Claire King

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Word of Mouth: Utter Biblio

Posted on: May 4th, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

Today I’m starting a new series of posts chatting to book bloggers/reviewers.

I’ve got to know quite a few people, mostly via twitter, who read voraciously – I mean incredibly so –  and review the books they have read on their blogs (and/or on Goodreads, Amazon etc).

I’ve realised over the last few years that I’ve come to rely on these reviews to help me push books to the top of my ‘To be read’ pile, or to start discussions with others around these books.

Book bloggers are readers, whose points of view are considered, honest and based on a lot of reading, usually very widely. They also do a wonderful job for authors by helping to spread the word about out books to readers, which as any author knows is worth its weight in gold. So I’ve called these posts ‘Word of Mouth’.

First up is Dan, also known as Utter Biblio, previously known as Dog Ear Discs. Dan is definitely worth following on Twitter @utterbiblio and is lovely to chat to. Here he is in all his robot glory:

Utter Biblio

I asked Dan…

Why do you blog about books? Has blogging about them changed the way you read?

I blog about books to tell people about the brilliant works that are out there, whether they be new releases or older. I want to be able to express my passion for the written word. Blogging has definitely changed how I read. Sometimes I push older books to one side in order to read the latest titles. However, since I began blogging I’ve branched out in what I read. Now I read more poetry and non fiction than ever before.

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Where do you get your recommendations from? And where do you get your books from?

My recommendations come from all over. Mostly Twitter and podcasts, though. I now keep a notebook with me when I am listening to podcasts as they tend to rack up pretty quickly.

Same as above, my books come from all over. Publishers send through copies for review, I buy from high street chains, fill my Kindle at Amazon, trawl charity shops and import from the US and Canada through various websites.

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What are the high and low points of reviewing books for you?

The high points are easy. The best thing is someone getting in touch to say that they loved a book I recommended. Reading such a broad range of books is also a high point, I’m generally more open to reading different things since I began reviewing them.

The only low point that gets to me is when I read a wonderful book that doesn’t achieve the success I believe it deserves.

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What would you say is your taste in books? What makes a book good for you?

I am very eclectic in what I read. It’s easier to say that I don’t really read crime or horror and, although I like romance in books, I don’t read chick lit. Anything else is welcome. At the moment I am very partial to essays, creative non fiction and short stories.

A good book for me is one that engages me. I generally like a little oddness in what I read, I prefer speculative ideas. Most of all, an author needs a unique voice that tells a great story. Lyrical prose, etc, is all well and good, but I read for the stories.

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What is your point of view on the star rating system of book reviews? What, for you, do 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 stars mean to a prospective reader?

I used to use a star rating system. It is generally very helpful for summing up a general opinion. As consumers we tend to want an experience summed up briefly. Recently I abandoned star ratings completely.

The main reason for this is because a small image of stars just doesn’t encapsulate how I feel about each aspect of a novel. While you can sum up general feelings, you can’t discuss the nuances of the books with stars. I wondered how many people scrolled to the bottom to see the star rating and left before reading any more. Only in reading the body of a review can you really find out if it is something you may enjoy. Having said that, I still find myself looking at star ratings, it’s hard not to.

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Have you ever had an author (or indeed a reader) react badly to a review (or a star rating)?

No authors that I know of. To be honest, even readers have never really reacted badly. Sometimes I get a comment on my blog debating certain aspects of a book, but I’ve been pretty lucky with the community.

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Do you talk about books a lot with your friends and family, or mostly via your blog/twitter etc?

Sadly very few of my friends and family read, and certainly not to the extent I do. In fact, many times I have paused to read a section of a book to my wife and her eyes have glazed over. I rely on Twitter and Goodreads for my conversation. If it wasn’t for Twitter my evenings would be quieter and my TBR would be smaller.

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Recommend me three books that have blown you away.

I’m going to cheat, because there are too many books that I love.

1) The entire Holt trilogy by Kent Haruf is just stunning. Plainsong, Eventide and Benediction are each delicately beautiful and communicate the subtlety of humanity with near perfection.

2) The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait. I have read many books on depression, none have captured the darkness suffered as well as Rebecca.

3) I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle. The magical realism in this brooding book makes it such a great read. Each character is still with me some two years later.

Many thanks to Dan for taking the time to chat. Do have a browse through his blogs for more great recommendations.

Do have a look at the other book bloggers in this series:

Isabel from The Literary Sofa

Teresa from Lovely Treez Reads

Alan from Words of Mercury

Lindsay from Little Reader Library

 

- Anne – Random Things Through my Letterbox

 

- Rob – Rob around Books

4 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    Great Q&A – I definitely agree that reviewing changes the way you read.

    • claire says:

      Thanks Jessica. I found that too – it takes a strong story to pull me out of critical mode, and I’m faster to ditch books that aren’t doing it for me (unless I’ve read great reviews from people like Dan!)

  2. Pete says:

    Star ratings are hard to avoid but there are books that are incredibly well written that I haven’t enjoyed. It’s churlish to give them 1 or 2 stars but what rating do you give them?
    There’s a real skill to reviewing books well. The newspaper reviews seem to cover a narrow field of male/London writers and it’s through Dan and others, that you get to hear about a much wider range of writing. Chapeaux.

    • claire says:

      I really struggle giving star ratings myself. I like and understand the principle, but I don’t like handing out a sad 3 star rating when a book is obviously not my cup of tea but could be good for someone else. I have decided that I’m not cut out for reviewing, and so only ever review books now that I can happily give 4 or 5 stars to. I would like it if on places like Amazon there were an option to leave a review but not give a star rating.

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