Friday, February 6, 2009

What is So Great About Book Blogs

About a month ago I read this post at Books on the Brain. Lisa was so genuinely taken in by this book, Life As We Knew It that I knew I wanted to read it; I hadn't even read her review - just the fact that she was completely enthralled by it.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is a novel meant for a teen audience about the end of civilization as we know it, from the point of view of Miranda, a teenage girl. Something goes awry with the moon which disturbs the equilibrium of the earth and chaos ensues. When presented with a story like this, I choose to go along with it - that is to say, I didn't really question the science behind the story - could this really happen? I couldn't say. What this story is really about though, is how Miranda and her family and her town deal with what could be the end of civilization. Miranda comes to learn how strong she really is and how important her family is to her. I think I didn't like it quite as much as Lisa, but it's a terribly compelling story and I recommend it.

Well, What is so Great About Book Blogs? If it weren't for Lisa and her blog, I never would have picked up this book. It would really never have occurred to me to read from the teen section. Most of the books at the bookstore in this section are about vampires or girls in short skirts. So I have broadened my horizons. And hopefully, sometimes, I get the chance to broaden the horizons of others. It's a great feeling to have comments like I did on my last post about Keeping the House - so many had never heard of it, or weren't sure about it since maybe it didn't get a lot of press.

And there is the struggle. I go back and forth about how I feel about reading review copies. In most ways, it's great. I get free books, feel flattered that someone might value my opinion, and because I'm picky about what I accept or request, most times I enjoy the books. But there is down side. I become one of many who are reading the same book. Sometimes it is hard to get to 'my own' books because of these commitments. And finally, sometimes I feel like a bit of an advertisement. I want to share more here than just new releases that I've liked, because there are a lot of books that were published last year or five years ago that are terrific too. When I think about what sort of posts I like to read, I certainly do like reading about the new great title out there, but I feel most blessed by learning about books that I've never heard of or never thought to read. Just think - when I go to bookstores, particularly in big ones where I don't usually shop, isn't my goal to find something that I haven't seen a million times already? Who knows. We all know times are tough and publishers are struggling. Perhaps the review copies will dry up. But perhaps, since our opinions are free, they will not. Time will tell.

Do you struggle with this? How do you reconcile your feelings on this?


Lezlie said...

>>sometimes I feel like a bit of an advertisement<<

Bingo!! That's one of the reasons I'm requesting few if any ARCs in the future. I love hearing about the new books coming out from the bloggers that are reading them, but I've made the conscious decision to veer away from that and find a different focus for my blog. I haven't quite figured out what that will be, but I'm reading lots of cool stuff trying to figure it out. :-)

I think many of us struggle with trying to find a unique voice in this vast community of ours while still maintaining our personal reasons for starting our blogs to begin with. Some are more successful than others, but that fact that we all have this outlet is awesome!


Carrie K said...

Oh wow, I've been struggling with this very question lately. I hadn't realized how many book reviews were ARCs and I hate to put it this way, but I felt hoodwinked.

Now I realize I wasn't and that a great many bloggers that review ARC's sift through them to read only the ones that interest them, but it was a bit like having an old boyfriend call you up and then try to sell you Amway.

OTOH, the way I pick out books nowadays is vastly different than a few years ago. I used to basically read the shelves in libraries, used & new bookstores and see what jumped out at me, while now I tend to order specific books through Amazon and my library system.

Argh! Sorry for the long "comment"! You struck a nerve.

Eva said...

I haven't been taking many ARCs this year, mainly for the reasons you discussed above. I don't really like how the book blogosphere is periodically flooded, even though sometimes I'm part of that!

On the other hand, I am participating in a publicity campaign for one of my favourite authors later this month and next month. But I don't feel guilty, because I love her to death and think everyone else should too! ;)

Bookfool said...

Absolutely! I've struggled with exactly the same questions and feelings. I don't want my blog to become a billboard or a ditto of everyone else's blogs, but I love books and I love authors. I will always repeatedly mention favorites because I can't shut up about them. :)

Like a lot of other bloggers, I'm trying to back away from ARCs, now. I still read a lot of them but I've never been able to read ARCs exclusively, anyway, and I'm much, much, much more careful to choose only books I think I really, really want to read. There's only so much some of us can tolerate of being scheduled, for one thing. And, I don't read all that fast, so I feel like I'm perpetually behind if I accept too many.

I also now only interview authors if there's some compelling reason because there have been some recent blog tours where the author interview saturation level was unbearable and if I saw the same author's photo or the cover of the same old book, a post in my reader became a quick automatic delete.

Staci said...

I don't do ARC's and honestly I don't want to. I love to stumble across a book that unexpectedly knocks my socks off. I have Life As We Knew It in my middle school library. I had a nightmare the first night after getting about 1/2 in to the story!!! Looking forward to reading The Dead and The Gone which is a sequel (kind of) to Life...

BooksPlease said...

I like to read a mixture of new books and old. I don't like the feeling that I have to review a book, which is what I've found myself doing recently with review copies - I like to just go where my fancy takes me. My reason for blogging was for my own record of what I think of the books I've read, so I'm not going to accept many review books in the future - not that I've been offered many anyway.

Amy said...

This is kind of a hot topic this week, huh?

One of the things that has been great about reading review copies for me is that it has expanded my reading.

Life as We Knew It actually got a lot of coverage as well. It was a popular book. So in some ways, I actually think getting review copies levels the playing field a little's not just the JK Rowlings and Neil Gaiman's of the world getting attention.

But I understand your point absolutely!!!

Les said...

As Amy said, this is quite the hot-topic this week. I get a lot of ARCs, but they mainly come through work (B&N). Only a few come unsolicited to me at home. And, I've been known to occasionally write to a favorite author when I hear they have a new book coming out. But like everyone has said, I don't want my blog to appear as a big advertisement for authors. But, I like reading old and new, so I'll continue to read ARCs, but only on my terms. If I don't get to the book before it's released, I'm not going to feel guilty. This is really free advertising for authors and now that publishers are nervous about the economy, they'll happily accept any free advertising. I doubt ARCs will dry up in the coming year.

Regarding your review about Life As We Knew It -- I only just skimmed your paragraph, as I just checked this book out from the library last week! I've heard good things about it and wanted another book to add to my list of post-apocalyptic titles (for a future endcap).

Vintage Reading said...

I don't have that problem - as a fledgling blogger I don't get anything free! Actually I didn't even know that publishers sent books out. I must admit that because everyone was reviewing that Literary potato peel book thingy it actually put me off reading it.

It is a dilemma.

Tara said...

I'm sorry I didn't respond sooner - I've been working every day and have come down with something, blech!

Lezlie, good for you! It sounds like this is something you've given a lot of thought to.

Carrie K, I know, for a long time I didn't realize either why everyone was reading the same book. I make an effort to mention if I was given a copy. Thanks for your thoughts. I do really rely on fellow bloggers for reading ideas and it gets tiring of reading about the same thing over and over.

Eva, I know what you mean. It's hard to resist though! I make a strong effort to only accept/request books that I would have read anyway or at least have been interested in. And I don't feel bad taking ARCs of authors whose work I already enjoy - such a treat!

Bookfool, Yes, yes yes. I get stressed by feeling scheduled myself. I know what you mean about the interviews too. I don't want to be in a position where I have to talk up something I don't really believe in.

Staci, it's definitely a thought provoking book. A coworker told me her son is going to read the sequalish book since it's from a boy's perspective.

BookPlease, exactly, I feel committed to it, when if it's something I don't feal strongly about either way, I don't have much to say. That's exactly why I started blogging.

Amy, is it? Is there another thread I should check out? I never heard of LAWKI so it passed me by! Maybe because up until recently I didn't take much notice of teen books. Now I know better. Thanks for your comment.

Les, who else is talking about it? I think you're right, about the free advertising and such. I think this book would be great for your endcap! The author has written a second book from a boy's point of view.

Vintage Reading, I didn't for a long time myself, get any free books that is! I just read the potato peel book and liked it. But I also get put off by books everyone is reading.

Les said...

I know I've read a couple of posts with this exact topic, but could only locate one here. (Don't you just hate that when you know you've seen something, but no matter how hard you search, you can't find it again!?!)

I saw the second book at the library but thought I should try this one first. I hate to bring too many books home and let them sit unread until their due date!

Jodie Robson said...

I don't like being under pressure to read a book - it's not unusual for me to put a book aside because it doesn't suit my mood, but when I come back to it some time later I really enjoy it. If I had to persevere because it was an ARC, I might be much more lukewarm than if I had left it for a while. Another problem with these reviews is that books aren't always everywhere - it's quite frustrating to read a review of a book you think you'd love, only to find that it's not due to be published on your side of the Atlantic for ages.

I also enjoy reading and writing reviews of older books, and made a conscious decision that I wasn't going to allow the age of a book to deter me from writing about it.

Tara said...

Thanks for the link Les. I enjoyed reading the post - lots of good points.

GeraniumCat, what a good point about moods - I've thought the same thing. I have the same issue with publication location - it's hard to wait for things to come across the pond sometimes.

Maw Books said...

I read a lot of ARC's and review copies but I only read the ones that interest me in the first place. Would I read it even if it wasn't a review copy? 90% of the time I'd say yes. I love checking out the new books and I love rubbing shoulders with authors when doing interviews. I'm an eclectic reader, so I hope my blog reflects that. I read a lot of books I hope you won't see anywhere else as well as some new releases. It's all in the balance.

Tara said...

Natasha, I do the same - I accept ARCS that I think I would have read anyway, so it's usually easy to like them. I guess my issue is more feeling like one of many who is posting about the same book, or being committed to posting I don't feel strongly about either way. You have a great blog, and I love all you do! It seems that you have limitless energy and you impress the heck out of me!

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Tara said...

Hi Alanna, thanks for stopping by and for your kind words!

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Tara said...

Sheela, thank you and thanks for stopping by!