From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Christina Philippou

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Christina Philippou

This week, I interviewed Christina Philippou, a writer and university lecturer from the UK. She enjoys playing and coaching sport, spending time with her family, and reading.

Chris used to be a fussy reader, and read only contemporary or crime novels. She has since learned to develop her appreciation for a wider range of genres. “Now that I’m less picky, I’ve discovered books that I love, in genres I never would have considered in the past.” she explained, “I will read pretty much anything, except pure horror or incredibly upsetting stories. I’m quite new to the romance genre, although I think erotica novels are still a step too far for me!”

Chris began her own blog about a year and a half ago, although it feels like much longer. “Blogging is ingrained in my routine now; I have been doing it all my life!” she said.

 “I realised that I was reading and reviewing so many books that it would nice to be able to share my reviews on my own platform. I also like to document thoughts on my own writing journey.”

Chris is also a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Although RBRT’s policy is to only publish book reviews with 3* or more, Chris believes negative reviews have their place.

“This may sound controversial, but I think negative, constructive reviews are useful to both writers and readers. As a reader, I always look out for negative reviews, as I feel they tell me far more than the positive ones.” Chris said.

Yet despite her stance on negative reviews, Chris has had bad experiences in the past with authors who demanded she removed 3* reviews from her blog which were deemed ‘unfavourable’.

 “Nowadays, there are so many books available in the marketplace, that you simply can’t rely on the number of reviews to judge a book by.” she said, “I find looking at 1* and 2* reviews enlightening, and I can take away important lessons about how it was written, how well the plot developed, and so on.”

“Providing they are non-malicious, negative reviews are important, and that is why I give them.”

Chris is also the second writer I’ve spoken to who has a love of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. “The BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is my favourite book-to-film adaptation, but there’s also a brilliant adaptation of Persuasion too!”

However, not only is Chris a blogger and book reviewer, she is a debut author. Her first novel, Lost in Static, was published in September last year. “I’ve always enjoyed writing; my book began as a simple creative writing project whilst I was on maternity leave, but now it’s developed into a novel!”

Lost in Static is the same story, told from four different perspectives. “I would describe the writing style as short and sharp, which is most likely a by-product of my previous job as a forensic accountant, where succinctness is key.” Chris revealed. “I’m a ‘no-frills’ kind of person, and I think my writing definitely reflects that aspect of my personality.”

Chris uses her blog to promote her book, as well as posting book reviews, interviews and suggestions for other writers. I asked her for her most important piece of advice for any aspiring writer reading this interview. She told me, “Write for yourself. It’s the best and most enjoyable way.”

You can find Christina Philippou on Twitter at @CPhilippou123 and her website is cphilippou123.com.

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Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Georgia Rose

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Georgia Rose

Welcome back to another post in my new series, From One Blogger To Another, where I interview / chat with a different blogger or writer on a monthly basis.

This time, I interviewed Georgia Rose, a writer and blogger from Cambridgeshire, England.

Image result for georgia rose book

As well as reading and writing, she has a lifelong passion for horses, and her family. Her two dogs, Poppy and Ruby, delight in accompanying Georgia to book events.

In addition to writing, Georgia runs her own business, which provides companies with book-keeping and administrative services.

Her first book, A Single Step, was published in 2014. A Single Step was succeeded by Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water, forming The Grayson Trilogy. Georgia said: “They are a series of mysterious and romantic adventure stories, written from the point of view of my heroine, Emma Grayson.”

“Completing my trilogy is one of my biggest achievements. I struggled desperately getting the last one done as it was terrifically hard work, so it was an utter relief to finally have it finished. I loved the entire writing experience – even the difficult parts.”

All three books currently have at least a 4 star rating on Amazon or Goodreads, one of the most popular sites for book reviews.

However, Georgia agreed that negative reviews are as equally valuable as positive ones. “Negative reviews do exactly what reviews are meant to do, which is to inform potential readers.”

“For example, someone reviewed my book recently and complained about my use of the F word and the descriptive sex scene. It was a well written review and provided me with helpful feedback. If another potential reader read that review, and decide they don’t like that type of book, they can save their money by finding something more appealing to them.”

Georgia is a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, a group of readers and bloggers dedicated to reading new books and sharing their reviews. She also has her own blog.

“Someone told me I should have a blog, so I started one. I had no idea how it worked and I scrabbled around for quite a while trying to work out what I should put on it.” Georgia admitted. “My blogging style is a bit patchy; I post odd reviews and share others’ too. I think I’ve got better this year though, as I’ve committed to posting at least once a month!”

Georgia revealed her frustration with blogging to me. “I find that blogging is just something else that takes me further away from writing my next book. I see myself as an author first and a blogger second.”

Georgia’s favourite genres to read are serious romances, psychological or crime thrillers and mysteries.

“My favourite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I’ve always said Pride and Prejudice because I was converted into liking it, I think!” she joked. “I had to study it during my O Level years, and really disliked it at first. However, because I had to pay attention, think about it, and write about it, I grew to love it! I have reread it many times since.”

I asked Georgia which author she’d most love to meet. “There are so many!” she gushed. “If I had to pick one it would be Sue Grafton. I love her Alphabet Series and how she has managed to work her way through almost the entire alphabet, keeping the fabulous protagonist Kinsey Millhone intact. We would have so much to talk about!”

Grafton’s Alphabet Series are a series of crime novels, following the private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Her most recent addition to the series, X, was released on the 2nd of August last year.

However, whilst I love finding new book-to-film adaptations to talk about, Georgia Rose isn’t so keen. “If I’ve ever enjoyed a book, I won’t watch a film adaptation because they always ruin it for me.” she explained. “There are some exceptions however; I’ve enjoyed both the books and films of the Harry Potter series with my children, and I think the 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was utterly perfect.”

In her reading, Georgia also steers clear of the fantasy genre. “I soon get bored with the overly complicated place names and character names, and fictional creatures just can’t hold my interest.” she said.

“I’m also not keen on frothy romances; everyone is beautiful and you can see the happy ending from a mile away!” she continued. “I need something more than just boy meets girl, which is probably why I write romantic suspense.” Since the release of The Grayson Trilogy, Georgia also published a short story, The Joker, which expands the storyline of one of her characters.

Finally, I asked Georgia if she had any advice for aspiring writers who may be reading our interview today. She said, “Yes: stop calling yourself an aspiring writer!”

She explained, “If you write, you are a writer. Believe in what you do. If you want to write a book, stop putting it off – no-one else is going to write it for you. Sit down and start typing. It’s that straightforward.”

You can find Georgia Rose on Twitter at @GeorgiaRoseBook and her website is www.georgiarosebooks.com.

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Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith

Themes in: Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Themes in: Lady Susan by Jane Austen

This is the start of another new blogging series!

I plan to go slightly more in-depth than a regular book review and, as an English student, talk about some of the significant themes and messages of a particular book.*

*My choice in books may or may not be influenced by what I’m studying in my English degree.

Lady Susan is an epistolary novella by Jane Austen, published posthumously in 1891, but she wrote it as a teenager, before her most popular works. It is about Lady Susan, a beautiful, manipulative, and flirtatious widow who seeks not only to marry off her daughter, but a second advantageous marriage for herself to ensure financial security.

Class and Society

I think a key theme in Lady Susan is class and society; Austen paints a world in which marriage is for riches, not love, and women have no chance of succeeding unless they are attached to a man. However, Austen takes this idea, which is common in her other novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, and completely subverts it. She criticises the patriarchal society in which she lives and writes about, by creating a strong female character who takes on remarkably “male” characteristics. Lady Susan toys with various men’s affections, controlling their emotions and thoughts towards her – just as Captain Wickham did in Pride and Prejudice, and Mr Willoughby did in Sense and Sensibility.

Patriarchy

Following on from this, Austen highlights the power Lady Susan has, despite the fact she is a woman in a patriarchal society. She is a ‘Lady’, not by marriage, but by birth, and so already belongs to a certain status, without the need of a husband. She is also a widow, a scarily powerful social position, because she is much older than the men she flirts with, as well as sexually experienced. Personally, I think this was Austen’s way of exploring subversive ideas as a teenager in a covert manner – it would be too unacceptable for her to behave in this way herself, so she fantasised and wrote about it instead. This may have also been the motivation behind the narrative arc of Pride and Prejudice’s Lydia, a giggly young girl easily swept along by notions of love, marriage and sex.

Gender

Another significant theme in Lady Susan is gender; although Lady Susan needs a man to provide her income, she challenges patriarchy and feminine stereotypes in other ways. Her interaction with her daughter Frederica is so unlike a conventional mother. She is cold and cruel, which might reflect a stereotypical 18th/19th century father instead – a distant figure who makes financial arrangements for the family, but lacks an emotional connection to them.  Speaking of lacking emotional connections, Lady Susan only develops relationships when it is convenient and beneficial to her. Whilst this is incredibly selfish, her selfishness highlights her rationality and logic – traits which were seen as more “masculine” than “feminine”.

In this way, then, Lady Susan does not fit the mould of a conventional feminine protagonist, but that’s what’s so good about Lady Susan.

Although I didn’t enjoy the character of Lady Susan, the epistolary style, or the rushed ending, I enjoyed how Austen fearlessly subverted all the conventions I’d come to expect from a typical Austen novel, and raised some key themes to think about in the process.

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Thank you for reading this blog post! It was nice for me to “vent” a little in a more literary way, rather than just always focus on my likes/dislikes.

If you’d like to read more of these style of blog posts, please click ‘Like’ or leave some feedback in a comment below!

– Judith

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

Recently, I’ve been listening to a LOT of Taylor Swift, a singer I’ve been an on/off fan of since being a young teen. Yet for some reason, I’ve been listening to lots of her songs, so this Tag Tuesday, the Taylor Swift Book Tag seemed like an obvious choice. Let’s answer some Qs with some As then!

1. We Are Never Ever Getting Backing Together: Pick book you were sure you were in love with, but then wanted to break up with

I really liked the Twilight series as a young teen – I read them all in less than a week. In hindsight, I’m not sure they were the best books ever written. Plus, the franchise on a whole gets a lot of criticism, so it can be a bit embarrassing to admit that I liked them. (So I’m combating this by telling 300+ people that I liked the Twilight books… sure)

2. Red: Pick a book with a red cover

I’d have to choose my beautiful edition of And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (1939), which features the characters as portrayed in the 2015 BBC adaptation. If you haven’t read the book, you need to! If you haven’t watched the TV series, you need to! They’re both brilliantly made and very enjoyable.

3. The Best Day: Pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic

This question reminds me of my My Life In Books Challenge, where I talked about different books I read and loved as a child. I would probably have to say The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911) because I loved it as a little girl, and I feel like I can connect to the book’s characters and events, given its Yorkshire backdrop.

4. Love Story: Pick a book with forbidden love

I really don’t read many love stories, and none with a sense of “forbidden” love. I’d probably have to choose the classic, Romeo and Juliet (1597) – which is also referenced in Taylor’s song!

5. I Knew You Were Trouble: Pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love

There are so many! I love a good villain. I’d definitely say Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (1847). I’d also say Count Olaf, from the Series of Unfortunate Events books, O’Brien from 1984 (1949) or Camille’s mother from Sharp Objects (2006). Then there’s always Macbeth and Lady Macbeth too…

6. Innocent: Pick a book that someone ruined the ending for

I’m notorious for avoiding spoilers at all costs (unless I accidentally find out something myself). My brother ruined a lot of books and films for me as a child, although no specific memories spring to mind. He probably told me a lot of the Harry Potter storylines before I’d been able to read them for myself…

7. Everything Has Changed: Pick a book character who goes through extensive character development

My knee-jerk reaction is Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (1813). At the start of the book, Elizabeth is headstrong, but shows she can be sassy, judgmental and prejudiced (all three of which towards Darcy). In the same way, Darcy is proud, arrogant and reluctant to show his true feelings. Both characters learn to open up to each other, as well as other people, and they round out as characters towards the end of the book.

8. You Belong With Me: Pick your most anticipated book release

At the minute, I’ve heard Crystin Goodwin is working on a fourth book in her Blessings of Myrillia series. I’ve read all three and reviewed them (UnBlessed, Fire Blessed, Ice Blessed) and I really like the fantasy / young adult path Goodwin has taken the books down, and I can’t wait to read the next one!

9. Forever and Always: Pick your favourite book couple

I would either say Mr and Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (1813) because they’re such hilarious characters, or Henry and Clare from The Time Traveller’s Wife (2003) because they have such a wonderful, loving relationship.

10. Teardrops On My Guitar: Pick a book that made you cry

I don’t cry at books! I don’t cry at films either. I guess I’m just a cold-hearted, meanie of a blogger…

Those are my answers! Would you have picked different books?

That’s all for now!

– Judith

The Halloween Book Tag

The Halloween Book Tag

Happy Halloween!

Okay, so it might not be Halloween just yet, but there’s no reason we can’t get into the spirit of things. I found this tag on candidcover.net and I thought it was just perfect for the occasion.

1. Pumpkin Carving: Which book would you carve up and light on fire?

Hmm, a book I really dislike… I would have to say The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003). I’ve already discussed my strong dislike to The Kite Runner already on ReadandReview2016, and the idea of seeing it on fire is somewhat amusing, if not a little Hitler-ish…

*Honourable Mention: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925). Another book I’d love to take apart.

2. Trick or Treat: What character is a trick? What character is a treat?

In terms of a ‘treat’, I would pick a really lovely, heartfelt character. My natural instinct is to say someone like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, or Jane from Pride and Prejudice (1813), both of whom are brilliant women that have lots of admirable qualities.

As for a ‘trick’ character, I want to talk about someone who is misleading, evil and duplicitous. I want to say Macbeth, from Macbeth (1611) but other villains such as Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes series also spring to mind.

3. Candyfloss: Which book is always sweet?

I’m tempted to say Candyfloss by Jacqueline Wilson (2006) for fun! I think I’ll pick Anne of Green Gables though, by L.M. Montgomery (1908).

4. Ghosts: Which character would you love to have visit you as a ghost?

I’d be intrigued by any character that decided to bridge the gap between fiction and reality, as well as the gap between life and death! I like the idea of chatting with The Ghost of Christmas Past from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843).

5. Fancy Dress: Which character would you want to be for the day?

A really evil, sassy woman; I think they are so well-portrayed in literature. I think I would choose Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series. Then again, I also really liked the characterisation of Amy in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012) and I liked her sinister plotting and cleverness.

*Honourable Mention: The Evil Queen from Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm (1812).

6. Witches and Wizards: What is your favourite Harry Potter moment?

How am I supposed to choose?! I really like Harry Potter and rhe Deathly Hallows (2007) – particularly the scenes in Malfoy Manor and Hermione’s interrogation and torture. Grim, I know, but it was gripping.

7. Blood and Gore: Which book was so creepy that you had to take a break from it for a while?

The goriest book I’ve ever read so far is ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (1975), but I didn’t have to ‘take a break’ at any point. In fact, I was captivated by King’s work and could hardly put it down!

Those are my answers! Would you choose different books? I tag anyone who wants to do this tag (and I’d love to see some of your responses in the comments).

That’s all for now!

– Judith

Film Review: Bridget Jones’s Diary

Film Review: Bridget Jones’s Diary
  • Title: Bridget Jones’s Diary
  • Director: Sharon Maguire
  • Released: 2001

With the release of Bridget Jones’s Baby approaching (Friday the 16thof September 2016), I thought I would look back to where it all began.

Bridget Jones’s Diary is a romantic comedy, done in a typically British way, based on Helen Fielding’s book of the same name starring Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Tired of her seemingly meaningless and cringe-y life, Bridget turns over a new leaf. She begins a diary, documenting her attempts to advance her career, keep up with her friends, and finally find true love.

Normally, I’m not a rom com person because huge sweeping gestures of emotion are just not my style. However, what I like best about Bridget Jones’s Diary is the sheer level of awkward and embarrassing moments that Bridget has over the course of one year.

I thought Renee’s English accent, as an American, was very impressive and was well sustained across the whole film. However, I’ve never seen Renée Zellweger in any other films apart from the Bridget Jones series.

Also, speaking of casting, I just love the fact that Colin Firth is Mark Darcy. If you didn’t know, Fielding’s novel is a loose spoof of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Bridget is Elizabeth Bennett, Hugh Grant is Captain Wentworth and Colin Firth is Mr Darcy. A nice in joke, as Firth’s character is appropriately named Mark Darcy, and Firth also famously played Mr Darcy in the hit BBC Austen adaptation.

Yet, despite my knowledge of Pride and Prejudice, and despite knowing that Captain Wentworth is not to be trusted, I couldn’t help liking Hugh Grant’s character, Daniel Cleaver. I thought he was funny and could actually be quite sweet but it’s a shame that, in typical antagonist fashion, he inevitably breaks Bridget’s heart and is ultimately not a suitable match.

*Side Note: I’m gutted that Hugh Grant will not be reprising his role as Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones’s Baby, like he did in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

My main criticism of Bridget Jones’s Diary is the off-putting, overuse of cigarettes and alcohol by almost every character in almost every scene. I’m sure this kind of behaviour is incredibly accurate and representative of quite a lot of people, but I still found it distasteful. At one point I was almost certain I would be able to smell the cigarette smoke wafting through my screen!

Nonetheless, I’ve watched this film (and its sequel) quite a few times, and I still find it enjoyable. It’s a sweet, funny little romance that could accurately represent many socially awkward British women. I look forward to seeing what I think about the third instalment! You can watch the trailer for Bridget Jones’ Baby here:

Do you enjoy rom com films? Which is your favourite? Leave a comment to let me know!

– Judith

Film Review: Pride and Prejudice

Film Review: Pride and Prejudice
  • Title: Pride and Prejudice
  • Director: Joe Wright
  • Released: 2005

Pride and Prejudice is the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name. Keira Knightley plays the stubborn Elizabeth Bennett, and Matthew Macfadyen is the cold-shouldered Mr Darcy.

I really enjoyed reading the novel and so looked forward to watching a film adaptation. I found scenes with Mr Collins, the awkward Vicar desperate to find a wife, particularly amusing.

The relationship between the Bennett sisters was an accurate reflection of the close-knit family; I sympathised for the lovable Jane, I identified with the headstrong Elizabeth and pitied Mary, the intellectual, but often ignored, sister – just as I had done when reading the book.

However, the unfolding of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship was more evident in the novel than in the film. Macfadyen’s performance as a lovesick gentleman was too rushed – one moment Darcy and Elizabeth despised each other, the next they were begging to be married.

On the whole, I preferred the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. As a TV drama, it was much longer, and had much more time to expand the story-line, build up relationships and focus on smaller details. Should I ever want to watch the story of Pride and Prejudice again, I know which adaptation I’ll pick.

-Judith