Blog name: Beauty in Ruins
Blog URL: https://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.com/
Your name: Bob Milne
A nice place to start is with your blogger origin story – how long have you been reviewing books online and how did Beauty in Ruins start?
I actually started Beauty in Ruins way back in 2009 (wow, has it really been that long?), with a focus on my photography of ruined and abandoned places. I was already reviewing on Goodreads at the time, which allowed me to find my voice and figure out how to approach reviews, and in 2011 those book reviews came to be the driving force behind the blog. I joined NetGalley soon after, and that was what really kicked the blog into gear.
Can you talk a little bit about your preferred approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years?
I think my reviews have become longer over the years, with more detail and personality to them, but my basic approach remains the same. I am always honest about how I felt about the book, even if that means being negative, and I try to avoid relying on comparisons to describe the book. While it doesn’t work for every title, I generally break down the review into content, characters, themes, and emotions. While literary merit is important, and I am happy to speak to an author’s technical brilliance, I also have no problem admitting that I enjoyed a book despite (or sometimes even because of) its serious flaws.
Which upcoming Sci Fi & Fantasy book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending to your followers?
My most anticipated title – the one I keep checking on daily for approval – is The Core: Book Five of The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett. When so many epic fantasies linger on without end, it’s exciting to have that ‘final’ book on the way.
Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci is the latest title to catch my eye this week, and sounds like a swashbuckling read. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey was a great read, so I’m anxious to give Taste of Marrow a read next, and as a big fan of both the original story and the Bruce Campbell movie, Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale is a must-read.
Are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?
I assume it’s because they have so much artwork available, but roleplaying tie-ins always seem to have some of the best covers, so I’m loving Numenera: The Night Clave by Monte Cook & Shanna Germain, and Deadlands: Boneyard by Seanan McGuire. Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette NG has a great Victorian look, and while I know it’s a reprint, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip still looks amazing.
Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out?
The best advice I can offer is to always read and review for yourself first, and to not get caught up in the hype of ARCs and review requests. It’s immensely flattering to have authors and publishers asking for your time, but it can become overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to pass on a book that looks kind of interesting, and don’t feel bad about (politely) declining requests. If you’re not enjoying yourself, it will show in your reviews.
Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?
Epic fantasy will always be my go-to subgenre for a read. I love having a massive book to immerse myself in, something to linger over for weeks. I’m excited to see more sword-and-sorcery on the shelves lately, particularly with edgier, more mature authors like Nicholas Eames, Jack Heckel, and Andy Remic (a subgenre I have coined maturesmirk). The one trend that I wouldn’t be at all sad to see less of, and I’m sure I’ll get some hate mail for this, is grimdark. There are grimdark authors I enjoy, and there are still stories worth telling, but I can only sustain so much bleakness in my escapism.
Your blog in two sentences:
Beauty in Ruins is a reflection of the imagination, the diversity, and the creativity to be found upon my shelves. My WTF Friday feature is where I dig into the darkest, weirdest corners of the shelves, but otherwise you’ll find a mix of fantasy, horror, adventure, and science fiction.
The last book that made you smile:
Your all-time favorite Sci Fi or Fantasy book:
I have a soft spot for The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, as it was my introduction to fantasy, but the one book I can reread time-and-time again is Imajica by Clive Barker.
Your favorite character in a book or series:
Elric of Melniboné.
And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
Hands down, it would have to be Clive Barker. The depth of his imagination astounds me, almost as much as the breadth of his creativity. There are so many stories he’s teased, but has yet to write, and so much material he’s talked about that never made it into a final draft, I feel like I could pick his brain and ask “But what about…?” questions all night long.
Thanks so much, Bob, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
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