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About Me



Hello, I am Danielle . . . aka ‘Danni’ . . . aka ‘ALPHA reader’ . . . aka ‘book blogger’ . . . aka, one of the few people who can tell you that ‘aka’ stands for ‘also known as’. Yeah. You’re welcome.

So, I doubt anyone will ever actually read this ‘about me’ page. But on the off-chance that I have a captive audience, I thought I'd take up a little space on the internet to talk about me, my blog and my reviewing style (because I'm Gen-Y and apparently we’re all narcissists). 


How I Got Started: 

I could go really far back and say that I have loved reading from the moment that my mum started buying me Little Golden Books at the Coles check-out. But maybe that’s a little TMI. 

I have always been a voracious reader, but it wasn’t until the last year of a Communications degree that I decided I could contribute to the industry I love so much. So, I enrolled in a Professional Writing and Editing course . . . it was around this time that I also started paying attention to book bloggers. 

I would read a book, love it and then jump online to see what other people thought about it. In true Gen-Y fashion, I just wanted to find like-minded souls on the World Wide Web. I wouldn’t know how to join an honest-to-goodness ‘live’ book club, so I turned to what I have always known – the WWW. 

For a long time my main source of bookish gossip and rave reviews was ‘Smexy Books’. This site is run by the very witty and very smexy Mandi. I was a lurking poster on her site for a long time, and I devoured every book she recommended. We had very similar tastes and opinions . . . and at some point I decided that leaving Mandi 500+ posts was a little creepy and inconvenient. So in 2009 I decided to start my own blog. That this was the first year I also embarked on my Writing + Editing course was a happy-coincidence. . .


I Review, Therefore I am (okay, that was lame. . .)

I have a Communications degree and a Certificate + Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. In no way, shape or form does my education make me qualified to review books. My studies have proven handy when it comes to articulating my opinions about books – like bandying the word ‘dénouement’ around like a Les Deux Magots regular.

But what makes me qualified to review books is my passion as a reader. The majority of book bloggers are reading and reviewing books because they love them. It’s nothing more sinister or complicated than that. 

My blog is nothing fancy. I prefer Spartan over flash, and I am more concerned with writing long, sincere and rambling reviews than aesthetics. This is just a little list of pointers I try to write by, based on my own preferences, likes and dislikes.

- A review is an opinion, not the hard line: I get a little bit annoyed when people ‘attack’ reviewers for their opinion. If I didn’t like a book that you loved, that’s okay. Likewise, if you hated a book that I gave five-stars, that’s perfectly fine too. You have your opinion, and I have mine – and never the twain shall meet.

- You’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette:  I don’t read the review blogs of people who hand out five-star ratings like they’re Stella McCartney clothes at a Target sale. Perhaps you’re a reviewer who only posts about the books they love, and that’s great. But I think reviewers really show their mettle when it comes to reviewing books they didn’t like. It’s much harder to write a sincere review explaining what didn’t work for you than it is to outpour a total gush-fest.  

- Honesty is the best policy: reviewers are a marketing tool, it’s true. Blog reviews will be used in any number of publicity material; from book puffs to author websites. It is an honour when your words are used thusly. That being said – you shouldn’t feel obligated to write a sparkling review for the sake of publicity. Don’t write what you think the author/publisher/publicist wants you to say. Don’t repeat what’s on the publicity release. Genuine enthusiasm will come across, as will genuine sycophancy. 

- Me, Myself and I: I think it's perfectly acceptable for review bloggers to use the perpendicular pronoun ('I') when writing an online book review. The entire online book blogging community is fairly close-knit and informal. Furthermore, review blogs are built on the reviewer/reader repartee - you read a book blog because you have similar bookish tastes to that of the reviewer. This means you can be a little more personal and casual and throw around statements such as: "I want to marry Eric Northman" or "If I never read about another sparkling vampire for as long as I live, it will be too soon." 

- Solo Book Club: I call this blog my 'solo book club', because it is. This is my space, and I review for myself and my own sanity/pleasure. This blog is my outlet (not dissimilar to a diary) and everything I post on here I post for me. If I really started thinking too much about my readers, publicists, authors, editors, casual commenters etc, etc, etc I'd just get self-conscious. If I started thinking about who I could be writing for, I'd get too bogged down in page-views and increasing traffic, and I'd probably lose interest in reviewing and blogging very quickly, if I was just treating myself as a marketing tool for others. That's not what I want this place to be about - I just want to discuss books and I want my passion to speak for itself. I love reading, and I figure if I do this blog well then everything else will fall into place without me thinking too hard about it. 

How I Got Advanced Reader Copies

I’m not being narcissistic in writing about this, I just thought I'd tell you how I started receiving books from publishers because it’s something I wish I had been told. 

I actually never set out to get ARC’s (Advanced Reader Copies). It just kind of . . . happened.

One of my all-time favourite authors had a book coming out. I e-mailed them, asking (okay . . . begging and offering up my first-born child) for an advanced copy. Amazingly, they sent me one. More than that, this lovely author passed my name on to their publisher who started sending me books. From there I e-mailed other publishing houses, something along the lines of “look what I can do” and they started sending me books too. 

This all sounds very simplistic and serendipitous. I don’t explain the whole process very well. Someone who does is Abigail over at ‘All Things Urban Fantasy’; check out her über-informative blog about how to receive ARCs.

As a side-note (and because of a recent blogging controversy) I feel the need to stress that ARCs are not the be all and end all of a book review blog. I don't read any book review blogs that solely review new releases - and I wouldn't put much stock in those blogs for whom that is a policy. I read everything - literally. The same way that I am open to all different genres, I also make it a point to read new books, old books, self-published books and even some books that are no longer in print. And I've found favourites among all of them, and reading so widely in that way has definitely helped to shape my tastes (and, in my opinion, made me a better blogger - if only because I'm recommending unlikely gems that my followers would never otherwise stumble across!). 


Plagiarize and you Demonize 

I am writing this on April 25th 2012, in the wake of a blogging storm surrounding a certain book blogger who was found to be stealing content from other blogging sites... and it is stealing, make no mistake. This blogger stole someone's voice, their thoughts and opinions and passed them off as her own. And that is reprehensible. 

I have been through my own battle with plagiarism, back in 2010. I wrote a very long, rambling, picture-filled review of my favourite urban fantasy series, 'Downside' by Stacia Kane. I was really proud of it. It was a labor of love. And then a blogging friend told me that Ms Kane (through no fault of her own) had actually blogged about the review, but attributed it to a different website.

It turned out that a content-'collecting' site had been reposting quite a few of my reviews (without my knowledge!). They cut and copied my words, verbatim, and pictures, then posted them on their own layout with a tiny, tiny, fade-fonted 'attribution' to me. Stacia Kane was very angry when my blogging buddy told her what had happened. So angry, that she wrote a blog about this content-'collecting' site and what she thought of people who plagiarized and didn't attribute other people's reviews. 

I admit, I was angry when I found out about the content-'collecting' site 'collecting' my words. But I was chuffed to be the focus of a blog post by one of my all-time favourite authors (it made me love her even more!) 

I actually found it really easy to get my reviews removed from that website. I wrote an angry email promising action if my content was not removed within 24-hours. I found content 'collected' from other blogs, contacted those bloggers and informed them that their content was being lifted and urged them to write similar emails. The website was actually taken down a few days later.

My run-in with plagiarism (or at the very least, poor attribution) was a simple one. My reviews weren't being stolen by a single person, they weren't being slightly reworded and presented as somebody's thoughts other than my own. For all I know, that content-'collecting' site was just a giant search-engine feeder with no individual working the controls (yeah, I don't really know how the Internet works. I have an image in my head of the little man in his machine pretending to be the 'Wizard' of Oz). 

But I do know that people stealing your words, hurts. Bloggers don't blog for money - sure, book bloggers at least can get free books (and I'm sure bloggers from other communities get freebies from their respective industries). But the vast majority of us don't get a blogging paycheck. We literally do it for the love. So when somebody takes your voice and passes it off as their own - it freakin' stings all the more because our voice is all we have! 

Furthermore, it makes all other bloggers look bad. One apple to spoil the batch, and all that jazz.

I am even more afraid of plagiarism these days, because I have posted my creative writing on my blog. And if anyone ever steals that, and passes it off as their own, there will be hell to pay!

What I'm trying to say is - don't plagiarize. Don't steal other people's words and work and pretend it's your own. Don't steal somebody's words because you think they're better than yours - take inspiration and try to write better. Don't steal somebody's idea because you have none of your own. Don't steal words because you're too lazy to write your own. I'm going to suggest we all listen to John Farnham ( see what I did there? That's called attribution!) and take these events, and learn from them. Never let it happen again. Don't steal words, because ....

    You're the voice, try and understand it
    Make a noise and make it clear
    Oh-o-o-o, whoa-o-o-o!
    We're not gonna sit in silence
    We're not gonna live with fear
    Oh-o-o-o, whoa-o-o-o!


P.S. – Someone once asked me about my banner header. I took the photo and, interesting fact, the book is Diana Gabaldon's 'Outlander' (one of my favorite's, so I thought it was fitting). 

14 comments:

  1. I like this page! Nice to get to know you better :)

    I love that your header is Outlander *sighs*Jamie....

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  2. The Saggy Baggy Elephant's cover art is kind of traumatising - that tiger's biting the elephant's arse! ;-)

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  3. So much work goes into this. You must really love reading.....!!!!!
    Keep up the good work...!!!

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  4. Hey, a non-smarmy book review blog which doesn't stick to Man Booker Prize nominations! I already like you ;) Happy Reading :)

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  5. Ha! Your mum and my mum must have known each other. I got little golden books from Coles the same way other kids got chocolate bars :) Happy memories.

    Nice to hear your take on reviewing since I'm venturing into the Australian Women Writers reading/reviewing challenge next year. Quite daunting to read and REVIEW outside my comfort zone.

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  6. Dear Danielle

    Thank you for the beautiful review!

    Happy Christmas, Bill Condon.

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  7. Hello. I really admire you for the wonderful language you use in your reviews. It's like I'm reading a novel already. Do you have a Goodreads account?

    Keep up the awesome reviewing.

    GM (Brisbane)

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  8. I think your blog is impressive - really professional. I love the images interspersed in your reviews / interviews. It adds some extra 'flavour' to the novel and/or interviewee in question.

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  9. Hi Danni,

    Do you allow post any promotional items from indie authors such as trailers/giveaway? Thanks for the information!

    Krista
    kgholle@gmail.com

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  10. recommended: "Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed.

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  11. Hiya,

    I love your blog. If I ever have nothing to read, I always come here and read your reviews so I can pick my next great read.

    I hope you know how much your fans appreciate your time and effort that goes into each review.

    Maybe one day you could do a blog about things in books that you find work really well, and things you think suck. That would be a really interesting read. You could even list examples of books that display the good qualities, and books that display the bad.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, wow - thank you so much Ashleigh. Very kind of you to stop by and say.

      I love that idea for a post!

      Thanks for stopping by and making my day!

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  12. I seriously empathise with the theft of your work - your plagiarised words- I know only too well, the trauma this causes. The loss of self in a way through the lifting of your words.
    Firstly, it demonstrates the absence of moral capacity in the thief, and secondly, the lack of creative ability in the 'would-be' blogger or writer. They have no original source of creativity to draw from.
    Lastly, I had a Brisbane businessman, a wanna-be writer, steal and plagiarise a great deal of my own work.
    He, of course had contacts through whom he could filter my work in the rewording ( if not omission of or blatant changing) and or rewriting of my work.
    However, what I discovered was, that no matter how much a person changes the original work, the original author's voice comes through and this CANNOT, no matter how clever the rewriter/plagiarist, BE HIDDEN. The original style - ie the original authors's innate style which is not learned, can never be hidden.
    And this is how and why we each and all recognise our work hidden in the work of another (eg the plagiarist).
    The real writer and author has no need to steal and plagiarise someone else's work.
    What goes round comes around.
    The best thing we can do is prevent against plagiarists and plagiarism by bring the law to bear upon those who think it is their right and no-one will know.
    Thanks for a great site.

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