now, at the age of 43, that over 14,000 people want to follow me and my innane ramblings on Twitter. I feel like I’ve finally found my tribe, and to celebrate, I’d like to share with you 14 key things I’ve learnt in the last few years of blogging.

1) Book people have big hearts. It’s no coincidence that those who read the most have the greatest empathy. Books open your heart and your mind (and unfortunately your wallet).

2) No matter how niche your taste in literature, someone will share your passion. I always thought I was a bit of a freak counting both Dickens and Sweet Valley High as favourite books, but turns out I’m not alone. There is no such thing as shame in this community.

3) Even when people don’t interact with you, they are still paying attention to what you say. Every now and then someone will pop up and say “I read this because of you and loved it” and it is honestly the best feeling in the world.

4) It is never ok to tag an author if you didn’t like their work. How would you like it if someone tagged you in a negative critique of your blog? There’s just no need.

5) I also no longer write about books I don’t enjoy. Something I don’t like could well be someone else’s idea of perfection. I don’t want to rob them of the chance to find out just because it wasn’t my thing.

6) People will know if you are bigging up a book you didn’t really enjoy. False adoration never rings true. Be faithful to your gut.

7) If someone asks you to read their book, it is the equivalent of them asking you to spend time with their child. It’s an honour and not to be taken lightly. Never forget this.

8) It’s OK to say no to review requests if you feel like you have too much going on. Writers deserve our full attention, so engaging properly with their work is important.

9) Sometimes life takes over and blogging takes a back seat. That’s ok. The book community will still be there with open arms when you come back. No-one is judging. The person putting the most pressure on me is usually me.

10) That being said, Twitter peer pressure is real. I’ve bought so many novels because people raved about them on social media. It makes scrolling a wonderful but dangerous pastime. Beware.

11) Despite how it may seem as you spend your 15th hour of the day scrolling through your newsfeed, I’ve found engaging with the book community has actually increased the amount I read. It’s so motivating to constantly hear what other people are enjoying and reminds me daily why books are my passion.

12) If someone in the community receives an award or recognition for their writing, it feels like everyone does. I’ve never known such a genuinely selfless and supportive group of people.

13) No matter how obscure a desire you have for something book related, whether it be a romantic comedy set in space during the Renaissance or a bookmark that looks like a pork pie, someone will be able to help you. It’s like Google but better

14) Most important of all, I have made some amazing friends who are just as fabulous in real life and I am so grateful for the opportunity to bond with like-minded lit lovers. I feel thoroughly blessed.

If you’re considering a book blog or any kind of bookish content, my best advice is DO IT. You won’t regret it. ❤️

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