Armchair BEA 2015 – Introductions

Oh, right! It’s time for Armchair BEA. If you have no idea what that is, don’t worry about it. (Thanks for the reminder, Tasha!) Anyway, today’s the first day of Armchair BEA, and the topic is “Introductions.” I picked the following five questions from a list.¬†I’m fairly certain the purpose of this whole venture is conversation, so feel free to chat with me in the comments below or on Twitter. ūüôā

1. Why do you love reading and blogging?

I have to separate these, because lately, I love reading a whole hell of a lot more than I love blogging. I suspect that most of us strange beings who practice consistent reading habits would agree that we just¬†are readers. I am¬†a tall; I have light brown hair; and I read books. My identity as a reader is both visible (because I carry books everywhere) and invisible; I could never pass as a non-reader. I don’t know how to interact with the world except through books. I am a reader.

Blogging, though, is hairy. I mean, when I can forget that people are eventually going to read these words (and interpret them however they wish, and I suspect that’s the sticky part), I enjoy the act of writing about the books I read, and I like re-reading my posts from years past. I love the relationships I’ve been able to form through this blog¬†with other bloggers and with authors (mostly on Twitter). But I’ve been finding it very difficult to force myself to write past the fear of proving myself unworthy of my little niche in this community. So, you know, writer’s block.

2. What is your theme song?

The Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Given my answer to the last question, I suspect you’re not surprised by this answer.

3. What does diversity mean to you?

The world just is a diverse place; it has to be in order to survive. In nature, the more diverse the ecosystem, the more it thrives, and any ecosystem that is thrown off-balance by too much homogeneity, too much sameness, eventually fails. I agree with certain aspects of the push for more diversity in books and in romance, but I worry that the constant repetition of the phrase does nothing to point attention to and celebrate the diversity that already exists in these communities. Writers are there, writing stories about non-dominant cultures, characters who don’t fit the dominant mold of rich, white, cis-gender. Those writers have been there, writing their stories this whole time. Perhaps it’s time we all paid attention to them and started reading their stories. Perhaps it’s time we celebrated their tenacity in providing some much-needed diversity within a system that has pushed for homogeneity to its own detriment for years and years.

Is that a controversial answer?

4. What is one book everyone should read?

Oh, come on. I can’t pick just one. Here’s a list of five, presented without comment:

In Search of Lost Time – Marcel Proust
Middlemarch – George Elliot
The Year of Magical Thinking РJoan Didion
A Lady Awakened РCecilia Grant
About Last Night –¬†Ruthie Knox

5. What is your favorite genre and why?

Romance, in most of its forms. Love is at the root of most human interactions (of the good ones, at any rate). And rather than giving a backseat to love stories or using them only to further a plot point or to bring some human relevance to a story about a disaster or whatever, I prefer a genre that places them front and center, that elevates the themes of redemption, forgiveness, and grace that are at the heart of the best sort of love. And I’m not opposed to a well-written sex scene, so there’s that.
Advertisements

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**

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.

Introduction – Armchair BEA Day 1


May has been an uncommonly busy month for me, but it’s finally starting to calm down. ¬†Good timing, too, because it’s time for Armchair BEA! ¬†What’s that, you say? ¬†It’s a way of participating virtually in the Book Expo America currently occurring in somewheresville, USA (I pay a lot of attention, you’ll note). ¬†I had a blast participating in Armchair BEA in 2012, and I’m looking forward to having even more fun with it this year. ¬†It all starts with an introduction:

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

Hello_my_name_is_sticker copy

So, this type of question provides an obvious beginning to an introduction — after all, who does an introduction without first providing a reference point? — but reference points tend to stress me out. ¬†How much context is appropriate to provide? ¬†I suspect the average person doesn’t spend any time analyzing such a silly, everyday question as ‘who are you, and why do you blog?’ ¬†Then again, there’s a reason this blog is called Reading with Analysis…

Anyway, I’ve been blogging here for a little over a year. ¬†I started the blog because I needed something for my brain to do, an outlet for my creativity, and because I know very few people IRL who read romance novels, and I wanted to find some way of talking about books without enduring my friends’ well-meaning side eyes and eye rolls. ¬†In the past year, I have made a few book friends and have greatly increased my general happiness quotient by talking about books to people who aren’t all judgy. ¬†It’s fantastic.

2.  What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013? 

I’m having a difficult time determining my favorite book so far in 2013, so I’ll just highlight the book I’m reading now. ¬†Also, I’m loving it, and you should all read it when it comes out.

Cover image, A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant

Don’t let that cover fool you into thinking this is just another silly boy meets girl, they instalust, they boink, and something happens, so they angst about it a bit, but it turns out to be nothing, so it’s happily ever after type of story. ¬†It isn’t. ¬†The writing in this book is incredible; I feel less like I’m reading a story and more like I’m making a friend. ¬†Seriously, you need to read it. ¬†(A Woman Entangled will be available on June 25.)

3.  Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you. 

I’m wary of opening up a, “hey, let’s talk about religion” thing here — that never goes well — but this tidbit is really the only surprising thing about me, other than what I shared last year: I’m very involved in my church. ¬†I sing in the choir, chair the board (though we Episcopalians call that position Senior Warden, and we call the board a Vestry, but when I first joined my church, I thought the term ‘warden’ was restricted to penitentiaries or insane asylums, so….), and serve on the social committee. ¬†That last is actually the secret thing most folk wouldn’t know about me. ¬†I’m so painfully awkward in person, it’s difficult to imagine that I might have an interest in anything social. ¬†Surprise!

4.  Name your favorite blog(s) and explain why they are your favorite(s). 

In no particular order, my favorites are:

Beauty in Budget Blog¬†– My friend runs this blog, and I love reading her reviews of drugstore and higher end makeup items. ¬†Every day that I don’t look like a transient, it’s because of something I read about on this blog. ¬†(When I do look like a transient, it’s because I’m lazy.)

Via Lucis¬†– I’ve got a thing for architectural photography, and Via Lucis provides a dose of beauty with every post.

Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books РI get excited every time I get an email that a new post is up at this blog, which contains a fairly eclectic mix of posts on books, art, life, movies, television shows, pop culture, cocktails, etc.

and Reflections of a Book Addict¬†– Kim, the founding reviewer at Reflections of a Book Addict, and I are reading besties. ¬†We have remarkably similar taste in romance novels and often read books together. ¬†My favorite thing about her blog, however, is that she and her fellow staff on the blog read books from a diverse mix of genres and styles, and there’s always something interesting appearing on the blog.

5.  Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read? 

My favorite post is Women and silence…and romance novels. ¬†I’m quite proud of a few others, but that one really stands out to me.

Stay tuned for more Armchair BEA posts this week (and an overdue review post, hopefully later today)!

Armchair BEA 2012 – Day 5 – Ask the Experts

Today is day 5 at Book Expo America, and I’m still participating virtually via Armchair BEA (fancy that). ¬†Today’s topic is one that I’m really excited about, because I’ve discovered that the world of book blogging is considerably more vast than I had realized and that there is so much I don’t know. ¬†“In your post, ask the visitors to your blog for blogging advice. What did you always want to know about blogging but were afraid to ask? Now is the time!”

I’ve narrowed it down to a few questions:

1. ¬†How big a deal is it, really, if I read a book that’s terrible, and I write about how terrible it is? ¬†There seems to be a sense of nervousness within the community about how honest one can really be, and the difference between honest and offensive seems uncertain. ¬†So what I want to know is how much tiptoeing around the truth is really necessary in order not to be grossly offensive? ¬†What’s the etiquette here?

2.  What does SQUEE mean?

3.  How do you find the time not only to read books but also to post reviews of those books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. in addition to your own blog?  Are there any time-saving methods you can recommend?

I’ve had an absolute blast visiting blogs and learning about this thriving community over the past week. ¬†Many thanks to the coordinators of this virtual event and to everyone who has visited my blog in the past week and left kind and helpful comments.

Armchair BEA 2012 – Day 4 (catching up) – Beyond the Blog

Yesterday was a bit nuts, but I am determined to catch up today.

Yesterday was day 4 of Book Expo America, in which I am participating virtually via Armchair BEA. ¬†Today’s (yesterday’s) writing topic asks us to look beyond the blog for opportunities or tips to expand one’s writing to other communities online or in print or to expand one’s blog to be a source of income. ¬†“Have you done any freelance writing? ¬†Are you monetizing your blog and how so? ¬†How do you make connections outside the book blog community on the Internet? ¬†If none of these apply, we’d love for you to share a fun aspect about your blog or life that may be completely separate from books!”

I write and edit all day long as part of my job, but I don’t imagine anyone would be all that thrilled to hear about the number of business letters I have occasion to write. ¬†The editing I do is even less sexy than writing business letters. ¬†Don’t get me wrong–I enjoy taking a whole bunch of crazy and transforming it into standard written English, but that’s me. ¬†I’d be happy eating oatmeal every day. ¬†I’m just one of those people. ¬†Given that the non-blog writing that I do is generally uninteresting, that I am not monetizing my blog, and that I have few connections either within or without the book blog community on the Internet, I figured I’d tell a cautionary tale about writing, editing, and managing difficult interpersonal relationships and about how I’ve failed at all three over the years (but in a fun way).

When I was in high school, I was the editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper and the sole contributor to the opinion page. ¬†I wrote some crazy nonsense, and I still can’t believe that the school was willing to publish it every month and distribute it to all the students. ¬†My favorite regular column was the advice column, “Dear Wildcat.” ¬†In the first month, I couldn’t get anyone to submit questions, so, lacking patience, I decided to scrap the idea to answer real questions from students and just made up my own questions to answer. ¬†I was 17 and writing both sides of the conversation… you can probably guess how that went. ¬†All told, it was a great experience, but I learned that I’m best at humor writing, so a career in serious journalism was never in the cards for me.

During my stint as editor-in-chief, I also learned that I am a terrible manager. ¬†I’m pretty much like Bottom from¬†A Midsummer Night’s Dream. ¬†I micromanage and am convinced that I can play all the roles, simultaneously, better than anyone else. ¬†It’s a problem. ¬†When I discovered that the other students had no talent for writing and didn’t understand even basic English grammar, my natural response was to write all of the articles myself and just give writing credit to the other students, because that was easier than trying to manage the process of editing and collecting final drafts (that were often still not quite written in standard American English…). ¬†The students who wrote for the paper were terrible writers, for sure, but I was so much worse as a manager than they ever were as writers, sentences like, “The Akil has improve is by working harder” notwithstanding.

Even when I’m not in any way responsible for the material that gets published, it still drives me absolutely batty to come across published material that could have been written by a monkey. ¬†About a decade ago, a guy who knows my dad¬†purchased a community newspaper and tried his hand at publishing. ¬†He had grand plans to transform the newspaper into a community information hub for the San Gabriel Valley area of LA County, but his newspaper was so terrible! ¬†After the first edition, I wrote a letter to the editor requesting that he hire a copy editor. ¬†He ignored me and proceeded to publish another edition that was full of grammatical crazy. ¬†I wrote another letter to the editor that referenced the number of grammar and spelling (!) errors and begged him to hire a copy editor. ¬†He ignored me and published another edition. ¬†I, full of 22-year-old righteous indignation, took a red pen to his newspaper and mailed it back to him. ¬†He ignored me. ¬†I kept it up for another three months until he called my dad (!!) and asked him to tell me to stop sending him proofread copies of his newspaper. ¬†At that point, after six months, I finally realized that he didn’t care about the quality of what he was publishing, and I was fighting an unwinnable battle.

I’m ten years older now and a lot more mellow. ¬†Even so, it drives me wonky when I read a book, even a free one, and encounter truly stupid errors, but I no longer ride out on my steed of grammatical justice to defend the honor of the English language every time I read a book that was published without the benefit of a competent editor (every other time, maybe). ¬†So, yeah, I’ve mellowed, but I still have a tendency to be very critical of what I read. ¬†I suspect that the hyper-criticism that comes naturally to me could be off-putting to many (particularly authors and publishers). ¬†But I’m not really writing a review blog here, so maybe it’s moot.

Armchair BEA 2012 – A positive book experience?

It’s day 3 at Book Expo America 2012, and I’m still participating virtually through Armchair BEA. ¬†Today’s suggested topic, Networking, is a bit of a stretch for me, but I’ll do my best to write something that is marginally on topic. ¬†I don’t get out much. ¬†I get really nervous around crowds of people, so events (such as book releases or book signings) really aren’t my cup of tea. ¬†I’m new to blogging, and this is my first foray into the community. ¬†So I was stumped when I saw today’s topic: “We’d love for you to share a positive “real life” experience with books! Either by way of your own partnerships in your community, a book signing you went to or possibly even a get together with fellow book bloggers.”

Hm.. I don’t have any partnerships in my community; I’ve only attended two book signings (ever), one for Neil Gaiman’s release of¬†American Gods¬†(2001) and the other for Anthony Bourdain’s release of The Nasty Bits (2006); and I’ve never been to a get together with other book bloggers. ¬†Generally, I am such a literal person that the words “either…or” really do mean to me that only the options included in the either/or statement are acceptable, but I’ll just have to be creative.

A few years ago, just before the release of Harry Potter Book 7, some friends and I decided to form a book club. ¬†It was relatively short-lived but enjoyable while it lasted. ¬†The best thing about it was that we all had such varying tastes that we were guaranteed to be forced to read something outside our usual comfort zone. ¬†We read (and I hope I’m not forgetting anything): ¬†Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, Embers by Sandor Marai, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, and Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin. ¬†I’m fairly certain I’m the only one of the four (sometimes five) of us who finished the last three on that list, but I’m glad I did (they were good!).

I am in favor of book clubs. ¬†Too often, I get in the habit of reading, reading, reading without ever thinking about what I’ve read. ¬†Sometimes, 10 books later, I can’t even remember the plot or character names of a particular book. ¬†But when I have to discuss the book and what I thought and felt about it with a group of people, whether my good friends or total strangers, I have to think about it. ¬†That book ends up making a stronger impression on me because I took the time to think about it, internalize it, and formulate some thoughts about it. ¬†Four years after reading¬†East of Eden, I can’t tell you all the plot points, but I can remember most of the characters’ names, and I can tell you what I thought about that book. ¬†I can even do that for my least favorite of the books we read (Misquoting Jesus and¬†A Walk in the Woods). ¬†Besides, the book club was¬†totally worth it just to get my best friend to read Pride and Prejudice. ¬†That was a bucket list item, for me.

Ultimately, life got in the way, and our book club fizzled out. ¬†Some of us got married, some started having kids, some went back to school, all got busy. ¬†Eventually, I started this blog both as a creative outlet and as a means to force me to think about what I’m reading (even if it’s not very good). ¬†When I write about books for my blog, my approach is similar to the one I used in the book club–no sense talking about the plot, unless it’s remarkable; focus on the one or two standout things about the book (whether good or bad). ¬†I’m beyond glad that my friends and I did that book club for a time. ¬†It was a very positive book experience! ¬†ūüôā