Thank You from Selene Castrovilla

I’d like to thank book bloggers for everything they do to selflessly promote literature. The written word is embattled and beleaguered, and bloggers are the Jedi fighting the resistance.  It’s amazing that they can read as much as they do and still have any kind of life – What dedication! I attended the Book Blogger Convention last May and wrote a few thoughts on book bloggers after meeting them. On this occasion, I’d like to reiterate them now:

Book bloggers are great because they’re passionate. They’re most likely doing this for free, on top of whatever day job and responsibilities they have. They’re getting up early and staying up late, perched in bed with their book light shining onto the pages so they don’t disturb their spouses. This reminds me of writers, who also work for nothing – at least until they sell something – and also must squeeze in this effort amidst the rest of life. We’re all dedicated to the written word. We’re all on the same page.
And book bloggers are different, like many writers are. They don’t quite fit in with society’s norms. I met one – Care of Care’s Book Club – who carries her pet stuffed lobster Copley around with her. I love that. I have a giant stuffed Peep on my bed, and a purple kitty Beanie Baby named Periwinkle propped in my car as my travel companion. Need I say more? I’ve also been inspired by Care to give out little plastic rubber chickens with the sentiment “Love they chicken as thyself” attached.
Like many writers, book bloggers are dorky, and they embrace it. The blog “Sophisticated Dorkiness” is a perfect example. There are no ‘airs’ in this community – they’re real.
And (Yes!) like writers, book bloggers have created a community. A refuge, to support each other. Book bloggers don’t knock each other – they read each other and promote each other. And now they even have a convention to mingle at – just like we writers do!
Here’s the kicker: Book bloggers write reviews you actually want to read, not some hypersensitive critique evaluating the different layers of meaning; the metaphors; the symbolism…yada, yada, yada. We writers don’t sit around thinking, “Gee, what symbolism can I employ here?” We just want to tell a good story, and the rest comes organically, because life is a metaphor and everything is symbolic. This is, in my opinion, how a book should be read and reviewed. Did this book touch my soul? Yes or no. That’s how bloggers write, bless them: They write from their hearts. (I know I complained earlier of readers wanting fast and artificial writing, but on the other side of the spectrum are literary critics, who really go overboard in their analyses. Novels are like paintings, and all art. They’re open for interpretation, but dissecting them ruins the mysterious beauty of the words, which, one would hope, is the intrinsic part of the book.)
I bought a greeting card to perch in my windowsill the other day. It quotes this Chinese proverb: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” This is why writers write, this is why book bloggers blog…This is why I love book bloggers: Because they’re singing in tune with me.

Let me say it again: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. You are all awesome!

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BBAW Day 5:  Future Treasures

This week always flies by!  I just want to thank you all for being so fantastic this week and showing the world what a wonderful community book bloggers have!  But wait!  The fun isn’t over yet!  We have tons of good stuff coming your way all day today including the rest of the awards announcements, several awesome guest posts, and a That’s How I Blog tonight at 9 PM EST/6 PM PST.  Make sure you check in tomorrow as well for a post-even survey.  We value your feedback to continue making BBAW the best it can be.

But first!  We want to hear all about your FUTURE treasures.  We’ve been visiting each other and getting to know each other better…now is your chance to share what you enjoyed about BBAW and also what your blogging goals are for the next year!

As always, please remember to use PERMALINKS and double check the auto-fill!  Thanks!

I Love Audiobooks and So Can You by Candace of Beth Fish Reads

Let’s start with a little-known fact about me: My original idea for a book blog was to review only audiobooks. In the almost two years I had been reading blogs before starting my own, I found very few bloggers who discussed audios and none who specialized in them. Although I decided on a more general book blog, I have remained faithful to my love of audios: In just 24 months, I have written more than 160 posts that have something to do with audiobooks.

Unfortunately, because audios provide a different kind of interaction with a book than most adult readers are used to, some people say they have trouble connecting to a story unless they read it in print. I think it’s a shame, particularly since it’s likely that many of those same readers first felt their love of books when they were listening as someone read aloud to them.

For the rest of us, audiobooks are a joy, allowing us to read almost all the time: when driving, exercising, making dinner, or gardening, for example.

I am often asked if there is a trick to getting used to audiobooks, and I’ve come up with some ideas:

Your First Audiobook

  • Start with a light book, such as a cozy mystery, chick lit, or beach reading.
  • Start with a classic or a book you are already familiar with. If your mind wanders for a minute, you’ll easily be able to find the thread again.
  • Start with a narrator who has an accent you are familiar with. In other words, if you are from the United States, a narrator with a Gaelic accent might not be a good first choice.
  • Almost every commercial audiobook site allows you to listen to a sample of the books they sell. Whether buying or borrowing from the library, take a moment to listen and then decide if that’s the voice you want to hear for the next 8 to 20 hours. This is all-important until you become familiar with a variety of narrators.
  • Read audio reviews before picking a book. Some beloved books in print just don’t translate well to audio or, unfortunately, have a mismatched narrator. Reviews can be found on commercial sites, book blogger sites, and Audiobook Jukebox.
  • Don’t settle down in a comfy chair and get ready to listenl you’ll be asleep in 5 minutes! The key to audiobooks is to be doing something physical while listening. When you first start out, do something fairly mindless: fold laundry, pull weeds, wash dishes, or take a walk.

Tips for Experienced Listeners

  • Remember the names of narrators whose voices you love, but also remember that they might not be right for every book. One of my favorite narrators has a Scottish accent, but I just couldn’t stand listening to her read a book that takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. Her voice in that setting was distracting.
  • If you start to listen to a book and hate it within the first 5 minutes, turn off the audio and listen to another book. Try the abandoned book at least one more time when you’re in a different mood. Sometimes it’s all a matter of timing.

Reviewing Audiobooks
I discussed how I review audiobooks earlier this year. Here, I’d like to mention two aspects of audiobook reviewing that can help your blog readers.

  • Many books are produced in multiple versions: abridged and unabridged and with different narrators. It is a great help to everyone if you mention these facts to your readers so they can find (or avoid) the version you listened to. Please be sure to list the name(s) of the narrator(s) who read the book.
  • Because audiobooks involve a third person (the narrator) in your reading experience, it can be difficult to assess a strong reaction to a book. In such cases, it can be important to step back and think about why you loved or hated a particular production. Sometimes a narrator can turn a so-so book into fabulous, an awesome book into torture, or an already great book into magic. If you have such a reaction to an audiobook, your blog readers will appreciate your thoughts about whether the same experience can be/would be found by reading a print edition.

Next time you plan to spend the day weeding or plan to take a long driving trip, think about spending those hours with an audiobook.

Candace blogs about audiobooks and more at Beth Fish Reads.

Thank You From Planned Television Arts (PTA)

It is an absolute joy to work with book bloggers. While PTA utilizes both traditional and new media when promoting titles, I have found that book bloggers review our books and work with us in a much more organic, much more devoted way than is expected in traditional media. I value each e-mail exchange and conversation with bloggers because I know they’re commenting, critiquing and questioning out of care and love for the written word.

I am so thrilled that PTA can be a part of the 2010 Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and speak for the entire company when I say thank you for your honest, thoughtful, and well written reviews. Even if you haven’t reviewed a title from PTA, you’re doing a strong service of sustaining the relevance of good books and strong thought in our society.

Thank you for finding the time to spread the literary love. If you’re interested in learning more about the books PTA handles, feel free to follow our Facebook or Twitter. We try to show blogger appreciation as often as possible, and are always interested in making the review process smoother and more enjoyable, so please share your ideas and opinions so that we can continue to participate in this thriving community.

All my very best,

Alexandra Kirsch

The Classics Debate!

A favorite topic for readers is whether or not we read classics.  There are definitely different camps of thought on this, and so the BBAW content development team thought it would be fun to have a dialogue about it!  Please welcome Danielle of There’s a Book and Michelle of That’s What She Read as they discuss reading classics.

M:  You state that you don’t like to read classics.  I have to ask why?  What have they ever done to you to deserve your scorn or avoidance? wink

D: What can I say? It could definitely be the moody, broody, dreary scenes that never seem to come to an end OR possibly the use of language which was purposefully written to make me feel less than intelligent OR it could just be the mere fact that I love so many current novels that it’s hard to want to pick up a “Classic”. OR, it could just be that Wuthering Heights finally did me in.

D: Your turn. So…you like Classics. How could this possibly be?

M:  I love history.  Do you know how much history a person can learn by reading a book written and set in the past?  Also, I never knew which modern novels would fit me, so I avoided them like the plague.  Seriously, entering a bookstore was intimidating. 

For the record, Wuthering Heights is one of my all-time favorite novels….ever.

D: I’m so very very sorry. No really, I know quite a few people who adore Wuthering Heights, but it just wasn’t for me sadly.

M: No biggie – I should have added a smiley face to that sentence.  I know many people who think I am off my rocker for liking such a dark, depressing book with such a dysfunctional romance.  I can’t help but admire the gothic aspects of it, which I love, as well as the continuity of the love story.  Even if Heathcliff is a complete jerk, you can’t argue that he doesn’t love Catherine with his whole heart and soul.

M: So, what is it about contemporary novels that you like so much? 

D: Quite possibly for the same reasons you love Wuthering Heights I love contemporary novels. They are edgy and dysfunctional, often very depressing and almost always thought provoking. But what I feel is different for me is the setting. With contemporary novels, there is a greater connection with me personally, having recently left the college and high school years, most of the characters I read about are going through many of the same struggles I had in a very similar way.

M: Interesting.  Classics do offer the same thing.  Quite often, the ones that remain popular were edgy and are definitely dysfunctional.  Victorian English novels are very depressing (try Tess of the D’Urbervilles or even Jude the Obscure), and they all provide food for thought because that was all there was to do when they were originally written.  The thing that draws me to classics is the universality.  While the settings might be completely different, the emotional drama remains the same no matter in which era a book was written.  That and the historical aspect of them.

D: Besides Wuthering Heights I’d love to know your top 5 Classic novels.

M: Top 5 Classics?  How do I keep it to just five?  In no particular order, Gone With the Wind, Atlas Shrugged, Rebecca, Crime and Punishment, and Dracula.  I could continue that list but those are the ones I’ve re-read most often and continue to love!  How’s that for eclectic reading?

D: Oh! I actually quite love Dracula, it’s definitely a favorite from my teenage years actually.

M:  Contemporary fiction is a very broad category. Do you tend to gravitate towards one particular genre?  What would make your top five favorite contemporary novels? 

D: Contemporary is a huge category and it’s a tough decision if I had to narrow it down. If I had my choice of any genre it would definitely be realistic Young Adult novels. I enjoy the paranormal and fantasy novels quite a bit, but more and more the realistic ones have been grabbing my attention. My top 5 contemporary novels? Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Heart is Not the Size by Beth Kephart, The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare and Jumpstart the World by Cathrine Ryan Hyde. Yes, I slightly cheated by including a series.

M:  When we were originally discussing this idea of a dialogue post, you mentioned that you can’t get through a classic.  You suggested earlier that it might be the “moody, broody, dreary scenes” or the use of language or just the fact that there are so many other contemporary novels out there that take priority for you.  If you enjoyed Dracula but not Wuthering Heights, is it the choice of classic you are choosing to read?  I say this because not all classics are moody and dreary and broody, and others use quite a familiar language to our modern vernacular.  What other ones have you tried to read that caused you to turn away from the classics? 

D: I’ve actually tried a few different classics including the two mentioned about as well as Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Gray (though I’m actually a huge fan of Wilde’s plays), The Adventure’s of Huckleberry Finn, The Scarlet Letter and The Grapes of Wrath. When looking over the list what I start to come up with as a theme for why I either disliked throughout or stopped reading it would definitely have more to do with the language. So many of the books have such different dialects and mannerisms that I’ve found it difficult to focus on the story. Instead I spend the majority of my time focusing in on the text, trying to understand what’s being said as opposed to just enjoying the story that’s unraveling.

M: Interesting.  So it’s the language itself.  For me, that is one of its attractions because I like being put into another country, another era.  There is something so authentic about it.  If done correctly, I end up believing that everyone should talk that that – in the dialect or using the same syntax – and I have to shake myself upon emerging from reading a book. 

M:  That being said, don’t you think the same thing could be true for contemporary literature?  Harry Potter is one example that comes to mind, using dialect and referencing uniquely British expressions. 

D: Definitely. I do think a lot of contemporary literature uses dialects to enhance the story. One of my favorite recent reads was Isabel Wolff’s A Vintage Affair. I loved being swept away to another country and I absolutely love British based novels. But it’s something about the awkwardness of Classics and the length of time it takes to get into the language. That’s not to say I feel that way about them all, it’s just that unless I have a vested interest in the subject matter I’m less inclined to want to take the time to get into the characters, which doesn’t happen for me with contemporary literature – no matter the dialect.

M: That’s even more interesting.  If I understand you correctly, you don’t mind dialects and difficult languages in contemporary novels but do not have the patience for the same in classics.  I guess this is something I do not understand because I find the subject matter similar in both areas, and I know there are modern-day novels that are just as awkward and time-consuming as you say classics are.  Are you a fan of contemporary literary fiction?

D: Not too much. There have been a few that I’ve read in the recent past and though I didn’t mind reading them, they aren’t my favorite reads of late.

M:  That makes sense.  Literary fiction is the modern-day version of classics, in my opinion.  If they aren’t a favorite read of yours now, then it is understandable why you would not be drawn to classics.

D: I think what it boils down to for me, and most likely for you as well, is that we all have different tastes. Because I love food analogies I have to relate it to the love my husband has for black licorice and sweet potatoes. Though I wouldn’t begrudge him his favorite treats, after my own experience with them I could hardly bring myself to consume them again. Fortunately enough for both of us there are plenty of other foods and books out there to keep us busy all the rest of our lives; and then some.

M:  Absolutely!  What brings us together is our love of books, and that is really what counts in the end.  It doesn’t matter what you read, so long as you keep on reading. 

M: And if you ever want to take another chance on a classic, I can definitely put together some recommendations to help change your mind on them!  wink

D: I completely agree! No matter what we read – we read! And I will definitely ask for recommendations should the day come. The same goes for you if you need a great contemporary book! :o)

BBAW Day 4:  Forgotten Treasures

PLEASE NOTE:  Each day has a themed topic and the Mister Linky is for sharing a link to a post written specifically for that day.  This is called a permalink.  Please only enter permalinks to posts written on the BBAW topic into the Mister Linky.  There are so many participants and this makes it much much easier for everyone participating to enjoy their time.  Thank you!

Today’s Topic:  Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction.  This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!

 

Bless the Book Bloggers by Jessica Francis Kane

So here I am, a first-time novelist whose pub date was the same as Franzen’s FREEDOM. I’m not complaining, but I am saying that if it were not for the book bloggers I’d probably be in an asylum by now.
          It seems to me book blogs are nothing but good. If someone categorically objected to them, I think my next question for that person would be, Do you have something against rainbows? Because how can anyone object to the book blogs? These people are out there reading and thinking, organizing their thoughts and writing. They are making plans, setting goals, keeping book lists, offering recommendations, conducting interviews, orchestrating giveaways. A book blog is a carnival celebrating what it means to care about books.
          They have personalities, idiosyncrasies, particular likes and dislikes. And they are friendly to each other! It may be the case that the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times email each other excitedly about books received and their plans to drop everything in order to read a certain book immediately, but I doubt it. And maybe that’s the key—a book blog offers more than a book review. It’s a view into a reading life. What a privilege for all of us.
          So instead of packing for the asylum, I have begun reading regularly the beautiful book blog of author Beth Kephart—the very first place my novel was reviewed. And I have looked at my computer late at night and learned that because of another book blogger (Devourer of Books), my novel now sits on a staff recommended shelf in a bookstore in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, adorned with her blogger bookmark. And yet another book blog (Seeing the World Through Books) has stunned me with her gathering of historical photos to accompany her thoughtful review.
          Bless the book bloggers. Their work has charmed and consoled me, and I can’t be the first.

Jessica Kane is the author of The Report available now from Graywolf Press.

Dear Book Bloggers, We Need You.  Love, She Writes

A little over a year ago, I and another author, Deborah Siegel, decided it was about time that our community – of professional writers, mostly – organized ourselves online in a way that would make the lives of legions of overworked, underappreciated authorpreneurs easier and more efficient, or at least give them a place to complain.  (Firstly about the very existence of the term “authorpreneur,” not to mention its attendant tasks.)  With this in mind we put up a shingle, albeit a virtual one, and we called it She Writes.  We knew we’d hit a nerve and a need when more than 1,000 women signed up for SW in our first week; as of this writing, we have more than 11,000 members from all over the world.  She Writers range from bloggers to aspiring authors to diary-keepers to National Book Award nominees, but we all share one thing in common: a love of writing…and by that we mean books.
So when I had the good fortune to meet The 3 R’s Florinda Pendley Vasquez at this year’s BlogHer10 conference (we were on a panel together) and she told me about BBAW, I wanted in.  Bigtime.  Why? A) Because I love anyone who loves books; B) because writers need book bloggers (bigtime!); and C) because book bloggers are writers, too, just the sort that we need and want to add to the discourse on She Writes.
So without further ado, in the spirit of BBAW, allow me to offer, from She Writes to you, some serious appreciatin’.
Two four six eight, what do we appreciate?
1)  That book bloggers are actually the kinds of people who could even be accused (wrongly) of doing it in order to get free books.  Frankly, I want to be friends with anyone who loves books so much he/she will try to find ways to get them for free.  Most people do this with things like alcohol, and shoes.

2)  That book bloggers are rising up and filling the void created by the disappearance of book review pages everywhere, a void that makes writers feel sad, and kind of freaked out.

3)  That book bloggers do it for love.  The truth is that most writers do, too.

4)  That book bloggers are not only filling the void left by the closure of so many traditional reviewing outlets, they are also reinventing the form, grassroots style.

5)  That book bloggers care enough about books to get into tussles related to them, and leave many ALL CAPS comments.  (I gleaned this from the witty, informative, hard-act-to-follow-thanks-very-much-Raych Year In Review.)

In short, She Writes appreciates book bloggers a whole heck of a lot, and we hope you will stop by some time and say hi, and potentially stay awhile.  The author and She Writer extraordinaire Meg Waite Clayton, whose new novel, “The Four Ms. Bradwells,” will be published by Random House in March 2011, started a group awhile back called “Blogging About Books and Writing!” – and I have a feeling it might just be an excellent place for a book blogger on She Writes to start.

Kamy Wicoff is the Founder of She Writes, a community and resource for women who write.

Florinda of the 3’Rs blog is recapping the daily festivities of BBAW over at She Writes!  Don’t miss out!

On Reviewing Faith Driven Lit by Rel of Relz Reviewz

Ursula Moray Williams’ Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and the Bible might seem an unusual combination but they represent two passions in my life that began as a child – a love of novels and my Christian faith.  I never imagined that as an adult I would be able to combine both those passions as I do now by reading, reviewing and blogging about novels written from a Biblical worldview, more commonly known as Christian Fiction for want of a better description.
I started doing a review here or there for my local bookstore and then commenced my blog Relz Reviewz in 2006, merely as a place to record my reviews.  That other people might read my blog never really occurred to me so it has been an amazing journey meeting other bloggers, readers of my blog and authors, at least in the cyber sense!  Reviewing books from all of the major Christian publishing houses enables me to see the calibre and breadth of writing now available in faith fiction.  Long perceived as being limited to trite prairie romances, I love introducing readers to quality writing covering all manner of genres from thrillers to romantic suspense, historical fiction to the supernatural and more.  Lisa SamsonTosca Lee, Robert Liparulo, Christa Parrish, Jim Rubart, Ronie Kendig, Julie Lessman and Steven James are just a few of the fabulous authors, writing in all manner of genres from a faith perspective.

Having discovered writers whose books speak to the heart, mind and soul with sensitivity,  insight and passion in both the Christian and general marketplace, I’d love for the barriers between the two markets to be nonexistent.  Fabulous fiction shouldn’t be limited to any one group of people, however it is defined.  Readers are missing out on some stimulating reading often due to incorrect perceptions or past bad reading experiences.  I’d encourage Christian readers to discover exceptional general marketplace stories just as much as I encourage readers who may not have been exposed to great Christian storytellers to give them a go!  Okay, climbing off my soapbox now smile

The best thing about book blogging is belonging to a great community of wonderful book loving people ~ people who understand the value of great literature as something precious which has the power to entertain, engage, stimulate, encourage and challenge.  And that, I believe is something worth sharing!

BBAW Day 3:  Unexpected Treasures

PLEASE NOTE:  Each day has a themed topic and the Mister Linky is for sharing a link to a post written specifically for that day.  This is called a permalink.  Please only enter permalinks to posts written on the BBAW topic into the Mister Linky.  There are so many participants and this makes it much much easier for everyone participating to enjoy their time.  Thank you!

Book bloggers can be some of the most influential people around!  Today we invite you to share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger.  What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?

Please just enter the name of your blog into the Mister Linky and let’s HAVE FUN!