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How to Write Better Book Reviews

Table of Contents

Writing a book review involves a very different style of writing to anything else you’ll produce for your blog. 

Therefore, in order to write brilliant book reviews, you need to consider the purpose of the review itself. 

Who is it aimed at and what should (or shouldn’t) be included? And how do you explain whether it’s a book worth reading whilst still avoiding spoilers?

These are just some of the key questions that you need to answer before you even start writing.

Who is a Book Review is not for

Regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, a book review is not for the author. It just isn’t. 

Your review is not feedback, nor should it be treated as such. An author knows how to write a book – they don’t need you to tell them how you’d have written it. Nor is it helpful to your own readers who simply want to know whether they should pick up the book in question.

That’s not to say that authors get nothing from reading book reviews! If your review is well-argued, and demonstrates your points clearly and persuasively, they’ll at least respect it.

Plus, a super positive review, where you’ve identified and praised everything the author set out to achieve, can truly make an author’s year!

But the main purpose of your writing is not to give the author feedback on their book. Especially if it’s a less-than-glowing review.

It’s also not for other bloggers. It might be hard to review a book that everyone in your niche loved, and you hated (or vice versa), but stay true to yourself. Whether you enjoyed or disliked a book, jot down some specific notes on why.

Provided that your perspective is well-supported through textual evidence and reasonably argued, nobody can really criticise you for honest commentary delivered in good faith.

It is important, however, that you understand the reasoning for your initial impressions, so try to steer clear of reading other bloggers’ reviews before forming your own thoughts. It’s an easy trap to fall into on platforms like Goodreads, where you’re encouraged to read reviews every time you visit the book’s page.

Finally, a review is not for you! Park your ego firmly at the door before writing and make sure you only communicate the points that the reader of your article needs to know. They’re not interested in how well you write – they want to know if the book in question is worth reading or not.

Who is a Book Review is for

Ultimately, a book review is for readers who are considering buying the book you’re reviewing, but want to know whether it’s worth it or not.

Keep this audience in mind when you’re planning, writing, and promoting your book review.

Obviously, you can add your own unique twists in terms of how you review – after all, you want your review to stand out from the others. Perhaps you have a really unique blog aesthetic or maybe you’re a blogger with greater experience in a particular genre.

But on the whole, your review needs to be focused on that potential reader.

What Should I Include in a Book Review?

General Review Tips

Firstly, always include a brief overview of the book. This can be the blurb, or your own description* based on your reading experience. This gives your potential reader an idea of what to expect, and whether it appeals (or not!)

It’s also worth including a section either at the top or the bottom that contains all the useful information on the book that your reader will want to see. 

For example, an image of the book (or a cover image), along with some basic publication details such as the publisher’s name with a hyperlink to their site (this can make a massive difference for indie publishing visibility), and the date of publication are good places to start. 

Some readers like to pick up sub-300 page books, so you may also wish to include a page count, whilst adding a link to the book’s Goodreads too makes it much easier for them to add the book to their TBR list.

Make sure you also include a couple of links to places where you can buy a copy of the book. It’s all about adding value to your own readers, making their lives easier, and this shortens the journey for those who are thinking about buying the book. 

Plus, if you’re part of an affiliate programme, you can get paid (albeit a little) for each purchase made after clicking through from your site. However, if you do use affiliate links, make sure you declare it somewhere on the page for transparency.

*Do not include a summary of the plot – that is not a review!

Writing your Book Review

It’s important that your thoughts are consistent throughout the review, so consider jotting down some notes before you put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, or quill to parchment.

The way I tend to draft out my reviews is as follows;

  • Introductory remarks – I introduce the book/author/publisher, as well some general remarks on how I felt about the book.
  • Main body of review – I’ll include an overview of the book, as well as a breakdown of some general themes and how well these translate to the reader.
  • Conclusion – I summarise my thoughts in a clear and concise manner, and ultimately recommend the book, or steer my readers away from it.

Planning with this structure, or through your own style, is a great way to gather your thoughts and to plot out your review in a coherent way.

When it comes to writing the review, try to steer clear of simple value judgments such as ‘I liked X because Y’ – it doesn’t really tell the reader anything. You need to explain why the author succeeds at what they set out to achieve and, ultimately, whether the result is satisfactory or not.

Furthermore, if you loved the book, tell your reader why. If it’s five stars, try to impart the magic of the book upon your own reader with persuasive language and, most importantly, passion. Likewise, if you really disliked the book, be prepared to back your disdain up with clear, coherent, and fair criticism – never make it personal!

And always, always try to end on a positive note. 

No book is without any redeeming features, so even if you detest it – as I did The Thursday Murder Club – you’ll likely have something positive to say. It’s less about ending on a positive and more about avoiding ending your review on a negative – you’ll be surprised how simply altering this can affect the wider tone of your review!

One thing I’ve seen some reviewers do is provide a couple of links to other bloggers’ reviews that present alternative views to their own. This isn’t something I’ve done (yet), but it’s a great idea. It gives your readers additional perspectives without having to go looking for them.

How Should I Rate My Book Reviews?

There are a whole range of options for book review rating systems, including the Goodreads 1-5 star scale, the regular 1-10 rating, or even the more outlandish (but quite interesting) ‘CAWPILE’ score system.

Some reviewers forgo rating systems entirely, preferring readers to make their decision based on the words on the page rather than be influenced by the score.

5-Star Rating System

The 5-star rating system, as used by Goodreads, works as follows:

1⭐ Did not like it
2⭐ It was okay
3⭐ I liked it
4⭐ I really liked it
5⭐ It was amazing

Naturally, there are variations. Some choose to use the 3 stars to denote ‘okay.’

CAWPILE

This is where things get interesting.

Created by BookTuber, Book Roast, CAWPILE stands for:

Characters
Atmosphere
Writing Style
Plot
Intrigue
Logic / Relationships
Enjoyment

Essentially, you assign each attribute a score out of 10, add the numbers together, and then divide by the number of categories (7). The theory goes that by scoring each individual attribute of the book you’re reading, the final score will better represent how you felt about the book as a whole. 

I quite like this, in theory. It’s fun.

However, the obvious problem is that it falls apart at the seams if you’re reviewing non-fiction. It also arguably overcomplicates the process.

Still, it’s a creative way to decide whether you liked a book or not, and I know that a lot of YA book reviewers, in particular, enjoy it.

1-10 Rating System

Nothing new to add here – it’s fairly self-explanatory.

1/10 is chloroform in print, whilst 10/10 is the Second Coming in paperback form.

Avoid / Recommend / Essential

Folks who know me, know that I read a lot of Eurogamer in my spare time and that I really like their rating system for video games.

Essentially, they will give one of the following attributions:

Avoid: This is terrible and you should not buy it.
Recommended: This is a really good product, and you should strongly consider getting hold of a copy.
Essential: This is unmissable. Genre-defining. Get a copy right this second.

Applying this logic to books, anything that doesn’t fall into any of these three attributions will depend on whether the genre or style of writing appeals to you.

No Rating System

There is a strong argument that rating systems are redundant and oversimplify the reviewing process.

Some choose to simply write their reviews and let the words guide the reader, rather than conforming to a strictly numerical continuum.

On the other hand, distinctions do exist to be made, and omitting clear indicators could be considered to be vague and non-committal.

Regardless of how you choose to review your books, spend less time worrying about your ‘system’ and more on the writing of the review itself.

Conclusion

Ultimately, none of the rules in this article are absolute. Find your writing style and inform the reader whether the book in question is worth reading or not.

There are, however, ways you can improve book review writing skills which I’ve endeavoured to get across.

In my opinion, a well-written book review interacts with the text in an incisive and critical manner, identifying the purpose of the book and examining how successful it is in achieving that ultimate purpose.

If you’re able to do that, you’re well on the way to writing a fantastic book review!

Got any tips of your own? Post them in the comments below. I’d be interested in reading what you bring to your own book reviews!

Step Forward, Harry Salt by Ross Lowe Book Review

Step Forward, Harry Salt Book Review

Step Forward, Harry Salt is a bit bonkers.

And by this, I mean that there’s a character called Royds Spittoon and a horse drop-kicks a car.

Following the equally bonkers Seven Nights at the Flamingo HotelBearded Badger Books’ second published novel – and author Ross Lowe’s debut – sees the titular Harry Salt drawn into a Hot Fuzz-esque conspiracy amongst the hills of Derbyshire.

It’s sinister at times, tremendously daft, and a lot of fun.

Step Forward, Harry Salt
Overview

‘The Change’ is coming.

Millions of people voted for it but nobody really knows why – or what The Change even is for that matter. But the will of the people is to be enacted, whatever that will might be.

Caught up in the middle of this moment of national celebration/crisis (delete as appropriate) is Harry Salt.

He’s a regular guy – pretty nondescript and bumbling through life – though far from dull. He’s your Martin Freeman-esque everyman and therefore the ideal protagonist for a novel like Step Forward, Harry Salt; a book packed with zany hijinks, set against the backdrop of Britain floating in a Brexity soup.

It’s a parody, though not a particularly subtle one. The novel re-treads familar arguments from the Brexit referendum and dials them up to eleven, pouring scorn and ridicule upon the pro-Brexit argument. 

Sometimes hilarious, other times a little on-the-nose, one thing is certain – Step Forward, Harry Salt is a brilliant novel, packed to the rafters with witty observations, brilliant characters, and a marvellous mystery.

Parental Poignancy & Parody

Step Forward Harry Salt uses a past/present twinned narrative, pinging the reader back and forth between Harry’s years as a child – his memories with his Father in particular – and the present day.

These memories feature some of the best writing in the novel. It’s often highly poignant, other times disarming – even troubling perhaps – but these passages feel reminiscent and personal; transposing Harry’s memories onto the reader in a nostalgic manner.

Meanwhile, in the modern day, the Ministry of People where Harry works, presents an almost Pratchett-like parody of Orwell’s ministries in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Whilst highly secretive, The Ministry of People is less overtly sinister than Orwell’s depictions of government – rather more bureaucratic and somewhat odd.

This ability to traipse the line between being disconcerting and humorous is disarming as a reader – it’s alienating, making for an interesting read.

Conclusion

Lowe has a lovely style of writing. It’s simple, cheerful, and witty – the sort of writing you really appreciate reading after a book like Dune Messiah; a novel with so much word salad, you could launch a vegan restaurant.

But truly, Step Forward, Harry Salt is a pleasure to read. It’s also fascinating insofar that it defies genre. 

There are Sci-Fi elements, political satire, fantasy, speculative fiction, and magic realism. It’s extraordinary, because the novel holds these elements together in a really authentic way, never feeling mismatched.

And because of this, the novel will appeal to a wide range of readers. 

It’s off-beat, but in the best kind of way. Great stuff.

4/5

Step Forward, Harry Salt can be purchased directly from Bearded Badger Publishing.

YA Fiction Snobbery Needs to Stop. Right now.

YA Fiction Snobbery Needs to Stop Blog Header
YA Fiction Snobbery Needs to Stop Blog Header

In spite of wild commercial success, it’s fair to say that YA fiction snobbery has lingered on the horizon for quite some time now. Sometimes it comes from the more literary circles, other times simply from trolls, which is what Beth @ Booksnest experienced recently.

Even Samantha Shannon, author of the highly successful Bone Season trilogy addressed the very-real topic of snobbery towards YA fiction only a few years ago.

Trumped perhaps only by so-called ‘chick lit’, YA is probably one of the more frowned upon genres of fiction, despite – or perhaps because of – an enormous readership and commercial success.

But why exactly is this?

Why YA Fiction Snobbery Exists

Ageism

There’s a bizarre shibboleth, expressed more often than not by our wizened peers, that certain hobbies or types of media are designed exclusively for a particular age range. 

Once you’ve passed the arbitrarily designated threshold, you’re no longer allowed to read said books, or play video games, or consume certain kinds of media that are deemed too ‘childish’ by the enlightened.

The inherent absurdity of this position is laid bare once you ask the accuser who they think creates these types of media. 

Are video games designed by a focus group of seven-year-olds? No, they’re designed by highly qualified developers and graphic designers, with soaring OSTs composed by actual, well, composers. 

Likewise, books for all ages are written (mostly) by adults passionate about their craft. It’s therefore time that we let go of this vacuous framing of overtly ‘children’s books’ vs ‘adult books’.

Here I must call upon our old friend CS Lewis, one of the fathers of fantasy and an author who, if writing today, would certainly be considered a YA author. 

Addressing the notion of perceived childishness, Lewis wrote this stinging rebuke:

“Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence...

CS Lewis hates YA Fiction Snobbery
CS Lewis hates book snobbery. Totes. For reals.

...But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

This perception of being ‘grown up’ from those who engage in snobbery against YA fiction seems, to me, to be a vacuous one.

Literary Pretence

I’m not sure that this group is nearly quite as large as others make out, but it’s certainly a rather vocal sect. There is an element of snobbishness in self-proclaimed literary circles about genre fiction and, by extension, YA fiction.

Ruth Graham, for example – a correspondent for the New York Times – once wrote that adults who read YA fiction ought to ‘feel embarrassed’ for reading books ‘written for children’.

Fascinating.

The general cut-and-thrust of the article, which (to be fair) isn’t without some fair points, is that YA fiction is largely simplistic in comparison to more ‘adult’ books and that readers of YA are stunting their reading growth. 

However, I’m not sure that this is particularly solid ground. 

I’m no scholar of YA literature, and indeed I personally get a lot more enjoyment from classics and literary fiction, but to take The Hunger Games as just one popular example – it’s hardly a simplified, ‘childish’ novel. And I don’t just mean the murder. Suzanne Collins’ trilogy raises a wealth of moral, ethical, and social issues in a fairly mature manner.

It’s intellectually dishonest to claim YA fiction has no depth, in the same way that it would be absurd to claim that James Joyce’s writing is nonsensical drivel. Perhaps it appears to be so on the surface, but if you’re a half-decent reader, you’re presumably capable of reading between the proverbial lines.

Is it more beneficial to read different kinds of genres? Sure. Confining yourself to only certain kinds of writing limits your perspective – and you’re missing out on some really great literature.

But ultimately, we read for pleasure, right? And there’s a vibrant community of readers who derive an enormous amount of pleasure from YA fiction. 

Life’s too short to worry about what other people are, or aren’t, reading.

'Tropeyness'

Yes, YA fiction is quite tropey.

Whether it’s ‘the chosen one’, ‘enemies to lovers,’ or the dreaded love triangle – it’s not unfair to point out that YA fiction has its fair share of tropes. 

But here’s the thing – some people like these tropes. And quite a lot of people really like them. Goodreads has entire shelves dedicated to trope fiction because, ultimately, they’re comfort-reading for a certain type of reader.

YA fiction helps its readers navigate the often complex landscapes of identity and belonging – more so than other types of writing. And no matter the age of the reader, this is pretty important. After all, one doesn’t cease learning about one’s self purely by passing the vague threshold of adulthood.

And of course, it’s still reading. I’m not sure it’s anyone’s place to doubt or ridicule another’s preferences.

So, own your love of YA fiction and enjoy what you enjoy reading – you don’t owe anybody anything and it’s nobody else’s business.

Juvenility lies purely at the door of the accuser.

10 Brilliant Book Bloggers to Follow in 2022

10 Brilliant Book Bloggers to Follow in 2022

So, the wonderful folks at Pages Unbound are running a monthly posting challenge designed to support book bloggers in 2022.

There aren’t any particularly strict rules to #BookBloggerSupport22 – feel free to try the challenges in any order – but it must focus on bloggers. We love our BookTuber and Bookstagram comrades and friends, but this is designed to promote longer-form written content.

The first challenge I’m choosing to tackle is to list 10 brilliant book bloggers to follow in 2022 – if you’re not on this list, I still love you. Promise.

Pages Unbound

The creator of this challenge deserves a shout out.

Pages Unbound is easily one of the best book blogs on the internet, with a diverse mix of classical literature and YA fiction. 

Briana & Krysta are amazing at creating (and promoting) their bookish content – if I’m ever half as successful as them, I’d be thrilled.

Rebbie Reviews

Rebbie Reviews is an absolute star. Again, a really fine book blogger. She takes part in The Write Reads book tour circuit fairly frequently, so you can guarantee you’ll find some interesting independently published books on her blog.

She also brought my attention to a really interesting used book scheme that is promoting literacy in the UK, whilst reducing waste.. 

Spells & Spaceships

Alex @ Spells & Spaceships has cornered the SFF book blogging game like an absolute pro.

His interviews with authors are always interesting, and his famed #Norsevember month of Norse-based content is really impressive.

Little Bird Book Blog

Little Bird Book Blog has captured a really neat aesthetic; it’s approachable and captures what Rosie, the blogger, is all about.

She has a very conversational writing style, which brings you closer to the writing itself. I really enjoy that aspect of her blogging.

Esther @ Cozy With Books

Cozy with Books once posted 100 blog posts in 100 days. That’s how seriously she takes blogging. Her dedication is matched equally by her quality of content.

We don’t typically read the same books, but that’s partly why I enjoy her blog so much – it exposes me to other types of writing.

Plus, Esther’s just a really flipping nice person.

Literary Time Machine

Speaking of great people, Chantelle’s blog, Literary Time Machine, is one I started following only recently. She’s a historical fiction book blogger and possesses a MA in Holocaust Studies.

An active social media user, Chantelle is kind, conscientious, and always posts something fascinating each day.

I don’t tend to read much historical fiction, but there are a handful of books on Literary Time Machine that I’ve since added to my TBR!

Lit Lemon Books

Mackenzie @ Lit Lemon Books is brilliant. She posts regular, diverse book-related content – as well as some fun ‘beyond bookish’ posts including her favourite scary movies

Interestingly, she’s also challenging herself to ‘read for free’ in 2022, by supporting local libraries. For many of us, the idea of not buying new books for an entire year is virtually impossible, so do check in and see how she’s doing!

Owl Be Sat Reading

Owl be Sat Reading is a phenomenal book reviewer and a real credit to the Book Twitter community. On her blog, expect to find reviews of the latest ARCs – especially in both women’s fiction and horror.

Jennie @ The Redhead Notes

Jennie only started her book blogging journey recently, hence I only came across The Redhead Notes a short while ago.

It’s a stunning website and I think she’ll go really far in the book blogging community, so head over and give her a follow. Her guide to tea drinking is a great place to start! 

Bookaholic Bex

Bex is one of the funniest, most authentic people on Twitter – and a super passionate blogger. After all, she’s focused on ‘books, more books, and nothing but the books’!

If you’re not following Bex, you’re missing out big time.

Got any bloggers you want to give a shout out to? Post a link to their site below!

Desert Island Lit | Episode 3 (BooksNest)

Beth | BooksNest

Beth is an award-winning blogger and BookTuber.

She also writes about mental health, blogging & social media tips, feminism, sex positivity and travel.

As one of my favourite content creators, it’s an absolute pleasure to host her.

Welcome to Desert Island Lit. In this episode, I’m thrilled to be joined by the delightful Beth of BooksNest.

In this series, I ask my guests to pick five – and only five – books to take with them to the Island of Absurdia. A solitary island where one whiles away their days in joyful isolation, accompanied only by their favourite literature!

Swept away on an existential tide, Beth finds herself in solitary confinement on the Isle of Absurdia.

And because we’re on the Isle of Absurdia, our esteemed guest will, as always, receive a copy of The Myth of Sisyphus and a luxury item of their choice. In this case, she’s picked a cinema popcorn machine – large but of course necessary.

Beth's Desert Island Lit Picks

Is anyone surprised… probably not.

I have a few reasons for picking this book, not only is it huge and therefore would take me a good chunk of time to read, but also there’s so much to discover from it in each reread. I feel I could read it as a different book each time which would be an excellent source of entertainment for me. There are so many messages in Tolkien’s books and I love the way we all read them differently. 

The world of The Lord of the Rings has been with me ever since the first film came out when I was a child. I loved the elves the very best; their elegant movements and skill with a bow and arrow. My grandad actually made me my very own bow and arrow so I could be like Legolas in a nearby forest.

In short, this world has been with me since childhood and will be with me for my whole life I expect. It’s something I have a very personal connection with on quite a few levels. 

It wasn’t until a few years ago I first read the books, which I think was the perfect time for me to read them and love them. I’m already considering a reread, so it’s a good thing this tome would be with me on a desert island! I loved comparing the books to the films, of which the films have stayed incredibly true. And seeing my favourite characters come to life in a whole new way.

I’m sure there are better yoga books out there – but this is the one on my shelves. If I’m going to be abandoned on an island, I’d like to find some zen and get really good at something that will help my body and mind. I’ve always enjoyed yoga, but I’ve never dedicated enough time to get particularly good at it, so I guess this would be my time! 

I find exercising is always something I think negatively about, despite the good it does for me. But there is something about yoga that makes me hate it a little less. The release it gives when your muscles start to stretch and your body feels more open, is quite brilliant. 

It pains me to give away a perfectly good slot to a book about exercise, but I think I’d thank myself for it.

This has quickly become one of my favourite books. I read it in 2020 and it’s stayed with me ever since. This is a book about a man who can bring the characters from other books out of their pages and into the real world. This is based around books we would know and love, such as Matilda and The Chronicles of Narnia

It follows two brothers within its story, the magical brother and the one trying to help. We’re following the latter as he tries to get to the bottom of something much larger at play. Along this journey we see a fictional street being created where all of these fictional characters can live together. Seeing them interact with each other and be so true to their original depictions, is any fiction lover’s dream!  

The reason I’ve picked this, other than it being absolutely excellent, is also because it’s almost like getting multiple books for the price of one. Because this book features characters from childhood and adult classics alike, it feels like you’re also getting the familiarity of those books too. It’s a rather lovely experience to rediscover these characters in new ways and see what adventures they dive into in The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep.

I was wracking my brain to think of books that would cover a range of genres, so far we’ve had high fantasy, contemporary fantasy, exercise (uhh exercise), so it was about time for a historical romance. 

If you haven’t heard of this book then perhaps you’ve been living on a desert island because it is AMAZING. It follows the life of Evelyn Hugo, a Hollywood starlet in the 50’s onwards as she experiences rises and falls in her career and also seven marriages along the way. This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is brilliantly written, captivating and tender, tense and emotional, it has everything an amazing work of fiction needs to keep its readers hooked. So I think it would keep me endlessly entertained on a desert island. 

I remember my first (and only – so far) read of this book was in the autumn of 2018. I listened to it as an audiobook on my way to and from work and I can still remember the feeling of listening to it every day. It became the anthem for my commute and gave me something to look forward to each time I drove my car. It really is a book with an atmosphere that just stays with you so perfectly – how could I not pick it for this list?!

I thought long and hard about my final book for this list, especially trying to pick a stand alone vs a book in a series I’d never be able to finish stranded on this island.

There was a lot in contention, but I wanted something long enough to entertain me for a while, and something that felt warm and wholesome. I went for Little Women in the end, a book I only very recently read for the first time, in December 2021. 

I wouldn’t say it’s a favourite book of mine, but it’s in this list for one simple reason. It feels like home. 

My logic being, if I’m stuck alone on this island I’m of course going to be homesick, I’d yearn for family and friends, for companionship and for traditions and festivities. Little Women is pretty much the first book I thought of that had all of these things. It’s pages are filled with the stories of the March sisters and their lives as they grow from girls to young women. I know I could turn to any chapter and feel comforted by their stories. 

I think this book really resonated with me because it follows four very different paths these sisters take. I’m at a crossroad in life at the moment where I’m seeing a lot of friends my age go on to do very different things to those I am achieving and it can often feel strange. But for me, Little Women reminded me we all have our different routes in life and it doesn’t make them any less valid if they’re not the route everyone else is taking. 

Also having seen the recent film adaptation, I think I could picture this in my head too and have an even more visual reading experience. So really, this book would be like bringing a film with me too.

Big thanks to Beth for getting involved – it’s been a genuine pleasure to host one of the UK’s most popular BookTubers on the blog.

Let me know what you think of her selections in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out her blog, Patreon, and social channels 👇

The Simple Guide to Netgalley [2022 Updated]

The Simple Guide to Netgalley
The Simple Guide to Netgalley

Netgalley is a great way for bloggers to get ARCs (advance reading copies) of new books.

However, in order to be approved for the more high-profile ARCs, you need to be seen as a reliable contributor. And that means proving your worth as a reviewer on the platform.

It’s actually nowhere near as hard as it sounds, but is Netgalley worth it?

The (very) simple guide to Netgalley

Simply sign up at https://www.netgalley.com.

It’s worth keeping in mind when searching the catalogue that many Netgalley books are proof copies and may contain errors. They aren’t always the final version.

What is Netgalley?

Netgalley is a book marketing platform through which authors and publishers pay to share proof copies of their latest books, prior to publication.

This is often to create anticipation, raise awareness of an upcoming book, and to get initial impressions from dedicated readers.

For readers and bloggers, Netgalley is an excellent way to get hold of books that are months away from publication. Pretty exciting, right?

However, publishers are usually quite strict about who they approve. Otherwise anybody could sign up and grab a free book. Fortunately, I’ve produced some tips below that’ll help you get approved for almost all of your requests!

Is Netgalley worth it?

If you’re a book blogger, a service like Netgalley is incredible.

The reality of blogging is that it’s simply not affordable to buy books every other week, especially if, like Tales from Absurdia, your blog isn’t monetised.

Netgalley is an almost bottomless pit of reading goodness, plus it’s free-to-use. Even if you don’t plan on using the service straightaway, it’s good to get signed up to the mailing list and become familiar with the platform.

Put simply, it’s a great way to acquire free content, which you can then review and discuss, driving traffic to your blog.

Plus, most of the books on the platform are yet to be released, so the chances are that you’ll be one of the first people in the world to review certain book! For example, I was one of the first people to get eyes on Richard Osman’s debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club (it’s just a pity that I really disliked it).

Just make sure that you keep up your end of the bargain and leave feedback for the publisher. Otherwise it will significantly affect your feedback ratio (more on this later). 

It’s worth mentioning that there are alternative websites that are just like Netgalley, with Edelweiss and BookSirens the first that come to mind. However, they don’t tend to have as wide a variety of ARCs.

Do I need to be approved for books on Netgalley?

Yes and no. 

You will require approval for most books you wish to read on Netgalley. Especially books published by high-profile publishers. This approval is decided by the publisher rather than the service.

Publishers of all sizes (including self-published authors) put their work on Netgalley. 

As a new user, you’re far more likely to get approval for smaller publishing houses.

This is largely because their aim is to build the biggest readership possible ahead of their book’s launch. Whereas, the ‘Big 5’ publishers can be a lot more selective with who they approve, simply because they’re usually guaranteed a bigger audience anyway.

Simple Guide to Netgalley Homepage

That being said, if you’ve built a strong Netgalley profile and you’re already an established blogger, you’re far more likely to be accepted for some of the more high-profile proofs.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance on some lesser known titles, however.

There are some fantastic works on Netgalley that you’ll have otherwise never heard of. I had a lot of fun with The Playmaker Project – a novel where the two seemingly disparate worlds of soccer and neuroscience clash!

After reviewing The Playmaker Project, I reached out to the author for some comment, which turned into an interview, which you can read here.

With books that are less well known, you’re creating more original content that helps readers find new material, with the added bonus giving a platform to authors with a smaller profile.

The good news is that there is also a very generous amount of books on the platform that are available to all readers, without approval required. It’s good to review a handful of these in order to build up your profile.

5 tips to help you get approved on Netgalley

Netgalley approval can be somewhat of a lottery. 

You’ll be approved for some books you didn’t expect to be approved for – other times you’ll be left scratching your head as to why you weren’t approved.

It’s nothing personal. Sometimes it’s a case of demand. Other times, publishers may decide that your book blog niche doesn’t match their genre, therefore there’s less for them to gain from any coverage. They’re paying to use the platform, so they want quality, relevant feedback.

However, there are a few things you can do to make your profile stand out. 

In fact, if you follow these tips, you’re far more likely to be approved:

1) Complete your profile

Your profile is your shop window. It’s the first thing that publishers see when you request approval for an ARC.

Take a look at my profile page as an example.

Simple Guide to Netgalley Profile

I’ve uploaded a photo for a start. It shows publishers that I’m a real person and establishes trust.

They’ll then look at the ‘feedback ratio’. Currently, mine is 75% – lower than the recommended 80%, which means my ability to request ARCs could be affected. 

I’m currently reading the two outstanding books, so once they’re read and I’ve provided feedback, I’ll be back at 100%.

Now look at my bio. In the first sentence I’ve outlined my credentials, using persuasive language. This demonstrates a level of commitment to the publisher, making them more likely to approve my request.

I also give readers an idea of what they can expect from me personally, as a reviewer. From my profile, they’ll see that I’m organised, diligent, and honest with my feedback.

2) Include links to your blog & social handles

Simple Guide to Netgalley Social

Crucially, I’ve included a link to my blog to prove that I’m an authentic reviewer. If you aren’t a blogger, your Goodreads profile may suffice.

There are also options to link your social handles (currently Twitter, LinkedIn, and Goodreads).

It gives publishers and authors a chance to see what you’re all about. If you’re active on social media, steer clear from drama, and create engaging content – these are all good signs.

3) View your profile through the eyes of a publisher

Do you have a blog niche? Say you’re a sci-fi book blogger and want to target publishers of Sci-Fi books, you’re going to want to lean into that experience in your profile.

Think – if you were an author looking to market your book, who would you want to review it? You want someone who’s experienced in the genre and isn’t simply requesting approval for the sake of it. Remember – Netgalley is an extension of an author and publisher’s marketing strategy.

Furthermore, and most importantly, what is your feedback ratio? The general rule of thumb is that you should aim to keep your feedback ratio above 80%

Some publishers may be more strict, however, and prefer it to exceed 90%, so make sure that you’re giving good quality feedback every single time – even if it isn’t positive.

4) Don’t request too many books at once

It’s easy to get excited about being approved, and there are books littered all over the platform.

In order to provide feedback (and therefore boost your feedback ratio), you need to finish the book. So make sure you don’t request approval for every book you see. It’ll bite you if you don’t see it through. 

Never give feedback without having read the book.
It’s obvious, plus it’s very unfair to publishers and authors.

Be selective with your books. Read the blurbs, perhaps even read some existing reviews to find out if it’s of interest. If you enjoy your books, you’ll read them more quickly, therefore allowing you to request even more! 

The more you read, the more you review, the better impression you’ll have on influential publishers. You never know, they may even list you as an ‘auto-approved reviewer’ – the holy grail of Netgalley goals.

5) Beware the archive!

Finally, beware the archive.

As soon as you’re approved for a book, download it to your device immediately. You never know when the publisher will archive it. This usually occurs post-publication, but not always. 

Once a book is archived, you’ll have no access to it but your feedback ratio will count against you if you haven’t been able to read the book. This can be incredibly damaging to your Netgalley profile.

The good news is that you can still leave feedback once a book has been archived. Just make sure you get into the habit of downloading your copy as soon as you’ve been approved!

What do you think? Is Netgalley worth it? Let me know your
thoughts in the comments below!

SEO Beginners Guide for Bloggers

SEO Beginners Guide Blog Header Blue
SEO Beginners Guide Blog Header Blue

Table of Contents

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the practice of optimising your content to make it easier for search engines to index your blog in their search results.

This, in turn, means that other people are more likely to find your website of their own accord, boosting your views and helping you to find new readers.

The good news is that you don’t even need to be technically minded to do this. Whilst SEO can be complex, the core principles remain the same.

This Beginner’s Guide to SEO uses examples relating to the book blogging community, as they are my audience. However, these tips, tricks, and nuggets of guidance are perfectly applicable to any blogger or content writer.

So what exactly is SEO?

As you probably know, Google dominates the internet.

In fact, around 92% of search engine traffic goes through Google alone. Alternatives such as Bing and Yahoo (amongst others) make up the rest.

Therefore, what I want you to take away is this – Google is primarily where your potential readers go in order to find content.

It is therefore in your interest to get your blog to appear in Google search results. Especially when you consider that roughly 5.6 BILLION searches are made every single day!

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is where this comes in. It’s exactly as the phrase suggests – optimising your blog content in a way that appeals to a search engine’s algorithms.

This might sound complicated, or even a little tedious, but it’s actually quite straightforward in principle.

How does Google rank content?

There are hundreds of ranking factors that could affect where your blog posts appear in Google, but it all returns to one thing – how valuable is your content?

Not in a monetary factor, but what value does your content bring to the user searching for it?

To address this, it’s important to recognise what Google Search actually is. It’s a commercial business that makes money by sending users to the right place, at the right time, at great speed. That’s why the first thing anybody ever does when they want to have a question answered, is to go straight to Google.

Google therefore ranks web pages based on their perceived value.

For example, perhaps you want to search for reviews of the novel Dune.

If you do a Google Search for ‘Dune’, you’ll get a variety of results back. Some for showtimes of the movie Dune, and even results for the high street store, Dune London. All this does is create confusion, frustration, and ultimately leave you disappointed.

SEO Beginners Guide Google Search Dune
Simply searching 'Dune' will give you results for shoes, movies, and books - not very relevant!

But you already know this, which is why – if you’re looking specifically for book reviews – you’ll search for something like ‘Dune Book Review’ or ‘Frank Herbert Dune Review’, or ’review of the novel Dune’.

So, when you’re writing your own Dune book review, you’ll want to try and include keywords like these, and a number of variations, so that your post is seen by Google to have intrinsic value to the topic the user is searching for.

SEO Beginners Guide Google Search Dune Book Review
Simply searching 'Dune' will give you results for shoes, movies, and books - not very relevant!

In brief, SEO is how you’ll find the novel, rather than the retail store.

How do I Improve my SEO?

There are loads of ways you can improve your SEO. Here are a few methods designed for beginners.

Download the Yoast WordPress Plugin

Presuming that your blog is based on WordPress, download and install the Yoast plugin. No need to pay for the premium version – the free version of Yoast is more than enough.

SEO Beginners Guide Yoast Logo
Yoast Plugin is a SEO Essential

This will give you an insight into how well-optimised your pages and blog posts are, according to the keyword you’re targeting on that page (more on this later).

It’ll also give you tips on how readable your content is, such as whether sentences are too long or short, or whether you’re using too much of the passive voice in your writing. 

Yoast is really cool, and a must-have for getting started with SEO.

Target One Keyword Per Page

Contrary to the name, a keyword is barely ever just a single word but a phrase that users search for.

Look at your search history. You’ll notice that you’ve probably not used full sentences, instead typing ‘best UK book bloggers’ vs ‘who are the best UK book bloggers’.

You’ll want to try and include these (relevant) keywords in every blog post or book review you write. You should begin by using the Yoast plugin to focus on one specific keyword that gets a lot of search volume.

SEO Beginners Guide People Also Asked

To refer back to the Dune example from earlier in this SEO Beginners Guide (see what I did there? Keyword!), your keyword might simply be ‘Dune Book Review’. However, there are plenty of other ways keywords you could use.  

To find new keywords, look for topics that users are searching for on Google. How do you find these? Well, check out the ‘people also ask’ section that pops up every time you do a search. These are hot topics people are asking, so you might want to include the question and your own answer in your blog post.

You can also use Google’s own free Keyword Planner. To use this properly, simply click ‘discover new keywords’. There’s a lot of information thrown at you on this screen, but to keep things simple, just pay attention to the Keyword Ideas and Avg. Monthly Searches columns.

You’ll notice that Dune book review is getting 480 searches per month (not bad), whereas Dune reviews is getting over 22,000. This might lead you to use ‘dune reviews’ as your keyword. 

SEO Beginners Guide Keyword Planner

The problem here is that people may come to your site expecting a review of the movie, and then leave immediately once they realise it isn’t relevant, which can impact your SEO.

You’re always best to target relevant keywords to avoid this happening.

Optimise One Page at a Time

It’s worth knowing that Google ranks your website based on your pages, not your domain.

What this means is that pages are ranked according to their keyword, rather than your entire site. This means that if you work hard to optimise one really great piece of content, you can get that blog post to appear high in Google’s ranking.

SEO Beginners Guide Yoast
Assess optimisation with Yoast's SEO analysis

With this in mind, pick a blog post you would like to rank in Google (ideally start with one that already gets a good amount of views).

Once you’ve picked a page you want to optimise for Google, do some keyword research (as noted above) and pick one high quality keyword.

Once you’ve chosen this keyword, enter it into your Yoast plugin on the blog post you’ve chosen to optimise. Follow the instructions that the Yoast plugin gives you (readability is less important) until the icon at the top goes green.

For more information on how to use the plugin, check out Yoast’s Beginners Guide to SEO and pay particular attention to the section on Keyword Focus.

Good Site Structure

Is your content easy to find?

In an ideal world, you’ll be able to access every single page and blog post on your website within three clicks. This is much harder to achieve with a large corporate website, but with a blog, this should be perfectly doable.

You might start by having separate pages or categories for your blog posts/book reviews/author interviews, with links to these respective pages/filters in your navigation menu at the top of your website.

Take a look at how Tales from Absurdia is structured. There is always a nav bar at the top of each page, with links to each of my main types of posts, but on my homepage, I also include visual cues that link to each of these (blogs, book reviews, interviews).

SEO Beginners Guide Site Navigation

If it’s easy for humans to find all of your content, it’ll be much easier for Google’s web crawling bots to find your content – and therefore your website!

Try to avoid putting all of your unfiltered content as a stream on your homepage – it’s confusing, bad for SEO, and hard for readers to find your older articles.

Proper Image Filenames and Alt Tags

Don’t upload images named F222hf[dnfioff.jpg.

Filenames are a useful indicator to Google what exactly your article relates to (and don’t forget – Google Image Search is a thing!). Random letters and numbers will not appear in anybody’s image search.

Try and include your keyword in your filename, as long as it makes sense.

Also – please use alt tags. Not only are they signifiers for Google, they’re an essential accessibility for visually impaired internet users. Don’t leave them blank!

Good Blog Post Structure

As discussed before, proper structuring of your blog is good for users and it’s good for Google. This advice also applies to the way you present your blog posts.

Ever see those H1/H2/H3/e.t.c tags whilst writing your blogs?

Well, they have a function beyond making your text bigger or smaller. In fact, they’re an important means of structuring your blog posts for Google’s web crawler.

They stand for Heading 1, Heading 2 (and so on). 

Think of them in a pyramid structure, with H1 (your title) at the top, and the subsequent H2/H3s fanning out as additional topical subheadings.

Content King H1-H6 SEO Advice

In short, H-tags give your blog post a digital skeleton, functioning as lightning rods to Google, stating exactly what your page topic is about. You’ll want to include your keywords, and keyword variations, in these.

There are various opinions amongst SEO experts as to what difference H2/H3/H4 tags make, but one thing is certain – never have more than one H1 on your page.

A H1 should only ever be your title, and any additional H1s will have an actively negative impact on your blog’s visibility.

Get Links to your Website

When someone links to your website – especially another blogger with high domain authority – it’s a signal to Google that your content is a) trusted; and b) contains value. Therefore, it’s in your interest to get as many backlinks as possible.

Backlinks is simply the SEO shorthand for when another website links to your domain (blog/website).

Participating in social media-led ‘book tags’ is a great way for book bloggers to do this. If you aren’t familiar with book tags, they’re essentially chain blogs that work on a particular theme. The Create Your Own Fellowship Book Tag is a particularly cool one I took part in last year, whereby I picked a book to represent each member of the fellowship in The Lord of the Rings. 

At the end of a book tag, you tag an additional 5-10 bloggers by linking to their websites, and then ask them to produce a post of their own, tagging you in their response.

Book tags are a great way to share book recommendations, engage in fandoms, and – of course – get those backlinks. 

Next time you’re on social media, see if anyone is currently working on a book tag and ask to get involved. Or even better – start one of your own. If it goes viral, every single book tag blog post will include a link back to your blog!

But Don’t Neglect Internal Linking!

Internal linking, i.e. linking to other pages and blog posts on your website is also crucial. After all, it makes navigation easier for both humans and Google’s web crawling bots.

For example, if you’re writing up a monthly ‘in review’ blog post about everything you read and reviewed this month, include links to each and every review you posted. This will help readers find your original review, but it’ll also create a skeleton of your website for Google to crawl more easily.

Always use internal links.

Two BIG SEO No-Nos (never do these)

Never do any of the following two things. Your site will get penalised, and in the case of the latter, you may even get struck off of Google.

1) Don’t Over-Optimise Keywords

So, you’ve found some amazing keywords and can’t wait to optimise your article. Do not use them more often than what Yoast recommends – this is called keyword stuffing and is considered to be spam.

Keyword stuffing makes content read in an unnatural way, and is therefore terrible for the user experience. But Google’s algorithm will also spot this and knock you down the rankings, harming your reputation.

2) Never buy backlinks

This is something that, if you’re a hobby blogger, you’d never even consider doing.

Still, don’t buy backlinks, or trade with others en masse, under any circumstances. This is known as black hat SEO and will get you delisted from Google if you get caught out.

Book tags are not counted as trading backlinks as far as I am aware, as they have a role in the sharing of creative work. 

In short, don’t do trade-for-trade backlinks and don’t buy them – it’s a rubbish thing to do, especially when doing it for free is so simple, and will only cause harm.

Does SEO cost anything?

No. Absolutely nothing. 

Part of the reason businesses hire SEO experts is because, beyond wages, search engine optimisation can be done for comparatively cheap. It is, however, a highly skilled role.

Obviously, there are some amazing paid tools out there to help track search engine visibility, make suggestions, and monitor your keywords, but these are for more commercial purposes.

If you’re running a hobby blog, simply stick to the tips in this article – all free – and you’ll be on your way to ranking on Google!

Is SEO Worth it?

Absolutely – if you’re willing to put the time in.

If you’re a book blogger, the majority of your traffic probably comes from social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or more. The same applies if you’re a blogger in any other niche.

But these views are reliant on you posting every day – and it’s easy to get burnt out on social media quite quickly. 

In any case, if you’re a blogger, you’re likely doing it for free and (hopefully) for enjoyment and social media burnout is not fun.

So, ideally you’d like to get more blog views without having to do a thing?* This is where SEO comes in.

It’s worth bearing in mind that SEO isn’t an overnight ‘one-and-done’ sort of job. It’s not something you do, and then the views roll in. It must be a part of your weekly blogging routine. Every post you write should be written with it in mind.

*SEO is not a substitute for social media and your SEO can actually improve with increased use of social. It’s just another tool to drive traffic to your website.

SEO Beginners Guide FAQ

Search Engine Optimisation is the formatting of content in a manner that appeals to a search engine’s algorithm.

Increased organic traffic from Google, without having to rely on social media, or pay for ads.

Hard to say. If you’re running an established website that fluctuates in rankings, then minor changes can lead to increased rankings in only a couple of weeks.

As a new blog, Tales from Absurdia took about 10 months to start achieving regular organic traffic. Your experience, and the time you have to dedicate to SEO, will bring this forward or push it back.

Evergreen topics are perfect. These are blog posts that are not time-sensitive and therefore don’t age.

An example of this might be a ‘How to’ guide or tutorial.

Adding to evergreen topics over time and updating them can lead to some really impressive SEO results – if it’s a piece that provides value to the reader.

Listicles (‘7 amazing ways….’) always perform well on social media too – and they typically only require minor tweaks over the years. BuzzFeed does listicles very successfully, so check some of their articles out.

One thing I’ve learned over the years, and as I’ve become a better writer, is that you don’t need to choose between writing fluid, 

well-written content and writing SEO articles for Google.

There’s a happy middle-ground where it reads well AND hits all the right notes for a successful ranking on Google!

Got any questions? Find my SEO Beginners Guide helpful? Drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you 👇

Wordle Tips and Tricks | The Ultimate Guide for New Players

So, you’ve tried Wordle; the latest web-based game that’s become a viral hit on Twitter.

Perhaps you’re just getting started, or maybe (like me) you’re completely addicted. Regardless, here are some essential Wordle tips and tricks that’ll help solve your daily challenge.

Got any tips of your own? Stick them down in the comments below 👇

1) Choose your first word carefully

Your first attempt can make or break your entire Wordle run. Putting in a random word is purely pot-luck, and you might not even get any letters.

Ideally, pick a word with three or more unique vowels. This will almost always yield a letter, helping your subsequent attempts.

Audio is an ideal word because it covers every vowel except E. Another option might be Adieu. You can use a Scrabble tool to find more.

Try not to use a word that repeats vowels, because it’ll use up a potential slot for another letter.

2) Understand the Prompts

This is a simple tip.

Upon entering a guess, you’ll be greeted by three results – yellow, green, and grey. 

Green means you’ve guessed a letter in the correct part of the word. Yellow means the letter is included in the word, but in a different place. Meanwhile, grey means that letter is not part of the word.

3) Use the on-screen keyboard

For our next Wordle tip, we’ll be looking at the keyboard.

You’ll notice that letters on your keyboard reflect the colours on your main Wordle board. 

Helpfully, the remaining letters that you’re yet to try remain highlighted in a light grey. Look at these on your subsequent attempts and see which letters would help make a word, based on the letters you’ve already correctly guessed.

And of course… never use a dark grey letter – you’ve already tried that one!

4) Letters can be used more than once

Whilst you’ll want to avoid using multiples of the same letter in your first couple of guesses, it’s worth knowing that Wordle allows you to use the same letter more than once (after all, many words contain duplicate letters!)

Try and prevent yourself from using these until you’re reasonably certain that there’s a duplicate letter.

5) Take your time

Wordle doesn’t need to be a quick game. After all, we only get one word every 24 hours, so do take your time.

Pay attention to the letters you’ve used, and especially those remaining.

Taking your time with Wordle will actually enable you to guess correctly in a far shorter number of turns.

6) Play on the same device

Wordle is a browser game, so it saves your progress based on cookies installed on your device.

If you play on another device, your beloved winning streaks will not carry over. Also, if you delete your cookies, you’ll lose your stats and progress.

So, in an ideal world, pick a device (typically your mobile) and stick with it.

However, because it’s prudent to delete cookies every now and again to save space on your device, you may wish to set up an exemption for the Wordle website. 

Click or tap one of the icons below to do this.

Manage Cookies in Edge

Manage Cookies in Chrome

Manage Cookies in FireFox

Manage Cookies in Safari

These tips should help you get started with Wordle. If I’ve missed any obvious Wordle tips and tricks, do let me know in the comments below!

Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham Book Review

Winterset Hollow Book Review Blog Banner

Winterset Hollow is a novel about a novel called Winterset Hollow.

Sound confusing? Don’t worry – it isn’t. 

Jonathan Edward Durham’s debut novel is, however, a fascinating blend of genres.

Dark fantasy meets metafiction, whilst whimsical children’s fiction meets slasher. The result of this rather outlandish experiment is a remarkable piece of fiction that sticks long in the memory.

Winterset Hollow
Overview

It’s Barley Day on Addington Isle – an isolated private island where reclusive author Edward Addington, the author once resided. Winterset Hollow, a popular in-text fictional novel, was once written by Addington and has since acquired a cult following.

Adored in particular by Eamon, our protagonist, and a plucky group of teenagers (as is customary), they plan a trip to the island to celebrate the novel, and commemorate its mercurial author.

But like all good horror tales, the euphoria of our emboldened cast of impressionable youths is short-lived, with things going south rapidly, and rather spectacularly.

Barley Day is, after all, a day of feasting, hunting, and extravagant celebrations. But this time, the anthropomorphised animals of Addington’s tale – Flaxwell Frog, Bing Bear, Finn Fox, and Runny Rabbit (amongst others) – are out for revenge, revolting against their own author, and its readership.

It’s as if Beatrix Potter’s merry cast of creatures developed a predilection for torture and violence. Disturbing, but admittedly a lot of fun.

A Horror Classic with Literary Merit

Despite its slasher elements, Winterset Hollow remains literary in its pretensions. It’s well written, explores metafictional ideas of authorhood, and challenges the morality & ethics of our own contemporary society.

The novel also utilises some fascinating meta-elements, not least by including a novel of the same name within the text. 

It’s clever, without being complex or gimmicky, and serves as a prism through which we, as readers, judge our own actions. The inversion of animals hunting humans being the most obvious social and ethical commentary.

Whereas the humans in the novel range from plot meat bags to endearing and relatable, Durham’s creature-characters are all a genuine thrill and the true highlight of the novel. 

Donny Darko Winterset Hollow Meme
The visual equivalent of reading Winterset Hollow

Lovingly detailed, Durham breathes genuine life into the full horror of Addington’s complex menagerie.

Consider the names Runny Rabbit and Bing Bear, for example. They conjure an image of a Saturday morning children’s cartoon; plush, friendly, and easy-going creatures. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth – these animals are cunning, gruesome, and violent.

And yet, they’re also extraordinarily charismatic, with motives that extend beyond a mere love of killing. Some, in fact, resent it entirely. Their behaviours, masochistic in practice, are underpinned by complex, albeit jilted, moral justifications.

This makes for a fascinating and thoughtful read.

Conclusion

Winterset Hollow is a truly unique novel. Blending the twee with the macabre, Durham has produced a delightfully dark fantasy that thrills.

The setting of Addington Manor is dripping with detail; it’s halls sinister and lonely. This level of rich detail is lightning in a bottle for any author, and Durham excels at it.

The characters are fantastic, for the most part, with Addington’s creatures shining the brightest. Eamon serves as a serviceable protagonist, whilst his companions aren’t quite so memorable. On the other hand, Finn Fox is a real standout. Creepy, unpredictable, and highly unnerving, he’s a persistent foil to the protagonists.

There are some minor pacing issues, mind. What begins as a slow burner, quickly pivots into an action frenzy and never really slows down. Revelations are made that perhaps deserved more time and consideration, but instead struggle to properly surface amidst the gluttony of action.

Some readers won’t mind this, however – especially because the novel is tremendously fun, and the writing remains of a very high quality.

A lot of love and attention has gone into Winterset Hollow, and it shows. It’s a fantastic debut effort, and I’d strongly encourage my readers to add this to their TBR lists – especially with it being available on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited programme.

4/5

Winterset Hollow is available at Amazon in both paperback and eBook.

Full disclaimer: A review copy was kindly provided by the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.