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September 2013: A Month in Review

September has come to an end, and so it’s time for my Month-in-Review post.

September was a productive month for blogging.  I reviewed a total of 9 books, 3 of which counted toward the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge.  I also welcomed Brandon Engel for a Guest Post on H.P. Lovecraft.

For at least the next few days, I will have a lot more time for reading and blogging than anticipated.  As someone whose job is contingent on federal funding, I’m out of work for the duration of the shutdown.  Hopefully it doesn’t last very long.  I’m trying to count my blessings and use the spare time well, but it’s a stressful and annoying situation to be caught in.IMG_0792

Of course, I have the following new books to keep me busy:

  • “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman – I won this in a giveaway at The Blog of Litwits.  I’ve heard lots of good things about it, and you can’t go wrong with Neil Gaiman.
  • “Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent – This is a review copy of a book about an Icelandic murderess awaiting execution in the 1800s.  It’s either going to be amazing or horribly depressing.  I’m putting my bets on amazing.
  • “The Color of Light” by Helen Maryles Shankman – Part of a TLC Book Tour.  The books is about vampires, Nazis, and art, which seem like a winning combination.

I’m hoping while furloughed to make a serious dent in my TBR pile, as well as to start catching up on reviews.  I’ve got a queue of about ten books that I’ve read recently but not written about yet, and now seems like an opportune time to work on them.

What are your October reading plans?  Have you gotten any new and exciting books lately?

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Categories: Month in Review, Other | Tags: , | 8 Comments

August 2013 Wrap-Up and Upcoming Plans

Hello everyone!  August has been a successful blogging/reading month.  Now that I’m back to blogging solidly again, I’d like to start monthly wrap-up and housekeeping posts again.

This weekend, I’m going to Pennsylvania to go camping with my family for Labor Day weekend.  As I’ll be in the middle of nowhere, there will be no internet (or even cell phone service, for that matter, unless one stands on a particular picnic table and the wind is blowing in just the right direction).  It will be a nice opportunity to relax and get away from the world.  I’ll also be turning 25, which feels a bit surreal.

Any posts this weekend will be scheduled, but I’ll be back for discussions on Monday.

Reviews:

I managed to review six books throughout the past month.

Giveaway:

The winner of the giveaway of Koethi Zan’s The Never List is Patricia.  Congratulations!

Bout of Books and RIP:

RIP8main400

During August, I participated in my first ever readathon, during which I read a total of five books in the span of one week.  I began a sixth book, Days of Blood and Starlight, which I’ve since finished.  I loved Bout of Books because it gave me an excuse to push myself to make more time for reading instead of doing “important things” like laundry or cooking dinner.  I can’t wait for the next Bout of Books, which takes place in early January.

Thanks to Bout of Books, I’m now something like 10 books behind on reviews.  This month’s goal is to catch up on writing reviews, while at the same time participating in one of my favorite reading events of the year.  That’s right, it’s time for Carl’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, VIII, which begins on September 1.  The event focuses on ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night.

Generally, this is where I’d make a reading pool, but I know from experience that even if I did, I won’t stick to it.  Instead, I’m going to challenge myself to read/review at least five RIP-themed books throughout the duration of the event.  I’ve already gotten started with Terri Windling/Ellen Datlow’s Snow White, Blood Red, a collection of dark faerie tales that include stories written by some of my favorite authors, including Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint.  The few stories I’ve read so far have been excellent, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on them.

New Acquisitions:

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  • Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

    – Historical fiction from the perspective of a former slave who has close contact with the Lincoln family.

  • Silk Armor by Claire Sydenham

    – Set in Turkey.  I don’t know nearly enough about Turkey, so this will be a learning experience.

  • The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Cat Valente

    – Cat Valente is one of my favorite authors, and when I saw she had released a new collection of stories and poems inspired by Japan, I ordered it from Amazon immediately.

  • Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan

    – My impression when reading the blurb is that the book explores social issues within the context of their impact on a community.

Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend!

Categories: Fiction, Month in Review | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Role of Book Bloggers

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been pondering the direction of my blog and what roles I want it to fulfill.  In the past, I’d never given too much thought to what role my own blog played.  My content has changed over time, but those changes have been organic rather than deliberate.

Over the past month or two, I’ve been working more closely with several publishers and reviewing many of their new titles.  It’s something that I’m very excited about, as I’m discovering a lot of wonderful new books.  I’ve also been contacted by authors and publishers for publicity requests such as cover reveals, book trailers, interviews, and guest posts.

When I began my blog back in 2011, I didn’t know that book blogs were even a thing.  I was looking for something to put on a resume (and a way to stop driving my friends crazy by ranting about whatever book I’d just finished while at the bar).  What I didn’t expect was the welcoming and supportive book blogging community.  If it wasn’t for the blogging community, I’d have stopped writing reviews a long time ago, for the same reason that I can’t keep a journal for more than two weeks before it ends up sitting on a shelf gathering dust.  In the past, I’d run into someone maybe once or twice a year who was as excited about books as I am.  Now, going online and interacting with people who share the same passion is one of the highlights of my day.

The internet is our generations’ bohemian café, where people gather and share ideas.  For that reason, it has become an integral part of marketing and publicity schemes.  Publishers give out review copies to bloggers because it helps them sell books.  Bloggers write about books because it is their passion.  It’s a win-win situation, but sometimes it can get taken to an extreme.  I’ve visited some blogs where it seems like the blogger doesn’t have opinions.  If every post is a meme or cover reveal, it makes me wonder whether that blog is anything more than a marketing tool.  On the opposite extreme, some bloggers don’t accept any review copies, and stick to reviewing books that they’ve purchased or borrowed.

The rise of technology has inevitably changed the face of the publishing industry and literary culture.  It makes me wonder what role I want to play as a blogger and reviewer.

In the past, I’ve mostly stuck to reviews, with my “New Acquisitions” posts to let people know what books I’d be reading in the near future.  At the same time, while reading other blogs, I get excited for books that some of my favorite authors are going to release but that aren’t in the ARC phase yet.  When I find out about new books, I’d love to help get the word out about them.  I want to find a middle ground that I’m happy with, where I can promote and support the authors that I love while still focusing on reviews and commentary.

I don’t quite know where that middle ground is.  That’s where I’d like your help. What do you like reading in a book blog?  How much of a feature is too much?   How do you feel about reviews, mini-reviews, cover reveals, author interviews, guest posts, blog tours, book trailers, memes, etc.?  Do you have any feedback about what works and what doesn’t?  Do you think there’s anything that would improve my blog?

Categories: Other | Tags: , , | 20 Comments

New Header, and Guest Post from the Artist

My new blog header is finally finished.  I wanted something more reflective of my personality that expressed my love of fantasy and Russian literature.  I love how it turned out!

The artist (my younger sister) prepared a guest post for me about her concept and vision.  To see more of her work, visit http://www.deannatroxel.com/.

This is Krill. He is the dragon that you see picture. Since he’s going to be hanging out for a while, or at least hopes to be, I’d like to spend some time helping you to get to know him.

First and foremost, while he may look cute, he is a ferocious dragon who will roast anyone who dares mock him. (No, really, he will, he assures you. Those are not puffs of accidental smoke when he coughs, nor is fire ever lacking when he wants it, he promises.)

Krill loves coffee. If you give him coffee, he will be your best friend. He’ll even stick his long, forked tongue into your cup to make it *his* cup of coffee. I mean, you don’t want it after he’s licked it, right? Right?

Like a kitty, Krill likes to be petted. He likes when you rub his head right behind the horns, or massage his back riiiiiiiight after where his wings connect to his body. Oh, and don’t pull his tail. Yes, he is very much like a kitty. A very ferocious kitty that can puff smoke and flame. And that drinks coffee.

He also likes books. This is why he lives with Grace, whose own book collection rivals that of a library’s. What he really likes to eat is books. Of course, he swears he’s not going to do this. Those bite marks are not his. Nope, definitely not. Those must be the boyfriend’s. The kitty’s. The dog’s? What do you mean she doesn’t have pets? They have to be somebody’s!?! Krill is innocent! He swears no book eating! He swore to it when he moved in!

…Krill might have eaten that book. It just smelled so good, the smell of fresh printed pages, brand new ink, exciting adventures! He just couldn’t help it. He likes manuscripts too! Especially handprinted ones, but those are rare and valuable, so he tries to only eat paper ones, ones that have already been reviewed and edited, yes, yes those ones.

And he loves old books also! They just smell so wonderful! He promises he can live to smell these ones only, that as long as he has coffee he will never, ever take a bite out of them!

Mama Matroshkya, while keeping her own kids in line, is rolling her eyes. She does not believe Krill. Krill knows she does not believe him. Even though Krill would never eat something like Mama Matroshkya, she’d taste bad. Not like fine paper or coffee!

Krill would like to stay here for a long time. Because the books just taste so- he means, smell so good! And the stories! Oh yes, he is very, very happy here. Krill is quite a happy dragon. A very happy, ferocious, fear-inspiring dragon. Oh yes.

Categories: Guest Posts, Other | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

General Update on Life, the Universe, and Everything

One of several bookshelves, arranged in the style of Tetris, or perhaps Jenga.

One of several bookshelves, arranged in the style of Tetris, or perhaps Jenga.

I’ve been very quiet lately.  That’s because there’s been a lot going on, between work, school, and …moving!

My new apartment is close enough to where I work that I can walk there, instead of spending almost an hour on public transit each way.  Even better, I live directly across the street from a public library.  It is glorious.

Between Mike and I, we’ve managed to completely fill three bookshelves, and there are still two more boxes of books left to unpack.  My living room is beginning to resemble a library, and I’m pretty sure that a trip to Target for another bookshelf will be necessary in the near future.

As soon as my finals are over (5/12), I plan on writing a lot more book reviews.  Two extra hours in my day will make that much easier.  I’m already more relaxed and am finding that when I get home, I have the energy to read, which is a welcome change.

Here are some of the reviews that are in the works for you to look forward to in the next two weeks:

  • “There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories” by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
  • “Glow” by Jessica Maria Tucelli (review and giveaway)
  • Author Q&A with Deborah Harkness (Q&A and Giveaway provided by the publisher)
Categories: Other | Tags: , | 6 Comments

I’m back! A Review of 2012, and some plans for the future

Happy New Year to everyone, and thank you for the well wishes and for understanding when I decided to take a hiatus from blogging.  While I haven’t responded to everyone, I read all of your comments, and I appreciated them tremendously.

Balancing school and work has been difficult this year, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  I have two classes this spring and one in the summer, and then I’ll finally have my master’s degree, at which point I shall celebrate.

Being a librarian is awesome, and even though I have less time for my hobbies (like blogging), I’m incredibly satisfied with my work, and I learn something new every day.  I also keep coming across new books that I’d like to read (I’m thinking that “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” might be one of those sometime in the near future).

Even with my hiatus, 2012 was a good blogging year for me.  I’m not crunching the numbers myself or doing an overview of the reading challenges that I did/didn’t complete during the year, but the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.  (Thank you WordPress monkeys!)

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 47,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 11 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

In the new year, I’d like to return to blogging on a limited basis.  I probably won’t be posting 10+ times a month like I used to, but I’m thinking that twice a month would be a reasonable goal until I’m graduated.  I miss discussing books with all of you!

I’m not planning on participating in any major year-long reading challenges right now, mostly because I don’t know how much time I have to commit to them.  However, I am planning on participating in Carl’s not-a-challenge, The 2013 Science Fiction Experience.  This event lasts for two months and involves reading/reviewing sci-fi novels on a casual basis.  I think I can handle that.  I’d also like to participate in Andrea’s Vintage Sci-Fi month.  I’m hoping to get a couple posts made up before the semester gets too crazy, and I can’t wait to see what all of you have been up to!

Categories: Month in Review, Other | Tags: , | 21 Comments

September 2012: A Month in Review

During September, I read/reviewed the following books:

Announcement time!  I’ve posted a relatively small number of reviews this month and even skipped a groupread that I had signed up for, as my personal life has been incredibly busy.  After spending the past two years job-hunting, I finally found one!  I’m a real librarian now!

This will mean that I will have a bit less time for blogging.  I’ll schedule a couple reviews each week, but they’ll be a bit more spread out, and hopefully more consistent.  I’m still planning on participating in the readalong of “The Graveyard Book,” because I need more Neil Gaiman in my life.  I’ve have the book on my Kindle ready to go.

For all of you that I’ve promised reviews, they’re still coming!  I didn’t forget about you, there are just a lot of things that I have had to do this month, such as shopping for appropriate work clothes and keeping up with grad school.  I’ve reviewed every book that I read since I started my blog with the exception of textbooks.  I’m about eight reviews behind right now, and I’m hoping to catch up as soon as I possibly can.

As far as October reading plans go, I’m going to focus on playing catch-up with reviews and then getting in the mood for Halloween.  I’m hoping to read Dracula before the end of the month, as a friend and I have tickets to see it as a ballet on Halloween night.  I love going to the ballet, and I’m intrigued by the prospect of vampire ballerinas.

How’s your month been going?  Any exciting reading plans?

Categories: Month in Review | Tags: , , , | 22 Comments

Giveaway Winner and New Books

The winner of my giveaway of “The Wake of the Bloody Angel” by Alex Bledsoe is Melody Siracusa.  Congratulations!  I’ll be in touch with you via e-mail to give you the info.

I got a package today with a shipment from Marx Books, one of my new favorite independent used booksellers.  There were a lot of books in the catalog that looked interesting, so I ended up getting six.

    • “Dreamsnake” by Vonda McIntyre – This book won both a Hugo and a Nebula, which seems promising.  It’s also about a healer, which is my favorite type of character to play in MMOs.
    • “Ringworld” by Larry Niven – A classic.  I’ve got high hopes.
    • “Conan” by Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Lin Carter – Seven short stories.  Lots of people have suggested that I’d enjoy Conan, since I’ve been reading a lot of old pulpy SF/F lately.
    • “Outlaw of Gor” by John Norman – More pulpy goodness.  I had a lot of fun with Tarnsman of Gor, so I decided to give the next one a try.
    • “The Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula K. LeGuin – Mori’s character in “Among Others” by Jo Walton read a lot of LeGuin’s novels, and this was one of the ones mentioned.  I’ve read two of LeGuin’s other sci-fi novels and loved them, so I felt like I couldn’t go wrong with this one.
    • “City of Illusions” by Ursula K. LeGuin – See above.  Also, these are both titles that I don’t usually see in bookstores, so I couldn’t stop myself.

It was hard to stop with the books that I got; there were so many others that looked fantastic, and I’ve already got ideas for when I order more books next month.

Categories: Other | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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