Armchair BEA 2015
Day 3 - May 29, 2015
Blogging Q&A or My Blog Development
As I've previously mentioned, I've been blogging for four years. I celebrated my fourth blogiversary in March of this year. Prior to starting my blog I had only read a few book review blogs and visited a few of the professional sites, like Kirkus Reviews, but I didn't really know all that much about blogging and writing reviews. Before I began the actual blog I only knew about WordPress and Blogger for use with a blog. I opted to use Blogger simply because I have a Gmail email account and could easily link Blogger to that account. In addition, Blogger seemed like an easier learning curve and I needed idiot-proof. I'm not really tech-savvy and I didn't want anything very complicated. Other bloggers had mentioned the ease of using Blogger and that was all I needed to make the final decision. Once I had decided to start a blog, I needed a blog name.
My family has jokingly referred to me as a diva when it comes to books and reading, so I knew that "book" and "diva" had to be included in the name. I can't recall why I chose "The Book Diva's Reads" but it seemed to fit with my primary goal of a basic book review blog for the basic reader (not to mention spotlight my divaesque qualities). I wanted the blog to be eye-catching (or as eye-catching as I could make it) and simple. Extra emphasis on simple! In my second year, I went from having a blog with *.blogspot.com to purchasing my own domain name and eliminating the "blogspot" portion of the URL.
Over the course of that first year I learned how to add in things that may be basic and old-hat for others, such as HTML ads, links to favorite websites, adding in buy links for books, etc. The first few months my reviews were primarily of books from my personal library or checked out from my local library system. I eventually was approved by NetGalley and Edelweiss and began to receive digital advanced reader copies. I'm not ashamed to say that I was still learning the lingo used in the book industry and by reviewers and bloggers. I didn't know that ARC and ARE were interchangeable: ARC = advanced reader copy and ARE = advanced reader edition. I learned about TBR stacks/lists, DNF/CNF books, and HEAs (seriously, I didn't know that HEA equaled "happy ever after).
That first year was the hardest. I was discovering my personal style for review writing and learning to edit and censor my reviews. I have a tendency to want to discuss every detail and the reviews resembled lengthy book reports rather than reviews. I'm still adapting my style with each review. I feel the most comfortable reading and reviewing mysteries and suspense-thrillers. I'm often surprised at the responses for my reviews. Some I don't feel are very good get raves by the publishers, publicists, book tour agencies, and authors, and others that I feel are good get little attention.
One of the ways I got my blog noticed during those first two years was by participating in blog tours and blog hops. Nothing drives people to a blog like a giveaway, especially a big giveaway. I've given away books, gift certificates, bookish gifts (mugs), a Sony Reader, a NookColor, a Kindle Touch, and more recently a Kindle Fire tablet. I don't do as many giveaways now as I did during those first two years, but I do actively participate in a variety of blog tours. I've participated in events like Armchair BEA that has introduced me to the growing world of book bloggers. I've learned to promote all of my blog posts on social media, especially on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. I cross-promote my book reviews by posting on Goodreads and LibraryThing on the same day the blog review posts goes live.
These past four years have taught me that I probably won't be able to read all of the ARCs that I receive. I've learned to be highly selective with accepting review requests, especially those for blog tours. I suffer from severe chronic migraine headaches with a host of assorted visual problems (photosensitivity, blurred vision, and now double-vision) and I never know if I'll be able to complete a book and post a review in a timely fashion. The biggest lesson I've learned is that is perfectly acceptable to say "no" to requests for review. One of my biggest pet peeves is receiving an email from an author/publicist/publisher raving about my blog and that they've read my submission guidelines and have the perfect book for me and the book is obviously in a category I state I do not read/review. If I don't have time to fit books into my schedule or if a book simply doesn't appeal to me, I strive to be as courteous as possible in my refusal.
I know my limitations and no longer beat myself up when I'm unable to read every ARC received. Although I prefer digital ARCs, I have a five-shelf bookcase that is overflowing with printed ARCS received in the past four years. (I hope to eventually get them all read.) I'm continuing to evolve in my review writing style and hope that my blog continues to evolve with me. My next major blog goal is to have my blog professionally redesigned, as well as learn some HTML. I still get excited when I receive an ARC or request for a review (whether I'll read the book or not). Learning how to make a banner or book cover collage are serious high points in my blogging life. I take pleasure in these little things...not to mention the joy of reading so many different books.
Day 2 - May 28, 2015
As a child, I was never a big fan of comic books. I just never seemed to connect to that format. In the past few years, I've made numerous efforts to stretch my reading boundaries. I'm not just talking about more diverse reading, although that is a goal, but more diverse reading formats, namely graphic novels.
A few years ago I read great things online about a new book coming out, Habibi by Craig Thompson. The more I read about this book, the more interested I became in reading this book. Why this book? Namely, because of the following:
"At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and most potently, the magic of storytelling."
It didn't hurt that Neil Gaiman said that it was "...probably the most important graphic novel since Jimmy Corrigan." This 672-page book was an amazing read. The graphics are mind-blowing and the story was engrossing.
My second foray into graphic novels was just last year. One of the reading challenges I participated in required reading a graphic novel and I chose Cairo written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by M. Kutlukhan Perker. This novel is set in contemporary Egypt and combined elements of Islamic folklore with a modern-day quest. Here's more information on this novel:
A stolen hookah, a spiritual underworld, and a genie on the run change the lives of five strangers forever in this modern fable set on the streets of the Middle East's largest metropolis.
Cairo interweaves the fates of a drug runner, a down-on-his-luck journalist, an American expatriate, a troubled young student, and an Israeli soldier as they race through bustling present-day Cairo to find an artifact of unimaginable power, one protected by a a dignified jinn and sought by a wrathful gangster-magician. But the vastness of Africa's legendary City of Victory extends into a spiritual realm--the Undernile--and even darker powers lurk there...
After reading and enjoying these graphic novels, I decided to try another comic/graphic novel earlier this year (yes it was for another reading challenge). My choice was another book that addressed diversity, Ms. Marvel authored by G. Willow Wilson. A comic/graphic novel featuring a Muslim female super-hero written by a Muslim female author. (Ms. Wilson has become one of my favored authors. You'll definitely want to read Alif The Unseen if you enjoy diverse fiction. If nonfiction is more you thing, then grab a copy of The Butterfly Mosque.)
I'm hopeful that I'll keep expanding my reading with different formats namely more graphic novels and possibly even audiobooks. Do you have a preferred format/style for your reading or are you willing to read more diversely in format and style? I can't say that I'll be reading a lot more graphic novels in the future, but I'm much more open to this style because of the books I've read over the past few years.
Hello, my bookish peeps. Every year I'm hopeful to make it to the actual BEA conference, and every year familial obligations require me to stay at home. Fortunately with Armchair BEA I get to experience the joy and wonder of BEA while staying home. Each year Armchair BEA starts off with introductions, and this year participants were asked to answer five questions.
Where are you from? I'm an avid reader from Charleston, West Virginia. I returned to West Virginia a few years ago after living out-of-state for 30+ years.
How did you get into blogging? I got into blogging about 4 years, primarily because I was tired of constantly answering the questions "what are you reading?" and "what did you think about it?" from friends and family. I had hoped that blogging about my reading and thoughts would eliminate those queries...I was wrong.
What does diversity mean to you? As an African-American and Muslim female, I'm always searching for books that I can personally identify with (that's more difficult than you can imagine). As a child and teenager, I simply read whatever I found in school libraries and the public library. There weren't a lot of options for children of color back in the 1960s in terms of reading choices. As an adult, I've sought books that would broaden my knowledge of other cultures, ethnicities, and even religions. Why? Because I feel that fiction can educate. For the past two years there's been a growing movement in the book world to promote more diverse publishing/reading. I think this is a worthwhile effort because every child deserves the opportunity to read about a character that resonates with them and their racial, ethnic, religious, and/or sexual identity.
What is one book everyone should read? If I'm limited to just one book recommendation for everyone then it has to To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book deals with so many themes (racism, prejudice, justice, and more) and is so well written, that it can provide entertainment and education to readers of all ages. This is one of the many books that I re-read every few years and I learn from it each and every time I read it.
What book are you reading right now? I'm currently reading a review copy of What Lies Behind by J.T. Ellison. This is the fourth book in the Samantha Owens series and is a suspense-thriller (one of my favorite genres).