Tips and Tricks for the Beginner Bookstagrammer

As you can tell from this super-excited (and a little guilt-ridden) tweet, Instagram has finally succeeded in sucking me in:

So, I joined after three years of denial. IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, I SWEAR! Username is (same as Twitter)

Now, obviously, I have been a Bookstagrammer for all of ten hours, so I know basically nothing - NOTHING I TELL YOU - about taking bookish photographs. Insert me Googling frantically. Then, when that doesn't work, I might live on the wild side and Bing frantically too.


Luckily, it turns out the book / blogging world is really into Instagram, so thank you, everyone! I've put together this list of guides, which should take you in chronological order through the process, from the I-think-I'm-gonna-join-instagram moment to when you hit publish on your first photo. (Please, please remember that I am the exact opposite of an expert, and all the amazing advice is courtesy of other lovely people. I'll tell you who . . . promise.)

#1 - Choose a username.
http://loopdigital.ca/choose-the-perfect-username/

I'm assuming that you've already worked out how to sign up and that you can only do most of these things on a phone. If you're on a computer, shift to your mobile (which is as smart as a pack of smarties, as ever) and download the app.

Now. Names. Although IRL, and in Shakespeare's time, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, the same is not true of Instagram. If you've got a twitter feed, making your usernames as similar as possible would save a lot of confusion. Other than that, I'd say you're fine as long as you put some thought into it, and reading the article above by Loop Digital's resident geniuses would certainly help.

This is from the amazing Matilda the Musical. If you value your awesomeness, at least Google it.
Oh, wait. Please, please, for the love of chapter headings, make it obvious who you are through your username, maybe adding the name you go by in the bloggersphere (e.g. Lara Liz) in the full name box. One of my best school friends is on Instagram, and I think I know what her profile is because I can tell by her friends, but because her username is utterly unintelligible, I can't follow her, and you wouldn't want that to happen.

#2 - Decide who you want to be friends with.
http://www.themilelongbookshelf.com/2015/10/5-bookish-instagrams-you-need-to-follow.html#.VjOrB_nhDWI

Photo credit to article linked above.
On Instagram, as with the rest of the world, powerful friends are everything. I mean, it's up to you who you follow, of course - the link above, by the brilliant Amber @ The Mile Long Bookshelf, just contains a few kick-butt suggestions - but if you want to mostly use the book aspect of Instagram, I'd recommend having mostly bookish peeps on your 'Following' list, so people know what you're into without having to look at the profile (I don't think they can before they've followed you.)

However, please don't think I'm trying to tell you who to follow. Follow the people who you want to show up on your home feed.

#3 - Pick a theme.
http://www.thewonderforest.com/2015/01/reimagining-your-instagram-profile.html

Photo credit to article linked above.
I would like to note that this step is both OPTIONAL and DIFFICULT. As far as I can work out, and for me anyway, it's really hard to know where your photo style is going to end up as a beginner bookstagrammer. I've included it here because it's a big trend right now, and a lot of people will want to at least know themed feeds both exist and are popular.

That said, if you do want to go the hard (but will-probably-pay-off-more-in-the-end) way and pick your theme when you start, this article should be your Bible. It's short and sweet, and the examples give you so much motivation because you can see the benefits. It's by Dana @ The Wonder Forest - a new find thanks to Google - and I'll definitely be keeping an eye on that blog, because although it isn't book-y (oh, the blasphemy) there are some great tips and the design is just. So. Fabulous.

#4 - Take your first photo (or, more accurately, million photos)
http://www.quirkbooks.com/post/how-photograph-your-books-instagram

Photo credit to article linked above.
Taking photos is easy. Taking great photos can be very, very hard, as told by my other new find, Andrea @ Quirk Books, but like with blogging, a little thinking outside the box goes a long way. You'll have to be very patient, as one of the best ways to get the brilliantist results you can is to take photos from every angle you can, but seriously. Try anything. You can always crop or change out little things you don't like at the editing stage, and you'll slowly get used to working out what you can fix and what you can't - apparently. I'm still finding my feet here.

I'll have a quick word about cameras here as well. I have a little pink Canon compact that I got about four years ago for my birthday, and it works fine; especially at this point, you don't need anything fancy. In fact, a lot of Instagrammers just use their cameraphones, as the app intends you to, but that gets me gritting my teeth because my phone's too top-heavy. It's all a matter of personal preference, so just do what you like and bear in mind any effects your choice of tech. is having on your photos.

#4.5 - Delete the rubbish ones.
http://digital-photography-school.com/taking-out-the-garbage-7-tips-for-choosing-your-best-photos-fast/

The art of photo deletion (or at least deciding which ones to edit) is a hard and time-consuming craft if you do it wrong. Just read this article by a professional photographer (check out her website here) and you'll understand.

#5 - Make your gems shine.
http://paperfury.com/tutorial-how-i-edit-my-bookstagram-photos-using-picmonkey/

Photo credit to article linked above.
Oh, Cait, you are the epitome of wonderfulness. She's the brilliant brain behind Paper Fury (utterly hilarious, I promise), and first got me into using PicMonkey to its full capacity. This tutorial is one of the best places to start on the mammoth topic of photo editing, because a) said wonderfulness,       and . . .

b) I LOVE PICMONKEY! It's an in-browser editor, which can be a bit of a problem if you have a crashy browser / unreliable WiFi, but that does mean it doesn't take space on your hard drive and you can use it from any computer in the world. Plus, as long as you resist the Royale upgrades (I might be getting a subscription for Christmas) it's completely, totally, fabulously free.

(I'd also like to comment that you can use the filters on Instagram to edit on the go. But, in my opinion, PicMonkey does so much more.)

#6 - Craft your hashtags.
http://blog.instagram.com/post/17674993957/instagram-tips-using-hashtags
I'd never really thought about it before, but hashtags are important. As this post from the geniuses behind Instagram shows, it gets your photos more views and lets you see more posts on the same theme. Also, the summary in general is a great place to smash your own individuality into each and every update, so you go from being just another book blogger with pretty photos to that girl who types really long and funny sentences. (I don't know where I got that example from. . .)

Next time you really really really wanna zig-a-zig ah - *cough* - I mean post another photo, repeat steps 4 to 6. It isn't that hard, surely?

***
As always with tutorials, this word is not the word of absolute truth. Feel free to ignore what you want - ignore Instagram entirely, like I did for years, if you'd like - I'm just voicing my opinions in the hope they help somebody. Beginners and seasoned pros alike: do you have any more tips? COMMENT! TELL US!
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5 Ways to Organise Your TBR Pile (Which Should Be OVERFLOWING)

It is the ever-present curse of every bookworm, the one that threatens the eradication of our entire species. One day, it's possible that we may actually drown in our overwhelming TBR (To Be Read) Piles, be them virtual or otherwise.

I therefore present these ten different ways of organising your TBR, if only because I am keen to avoid the eradication of the whole bookworm species. I don't use all of them, of course - that would be over-organisation - but they all come highly recommended by various high-profile book lovers. And not all of them will work for everyone, but give it a go.

(Seriously. If all you other bookworms died out, I would be lonely.)



#1 - The Wishlist Technique

Of course, with this, I mean the Amazon Wishlist, king of all Wishlists, which is my personal favourite method of organisation. I mean, it isn't everyone's favourite, because I realise Amazon isn't designed specifically for books and can create a lot of pop-up ads when you visit other websites, but there are a lot of good things going on with the Amazon Wishlist. First of all, it's public, so people can search for your wishlist and buy you the books.

Also, Amazon sample chapters make it really, really easy to decide if you like a book's writing style, and the 'Suggestions for You' section is very good. Score one for the Amazon Wishlist!

#2 - The I'll-Make-An-Old-Fashioned-List Technique
In honour of this technique, and the fact I love lists, I shall make a list.
    
Pros
     - You can carry the list with you absolutely everywhere. If someone mentions a book at school, you're allowed to get out the list and write on it, without having to turn your mobile on and be hauled off to detention.
     - Also . . . you know . . . it's pretty? And nostalgic and stuff?

Cons
     - There are no recommendations. So you're on your own.
     - Other than that, the classic technique is - undeniably - pretty darn cool.

#3 - The Goodreads Technique


I'll be honest, you guys. A load of people absolutely love Goodreads, because you can make lists and write reviews and it gives you recommendations based on what you've read. I know that Cait from Paper Fury in particular adores Goodreads (she's on there pretty much constantly, anyway) but I just don't. Get. Along. With it. Personally. I think it's probably because, as opposed to Amazon, I don't go on there very often, and I forget to update for months and then I'm playing catch-up.

(Just in case you want to follow my basically none-active account on Goodreads, it's here.)

#4 - The Post-It Notes Technique
This particularly rare organisational technique is a variant of the I'll-Make-An-Old-Fashioned-List, and I must admit that I got the idea from Kate @ The Magic Violinist. I've yet to implement it, but it sounds pretty neat - you just carry around a pack of Post-Its (other stickable paper sheets are available) scribble down To-Read titles as you get them, and then stick them in a jar. Next time you can't decide what to buy for yourself, just let the jar decide!

Note: it might be worth making a physical list for this as well, because if you want a particular book, but can't remember the title, or need something from a particular author . . . I wouldn't want to root around in a jar with Post-Its everywhere.
Says the girl who once spent six hours covered - COVERED - in Post-Its while trying to make a quotes post.
#5 - The Physical Book Technique

This one is often thought of as a bookworm's dream. Whenever you see a book you want, you can just buy it and add it to your TBR. The books are there, you can stroke them and pick one out at random and just generally love them. However, if you aren't lucky enough to get free review copies or have a massive book budget, then this can get impossibly expensive, and it also makes it hard for people to buy you books, because you already have them all. Also, it could collapse and crush you.

I am probably the black sheep of the reading community, in that I don't have a To Read Shelf or Pile unless I've been to the library. This is because I basically go to the bookshop the moment I've scraped enough money together for a paperback, and then read it instantly.

This is probably because, although I live in the middle of nowhere, the town next to my school has two Waterstone's. Two. Add a WH Smith's, and it's a wonder I've survived this long. . .

***
I call all bookworms to the stand: how do you organise your TBR Pile? And are YOU doing YOUR bit to prevent the eradication of the species (just kidding, I got it).

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Book Life Tag

A BLOG TAG A BLOG TAG A BLOG TAG!

(I'd like to note that I've just realised there's a difference between blog memes and blog tags. On this blog, I do tags, but they're filed under memes because I thought that's what they were. I'm going to try and change the label, but that might take some time.)

I would say that I was tagged to do this by Tessa @ Crazy for YA, but to be honest, I kind of stole it because it looked so awesome. I get to choose my ideal life, taking elements from all my favourite books. Incredible, huh?

I mean of course my real life is amazing and I don't want the people in it to think I hate them 'cos I don't and . . . yeah. I'll just get on with it.

Who would be your sister?
Ellie Sweet from The Reinvention of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill would be an amazing sister, for me at least. Amazing. For a start, she writes, and I can see her being really supportive to anyone else who did, especially a sister. She's bookish (read: I could steal her books) and we'd be close. Like all dream-from-a-book sisters should.

What do you mean, I'd have to let her steal my books too? I am not allowing my babies out of my sight. And I never said I wasn't a hypocrite.

Who would be your brother?
I struggled over this one for ages. AGES. But then I remembered Rory Hawthorne from The Hunger Games - you can probably tell he's Gale's little brother, but I always had a soft spot for him because he looked up to Gale so much, and signed up for tesserae, risking his life. He knew not only the risks, but also that his brother would never allow it, and he loved his family so much that he did it anyway. 


He fought the people he loved for the opportunity to die for them. I'm going to go cry now.

Who would your parents be?

I'm skipping this question for two reasons. Firstly, I don't want to anger my IRL parents by suggesting there's anyone who would be more awesome than them - we live together, you know. Things could turn ugly very, very fast.

There's also the thing that really annoys me: in most books I read, the parents are either non-existent, really really mean, or have died / die at some point. I'll stick with the Mum and Dad I've got, thank you.

Who would be your pet?
There are many, many pawesome (see what I did there) animals I could choose from, but the moment I saw this question, my mind flashed back to LARA (Liscenced Assistance and Rescue Animal) from Andrew Cope's Spy Dogs series. Admittedly, I grew out of those books a long time ago, but I always thought that the fact a dog smart enough to be my teacher - I'm serious - had the same name as me was amazing. Also, she was knighted. I so want a dame dog.


Where would you live?
Easily, easily, this is St. Ives as portrayed in the Laura Marlin Mysteries by Lauren St. John. I love the idea of cute little coffee shops arranged over ivory cliffs, walking to school over open, wild beaches. I mean, sure, Laura always manages to be almost killed by bloodthirsty criminals, but to avoid that, you just need to be a little sensible.

And, you know, not aggravate said bloodthirsty criminals. That helps too.

Where would you go to school?
Now, a million people are going to say Hogwarts for this question, so I won't. Even though it would be brilliantly awesome, all those stairs don't seem exactly wheelchair accessible.


I would, however, adore going to Malory Towers, from the series of the same name by Enid Blyton, just because it sounds like the epitome of sisterhood. I cannot think of anything better than having to eat marshmallows for midnight feasts so matron wouldn't hear, and I also really, really want to play lacrosse. That isn't a bad reason, is it?

Who would be your best friend?
I'm sorry to be stereotypical here, but I would hang out with Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood, because they basically represent the two conflicting aspects of my personality. Case closed.



Who would be your significant other?
Prince Luka from Dragonskin Slippers (Jessica Day George) is dreamyyy. I mean, sure, he'd be busy being a Prince and stuff, and I'd hate to tear him away from Creel (she's very cool, so I wouldn't like to get on her bad side). But if it was ever possible to get together without breaking up one of my favourite ships, and he lived on Earth, that would be ideal . . .

Yes, all the parts of my book life tag are from different genres and make very little sense together. But then I rarely make sense, anyway.
***
What about you? Would you have a crazy book life full of manic jigsaw pieces that are only likely to make sense when fantasy finally becomes real? Or would it be more boring  - I promise I don't think you're boring - chilled?
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The Witching Hour: A Review

So, yes, this is a proper book review, with stars and everything. I've not done one of these before, which as you can imagine, is scary and exciting and nerve-wracking because OH MY BOOKWORM GOSH I AM WRITING A REVIEW.

I must remain calm in order to actually finish this, so I shall. I shall, do you hear?
The book I have so carefully chosen (well, I just finished reading it, so it seemed natural) is The Witching Hour (also known as The Betrayal of Maggie Blair) by Elizabeth Laird. I read a print copy, but it was a library book, and was . . . inadvertently returned before photographing.  You'll have to make do with a stock photo.
Firstly, I would like to announce that Miss Laird (of the awesomeness brigade) is basically my favourite historical author because she researches her books so well. This particular collection of words is set in seventeenth-century Scotland, in the years coming up to the English Civil War. BTW, if you don't have any idea what I'm on about, click here. The Civil War was far too complicated for me to explain here.

At the beginning of the book, fourteen-year-old orphan Maggie Blair is living with her Grandmother on the tiny Isle of Bute. It's the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, and Maggie's gran isn't the best at getting along with the neighbours.
But no-one ever thought she'd be arrested as a witch.

Guilty by association in the eyes of the island authorities, Maggie flees for her life toward the mainland - away from everything and everyone she's ever known. But with the English Civil War brewing in Southern Scotland, she's jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire . . .
Okay, so pros - Maggie was pretty amazing. She adapted quickly, wasn't afraid to work hard, and was all - round tough as nails. As for the downsides, I struggled at first to work out how old Maggie was, but it turned out my initial guess of 'my age' was about right.

The whole problem could probably have been solved by READING THE BLURB. I'm a silly pumpkin sometimes.

I'm going to give The Witching Hour 3.5 out of 5, not because it was mediocre. IT WASN'T. The sheer fact that I've given it a score above halfway should show that - methinks - I just think that, when I'm listing my favourite books, I won't remember this one as much as other books by Elizabeth Laird (who I still think is awesome). Plus, I'm a pretty harsh marker. One has to remember this.

***
Now, I really, really want to get better at book reviewing, so do you guys have any tips? And what would you like me to review next?
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