My name: Hi, I’m Karen. I live in Shaftesbury, Dorset (home of Gold Hill from the famous Hovis advert) and blog at Hair Past A Freckle.
People often ask me about my blog’s name – it was actually something my father used to say when I was growing up.
If you’re unaware of the saying, it’s something said in response to somebody asking the time, usually because the person isn’t wearing a watch – or, in the case of my Dad, just to be annoying!
It seems a fitting name for a book blog as there can’t be many readers who haven’t completely lost track of time thanks to a good book.
Most of my posts are reviews, but I also feature the occasional posts about what I’ve been reading or, I may join in with a meme hosted by another blogger. I’m always happy to feature guest posts, extracts, Q&A’s, cover reveals and giveaways.
I started blogging in 2013 but originally intended to blog about a variety of subjects – not just books.
I actually started another blog before Hair Past A Freckle called After Simon. In 2012 my brother took his own life and I needed an outlet to write down the mass of thoughts jumbled in my head.
It really helped but then I wanted to write about other things and so I created Hair Past A Freckle.
This is the latest feature in our series celebrating the marvellous book bloggers who do so much to help and support authors and readers. We’d love to here from other bloggers who’d be willing to share a day in their lives – please contact us here.
The very first book I reviewed was The Humans by Matt Haig; a book that became my beacon of light when I was going through a very dark time.
Eventually I decided to separate my book blogging from the other stuff and set up another blog called A Thief of Time for everything else.
I took a bit of a break from most book blogging for a couple of years, but then realised how much I missed it and last year committed properly to it.
It has meant I don’t really have the time to update my other blogs now but I love blogging about books. In the immediate aftermath of my brother’s death reading was a reprieve that helped me through those difficult days and nights.
Hair Past A Freckle is my way of thanking authors: I wrote a more detailed post explaining why here.
I have three daughters, who are now 19, 16 and ten, and I work part-time in a primary school as a teaching assistant and midday supervisor so I have to fit blogging around my family and work commitments.
It’s not usually too difficult but does become trickier if I’m called into work to cover extra hours. I’ve realised I need to factor this into my blog scheduling – when I’ve ended up working full-time hours at short notice I’ve had a few very late nights trying to fit everything in.
My youngest daughter occasionally helps me out with reviews of children’s books, my middle daughter belongs to a book group at school so we sometimes discuss YA books and what her group are reading and recommending, and my eldest is a lifestyle blogger, currently building her own following so we talk about various strategies or issues that may crop up from time to time.
My husband is my taxi driver and picks me up from the station when I’ve been to book events so the whole family are involved one way or another.
My blogging day starts at… It depends very much on whether I have a blog post scheduled for that day and what my hours are. I prefer not to set my posts to publish automatically as I like to have a final read through first.
If I have a post ready in the morning and I know I’m happy with it, I’ll quickly check it one last time then publish it and share on Twitter.
At the same time I’m making sure my youngest daughter is getting ready for school as she has to leave the house by 8.30am at the latest to get a lift with her friend.
If we’re running late then I have to walk her to school, which cuts down my blogging time but does increase my step count for the day – I work in her school so have to walk the same route again a few hours later.
I have to be particularly organised on Wednesdays because I start work at 8.45am so I try to make sure I have enough time to share my posts in various Facebook groups and on Pinterest.
The rest of the week I don’t usually have to leave for work until 11.25am, so, after everybody has left for school, I can really concentrate on sharing my reviews to social media, Amazon, Goodreads and Netgalley if necessary.
If my work commitments have meant I’ve had less time for reading then I’ll sometimes write my review now and publish it slightly later in the day. I’ll then check social media, read and share some posts from other bloggers and perhaps reply to posts on Facebook.
I try to fit in a bit of reading too, if I can.
What happens next? I have to be quite organised because my hours vary through the week even when I’m not asked to work extra hours.
If it’s a Wednesday I work as the whole class TA in Reception until 11.45 then immediately work as a midday supervisor until 1pm. On the other days when I don’t start until 11.45am. I put my TA hat back on and work for an hour in Year One every day.
Once a fortnight I go back to Reception from 1.30 until 3.30pm but I usually finish at 2 o’clock then walk home and have lunch between 2.30 and 2.45pm. As it’s quite late I tend to have something fairly light and usually read while I’m eating. I’ll also check social media now, reply to a few posts, thank people for sharing and respond to my emails.
After a break for dinner I’ll try to share some more posts from other bloggers, retweet any other book related tweets I think are interesting and reply to any new posts if necessary.
At 9pm my youngest daughter goes to bed, I don’t always read to her these days as she’s a very fluent reader who enjoys reading to herself, but sometimes we still enjoy snuggling up and sharing a book.
I’ll sometimes write a review at night or at least start to prepare one.
Then it’s time to walk the dog and feed the pets – we also have a cat, rabbit and tortoise – before settling back down to read. I’ll read on the sofa for an hour or so then invariably read a bit more in bed, sometimes the same book but often a different one.
When do you read and what do you read? I don’t have set times for reading but I always have a book next to me and fit in the odd chapter or ten when I can.
Mostly I read on the sofa or in bed but I have a stand for my Kindle Paperwhite so I can read in the kitchen and often read in the bath. I have the Kindle app on my phone and sometimes even read while I’m walking to work.
My reading speed is fairly fast and I can read a book in a day but that depends on other distractions. I don’t watch much television but social media definitely eats into my reading time.
I’ll sometimes use Google to learn more about something I’ve read about then fall into the Wikipedia black hole so if a blog tour review is due I have to be more disciplined.
I prefer reading paper books but my husband is a light sleeper and doesn’t like a light on at night so I’ll often have a paper book on the go in the daytime and a different one on my Paperwhite in bed.
Currently I have a lot of blog tours lined up so that determines my choice of what to read next. If I have a space I’ll try to read a book I’ve agreed to review but occasionally can’t resist a book I’ve bought. My TBR pile increases daily!
I don’t really remember not reading.
According to my parents I could read before I started school although I suspect proud parent syndrome clouded their judgement a bit there. I do remember being told quite often to take my nose out of a book and get some fresh air and I loved nothing better than discovering a new read on the second-hand book stalls at summer fayres.
The first book I remember really loving was Shadow the Sheepdog by Enid Blyton, I couldn’t begin to guess how many times I read it.
Nobody seemed too concerned about whether books were age appropriate when I was growing up so I read Animal Farm at primary school. I loved it but obviously didn’t realise it was an allegory and just thought it was about some really nasty pigs!
I was very lucky to have a Grandad who often bought me books just for the sake of it and most weeks he’d treat me to an Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis or later a Sweet Valley High title.
As a young teenager I used to raid my uncle’s bookshelves and read Jackie Collins, Shirley Conran, James Herbert and Ian Fleming.
These days I still read a fairly eclectic selection of books. I particularly enjoy crime and thrillers and tend to choose darker books but I’m not averse to some cosy crime now and again.
I also enjoy historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction and some woman’s fiction. I enjoy reading middle grade fiction with my ten-year-old and have read some brilliant YA books.
I also read some non-fiction, particularly memoirs.
One of the things I love about book blogging is that it’s introduced me to the smaller and independent publishers who release some brilliant books I might otherwise have missed out on.
When and where do you write your reviews I don’t have a set time to write my reviews; it depends whether I need to prioritise finishing a book or have a post ready for a blog tour.
Each review takes a couple of hours to be fully ready. I write a very rough draft first, sometimes just jotting down the main points I want to include. I’ll then type it out properly and read through the preview to edit any mistakes I’ve made. I use an online thesaurus and run my review through an online editor to make sure I’ve not repeated words too many times.
When I’m finally happy with it I’ll save the draft ready for the next morning.
I type my reviews on my laptop these days but I used to write them on my tablet. I sit on the sofa to write them and prefer to be alone with my thoughts but that doesn’t happen often (my husband frequently works from home so even in the daytime I’m interrupted) and I have to work hard to retain my train of thought at times…
I’m not a note taker but I do think about points I intend to bring up in my review as I’m reading. I usually write my review a couple of days after I’ve finished the book as I like to spend some time considering how I felt about it and deciding what I definitely need to include in my post.
What makes a good book? For me, it’s all about the emotions. I need a book that makes me feel something. I don’t need to like characters but I need to be interested in them enough to form an opinion.
The most disappointing books are the ones where I don’t really care what happens. I don’t mind if a book makes me cry, or laugh or feel angry or happy but I must feel something.
And I love it when authors take risks with their writing. The very best books make me think about them even when I’m not reading them.
Some recent reads which have done just that include Turning For Home by Barney Norris, Killed by Thomas Enger, Home by Amanda Berriman and Seas of Snow by Kerensa Jennings.
What happens if you read a book and really can’t think of anything nice to say about it? Luckily it’s been a long time since this has happened to me. I seem to have the knack for picking books I know I’ll like.
Hair Past A Freckle is my opportunity to recommend the books I’ve liked and loved so I have made it clear in my review policy that I won’t publish negative reviews and will contact the author if their book isn’t for me.
I might not be the right audience for their book but I’m happy to feature a content post if I don’t feel I can review it.
More selfishly, reading and blogging takes up quite a lot of my time, I love it but don’t want to waste that time on books that aren’t for me.
Favourite fellow bloggers? There too many to mention: on the whole, book bloggers are amazingly supportive – you only have to see how many are put in Twitter jail just for sharing too many posts from other bloggers.
I’d thoroughly recommend that new bloggers join Book Connectors on Facebook which is run by the wonderful Anne Cater who blogs at Random Things Through My Letterbox.
Book Connectors is a closed group that gives bloggers and authors the opportunity to chat about books and share blog posts or book news and where the only real rule is to be nice to one another. If anybody has a problem or a question or just needs a post sharing on Twitter then there are always other bloggers happy to help.
What do you enjoy most about blogging? I mostly love being able to share the book love. There is no better feeling than finding out that somebody read a book because you recommended it.
I always tag authors when I share my reviews of their books on Twitter and it is lovely when I hear that they enjoyed my review but I never expect a response – they do have books to write after all!
I also love feeling a part of the bookish community. As with any group there are always going to be disagreements and there are a few trolls who pop up now and again to suggest bloggers aren’t real readers but, on the whole, there’s a shared joy in talking about books, helping authors publicise their titles and supporting other bloggers, and I feel very fortunate to play a small part in that.