Book Bites Announcement

Book Bites is currently on hiatus. You can still follow Book Bites on Facebook for snippets, links to giveaways, and book-related images and news. Book Bites may be updated periodically. Feel free to subscribe or follow Zja on social networking sites to see updates.

16 November 2012

Zombie Bites! Um, I mean Book Bites is back from the dead...

Book Bites is BACK!

For good this time. I have bought a new laptop, and while I am still spending a lot of time working, now I have a computer I'll be able to blog again.  I also have some giveaways planned for the new year. Some are reviewed books, while others were prizes and gifts that just didn't gel with my preferences. I'll organise those later (I still need to sort through my collection), but they will probably be limited to Australian entries because OS postage is expensive and any postage would have to come out of my closely guarded book buying budget ;-p

So, why have I returned? Well, because I missed you, and I missed blogging! A better question is why was I away? The answer to that is multi-layered. To start with, I didn't have access to a reliable computer. My old desktop died a horrible death, and it took me over a year to be able to afford to fix it. And when I did get it fixed, the WiFi no longer worked reliably. So, while I technically had a computer, I wasn't able to use it for the internet. It was basically a glorified CD player... I do have a great phone, but I am really particular with how blog posts appear and I was never really happy with the Blogger App for Android. By 'particular', I mean, where in the text does the image sit as opposed to the text it is associated with? Does the image overlap the second column? How does the code of the post look and does it work properly? Are the paragraphs too long (I have a habit or rambling) and are there any typos? I usually preview and proofread a few times before I let a post go live, and then I proofread it again. I couldn't do that satisfactorily with the Blogger app, because when I went to the post, it was parsed for the mobile version of the website. I am sure a normal person would have just streamlined their processes and kept posting, however I am a perfectionist and hated that lack of control. I bought a new laptop on Friday for blogging, tweeting, writing, and all the things that have been difficult in the past year and a half (exciting!!). I am not sure if I will return to blogging at Book Bites every few days, but I do plan to blog at least once a week, and I am committing myself to reviewing books frequently.

High Tea with Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.
Photo courtesy of
While I have been away I have guest posted at a few different blogs, I have met Charlaine Harris (and gushed over her Harper series), I've had tea with Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books at an event organised by Book Thingo (and been able to meet Sarah Mayberry, one of my favourite authors, both as a romance author, and Australian author; I kept my gushing to a minimum). I then had Sarah Wendell turn up to the paranormal book club I attend and we decided we want to adopt her (she held her own with the smut talk, the geek culture and the social contexts of themes in our books). I have also attended some less ground-shattering (yet interesting) events, met some fabulous people, and done a little networking. Fun times have been had by all! I just wish I had been able to share them at Book Bites. I have, however, shared the big joys and the small occurrences at the Book Bites Facebook page: So if you don't already follow the Facebook page, it may be worth your while to do so! There is also a lot of book spam  and competions shared there if that is of interest to you.

As to my personal life in the last year and a half, I've quit my old job, been unemployed, found a new job, moved into a new house with close friends, been to Queensland a few billion times, and... read a LOT of books! I also broke my unofficial record. Or, at least, I think I did. In January of this year, I read 70 books! I don't think I have ever read that many books in one month before (I think it was 72 or 73, but 70 seems like a nice round number). I was unemployed at the time and within walking distance of my local library however, so that number of books was not read under normal circumstances. For the last six months or so, though, I have been working, and living with friends (with Game of Throne marathons and the like), so I usually do not read more than 10 books a week now. Lately it has just been one or two because I have been spending my commuting time writing rather than reading. My life seems to revolve around work, friends, family (I am now an auntie, and JM Barrie was right - a fairy is born every time that baby laughs!), reading, writing, and the Lady Lair and my awesome friends/housemates.

I am on holiday at the moment (I am back in Queensland for my friend's wedding), however, as of next week, I hope to have some sort of schedule up and running for Book Bites again. I am currently taking part in Nanowrimo, so posts may be light on the ground until the end of November.


29 May 2012

Romantic clinch covers: are they offensive?

Are you offended by clinch covers? I just did my sexual harassment training at work tonight, and such a point was raised. Apparently I can't read sexy books at work because I'm harassing everyone who sees it. Even possession of such books in the work place is against regulation O.o One just needs to fall out of my bag and I can receive an official warning. Ebook time!

The above was a sensationalised statement because I'm shocked about such rules. It is only a fraction of our harassment regulations but it effects me very personally. Despite the continual debate online about reading romance and erotica on public transport and how people react to our book covers (of which I couldn't give a damn. Just don't watch me reading if you have a problem with what I am reading) and how people perceive us for our reading material, I have never stood down on my right to read what I want to read, where I feel comfortable reading it. I don't cover my book covers, I don't read ebooks because I am ashamed of my reading material, and I don't hide my book if someone starts reading over my shoulder. I am more likely to start a conversation than anything (if the person isn't being negative of course, and is genuinely interested in the novel), and if someone makes a comment about my morals or makes unwanted advancements towards me for reading such a book I count that as sexual harassment. As it is. Note, this occurred on a train when I had a salacious cover (M/F/M, with kink). Nothing I would even consider reading at work, regardless of format. When I'm reading one of those I head to a cafe ;)

So, I never though of reading a book as potential sexual harrassment to those around me. I should state that I don't have a problem with swimsuit calendars or images of sexy filmstars myself. I would if the images were non-consensual or of sexualised underage subjects. I do have a problem with slurs and sexualised comments about someone, because I see that as non-consensual. But I digress.

I understand the company regulations for no porn, no swimsuit calendars, no lewd comments, no photos of shirtless hotties as my computer wallpaper, etc. All those are common sense to me. And, on saying that, I guess can see how that can be stretched to include covers with a shirtless hero and a heroine showing a bit of leg and shoulder (classic clinch pose). But, surely it is just that! A stretch! When does a picture become so sexualised that it is unacceptable? One of my co-workers has a photo of him and his wife (who also works with us) in a pretty sexy clinch. On his desk, in plain sight of everyone. I am sure he isn't the only one. These are acceptable, but a clinch cover is not. So does this also mean I can't read a book about surfing? A shirtless man rubbing himself up against a surfboard? Or does it need a recognised sexual context to be offensive? He could have a surfboard fetish! You never know.

Obviously I wouldn't read a kinky erotica with a graphic cover in my office lunchroom, but I do read them on trains and at cafes. I understand that the regulations some companies have are probably actually related to these more extreme covers thar could themselves be considered soft porn. However the wording does not exclude clinch covers of even the most chaste romance novel. I guess we live in a world where sexuality is stigmatised in all its forms, regardless of how physically revealing the image is.

I intend to ask a friend in HR tomorrow for further clarification. I very much doubt anyone I work with would complain about me reading a novel with a clinch pose in the kitchen, and I already leave the erotica at home or on my phone. Mostly because no one needs to know the type of erotica I read, and erotica covers can get quite graphic. I very much doubt anyone would mind the clinch covers on most romance novels. As a friend said, this is extreme political correctness.

So, ignoring where I work (that isn't important), here is the discussion point: are you offended by clinch covers? I don't even mean the highly sexualised covers of erotica, but just the traditional clinch pose. Am I (or anyone else) offending people by reading books with such covers in a public space? We've had this debate regarding reading romance and erotica on public transport, which is similar, but the anonymous nature of public transport and cafes (etc.) leads on to think that those around us are not victims but voyeurs for watching us reading.

I must state that your comments will not stop me from reading romance and erotica on trains or at cafes. Any vindictive comments by zealots will be deleted. If you have concerns about clinch covers, please state them politely and respectfully.

03 April 2012

What is Aussie Author Month, and Why Do I Support it?

The way I see Aussie Author Month is the more we, as a community and as individuals, talk about Aussie authors the better. Having a dedicated month to the cause only emphasises this need. I mean, the thing is, why do we feel the need to concentrate our attention on Australian authors and their stories for one whole month? The simple answer is, their voices sometimes get lost in the blogging community. The community is international, so you would expect other voices (accents?) out there, but because the market is dominated by American publishers, a lot of Aussie voices get lost in the crowd. Some authors, like Keri Arthur, for example, get picked up by American publishers and are know to readers overseas (I found out one of my close American friends is obsessed with her). But how many amazing Australian authors don’t? I could name so many wonderful Australian authors who I buy on sight, who have helped to shape who I am as a person, who have caused my imagination to run away and my heart to soar, and only one or two have the accolades they truly deserve. Some of it is a numbers game, of course, but not always. The more we rave about an author, the more chances that someone will stumble over our blog post or tweet and decide to pick up a book and fall in love, just as we have. That person may have never had another opportunity to be exposed to that author, because they live in the UK, America, Canada, Brazil, the Philippines, wherever, and we, as a community, give them a chance to be exposed to a fabulous author.

So reviews, interviews, rambling blogs, surveys, lists, recommendations - all of it is helping to raise the profile of Aussie authors in the international stage. Last year I had a number of online friends from overseas ask me for recommendations, because the concept of reading an Australian book intrigued them (I just wish Shannah Jay was still in print. She is so damn underrated). It was a novel concept for them, but they bought a number of Australian books because of it. We have so many amazing authors who bring their unique voices to the table, but they get lost in the crowd when you look at the international market. I remember growing up, nearly everything I devoured was by Australian authors because so much emphasis was put on them at school. Every second book had won an award from the Children’s Book Council of Australia, the Aurealis Awards, or something similar. Of course I read books from overseas, but my school library exposed me to so many wonderful talents that I never would have discovered otherwise. Those are the authors that I now scour the second hand bookstores for, because quite a number are now out of print. Some, like Melina Marchetta, became famous (I was friends with the librarian, and read Looking for Alibrandi before it even had a school library stamp! I was in love from the first sentence!). Others, like Liby Hathorn, are only really know if you have school children and encourage them to read, or if you loved her as a child yourself, or if you are a librarian. It is a shame, because I think Liby Hathorn, and other authors like her are well worth reading, and have a distinctively Australian voice that people from overseas would find fascinating, and Aussies would find comforting and something they can identify with.

I look over at my book shelves, and the number of Australian books are sadly outweighed by the number of American books. I feel ashamed. But I love buying new books, and while I snap up Australian authors every chance I get, I still have less because there are less on the shelves. Most of my books by Australian authors are second hand copies which are now out of print. I snap them up like the rare gems they are, because I know I am unlikely to get another chance. I love the ebook trend because some authors who were big in Australia in the 80s and 90s are starting to release their books digitally. They aren’t always easy to find. You have to be tenacious, and sometimes the only way you discover them is by googling to see if the author now has a website, and then browsing their website until you find an ebook link. But you know what? It is worth that long haul! I hope more and more Australian authors can get their back catalogue published digitally, because it makes it more accessible to us, the readers, and it makes it easier to recommend to our overseas friends.

You can find out more at the official website: and follow updates via Facebook: and the Twitter hashtag: #ausbooks.

Aussie Author Month is also trying to raise funds and awareness for the Indigenous Literacy Fund. You can donate and find out more information about the ILF here:

If you want to guest post during Aussie Author Month, please let me know! You can read the Book Bites submission guidelines {here}.

01 April 2012

Book Bites is BACK! Aussie Author Month, Writers' Tea Party, and other news

I'm baaa-aaack! *grins* I have my computer back, up and running, and I have a new job so I'll be buying books again. Be scared, be very scared! Although, for the moment, I may need to keep the blogging for the weekends. I'll stay up all night on my computer if I get the chance, and that really isn't a good idea when you need to be up and about by 6am every morning *rolls eyes*

Anyway, I have A LOT of news to share. I am not sure how much I will get to in this blog post, but I have months to tell you about everything, so I'll just mention the pertinent items.

Aussie Author Month

It is that time of the year again. No, not April Fools Day (I actually slept through that, would you believe?) but it is the very first day of Aussie Author Month. How exciting! There are so many amazing Australian authors, past and present, that are worth reading, but sadly a lot of readers either aren't aware of them or haven't picked up their books before. When people have asked me for my favourite Australian authors in the past, they have been shocked that I can recite 20 names of beloved authors without taking a breath, and that more names follow when I gasp for that breath. But the simple truth is Australia has SO MUCH TALENT! Some have been published decades ago and we have forgotten their names. Some write for children or young adults and we forget how amazing they are. Some write obscure fantasy, science fiction, historical novels, or novels that aren't quite main stream enough to stick to the forefronts of our minds. Some are published by obscure little niche publishing houses and slip by us without gaining the headlines. And others are women writing serious literature, and where most people prefer to rave about Patrick White, Peter Carey and the like. But the simple fact of the matter is Australia produces a lot of talented writers. I think it is fabulous that someone has taken the initiative to have the month of April designated to highlighting the talent of our Aussie authors, and as such, Book Bites will also be dedicating April to the cause.

You can find out more at the official website: and follow updates via Facebook: and the Twitter hashtag: #ausbooks.

Aussie Author Month is also trying to raise funds and awareness for the Indigenous Literacy Fund. You can donate and find out more information about the ILF here:

As part of Aussie Author Month, I am looking for volunteers to be guest bloggers on Book Bites. The stipulation is you must blog about Australian authors or be an Australian author. You can read more about the Book Bites Submission Guidelines here.

I also have some giveaways planned, although those are still in the seed stage. All I can say is keep your eyes peeled!

Writers' Tea Party

One exciting project I have been a part of is the Writers' Tea Party. Elle, the editor, will be guest blogging soon to share more about this wonderful project. Suffice to say, I am honoured to be a part of it, and I can't wait to see how it unfolds. If you are part of the book industry (author, editor, publisher, etc.) and would like to be involved, let us know as we would love to hear from you!


I've been to a number of book events around Sydney this year, and there are only more to follow. You can watch the Book Bites Facebook account to see updates as they occur, follow me on Twitter, or wait for me to upload photos on Flickr :)

Okay, I have to admit that I haven't been updating ANYTHING as much as I should, but in my defence, I have been without a computer for nine months :) So, as a quick run down, in the last three months I have sat on Pyrmont Bridge and read romance books with about 40 other people, and I have listened to one of my favourite Play School actors read salacious sections of sexy novels. That was ... interesting. Wonderful and disconcerting. Some of my friends were too young, and others too old to remember Rhys Muldoon on Play School, but I am just the right age. That man has a magic voice, what ever age you are!

Updates and Redesign

I've been toying with some concepts I would like to implement on Book Bites. I am still ironing them out, but if there are any changes you wish to see at Book Bites, now would be the time to have your say! :)

Books Every Child Should Read

I am on the look out for books that all children should read! No, I am not pregnant, but I will be an auntie in August :D I have taken on the task of providing my nieceling or nephew with every book a child could desire, and those they should. Growing up, books were a magical place for me. I want to share that with the new little person in my family. I live in a different state, so this is my way of interacting with that little bundle of joy. The upside is I am too far away to need to learn how to change nappies! :D Although my brother is threatening to teach me anyway...

Anyway, I am very glad to be back. I can't really express how much I have missed you all. 

02 March 2012

New job = new books!

I finally have a new job!

It is pretty scary, because I'll be looking after an office of 80-90 people - my previous office had less than 20. Also, I had to by a suit. I guess I am finally an adult! The Stanton Library is just down the road (I have yet to assertain if it is in walking distance for my lunch hour) and there is a well stocked book exchange across the street! There is a Dymocks too, but that doesn't count. I've realised that my last four years my spending on books was pretty extreme, and I will have to curb that if I want to have any savings. It is kind of scary how much I was spending on books per fortnight. This time I need to be sensible. I not only need to set a sensible budget, but I need to stick with it! And ebooks need to be included in that budget *le sigh* I don't know how good my self control will be, but I have done a lot of evaluation in the last 6 months and realised I need to make some big changes in my life. And those changes need to be funded. I am cutting my dvd budget out completely, and making my cd budget to stretch a month, not a fortnight (I am addicted to music too). I don't like being an adult *sigh*

Having a new job also means I'll be able to start blogging again. Not only has my computer been fixed (although it is still in Toowoomba until my folks visit me), but I have eventual plans to buy a small laptop or netbook and at lunch I'll be able to go to a local food court that has free wifi. So I'll have less spare time, but you will see more of me!

I'm not sure if anyone is interested, but I have a second goodreads account created just to collate the books I actually own. I am slowly adding to it, and plan to keep it as a current reflection of my bookshelves. The url is

My other big news is about a writing project I am taking a part of. It is an online writers' festival called the Writers' Tea Party. We had a soft launch last month, but will be relaunching with a new vision shortly. If you are an author (traditional pub, epub, apps), publisher, editor, illustrator or in some other way a part of the book industry, drop me a line! We are looking for more professionals to interview, guest blog, and offer tips and suggestions to writers. The schedule is filling up, but send me an email if you are interested and I'll forward it on to the editor for consideration. Elle has offered to guest blog about the project soon, so I'll have more information then.

And lastly, I'm going through an online branding change. I'll be using my real world nickname (Zja) and writing alias (Zja Noir) for all of my non-professional networking and interests online. My professional personality is greatly different to my non-professional self, and I feel I need to make that distinction quite visible. Most of my friends know me as Zja, and all of my professional contacts know me as Jacq. I really like that distinction, and I think changing my branding online will cause less confusion at functions and conferences in the geek world. So, from now on, I'll be signing off as Zja :) I just wanted to verbally let you know why I am changing this on Book Bites so there wasn't any confusion. Anyone who follows me on twitter, is facebook friends or knows me in real life already knew of the changes of course, but I am aware that not everyone is a twitter addict like I am. The only problem is apparently this library computer has limited software so my new sig is fairly basic from now. I'll update it when I have access to better resources :)

So how has everyone been? What have you been up to? Read any good books? Discovered any new authors? Attended any events? I'd love to hear about your adventures while I have been away!

05 February 2012

Survey XI

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
Mass market paperback. Reading hardbacks and trades hurt my hands.

Waterstones, Borders or Amazon?
None of the above. I shop at Galaxy, Abbeys, Dymocks and a second hand store in Burwood that specialises in romance novels of a variety of subgenres.

Bookmark or dog-ear?
Both *sadface* I choose to use bookmarks, but I grew up using dog-ears and sometimes I forget I shouldn't. It is one of those habbits I have spent more than a decade trying to break, but sometimes I slip up. I collect bookmarks, but I can never have enough!!

Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random?
I sort my books by genre and then by authors.

Keep, throw away, or sell?
I hoard books. I can't seem to thin out my collection. I do have a stack of books that my great aunt gave me that I want to give away, but I can't find anyone who likes chick lit. Contact me if you are in Sydney and like chick lit and I'll give them too you :)

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
I take it off when I am reading the novel, but I replace it when I reshelve the book.

Read with dust jacket or remove it?

Short story or novel?

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
Harry Potter

Buy or borrow?
Both! I have a preference of buying books, but I am skint at the moment, so I rely on my local library. It is driving me crazy though, because I've read all the books I would usually choose to read. I'm now picking books up at random and reading them even if I'm not really interested in them.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Tidy ending. Cliff hangers only work if it is something like the early Morganville Vampires books. Rachel Caine was amazing. You wanted to throw the book across the room in disgust, and at the same time, grasp the following book, even if it wasn't due to be published for months.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
All of the above.

Favourite series?
Too many to number.

Favourite children’s book?
Too many to number.

Favourite YA book?
This changes constantly. I would say The Hunger Games, however I haven't read it for two years and the hype is crazy at the moment. I'd have to reread it to make sure it does my memory justice.

Favourite book no one has heard of?
Merlin's Keep by Madeline Brent

Favourite books read last year?
The Flame and the Shadow by Denise Rossetti

Favourite book to re-read?
Merlin's Keep by Madeline Brent

Do you ever smell books?

What are you reading right now?
I'm at the library and plan to max out my card.

What are you reading next?
As above.

02 February 2012

Did 'ya miss me?

This is just a quick hello. I'm still without a computer and unable to blog frequently. I will however be trying to post a little bit of something on a more regular basis using library computers. I can't promise much however! My computer will hopefully be up and working again in a few months :)

My reading style has changed a lot now I am no longer buying books. I'm relying a lot on my local library and its fantasy/science fiction and paranormal romance/urban fantasy shelves are pretty basic. I've picked up some new authors I haven't read before, but generally the shelves are full of books I have already read or don't feel like reading. Instead I have been lured to the dark side with all the romance recommendations and been exploring that genre. My local library has an extensive (I think, anyway) collection of romance, and as most of my twitter friends and some of my close friends read romance, I've been finding new authors to read. I never ever thought I would read this much romance! However, relying on library books has meant I've been able to explore without bothering to read blurbs or pay attention to genres and subgenres. It has been really interesting actually. I've found that a lot of my own thoughts on romance aren't exactly founded. I had never realised what a snob I was! I mean, a lot of the books are as you'd expect, light entertainment, but some books are bloody brilliant :) I'll have to borrow some again and write up some reviews or something. My biggest disappointment, I have to say, is the lack of erotica. I know, it is a public library and anyone can borrow books, including children and teens. I know I was punching above my weight when I was a kid myself! But at the same time, now I can't afford to buy ebooks (or have a computer to do so) I am really missing the erotica. Just don't tell my mother LOL Ah, who am I kidding. After her overhearing conversations about romance and erotica I have had with my great aunt June, I'm sure she realises my reading content, even if it is a little too spicy for her own tastes! ;)

If you are in Sydney and a romance reader (including paranormal romance), ARRA is holding a flashmob at Pyrmont Bridge at 11am on the 12th of January to celebrate Romance Reading Day as part of National Year of Reading. It will be a lot of fun and a chance to network with other readers. I hope to see any local romance readers there! You can find out more information {here}.On that note, today is the first meeting of my paranormal romance book club for the year. I can't afford to buy books as they are recommended to me any more, however, my list of books to buy when I get a new job has gone into the high double digits! Damn you Galaxy girls, tempting me with your bookish wiles...

You want to know gossip from the real world? I've just cut off my turquoise fringe, cut bettie bangs and dyed my hair garnet and hope this will make finding a job in the corporate arena easier. I'm considering doing my postgraduate diploma in musuem studies next year, and I may be organising a sharehouse with friends in a few months. We all have ridiculously large book collections, so that is going to be interesting LOL
I hope you are all well, life is great, and you have some great books in your TBR piles! I miss you guys!!!


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