Armchair BEA 2014 – Day 1 – Introduction

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

So it’s time once again for Armchair BEA. I have a feeling my participation this year is going to be a bit spotty, because I’ll be out of town and likely without much Internet connection in the beginning of the week (read: today), and I’ve been really busy lately.  But, whatever! I’ve had a blast participating in this book blogging extravaganza the last two years, and I’m determined to participate as far as I’m able. Anyway, it begins with an introductory survey, which I answered while in a supremely neurotic mood. Enjoy!

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 

Hi, my name is Kelly, and I read way too much. I’ve been blogging here about books and neuroses for about two years. You know how sometimes people fall into blogging, like they just meant to go out for a cup of coffee but then they ended up starting a blog? That’s sort of what happened to me. One day I was intensely aware of my age, intensely aware that creativity and brilliance used to be so easy for me, so commonplace that I thought I could count on them forever, but I realized that it had been a long time since I had intentionally created anything (much less something good). And I’m the type of person who can’t have those revelations without trying to do something about it (because the alternative is just too depressing, as though to be dying and self-aware of the dying is just too much and also too normal, if you know what I mean), so I kind of started a blog. But I was weeks and weeks into it before I realized why I’d done it. Maybe I’m still working on that realizing thing.

Oh, and I’m in California.

2. Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — so we can connect more online. 

Neurotic woman who thinks too much reads romance novels and erotica and then has thoughts, occasionally writes about them. @darjeeling44

I think that sentence is going to become my new Twitter tag line.

3. What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ . 

See #2. I also very occasionally read nonfiction and even less often a bit of classical literature. I’m keen on ancient literature and epic poetry, but it’s been a few years since my last glut of epics.

I identify as a reader. I can’t go anywhere without a book, and I have a hard time not talking about what I’m reading. (This is problematic at work, where I have to put in extra effort.) When I got married and then had kids, I added two huge roles to my identity… now, in addition to being Kelly, that weird tall lady who reads things, I’m “wife” and “mom,” and those roles can tend to swell and overtake the landscape that was there before, like they’re some kind of strange nonnative species that just has to obliterate whatever it finds. When I read, I’m taking a stand against that obliteration; I’m standing up for me. At least, that’s how I see it. (Seriously, don’t tell my husband that I worded it this way… I don’t think he’d understand.)

4. What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year? 

I wrote a post summing up my favorite reads of 2013. So far this year… I have loved Deeper by Robin York, Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare, Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid, all the Chocolate books by Laura Florand, Control by Charlotte Stein (and, actually, all the books by Charlotte Stein), and Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers.

5. Spread the love by naming your favorite blogs/bloggers (doesn’t necessarily have to be book blogs/bloggers). 

I love a whole pile of book blogs, but I’ll confess that I spend most of my blog-reading time at Reflections of a Book Addict, Truth, Freedom, Beauty and Books, Miss Bates Reads Romance, and Badass Romance. I’m also very keen on my friend’s makeup reviews at Beauty in Budget Blog and Via Lucis, this fantastic blog about photographing Romanesque architecture.

So, there you have it. **waves**

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The ethics of blogging – Armchair BEA 2013 – Day 4


It’s day 4 of Armchair BEA, and today’s discussion topic focuses on ethics in blogging — how do we, as bloggers, navigate ethical waters?

I’m having a difficult time contextualizing ethics and blogging in general.  It’s hard to imagine that there’s a universal ethical code that could be applied to something as diverse and traditionally uncontrollable as the Internet, and it’s equally hard for me to imagine myself conforming to that universal code.

I do have a personal ethical code, however, and it governs my interactions on the Internet just as much as my daily interactions in face-to-face land, though there are a couple of subsections that apply only to my Internet life.

  1. Be kind.  I put this one first because I think it’s the most important and because it’s the one I have the hardest time achieving.  Sometimes I just don’t feel kind.  Sometimes people annoy me or say ridiculous things.  Sometimes books are bad.  Sometimes I’m just tempted to use my wit to cut.  I try to find a balance between my natural impulses towards snarky humor (I don’t want to suppress myself, after all) and my natural horror of hurting other people’s feelings.  When I manage that balance, the result is kindness, I think.
  2. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and follow through on every promise.  Again, this one is a bit of a struggle.  The thing is, I want to be all things to all people, even though I know it’s impossible.  I want to do all the things.  I want to volunteer for every job and keep all those balls afloat and all those people happy by being practically perfect in every way.  You can easily see how things go awry.  While I totally suck at managing my time in my real life (and consequently totally suck at following through on all those promises), it’s easier to succeed on this point on my blog.  If I request or accept a book for review, I read and review it (on time), though I use my own discretion in deciding whether to write about it here on the blog or just on Goodreads.
  3. An “honest review” means you actually have to be honest, even if you didn’t like that book.  Sometimes it’s difficult to square the need for honesty with the need for kindness.  The thing is, if I hate a book, I don’t think it’s unkind to the author to say so honestly whether here on my blog or on Goodreads.  There are a lot of books I’ve hated, and even more that bored the pants off me, and I don’t see the value in pretending that there are only OK, good, and excellent books.  That said, this kind of honesty requires sufficient explanation to be useful.  What help is it to anyone to say, “I read this book. I didn’t like it.”  If you state exactly what you didn’t like about the book, however, along with an honest accounting of the things you did like, your review becomes something like constructive criticism.
  4. Err on the side of caution.  Sometimes I buy books, sometimes I borrow them from friends, and sometimes I receive them from a publisher via NetGalley or directly from an author.  I like to think that the method by which I obtain a book does not have an impact on how I feel about that book, but who knows?  Maybe I’m so flattered at the few direct inquiries I’ve gotten from authors that I plop my rose-colored glasses on when I open their books.  It doesn’t take that much extra effort to tack on a disclaimer when I receive a book for review, so I do it.  I’d rather be unnecessarily nice about the whole thing than be accused of misleading readers.
  5. Stay true to the point of the blog.  I started this blog to write about books, to force myself to be a better reader by paying more attention to what I was reading and what it all means, in the grand scheme of things.  I didn’t start blogging to sell books or promote the publishing industry in general.  While I know that readers, authors, publishers, bloggers, agents, etc. are all part of an interconnected ecosystem and that, therefore, this blog is not an island unto itself, I personally feel more comfortable about the whole business when I stick to reading books and writing about them.
  6. Be careful about copyright.  I’m not a lawyer (I don’t even play one on TV), and I don’t want to have to talk to one about my little blog.  So I try always to post images that are my own or that are part of the public domain or wiki-commons (and I follow the latter’s advice on citation).  In general, I use embedded videos on YouTube whenever I want a multimedia experience.  For book covers, I link image URLs from Goodreads.  Sometimes I have an idea of something that I really want to put in a post (most of the time I’m just winging it), but if I can’t find it on YouTube, Goodreads, public domain or wiki-commons, I won’t risk using it.

Given that I’m a hobbyist blogger toiling in obscurity and neither spending nor making any money on this blog, I kept my ethical code recounting very simple and very personal.  Every situation is a little different, but I suspect that bloggers who approach ethical questions with the impulse to try to do what’s right will generally find their way.

On literary fiction – Armchair BEA 2013 – Day 3

It’s day 3 of Armchair BEA, and today the topic is literary fiction: What books have you read this year that would fit into this category? Is there anything coming up that you’re particularly excited about?What authors/novels would you recommend to someone new to the genre? Are there any misconceptions or things that you’d like to clear up for people unfamiliar with literary fiction? What got you started into this kind of book? Name a novel that hasn’t received a lot of buzz that definitely deserves it.

I ranted yesterday about my reservations with distinguishing between literary and genre fiction, so today I’ll (try to) content myself with answering the question.  I don’t read a lot of literary fiction — some years, I don’t read any.

What is literary fiction, anyway?  It’s a non-genre genre, and perhaps it’s best defined by one thing that it isn’t, and one thing that it is. It isn’t genre fiction, and it is (must be) identified as literary by an accepted critic whose merit as judge and gatekeeper everybody who is anybody approves.  It tends to be written by men (for a variety of reasons, including: books by women tend to be sidelined as chick-lit or the slightly better-named women’s fiction, and most reviewers bestowing literary status are men and may be less inclined to review books written by women, though probably not for nefarious reasons… in our culture, we tend to assume that books written by men are for everybody, but books written by women are for women and thus are not mainstream), and I suspect the idea is that the books that are touted as literary fiction today will end up being the classics of tomorrow.  I wonder how many of them will actually make the cut.

So why don’t I read more literary fiction?  I like good books, and I recognize and appreciate quality writing where I find it — why wouldn’t I read a genre that is vetted for quality?  Honestly, it’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ fault (everything is, actually).  I know, I know – Tess is a classic and bears no resemblance to modern literary fiction.  The thing is, having spent the better part of a decade reading the classics, that sea of venerable men and a few worthy ladies, I’ve come to associate literature with sexism/misogyny.  Tess is just a fine example of it, even if Hardy was being ironic (and I’m not entirely convinced that he was).  So I’ve been making a concerted effort to avoid misogynistic literature and cultivate a more feminist library.  I’ve been a lot happier, in general.

I know — I’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and I’m terribly wrongheaded and all that — I know!  But I’m just being honest, here.  It’s probably a temporary thing, but for now, that’s where I’m at.  Have any of you gone through anything like this in your reading, where you purposely avoid an entire section of the bookstore because those books make you angry?  Did you grow out of it after a while?

Lastly, these books are probably not considered literary by the gatekeepers at the NYT, but they certainly struck me as being more literary than otherwise.

Armchair BEA 2012: Wrap Up

What I learned this week:
1.  Posting everyday is exhausting, but it’s a nice challenge.  I might try to up my average from 2 to 3 posts per week.
2.  The book blogging community is huge, and its members are welcoming, kind, and hospitable, in all the good ways.
3.  There are a bajillion YA books out there and many more on the way.  Makes me really wish there had been more age-appropriate books available when I was younger (so that I wouldn’t have read so much inappropriate stuff…).
4.  It’s OK that I love romance novels, even the terrible ones.  I’m certainly not the only one.
5.  It’s OK that I’m totally neurotic… other people interpret it as charming quirkiness.  🙂