Material Witness has been running now for just shy of eight years, which makes it one of the older crime fiction blogs on the net, although it's a long way from being the most frequently updated.
During its eight year lifespan it's only had two different designs, and hasn't been changed for a number of years. Both previous designs were a little on the dark and gloomy side and I've long been dissatisfied by could never quite make my mind up what to do with it. Finally today, with the help of some props arranged on my treasured Edwardian revolving bookcase, I've given it a lighter and more personal feel.
With the change in design, I'm also rededicating myself to the blog, which I still enjoy hugely but in the past couple of years have simply not had enough time to write as regularly as I would like - indeed not enough time to read, never mind write. With everything a little more settled and with so many great books about, I'm going to aim this year to write at least twice a week, but by changing some of the content so I'm not quite so reliant on reading new books to produce reviews.
Content: 100 word reviews; 50 Books
I'll continue to write about new books - hopefully from new writers - and to interview authors hopefully, but in addition add a couple of new features to start with, and perhaps more later.
The first is that I am going to review every book I read - which I've not done before - but some will simply be 100 word reviews - that's exactly 100 words. This is partly a challenge to myself to try and find the essence of a book in just 100 words but also keep the reviews short (some previous ones do go on a bit), but partly just to make it easier to find the time them.
Second, I'm going to write about the 50 books that have been the most influential in my life. Books from all genres, fiction and non-fiction, childrens and adults. I'm really excited about this and I've had great fun starting to build a list which contains books read to me as a child, books I've read to my children, school texts as well as some of the crime fiction I've written about here. They'll be produced in no particular order - and this is a project I hope to finish by the end of this year.
I've never produced a definition of the ratings I give books before, and I've decided it's time to address that. In the past I've rarely given low star ratings - 1 or 2 stars - primarily because I tend only to read books I know I'm going to like and I've become fairly good at avoiding stuff I won't. I realise, however, that a slew of 4 and 5 star ratings isn't necessarily very helpful to the reader, so I'm going to set it out. below. I've raised the bar for reaching four and five stars higher than it's been in the past.
* - I either didn't finish the book because I hated it or wished I hadn't bothered at all. This is rare, for me. In the past 8 years I can only recall two books I didn't finish because I lost all patience with it. One of them was The Da Vinci Code.
** - Underwhelming. Nothing terrible, but nothing special about the book either. Think twice before spending your hard-earned here.
*** - A decent book I've enjoyed and I'm pleased I read it. Most will fall into this category
**** - This is a terrific book, one I thoroughly enjoyed and likely was upset that it ended. Thoroughly recommended.
***** - Desert Island material. You just have to read this book. It has enriched my life and has something very special about it. Only three or four books a year tend to come along like this.
I've never set out a reviews policy before, but I recognise I need to do this, but just need to give some more thought to it before setting it out in stone.
For now, however: I get a lot of review copies through the post, more books than I could ever read. The very great majority I have not asked for, and I have no idea how some of the publishers or publicists who send me them managed to get my address.
I don't guarantee reviewing any book I receive or reading them, but those I do I will review honestly.
If you'd like to submit a book for review, please contact me at email@example.com