What I read (or don’t):
I first dipped my toe into the world of book blogging back in September 2008. I started off on Blogspot as Gaskella, relocating to WordPress some years later, and then moving to my own domain. This blog was rechristened as Annabel’s House of Books in December 2012, and subsequently AnnaBookBel when I wasn’t able to use an apostrophe in my new template’s header font! I started blogging as a development from using Librarything to catalogue my books and exploring its social side, finding I wanted to share my thoughts on books with like-minded people – and it’s gone on from there!
My Latin Motto: Noli domo egredi, nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book. (My attempts at schoolgirl Latin were honed to perfection with the help of Dr Ridd, a classics teacher at Abingdon School, now retired.)
Contact Me: annabookbel @ gmail . com (minus the spaces) Note: My name is ANNABEL, not Anna – please get it right.
A Bit About Me: That’s me up above, aged around 3. Like the rest of my family, I was an early and voracious reader and have never lost the habit, becoming a compulsive book-acquirer too. A child of the ’60s and ’70s, I hail from the Surrey/Croydon borders and studied Materials Science at university. I worked as a proper scientist in the chemical industry for years, before my biological clock finally went ping. I took several years off work after having my daughter, and went back as a lab technician/H&S Officer in an Oxfordshire prep school. I’m a staunch supporter of literary events in Abingdon, and in the past hosted five literary quiz nights for charity in the town with our local indie bookshop.
In April 2014, together with three other blogging friends, Victoria, Harriet and Simon, we launched Shiny New Books, a book review website featuring a host of varied reviews written by many excellent book bloggers, academics and writer friends, plus features and exclusive author articles. I remain owner of Shiny and co-edit with Harriet.
In 2017, I was one of the official Shadow Judges for the Sunday Times Young Writer Award. In 2021, I was shortlisted for the NB Magazine Blogger’s Book Prize for my review of Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, my book of the year 2020.
- Nearly anything and everything – Variety is my watchword. I try not to be snobby about ‘literature’, so I read from the latest bestsellers to classic novels equally, although I do err on the side of what I call ‘Contemporary Fiction’ and I try to include as many translated novels as I can.
- I read widely from genres too – SF, Crime, Spec fiction plus a bit of historical, and fantasy, even an occasional western or the like. I’m a poetry convert too. Thrillers are probably my comfort reads, especially spy ones.
- I love non-fiction (especially medical, popular science, books about books and rock’n’ roll/movie biographies).
- The only new YA or children’s books I review these days are those I pick myself. I still love children’s classics, ancient and modern, and the best of crossover YA fiction as represented by authors like Patrick Ness and Marcus Sedgwick whose work transcends age barriers.
- What I don’t read: Saga, very little romance or commercial women’s fiction, and war books.
My review and blogging guidelines:
Dear Publishers, I do love receiving books but I can’t make any cast iron promises to read or review any unsolicited books sent. Those I agree to take a copy of, I will make every effort to read and review within the planned timeframe, but again no promises. Also, if I don’t get on with a book, I will still write about it briefly on my blog, articulating why. I read a very wide range of books, so please do feel free to contact me before sending.
- Formats: I do NOT read e-books – I find reading on a screen a strain. So only read print copies. Thank you.
- Self-Publishers: Sorry, I very, very, rarely review self-published books.
- Book Tours: I am choosy about book tours, but if I commit, I’ll be there on the day!
- Series: If there is an overall story arc behind a series, I prefer to start from book one, unless books can standalone. So don’t offer me part 3 unless I’ve read 1 & 2.
- Genres etc: Don’t offer me war novels, saga, romance or commercial women’s fiction. Also children’s/YA books (unless scientific or with true adult crossover appeal)
Credentials: I stopped studying English language after O-Level (GCSE), and didn’t take an exam in English literature at all – my progressive school believed then that over-analysis of set texts turned too many off reading. If I’d not taken sciences at A-Level, I would have continued with English. I always liked the idea of being a journalist, and I still believe I have a book in me too – somewhere! Although I’ve always written reports and articles for newsletters etc, since starting my blog I have found that taking the time to think about what I’m reading has improved my self-taught critical faculties; I try to explain why I like, or don’t like what I read – I hope you agree.
Pictures: – Like everyone else in the blogosphere I download covers etc, and occasionally other images – if you object to their use – do let me know and they’ll be removed pronto. I will credit images used where appropriate.
Affiliations: – I am affiliated to Amazon and Blackwell’s, and will earn commission on sales made if you click through – it’s not a big moneymaker, just a nice occasional bonus to help pay for webhosting of this site and Shiny New Books!
Payment: While I do accept review copies, I never get paid for reviewing. Likewise, I do not accept sponsored/paid guest posts from external organisations.
When you comment or subscribe to my blog, you need to give a valid email address. I will never ever give anyone else this information, it remains hidden to other readers. You can unsubscribe in your reader at any time, and if you want me to delete your comments, just get in touch and I’ll do it.
Only ever a snapshot, but I find them useful…
(10/10) Truly exceptional with no niggles. A keeper, one to re-read.
(9/10) Also exceptional, probably a keeper too, but maybe a minor niggle stops it getting top marks.
(8/10) A super read – well-written; not necessarily a book I’d want to keep or re-read but one I’d definitely recommend to others.
(7/10) An enjoyable read, but not special for me. Maybe some reservations, but worth reading.
(6/10) Average, a fair read. OK but maybe derivative or bitty.
(5/10) or less. Below average. A book I really didn’t engage with, badly written, one I had major reservations about.
(DNF) Did not finish – usually accompanied by comments as to why.