When I set up my book reviews blog on 30th December 2014, I had no idea what was in store.
Six months on, I have had over 18,500 page views, read some outstanding books, taken part in some great blog tours, interviewed many brilliant authors and met (in the virtual and real worlds) some amazing bloggers/reviewers, authors, publicists and publishers. I have discovered a whole new world and a whole network of people with a passion for books and reading.
When I'm not working as a freelance health journalist/editor, I'm reading and reviewing fiction (even though I should really be writing more of my own book - more of that later). According to my 2015 Goodreads challenge, I have read 124 books this year so far (it's probably closer to 130, as I still have a few more reviews to add). This is already more books than I read for the 2014 Goodreads challenge.
I have always loved reading and immersing myself in fictional worlds. As a child, I longed to be a detective, spy or explorer. I wanted to turn the Secret Seven into the Secret Eight. I dreamed of being Nancy Drew. I wanted the Hardy Boys to be my brothers. And I imagined myself to be part of the Willard Price adventures.
According to my parents, I was constantly glued to a book, particularly at the dinner table (which was a common bone of contention in our household). I was often found writing and illustrating stories too. My parents aren't surprised that I have made a career out of working with words. Even now, I have a book or Kindle with me whenever I leave the house and I take my 'Kindle' for a walk on most weekdays.
When I reached my teens, I worked my way through my dad's Alistair Maclean and Desmond Begley novels, before discovering Stephen King and eventually crime thrillers. By then, I wanted to write the books, rather than be a part of them. I bought a whole series of books from the USA on writing about forensics and crime.
Although I always enjoyed English at school, I loved the sciences too, which is why I decided to embark on a Biomedical Science degree, with the intention of obtaining a PhD in Forensic Science. The plan was that I would eventually use my forensics knowledge to become a crime fiction author one day (or at least try to do so).
But in my final year of university, my love for journalism overcame my love for science. This led to a Masters in Science Communication and working for consumer and pharmacy magazines, writing about health. Over the years, I have also edited health books, magazines and websites. My non-fiction book on children's allergies was first published in 2009 (then 2013).
Starting this book blog has been an amazing experience and I wish I had discovered the joys of book blogging years ago. I am a very fast reader and usually manage to read up to four books a week (in addition to working virtually full time from home).
As I have already mentioned, over the last six months I have met a diverse range of people, all with one thing in common - a love of reading. In recent weeks, I have been to the Killer Women launch, the book launch of The Versions Of Us and the Crime in the Court event at Goldsboro Books.
Friends and family are astonished to discover that book bloggers don't get paid. After all, running a book blog can be just as time consuming as paid work - from reading the books and writing reviews to fitting in blog tours and arranging and typing up author interviews. But I love every minute of it.
(Obviously though, if any publication wants to pay me to write reviews or author interviews, or any authors/publishers want to pay me to edit their books, I won't say no! It's just a side-step from health really...)
My ultimate aim remains, however, to complete a novel of my own, even if I never attempt to get it published. I have started several books over the years. Since December, I have written over 25,000 words of a historical fiction novel, loosely based on the story of a great-uncle of mine during WW2. But I struggle to find the time to fit writing into my life, with family, work and reading/reviewing.
There's a possibility that this will change in November, when I plan to put my life on hold (a little) while I take part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I thank the lovely Elizabeth Haynes for persuading me to sign up. I have another book idea buzzing around in my head, and I'm going to focus on this for those 30 days (although I can't avoid work completely during that time, as I still have bills to pay).
Thanks to everyone who has helped me to build up my blog over the last six months. There are several book bloggers in particular who give me brilliant advice and support. I'm not going to mention specific names, as I'm sure I'll end up missing someone out. But hopefully you all know who you are.
I look forward to the next six months and beyond - sharing my time and thoughts with so many other book lovers.