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Armchair BEA

    Armchair BEA: Topic of Choice + Middle Grade/Young Adult

    ArmchairBEA LogoExampleThis week flew. It’s hard to believe it’s the final posting day for Armchair BEA. I seem to recall Armchair BEA week last year feeling like forever. This year I must have blinked, because it’s already coming to a close.

    But I’m totally psyched about both of today’s topics – one of my choosing and one involving my most favorite of genres. And for a change I know exactly what topic I’m going to talk about. So…

    Topic of Choice

    Today is the day to talk about something that you feel we have missed or that you want to spend a little extra time chatting about. Ideas include, but are not limited to: a genre that does not fit into those featured earlier this week; logistics, such as blogging resources, procedures, or advice; or something completely fun with book to movie adaptations or favorite blogging games, features, memes, events, and/or activities. It’s your freebie day to choose what you like!

    As I’ve already talked about myself, mentioned a few of my favorite bloggers, authors and books, and shared my thoughts on diversity, I thought I’d talk about the book blogosphere, which seems to be expanding and changing faster than ever before.

    The Book Blogosphere…

    The landscape has been changing so fast – new blogs come into being, others depart – that I can’t keep up. I used to try, but things are moving so fast I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hades.

    It’s hard to get a feel for the community when it’s changing as quickly as it is. There used to be a core group of bloggers that were sort of like mentors for those of us who were new to the blogosphere. Many of those bloggers have disappeared over the years. Some scaled back, others closed up shop.

    And while it does make me sad when blogs I’ve read for years decide to shut down, it’s also a good thing. It means that they’ve moved on in their lives to other things. It means, too, that there is time to discover a new blog.

    I’ve said it before, but I still believe it to be true: Blogs are such transient things. And because they are, it makes both personal and working relationships complicated.

    It’s easy to start a new blog and just as easy to walk away from it. And with so many blogs popping up every day it’s easy to mistakenly think that blogging is effortless, that there’s no work involved. And that rude awakening a few weeks or months down the line has caused many a blogger to close up shop before they’ve even really gotten a foothold.

    Which makes it that much harder to make those connections and friendships with newer bloggers. Until they’ve shown that they’re here to stay, it’s not easy to begin forging a friendship.

    For an author or publisher it seems as if it would be that much harder to put their trust in bloggers with just how easy it is for the blogger to walk away without notice. As this is a non-paid endeavor for most of us, we have no legal obligations to post on time for a tour, review the books we request, notify those that are relying on us when we opt to disappear for awhile.

    It’s a gamble.

    But it’s a gamble that does seem to be working out for both parties. Bloggers do generate buzz. For the cost of a book – or often less – they’ll bend over backwards to help spread the word about its release, its new cover, its new trailer. Between the blasts and reveals and tours and posts and tweets and FB posts, word is getting out there.

    And the blogger is getting books, recognition, site traffic, followers in return.

    It’s a win-win.

    But I often wonder, if we are seen, and are seeing ourselves, more as marketing tools than readers who are in it to share our love of reading with like-minded people, is there less heart than in past years? Are we now more in the business of blogging – even if we’re not in it for the profit – than we had been three or more years ago?

    Have our motivations changed as a community? Are more people seeing this as a stepping stone to something else, versus as a “hobby” or creative outlet?

    Are we adapting and changing in ways that help or harm the community? Are we expanding the community to include more diverse readers and books? Or are we just diluting it?

    For me, this community will always be the place I know I can go to share my thoughts about the books I read and love. No matter what the changes, no matter who stays or who goes, there will always be someone who loves those cliffhanger endings, love triangles, alternate POV shorts, and angst-filled, twisty-turny stories as much as I do.

    For me it will forever be amazing.

    Middle Grade/Young Adult

    Our final genre of discussion is one that we know is a popular one these days: books for the younger crowd, from middle grade to young adult. If you do not normally talk about this genre on your site, maybe you want to feature books that you remember impacting you during this stage in your life. If this is where you tend to gravitate, maybe you want to list your favorites, make recommendations based on genres, or feature some titles that you are excited to read coming later this year.

    Before I launch into a discussion of some of my favorite YA reads, I just have to comment on the statement that these are “books for the younger crowd….” Just because a book is labeled YA these days doesn’t necessarily mean it is limited to readers of that age group. It might not even be written exclusively for young adults.

    As a reader who would definitely not be considered “young” by anyone in the YA age group, I find that there are many things that appeal to me in this genre. And I actually think that the term YA applies more to the age of the characters than the age of the audience nowadays. But perhaps that’s just me.

    I’m not a mom. I don’t read YA books to screen them for a child or to make a connection with one. I’m not trying to be young or relate to those much younger than I am. I just love to read stories that take me out of my daily life, that set me off on an adventure. Stories that are magical and exciting. Stories that don’t have characters I relate to because they are stressed out or are thinking about finances, their jobs, their future, their significant others.

    I much prefer characters with problems involving demons, zombies, impending doom, infuriating bad boy on-again off-again boyfriends, the apocalypse. You know, exciting problems.

    Anyway… sorry for the sidetrack. So we’re talking favorite YA reads. And if I were to list even one-tenth of them I’d be here forever. And while I don’t typically recommend books to others, as tastes are such a personal thing and I have very eclectic tastes that might not have universal appeal, I am going to list ten books or series from the short list that I have recommended to friends, family and colleagues.

    Usually these recommendations are prefaced with the following…

    “Oh my gosh you have to read this. You just have to! I can’t even talk about why. You just have to. It’s so epic. It’s got this… okay, I can’t tell you. But just trust me, you will die. You will DIE when you read what happens when…. Okay, I’ll shut up, but seriously, did you read it yet? Oh my gosh you have to.”

    Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers. It has reapers and maras and bean sidhes and some rather unpleasant Netherworld beings. Each story is filled with adventure, an emotional roller coaster, sarcasm and humor, and some fantastic writing.

    Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments. Shadowhunters and Downworlders. Angels and Nephilim. Clary and Jace. Gorgeous storytelling. Epic. Amazing world building.

    Kresley Cole’s The Arcana Chronicles. Unique. Dark. Sexy. Jack. Death. A kick-a** and totally bad-a** heroine.

    Gena Showalter’s The White Rabbit Chronicles. Action-packed. Fierce battles. Even fiercer heroine. Deadly threats. Sexy bad boys.

    Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden trilogy. Epic adventure. Killer cliffhangers. Epic adventure. (Yes, it deserved a second mention.) Lovable and detestable characters. A fierce, but lovable heroine you will root for from start to finish.

    Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing trilogy. Nail-biting. Suspenseful. Riveting. Clever. Brilliantly thought-out and so well-written. A stand-out series.

    Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. Intriguing. Unique. Delightful in both print and audio formats. Addictive. So awesome.

    Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits. Gorgeous. Romantic. Heartbreaking. Dual POVs. Lovable character matches. Highly addictive. Unputdownable.

    Karsten Knight’s Wildefire trilogy. Wicked awesome. Exciting. Refreshingly different. Seriously fierce, kick-a** heroine. Jaw-dropping, killer cliffhanger. Phenomenal writing. Moments that are devastatingly heartbreaking.

    Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Exciting. Epic. Epic. Epic. Action-packed. Adventure-filled. Thrilling. Gripping. Assassins. Sword battles. Romance.

    And to just name a few authors whose new books and series are on my “must read” list for others…

    I could go on and on, as I left out at least 50 authors who are on my must read list, but it’s late. And I still have to proof this post. But if you’d really like to know who they are, just ask in the comments and I’ll be happy to rattle off the long list of names.

    Interestingly, it does seem like I recommend more dystopians and high fantasy novels to others than books in some of my most favorite sub-genres – paranormal, urban fantasy. I do think they have a wider appeal with those in my non-blogging life. Not everyone loves demons, vampires, fallen angels, the fae quite like I do. And not everyone likes their stories dark and edgy with a side of bad boy wickedness.


    What about you?

    Do you have any YA reads that you recommend to anyone and everyone in both your blogging and non-blogging life? Are any of my must read books and series on your list of recommended reads?

    And are there any middle grade novels that you’d recommend to readers of all (or most) ages?

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    Armchair BEA: Giveaways + Beyond the Borders

    ArmchairBEA LogoExampleIt’s giveaway day… YAY! And while I thought I might do some kind of ARC giveaway, as I’ve grown to despise the post office – oh how I miss the lovely post office in Santa Monica – I opted to stick with a Book of Your Choice Giveaway instead.

    All the details are at the bottom of this post. First up is today’s discussion topic…

    Beyond the Borders

    It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going!

    I am very much for diversity in books – from the characters to the cultures to the settings. But I can’t say that I’ve read that many diverse books as of late. While the authors who write some of the books I read may be racially and culturally diverse, the stories I read don’t often reflect that diversity.

    And while I read many a book that transports me to a different world, it’s not usually a world that in any way, shape or form resembles reality. I love worlds that are solely the product of the author’s imagination. So while they may be filled with diverse characters – angels and demons, Shadowhunters and Downworlders, Seelie and Unseelie, vampires, shifters, reapers, weres – many of the stories don’t translate their message about accepting others no matter what their differences to a real-world acceptance of diversity.

    As a history major in school I studied many different cultures. As someone who comes from one sort of diverse background and was raised in an altogether different one, I am no stranger to racial, cultural, religious, socioeconomic differences and how these differences are treated by the majority. I’ve worn a lot of shoes in my life. So I haven’t had to turn to books to discover something new or be impacted.

    For a brief time, a few years back during my Chick Lit phase, I was an obsessed Anglophile. I couldn’t learn enough about how girls/women my age lived Across the Pond. I’d devour anything by Sophie Kinsella, Jane Green, Gemma Townley, Alexandra Potter. When I reached England’s borders I expanded those borders to encompass other parts of the UK and fell in love with books by Jenny Colgan, Cecilia Ahern.

    As I don’t have the opportunity to travel outside of the US very often, it gave me a brief glimpse into a country that I very much want to visit again and know very little about.

    I suppose I don’t really think about diversity in books when I read. Which I kind of think is a good thing. I don’t finish a book that I love and say, “Hey, I just read a diverse book.” I say, “Hey, I just read an awesome book.” While Allison Sekemoto may be from a race different than mine, and her story told by an author who is also racially different than me, I don’t think of it as a story about a Japanese girl. I think of it as a story about a kick-a** heroine.

    And isn’t that how it should be? That these “differences” are accepted without notice that they’re different? That their introduction into the stories aren’t things that stand out, or make an impact, but things that are normal?

    Should I be focused on the fact that Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane are in a “different” kind of relationship versus one that is the same as everyone else’s – filled with insecurity, love, heartbreak? I don’t think so. Well… maybe I have wondered just a little bit about the fact that Magnus is potentially thousands of years older than Alec. And that he’s a warlock. And that he has cat-eye pupils. But the fact that they are a same-sex couple? Nah.

    I suppose the only real stories that have an impact on me are those that are non-fiction and involve someone who has had to overcome incredible odds to survive, achieve their dreams, etc. A fictional character’s achievements, while potentially heartrending, just don’t have the same impact that someone’s true story would.

    But as I am currently not reading much of any non-fiction, I don’t have any new release recommended reads. Though as a child I was greatly impacted by a story of a boy who was taken prisoner in a Russian slave labor camp, who survived a mine cave in and escaped so that they wouldn’t amputate his legs. The story was called DONBAS by Jacques Sandulescu. And what he went through, and how he managed to survive, still amazes me today. Of course the fact that I was also able to hear the highlights from the author himself, might be another reason why it has stuck with me for all these years.

    The Giveaway

    Due to lack of originality mid-week after a holiday weekend, I’m giving away…

    TWO Books of Your Choice – ONE winner

    • Must be 13 or older to enter
    • Giveaway is open to anywhere The Book Depository ships
    • Books will be ordered from Amazon or The Book Depository depending upon location
    • Giveaway ends on June 1 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific
    • Winner will be announced in the Rafflecopter and contacted by email
    • Winner has 48 hours to respond with their book selections

    Enter in the Rafflecopter below…

    a Rafflecopter giveaway


    What about you?

    Do you look for books that are diverse when choosing your next read? Or do you choose your books based upon their story and characters, and whether or not they are diverse in some way doesn’t factor in?

    Have you opted to choose a different type of book to read because you thought that the diversity represented in the book in hand was something you felt you couldn’t relate to or connect with? Did you decide to read it anyway and were surprised that you could make a connection?

    Do you think calling something a diverse book makes it stand out in a negative way, as if diversity is a specialty ingredient and not something that’s part of the mix? Or do you think calling attention to it is the only way for diversity to be included more and more in future books?

    Do you label characters based on whatever qualities make them diverse? Or do you label them based on their characteristics – fierce, whiny, snobby, weak-willed, annoying, bratty?

    And would you love to see more books set in Australia? (Yes, that’s kind of out of left field, but I really would love to read more YA with Australia as the backdrop.)

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    Armchair BEA: Expanding Blogging Horizons & Novellas/Short Stories

    ArmchairBEA LogoExampleThe week is just flying by. I don’t remember any of the previous years’ Armchair BEA weeks going by so quickly. Maybe it’s the holiday week?

    Well, whatever the reason… Happy Day Three to those who are participating! We have two more interesting topics up for discussion today, and as I have a lot to say about each, I’ll just get right to it.

    Expanding Blogging Horizons

    What do you think about when you think about going beyond blogging or expanding your horizons? Is it a redesign of your blog? Have you branched out into freelance writing or even published a novel of your very own? Or, have you moved into a different venue like podcasts or vlogging? This is the day to tell us about how you have expanded on blogging in your own unique way.

    I can’t really say I’ve done anything unique when it comes to expanding my blogging horizons. Especially since the ways I’ve expanded – or have planned on expanding – are pretty much those listed above.

    I’ve messed around with customizing my blog’s design. But I’m not an artist – graphic or otherwise – so anything I’ve played around with doesn’t quite look right. Okay, if I’m being completely honest, it just looks bad. So I think it’s in everyone’s interest (especially my own) for me to step away from any attempts at blog design.

    Over the past few years I have been writing short stories. Some I’ve posted on one of my other blogs, a few I’ve combined into a short story collection and published at Amazon. One I was actually invited to write for a short story anthology that was published along with stories by some fantastic authors.

    I even participated in NaNoWriMo and completed a full-length novel which will never see the light of day. Total trunk material. But it was a great experience.

    And while I’m on a bit of a writing hiatus at the moment – though I have to finish writing those short story sequels – I never would have had the opportunity or the courage to write any of them if it hadn’t been for blogging.

    Writing posts and reviews for the blog, talking with bloggers and enthusiastic readers, has not only made me motivated to write, but inspired me to do so.

    I’ve also been toying with the idea of podcasting. I have the software, I have the ginormous mic, I just have to get over the fact that I can’t stand my voice. (It sounds so different than what I hear when I’m talking to myself… I mean, proofreading my blog posts out loud.)

    I’m also pretty sure I’ll have even more of a tendency to ramble in a podcast. There may even be some snark-i-tude. So the debate still rages on in my head.

    I think being a blogger allows one to tap into their creative side. So anything is possible. It’s just a matter of having the courage to take that next step. And, hey, if you’re sharing your thoughts online, on your blog, you’ve already taken a pretty big step by putting it out there. So why not take that next one?

    Novellas/Short Stories

    Now it is time to give a little love to those little stories in your life. Share your love for your favorite shorts of any form. What is a short story or novella that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves? Recommend to readers what shorts you would recommend they start with. How about listing some short story anthologies based upon genres or authors?

    I love short stories and novellas. Especially those that serve as supplements to a series or standalone. They allow me to get yet another peek at the world, to see things from a different character’s point of view, to learn secrets that those who only read the novels won’t know. They help bridge the gap between releases.

    Sometimes they serve as introductions to a series I might not have otherwise discovered.

    I might never have adored Tod from Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series as early as I did if I hadn’t read REAPER. It might have taken readers that much longer to see just how awesome Warner was if they hadn’t read Tahereh Mafi’s DESTROY ME.

    The secret of Cole’s whereabouts would never have been known in such detail if NEVERFALL hadn’t been written by Brodi Ashton. And if you hadn’t read DIE FOR HER by Amy Plum, it might have taken you ages to realize just how Jules felt.

    Novellas and short stories really expand the world created in the full-length novels. I have come to expect them now when reading any YA series. And while some may be more swoon-worthy, insightful, exciting, detailed than others, I love reading them all. They’re the perfect light bite.

    My favorite short story author is Stephen King. He writes some bizarre, twisted, but very memorable shorts. Have you read SKELETON CREW? I am still haunted by his short story THE RAFT.

    And… if you haven’t already guessed this one… my favorite short story/novella YA author is Rachel Vincent. I think she is the only author that has ever made me cry (more than once) when reading a short story or novella.

    While I know all of these authors are hugely popular, maybe some of their shorts haven’t made it to the TBR pile.

    A few other YA authors with fab short stories are: Julie Kagawa, Melissa Marr, Lisa McMann, Jenna Black, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Kady Cross, Bethany Griffin, Wendy Higgins, Courtney Allison Moulton, Alyxandra Harvey, Cassandra Clare, Jana Oliver, Marissa Meyer, Sarah J. Maas, Lauren Oliver, Cynthia Hand, Veronica Roth, Elizabeth Norris, Sarah Rees Brennan, Kiera Cass.


    What about you?

    Are you a fan of novellas or short stories? Do you always hope to read them but never get around to adding any to your TBR pile?

    Do you prefer standalone short stories, which give you a taste of the author’s writing, or do you prefer to read short stories or novellas that expand upon an established series or series to come?

    And if you’ve opted to expand your blogging horizons or plan to, what have you done? I’d love to know!

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    Armchair BEA: Author Interaction & More Than Just Words

    ArmchairBEA LogoExampleI’m thrilled to welcome in DAY TWO of Armchair BEA and the two topics up for discussion – “Author Interaction” and “More Than Just Words.”

    And while I don’t have a ton of experience with either – especially author interaction – I may be able to come up with a few words about both topics.

    Author Interaction

    Let’s talk interacting with authors IRL (in real life) or online. This is your opportunity to talk about your favorite author readings that you have attended. Or, you can feature your favorite author fan moment (i.e., an author sent you a tweet or commented on your blog). Maybe you even want to share how your interactions have changed since becoming a blogger or share your own tips that you have learned along the way when interacting with authors as a blogger.

    I haven’t been to very many author readings, conventions or expos. So my IRL author interactions are severely limited. And the very few I did have left me feeling like a tongue-tied, blathering idiot.

    I’m equally as awkward online in my conversations with authors. But at least I have the ability to filter out the mumbling, stumbling and slack-jawed gawking. And most times I have enough time to take a beat and read what I wrote before responding.

    Over the years as a blogger I’ve had a ton of favorite author fan moments. There was that day when Cassandra Clare tweeted my review, when my blog was all of a week or two old. That time when my novella review ended up in Melissa Marr’s newsletter. That first time a review of mine was blurbed in a book… oh who am I kidding, every single time completely floors me. Then there were those to-die-for moments when my name appeared in the acknowledgements of a few of my favorite authors books.

    I still find it hard to believe any of that actually happened.

    But my biggest fan moments involved those times when Author Rachel Vincent sent me some of her writing to read and offer my opinions on prior to their release. She is one of my all-time favorite authors. She is so incredibly talented, dedicated to her craft, hardworking. Her writing is amazing. And she never fails to put me on a roller coaster of emotion with each of the stories she writes.

    So, yeah… being given the opportunity to read one of her stories prior to its release, being asked what I think about it, blows my mind. Every. Single. Time.

    As far as tips go… I’m not sure I’m the expert when it comes to interacting with authors. I think I’ve reached out to all of one or two authors to invite them to the blog for a post. I don’t generally @ authors or chime into conversations they’re having on twitter.

    But I suppose one thing I’ve learned during my years as a blogger is that it isn’t always easy when a blogger wants to be reviewer, fan and friend. And when an honest review may cause hurt feelings, it puts the blogger in a difficult position. If the blogger is always honest and professional when it comes to their reviews and if they are clear at the outset that the friendship will in no way sway their review, then it will hopefully alleviate some of the awkwardness should that situation arise.

    More Than Just Words

    There are so many mediums that feature more than just words and enhance a story in a multitude of ways. Examples may include graphic novels and comics, audiobooks, or even multimedia novels. On this day, we will be talking about those books and formats that move beyond just the words and use other ways to experience a story. Which books stand out to you in these different formats?

    I haven’t read very many graphic novels or comics. And I’ve only experienced one multimedia novel – Patrick Carman’s DARK EDEN – which was actually quite interesting. But I have listened to a few audiobooks over the years. Some I enjoyed. Some not so much.

    For me, the multimedia novel stands out as having potential for enhancing the reading experience in the future. It brings in another dimension, a different way to experience the story through sound, visual, interaction. But it has to make sense for the story. It has to be smart. It can’t be frivolous or inane. It has to bring something additional to the story for the reader, not detract from it.

    And it can’t be so intrusive as to pull the reader away from the story or sever their connection with it, or with the characters.

    I hope that more novels have these enhanced reading experiences to accompany them in the future. Even if they aren’t always wins.


    What about you?

    Do you have any advice for bloggers like me about interacting with authors? Do you have a favorite fan moment you’d like to share?

    And what is your favorite “more than just words” way of experiencing a story?

    If you’ve posted about this, leave a link so I can check it out.

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    Armchair BEA: Introductions & Literature

    ArmchairBEA LogoExampleThis will be my fourth year participating in Armchair BEA. And I can’t believe I almost missed it. Maybe one of these years I’ll attend the event that doesn’t involve me sitting in my comfy chair blogging from my laptop. But this year I’m really glad to be at home.

    Introductions

    As this is my fourth year, I am skipping the question that talks a little bit about myself. I feel like I’ve blathered about myself way too much over the past few years, so I’m going to try and pick questions that are a little bit different.

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

    I mostly read YA and within that genre, most of the books are paranormal/urban fantasy. Prior to discovering YA I used to genre hop, but ever since 2008 I’ve been pretty much focused on reading this genre.

    There are a million and one reasons why I love YA – the writing, the characters, the stories are just a few. I love the variety within YA. I love the firsts. I love the action and adventure. I love the magic.

    YA lets me escape into the books I read, connect with the characters in worlds that are different from my own. And whether the stories are heartbreaking, bittersweet or heartwarming, action-packed and tension-filled, epic, thrilling or downright chilling, I love them all.

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

    I don’t get the chance to read very many blogs and I’m too shy to socialize with very many bloggers. Though there are quite a few bloggers that I like and respect even if I don’t always get the chance to read their blogs.

    As I don’t want to risk leaving someone out, I thought I’d just list five of the blogs that I visit on a (somewhat) regular basis. And they are…

    Two Chicks on Books

    Parajunkee

    Good Books and Good Wine

    Bewitched Bookworms

    The Bloggess

    Q. Share your favorite book or reading related quote.

    Some of you may know that my favorite author of all time is Stephen King. And one of my favorite books of all time is his novel THE LONG WALK. It is from this book that my favorite line derives.

    He just kept picking them up and laying them down.

    While it’s not so much a quote, it is one of my most favorite lines due to its context and what it’s come to mean to me. In a nutshell it’s a story about survival and the main character in the book, Ray Garraty, has to beat out 99 other competitors. And while luck and physical strength factor in, much of the walk is about willpower and having what it takes to survive.

    And sometimes it comes down to being able to just keep moving forward. Putting one foot in front of the other. Which is just so true in life.

    Of course Dimitri’s quote to Rose in SPIRIT BOUND is also a favorite.

    “Love fades. Mine has.”

    Broke. My. Heart.

    Still does.

    Q. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 books would you bring? Why? What 3 non-book items would you bring? Why?

    OMG I love deserted island questions!!! And I will not cheat this time.

    THE LONG WALK by Stephen King. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. I read it every year. I couldn’t go without my annual read. Every time I read it I find myself discovering something new, feeling something new. It’s heartbreaking and devastating and cruel and powerful. And while not YA, the characters are young adults, it’s a dystopian, it’s epic.

    WIZARD AND GLASS by Stephen King. If I could bring the entire series I would, but of all the books in the Dark Tower series, WIZARD AND GLASS is my favorite. It is the story that centers around Roland’s past. (Roland is my favorite fictional character of all time.) It has magic and heartbreak and adventure. I could get lost in this story again and again.

    And for the third book… I was going to list a book I wouldn’t want to read, one that’s super long that I wouldn’t mind using as a fire starter. But something just doesn’t sit right with me about burning a book. Even for survival. So I guess I’ll have to say…

    CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE by Cassandra Clare. It releases tomorrow and is the only book in The Mortal Instruments series that I haven’t read. I don’t know how I could bear it if I didn’t get the chance to see what happens in this final book in the series. I think I’d go cray cray on the deserted island always wondering. Plus as it’s over 700 pages it would kill a bunch of time.

    As far as non-book items, I have to say potable water, matches, knife. (I’m seriously hoping the island has trees bearing fruit or coconuts.) Though I’d totally swap the knife for a sailboat if a sailboat counted as an “item.”

    Q. What book would you love to see as a movie?

    Yeah, I know, this is getting OLD, but THE LONG WALK by Stephen King. Someone bought up the film rights awhile back and has been sitting on them. Which kills me.

    I know most Stephen King books don’t translate well into film. But this one has the potential. Even though much of the story takes place inside Ray Garraty’s head, I think there’s a lot of potential for a good director and decent actors to make this heartbreaking novel a heartbreaking film.

    Sadly Hollywood would probably destroy it with bad music, corny jokes and downplay the cruelty and tragedy of it all – the fact that 99 boys will lose their life, that their feeling of invincibility is quickly stripped from them once the reality of the situation sets in and that there’s nothing they can do to stop what will happen unless they can be the one, the winner.

    Literature

    What do you think of when you think of literature? Classics, contemporary, genre, or something else entirely? We are leaving this one up to you to come up with and share the literature that you want to chat about the most. Feel free to share a list of your favorites, break down your favorite genre, feature your favorite authors, and be creative about all things literature in general.

    I think of any book with words (versus pictures) as literature. Fiction, non-fiction, classic, contemporary. All of it comes under the umbrella of the term for me.

    While in my head, I may say the word “literature” with a hoity-toity, snobbish tone, turning the word into something that sounds more like “lit-rat-sure,” in my reality I don’t think literature should be limited to those books some deem “worthy” of the title.

    If I were to list all my favorite books I’d be here for a long, long time. They number in the hundreds. But I suppose I could list a few of my favorite authors.

    Classics – Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charlotte Bronte, John Steinbeck, Franz Kafka, Stephen Crane

    Children’s – Richard Adams, E.B. White, George Selden, Kenneth Grahame, Beatrix Potter, William Steig, Natalie Babbitt, Norton Juster, Madeleine L’Engle, Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, Robert C. O’Brien, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Carolyn Keene

    Contemporary – Janet Fitch, Emma McLaughin, Nicola Kraus, Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, Danielle Steel

    Genre Fiction – Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, John Saul, Agatha Christie, Kresley Cole, Karen Marie Moning

    New Adult – Tammara Webber, J. Lynn, Sophie Jordan

    Young Adult – (I have a ton, so will just list a few of those who I’ve loved since before I became a blogger.) Rachel Vincent, Richelle Mead, Cassandra Clare, Kresley Cole, Gena Showalter, Melissa Marr, Lesley Livingston, Claudia Gray, Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater


    Well, that’s it for me. I’m about a million hours late in posting today’s topic. But it’s better late than never, right?

    Anyway, if you’re participating in Armchair BEA, feel free to leave a link to your introduction post so I can “meet” you! And whether it’s your first Armchair BEA or your second, third, fourth or more, I hope you have an awesome time, meet some new bloggers and authors, perhaps win a few amazing books, and have as much fun – if not more – as you would if you’d been attending the expo this week.

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    Armchair BEA: Keeping it Real & Children’s/Young Adult Literature

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    Design credit goes to Nina of Nina Reads

    Another interesting but challenging topic for Armchair BEA today. Well, the “keeping it real” part. I have absolutely no problem talking up YA fiction. Though as young adult literature may not be to everyone’s taste and as I’m not one to push and I’m not feeling much like a cheerleader at the moment, it was a bit of a challenge not to simply say, “I read it. I love it. That is all.”

    Keeping it Real

    My audience developed slowly and I’m fairly sure it’s changed since I started blogging. Some of my earliest readers are no longer a part of the community. Some of them have found other blogs and bloggers that are more in line with their interests. Some may still be there but choose not to interact. But there are some amazing readers that I do still connect with. And they make every day worth it.

    My blog’s growth was fairly slow. At least it seems that way to me. And it has taken a bit of a dip this past year and a half since I shifted my focus away from marketing my blog and growing it to just focusing on blogging itself. So, I’m not sure I’m the best person to talk about developing an audience.

    While there are ways to get the traffic numbers up – host lots of giveaways, be part of popular tours and events, participate in memes and be one of the early links – in the long run, if you’re looking to make a name for your blog and for yourself, and to get readers, it takes a bit more.

    Variety.

    While reviews are the core of what we bloggers do, having a review-only blog will limit our audience. It will also, likely, put a limit on the number of posts we have each week. Unless we can read and review a book a day, if we want to have a blog that posts fresh content daily we will need some sort of filler.

    Whether it’s a meme or a few, a feature, a giveaway, a tour post, a promotional blast, having something different will expand our blog’s audience.

    While I’m not entirely sure my material is “fresh,” I do try to mix things up now and again. I have my weekly features – Book Watch, Releasing This Week, My Reading Pile – but I also participate on select tours, host giveaways, create Random Thoughts discussion posts. Every so often I host a challenge, participate on challenges, participate in events. And every once in awhile I participate in a cover reveal, post a Crush List post, Trailers post, Teasers post.

    As I have other blogs that I blog on, some of the newer ideas get tested on them. Though if I was a bit more concerned about traffic, I’d have added those features and posts to this blog instead of diluting things.

    Blogging isn’t always fun.

    It’s a lot of work. And sometimes doing the same-old, same-old gets a bit stale. When that happens I try to put the focus back on books. It’s why I do this thing. Or I create a discussion post that reminds me that I’m not alone and that there are others who struggle with many of the same issues I do.

    I blog for me.

    Of course I want an audience, but if I’m not happy with what I post on my blog I can’t imagine why readers would stop by. If I like what I post, then perhaps someone else will.

    So I don’t worry about followers. I don’t worry about traffic. I don’t worry whether people think my reviews are too positive. I don’t worry about whether people think my reviews are too long.

    I don’t post content just so it will fill a gap. Though I do sometimes sneak in a giveaway earlier than planned to do just that. I don’t participate in promotions unless I strongly believe in what I’m promoting. I don’t write about topics because they are “hot.”

    If it means I have fewer readers or fewer commentators, that’s okay. But I like to think that I do have some sort of an audience and that I haven’t been talking to myself these past two-and-a-half years.

    What I do for fun.

    Participate in events. There are some great events for bloggers, like Armchair BEA, Parajunkee and The Bookish Brunette’s BBTC, Bound by Books’ Top Ten of… or a new one I’ll be participating in this August called Romp vs. Stomp hosted by The Book Nympho and Rabid Reads.

    Join challenges. This year I’m trying out Evie Seo’s 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge and Katie’s Book Blog’s 2013 YA Contemporary Challenge.

    Host events. What better way to engage with other bloggers than to host an event. Last year Jaime of Two Chicks on Books and I co-hosted the Authors Are Rockstars event in August. This year we’ve invited Mindy of Magical Urban Fantasy Reads to join in as a host.

    And with all sorts of tournaments like the YA Crush Tourney hosted by The YA Sisterhood’s blog, there are lots of ways to get involved. While much of book blogging is being isolated with one’s thoughts, there are plenty of ways to interact and engage. Like attending events, signings, conferences.

    Children’s/Young Adult Literature

    Wow, it’s been a long while since I was a child, and having no children myself I’m not sure I’m the best person to be recommending “must have” reads for kids. But here goes…

    And I suppose it depends on age, but the top five books that were memorable to me are:

    The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

    The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

    Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

    Watership Down by Richard Adams.

    But I also loved The Phantom TollboothThe Hobbit, the Little House on the Prairie series, anything by Judy Blume, the Nancy Drew series, The Cricket in Times SquareOld YellerSweet Valley High, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.

    And when I was younger, the Frances series by Russell Hoban, Beatrix Potter’s books, the Little Bear series, William Steig’s books.

    Young adult fiction.

    I am a proud reader of young adult fiction. And it’s more than a guilty pleasure for me. I’ve tried many genres and maybe one day I will tire of YA but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    There is such variety in this genre with many levels of depth with the books on offer. And there are books to suit many readers’ tastes and ages. So, while it may take a few tries to find the “right” niche within the genre, it’s hard to imagine there isn’t something for practically everyone.

    I have always loved stories with adventure and fantasy. I love being taken out of my world and transported into another. And while paranormal/urban fantasy, fantasy and sci fi stories aimed at an adult audience offer this escape, many times the adventure is overshadowed by sex or the story is constrained by having characters who are adults.

    In YA there is also an innocence to the characters and their relationships that is appealing to read about. There is also an optimism, a confidence and a recklessness that is more believable in characters of a younger age.

    When the stories are well-developed and the characters intriguing, I find them as appealing, if not more so, than most of the fantasy, horror, sci fi, urban fantasy or paranormal books I’ve read.

    And while I don’t frequently read contemporary stories that focus solely on “teen drama,” there are a few authors who manage to present the issues in a way that are not only fun but relatable and moving.

    I’ve read the classics. I’ve read genre fiction – crime thrillers, mysteries, horror, romance, chick lit, some sci fi. I’ve read contemporary literature. But none of these has held me quite as captive as YA. So, unless Stephen King starts publishing one hundred books a year, YA will be my focus, my passion, for many years to come.

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    Armchair BEA: Ethics & Non-Fiction

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    Design credit goes to Nina of Nina Reads

    Today’s post was really difficult for me. I must have re-written it at least three times before I was willing to click “publish.” I try for a fair and balanced approach to my discussion posts, but as ethics are such an important thing for me, trying to keep my emotions at bay hasn’t been easy. Over-sharing was also something I struggled with.

    And as this post is one that is part of a larger event, I felt it was even more important to stay on track, to keep it informative and not emotionally-driven, and to try to be helpful and not dictatorial.

    Hopefully I struck the right balance….

     

    Ethics

    I like to think I’m an ethical blogger. Each word I choose to use in my posts and my reviews comes from me. While I may not be the originator of each and every phrase I use – I tend to overuse cliched phrases – they are phrases chosen by me to emphasize what I’m saying. And they come from thoughts that have originated in my head. They are part of what informs my voice, even if my voice isn’t wholly unique.

    I tend to over credit. Just in case. It’s better to be careful than to be labeled an idea thief or just a thief. And while I may not go to the ends of the earth to check if a feature name was used before I use it, I will do a Google search and scroll through five or so pages before adopting it as mine.

    I don’t read reviews for books I’m going to review in the near future. I don’t look around at other blogs for ideas of what I might include on mine. While a post I read may spark an idea which leads to a discussion post, if that is the case I will always credit the blogger or post that got me thinking.

    I’m not one who is comfortable taking credit for something that is not my own. But I sure as heck want that credit when it is mine. And I’m not someone who likes to get freebies because of someone’s mistake. Yes, just last weekend I informed my waitress when the kitchen gave me cream cheese instead of butter with my bagel so she could properly charge me.

    And when there are grey areas – such as when using celebrity images or other graphics in my posts – I prefer to err on the side of caution. So no more dream-casting guest posts for me.

    As a blogger I’ve had my reviews plagiarized. On more than one occasion. I was harassed by one of the bloggers who did it. I’ve had a feature copied without being credited. I’ve had images I’ve purchased used without my permission. And having that done to me, having my ideas passed off as someone else’s, being made to feel a victim, makes me wary of putting myself out there.

    It’s the worst part of being a book blogger. And it’s something I would never, ever want anyone to have to go through.

    For new book bloggers, my recommendations would be….

    Hold off on reading reviews for books you’re about to review. Even if you don’t intend to, it’s just too easy for someone else’s thoughts or phrasing to be incorporated into your review.

    Even if you come up with a “unique” feature for your blog on your own, if you see something identically named or so similar in concept and structure, give credit. It doesn’t have to be for inspiration. You can simply acknowledge that there are similar features out there, but that you came up with it on your own.

    Don’t let the pressure to post or write a review make you feel you need to resort to theft of someone else’s words. It’s not worth it. Even if you aren’t caught. Your reviews are supposed to reflect your voice. They should be your thoughts about what you’ve read. Your readers want to hear what you have to say. Not what someone else does. Don’t doubt your abilities.

    If you do think you’ve been plagiarized or your idea or feature was used without credit, reach out privately first. The drama that ensues from going public is not always worth it. If that doesn’t work, ask a friend for advice. Sometimes an outside perspective can help make you see the true gravity of the offense. And it’s always great to have support. If nothing works, then take it public, but be as professional as you can be. As the victim you don’t want to end up looking like the bad guy. Offer evidence – screenshots, emails, DMs – and be prepared to fight for what’s yours.

    My first experience with plagiarism…

    … is actually a really long story. One I don’t particularly want to rehash in detail. But nearly two years later it still stings when I think about it. It made me wary of sharing my thoughts online. It made me distrustful of my fellow bloggers. It resulted in drama that lasted months and which I still occasionally wonder will rear its ugly little head again.

    In brief… My reviews were used without permission. By bloggers I knew. I was lied to. I was harassed. At least one of my reviews was submitted to the publisher. A publisher they received review books from and I did not. I was a fairly new blogger at the time, my blog was not yet nine months old. I didn’t want drama. But as the scope of the theft was not just of my reviews, but of at least forty other reviewers, I went public.

    It’s a decision I still wonder about to this day. I feel it has left a stain on my image. It caused me numerous sleepless nights. It escalated beyond what I ever imaged it could have escalated to. But in the end, I don’t think I could have kept blogging if I’d kept silent.

    I did try to handle things privately. I did try to keep things between me and the bloggers involved. But after being lied to, after receiving a non-apology, after doing some further investigating and after getting advice from a blogger friend, I decided to go public.

    The wonderful thing about this community is that when a wrong has been done you’re not alone. While not everyone may believe you, while some may choose sides against you, while some may think you’re an attention-seeker, your friends will be there for you. And if you have evidence to back up your claim, others will too.

    As much as having your words stolen may make you want to never again share them online, quitting lets the thieves win. And that’s just not right.

    Guidelines….

    I’m not really sure there are set rules and guidelines that one must follow if one chooses to become a blogger. There are a few basic rules of etiquette that book bloggers seem to follow. And they are….

    Don’t’s:

    Don’t name your blog the same (or similar) to someone else’s blog. Especially if their blog name is somewhat unique.

    Don’t copy someone else’s feature, give it a different name and call it yours. Give credit.

    Don’t knock someone over at a book conference to get that last copy of a coveted ARC. Pushing and shoving is never cool. Would discovering you’ve been caught on camera and the video has gone viral be something you can live with?

    Don’t steal. Ideas. Reviews. Images. If they’re not your words or graphics, don’t use them without permission.

    Don’t review pirated eBooks. Don’t read them. Don’t download them. Don’t look for them.

    Do’s:

    Be honest. Your blog’s readers are there to hear your thoughts. Even if all you have to say is that you have absolutely nothing to say about anything on a given day. Even if you love or detest a book that others feel the exact opposite about.

    Be respectful. Of other bloggers. Of other readers’ opinions. Of authors. Of publishers.

    Be aware. Twitter is not a private chat room. Blog posts once published can be screen captured or cached. It takes just one instant, just one word, just one bad decision to tarnish your reputation.

    Non-Fiction

    I do not read non-fiction. At all. And while that wasn’t always true, at present it holds zero appeal.

    I used to, on occasion, enjoy reading biographies and memoirs. As a history major in college I loved to read books about historical figures and events. But that is pretty much it.

    I do love horror but the idea of reading true crime freaks me out. I accidentally read parts of three true crime novels growing up and I got physically ill. While I love reading chilling tales of murder and mayhem, it’s only those of a fictional nature that appeal. The reality of crime is a whole other matter.

    If I had to make a suggestion of a type of book for someone new to, or reluctant to read, non-fiction, I’d say a biography. Chances are there is someone – a fascinating figure in history, a sports figure, a celebrity – that a reader would be interested in knowing more about.

    But, aside from Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War by William Manchester, a book that still brings me to tears today, unless someone is a history buff who enjoys World War II or the Civil War and Reconstruction, I have little in the way of suggested reads.

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