Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Books

Day 4: One of the best parts about book blogging is the exposure to books and authors you might never have heard of before. Pimp the book you think needs more recognition on this day.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
I didn’t have to think about this much at all. I’ve picked a book I still suggest to people straight away, and one that I frequently think about even though I read it over a year ago – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

I posted about Between Shades of Gray on my Tumblr over a year and a half ago. I’m not sure how I first discovered it, but I remember the cover stood out to me straight away (probably because it’s blue!) and then the blurb instantly captured my imagination. It’s such a powerful statement, and I felt a chill run down my spine. Even then, I had to tell other people about it.

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Luckily for me, shortly afterwards, I was offered it for review. I remember not wanting to get off the tube (i.e. the train), even though I was going to the London Book Fair for the first time, because I just wanted to keep reading. I, annoyingly, managed to damage it on the way home because I didn’t put the cap on my water bottle on properly and it got soaked! Ironically, it’s probably the reason I loaned it to my family – if it had been in pristine condition I’d have wanted to keep it that way!

Check out the hauntingly beautiful, but deeply saddening trailer below:

Between Shades of Gray needs more recognition because it’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

There is also a longer video here with Ruta Sepetys talking about the book. Visit the official website here and read an excerpt here. Follow the author @RutaSepetys.

Read reviews of Between Shades of Gray:
Pretty Books
Diary of an Eccentric
The Reading Date
The Midnight Garden
Death, Books and Tea

Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.

Find out more about BBAW here.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Blogging

Day 3: What does book blogging mean to you?

I’m not entirely sure I’ve understood today’s question, but I’m going to talk about three things that make blogging meaningful to me. I’ve been running a book blog for over two and a half years now (Tumblr since January 2010 and WordPress since August 2011) and it plays a big part in my life.

1. You Guys
I know it’s totally cliché and everyone is going to say it, but I love the blogging community. We’ve had our fair share of drama, but on the whole, we’re a friendly lot. I love that I can post something totally geeky or bookish on Twitter and not have to worry that people will find it odd. I can squee because I’ve received a really exciting proof or have just bought a book that I couldn’t wait to read, and people will squee with me. I’ve received a lot of messages over the past couple of years on Tumblr from people exclaiming how happy they are to come across a book blog because no one in their friendship circle appreciates reading. I’m equally happy every day to know that thousands of people in the world support literacy, reading, education, and a love of books – in all its forms!

I read 100 books in a year for the first time in my life last year. I also have 162 books on my ‘to read’ list and 256 books on my ‘wishlist’. While at times this can get to me (mainly because I end up thinking about all the books I’ll never get to read: ‘If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print.’ – Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop), it’s mostly a really exciting thing. I love that I basically have my own (small) library and that I’ll always have a book on my shelves that I just can’t wait to read. I’ve found out about so many books since I started blogging — it’s my main source of recommendations — that I wouldn’t necessarily have discovered otherwise, both new and old, such as John Green.

3. I Am a Publisher!
I don’t really talk about this much on here, but I actually work in book publishing. I started my first publishing job this year and although I’ve learned so much by actually ‘doing’ publishing, a lot of what I’ve learned is also from running a blog. I’ve inevitably discovered what new books are coming out and what’s popular, how NetGalley works, what Google Reader is for, how to analyse statistics, familiarity with social networking channels, what’s going on in the publishing industry (eBooks, Amazon, Waterstones, Nook), and much, much more. We all know about these things because they’re just what we do, but they’re actually hugely important for the publishing industry too and so I’ve enjoyed the crossover between the two!

Find out more about BBAW here.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Interview

Day 2: Interview Swap

I had the opportunity this year to interview the lovely Susan from Bloggin’ ’bout Books for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I was thrilled to discover, while browsing her blog, that we enjoyed so many similar books, YA dystopia in particular! Find out all about Susan in the interview below…

1. First of all, tell us three fun facts about yourself that are book-related, and three that are not.

Three fun book-related facts:  I’m so obsessed with books that the license plate on my minivan is BQQKISH (I had to use Q’s because someone else in Arizona already has BOOKISH); I’ve pretty much quit watching t.v. altogether so that I have more time to read; and, I actually LOVE waiting hours for doctor/dentist appointments because it means I have more time to read!  Three fun non book-related facts:  I’m not the most adventurous eater, but I have sampled dog, monkey and pig’s brain (yuck, yuck and yuck); I’m not very adventurous in general, but when I was a teenager, I did bungee jump out of a hot air balloon; and, I’d do just about anything for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  Phew!  That was hard.  Every time I have to answer these kinds of questions, I realize how boring I am!

 2. We always talk about how it’s great being part of a blogging community – which of course it is! – but what is it about writing or posting book reviews that you enjoy?

I do love being part of this book blogging community!  But, I think my favorite part about reviewing is just the opportunity it gives me to dissect the books I read.  It really makes me think about what makes a book work. what pulls it off track, and what methods an author uses to pull me into a story and keep me there.  It’s very instructive to me as one of these days I really am going to glue my backside to my desk chair and finish writing my own novel.  For now, though, it’s easier to critique other people’s work …

3. I noticed you are a fellow reader of YA dystopia! What were the first few books that got you in to the genre and what was it about them that made you want to check out more?

It was Hunger Games, for sure, that piqued my interest in dystopian books.  Since then, the genre has exploded and I’ve just kept on loving it.  I’m generally a happy, upbeat person, so I’m not sure what about this dark, depressing genre intrigues me so!  All I know is that I LOVE it.

4. Unlike me (fortunately!), you get a lot of your books from the library. As it’s quite a large part of your life (I read that you’ve been going frequently since you were a child!) how would it change your life, or the way you read, if they didn’t exist any more?

I’ve always loved libraries because, for me, they’re quiet, orderly sanctuaries filled with endless possibilities.  Walking into one feels warm and welcoming, like I’m coming home to a place filled with hundreds of my closest friends and family members.  I’ll never feel out of place when surrounded by books!  If libraries were to disappear, I would feel the loss keenly.  It would be like losing the most cherished kind of friend.

5. How many books do you currently own? Are you able to share a picture of your bookshelves?

How many books do I own?  Excellent question.  The answer:  thousands.  Yes, really.  My friend says I’m like a crazy cat lady, just with books 🙂

P.S.  I’ll try to explain the pictures:  The bookshelves beside the big, comfy chair are in my game room.  They hold children’s books (middle grade – YA; the picture books are on a separate bookshelf); the stuck-in-a-corner bookshelves are in the entrance to my bedroom.  They hold all my adult books, fiction and non; the desk pictures show the spot where I do all my writing/reviewing.  When we bought our house, this space was dominated by a wet bar.  The previous owner kept her ginormous parrot in this nook and used the wet bar as the bird’s feeding/watering station.  When I first saw the cozy, little space I knew it was a perfect office space/book nook.  So, I had the wet bar torn out and moved in a HUGE desk (it’s about 6 feet long and 7 feet tall).  As you can see, it’s completely jammed with review books.  Every shelf is doubly lined with books.  I’ve run out of shelf space for review books, so I’ve been stacking them under my desk and against the south wall of my little office space.  I’ve got more books than I can read in several lifetimes, but I love having so much variety.  My friend’s right — I really am a crazy book lady 🙂

6. What is the prettiest book you own?

The prettiest books I own are probably my picture books by Nancy Tillman.  Her illustrations astound me with their vivid, heartwarming messages.  They make me smile, sigh, tear up and just swoon.  They really are THAT beautiful.

7. I was reading your review policy and noticed you didn’t review eBooks because you didn’t have an e-reader, but I see now that you have a Kindle! What made you decide to get one and how do you feel about the reading experience so far?

Yep, I caved and bought a Kindle Fire.  And guess what?  I LOVE it!  I bought it mostly because I wanted to be able to get e-ARCs from NetGalley and it’s worked wonderfully for that purpose.  I have to admit that I spend more time playing games (Words With Friends, anyone?) on the Kindle than actually reading on it, but still, it’s a fun device.  E-reading will never replace “real” reading for me, but I do love having the option.

Thanks so much, Stacey!

Check out Susan’s blog Bloggin’ ’bout Books and read her interview with me here.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Blogging


Day 5: Blogging
The world of blogging is continually changing. Share 3 things you are essential tried and true practices for every blogger and 1-3 new trends or tools you’ve adapted recently or would like to in the future.

I’m going to name three things that I’ve found make blogging more fun!

1. 50 Book Challenge
I first heard about the 50 Book Challenge on LiveJournal and thought it was a fantastic idea. I used to set myself a goal every summer (e.g. to read 10 books or 15 books) but it never occurred to me to set a target for the whole year. I probably would’ve never started writing reviews if I hadn’t joined the challenge. If I had never thought to write little reviews for myself, this blog probably wouldn’t exist now. It literally did change my life.

Even if it doesn’t change your life, it really is lots of fun. The reading challenge over on Goodreads makes it easier to see how others are doing, what targets they’ve set themselves, and what books they’re reading. I found that it instantly motivated me to read more. I’m currently on book #73 for 2011 and this is something I never would have achieved if I hadn’t set myself a goal.

2. Twitter
I found that I started to enjoy blogging a lot more once I joined Twitter. It means I get to follow publishers, other bloggers, authors, and loads more exciting people. I feel like I really get to be involved while constantly being able to keep up with book news. I’ve been lucky enough to attend two book events and have two coming up soon. I most likely would not have attended these events if I hadn’t known some of the bloggers attending beforehand. I would have never imagined you could be so social with just a 140 character limit.

3. Goodreads
Goodreads is one of my favourite websites and I recommend it to any book blogger. I love being able to catalogue every book I’ve read. It also makes it a lot easier for me to see what books I need to read! The shelving function is extremely useful as a book blogger because I can easily keep track of all the books that I want to read on a “wishlist” shelf. I love checking out an average rating of a book, reviews, comments, genres, recommendations, and much more. It does have a downside, however. I now find it extremely difficult to buy a book without checking out the reviews first. This means that I may end up turning down a great book simply because others didn’t like it. It also ruins the spontaneity of book-buying. On the other hand, I’ve discovered many books that I normally wouldn’t have. I can safely say that I’m addicted to Goodreads.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Readers


Day 4: Readers
1. Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging?

Running a book blog has meant that I’ve become a lot more open minded about what books I pick up. It showed me that I shouldn’t judge a book by its genre and so now I try to base my decision to read a book on the plot rather than its genre. Previously, I most likely would not have picked up books such as Hereafter and Paper Towns but I ended up really enjoying them! I have also recently discovered that I am able to appreciate children’s/middle grade fiction such as A Monster Calls, Liesl & Po, and Eight Keys.

I also would have hated to miss out on the young adult dystopia (and post-apocalyptic) trend since it has become one of my favourite genres.

However, I’ve been neglecting adult fiction lately. There so much great young adult fiction out there that I’ve been unintentionally dedicating all my time to it. However, I’ve named October “Adult Fiction Month” and so hopefully I’ll get to catch up on some of the wonderful adult fiction books I’ve been missing out on.

2. How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits?

My book acquisition habits have changed in two main ways: I am now lucky enough to receive review copies of books, and I now own a Kindle and so buy ebooks as well as receive eGalleys for review.

I am extremely appreciative of the fact that publishers take book blogger seriously enough to provide us with advanced copies and final copies of books to review. It means I get to enjoy fantastic (and anticipated) books in advance in exchange for telling others about it. What’s not to like about that?

eGalleys are also one of the reasons why I bought a Kindle and I’m so glad I did. I debated buying an ereader for 6 months before I eventually did, and I was instantly impressed; e-ink is amazing. Although I will never stop buying print books, I find ebooks much easier to read on public transport during the busy rush hour.

I also base most of my purchases on other people’s recommendations and reviews, which I rarely did when I was younger. These recommendations are mainly from other book bloggers and Goodreads. I now have 135 books on my “to read” list and 205 on my “wishlist” and I’m getting through books like never before. I’m currently reading my 73rd book of the year and this is something I would never have achieved without a book blog.