Reading The Lowest Rated Book on my Goodreads ‘TBR’ #3: Reviewing The Lodger by C.L. Taylor

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Welcome to another blog post in my mini-series, where I read and explore the lowest rated books on my Goodreads ‘to be read’ list.


The Book

I’ve been reading a lot of C.L. Taylor recently, and I enjoy her work. I will soon be reviewing her newest book, Strangers. Over time, I’ve added quite a few of her books to my Goodreads ‘to be read’ list. When scouring Goodreads for more of her books, I came across, The Lodger, a short story available for free to those who sign up to her newsletter, which you can do here.

The Lodger has an average rating of 3.35 on Goodreads out of 63 ratings. This doesn’t look bad, although readership is clearly small. This is probably due to the fact access to The Lodger requires an email sign-up form; I don’t think the story can be purchased.


The Review

The Lodger is a short thriller with some exciting twists. It focuses on Laura, who is grieving the death of her husband, Steven. When Laura’s home is broken into a friend of a friend moves in as a lodger. However, someone has got their eye on Laura. She’s being watched.

My Photo [The Lodger].jpg

I enjoyed The Lodger.

Admittedly, it took a small while to set up the premise for the story which, unfortunately, left less room for creepy and disturbing things to happen. However, once these things began happening, I was hooked.

I liked Laura’s character, and there were some unexpected twists which shocked me.

My only real issue with The Lodger is that the story is over so quickly; I would love this idea to be developed into a full-length novel. I often say this with short stories I enjoyed!

Overall, I don’t think The Lodger  has a low rating because it’s bad. I think it’s pretty good, but not many have had the chance to read it.


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more content like this, as well as plenty of book reviews.

Have you read The Lodger? What did you think? If not, would you be inspired to read it for yourself?

– Judith

Reading The Lowest Rated Book on my Goodreads ‘TBR’ #2: Reviewing The Dinner by Herman Koch

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Welcome back to the second blog post in this series of reading the books on my Goodreads ‘to be read’ list which are curiously low.


The Book

I hadn’t heard of The Dinner by Herman Koch at all, until I came across a post on social media by Stephen King, who recommended it. Coincidentally, I found a copy in a charity shop a few weeks later.

The Dinner has an average rating of 3.22 on Goodreads, a score formed from more than 100,000 star ratings and around 16,000 reviews. It strikes me as a book which readers either love or loathe – I have no idea why this is, and that’s what I’m going to find out.


The Review

The Dinner is about two couples who meet at a restaurant for dinner. Polite, fashionable conversation masks the couples’ true intentions for meeting. Their teenage sons have committed a serious crime. The subsequent police investigation threatens to ruin their lives and reputations forever. Each couple is determined to protect their own child, whatever the cost.

My Photo [The Dinner].jpg

I didn’t get The Dinner.*

* Ironically, nobody eats much dinner at all because everyone keeps leaving the table to whisper to one another, take secret calls, or have private arguments. 

In my opinion, the book was trying to be dark and mysterious, without actually being dark and mysterious. None of the characters were dark, or mysterious, or manipulative. They weren’t likeable, dislikable, or interesting. They just were.

I had read half of The Dinner before the plot really begins – i.e. their sons’ crime is revealed – and, given the amount of build-up I’d read through to get to this point, I was underwhelmed when I finally found out. Again, this book could have been much darker.

I found myself waiting for more to happen, or for the writing to amaze me. Instead, I just found myself getting bored.

My overall impression of The Dinner is confusing, underwhelming and, dare I say it, dull.

The question is: was I underwhelmed because I knew the book was given a low rating in advance, or is it genuinely just not my cup of tea?


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more content like this, as well as plenty of book reviews.

If you are interested in reading this for yourself, and would like to support my blog further, you can click my affiliate link to purchase a copy of The Dinner. This means I receive a small commission if you purchase using my link.

Have you read The Dinner? What did you think? If not, would you be inspired to read it for yourself?

– Judith

Reading The Lowest Rated Book on my Goodreads ‘TBR’ #1: Reviewing The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

This (hopefully) is the first blog post in a mini-series which, as the title suggests, will involve me reading the lowest rated books on my Goodreads ‘to be read’ list and exploring why they might not be so popular or well-received. I have been inspired by a variety of “booktubers” I’ve seen who have also made content like this.


The Book

I came across The People at Number 9 in a charity shop, and the cover caught my eye. I also noticed it was published by HQ, a publishing company which has published several books I have thoroughly enjoyed in the last few years.

The People at Number 9 has an average rating of 3.05 on Goodreads, a score formed from around 1700 ratings and just over 250 reviews. On first impressions, despite its low rating, this data suggests the book is well-liked but hasn’t had a large readership and therefore, hasn’t had as many reviews or ratings. However, I will find out what I truly think after reading it.


The Review

The People at Number 9 is about Sara, a wife and mother who is drawn to her new neighbours, Gav and Lou. They seem to have the most glamorously carefree lives, which makes Sara’s own life look dull and dreary in comparison. Sara decides to befriend the couple and soon, they spend all their time together. However, the longer Sara is exposed to Gav and Lou’s influence, the more Sara wants to change everything to become like them – at the risk of disrupting and upsetting her own family.

My Photo [The People at Number 9].jpg

I was initially intrigued by this blurb, and I thought the explanatory notes at the back of the book about why Everett wrote it were particularly insightful. It’s an interesting idea to explore the lengths people will go to in order to cultivate what they perceive as the “perfect” friendship. However, the story didn’t develop in the way I thought it would.

The People at Number 9 appears to be marketed as a thriller and yet, I didn’t think there were many “thrilling” scenes at all. This may have affected its Goodreads score, as the book could have attracted fans of domestic dramas and thrillers, only to be disappointed. I wish the characters had been darker or more manipulative –  or perhaps Everett could have explored Sara’s growing paranoia and suspicions of Lou further, as their friendship ingrains itself in her life.

Really, nothing much happens to “ruin” Sara’s life. The friendship just doesn’t work out.

I still liked The People at Number 9, but it wasn’t entirely what I had expected.


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more content like this, as well as plenty of book reviews.

If you are interested in reading this for yourself, and would like to support my blog further, you can click my affiliate link to purchase a copy of The People At Number 9. This means I receive a small commission if you purchase using my link.

Have you read The People at Number 9? What did you think? If not, would you be inspired to read it for yourself?

– Judith

How I Use The Goodreads Star Rating System

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Unsurprisingly, as a book blogger and reviewer, I write a lot of book reviews. If I have been sent a book to review, I supply a star rating too. I thought it might be helpful to explain how I use the Star Rating System on Goodreads, which is the same star rating I carry over to Amazon and NetGalley, wherever possible.*

*If I have awarded a book a .5 star rating, I will either round this number up or down at my discretion. 


5 Stars

In essence, a perfect book. I use 5 stars to denote a book so flawless, engrossing, and completely wonderful that I would read it again in a heartbeat. It’s rare for me to award many books 5 stars, simply because I like to reserve this rating for my absolute favourites. The most recent 5 star review on my blog is The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

4 Stars 

This is one of my most common ratings. In my opinion, a 4 star rating indicates a book is very well-written, thoroughly enjoyable, and one I have no real “issues” with. Sometimes, I struggle to choose between 4 stars and 5 stars and so, in this scenario, I may give a book 4.5 stars. Some examples of this include my reviews of She by HC Warner, The Alibi Girl by C.J. Skuse, and The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin.

3 Stars 

3 stars is another common rating for me to use. Personally, I apply a 3 star rating to a book which is fairly enjoyable, reasonably written but, for some reason, doesn’t completely captivate me. A book may also be awarded 3 stars if I felt it could have been a 4 star read, were it not for some issues in plot, character development, or writing.

2 Stars & 1 Star 

These are, thankfully, my least used star ratings.

Some bloggers stay away from low ratings altogether, in order to keep their reviews entirely positive. This is understandable, as, sometimes, a negative review can be used as an excuse to “bash” an author or their work for the sake of it. Whilst I would never write a 2 star or 1 star review to attack an author or “rant” about their book, there have been times I felt it would be dishonest to rate a book higher than it is, or provide no review at all, simply to “be positive”. I do, on occasion, rate some books 2 stars, 1 star, or somewhere in-between, usually due to flaws with the characters, plot, and/or writing style. In my reviews, I always try to highlight the positives, as well as suggest how other things could be improved. Honesty is the best policy, I think.

But, then again, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all (?)


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more content like this, as well as plenty of book reviews.

How do you use the Goodreads Star Rating System?

– Judith

Becoming A ‘Secret Reader’ & Reviewing Framed by S.L. McInnis

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Towards the end of last year, Hodder Books announced on social media that, provided anyone over the age of 18 based in the UK had the opportunity to become a ‘Secret Reader’, allowing participants early access to e-books from a range of genres. It works as follows: A small number of books from a particular genre are made available for 7 days. The ‘Secret Reader’ can then choose 1 book to read online, or via the Secret Readers App. Once the reader has made their selection and has read more than 10% of it, they have 2 months to finish the book. I decided to sign up.

In the first week, the available books were from the genre of Women’s Fiction. This isn’t a genre I’m particularly interested in (at all), so I let the 7 day period elapse without choosing anything to read.

In the second week, however, the available books were categorised as Crime, Thrillers & Mystery, which caught my attention, and, out of the 6 books available, I chose to read Framed by S.L. McInnis.


My ‘Secret Reader’ Experience 

I should probably start with the positives:

  • In becoming a ‘Secret Reader’, I was granted early access to a new book which I may not have come across otherwise
  • Unlike NetGalley, my access to the book was immediate, and I didn’t have to wait for approval

Unfortunately, those were the only positives I could think of.

There doesn’t seem to be much publicity around being a ‘Secret Reader’ – so much so that it makes you wonder whether it’s even “legit”. I have to admit, I really can’t see much of a need when NetGalley is already so widely popular, well-known, and well used.

However, my biggest problem with being a ‘Secret Reader’ was the functionality of their e-reader app and website. As you cannot download your chosen e-book as a PDF or Kindle file, you are reliant on using their app or website in order to read, which I was disappointed by.

On the Secret Reader App, some of the icons were unclear as to what they were supposed to represent. This is a new, unfamiliar app to me, and for example, I had no idea which button meant “start reading” and which button meant “delete download” – especially as both were represented by images of books / pages. Consequently, I was frustrated to discover I’d accidentally deleting my new book, just as I was getting ready to read it! I also had difficulty adjusting the font size and using the progress bar at the bottom of the page; if I lost my place, it would either drag me too far backwards, too far forwards, or crash entirely. In the end, I gave up on the app and read the book via the Secret Reader website, on my computer, which was not ideal.

My Photo [Secret Readers 2]My Photo [Secret Readers 1]

On the one hand, these technical issues may have just been my experience – my phone or the app could have been playing up on the day I tried to use it, for instance – and I may be making a big fuss over nothing.

On the other hand, I don’t particularly want to risk repeating the experience, and the prospect of reading another full-length novel on a computer screen doesn’t thrill me. With this in mind, whilst I was glad to be able to read Framed, I’m not sure I would be a ‘Secret Reader’ again.


Book Review: Framed 

Framed is a crime thriller / suspense novel which focuses on two women: Beth and Cassy. They were roommates at university, but they both grew apart and moved away. Beth has made a life for herself; she has married and embarked upon a career teaching music. Cassy, on the other hand, is on the run. The LAPD are searching for a culprit in connection with  a quadruple homicide and a botched drug deal. Then, Cassy turns up on Beth’s doorstep, desperate for help.

My Photo [Framed]

On the whole, I enjoyed Framed.

It was easy to read, largely due to the short and simple sentences used throughout. On the one hand, this writing style increased the tension and quickened the pace of the novel in certain scenes but, on the other hand, it risks making the book look a little too simplistically written.

I liked reading the different character perspectives – Beth, her husband Jay, and Cassy – and gradually learning more about their personalities, pasts, and the nature of their relationships with one another. I was less interested in following the police procedural part of the narrative, unfortunately.

I’d say Framed is a slow burner; I was halfway through the book and found myself still waiting for more excitement and more plot development to happen. Nevertheless, I was interested and invested in the story throughout.

The final quarter of Framed is where things get most interesting, and the book is packed full of plot twists. Everything changes – even the narrators aren’t being honest with themselves, or the reader, and this was fun to experience. It did mean, however, that  unravelling the lies and piecing together what actually happened was somewhat confusing.

On the whole though, I thought Framed was an entertaining new crime thriller and I would recommend if you are searching for new books in this genre to read.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars 


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you had any experience as a ‘Secret Reader’? Would you consider becoming one? 

– Judith

A Day Out in Whitby

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

This is a blog post unlike anything I’ve ever written before!

Last weekend, my husband and I visited Whitby, on the east coast of Yorkshire. The town centre is divided by the River Esk. There is one crossing: Whitby Swing Bridge, which is more than 100 years old! Whitby is famous for many things, including Whitby Abbey, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Captain Cook, and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

I was inspired to write a blog post about our visit by my friend’s travel blog, Jade Braham’s Odyssey.


Weather

It probably sounds ridiculous to visit a northern seaside town in England, in February. Perhaps it was!

When we arrived on Friday afternoon, it was quite drizzly, windy, and grey. The weather did brighten up on Saturday, though, and we enjoyed blue skies and sunshine, although there was a persistent, blustery wind and occasional spots of rain. This probably sounds like the worst time to go on holiday! However, we had expected the weather to be like this, so we made sure to pack warm jumpers, woolly hats, and waterproofs. After all, the reason we came was to enjoy each other’s company and the scenic surroundings – not to get a suntan. In addition, English weather is so changeable that there’s no guarantee the weather in the summer months would be any better! There were also some advantages to visiting at this time of year too, such as cheaper holiday accommodation and quieter tourist attractions.

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We saw a rainbow in the harbour!

Tourist Attractions 

I have been to Whitby on a number of occasions but my husband has never been. As a result, I was keen for us to experience as many of the sights of Whitby as we could!

1. North Yorkshire Moors Railway

The NYMR is an 18 mile heritage railway which operates between Whitby and Pickering. The 1 hour 45 minute journey across the moors is one of the most scenic in the UK. Unfortunately, trains were not operating on the weekend of our visit (much to my husband’s disappointment), but they do run daily from April to October. Along the route, you can look out for the remote Goathland Station, the filming location for “Hogsmeade Station” from the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

2. Whitby Abbey (+ Dracula

On Saturday morning, we left our B&B, crossed Whitby Bridge, and the climbed the 199 steps to reach Whitby Abbey. Yes, there really are 199 steps, but they are quite shallow and easy to climb; it only took us a few minutes to reach the top. If you do think you would struggle, though, there are handrails and multiple stopping points with benches to rest on. From the top of the cliff, we had beautiful views of the harbour, the sea, and the town below.

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Our view over Whitby from the Abbey.
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A more artistic view of the Abbey.

Whitby Abbey was first built in the 7th century as a monastery for both men and women. At some point in the 9th century, however, it was abandoned, possibly due to Viking invasions. In the 13th century, the monastery was rebuilt in the Gothic style but, following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, it was once again abandoned. Parts of the Abbey have since eroded and collapsed, leaving the ruins we can see today. You can click here to find out more about this by visiting the English Heritage website.

English Heritage owns and maintains Whitby Abbey, so there is an entrance fee in order to visit it, unless you already have English Heritage Membership. The cost of an adult ticket is £9-£10, which we thought was quite expensive, so we decided to give it a miss. Instead, we walked past the Abbey and down the road, enjoying more sea views as we went. To our surprise and amazement, the stone wall surrounding the grounds was much lower here, allowing us fantastic views and photo opportunities that didn’t cost us a penny! If you want to get closer than we did, however, and explore some of the historical exhibits about Whitby Abbey, you might benefit more from a “proper” visit.

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Our stunning view that cost us nothing!

Whitby Abbey is also the location which inspired some of Bram Stoker’s famous Gothic novel, Dracula. We also briefly visited ‘Bram Stoker’s Bench’, which is situated on Khyber Pass. It is a bench in the location where Stoker supposedly sat and got the idea for his novel. From here, you can see the Abbey looming over the town of Whitby (though we didn’t spot any vampires). Admittedly, this wasn’t incredibly exciting – it was just a bench, after all – but as an English literature student and Gothic horror fan, it was still fun to see.   We also went to see 6 Royal Crescent, the guesthouse Stoker stayed in whilst in Whitby, which is marked with a blue plaque. It’s now private accommodation, though, so we didn’t want to get too close!

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The plaque marking ‘Bram Stoker’s Bench’

If you want to enjoy even more Dracula-themed attractions, you could also visit The Dracula Experience, which promises a tour of the Dracula story with live actors, special effects, and scares. This didn’t particularly appeal to my husband and I – personally, I think it sounds a little gimmicky – but if you want to pay the £4 entrance fee and see for yourself, be my guest.

3. Museums 

There are quite a few museums in the area:

We chose to visit the free ones, as we were quite keen to save money in some areas of our trip; staying in a B&B meant we had to eat lunch and dinner in cafés and restaurants, which automatically increased costs.

First, we went to the Museum of Whitby Jet, which is located inside the Wesley Hall on Church Street. The museum had plenty of information about how Jet is formed, its link to Whitby, and its value. There were also quite a few display cases which featured Jet in its raw form, Jet jewellery, and other novelty items fashioned out of the gemstone, including a dollhouse-sized table and chairs. There are numerous Jet jewellery shops in Whitby – understandably so, because of the tourist industry – but this jewellery is quite expensive, in my opinion.

Secondly, we went to the Whitby Lifeboat Museum on Pier Road, which was once an RNLI boat station.  It was very interesting; there was information about the history of the RNLI itself, case studies about real-life shipwrecks, and even artefacts that had been recovered from these shipwrecks. One of these items was a trunk belonging to a lady who survived the sinking of the SS Rohilla in 1914 – just 2 years after she survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912! If you would like to learn more about the RNLI, you can click here to visit their website.

Both museums were fairly small and they only took us about 15-30 minutes to fully explore each one. This gave us a brief snapshot of some of Whitby’s local history whilst not taking up the entire day, so we could do other things too!

We learnt more of Whitby’s nautical history, despite not visiting the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, when we saw the famous whale bone arch and read the nearby information boards. In the 18th and 19th century, whaling in the Arctic Sea was a particularly lucrative trade, albeit a dangerous one. Many boats departed from Whitby to hunt whales. In 1853, a 20-foot arch was erected from the jawbone of a blue whale to pay homage to Whitby’s whaling history. Over time, the bones eroded, and so they have been replaced with newer jawbones on several occasions.

4. Shops 

In addition to traditional tourist attractions, Whitby also has a lot of shops to browse, such as traditional sweet shops, gift shops, art shops, and plenty more. We each bought a small stick of rock from Jane’s Rock Shop, as I love this seaside tradition and they only cost 25p each.

I paid particular attention to the bookshops, though!

We visited The Whitby Bookshop, an independent bookshop with a pleasing array of non-fiction and fiction from different genres, including an entire section dedicated to horror! Of course, there were plenty of copies of Dracula, as well as other ghost stories and books about folklore. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any secondhand bookshops, though we did browse quite a few charity shops. I managed to pick up a copy of The Surrogate by Louise Jensen, an author I like, for just 50p!

5. Food

On Friday evening, we had booked a table in the Moon & Sixpence for dinner, having liked the look of the menu* and seen positive reviews online.

* We were keen to find places that didn’t just serve fish and chips, as my husband doesn’t like fish! This can be quite a challenge when staying by the coast.

However, when we arrived, it was overcrowded, noisy, and not our style at all. People were pushing past us frantically to get in, and others were pushing past us to get back to their tables from the bar. Drinks were going everywhere, and cocktails were slopping all over the floor. We quickly decided to evacuate.

Instead, we found a wonderful alternative on the other side of the River Esk: Abbey Wharf. It was so much better! It’s a large, spacious restaurant and, though it was busy*, it wasn’t too loud and didn’t feel crowded either. Abbey Wharf overlooks the river and has big glass windows as well as some glass ceiling panels, so we could see lights sparkling on the water and and twinkling in the night sky, which really enhanced the atmosphere. Also, the food was delicious, the service was fantastic, and the prices were reasonable.

* Not long after our impromptu arrival, the restaurant filled completely, so I would recommend booking in advance, if you can.

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Abbey Wharf at night

On Saturday, we went to a café called Sherlocks for lunch, which is located on Flowergate. The business is named Sherlocks because, allegedly, a wealthy family by the surname of Holmes purchased the building in the late 1800s. It is rumoured that a Master S. Holmes would stay here in Whitby, enjoying the sea air and honing his sleuthing skills over a cup of coffee!

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The beautiful wall of books behind our table!

Of course, this is just good fun – Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, not a real person. As a fan of mystery and detective novels, though, it was a nice place to go! If you would like to read more blog posts about the Sherlock Holmes stories, you can find some I’ve written here.

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Sherlocks

Sherlocks is a quirky café that has cosy lighting and plays soft jazz music over the stereo, and is decorated with antique books and ornaments. Upstairs, where we sat, was designed to look like Sherlock’s study! The building itself is a little “higgedly piggedly”, with steep stairs and lots of tables and so, in busier periods, it might feel a little tight for space. I think this is due to the size of the buildings and shops along the entire street of Flowergate; a lot of the buildings are quite tall and narrow. Nevertheless, I think the interior of Sherlocks added to the café’s charm and individuality.

On Saturday evening, we had booked a table in Cosa Nostra, an Italian restaurant on Church Street. It was spacious and nicely decorated, though it was a little loud, despite not being full, because the building’s high ceilings made a slight echo. The pizzas were good, though, and the service was prompt. Our only frustration was that we didn’t have a set waiter, so we didn’t see the same member of staff twice! One waiter took our order, another brought us our drinks, another brought us our food, another came to check our meal was alright, and another brought us the bill! This was a bit disorienting.


Finally, after a day of exploration (and eating), we returned to our B&B to rest – and to read our books! My holiday book of choice was The House Share by Kate Helm, an upcoming thriller novel I received via NetGalley. My husband’s holiday book of choice was Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz, the newest of the Alex Rider novels.


6. Other Considerations

  • Transport. The easiest way to get to Whitby is by car. There is a railway station, but the only way to reach Whitby by train is via Middlesbrough, which is even further north than Whitby itself, and so this can be a long, long journey. On the other hand, the Esk Valley Line (to Whitby) affords some wonderful scenic views.
  • Accessibility. Whitby has quite a few cobbled pavements and steep hills, which can be climbed with with steps (with handrails) or ramps. We wandered and walked around Whitby as we felt like, but if accessibility or mobility are issues for you, it may be worthwhile planning your route around the town before you set off, to avoid some of the steeper bits!
  • Amenities. We noticed a number of public toilets around the town, but they had a 40p charge. This could be paid with either cash or card, but the machines don’t give change.
  • Dogs. Whitby is a very dog-friendly town; we saw plenty of dog walkers whilst we were out and about. Many shops and cafés are also dog-friendly too, so it’s worth being aware of this if you would feel uncomfortable or scared by dogs.
  • Planning / Cost. It’s sensible to plan in advance where you would like to eat, in order to compare menus, prices, and the quality of food. We mostly used Tripadvisor and personal recommendations to find places we liked the look of (although Tripadvisor let us down when it came to The Moon & Sixpence!)

Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Whitby and would recommend you visit!


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ to support my blog.

Also, please comment below if you would like to me to write more content like this in the future – I’ve never written any travel blog posts before, and I hoped this would be an interesting mixture of book & travel blog content!

Although I have provided links to the websites of local businesses and tourist attractions, nothing used in this blog post is sponsored or an affiliate.

Have you read Dracula? What did you think? Have you visited Whitby? Would you like to?

– Judith

 

4 Years of Blogging: A Collection of Thoughts

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

This month, February 2020, marks the 4th anniversary of ReadandReview. Over these 4 years, my blog has grown, changed, and adapted as my interests and reading preferences have also changed. As a result, I’ve decided to reflect on both myself and my blog, looking back over the last 4 years.


Reviews and Writing Style 

The first book review I posted on this blog was of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Now, this strikes me as an odd choice. Whilst I did – and still do – enjoy reading classics from time to time, they have never been my favourite genre. At the time, however, I think I was concerned to start my blog in the “right” way – by writing about books that were deemed “suitable”, or already well-beloved. In other words, I was nervous to “embarrass” myself by “exposing” my personal reading preferences. This would explain why I wrote so many reviews of classics when I first started blogging. Whilst I do enjoy classics, this choice of content was not truly representative of what I regularly read and watched.

Nowadays, I’m much more open about the genres I enjoy, and I post about all kinds of books – books that I’ve read and liked, or books that I’ve read and disliked. The reviews are (generally) a lot longer; I try to include a mixture of positive and negative feedback, and I always aim for constructive criticism, especially when reviewing books sent to me. It feels odd to say I’ve grown in confidence when blogging, though I suppose it must be true. I’m no longer embarrassed to explain the books I like, to write reviews, or to share my opinions – and why should I be?

University 

An obvious factor that has affected my reading preferences, writing style, and personal life in the last 4 years is studying an English degree at the University of Nottingham. Due to the structure of the course and available modules, I studied a wide variety of texts – ranging from Old English manuscripts, to early modern plays, to Victorian novels, to contemporary popular fiction. As a consequence of all the lectures, essays, and wider reading I did, I have an increased desire to write longer posts about particular books or topics that interest me. I’m unsure yet if my blog is the right space for this, though I have experimented with this style of blog post before, however, as every exam season, I wrote blog posts detailing the themes of particular books to consolidate some of my revision.

University has also helped me to focus my reading preferences. For example, in my final year of university, I studied the Gothic and horror genres in immense detail whilst researching for my dissertation. I already liked Gothic horror fiction before university; now, I can say I am keenly interested in these genres. I am fascinated by specific tropes, stylistic choices, and motifs, and I would love to study this in more depth – I feel my dissertation barely scratched the surface. In the future, I might consider using this blog to write more about the Gothic and the horror in an academic and analytical way.

Social Media 

I’ve recently started watching “booktube” content on YouTube. On the one hand, I enjoy occasionally watching these videos because I find the content entertaining and inspiring but, on the other hand, I am discouraged as I realise just how small my own audience and readership is in comparison to these “booktubers”. However, I do not want to become an influential “vlogging” superstar. I don’t! My passion (and hopefully, talent) is for writing and thus, I will persevere with this blog.

Currently, some of my favourite things to do as a blogger are reading blog posts and engaging with other bloggers. I also like reading new books by new authors via NetGalley and engaging with these authors and publishers on Twitter. I only joined NetGalley in late 2018, and it’s so exciting to be able to read books that aren’t even published yet and give feedback. I often see authors posting about how much they value readers’ reviews and so, even if I’m not a “vlogging” superstar, it’s nice to know that my blogging efforts are appreciated.


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How have your reading tastes changed over time? 

– Judith