2013 Armchair BEA: Wrap-up

A quick post, because I’ve been staring at the computer screen for too long already.

This was my second year participating in Armchair BEA. The first year, I didn’t post very much, and I don’t think I really interacted with other people’s blogs at all. This year I tried to visit at least 5 other blog posts for every topic I linked to, and comment on at least one or two. My goal here was to make sure I interacted without overwhelming myself and burning out. I think I succeeded there. I also got some fun comments here–thank you to everyone who came by! I’ve already found a couple of new blogs to follow.

I also found talking about the different genres and topics very fun and inspiring. I’ve been wanting to come up with a list of favorite books in different categories, and now I feel like that’s very doable and even fun. I’ve been in a bit of a blogging slump recently, but at the moment I feel very energized.

My only feedback is that lumping YA into children’s books was a bit challenging–I love both and they’re such huge categories that I felt like it wasn’t possible to do both justice. Given that YA is such a huge field at the moment, it would make more sense to me to give it its own day or topic. The blogger development topic and the keeping it real topic also seemed like they were practically synonymous–I saw several people who didn’t bother to do the keeping it real topic at all.

But overall, I definitely thought this was a worthwhile experience, and I had a lot of fun meeting new people! I wish I had been able to make it to one of the Twitter parties, but none of them lined up with my (really weird) schedule.

bookish posts

2013 Armchair BEA: children’s lit


My favorite category! I definitely enjoy reading children’s lit, especially if we’re lumping YA in with that. This probably isn’t surprising, since I tend to cover that area here. I think in this post, I’ll focus on YA, because a lot of my children’s reading tends to be nostalgic–the books I loved when I was younger–and therefore the reasons I read it are pretty obvious and not necessarily interesting to others.

I’m drawn to reading YA for several reasons. First, I find that YA authors tend to tell the story and get out of the way. This is not to say that there aren’t authors who have big egos, or who insert themselves in the story, or who write thinly-disguised versions of their own lives. But this happens less often, and rather than getting praise for deep insight, they tend to get called on this.

I also find that YA books are often tight, focused, and well-edited. Again, this is not to say that this never happens in adult books, or that this always happens in YA. In the last few years, especially, several doorstop-sized books have come out which I personally think could have been pared down quite a bit. However, overall, I find that it’s easy to be engaged in a YA book, that there’s a sense of plot and intensity that I appreciate.

It’s also true that I find the age that YA is aimed for exciting. There’s a sense of excitement, of newness and possibility. YA is full of questions about identity, about relationships with family, and the world we live in. I find this kind of theme fascinating, challenging, and often inspiring.

Plus, we are really in a golden age of YA literature right now. There is so much being published, in every genre you can think of. Some of them are not my favorites, but I think it’s pretty incredible how much there is for just about everyone.

All of these reasons are true, and yet I don’t think they really capture why I love reading YA so much. I’m not sure I CAN capture it. I think the truth is simply that the kind of books I am inclined to like are most often found in YA, and therefore that’s what I read.

bookish posts

2013 Armchair BEA: non-fiction


A couple of years ago, I really didn’t read much non-fiction. I was in college, and if I wasn’t reading for a class, I wanted something light and fun. At least in my head, non-fiction is not light and fun. Even after college, I read a few non-fiction books, but not a ton. But recently, I’ve had an explosion of non-fiction and have found just how enjoyable it can be!

Now, I basically like to read about certain topics–things that I’m already interested in, in one form or another. I’ve been fascinated by WWII since middle school, for instance, and recently came up with a whole list of books I’ve read or would recommend about that era. History generally is my thing, though I’m much more interested in the people than in battles or overall political tactics.

So, what are a few of my favorites?

Queen Elizabeth in the Garden by Trea Martyn: This may be one that only I would love, but I thought the way Martyn looked at the gardens of Elizabeth I’s age, and the way her suitors and courtiers used them as symbols of power and devotion to be incredibly interesting.

A Life in Secrets by Sarah Helm and Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester: A few months ago, I wrote about these two excellent biographies and the way their subjects reminded me of each other. I love this kind of connection when it happens in fiction, and it’s almost neater when it happens in non-fiction!

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben MacIntyre: This is a riveting account of the double-agent system the British were running during WWII. It’s almost completely unbelievable, except for the part where it really happened. For instance, Agent Garbo, who created a whole network of spies and gave the Germans all kinds of information–the spies were imaginary and for the first part of the war, he wasn’t even in England.

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s Historic Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman: I had heard of Nellie Bly before, and even knew that she had raced around the world, trying to beat the 80 record of Jules Verne’s famous book. But I definitely didn’t know the whole story.

Just Send Me Word by Orlando Figues: Lev, a political prisoner in the Gulag, and Sveta, his long-time girlfriend, were apart for years. During that time, they created a complicated way of smuggling letters in and out of the camp. Figues weaves together their life and the letters in a great way, letting their words to each other shine.

The Map of My Dead Pilots by Colleen Mondor: An incredible book about Alaskan pilots and aviation. But, as my original review says, it’s also about searching for answers we can never know, and about the stories we tell ourselves.

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson: In my opinion, one of the best tenn non-fiction books of the past few years. Levinson weaves together the stories of four different teens who were involved in the 1963 March, in a way that is both inspiring and brings out connections and tensions in a new and revealing light.

Okay, I’m going to stop before I list everything I’ve read in the past two years! But feel free to browse through my non-fiction tag if you’re interested.


2013 Armchair BEA: ethics


After taking yesterday off from Armchair BEA, I’m back and ready to go! Also, excited to talk about non-fiction, because I’ve recently started reading a lot more.

But first, ethics. I suppose to me, the basic ethics of blogging seem fairly straightforward. Tell me your biases. Tell me if you’re related to an author, or best friends. If you’re part of a promotional tour or package, tell me that too. Don’t use someone else’s words without attribution. Be honest. Don’t steal. Be kind (which is not the same thing as being “nice”). I suspect this is partly a personality thing: while I’m comfortable with ambiguity, there’s a certain baseline of rules that are just non-negotiable.

Now, as far as copyright and book covers and disclosure of ARCs go–that’s a thorny mess. I’ve read that using book covers is fair use and therefore fine. I personally like to add where I got the book, whether it’s personal library, public library, Inter-library loan, or a free copy. This is just because I think it helps add a sense of how easy it is to get the book.

But partly I think that everyone is still scrambling to catch up with this new world of book blogging–yes, STILL. For instance, one of the more fascinating things I saw coming out of Actual BEA yesterday was a tweet from Kelly Jensen (@catagator): “BEST THING I’VE LEARNED TODAY: no need to do an FTC disclaimer on critical reviews! Only ENDORSEMENTS.” I’m not clear yet on what this means, but it seems to indicate that negative (“critical” which is NOT the same thing, but that’s a different post) reviews don’t need an FTC disclaimer, whereas positive ones (“endorsements”) do. This might make sense from the FTC point of view; it really bothers me. Regardless, the point is that one statement by one person at a big conference could potentially have wide ripples throughout the blogging community.

It’s also true that probably a lot of blogs technically are not following all of the official rules correctly. What seems perfectly normal and harmless could potentially be problematic. And I’ve read a couple of posts that advocate being super careful, which is probably good advice. I’m not one to stick a lot of gifs*, or even photos, in my posts, which makes it a bit easier.

I’m not sure exactly what my conclusion is, if any. Try not to do some thing wrong/hurtful/illegal, and if you do, own your mistake and apologize. No excuses, no “I have no idea how this happened!”. I know it’s hard, and so tempting to try to erase your own bad judgment. But don’t do it. Apologize sincerely. Blogging often brings out our ego, either in an I’m-so-awesome way, or a I’m-so-terrible way. Push that to the side and write as the best person you can be, and I think you’ll be okay.



2013 Armchair BEA: Blogger Development

I meant to combine both topics for today, but then I got wordy. Two posts it is!

I’ll be honest here–I feel like, as far as this topic is concerned, I have almost no idea what I’m doing! I am terrible at marketing, even when I really believe in something, or when it’s something I’m proud of. But considering I’ve been blogging for seven years now, it seems like I should be a little better at this. I love some of the cool features that other blogs have, but I have had a lot of trouble coming up with any for myself.

Recently I have started a few things, though:
– Participating in Top Ten Tuesdays. I find the topics really helpful in kickstarting my brain when I just don’t know what to write about, and that way I have at least one post per week.

– Also, posting more frequently. Even if I’m not putting up a full review every day, I can talk about what I’m reading.

Picture Book Monday: I read a lot of picture books and early readers for my job, and I wanted a way to talk about them. I try to do about one a month. (Which reminds me!)

– I also do several book displays for my job and I’ve started talking about those occasionally. I’m working on a crazypants display for Summer Reading, so look for a post on that coming up shortly!

– Since pretty much the beginning of the blog, I’ve written a post about the books I read each month. Most of them should be here, although I think I’ve missed tagging a few.

– I’ve also started talking about the new releases that I’m excited about each month. I don’t have a specific tag for this one, but it’s fun!

I’ve also been working on developing my favorite authors page, and I hope to eventually translate that into a bit of reader’s advisory–ie, if you really like Megan Whalen Turner, you should try this author! Overall, I think that my blog is developing partly as I’m learning more about librarianship. For instance, I’m trying to mention who else might like a particular book–Hunger Games fans, or LM Montgomery fans–even if I myself didn’t necessarily like it.

I do comment on blogs occasionally, and I interact a lot with authors and fellow bloggers on Twitter. (Oh, Twitter, I ❤ you, never leave me!) I could probably do better about this, and about reaching out to the wider community. I don't quite know how people go about doing partnerships and readalongs and so on, but right now I'm (mostly) okay with that.

Really, overall I'm quite proud of the work I've put into this blog, although I'm sure there are things I could or should do differently*. Mostly, I think I'm learning to just be myself–enthusiastic, nerdy, sometimes slightly awkward, overly fond of semi-colons. And at the same time, I'm learning to challenge myself to try new things and share what I love. I don't know if I'm there yet, but I think I'm getting there.

* I really am open to suggestions!