A Beginner’s Guide to BookTok: Ten Things to Look Out For

BookTok is a vibrant and active community of book lovers on TikTok, and if you’re new to the platform, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Here are ten things to look out for as you explore BookTok:

1. Book recommendations: One of the best things about BookTok is the endless stream of book recommendations. Whether you’re looking for your next read or just want to see what others are reading, you’ll find no shortage of suggestions.

2. Book hauls: Book haul videos are a staple of BookTok, and they’re a great way to get a sense of the latest and greatest releases. Keep an eye out for these videos to get an idea of what’s new in the world of books.

3. Book reviews: If you’re not sure whether a book is right for you, you can often find reviews on BookTok to help you decide. These reviews can be helpful, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s opinion is different, so take them with a grain of salt.

4. Book challenges: Book challenges are a popular feature of BookTok, and they’re a fun way to get involved in the community. Whether it’s a reading challenge or a book recommendation challenge, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to participate.

5. Book clubs: Many BookTok users belong to book clubs, and you’ll often see them sharing their thoughts and discussions about the books they’ve read. This can be a great way to discover new books and connect with others who share your love of reading.

6. Book swaps: Book swaps are a fun way to share your favourite reads with others and discover new books. Keep an eye out for BookTok users who are looking to participate in a book swap and see if you can get involved.

7. Author content: Many authors have embraced TikTok and are active on the platform, sharing content related to their books and writing process. This can be a great way to get to know your favourite authors and learn more about their work.

8. Book aesthetics: Aesthetics are a big part of BookTok, and you’ll often see users sharing beautifully arranged shelves and book stacks. If you’re looking for inspiration for your own bookshelves, you’ll find plenty of ideas on BookTok.

9. Book memes: If you’re a fan of memes, you’ll love BookTok. There are endless book-related memes floating around the platform, and they can be a great way to get a laugh while exploring new reads.

10. Book communities: BookTok is just one of many book-related communities on TikTok, and you’ll often see users sharing content from other book-centric hashtags like #Bookstagram and #BookBlogger. Keep an eye out for these hashtags to discover even more book-related content.

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are finding these tips helpful. I have written a wide range of fiction and non-fiction and if you want find out more about me and my work, click this link here.

Good luck with all your projects.

Kind regards

Barnaby

VIRO – Four Kids, One Apocalypse – The best zombie YA adventure series still waiting to be picked up by Netflix or Disney

Picture a country broken by a virus. Society falls apart. Nothing works now. Nobody knows what has happened. There are no answers. No knowledge. No rules. No science. No God. The only truth now is the desperate fight for survival. Imagine all of this seen through the eyes of a teenage boy with special needs.

VIRO – The Series

Jake wakes one morning to find his mum has gone missing. Determined to find her, Jake is forced to comes to terms with what has happened to the world. Confronted by the horror, he initially struggles to make sense of everything.

Helped by the new friends he makes, Ellis, kind and resourceful, and the twins, Amber and Abe, Jake starts to develop his independence. Forced to confront the apparent difference defined by his special needs, Jake realises that this difference doesn’t matter anymore. This gives him the strength to keep going.

As they fight for survival, the four kids meet a wide range of other people also battling to stay alive and with each encounter Jake and his new friends learn a little bit more about themselves and each other. Ultimately, Jake’s story is one of hope and determination in the face of complete and utter devastation.

VIRO begins in Burton-on-Sea, a small, depressing seaside town in south-east England. The time period is the middle of the 1970s. VIRO is the world of my childhood. VIRO looks like those old children’s television series about weird kids hiding in quarries or public information films telling children not to play on building sites.

VIRO is also about all those ordinary spaces I remember as a child; playing fields and parks;  industrial estates; ring roads and roundabouts; caravan parks and tower blocks; dark skies and black clouds; railway bridges and concrete steps; train tunnels and reservoirs; allotments and corner shops; parks, precincts and playgrounds; concrete and tarmac, stinging nettles pressed up against broken brick walls; Buddleia poking through rusty fences. 

What are the colours of this world? 

Grey. Black. The orange glow of lamp posts at night. The green of wet grass. The blue of a weak winter sky. Pale sunshine. Purple weeds. White moons. The red of blood and its various shades. Mud. Dirt. Dust. Debris. 

The world of VIRO is dark, damaged and dirty. There is no hope. No knowledge. No cure. 

All filtered through a haunted 70s lens.

This is what the end of the world feels like. This is the world of VIRO

What does the world of VIRO sound like?

Imagine the sound of a distant howl, an anguished rage from afar. Imagine if that howl is always there, ever-present, like the quiet, gnawing pain from an angry tooth. Sometimes the howl subsides, or you focus on something else just long enough for the sound to not be heard in the moment, but the howl remains, the soundtrack to a broken world.

This howl is an electronic one, synthesised on many levels; a bass throb that stays in the mix at all times, just low enough to sometimes hear, the forever reminder of an extinction event. Another part higher and shriller; registered by human ears but mostly around and beyond comprehension – unsettling in the extreme. 

At all points between the low and high, the howl vibrates, registering both distance and proximity. As they approach the howl grows louder and takes on human characteristics; despair, damage, insecurity, failure, terror, horror, tragedy, and all other things that exist to dampen and defeat the human spirit, but most of all, anger. The howl is an angry one, as every viro rages against the base unfairness of transformation. No one ever asked to be made a monster.

The howl is an analog howl, manufactured in the electronic sound department of a long-lost television studio making a children’s horror series about stones and psychics, time travel and demons, spirits and reservoirs and not playing on building sites. One that links the rhythms of a new nature with the throb and thrum of electric circuits.

The rest of the world is a broken silence, structured and defined by the analog howl; fractured by cries and screams; a silence where the whisper of your own voice can sound like a sceam; where the quiet horror of the night can be broken by the static burst of a field telephone.

This is what the world of VIRO sounds like.

The Main Characters 

Jake

Jake is thirteen years old when the story begins. He has special needs and lives alone with his mother. They have recently moved to a new town and Jake has not yet had the chance to make any friends. Jake is physically very able but is very aware of his difference to other kids. He has accepted his difference even though it means he lacks confidence. Jake is ready to find himself and his adventures will allow him to do this. This is not to say that he isn’t horrified by the new world he discovers while looking for his mum. However, Jake takes the challenges presented by this new world head-on.

Ellis

Ellis is the same age as Jake. She is friendly, confident and self-assured, with a high level of independence. However, she is not cocky just practical. She accepts Jake straight away and sees him for what he is; his difference doesn’t make any difference to her. Ellis saw her parents get attacked and though it may not always be apparent, it has understandably had a traumatic effect on her. Ellis invents the word ‘viro’ to describe the infected. 

Amber

Amber is thirteen when the series begins. She is the eldest of the twins that Jake and Ellis meet in the railway tunnel. She is calm and mature but also prone to a sadness derived from the facts of her life. Her father murdered her mother and the twins were sent to live in a foster home. Their experience in the foster home was an unhappy one and the twins ran away. The fact that the virus broke out around the same time means that no one is looking for them.

Abe

Abe is younger than his twin sister Amber by three and a half minutes and this makes him competitive and prone to bursts of anger. Like all boys his age, Abe is capable of being sensible and foolish simultaneously. Abe is impetuous and keen to prove himself. He accepts Jake for who he is but as their relationship develops, he starts to see Jake as a real rival for Ellis. This later threatens to derail the gang’s survival.

Vinnie

Vinnie is Ellis’s brother. He is eighteen when the series begins. Vinnie is mature and intelligent and once he is reunited with his sister, Vinnie becomes the conduit between the friends and the adults that they encounter in their search for Jake’s mum. Vinnie is brave and resourceful. He is very supportive of Jake and quickly comes to value his contribution to their survival, especially when he realises the key role Jake played in keeping Ellis alive. Vinnie fully understands that the only rationale now is for everyone to simply stay alive as long as they can. He knows there is no other choice. Vinnie can also drive and this proves to be very useful.

VIRO – An Explanation

It is Ellis who invents the word VIRO to describe the infected that have overrun the world. There is no single explanation about the source of the virus and the series is permeated with conflicting stories about source and origin. The facts of there being no explanation is central to the horror of the series.

No one ever asks to be infected. The moment that you are, that moment before you turn, must be full of a lifetime remembered and about to be forgotten. That pain is brief but final. A forever pain.

There is anger. Despair. Hunger, of course. But also a notknowingness. Suddenly all thought is replaced by only instinct. Yet at the very heart of the creature there must still be the very slight and occasional reminder of a life before the virus. The twitch of an eye. A stare into space. The splinter of a fragment of a stab of a broken memory.

This is not a solitary life. Creatures gather together, swelling and swarming, driven by a collective urge to hunt and bite and rip and tear, boosting the ever-growing ranks. Swarmlike in their tendencies, they move like clouds of angry insects, their numbers forever swelling as they congregate and consume and then congregate once more. The habits of the infected are one and the same, restless and repeating, spreading, never-ending, only onwards towards the only goal, infection.

The viros look like anybody and everybody. They look like you and me. They are fully clothed. They are naked. They are ripped and ragged. Clean. Dirty. Filthy. Smeared with blood, especially around the mouth. The virus causes multiple physical reactions in its victims and this creates a wide range of possibilities for their portrayal. Aside from the blood smears, there are some common characteristics; twitches and other facial tics; a vocal range from roars to whispers to sighs and screams, all of which combine to create the chorus of some kind of horrific choir.

 Reviews

The VIRO series has been very well received and here is a sample of reviews:

‘I absolutely loved this book. Powerful and poignant, ‘Viro’ packs a punch. Sad and haunting, ‘Viro’ is a new take on the zombie genre. The characters are dynamic and interesting, finding strength despite their horrifying circumstances. Jake is a character that will stick with you long after the final page. The action sequences are thrilling. I was on the edge of my seat!’

‘The writing style is beautifully compelling, and after the first couple of pages I couldn’t put it down. The author very skilfully creates a world and characters through deceptively simple prose that draws the reader right in. It is a fascinating blend of one-after-the-other edge-of-the seat scares, alongside a haunting narrative about what it is to be human.’

‘A fascinating premise drives the narrative in VIRO. How would a zombie apocalypse unfold behind the eyes of a child? Jake, the central protagonist, embarks on a simple quest. He wants to reunite with his mom who has not returned home from work. From there, the reader sees the terrors of an increasing zombie infestation as Jake unites with Ellis, Abe and Amber on his journey to find her.’

VIRO does a good job of capturing the voice of an older child reacting to the horrors unfolding around him. His thoughts and actions are simple and emotional and age appropriate. The developing friendships and relationships between the children drive the story. You get a clear sense of each character and become emotionally invested in them and their journey.’

‘This book takes the zombie story in a different direction and that’s refreshing. It is much more unsettling to see children deal with the horrors of a zombie apocalypse than adults.’

This book grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It’s fast paced and superbly thrilling! The narrative is poignant and heart-breaking as Jake’s unique voice draws you in. Highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys zombie stories. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Jake and the gang!’

‘Dark, twisted and disturbing… I can’t recommend it enough!’

This series is incredible. The action grabs you buy the throat and doesn’t let go. Stays with you long after the final, thrilling moments.’

What’s the future for the VIRO series?

What’s the future for the VIRO series? Firstly, a new revised version of all four books in the series is currently in development. Secondly, Book Five is looming on the horizon and I hope to have more news about that very soon. Thirdly, I am currently working on converting VIRO into a television screenplay, complete with a series bible and a working script.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 50 ‘a merely malevolent whim’

An old man wearing a ragged tweed suit and broken brogues stands at the side of Front Square. He has stood here every day for as long as anyone can remember. When Trinity College teemed with tourists this old man and his daily vigil was a noteworthy addition to the guided tour of the grounds. Now that the College, like the city, the country, and the world, is about to be finally destroyed this old man is no longer remarkable, is no longer anything. He is just someone else about to die like everyone else.

Since the very beginning it has always been considered that the most likely cause of the final downfall of the human race will be plague or flood or pestilence or virus or war or blast or heat or a final collision with a passing heavenly body. This is the sensible and serious narrative that has caused the world to always be wholly concerned with its own destruction.

The world could never have known that its absolute end would come about as the simple expression of a merely malevolent whim.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 49 ‘the chaos and the screaming’

Amidst the chaos and the screaming and the suffering and the hatred and the horror and the hopelessness and the gunfire and the pleading and the taunting and the sheer futility of it all, a small child works alone in Front Square. A small child with a broken nose who works all day, using a household hammer to smash bricks until her arm burns and she cannot lift it any more. Spent and close to collapse, this small child then falls asleep near where I am laying. No one pays her any mind.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 48 ‘even in the darkest darkness’

And yet existence can live alongside the very destruction of the same and though the notion of life here is clearly finite in its duration it is the same life that resolves to sing as the firing squad takes aim or signal eternal defiance with a shout from the scaffold and until there is no-one left to hear the song or hear the shout then there is always the hope that even songs and shouting might actually signal something more than simple silent resignation.

And even in the darkest darkness ever to have descended from way beyond on-high there are still voices to be heard. They may be single. They may be strangled. They may be shortened. But they are voices all the same.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 47 ‘an invisible ink’

The evil of the NotBeSpeak would make great art, were both things possible of existing in the same space. Which, of course, in this instance, they are not.

New and dizzying depictions of Hell and human suffering to be captured with oil and gauche and mechanical reproduction.

Images capturing earthly contortions and the agony of existence with a clarity and ferocity not witnessed since the Renaissance.

But much like an invisible ink designed to disappear during the very act of writing, any recording is doomed and must likely die in the same second that it is born.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 46 ‘coffee, committee and conversation’

None of this is to suggest or even suppose that the evil of the NotBeSpeak is founded on coffee, committee and conversation. This evil is very different altogether.

It is of the random.

The indifferent.

The deliberate.

Mechanical.

And other words now.

Cold.

Impassive.

Indurated.

Wholly detached from reason and emotion and therefore alive in the heart of other words.

Unfathomable.

Bottomless.

Abysmal.

Illimitable.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 45 ‘What claim the Earth over any other?’

Alternatively, these explorers might just leave this planet and cross it off as ‘dead’ on their maps and never wonder how Humanity lost its light. After all, the universe is scattered with countless stars all vying for the attention of anyone capable of exploring them.

So in this way, why should the Earth be any more privileged than any other dead rock floating in the endless void?

Imagine a list complied somewhere and then put before a committee and each item on the list was a planet being considered for further investigation.

What claim the Earth over any other?

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 44 ‘each single set of bones’

When these same explorers broaden their archaeological investigations further from their landing site, they will probably be perplexed by the layers and layers of intertwined skeletons they will find surrounding every half-buried ruin for miles around. Skeletons that will likely take decades to separate so that the story of each single set of bones might be better understood.

Perhaps one of these skeletons will find itself painstakingly rebuilt one day in some distant museum somewhere and maybe the NotBeSpeak might somehow become aware of this rebuilding and be momentarily amused by the wondrous possibility that this very skeleton now on display might once have belonged to one of the humans charged with the destruction of a museum full of skeletons so lovingly rebuilt and displayed previously before they initiated Terminal Transit?

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 43 ‘The simple song of the NotBeSpeak’

Once the pride of the city, Stephens Green Shopping Centre is now a festering pile of broken glass and looted shops. Pulled to the ground by a frenzied mob while shots were fired over their heads and water cannons set upon them, this site of civic consumerism now resembles a Renaissance painting depicting Hell in all its profane glory.

In millennia to come when brave explorers from another solar system land upon a non-responsive planet and start to look around they will find the Shopping Centre long-buried and over-grown and perhaps marvel at the possibility that a significant battle was fought at such an important-looking archaeological site.

The simple song of the NotBeSpeak is not something they will likely ever hear.