Blogger Interview: Elaine Brent: Splashes Into Books
8 November 2019
Today’s blog interview guest is Elaine from the Splashes Into Books blog.
Hello Elaine, welcome to the RNA blog. Why don’t you kick things off by telling us a bit about yourself.
Hello! This seems a bit daunting but essentially I’m a wife, mother and have been a primary teacher for more than 30 years and a Primary ICT consultant for more than half that time. I’ve always been a readaholic and taken great pleasure in encouraging others to enjoy books, too. I’m pleased to say that it certainly worked with my daughter who is an avid reader, too. I think that being a teacher meant that I learned to read quite quickly – probably in response to the number of books I had to read and mark!
My husband was probably quite relieved when my daughter and I both had e-readers as we rarely went shopping without coming back with more books, we now have quite a collection that occupy quite a few bookshelves! Now I also love reading on my Kindle and when looking for a new bag one of the prerequisites is that it must enable me to take my Kindle with me. I’m likely to get my Kindle out whilst waiting for appointments or whilst travelling familiar routes- but not when I’m driving, obviously! It also lets me read whilst indulging in my other hobby – knitting.
What made you start a book blog?
Back in 2014 when I decided to take early retirement, my daughter thought I might get bored and needed a challenge. She already knew that I love reading and computing so her challenge was to encourage me to set up a blog on which to share reviews of books I read – and she set herself up one, too. She also introduced me to NetGalley and Goodreads, as well as setting up a page on Facebook to share links to our blog posts on.
What’s the best and worst thing about being a book blogger?
One of the best things is definitely the number of new to me authors whose books I’ve had the pleasure of reading and enjoying. What’s even more amazing to me is that a number of them are now “friends” on social media and are kind enough to let me know when they are about to have new books published. I’ve also read a wider range of genres since I started blogging, some of which I wouldn’t necessarily have considered previously, so it has definitely widened my reading horizons.
I think the worst thing is probably when I have a book that I really don’t enjoy. I’m afraid that life’s too short and there are too many great books out there so I no longer try to force myself to read such stories. I have, however, also become more aware of just which authors and publishers I’m likely to enjoy so have become more astute at only agreeing to read things I’ll enjoy and be able to give decent ratings to so the number of books I don’t finish is very few.
I also don’t like the pressure I occasionally put on myself when endeavouring to read books by a deadline, especially when I’ve agreed to participate in blog tours. I really need to stop agreeing to join in so many but when they’re for authors whose books I know I enjoy the temptation is always there. My daughter tells me that sometimes the worst thing is that when I’m engrossed in a book I really do switch off from what’s happening and don’t hear her or her Dad, which is frustrating for them!
Do you meet up with other bloggers and reviewers?
Other than my daughter, I haven’t met any other bloggers and reviewers face to face but I am in contact with quite a few via the internet. On Goodreads I discovered there are many groups. I joined the NetGalley Readers group and became one of the moderators there in Autumn 2015. We had less than 400 members initially but have more than six times that now. I’ve been to YALC with my daughter and we’re planning on going to the Chase Book Fest.
Can you tell us how long you have been running your blog and share your review policy with us?
I started my blog in July 2014. When anyone invites me to read (or listen to the audiobook version) and give an honest review of a book if it appeals and time permits, I’ll give it a read and review! I do warn however, that I will be honest in my review and I currently have a large to be read pile so I tend to only agree to read ones I think I’ll thoroughly enjoy – life’s too short to spend time struggling to read something I’m not connecting to, sorry! I read a lot of advance reader copies of books and try to post their reviews around their publication date providing time, life and everything else enables me to do so.
I like an eclectic mix of genres of books, science fiction, fantasy, historical, adventures, crime, mysteries, chicklit, romances, paranormal . . . as well as children’s books. I’ll be quite honest and say I don’t like ones that go into what I think is too much detail about sexual relations – a great story shouldn’t need to become near pornographic or a touch by touch guide to sex to be worth reading IMHO.
You’re very active on Netgalley – can you tell us a bit about your experiences with them? How does it compare to doing blog tours?
I joined NetGalley in 2014 and have had over 2,000 books from them in that time. One of the best things is the wide range of books that are available but that’s also one of the greatest temptations! It has actually encouraged me to read books that I wouldn’t previously have selected and I’ve found some new to me fantastic publishers and authors whose books I definitely look out for now. Readers are encouraged to keep their feedback ratio about 80%, something that definitely gets easier the more you’ve reviewed. I really appreciate being able to select from such a great library of books. I’ve certainly improved my ability to select books I’ll enjoy and rarely have any that earn less than 3* now. Even better is that some publishers have auto approved me to read their books, so if I spot any that I’d like to read on NetGalley I can download them straight away. Some publishers and authors also let me know when they have books I might enjoy reading via NetGalley. There are archive dates on many books but you can still give feedback after that happens.
Blog tour organisers usually help by providing information, graphics and content for posts and will promote them via social media once the tour is running. There’s no such promotion via purely NetGalley books but there is no deadline to read the books by and no agreed date for posting reviews for most books from NetGalley, something that can add pressure when participating in blog tours. I keep saying I’ve definitely got to be more selective when agreeing to join blog tours as sometimes it can start to feel more like a job than something I just do to share my enjoyment of reading but there are some fantastic books that are just too tempting!
What’s been your favourite read of 2019 so far?
I think this has to be the hardest question you’ve asked! I really can’t just select only one book, there have been so many fantastic reads. Three of the most emotive reads were The Forever Gift by Brooke Harris, My Silent Daughter by Emma Robinson and Knowing You by Samantha Tonge. I’d happily have given them more than 5* but I daren’t start trying to list my other favourites from the different genres as it would be such a long list and some authors would appear on it multiple times!
Between the reading, real life and the blog, you must be pretty busy. What do you do when you’re not reading, writing or reviewing?
I do have a life away from reading, honestly! My daughter and her husband introduced us to Ice Hockey last autumn and we’re now keen Sheffield Steeler supporters, enjoying watching their games and hoping to be able to go “Whoosh!” lots of times as that means our team has scored. I also regularly enjoy gardening, dining out with friends, going on holiday, watching shows but not at the same time. I enjoy knitting, especially when I’m adapting patterns to make unique items – but I usually do that whilst reading, so I suppose that won’t count. I’m not a big television viewer, preferring to explore things on my computer.
We often ask industry professionals what they consider to be the next ‘big thing’ – what do you hope to see more of in 2019/2020?
The main thing book-wise I hope to see is more books by my favourite authors and to discover some more authors to add to that list! It would also be great to explore a diverse range of places and cultures in stories and maybe try some other genres. I really hope to see my ‘to be read’ pile down to a more reasonable level, too, but that’s probably a pipe dream!
Thank you for chatting with us today, Elaine. All the best with the blog and I hope you manage to get to the bottom of your TBR pile one day!