BBAW 2011: Readers

Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!

Oh, wow, that’s a lot of prompts. I suppose I’ll go with book acquisition habits, since I’ve talked about how book blogging changed the way I read last year for my anniversary, which is at the end of this month.

Book blogging has made me both pickier about how I acquire books and more omnivorous. Because you rarely know if you’re going to love a book, I usually purchase books from thrift stores; my love for mass market paperbacks, especially old, yellow ones, makes that all the sweeter. I love coming back to my home town after a long time away and sifting through the thrift stores. That’s how I got my copies of A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, which are wonderfully dated. If only I could make the entire series match in paperback! But that’s another topic for another time. But even then, I’m pretty picky, mostly because a dollar can go towards part of another costume piece if I don’t spend it on a book. (My life, ladies and gents, my life.)

But it’s also made me incredibly bolder when it comes to libraries. I’m not shy about the fact that I’m occasionally the reason books don’t get shelved at the library; that’s how I picked up Hard Times by Studs Terkel, which I’d never heard of before and would have never picked up in a million years, but I’m incredibly glad I took it home and read it. I can take books home and return them without reading them without feeling guilty at all. The three libraries I have access to in Georgia have incredible selection. I never tire of finding a book that has only one copy in the public library in the entire state of Georgia, and then putting it on hold. The sheer access I have, all with a free library card! It boggles my mind that some people who profess to love books don’t even think about using their local libraries. I recently cancelled my Netflix subscription, and I’ve been relying on public libraries for films ever since. It’s been working out great. Give your local library a shot, or at the very least support it. (Oh, there’s an idea for a community fundraiser! Hmm…)

BBAW 2011: Community Part II

The world of book blogging has grown enormously and sometimes it can be hard to find a place. Share your tips for finding and keeping community in book blogging despite the hectic demands made on your time and the overwhelming number of blogs out there. If you’re struggling with finding a community, share your concerns and explain what you’re looking for–this is the week to connect!

I think maintaining community in the world of book blogging comes down to one thing—participation. I only follow book blogs that I actively read, and I do my best to add meaningful comments to posts. “I read this book too!” comments are nice and all, but discussion—the lifeblood of bookish communities—doesn’t grow from that. (Oh, man, did I ever tell y’all about the time I was talking about Malinda Lo’s Ash in class, making a point about the nebulous and marketing-based divide between young adult fiction and adult fiction, and a girl just went “Oh, I read that book!” very loudly—to me—while I was talking to the entire class? That’s not discussion, that’s an interruption.) Personally, I use co.mments to track responses to my comments, wherever I leave them, which allows me to pick up the discussion more. And discussion makes the world go round, builds better relationships between people, so on and so forth. I also recommend Twitter, if you don’t already use it, to talk with your fellow book bloggers—I know Cass makes me crack up on a nearly weekly basis when we have conversations.

But I will admit that I would love to meet and follow more book bloggers that come from fandom. (Incidentally, They Came from Fandom is my next science fiction film.) I try and keep my fandom life and real life very separate, so I never have to worry about what I say, but being a fan is still a very large part of who I am and fandom was what first trained me to look critically at texts, especially back during the first wave of Harry Potter fandom. The fannish view towards texts encourages interacting with, criticizing, and even changing the text, even as you love the text; after the release of 2009’s Star Trek, fanfiction and other fan media began cropping up examining the true consequences of a supposedly diverse world where white American men are still mostly in power or at least the most visible. The Book Smugglers approached this sort of viewpoint when reviewing Sisters Red, whose abominable victim-blaming I used in a paper last year. Obviously, thinking critically about texts is common (or should be common!) among book bloggers, but I would really love to meet some more fellow fannish book bloggers.

BBAW 2011: Community

Wow. Just like last year, Book Blogger Appreciation Week blindsides me (I did this last week, while shaking my head at the fact A Discovery of Witches made it onto a short list for anything. A Discovery of Witches, people! I thought we were better than that) and rescues me from the last few reviews in the buffer I built up over the summer. I’m getting the feeling that this is going to be an annual thing… anyway, this year’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week is focused on the community of book blogging, so let’s get started.

While the awards are a fun part of BBAW, they can never accurately represent the depth and breadth of diversity in the book blogging community. Today you are encouraged to highlight a couple of bloggers that have made book blogging a unique experience for you. They can be your mentors, a blogger that encouraged you to try a different kind of book, opened your eyes to a new issue, made you laugh when you needed it, or left the first comment you ever got on your blog. Stay positive and give back to the people who make the community work for you!

Oh, man, you can imagine what fear a question like this strikes into the heart of me. I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to organization, including book blogs I follow—you see that blog roll over there? Those are blogs I’m excited to read every morning. But because of that, I feel like I can’t have a list without leaving off someone I really, really do like! But there is a compromise, and it’s featuring one book blogger, because the implication is that next year I’ll feature someone else I love to pieces, which I will! I get to focus on one person and give them all the attention they deserve. See? It’s a win-win scenario.

So this year, I’m featuring Fyrefly’s Book Blog, which was one of the first blogs I followed back in the day and remains a delight to read. (Two years ago. Man, that feels like forever ago!)

Simplicity is a huge thing for me, and simple is a great way to describe Nicki’s particular neck of the woods. The layout is straight-forward and soothing, she only does memes she cares about, and it’s easy to navigate. (You’d think this would be the least I could ask of a book blog, but you’d be surprised.) This places the focus on her content, and that’s where Nicki shines.

Like me, Nicki is an enormously eclectic reader—unlike me, she is also a biologist. Most of the bloggers I follow in the book blogosphere are writers, librarians (or aspiring librarians), or working in the publishing industry. You know, humanities people. Nicki’s background as a biologist gives her writing and general outlook on books a different flare; when reading popular science books, she’s happy to point out the holes in their thinking (if they’ve any, of course) with the authority invested in her as a scientist. It’s great to see someone take that knowledge to everything, not just nonfiction.

She’s also remarkably adept at making things both succinct and deep. I usually don’t care for short reviews; I make sure my own run between seven hundred and a thousand words, because I feel that’s enough to cover what I want to cover without boring the reader. But Nicki starts off every review with a haiku—often hilarious—and covers a lot of ground in short order. Not that she can’t also write a fabulous long review. She makes reread reviews into something beyond just another review by revisiting her original review and seeing how the two reading experiences differ, such as her reread of A Song of Ice and Fire.

On top of everything else, she ends every year with a fancy spreadsheet full of statistics about her reading for the year, which I think is just fantastic. And she’s also the creator of the Book Blogger Search Engine, which makes it easy for anyone to find book blogger reviews of books and, personally, makes writing my Literary Horizon posts every week much, much easier.

In short, go follow her blog now.

Review: Tigana

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Well, this is it—the last update for Memory’s Tigana Read-Along. I’ve really enjoyed slowing down and looking at the text semi-academically; it’s helped me get more out of the text than, perhaps, I would have on my own, considering my last experience with Kay, The Summer Tree. (I enjoyed it, but I could definitely tell Kay is a devotee of Tolkien.) I was always going to give Kay another shot, and I’m quite glad I ultimately did with Tigana; I’ll be definitely be reading more. (But maybe just not The Fionavar Tapestry.)

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Challenge: Tigana Read-Along Part #5—The Memory of a Flame

She was no longer herself, she thought. No longer Dianora, or not only Dianora. She was merging further into legend with every step she took. (547)

It’s time for my last bimonthly update for the Tigana Read-Along, hosted by the wonderful Memory of Stella Matutina. If you’re interested, we’ve already posted about “A Blade in the Soul“, “Dianora“, “Ember to Ember“, and “The Price of Blood“. There’s one more update scheduled, but I’ll be putting up my review of the book then. Naturally, spoilers abound.

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Challenge: Tigana Read-Along #4—The Price of Blood

She looked over at Scelto. Their eyes met. For a fleeting moment she was sorely tempted to confide in him, to make an ally of a friend. What could she say, though? How explain in the middle of a dawn corridor the dark night and the train of years that had led her here? (400)

It’s time for our bimonthly update for the Tigana Read-Along, hosted by the wonderful Memory of Stella Matutina. If you’re interested, we’ve already posted about “A Blade in the Soul“, “Dianora“, and “Ember to Ember“. Naturally, spoilers abound.

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Challenge: Tigana Read-Along, Part #2—Dianora

Of course she knew why Brandin needed to stay here in the Palm, why he needed to use his sorcery to prolong his life here in what was surely a place of exile for him in a hand of grief.

He had to wait for everyone born in Tigana to die. (166)

And with this post, I ought to be all caught up! I’ll be able to finish up Tigana this week and write up these posts at my leisure, along with the review at the end. I’m so glad—I’ll be able to fully participate now. Yay for a bimonthly read-along schedule! Let’s dig into the second part of Tigana, “Dianora”. Spoilers abound!

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Challenge: Tigana Read-Along, Part #1—A Blade in the Soul

“I only spoke a prayer of my own.” Alessan’s voice was careful and very clear. “I always do. I said: Tigana, let my memory of you be like a blade in my soul.” (133)

This is me playing catch-up. You see, I was under the impression that the Tigana read-along, hosted by Memory over at Stella Matutina, began on February 28th, not February 23th. Oops. In any case, the book was checked out at the library and I had to wait until March 3rd to get my hands on a library copy. (Which for some reason doesn’t have a copyright page… hmm…) But I’ve just missed one scheduled posting, so I’m going to throw this and Part #2 up today as I dive right in. Spoilers for the novel abound, my friends, so if you haven’t read Tigana or you’re not playing along at home, I’d skip it. That said, let’s dig in.

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Challenge: Narnia Week, Day 6

Status Report:

  • Book: A severely used copy of the 2001 The Chronicles of Narnia omnibus by HarperCollins. The front cover curls up delightfully.
  • Books Read: 7/7
  • Pages Read: 767/767
  • Progress: 

And that’s Narnia Week, folks! I finished up The Horse and his Boy yesterday afternoon after class and promptly perused through its various TVTropes pages (kiss your productivity good-bye!). It was a mild and pleasant surprise. I’d never thought I would say this, but I’m all burnt out on fantasy at the moment, guys. I leaped into Narnia Week after finishing up a nostalgic reread of Firebirds–and there’s a reason my one rule (the, uh, other two fell to the wayside–I’m not a poet and sometimes you just gotta grab a book!) is that I can’t read the same genre twice in a row. This burnout is that very reason. Of course, I’ll bounce back fairly quickly–I am, after all, the girl who will continue to eat Shocktarts well past the point I’m just injuring myself. But I am looking forward for a refreshing and restoring dip in the nonfiction waters with David Grann’s The Lost City of Z.

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