Monthly Archives: February 2016

BBAW Day 5: Keeping It Fresh!

We’ll be taking a few days off from reviews here to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by the lovely people over at The Estella Society.

Book Blogger Appreciation 2016 Day FiveHow does a blogger keep things fresh and avoid burnout? I think if there was a single solid answer to that question, the person who found it could make a fortune. The reality is that there is no single formula, and what works for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else.

For me, it’s about finding a rhythm. When I first started blogging, I did a couple of reviews per week, and that was it. That was my goal and that’s what the blog was about. As I started to become more comfortable with the routine, I pushed myself to try to have a post every day. Having some of those be reviews and some of them be commentary pieces proved to be too much at that point, and I almost reached a point where I stopped completely.

Not wanting to give up easily, however, I took a step back and tried to look at where the challenges were. I determined that I took too many leaps forward without giving myself time to get used to a new schedule. I decided at that point to stick with daily (or as close to daily as possible) posts, but to continue focusing on reviews. I put the commentary pieces on the shelf until I could get more comfortable with the productivity required just to accomplish daily posting of material–and that’s worked well since then.

Participation in this week has reminded me that I never did bring the idea of periodic blog posts on book-related topics back to the blog. The daily reviews routine has worked so well for me that I was fine remaining in that new comfort zone. And while I wouldn’t call it a rut, it certainly isn’t providing me with the challenges that come with producing more original content.

So, I’ve been inspired. And next week, I’ll be launching a weekly series of brief (no promises!) commentary pieces on book-related topics. Look for that to start on Thursday. (I’ve brainstormed over two months of ideas, so be prepared!)

BBAW Day 4: Community Connection

We’ll be taking a few days off from reviews here to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by the lovely people over at The Estella Society.

Book Blogger Appreciation 2016 Day FourToday’s prompt asks bloggers to look at how they stay connected to the community. And when I think about that, my head definitely starts spinning.

Personally, I would say the way I stay most closely connected to books and readers is Goodreads. Not only do I keep track of my own to-be-read lists, ratings, and reviews there, I also engage with a number of readers with similar (and sometimes differing) tastes. I’m also active in a few groups that offer reading challenges (a great motivator!) and recommendations (awesome for discovery of new books)!

I also have a number of people I engage with (authors, publishers, and readers) on my personal Twitter account. Recently, I started blog-specific Twitter account so that my posts here don’t get lost in some of the other “noise” of my regular, non-book-related tweeting.

One of the reasons I decided to participate in this event this year is to take the opportunity to connect more with other bloggers specifically, as I think that’s one area where I could do more–and would certainly benefit, as well. Unfortunately, this week has turned out to be one of the busiest weeks in recent memory for me, so I’m not able to engage as much as the posting is happening. But I definitely plan to go back and look through all of the collected links once life slows down just a bit…

BBAW Day 3: Blame a Blogger!

We’ll be taking a few days off from reviews here to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by the lovely people over at The Estella Society.

Book Blogger Appreciation 2016 Day Three

Today the focus is on something that has been recommended by another blogger. And I’ve been trying to pinpoint specific books I’ve read that I could say are the fault of specific bloggers, but I find myself struggling. Many times, I see reviews by bloggers that support books that are already on my to-be-read list, so it just helps move them up on the list. But then I don’t always remember who said what.

But there is one thing I can share that I found as a result of mentions from another blogger (though, again, the specific blog escapes me at the moment): Blogging for Books. Blogging for Books is a book request service for bloggers from Random House Publishing. What makes them a bit different than sites like NetGalley is that a) they offer both print and e-books and b) any books you can see on your list, you’re eligible to request. They only allow you to have one book at a time, but once you post a review, you can request the next book immediately.

It’s through Blogging for Books that I’ve discovered some real gems: City of Stairs (and subsequently City of Blades), The Martian, The Girl in the Road, The Gracekeepers, and The Library at Mount Char–just to name a few. They feature a wide range of titles including fiction from several genres and even nonfiction titles. While I’ve averaged one book a month from them since I first signed up for the service, it’s been a great addition to both my reading and blogging life.

So I figure why not pass it along to bloggers who might not be aware of it. It’s free to sign up, and I truly feel like there’s something for everyone.

BBAW Day 2: Interviews!

We’ll be taking a few days off from reviews here to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by the lovely people over at The Estella Society.

Book Blogger Appreciation 2016 Day TwoToday is one of the most exciting days of the event for me, as it provided the opportunity to meet and engage directly with another book blogger. I find that I always learn so much from how other people approach blogging, what motivates them to blog about books, and anything else they’re willing to share.

I had the wonderful fortune of visiting with Beth F. of Beth Fish Reads. Beth is a freelance editor, reviewer, and journalist whose blog includes reviews, guest posts, author interviews, and some other great content.

Me: You’ve been blogging for a number of years now. What strategies do you use to stay energized and keep your content fresh?

Beth: I work hard to come up with a variety of ways to talk about books. I get my ideas by paying attention to how I talk about books in other media and to my friends and family. That kind of thinking made me realize it’s okay to talk about a book I’m still reading and to feature books I’m looking forward to reading. Not everything has to be a formal review.

Me: I like the idea of taking different approaches to talking about books. I can certainly appreciate how it adds variety to your blog, while still keeping some consistency that followers can value. Speaking of looking at books in different ways: I notice you’ve reviewed a fair number of audiobooks. Do you find you approach thinking about and constructing a review differently for an audiobook than something you’ve read in print? How much consideration do you give to the narrator vs. the story itself in your overall opinion of the book?

Beth: Because I want to reach a wide audience, I tend to write my audiobook reviews in two sections: first the general book review and then a paragraph or so about the narrator and performance. There have been exceptions, of course, but that’s my general approach. That way print readers can skip the audiobook part, if they want.

It’s definitely true that the narrator can make or break a book, and when I feel the performance strongly influenced my reaction to the overall story, I make sure to say so. I think it’s important to name the narrator and to comment on his or her performance. Lately, I’ve also tried to remember to embed an audio sample right in my post so my readers can make up their own minds.

Me: I’ll definitely have to check out more of your audiobook reviews! Since I don’t get much time for audiobooks myself, I tend to shy away from some reviews for fear that they might not represent the experience of reading the book on paper. Breaking it up they way you described sounds like it’s helpful to both those who listen and those who read.

You note on your blog that you’re not only a reviewer, but also a freelance editor. How has that experience impacted your reviewing and blogging? How has running a book blog impacted your work as an editor?

Beth: I definitely read books with an editor’s eye (which is why audiobooks are my friends). I’m probably much less tolerant than the average reader in terms of plot holes, factual errors, grammatical errors, and writing style. When I read an ARC (advance reader copy), I have to remind myself that most of the problems will be caught before the book goes to press, but it’s still grating. Sometimes, however, I can’t stand it, and I’ve abandoned books (final copies even) because of poor editing. I don’t shy away from discussing editing issues when reviewing a book, but I also try to review from the general reader’s standpoint.

I don’t think my book blog has had an effect on my life as an editor. I’ve been a freelance for many more years than I’ve been a blogger, and I tend to keep those two parts of my life separate.

Me: I can definitely relate to looking at books with an editorial eye. I was thrust into proofreading myself after noticing the frequency with which I was catching glaring errors in the published books I was reading. I’m glad to hear that you’ve been able to find a balance between the two without one getting in the way of the other.

One other thing before we close. While your blog is primarily about books, that’s not all readers can find there. You also run Weekend Cooking, a weekly food-related feature, which encourages other bloggers to post about their own cooking-related adventures. What inspired you to launch that, and have you learned anything unexpected from the bloggers who participate?

Beth: When I first started blogging I thought about having a blog that was all about food and cooking and the books I listened to on audio while I cooked. Fortunately, I realized, even before I began, that I was more comfortable in the book world than in the food world. But because I love to cook and to read about food and cooking, I came up with the idea of Weekend Cooking. The number of people who participate has fluctuated over the years, but I enjoy writing the posts and—more important—I love reading everyone else’s posts.

Me: Well, it certainly doesn’t look like there’s a shortage of participants judging from the past few weeks. Thank you for taking the time to visit with me!

I encourage you to check out Beth Fish Reads for some great content. I consider myself a bit of a foodie, though I don’t get near enough time to cook at home as I would like, so I definitely know I’ll be keeping an eye on the Weekend Cooking posts going forward…

For more Book Blogger Appreciation Week interviews, check out the post over at The Estella Society.

 

 

BBAW Day 1: Introduce Yourself

We’ll be taking a few days off from reviews here to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by the lovely people over at The Estella Society.

Book Blogger Appreciation 2016 Day OneThe opening prompt is one that is simultaneously very simple and incredibly complex:

Day 1: Introduce yourself by telling us about five books that represent you as a person or your interests/lifestyle.

After a bit of thought, here’s what I came up with…

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

I credit the Harry Potter series as what got me back into recreational reading in college. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy stories, and this series hit all the marks for me while also being a very accessible and easy-to-follow epic fantasy story.

Greenwode by J. Tullos Hennig

I noted above that I enjoy a great fantasy story, but I’m also one who enjoys well-developed historical fiction. Greenwode offers up both, as an incredibly well-written re-telling of the Robin Hood legend. There are also some m/m romance overtones here, which checks off another element that interests me at the same time.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Many people read books for a chance to escape reality. They’re looking for stories that are filled with happy endings, minimal conflict, and sometimes things that could never happen in the real world. I definitely can appreciate that perspective and often like picking up those books myself. But I also appreciate books that confront the realities of living, that show people working through some of the many complex issues we face in life. Perks is a book that speaks to me on a number of different levels, and it does an excellent job of providing a lens for readers to look at life without presenting a fantastic or unbelievable story.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

Where do I even start here? I’ve been a fan of re-tellings of stories from the perspective of the stated antagonist since I first read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs in elementary school. These kinds of books serve as a great literary reminder that there are (at least) two sides to every story, and what readers see is often shaped by the perspective of the narrator or the protagonist. As someone who has been a fan of The Wizard of Oz since I was a young child, this book was one I was very interested in picking up. Also, I read this in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and the parallels between the way Elphaba was treated for daring to question a political leader and the “if you criticize the President, you’re as bad as the terrorists” rhetoric that was rampant in the US at the time, gave this book additional context for me that really stood out.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye is one of the few books I’ve read more than once (I have a hard time justifying reading a book again when I could read something new). I’ve read it twice for classes and once on my own. For me, this book represents the way people fear ideas, sometimes without solid justification. Having read this three times, I have a hard time understanding why some people feel so strongly this book should be banned. And from the few reasons for it that I do hear, the people advocating for banning the book haven’t even read it themselves. Which just points out how important it is for people to read, to learn, and to question, We shouldn’t just accept what people tell us is true. We should seek out information and experience things for ourselves, as much as possible, before we allow ourselves to form opinions on a subject or how the world works.

I look forward to sharing more with you all as we continue through the rest of the week!

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell

Witches of Lychford

Book Info

Title: Witches of Lychford
Author: Paul Cornell
Published: September 8, 2015
Pages: 144
Publisher: Tor.Com
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

The people of Lychford are divided over something that could change their little town forever: a major supermarket chain wants to open up a storefront. Emotions run high on both sides–those who see it was a step forward for Lychford and those who feel like it goes against everything their town has become. But Judith Mawson, seen by many as the village crackpot, knows the truth: the threat is much bigger than anyone realizes. In order to do anything about it, however, she’s going to need to enlist others. Enter Lizzie, the new vicar, still in mourning over a lost love, and Autumn, Lizzie’s former friend, an agnostic-turned-mystic. Not only will Lizzie and Autumn learn the truth about Lychford, they will also learn the truth about why they lost touch years ago. By uniting with Judith to save Lychford, they may just find the healing they both need at the same time.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this one up, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is a complex, engaging, and well-developed urban (can I really call it “urban,” though?) fantasy tale with some twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The backstory here is rich, and it’s revealed over the course of the story in an almost seamless way. I can safely say this is one of my Hugo nominations for this year.

Getting Him Back by K.A. Mitchell

Getting Him Back

Book Info

Title: Getting Him Back
Author: K.A. Mitchell
Published: February 15, 2016
Pages: 133
Publisher: Carina Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Ethan has been looking forward to moving to college to be reunited with his boyfriend, Blake, for year. Blake graduated high school a year before Ethan, so they’ve only been able to see each other on breaks. But this is their time. Until Ethan arrives on campus and Blake informs him he doesn’t want to be with him as his boyfriend anymore–but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to hook up from time to time. Ethan is initially devastated and wants nothing more to find out how he can get Blake back. He even goes so far as to engage with Blake’s roommate, Wyatt, under false pretenses to learn more about his newly-minted ex. But Wyatt has an intrigue all his own, which leads Ethan to think it might be easier to move on from Blake than he originally thought. Could Ethan really start something with his ex-boyfriend’s roommate? Is his time with Blake really in the past? And what is it that makes Wyatt keep pulling away from Ethan any time he tries to get close?

I’m not entirely sure where to start in describing this book except to say that I definitely enjoyed it. I feel like the author could have gone in so many different directions as this story played out, yet every avenue taken made for the perfect combination to bring this all together. The characters are great (even the ones hanging out in the background), and it’s not too difficult to get attached to them (or want to distance yourself as far as possible in the case of Blake). The writing expertly captures the confusion, frustration, longing, and excitement that the characters feel at various points in the story. And it all can make one really reflect on the nature of relationships and sometimes not getting what we want to instead get exactly what we need.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

A Serving of Love by Andrew Grey

Serving of Love

Book Info

Title: A Serving of Love (Of Love, Book 2)
Author: Andrew Grey
Published: May 23, 2011
Pages: 200
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Sebastian Franklin is the front of the house manager at Cafe Belgie and is looking forward to the challenge of running the restaurant while his boss is on vacation. But it’s just his luck that someone decides to rob the place the first night he’s in charge. Luck strikes twice, however, when the robber is thwarted by a customer who stumbles on his way into the restaurant. And the third time’s the charm when it turns out the customer, Robert Fortier, is tall, handsome, and possibly interested in Sebastian. They two spend time together and discover that their mutual attraction is quite strong. But there are some complications. For one, Sebastian’s ex-boyfriend, Gabriel, has resurfaced in his life. Although Gabriel hurt Sebastian greatly, he’s too kind-hearted to send Gabriel away when he’s in need. And then there’s the issue that Robert, recently elected as a judge, is just starting to come out. The fact that he wasn’t open about his sexuality before the election might become an issue to some people in their small town. But even with all of their troubles, Sebastian and Robert might be best suited to get through this if they try to do so together.

This was a nice little gem of a story. The relationship is quite complex, but it builds in a very realistic and engaging way. The side characters really round out the world in which Sebastian and Robert live, making for a complete and interesting plot. I’ve read the first book (and you don’t have to do so to enjoy this one, but I’d recommend it), and I’m really enjoying the crew of Cafe Belgie. There are two more, and they are on my to-read list!

Finding the Sky by A.M. Burns

Finding the Sky

Book Info

Title: Finding the Sky
Author: A.M. Burns
Published: February 11, 2016
Pages: 180
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Dillon Smith doesn’t live in the best part of Dallas. And he’s looking forward to the end of the school year, so he can spend the summer away from the gangs and the classmates who are pressuring him to join one. Even though he doesn’t have a lot of friends, a gang’s just not something he wants to be a part of. But when he stumbles into the gang’s activities, he finds himself being treated as guilty for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though he’s never been in trouble, his mother doesn’t believe him. Dillon’s uncle, Bryan, offers to take him for the summer, giving him the opportunity to spend time at Bryan’s house away from the city. Dillon isn’t jumping for joy at the prospect, but he gets along with his uncle and at least he won’t have to worry about any run-ins with the gang for the rest of the summer.

On the way to Bryan’s house, they come across an injured hawk along the side of the road. To Dillon’s surprise, Bryan suggests that they take the bird with him–his neighbors run a wildlife rehab, and their specialty just happens to be birds. This is just the start of Dillon’s journey and the whole new world of possibilities that opens up to him. Over the course of the summer, perhaps in having the space to do so for the first time, he discovers more about himself and about life than he ever could have imagined. And his fast friendship with the son of Bryan’s neighbors, Scott, proves to be a whole new experience all its own.

A coming-of-age story with some unique twists. Too many times those stories where young people question and come to terms with their sexuality are filled with pining and crushing over the hottest jock in school, harsh bullying, and overnight epiphanies accompanied with sudden confidence. While these are all realistic situations, it’s great to read a book that looks at different challenges that a young man in this situation might face. Dillon’s journey is one that definitely has its own challenges–and some of those are heartbreaking–but his story struck me as both fresh and authentic. A great LGBT YA title!

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Bound to Him by Ava March

Bound to Him

Book Info

Title: Bound to Him (Bound, Book 2)
Author: Ava March
Published: April 28, 2009
Pages: 100
Publisher: Loose Id
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Lord Vincent Prescot and Lord Oliver Marsden should be happy. Since they first connected in an intimate way six months ago, the heat hasn’t faded. And Vincent is doing rather well professionally, too. There’s one problem for Oliver, though. He doesn’t like the way Vincent ignores him in public. While he knows they can’t exactly scream their relationship from the rooftops, he doesn’t like the feeling that he’s being taken for granted. Oliver’s financial position pales in comparison to Vincent’s, and he is starting to feel more and more like he’s not just submitting to Vincent–it’s almost like Vincent sees him as inferior. And when Vincent’s father calls on him to marry a woman as part of his duty to the family, it looks like all hope of their relationship being saved. But since there was an unrequited want present between them for so long, can they really leave it all behind?

Such an interesting way to build from the first book. And I did enjoy getting to spend some time with Oliver and Vincent again–especially Oliver. The story is interesting, overall, and it certainly demonstrates many of the pressures that young men of status were under during the time period of the story.

I was slightly discomforted by some aspects of Oliver’s submissive behaviors. I felt very strongly like he was doing so because he felt he needed to do it to keep Vincent and not necessarily because he wanted to do it. The story resolves in a better place, but if this is something that might not sit well with you, just be warned before reading.