Monday, January 03, 2011

New Year’s Pledge for 2011

It’s always dangerous when I start devising plans and strategies for my site – they invariably go right out of the window at the first sign of an exciting new novel. But, I’m starting to think this is a problem. When I started writing Civilian-Reader, my aim was to just scribble some thoughts down about books I’ve read and enjoyed or loved, on the off-chance that someone might read it and decide to check this or that book out for themselves.

(This, incidentally, should also explain to new readers of the site why the reviews I post are almost, unfailingly positive – not necessarily glowing, but I try to focus on the positives of every book I read. If there are no redeeming features, it simply won’t feature on the site. I only have so much time to read for pleasure, so I don’t want to struggle through something that doesn’t fire my enthusiasm or interest.)

To begin with, I read a greater mix of new releases and ‘old’ novels – frequently just working my way through an author’s back-catalogue (for example, after reading my first Richard North Patterson book, I proceeded to read three more, and despite being convinced that I reviewed one of them – partly because it was 10 years old and the politics contained within still resonated at the time, but also because it was a great book – I just can’t find the review… Which is rather weird.)

I also only wrote infrequently – in 2007, for example, I only wrote nine reviews; not because I wasn’t reading all the time, but because I was only just getting interested in blogging and reviewing on a larger scale and wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to devote much time to.

Actually, if I’m honest, the first reviews for the site were heavily Star Wars-related, because that’s what I happened to be reading at the time. I worked my way through the long, rather exhausting New Jedi Order series, and decided to ramble about it for a bit. Then, things grew and I started reviewing other novels and it’s snowballed from there. When publishers started sending me advance copies of novels, I was able to discover a huge number of authors I would never have considered trying out previously – this, in my mind, is the best thing about being a book-blogger: what can be nicer than discovering either a new (or established-but-new-for-you) author because someone sent it to you out of the blue? Not only that, but it opened my eyes to a wider range of genre fiction – particularly fantasy, which I now read more than anything else. Before I started writing reviews and whatnot, I was almost exclusively reading shelf-loads of political-/crime-thrillers, Terry Pratchett, Star Wars and Black Library novels, with the occasional random selection thrown in as well. I also read a lot of non-fiction for pleasure (which is why I have the non-fiction site, too). Actually, it’s not only because of reviews that I started to read more fantasy – this was also considerably helped along by my introduction to Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series (Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies).

Anyway, I am digressing quite a bit. The point of this post was to let you know my proposed Pledge for 2011. I’m just not entirely sure what I want this pledge to be. I was leaning towards a promise to review an ‘old’ novel for every four new or upcoming releases I read and reviewed. This sounded pretty reasonable to me – looking over the main publishers whose authors I follow, there are perhaps two or three new novels each month that I’m particularly interested in.

This should, in theory, leave me with time to review older stuff that has either…

… been gathering dust on my shelves for a while – for example, Joe Abercrombie and Michael Chabon;

… is something I stumble across in either a bookstore, charity shop, or was recommended by someone else – for example, Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series;

… is a novel or series I want to re-read – such as Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, maybe a couple of Pratchett’s Guards novels, and also some of the earlier Star Wars novels.

That’s the plan, anyway. But, of course, everybody knows about the best laid plans…

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