Last week I caught up with UK blogger, Saoirse Sterling, from Xleptodactylous, which, for the curious, is, ‘from the Greek lepto meaning fine or thin, and dactylos meaning finger: having slender toes or fingers.’
I first stumbled across Saoirse on Instagram, where she posts some really gorgeous bookish pics as @Xleptodactylous, and then discovered she also has a blog where she writes about books, writing and other artistic and creative pursuits.
Saoirse was kind enough to spend some time chatting with me about what she loves to read and how she reviews. Here’s what she had to say:
Can you tell us a bit about your site: how long have you been reviewing and why did you start?
I thought, that once I became a successful author, I’d like to one day have a blog where I could ramble on about stuff, as well as my own writing. I spent ages thinking about it, and realised that the blog was the one thing that I could control. I never set out to be a book blogger, or any specific kind of blogger, but the books seem to have taken control. I’ve been reviewing on sites like GoodReads since 2010, but only on my blog for just over a year now.
What kind of books do you review?
I review any kind of books as I read pretty much anything. I have a strong detestation of Young Adult, but I still read them just because I know that one day there will be a good one, because every genre has its good book. I mostly do fiction, mostly fantasy or the classics, but I try to vary myself across every single type of book possible.
What’s your reviewing process?
I always think about my rating and review as I’m reading along. I really love doing this and I don’t find it hinders my reading process at all: I don’t read for escapism at all, but sometimes books are only good for that kind of thing. After I finish a book I will add a quick review on GoodReads (what I thought, things I really love and really hated) and then after a while (could be hours, could be days) I’ll write up a full review on GoodReads and then transfer it to my blog for the Tuesday review post.
How do you share your reviews and connect with other bloggers?
I share via my blog, which then gets tweeted about like a maniac. I’ll have links all over GoodReads and I also participate in the #bookbloggers chat in Twitter and I am heavily involved in the #bookstagram tag on Instagram. I love leaving comments on other blogs and will always leave a link back just in case.
Do you post anything other than reviews on your blog?
I love posting about anything, but I’m thinking of restricting myself to a few things now. I post about cruelty-free and ethical beauty products and will begin ethical fashion posting. I do reviews of my favourite British comedies and theatre productions I see. Of course, I do my book reviews but I also run a Book Club for bloggers called Infinite Variety, which also deals with book and reading challenges. I also post about creative and craft-realted things, such as things I make (like handmade notebooks and bookmarks).
How do you decide what to read next?
At the moment I’m doing #InfiniteVariety2016 which is a reading challenge based on the 2003 Big Read poll the BBC did. I’m reading everything on the list, taking it page by page. I usually just read whatever I’ve got in stock, but I’ve found I really love working off lists so I’ve got a couple more for the next few years all set to go.
What are three key things you look for in a good story?
- Captivating writing
- As few clichés as is possible
What do you love most about reading, and why is it important?
As mentioned before, I don’t read for escapism and I never have. I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and I love that you can learn just as much from a non-fiction book on bees as you can on a fictional high fantasy novel set in a made-up land. I read to better myself and to help me understand the world and the people that live here. Imagination is simply one of the greatest things we have and we need to keep ahold of that.
Why are book reviews important?
Honestly, I don’t think they’re all that important. For me personally, I like them to help me keep track of what I have and haven’t read and why I liked something in particular. I’ve never read a negative review and decided never to read that book: reviews are just longer recommendations. They can help you avoid the badly written books, however.
What’s been your favourite read so far this year?
What five books should everyone reading this add to their TBR pile?
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The History Boys by Alan Bennett
Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
If you could live inside a book, which one would you pick?
All books tend to have some kind of conflict, which I don’t like, so I wouldn’t like to live in any book. Though, the world I most want to visit is Middle Earth, in between the wars. I also want to visit Bath during Jane Austen’s period.
Which three fictional characters would you most like to meet and why?
Legolas: so we can make sweet sweet lurve.
Granny Weatherwax: because she is a no nonsense, wonderful woman.
I want to same Sam Vimes, but that’s another Pratchett character, so I’ll go with Luna Lovegood or Hermione Granger to make the child inside of me happy.
Who is the one character you’d never want to run into in real life?
Dorian Gray. Bad influence. Though I’d probably fall in love with him and ruin myself beyond all hope.
What advice would you give to new and aspiring reviewers?
Don’t try and copy what other people are writing, and don’t only read the books that everyone else is reading. Write how you feel completely, deep down inside. Try and aim for three paragraphs: what the book is about, how well it was written and told, and what your feelings are on it. Also, stop over-rating. Five stars should be a magical gift.
What advice would you give to emerging writers?
Write, write, write! Every day. Write anything. Writer’s block doesn’t exist. It was made up by people who can’t actually write. Read a lot, as well. But if you want to write sci-fi novels, stop reading sci-fi novels and read other stuff. It all adds up.
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