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Meet Ms Davies, book-blogger extraordinaire

Erin DaviesAs I’ve stated in a previous post, book bloggers are the Yin to us writers’ Yang, and some of these bloggers go through impressive amounts of books – and share their thoughts about them with the world. Once such very prolific book blogger is Erin Davies, and it is a great pleasure to welcome her to my blog today – sheesh, how the lady even found the time in between all her reading is a mystery.
For those of you who have as yet not discovered Flashlight Commentary, I strongly recommend you to drop by for a visit – after reading this post!

So dear Erin, welcome! And before we dig into the heavy stuff, I do need to know if you only drink coffee or if now and then you’ll turn to the true comfort of a nice cup of tea (does it show I am biased?)
Thank you Anna! I’m so happy to be here. My coffee addiction is practically legendary, I admit, but it’s a little known secret that I enjoy tea as well. A testament to my English Grandmother, my coffee bar is almost always stocked with Lady Jane, English Breakfast, Chai and China Oolong. Oooh! Oolong, hey? we’re talking real tea, I hear! 

When browsing through your blog, I am struck by your eclectic tastes. It seems you’re keen to read almost anything, but which are your favourite genres? Do you even have a favourite genre?

Historic fiction is definitely my favourite genre, followed closely by historic nonfiction, fantasy and romance, but as you observed, I read just about everything. I’m naturally a bit of an eclectic and genuinely enjoy sampling different classifications of literature, but I find working in multiple genres also challenges me as a reviewer and helps me maintain a certain perspective with regard to the genres I tend to favour.

What drives you crazy when you’re reading a book? Are there some things that will lead you to close the book and throw it at a wall?
Oh goodness. As a rule, I almost always force myself to the halfway mark before making the decision to abandon a story, but when I do, it usually comes down to an overwhelming lack of interest in the characters and/or plot. Lots of things frustrate me as a reader, but I’m far more likely to finish something and call out my dissatisfaction in a review than I am to quietly put aside something I didn’t enjoy.

Many reviewers opt for not giving a review unless they can be positive about the book. You, on the other hand, do not shy away from sharing your opinions on books you have not liked – even if yo4e always conscientious about highlighting this is a personal opinion. What is your philosophy around reviews, and have you ever had people (read authors) come back to you with comments/complaints?

Great question! I strive to remain both honest and respectful when offering comment on someone’s work, but maintain there is no point in reviewing if one cannot express both positive and negative points of view. I also think my four and five star ratings mean more because I have no trouble issuing one and twos.

I frequently come up against those who feel my comments unsatisfactory for one reason or another and most of the time I find these encounters highly amusing. I once had a group of Amazon reviewers attempt to tell me how to write a review because they didn’t understand how I could compliment an author without being 100% in love with their work, but I think my favourite encounter was with the Goodreads reviewer who told me to point blank stop reading Christian Fiction if I was looking for authenticity.

I’ve only ever experienced one genuinely negative reaction from anyone. There was an author who took personal offense at my remarks, but one such incident in three years isn’t exactly the end of the world. There is a natural conflict of opinion in the book community so much like authors, reviewers need to grow some thick skin and learn to either embrace criticism or laugh it off. There are occasions to put your foot down, but for the most part it’s simply the nature of the beast.

Is it more difficult to write a negative review than a positive one?

No, quite the opposite in fact. I have a tendency to sound like a gushing fan girl when talking about books I love and often struggle to reign my enthusiasm into something coherent. Books I don’t like are far easier for me to approach which is weird since I’m actually very laid back and easy going in the real world.

If you’re looking for a book, do you go to a real bookstore, or do you go to Amazon? (And no, Netgalley doesn’t count ;))

Would you believe used bookstores? I use Amazon and Goodreads a lot, but I love the ambiance of used bookstores and spend a lot of time cruising their displays. The other place I like to look in the author’s notes of anything I really enjoyed as a lot of writers list their source material or cite novels that inspired their efforts.

Do you see a conflict between e-books and real books? Will one cannibalise on the other, and if yes, is this a problem?

Not at all. Digital books have opened the literary community to a much wider demographic and have allowed a lot of new voices to find their audience, but that said, I don’t think ebooks can ever replicate the magic of a printed edition. I think there will always be some debate over the two mediums, but I see no reason why the two cannot coexist.

If you were to have your own bookstore, what would you not serve in the adjoining café? (Of course you’d have an adjoining café, right?)

A bookstore without a café? Say it ain’t so! I suppose the only thing I wouldn’t serve is jelly donuts. Nothing annoys me more than sticky sweet smears between the pages of a book and for some reason it always seems to be jelly.

I know for a fact that you have a fascination with the twilight years of the Hapsburgs. How come? What woke your interest in this particular period?

You know, it happened entirely by chance!

At thirteen I was really into the French Revolution and had been reading everything I could get my hands on in the young adult section of the library which how I discovered The Prince Lost to Time by Ann Dukthas (aka P.C. Doherty). I loved the book and immediately went back to see if my library had the rest of the Nicholas Segalla series and though the catalogue listed two of the remaining instalments, only one was available, The Time of Murder at Mayerling. Maybe it’s because the rest of the series featured royals I knew well, but something about this particular story stuck with me for years afterward.

I suppose it was mid 2012 when the childhood fiction prompted my interest in the tv movie Kronprinz Rudolf, but it was the film itself that sparked my curiosity in the facts behind both. For fun, I reread The Time of Murder at Mayerling, but I got genuinely excited over titles like The Road to Mayerling: Life and Death of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria and Mayerling: The Facts Behind The Legend. I’d always thought it an interesting chapter of little known history, but I fell head over heels in love with the players and the period as I realized the romantic propaganda doesn’t hold a candle to the intrigue it was devised to conceal.

Finally, if you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you bring along? And why them?

Only three? I must have packed for this trip in a hurry.

1. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (the red leather 1974 edition): That’s right folks, I’m a diehard Tolkienite. Who isn’t?
2. Hugo’s Les Miserables (unabridged): I absolutely love this story and I may or may not have a thing for Marius.
3. Adams’ The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Reality is frequently inaccurate.” Enough said.
One and three might be cheating since they technically represent eight titles between them, but as I actually own all three of my selections, I think I should get a pass.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your tight schedule to drop by! It has been a pleasure to host you, Erin – and I even forgive you for the coffee preference. One thing though; WHEN will there be a like button on your blog?

Ha! If I weren’t such a dunce with IT issues I’d have it done in a heartbeat! As it stands I might need to call in a professional. I just can’t seem to make it work with my format.

Thank you for having me Anna. It’s been an absolute pleasure!

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