Tuesday 5 August 2014

How I became a Reviewer/Blogger

For a change, I thought I would give an insight into how I got involved in blogging and why I write reviews. For this, I need to go back in time. Bear with me, as this mini history lesson will give you a better insight into my life and personality. (I think!) *Cringing inside!*

I am the middle child of three girls, born to British parents who had moved to Rhodesia (as it was then) to find themselves a better life and career opportunities in the 1970's. I grew up in a small city on the eastern border of the country called Umtali. After independence from Britain, the country was renamed Zimbabwe, and my home town called Mutare.

Welcome To Mutare Sign on Christmas Pass Road

Mutare City Centre

I went to government funded schools for most of my school life, but never felt like I was missing out on education. Although, I did have five different primary school teachers in one year once!  However, school life for me was not easy. I made friends easy (or so I thought), but I was also terribly bullied - not physically, but emotionally - by my peers. I was keen on swimming and was in the school swim team. I was also popular with the boys; some of whom wanted to marry me! But once I hit 8 years old and started to wear glasses - I had to sit in front of the class to be able to see the blackboard - and stopped swimming because of asthma and started putting on weight, I was labelled "The Teacher's Pet" and was picked on by a few of the other girls in the class. This emotional bullying made me hide within myself, and I found myself turning to my school library to find books in which I could escape. This lead to a few more name calling incidents, but to hide my hurt, I just turned more and more to reading. I was not really a proficient reader by any means at first, but I had a wonderful English teacher who encouraged me, and the school librarian helped me by finding books that she thought I would like. My vocabulary increased to such an extent, I was reading books aimed at 12 to 14 year old's by the time I was 10. My reading speed increased too, and I found myself reading a book in days, compared to my peer's two weeks or more. By the time I reached high school, I was reading Mills & Boon romances like they were going out of fashion! I would read two in a day!
I left my first high school (which was an all girls school) to move to a private high school (which was a mixed boys and girls school) when I was 15. There, I was introduced to Science Fiction and Fantasy novels, by a boy in my class. I had always been interested in these books, but it was only in passing. The book he gave me to read was David Eddings's Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad #1). From then on, I was hooked on anything to do with dragons, wizards, spells, witches, magic or anything supernatural. I have an insatiable appetite for these types of books, including paranormal romances. Not only that, I have a curiosity about life in our solar system and outer space. Science Fiction books and TV series about aliens and the planets they come from intrigued me. Now, almost any genre has a fascination for me! However, I am still not a fan of non-fiction genres like Biographies and Celebrity Gossip.

Jumping forward a few years...

In late 2001, my family and I made a huge decision to move back to the United Kingdom. It was very hard to say goodbye to a life I knew, loved and grew up in. We arrived in England in January 2002. England was an unknown gamble. Luckily, we still had family here, so it wasn't as hard or lonely as I had thought it would have been. I felt welcomed and loved. This made all the difference, let me tell you! It actually made me admire my parents more for their bravery in moving to, and living in, another country with no family to pop over to when there was a problem.

It was in the December of 2011, when I was given the opportunity to be an admin on Book mews and tattle tails Facebook page by the owner, Wanda Hartzenberg, starting in the January of 2012. I was a little bit nervous, because I was worried I would mess up, and I had no idea what to do to contribute. Wanda suggested posting reviews of books I had read or was reading. This was only meant to be for a month, but Wanda offered me a permanent admin roll in the February. I found that I liked posting reviews and recommending books, so I agreed. In the June of 2012, I was asked by my eldest sister why I hadn't set up my own blog/Facebook page. I set up Book Reviews by Lynn and the rest is history, with my Facebook page now having nearly 4,800 followers! I am still amazed that so many people are interested in my reviews. I keep wanting to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming!

I write reviews, post about cover releases and join in with blog hops, because I am VERY passionate about books. That is what drives me. I want to share my passion with everyone, not just book lovers but non readers too! My bookworm tendencies have drawn me into a world I would never have dreamed of being a part of all those years ago as a child. It has drawn me out of the shell I had curled into all those years ago, and given me courage to try different things. Although, I do admit that my dream job as a child was a librarian! I think that to be in charge of knowledge, education and entertainment for the masses is a fantastic job!

Doing this as a hobby, I have met several fantastic indie authors, which has been a bonus! I am in awe of their talent as storytellers. Their imagination is never too big! I stare at a piece of paper and am completely blank; I could stare at the page for hours with no idea what to say. People who take a blank page and turn it into an adventure, thriller, mystery, romance, poetry or even a school text book, have my undying admiration! It is not easy by any means, but they keep at it, day after day, week after week, year after year. I write reviews for their books to show my appreciation of all their hard work (even if some of the stories need a little editing help on occasion), and to let other readers know about their work.

With the advent of the internet and e-readers, writers of all kinds, who would have never had a voice through a traditional publishing medium, are now being heard and getting a wider audience than ever before. This, in my opinion, is a great step forward in the publishing world.

It is very easy to read a book if you love to read, but getting someone else interested in this pastime can be very hard indeed. But, that being said, writing reviews is extremely hard work too! It typically takes me between one to three hours to write my review, and then I post it to various sites, mostly to get as much coverage for the author as I can. This is a time consuming exercise in itself and can take another hour or more, but it gives the author (and myself) more exposure. I have met some wonderful authors, and read different genres I would not necessarily have chosen, by blogging.
Unfortunately, the one side effect of being a popular reviewer/blogger, is the sheer volume of authors clamoring for you to read their books! I have had to stop accepting review requests due to the shocking amount of books that built up on my Reading List. I am only one person, but when you have over 400 books on your To Be Reviewed (aka TBR) list, which also doesn't cover any books purchased for one's own consumption, it tends to get a bit overwhelming!
Finding TIME to read is another problem - there are only so many hours in the day, and juggling a full time job and home life, along with reading and reviewing, can become very stressful. I started blogging for fun, but it has become more than that. I have decided that I wanted to make a career out of blogging/reviewing, but being paid for reviews is frowned on and is seen as biased. Therefore, to make this a viable career, I have had to come up with another solution. I am currently working on becoming a qualified Editor and Proofreader. However, in order to do this course, I have quit my full time job and am currently looking for a part-time one to supplement my income. Unfortunately, I haven't found anything yet, but I am still looking. In the mean time, I am trying to catch up with my reading to reduce my reading list by as many books as I can.

Being a reviewer/blogger is a labour of love for me, and I wouldn't want to give it up any time soon. I hope that this rather long essay into my life as a reviewer/blogger hasn't bored you to tears!

If, after reading this, you would like to become a reviewer or blogger (it doesn't even have to be about books but machinery or some other item), the best advice I can give you is to write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or any other retailer website that allows reviews. It doesn't have to be long, but so long as it is HONEST and HEARTFELT, then there is no wrong way to write it. Say why you read the book or bought the item, why you like/dislike it and how it made you feel. Also consider if you would recommend the book/item or not to people you know. However, when writing book reviews DON'T post spoilers or make judgmental comments about the author in them. This is a huge NO-NO!  Books that you like will not appeal to everyone, but by posting a review, it gives people a chance to at least consider whether or not the book is for them.

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