It’s book blogger appreciation week, and today is interview day! I was paired with Memory, of Stella Matutina, and we had a lovely chat over email. Here are her answers to my questions; you can find my answers to her questions here.
Do you work with publishers a lot? Have you done any blog tours? Do you think that type of outreach is helpful, or would you rather come to books you like more organically?
I don’t do a lot of work with publishers, and I haven’t participated in any blog tours as of yet. I’m always thrilled when publicists and authors contact me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their titles, but I feel awkward initiating the contact. I know they’re looking for people to get the word out about their products, but I don’t want them to think I’m greedy, asking for free books to feature on my teensy blog! Most of the books I review are things I’ve purchased myself or borrowed from the library.
I do think it’s wonderful that so many publishing professionals have taken an active interest in the blogosphere, though, and I’m grateful for the contacts I’ve made. The few publishers I’ve corresponded with have all been great, and I’ve appreciated the chance to read some books I might not have come across on my own. I’ve received a couple of books that didn’t work for me, but I’ve also discovered some wonderful titles and authors that I’ve since talked up big time. I think publisher-to-blogger outreach is helpful not only in that it helps publishers spread the word about their new releases but also in that it gives bloggers an opportunity to uncover new favourites.
What made you decide to start a book blog? What do you see as the advantages/disadvantages of having it on LiveJournal?
I started Stella Matutina because I wanted a place where I could ramble on about books. I used to be pretty involved in the zine scene, (which centers around independently published magazines), and it seemed to me that blogs were a more interactive form of zines. I looked into WordPress and Blogger, but I ended up choosing LiveJournal because I was already familiar with it. I love how customizable it is; I’ve never had a problem finding themes that fit my tastes, whereas most of the good WordPress designs I came across during the research stage were only applicable for self-hosted bloggers.
Most of my LJ complaints tie in with stats-related issues. LiveJournal doesn’t allow Java plugins, so I can’t include widgets and the like in my sidebar or any of my posts. I also wish I had access to some of the info WordPress and Blogger provide to their users. I’d love to see which search terms bring people to my blog. I always get a big kick out of other bloggers’ posts about their zany search terms!
What were the best books you read in 2009?
I know I’m going to have a tough time narrowing it down to a Top 5 for the year, but my Top 3 is easy: THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY by Michael Chabon; THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt; and CORAMBIS by Sarah Monette. K&C blew me straight out of the water and landed right on my all-time Top 10 list. I cared so much about the characters and their situation that I couldn’t disengage myself. It had been on my radar for years, and I’m so glad I finally made time for it. THE SECRET HISTORY was a recommendation from a blogging friend, and I’m still amazed at how much I enjoyed it. It hit all the right notes; until I’d finished it, I couldn’t do anything but read. CORAMBIS was the final book in my all-time favourite series. I do have a couple of reservations about it, but the overall effect was so competely perfect that I couldn’t think of leaving it off my favourites list. This book got me crying harder than any other in recent memory.
I’m so proud that the olive reader is nominated for best publishing industry blog for book blogger appreciation week! Go check out ALL the nominated blogs for lots of great reading, and vote for us if you’re a registered blogger!
Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week! For those of you who don’t know, Book Blogger Appreciation Week is when we celebrate those people we all love: book bloggers! There are suggested writing topics, giveaways, and awards, and it’s an awesome chance to find new blogs to read (my google reader is trembling in anticipation.)
To celebrate, Book Club Girl is giving away an excellent twitter nameplate necklace just like mine. So of course I’ve got to give something away too! Something that’s been in the works for months here at Harper Perennial HQ. Something like . . . our new tote bags!!!
The front of each bag is the same, but we’ve got five different quotes that appear on the back from Justin Taylor, Katrina Kittle, Barbara Kingsolver, Ben Greenman, and Simon Van Booy. And we’re giving them away! Five lucky winners will each get a bag. Just leave a comment and tell me a Harper Perennial book that you’ve either read and enjoyed or are looking forward to reading. (It’s fun when you plug our books instead of me doing it!)
And . . . go!
One of my favorite parts of Book Blogger Appreciation Week last year was the interview swap, so I was happy to do it again this year! My partner was Kristen at We Be Reading, and you can see her interview with me here, and you can see my questions for her below. For me, getting to know other book bloggers is one of the best parts of blogging, and I’m glad I got to know Kristen a bit better! If you like what you read, you can check out her blog or follow her on twitter.
1. I’m always in awe of moms who find time to blog and read lots of books. How do you manage it? Did your reading habits change when you became a mom?
For the first couple of years, I honestly didn’t manage it. I didn’t read much besides magazines for at least the first two years of Z’s life. Then he started to be more self-sufficient and spend more time playing and reading on his own and I was gradually able to pick up my books again and eventually start blogging. I’m still in awe of moms with more than one kid who read and blog. They’re amazing!
One thing that’s changed since I became a mom is that I’m reading more youth and young adult fiction, partly to revisit old favorites before it’s time for Z to read them and partly to keep in touch with what is out there so I can have an idea of what he’s liable to bring home. Another thing that’s changed is that I’ve become less rigid about where I’m willing to stop in a book. I used to be a strict end-of-chapter gal but now I will stop in the middle of a paragraph if I need to and I find myself doing that more now even when I don’t need to.
2. I know you’re a fan of international fiction—if you could only pick one country (besides the US) to read books from, which would it be?
The easy and obvious choice would be the U.K. but that seems a bit like cheating. If it is, then I’ll go with Spain. My favorite authors in translation are from Spain (Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Arturo Pérez-Reverte) and there are many more that I haven’t explored yet like Isabel Allende. I’m also one-quarter Spanish so it’s in my blood.
3. What’s your favorite bookstore in Seattle?
Well, I tend to find a good bookstore and stick with it so I’ll admit I’ve only scratched the surface of Seattle’s wonderful bookstore community. But I have an intense love for Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, just north of the city. They shelve new and used together (and you usually can’t tell the difference because their used books are in GREAT shape), have a wide range of author events and other community tie-ins and just the other day put a signed book on hold for me through Twitter! I also spend a lot of time at my local Half Price Books and their clearance racks because I can’t resist cheap books.
4. As a marketing manager for an imprint, I’m always curious about this—do you pay attention to who published a book when you’re deciding to read it?
Before I had a blog, I wasn’t as attentive to publisher names as I am now. But I’m starting to be more aware of it, especially with imprint and indie labels. Once you start paying attention, you get a real sense of what sort of book to expect when you see a specific publisher. There are a couple of publishers that are currently re-releasing fantastic out-of-print titles so I tend to watch them. Then there are others that I trust for new literary fiction and works in translation. For the classics, I also tend to stick with a single publisher.
5. What books from your childhood and young adulthood will you give your son as he grows up?
I don’t have a list (which is somewhat surprising for me) but there are some that I am seeding his little library with and hoping that he picks up at some point. We’re drawing toward the end of the picture book years with him so I’ve probably lost my chance to bring in any other favorites ones there. Looking forward, I’ve already put some Roald Dahl on his shelves and The Phantom Tollbooth. I have a nice Lemony Snicket collection that I hope he likes. He’s welcome to read my Oz books (the collection in my blog header) if he promises to be careful because they’re getting old. My dad passed on some Hardy Boys books from his childhood to Z so I hope he picks those up as well. (Judy Blume, Choose Your Own Adventure … this could go on forever so I’ll stop now!)
6. Do you read more than one book at once, or are you a one-at-a-time reader? Why?
When I was listening to your That’s How I Blog! interview the other night, you gave exactly the same response that I would have. I really only ever read one book at a time. What I might call reading more than one book is really setting one down, reading another in its entirety and then picking the first one back up. I can’t shift mental gears well enough to go back and forth between characters and plots.
7. What’s the last book you read that surprised you?
The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley. I wanted to read it because I love Iceland and am learning about its history and mythology but I didn’t expect to become so invested in the characters. It’s definitely one of my top reads of the year.
8. What genres do you stay away from, and is there anything that could convince you to try them out?
I actually read across a wide variety of genres (or at least dabble) so I don’t count much out except for modern romance and the lower end of chick lit. I tend to avoid misery fiction and don’t think I could be convinced to read more in that genre. Anything with terminal illness, abducted or murdered children, major relationship issues and the like are just not what I like to spend my time immersed in. I sometimes say that I don’t want to read about anything bad that could actually happen to me.
9. If you could pick a classic book to update for our current times, what would it be?
This is a really tough question because for the most part I feel that the classics are sacred. I’ve been a bit irritated by the glut of Jane Austen spin-offs of late. However, I think that some of the Victorian sensational novels (East Lynne, for one) could very easily be updated and would be well received literary thrillers.
10. How do you organize your bookshelves? Have you ever thought about doing it differently?
I think about doing it differently every day because I have almost no organization in the shelves right now! Half of our books are on our three tall bookcases and the other half are in a massive island of teetering stacks in another room. Those ones are sort of organized (paperbacks, hardcovers and authors are grouped) but I need to buy more shelves. I just added a small three-shelf bookcase in my room for my TBR books (175 of them!) because they were all on the floor and a similar one in Z’s room because his area on our shelves was overflowing. I really need to solve this soon because it’s a constant source of angst for me. I may just head to IKEA right now!
Today’s book blogger appreciation week topic is unexpected treasures—books that you’ve been turned on to by other bloggers. Since it would be fairly impossible for anyone else to turn me on to a Harper Perennial book, I love that this gives me a chance to talk about other books I’ve loved, namely:
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
This recommendation was really a team effort from pretty much every person I follow on twitter. I began to feel like I was really, really missing something by not reading this book, so one day at McNally Jackson when Carrie asked me if there had been anything I’d been meaning to read, it was a no-brainer. This story of a girl who spent her childhood flitting around from state to state and therefore has a bit of trouble dealing with adulthood is completely mesmerizing.
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Full disclosure: I haven’t read this one yet. But after raves from many, including Rebecca at the Book Lady’s Blog, put it permanently on my radar. It’s sitting on my shelf now, borrowed from Carrie.
The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich
This one has been on my to-be-read list for literally less than an hour, thanks to Blake Butler’s video recommendation. I plan to pick it up the next time I’m at a bookstore, which could be as soon as tonight if they happen to have it at Powerhouse (where I’ll be for Neal Pollack) but will more likely be this weekend.
So now, to turn the tables and also feed my ego, are there any books that I’ve recommended to you that you’ve loved? Tell me!