Book Blogger Appreciation Week

14 September, 2011

I’m not fully participating in this year’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week only because I’ve had a more hectic summer than anticipated and will be flying out to Munich for Oktoberfest tonight. Yeah, life is tough when you are having fun, but it’s exhausting now that I’m in my mid-thirties and take a week to recover after a night out. However, it’s been lovely seeing everyone else’s posts on the book blogging community and the interview swaps popping up everywhere, so I’ve decided to sneak in a post.^^

ON BLOGGING & GENERAL FUN-ISHNESS
The thing that surprised me the most about this blogging business is how much FUN it is. Writing posts is fun, making friends is fun and meeting up with like-minded bookish souls is fun.

Of course it’s sometimes difficult to combine working, reading and blogging with a social life so I made a decision early on that I’ll post when I feel like it and that I won’t feel bad if I don’t. It’s been pretty regular which has surprised me somewhat. But then I need to write down my thoughts about a book I’ve just finished almost immediately otherwise I tend to forget as I don’t take notes. One of my missions was to start taking notes in lovely little notebooks but that hasn’t happened yet (oops).

ON READING BLOGS & COMMENTING
Likewise, I try to read and comment on my favourite blogs, but it’s pretty time consuming so I do it when I can, although not as much as I’d like to. Book bloggers are kind and generous and understand that sometimes life gets in the way. One of the pleasures about reading blogs is the diversity in content and style. I always come away wanting to polish my posts a little more. I don’t tend to participate much in blogging dramas as I have enough in my own life, but sometimes the web can inflate insecurities when there is absolutely no cause. I am always SO impressed at how much time, effort and passion goes into everyone’s blog and what makes them different is the best thing about them.

ON READING & THE EVERGROWING TBR
Since I started blogging, my TBR pile has grown catastrophically and the only reason I’m not imposing a book buying ban is that I know I’ll fall at the first bookshop. I have NO willpower. Sometimes it can get a little overwhelming with all the books I want to read and I get a little panicky when I look at my book corner which is slowly taking over my room. But it’s what I love. So I tell myself I’ll read more on a whim and see where my reading takes me. That’s one of the things I miss when I request and accept review copies. So maybe I’ll follow a more natural route next year. But it’s so difficult to resist new and shiny books that everyone’s talking about, isn’t it?

ON REVIEWS, DISCUSSION & SPOILERS
Lately I’ve been thinking more about the depth of the reviews I write. I often have to restrain myself from discussing the books in detail so that I can avoid spoilers. This often leaves me with a feeling that I’m only regurgitating the synopsis of the book rather than thrashing out the points I want to discuss. I enjoy reading reviews that do discuss books in depth, and will happily bookmark and come back to them once I finish reading a book. Yet, I don’t like reading spoilers. Maybe I can put a big spoiler warning and discuss to my heart’s content. So, where do you sit on this issue? Is it something that bothers you?

Happy BBAW everyone!

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BBAW: Looking to the Future

17 September, 2010

Today’s the last day of BBAW and it’s been blast! I can’t believe how well-organised it is and I’m sure the organisers spent a lot of time fine-tuning the event so that it proceeded without a hitch. I’ve found lots of new and wonderful book blogs which is exciting for me but very dangerous for my TBR pile. I enjoyed sharing the books I love and learning more about bloggers I follow as well as those new to me. It’s been great to see how much people care about books and their blogs^^

So, thinking ahead, I think there are a couple of things I’m hoping to do in the coming year and that’s to try and engage more in the blogging world while simultaneously cutting down on my challenges so that I can read a little more freely, to manage my time a little more efficiently, especially keeping up with my blog reader (it’s currently spiraling out of control as we speak), but also to stay chilled. Participating in BBAW reminded me how fun blogging is and also that we all blog for different reasons and that it’s a really good thing that we all have different tastes. I read other blogs not just to see what others think of books I’ve read as well as to find new books that I might not otherwise pick up. So yay for variety and differing tastes!

I’m also hoping to read more American fiction in the coming year plus finally attempt Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And let’s not forget my perrenial challenge to read more books from my TBR pile. Wish me luck!

Do you have any blogging goals for the coming year? Or are you so chilled out you don’t need them and prefer to go with the flow?

BBAW: Forgotten Treasures

16 September, 2010

This is a toughie. For the fourth day of BBAW, we’re asked to highlight a book or author that we feel has been neglected for too long. I’ve been racking my brains and checking my shelves and I’ve finally settled on the following mainly because I haven’t really come across them in the blogs I read.

I first came across Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale when I stumbled upon the third volume in this series of four books (Montmorency and the Assassins: Master, Criminal, Spy?) by chance in a charity bookshop and bought it for the title and the cover art. It looked beautiful and who can resist the name Montmorency? I read it in one sitting and immediately had to get the others (there’s also Montmorency on the Rocks: Doctor, Aristocrat, Murderer? and Montmorency’s Revenge). Although it’s aimed at older children, the Victorian setting, the dark themes and dealings with criminal elements all make this an enjoyable read for adults too. Montmorency is a master criminal, a wealthy gentleman during the day and a thief at night. It’s a wonderful series of books dealing with love, loss, friendship, honour and vocation set during a period of change and turmoil and I’m REALLY upset that there are no plans for a fifth book.

Since I’ve been mentioning more than one book for each task I might as well carry on, right? Another book I would love more people to read is The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. In the sff world, Lynch’s name is pretty big considering he’s only published two books and a third is hopefully coming out next year. If you’re not a big reader of fantasy, this might be a good introduction to the genre because although it is set in another world with lots of strange names, the plot is intricate, fast paced and thrilling. Lynch’s world building is truly marvelous and beautiful. I guarantee that you will be stunned by the quality of his prose and will fall in love with his characters. Locke Lamora is a conman and we follow his travails as he and his friends try to get one over the rich and powerful. This is the first in a seven book sequence titled The Gentlemen Bastards and I cannot wait to read the rest.

And finally, I want more people to read A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam, a debut novel about the war of secession and the birth of Bangladesh. I read this book almost two years ago but it still retains a strong emotional impact on me, not only because it was a subject I didn’t know much about, but for Anam’s beautiful prose. It’s not over-sentimental but neither does it shirk the horrors of war. This book will stun you. And I’m looking forward to reading more by Anam.

BBAW: Unexpected treasures

15 September, 2010

Book blogs are wonderful sources of books and there are many titles I have come across that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Today’s topic for BBAW is a book or genre that we wouldn’t have tried without our interest being piqued by another blog. As I’ve been reading books for many, many years, I’ve found that certain genres work for me and others not so much although I’m pretty open to trying. I normally read books that are mysteries, fantasy, historical fiction, especially those set in the medieval or interwar years and contemporary literary fiction plus a few classics and non-fiction thrown in.

Although I’m interested in women’s fiction, I haven’t really read many books in that genre (although I’m a bit ambivalent to the term ‘women’s fiction’ as a genre as it seems to denote something separate from normal fiction which I take issue with), it was only through the book blogging world that I came across the books published by Persephone Books. I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the green-spined Virago Modern Classics but Persephone Books was something new for me (even though they’ve been around for 10 years. It’s a wonderful publishing house that has re-discovered neglected works by female authors, what some would term ‘domestic fiction’ that chronicles the lives of women in a domestic setting. Persephone Reading Week is hosted in May by Paperback Reader and The B Files.

So far I’ve only completed one book Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The War time stories of Mollie Panter-Downes for this year’s Persephone Reading Week but am in the middle of Nicola Beauman’s A Very Great Profession: The Woman’s Novel 1914-1939 which I’m enjoying very slowly. Beauman is the founder of Persephone Books and A Very Great Profession is a treasure trove of titles which isn’t very healthy for my TBR pile. I would recommend anyone interested in the social history of the early twentieth century and the interwar years to give it a try.

I also came across the Women Unbound Challenge co-hosted by Aarti of Booklust, Care of Care’s Online Book Club and Eva of A Striped Armchair. All three have wonderfully well thought out blogs where they really get to grips with lots of interesting issues raised by the books they read and I recommend that you check them all out. The challenge really made me think about issues that women face and the state of feminism in the 21st century. It also made me finally take up the books that I’ve been meaning to read for years but never actually got around to, both fiction and non-fiction, such as To Live and to Write: Selections by Japanese Women Writers 1913-1938 edited by Yukiko Tanaka and Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

So although I’ve still got some way to go before completing the challenge, I’d say that both the Women Unbound Challenge and the Persephone Reading Week have made me focus a lot more on issues of feminism and the role of women in literature.

And I just have to sneak in The Samurai by Shusaku Endo which I really enjoyed and was impressed with despite me thinking it would be a rather dry and difficult read. Endo’s most famous book Silence delighted many bloggers participating in Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge and also by Tanabata who blogs at In Spring It Is The Dawn and although I didn’t manage to get my hands on it, I found The Samurai instead. Most of the Japanese books I read are contemporary or set in the early 20th century but Endo’s book about a 17th century samurai struggling with his heritage and the encroachment of Christianity is historical fiction at its best: passionate, thoughtful and full of soul.

These are just a handful of books I’ve discovered which have enriched my reading experience. What about you?

It’s the second day of BBAW which means Interview Swap! I swapped questions with lovely Julie from Booking Mama who has a wonderfully eclectic book blog and hosts Kid Konnection where bloggers can share posts about children’s literature every Saturday. As well as participating in a wide range of challenges, Julie also hosts a number of them which you can read about below.

I set some tough questions for Julie, but she answered them with aplomb. Enjoy!

1) You’ve been blogging for 2 1/2 years. How do you keep yourself motivated to blog regularly? Do you ever experience periods of self doubt and blog fatigue as happens to quite a few bloggers?

Great question! I don’t really have a problem keeping myself motivated to blog regularly — I just love it and I never seem to have a problem with running out of content. Plus, I love the feedback from fellow bloggers and followers. I admit that there are days when I don’t always feel like writing reviews, so when I’m in the mood, I try to write a few at a time. I’m pretty good at scheduling my posts a few days (and sometimes weeks) out so I’m not sure that my ‘daily’ posts accurately reflect my attention to my blog.

I tell myself that other bloggers also experience blog fatigue to make myself feel better! But all joking aside, I do experience lots of periods of self doubt. Often times, I feel like my reviews aren’t as fresh and original as I’d like them to be. And there are days when I definitely wonder what business I have writing book reviews. However, I’ve learned that my negative feelings almost always pass within a day or so!

2) You like to participate in challenges (as do I). Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Any particular challenges you would like to recommend?

Well…I used to get overwhelmed from my failure to complete challenges — not the challenges themselves. But then one day, I realized that all of the pressure is self-imposed. I mean….what’s the worst thing that is going to happen if I don’t complete a challenge? I finally decided that I will join challenges to have fun and I will do my best, but no worries if I totally fail!

As far as challenges go, I’m a little biased towards the ones that I host! I just finished the 2010 Entertainment Weekly Summer Books Challenge and I’m hoping to make this one an annual event. Another challenge that I host with Bermuda Onion is the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge. I also really enjoyed participating in the Debutante Ball Challenge. And within the next month or so, I will be bringing back the Shelf Discovery Challenge based on the book by Lizzie Skurnick.

3) Blogging with integrity. Like many bloggers, I struggle to write negative reviews if I don’t like a book as I know how much work has gone into its creation. How do you cope with writing negative reviews (if you do come across a book that you didn’t like)?

I love this question! One thing I’ve found through the years is that I’ve gotten better at picking books that I think I’m going to enjoy. When I decided to read more literary books, rather than just best-sellers, I found that I ended up not only more satisfied with my reading experiences, but that I also wrote more positive reviews. I also truly believe that every book has something of value or someone who would appreciate it. I might admit that I wasn’t the ideal audience for this book, but I always try to include in my review someone who might enjoy it.

4) What are your top 3 books you’ve read this year?

Ugh! I’m so not good at questions like this. I don’t know if I can list just three because I’ll be leaving out some good ones, but here goes nothing:

RUSSIAN WINTER by Daphne Kalotay

A FIERCE RADIANCE by Lauren Belfer

DIAMOND RUBY by Joe Wallace

While I definitely loved these books, I’m sure I could come up with an entirely different list depending on the day.

5) What are your reading plans for next year?

I don’t know that I have any specific plans. I have quite a few ARCs that I picked up at BEA that I’m looking forward to reading. I also tell myself that I’m going to read more for pleasure (and less because I agreed to specific review dates), but we’ll see how that goes. I always seem to start the year with that ‘resolution’ and it hasn’t worked yet!

Thanks so much for having me at Chasing Bawa! I had a great time answering your questions!

Thank you Julie for some great answers. I especially appreciate her thoughtful answer regarding negative reviews which I’m sure many of us bloggers struggle with. And if you’d like to see what questions she put to me, click here. So what are you doing? Go and check out her blog pronto!

Since this is my first BBAW, I thought I’d talk about the blog that got me blogging^^

I spent about a year discovering, reading and following blogs before I built up the courage to start one of my own. Out of the many wonderful blogs out there, one blog that I kept coming back to was A Work in Progress. Danielle’s blog is gentle, informative and packed full of information about books that I was interested in and reminds me slightly of a bluestocking: erudite, enquiring, stylish and with a hint of crime. It was uncanny how many books I found on her blog that I wanted to read (not to mention the effect on my TBR pile!) Apart from her interest in interwar literature, British literature and mysteries, Danielle also regularly her travails with owning, buying and borrowing too many books which many of us can relate to. And when I started blogging, she was the first blogger that added me to her blogroll. For a rookie, that was a big and warm hug. Her generosity and warmth took me by surprise and I was genuinely touched. I’m sure she does this for everyone and I give her inclusive policy a big shiny 5 stars! So although I’m sure most of you are probably aware of Danielle’s fabulous blog, do go and visit her because her posts are amazing: informative, erudite and her discussions are always thoughtful. And she always shares her library finds with us!

I’m going to cheat and add one more blog that vastly improved and enriched my blogging experience and that’s Dolce Bellezza. Bellezza hosts the Japanese Literature Challenge every years (the 4th one is already in full swing). This is the first challenge I joined when I started blogging and I was surprised at how warm and welcoming Bellezza and all the other participants were. I’ve always been interested in reading Japanese literature as I’m half Japanese but they were sporadic at best. So the JLC was a good place where I could indulge my taste in Japanese literature every year, find titles I may not have come across before plus also discuss Japanese culture to my heart’s content. Wonderful challenge and wonderful blog, so check it out!

is coming soon in September. If you want to participate, register here by July 7th 2010.

I missed last year’s as I had just started blogging and didn’t realise what a huge community this was, but it seemed like a week of fun getting to know other bloggers and immersing yourself in the book blogging world. I’m not nominating myself for any awards (‘coz I’m shy like that) but it’s nice to be acknowledged for all the work we do for the love of books!