Blogger Spotlight

In The Spotlight: Alex at Spells & Spaceships

Featured in the Book Blogger Spotlight today, I’m delighted to introduce you all to my namesake, Alex from over at Spells and Spaceships, where you can check out his reviews, or flick through his dusty scrolls.

First of all, Alex, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself.

Sure, I’m a blogger from the UK, fast approaching 30! I’ve been reviewing fantasy and science fiction (thought kinda want to get into historical fiction and horror too) since around November ’19. I’d been reading fantasy for a year or so before that so I suppose I’m relatively late to the party? Before that I’d read the odd fantasy book but it was mostly non fiction – history, crime, science, the natural world etc. I have a particular passion for learning about human history. One of my favourite books is ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari.

What got you hooked into book blogging to begin with?

Well, I’ve been blogging eight months at the time of writing. Before that I had a personal account that I didn’t use – I used it for following companies, sports teams and public figures. When I got back into reading fantasy I really wanted to be a bigger part of the community and soon after creating my book-related account I started up my blog. I’ve always enjoyed writing but when you HAVE to do it in education or work it takes the fun away a bit. So it’s sort of a combination of scratching my creativity/writing itch and being able to discuss books more! It also has the added bonus now that with a very mediocre memory, I can go back to my blog to jog my memory of an earlier book in a series!

What is it about fantasy, that makes this your go-to genre?

I love history and fantasy is often based on historical settings or periods, plus I’m a bit of a geek at heart. I like the fact you can have a battle that is straight out of a medieval history book and create all these interesting factions and magic systems to complement them. Cavalry charges, shield walls, arrow volleys. And then a huge great dragon appears. Because why not!? I try not to just stick to fantasy inspired by the history I’m interested in, though.

I notice you do #ArmedWithABingo, what have you read recently that’s outside your comfort zone?

Ooh, good question. I have to admit so far I’ve managed to work a book into each square that I was interested in to begin with. I do have the YA square to fill in though, and no disrespect to YA but the majority of it isn’t for me, so I’ve got to find one that appeals. I’m thinking Scythe by Neal Shusterman.

Who are your top 5 favourite authors, and why?

This is a hard one because I only have about a year’s worth of proper experience. There are loads of brilliant authors I interact with on twitter so I don’t necessarily have a definitive top 5, but a selection are:

  • Anna Smith Spark – her writing style is something I’ve never experienced before and was just a delight. And I have signed copies of her books which is awesome. She’s also a lovely person.
  • D P Woolliscroft – Dave grew up close to me, but now lives in the US! I’ve read the first couple of books in his Wildfire Cycle, which I only first bought on a whim after seeing an ad on social media. They’re really good and I can’t quite believe it’s a debut series.
  • Andrzej Sapkowski -The only author on the list I haven’t actually spoken to, but I had to include him. Admittedly I don’t know much about him as a person but I am hugely thankful for the Witcher series he created. Not just the books – the games, comics, TV shows. I’m in love with the world of The Witcher.
  • Mark Lawrence – Mark has loads of books I want to read and series to start, including the Broken Empire Trilogy of which I’m onto the second book! Mark runs the SPFBO which brings loads of self published fantasy books into people’s TBRs which is probably my favourite thing the community becomes involved in every year. Last year was such a high quality it will be interesting to see the finalists this year.

What’s one of your Top 5 fantasy reads and why?

I’m gonna say The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson. I didn’t include him on the top 5 because I’ve got him here! I’ve recommended The Lost War quite a lot and I honestly don’t have a vested interest in continually promoting this book! It’s just incredibly well polished, I loved the characters and the plot and I loved the medieval Edinburgh inspiration. Its particularly striking that it’s an Independently published book. The Lost War was a real page turner and the author happens to be a great bloke too. I also hold a soft spot for this book, along with Priest of Bones by Peter McLean and The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams because they were the three books that cemented my renewed passion for fantasy after I started reading it again.

What’s one of your Top 5 SF reads and why?

I don’t get through as much SF as fantasy but I loved Alien: The Cold Forge by Alex White. Their respect for and homage to the Alien universe whilst putting their own personality on the book was stunning and it really satisfied my craving for an exciting alien story after Alien and Aliens.

Audio books: Yes / No?

Both! I find audiobooks exciting but… difficult. My attention span and amount of free time isn’t great and because of my backlog of books I feel like I can read 2 or 3 books+ in the time 1 audiobook takes to listen to. There’s also the fact that I have a short commute and even in my free time at home I need to be able to keep my hearing alert, so I just don’t get round to it. I’d like to listen more though and I love the concept of an audiobook. I have told myself I’ll make an effort to create more audiobook time. Maybe now I have some wireless earphones it will be easier!

What will make you DNF a book: bad characterisation, weak plot, lack of world building?

I think it’s a combination of all three; sometimes just a vibe that’s hard to place. I’m a bit of a grammar snob so if the book is badly edited it tends to ruin the immersion for me and I don’t read further. If I had to choose one of those three options, it would be the plot. I personally need an exciting plot to drive the story along. In a series, I’m more than happy to have things slow down and focus a bit more on the characters and world, but I have to be invested first—if the plot doesn’t grab me I don’t care about the characters or world unfortunately! But I find everything sort of links to make a great story. Can you create great characters without the interesting plot points to develop them?

And finally, what aspect do you like most about book blogging?

I’d say the community feel. I could still read great books without any form of social media or blog, but I like engaging with people and checking out what they thought. It’s also just a nice feeling when you loved a book to be able to share that with others and sometimes to say to an author that the book they worked for months or years on and put all their energies into is really appreciated. Sometimes you’ll make an author’s day with a review. I imagine it’s an anxiety-inducing process releasing your book into the world.

Especially now I’m more established and have a core of awesome bloggers around me who all share one another’s reviews and send kind words it is actually a bit of a happy place! It’s also unashamedly gratifying when people ask for your advice or recommendations! Ultimately it’s a nice community when you filter out some of the negative noise and I thoroughly enjoy it.


About

Alex is a Fantasy and Science Fiction blogger who also enjoys reading history and science with a growing interest in horror, too.

He’s been blogging at Spells & Spaceships since November ’19. He has a particular interest in fantasy inspired by historical time periods and with lots of political back stabbing.

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