Monday, September 15, 2008

Diary of an Eccentric

As part of BBAW, I was paired up for an interview with fellow blogger Anna at Diary of an Eccentric, who writes about knitting, being a mom and -- mostly -- about reading. What I like most about Anna's blog are the author interviews. I've already added several books to my TBR list after reading her interviews and reviews. And for those who like to knit, by the way, some great photos and patterns (I myself will admit to having only learned to knit scarves). Please check out her wonderful blog!

Here's my Q and A with Anna:

Your blog says you write about reading, writing, knitting, and being a mom. Is there one interest, though, that you write the most about?

Definitely books. Books have taken over my life, and I'm thrilled! (My husband isn't, though, considering I now need another book shelf. Or two. But who's counting?) Writing and reading always have been my passions, and I love being able to write about what I read.

Can you tell us about yourself and your life, your interests?

First and foremost, I'm a wife and the mother of a beautiful, intelligent 8-year-old girl (dubbed "The Girl" on my blog...and I'm not biased or anything LOL). I work full-time as an editor and writer in the D.C. area, and in my spare time, I read, write book reviews, knit a few stitches, and work on the novel and short-story collection I hope to someday publish. I also love to stroll through nature, though a rambunctious kid makes it difficult to do much strolling!

Why did you start a blog, and how long have you been doing it? Has it evolved since you started it?

I started blogging a little more than a year ago, and my plan at the time was to catalog my knitting projects and discuss books and writing on the side. I've always been a bookworm, and when I started taking public transit to work, I suddenly had a little more than 3 hours per day of free time. Rather than spend it sleeping through my stops, I started reading one or two books a week. And when the unfinished knitting projects started piling up in my knitting basket, I found it easy to transform my blog into a space for my thoughts on books. I've also started interviewing authors, and that's been a wonderful experience. I still plan to post pictures of my knitting projects when I finish them, but knitting definitely has taken a backseat to books, and I've never been happier!

Your blog has some interesting interviews with authors. Has it been hard getting authors to commit to interviews?

Actually, it hasn't been hard at all! I'm finding that authors love the free publicity, which is great because I love trading emails with them and learning things about them and their writing processes that I can put to good use. And I'm making some friends. Generally, I just contact the author by email to let him or her know how much I've enjoyed their book, and then I ask if they'd be willing to answer a few questions by email at their convenience. So far, all the authors I've contacted have been so friendly and enthusiastic.

Is there one genre of books you read the most? What do you like about that genre?

I don't tend to stick to one genre. I just look for good books. I don't even have a definition for a "good" book...I just know it when I see it. I'm a sucker for a good family saga, though. I love books that cover a particular family over many generations, and I don't really know why. I've always been drawn to these books, and I think it's because I like seeing the characters evolve over many years. My favorites are "Liars and Saints" and "A Family Daughter" by Maile Meloy.

What's been the best experience you've had since you started blogging about books?

I've had tons of great experiences. "Meeting" fellow book bloggers, landing my first author interview, being contacted for the first time by a publisher to give away books on my blog, being contacted by an author who noticed I was currently reading her book, and being asked by an author to write a guest post on her blog. Those were BIG for me! But I really love when someone says a review that I wrote prompted them to read a particular book. It's always about the books and passing on my passion for reading.

What are some great books you've read recently that you'd recommend?

I'm not sure there's enough space to list them all! I loved Michelle Moran's Nefertiti, Ann Patchett's Run, Jennifer Cody Epstein's The Painter From Shanghai, Kate Veitch's Without a Backward Glance, Phyllis Zimbler Miller's Mrs. Lieutenant, and John Addiego's The Islands of Divine Music. An older book I read recently and really enjoyed was Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible.

What is your favorite book blog?

I have to give a shout out to my good friend Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit. I've seen her site evolve over the past year. I also enjoy reading Booking Mama, Literarily, Book Escape, Books on the Brain, The Written Word, and the list goes on. There's scores of great book blogs out there, which probably explains why the number of unread posts in Bloglines is usually in the hundreds!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Didn't know there was such a thing? Well, there is.

BBAW was started this year by blogger My Friend Amy, who explains why: "Acknowledging the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general, I am excited to announce the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation."

There will be events all week long at My Friend Amy's blog and others: awards for best blogs in many categories, giveaways, interviews, etc. For daily giveaways, see here. There will be over 100 books, plus other goodies, given away!

But the best thing about BBAW may be discovering new blogs; I've come across several good ones already. One of those is my interview partner Anna, whose interview I will post here on Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September reads

Death Without Company by Craig Johnson (2nd in series)
Protagonist: Sheriff Walt Longmire
Setting: Wyoming
Rating: 4.8
Visiting the old sheriff, Lucian Connally, in the Durant Home for Assisted Living, Longmire is drawn into what at first seems a natural death, that of Mari Baroja. Lucian is convinced it's murder, and turns out he's right. But that only begins the unraveling of decades-old secrets. Johnson's debut novel was wonderful, with witty, wise-cracking characters. They're back -- and this novel is just as good as the first one.

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer (memoir, audio)
Rating: 3.7
Someone recommended this, simply telling me it was a memoir about a journalist on Long Island, N.Y. That was enough to intrigue me, a journalist on Long Island. Well, because the memoir covers Moehringer's life from childhood to young adulthood, there's actually little of his journalistic career in this. This is a tale of growing up with an absent father, a loving mother and a cast of characters -- mainly the men from the Manhasset, Long Island bar who help raise him, including bartender Charlie, his uncle. They take him to the beach as a child, and, perhaps more importantly, give J.R. the gift of storytelling. There are other men in his life -- such as Bill and Bud, the managers of a bookstore who give J.R. his first job, an education in books and the push he needs to apply to Yale. While this book dragged out a little too long toward the end, it's still a nice tale, very well told.

December Heat by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (2nd in series)
Protagonist: Insp. Espinosa
Setting: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rating: 4.2
After a drunken night with his companion, a prostitute, a retired cop finds her murdered the next morning. Because of the alcohol, he can't remember anything. Worse yet, his belt was used in the murder, and his wallet and ID are gone. I'd read another in the Espinosa series and didn't like it as much. But here, Espinosa partners with the retired cop, Vieira, and the two work to solving this murder, along with other killings that follow them -- and soon threaten their own lives. The chemistry between the two makes this a much more readable, entertaining book.

Kindness Goes Unpunished
by Craig Johnson (3rd in series)
Protagonist: Sheriff Walt Longmire
Setting: Philadelphia
Rating: 4.5
This time, the setting changes to Philadelphia. Walt and Henry Standing Bear travel to Philly, Henry to set up an exhibit of Indian photographs and Walt to visit his daughter. But before he even has a chance to see Cady, she suffers a vicious attack that leaves her in a coma. There's no way that Walt will stay out of this investigation, of course. Like Johnson's first two books, this is a solid, well-crafted detective story. If I deducted any points, it was because it was set in Philadelphia. Part of the charm of the books is the Wyoming setting. Still, this is a highly enjoyable series -- one I'll continue.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Protagonist: Tom Ripley
Setting: Italy
Rating: 4.0
If you've seen the movie and think you know the plot, you don't. The book is quite different from the movie, with only broad strokes connecting the two. The initial premise is the same: Tom Ripley is asked by Dickie Greenleaf's father to go to Italy to try to persuade his son to return to the U.S., where Dickie's mother is in bad health. Once there, though, Tom decides he likes Italy and, later, he likes being Dickie Greenleaf. But in the book, Tom is much more of a cold-blooded sociopath, with an ending that is very different than the movie.

The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith (audio, 4th in series)
Protagonist: Isabel Dalhousie
Setting: Edinburgh
Rating: 3.8
This book moves Isabel in an entirely different direction -- here, she's the mother of baby Charlie, her son with Jamie, a younger man (and the ex-boyfriend of her niece Cat). Although Cat was the one to end the relationship with Jamie, there's now a chill in the air. Isabel has also been ousted from her job as editor of a philosophy journal in a political move, although she extracts her revenge. There's a lot of pondering about philosophy and morality, but the story really picks up when Isabel decides to meddle, as she is wont to do, and uncovers a little mystery surrounding paintings that may be forgeries.