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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Life Has a Funny Way
Blog URL: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/
Your name: Leonie Byrne

Let’s start with the beginning: why did you first get involved with blogging?

It all started a couple of years ago, when I started a blog mainly to get things off my chest. I’ve always loved writing and reading but I’m useless with keeping a journal, so I decided to start a blog to talk about what was going on in my life and the random thoughts I had. The blog worked for my initial idea but I was constantly looking for what my niche could be. Despite being a big reader it never occurred to me that people would want to read my book reviews. I had no idea that there was this whole community of other book lovers out there. I’d often thought about applying for a job as a reviewer in a magazine or newspaper but had no idea where to start! Then an author friend of mine told me about NetGalley. When I started reviewing for NetGalley it made sense to put those reviews on my blog as well as on social media, and so Life has a Funny Way was reborn as a book reviewing blog. I still post other bits and pieces on there but my main passion is the book reviewing!

How has reviewing books changed your experience as a reader?

I’ve tried not to let it change my experience too much if I’m honest. At first I was reading all these amazing reviews from other bloggers or reviewers and they were making them really cool by adding quotes. So, I started writing quotes down as I was reading. But then I realised that this was having a negative impact on my reading. I was hunting down quotes and dragging myself out of the story to write them down. So now I just choose one or two quotes usually from the beginning of the book to use as an introduction. Of course, if I’m reading on kindle it’s easier as I can highlight whole passages if I want to! On the other hand, though it’s enriched my reading experiences in a big way, when you’ve read a ton of books (1733 at last count) it can be hard to remember specifics about what you’ve read. Reviewing allows me to go back at the end of the month, the year, even 10 years later and refresh my memory, not on whether the book was one I enjoyed but why I enjoyed it so much. It also allows me to share my love of books with other people in the book community which in turn can lead to recommendations which will enrich other readers’ lives.

You just started a BookTube channel – how do you like vlogging so far?

Vlogging is so different to blogging! I don’t know what I really expected from vlogging, or how successful I thought I would be, but what I have found is that it’s a lot of fun. Writing is my thing, speaking not so much, so it took a while to get into the swing of things. But once I saw that people enjoyed what I was saying it’s just gotten better and better. It’s introduced me to a community of fellow book lovers which I never knew existed. When I try to talk about books to anyone in real life I see their eyes glazing over and that’s fine, if that’s not their thing. But talking to my subscribers on YouTube, I’m talking to people who love books as much as I do, who understand my crazy book loving ways. It’s also been great to get recommendations on books from other people’s channels and share our weird book habits, loves, hates and passions. I’ve also made some great friends who I now speak to over email and I’m going to be starting a book related newsletter with one of them soon. Vlogging has really expanded my horizons.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

I love high and epic fantasy like The Lord of the Rings & A Game of Thrones because you can really get lost in a book which creates a whole world which is alternative to your own. As a writer as well as a reader I admire the incredible talent of writers like Tolkien, Martin and Laini Taylor because they can actually create these books with such beautiful writing, I mean, what would it be like to be inside their minds? Minds where a whole new universe can be created?

Urban Fantasy novels have also long been a favorite, books like Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter series, books which create an alternative world but it’s a different kind, it’s the world which is your own world but better, more adventurous. I always come away with the niggling feeling that maybe there is something else right in the corner of my eye and one day I could just be there at the right place and time to slip into it. It’s pure escapism and I love it!

There’s a huge trend at the moment for “Royalty based” fantasy novels. I loved The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen but I’ve found myself avoiding other “Queen” books. I was in Waterstones over the weekend and that seemed to be all that was on the shelves. I’d like to pick up some books which have original and new ideas. Fantasy is such an amazing genre because a lot of it comes straight from the imagination and can’t really be based on life experience or researched in the way other genres can. That’s why I think it’s so important to come up with new and exciting ideas. I would really like to see more Mermaid books orientated towards adults and YA.

You’re working on a debut novel. Can you talk a little bit about your writing process and how you make time while in university and with an active blog?

Oh well, what can I say about my writing process? It’s very haphazard to say the least. It’s a fantasy novel I’m writing but I keep losing myself in other people’s fantasy writing instead of doing my own! I started my novel about 3 years ago, and just wrote in notebooks whenever I had a spare minute and whenever the muse struck so to speak. Now, I tend to only write when the muse strikes. I need to get a new laptop as mine is really slow which puts me off writing because I can’t be bothered to wait for it to boot up! My blogging, writing short stories, creative writing for university and of course now my Booktube and my full-time job all take up a huge amount of time as well. But when I do sit down to write, I write a lot. Rather than setting myself a goal such as 500 words per day, I find that writing when I feel inspired works better for me because I can sit down and write 5k+ words at a time, but then I might not write again for 5+ months. It’s a slow process but I want to get it right, I’m in no rush!

Which upcoming Fantasy book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?

Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by JM Sullivan is a title I’ve just requested and I’m hoping to be approved for. I love Alice in Wonderland retellings and I’ve even written a short story version of one myself!

I’ve recently been approved Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan, a novel about two teenagers who get together and set off a chain of events relating to a prophecy, it sounds magical and has a cool cover so I’m looking forward to starting that.

Darien, Empire of Salt by CF Iggulden is another one I’ve just been approved for and it looks like a super cool Game of Thrones style novel so I’m really intrigued by it. There’s a lot to live up to with George RR Martin’s series and I’m hoping this will satisfy my cravings for fantasy-cum-historical fiction!

Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott has been one of my favorite reads of the year so far. Not just as a Netgalley read but overall it was amazing! It’s all about a town which has been cut off from the rest of England and nobody knows why. There’s a mystery at the centre and it revolves around this really cool fantasy element, but I won’t say anymore because it’s better as a surprise!

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

Life has a Funny Way is a quirky blog inhabited by lots of gifs. It’s very welcoming and frequently updated as I do read a lot!

Your favorite 2 publishers for Fantasy titles?

Penguin Random House Group and Harper Fiction have both published some amazing fantasy books in the last 12 months, either under their own name or their imprints.

Your favorite snack(s) to eat while reading:

Vegetarian Pizza & Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream (not together of course!).

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

I had to think long and hard on this one because there are so many authors I love, particularly in the fantasy genre. I think, though, that my choice would have to be Laini Taylor, author of Strange the Dreamer. I’ve been a huge fan since first reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone and my fangirling has only grown as time has gone on. On our trip, we would go to Prague which is the setting for Daughter of Smoke and Bone and explore it through the eyes of Karou, the main character in the series.

    

Thanks so much, Leonie, for spending time with us and answering our questions! 

Please make sure to check out the Life Has A Funny Way blog, and Leonie’s latest BookTube video, “NetGalley The Reader’s PoV”:

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Fairview Review
Blog URL: http://fveslibrary.blogspot.com
Your name: Suzanne Costner

A nice place to start is with your library origin story – how did become the school library media specialist at Fairview Elementary School? Can you briefly explain your role and your favorite aspect of your job?

I have always wanted to be a librarian, and after several years as a classroom teacher, I realized that my favorite activities all revolved around the books I used with my students. So I completed my LMS degree and moved into the library. I had a wonderful mentor in the school where I was teaching, and she helped me with the transition to the nearby school where I am now librarian. I teach a library class for each homeroom once a week, and also have classes schedule extra time to come in for research or other projects. My favorite part of the job is connecting my students with the right books and watching them become avid readers.

How is technology incorporated into your library, for your students but also for yourself and your staff? Do you have any goals for incorporating further technology into your library?

I began the blog as a way to incorporate more technology into the library program. I wanted to offer the students an authentic audience to share book reviews, rather than just writing a book report for the teacher to check off in the gradebook. I’ve had a few students take advantage of the platform, but most are more excited about reading the books rather than writing about them. I’ve slowly been adding MakerSpace activities to the library, and the most popular so far is the green screen. Our plan is to record student book talks, then attach QR codes to the covers of books for other students to access the videos.

I serve as a “tech teacher leader” for my school. Part of the role is to model technology integration for the other teachers, and to offer support as they try to implement new things. We have used the Quiver AR app and Plickers in guidance classes, robotics and computer coding in the library, and apps like Epic! ebooks and Quizlet in classrooms. The big focus lately has been the green screen. I’ve used it to record voter public service announcements with the 5th graders; the 4th grade has recorded math instructional videos on how to solve word problems and also infomercials starring the founding fathers of the original 13 colonies; the basketball teams even came in and made an appreciation video to show the coach at their banquet. I lead training sessions on using online resources, STEM lessons, and equipment like the green screen or document cameras.

Which book(s) would you suggest for a middle grade level reluctant reader?

There are so many great stories that are not thick, intimidating books, so I usually start with those. Series like The Zack Files, Eerie Elementary, or The Imaginary Veterinary are fast-paced and include lots of humor to up their appeal. I also reach for anything that is heavily illustrated or in graphic novel/manga format such as the Dragon Breath, Babymouse, and Amulet series or anything by Doug TenNapel (Cardboard is a big favorite). And then I look for topics that appeal to the students like the I Survived books. Once I find one book they enjoy, it is much easier to say, “If you liked that, then try this.”

How long have you been reviewing books online and why did you start? Do you find reviewing the books helps you better recommend them to students?

I began the blog in June 2013, as something to offer the students in place of writing book summaries or taking AR tests. I wrote out some reviews to show them a sample of what they might do, and became hooked on it. I have always read children’s and YA books to be able to find new titles to use in my classroom or to add to the library, so sharing my thoughts about them was a natural progression. Reviewing definitely helps me think of which student(s) a certain book would be perfect for. It has become a ritual when they come up to the circulation desk, they ask me which of the books in their stack I have already read. And there are several students who come in the door and call across the room, “What should I read next?”

Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?

My first year in the library I had a family come in for the book fair on a Friday afternoon and the father asked me to help his son find a book. “He hasn’t found anything that he likes since he finished the Harry Potter series,” the dad said. So I showed them The Lightning Thief and told them to take it home and try it over the weekend, and if he didn’t enjoy it, I would exchange it for something else. Monday morning both parents came in and I asked if their son had started the book and did he think he would like it. The mother replied,” Start it! He read the whole thing in one sitting and we’re back for the rest of the series!” And I thought to myself, “The library is where I belong.”

Which upcoming Middle Grade book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?

Oh, I’m glad you put that (s) on book, because there is no way to pick only one. For fantasy readers I would say Jen Calonita’s Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School #3). For graphic novel lovers, Gene Luen Yang’s Secrets and Sequences from the Secret Coders series (coding, robots, and graphic novel format all together). If readers enjoy humorous fiction with action, then The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff. And for a bit of suspense/supernatural elements I would say Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Round!

The last book that made you smile:

 

 

The Dragon Hunters by James Russell and Link Choi

 

 

Your favorite Storytime book to read:

Anything by Mo Willems. We Are in a Book (with Elephant and Piggie so excited to be the characters in a story), is a great one. My students also love Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements. I think they like listening to me try to read it without getting tongue-tied.

The most popular books in your library right now:

I Survived series, A Series of Unfortunate Events (thanks to the Netflix series), Secret Coders series, and spooky books by Mary Downing Hahn.

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

I would love to have tea with Anne McCaffrey and talk dragons with her. I periodically go back and read through all the Pern books and remember when I found the first one while I was in middle school. She wrote such a wide range of science fiction/fantasy and I love all the various worlds she imagined and shared with us.

Thanks so much Suzanne, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out the The Fairview Review and more Middle Grade available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Reading Reality
Blog URL: http://www.readingreality.net
Your name: Marlene Harris

Let’s start with your origin story - how long have you been blogging about Fiction, and why did you start?

Reading Reality’s sixth anniversary is coming up on April 4. I actually celebrate a Blogo-Birthday on April 4-5, as my own birthday is April 5. I’m a bit older than 6, though.

I began Reading Reality when we moved from Gainesville FL to Atlanta. We came for my husband’s job, but 2011 was still during the Great Recession. I wanted something to do that would still connect with books, and would keep me busy and intellectually stimulated. One of the things I enjoy about working in libraries is being able to help readers find books they will love, and Reading Reality is an extension of that.

The blog was originally called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction”. I got that from a t-shirt. But when I started doing library consulting, “Reading Reality” sounded a bit more like the name of a company, so that’s what stuck. Occasionally people still ask me about real estate in Pennsylvania.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

My go-to genres are science fiction and fantasy, but I also read a lot of romance and a fair amount of mystery. I’m pretty eclectic. I particularly like the places where genres mingle, so things like science fiction romance and historical mystery always get me reading. When I’m in a reading slump, I turn to urban fantasy and that brings me right back to the joy of reading.

As far as trends go, I’m kind of sorry to see steampunk fading a bit. I loved that blend of historical, SF, fantasy and often romance. The best of the breed were generally terrific and terrifically inventive.

Do you find your background as a librarian influences which books you choose and how you review them? And, are you still involved in the library community?

I am still very involved in the library community. I am currently the librarian at TAPPI, the Technical Association for the Pulp and Paper Industry. They have a small but significant collection of materials in the industry, and I answer research requests and provide document delivery.

I’m also a member of the American Library Association Notable Books Council, a committee that has picked the best literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry every year since 1944. And I review for Library Journal.

Some of the books I choose to review are for my library interests, but most I pick just because they look either intriguing, fun, or both. Being a librarian, having done readers’ advisory work, does influence the way I review. If there are “read-alikes” for the book I’m reviewing, I make sure to give them a mention, no matter when they were published. And if I’m reviewing a book in a series, I always tell readers whether or not they really need to have read the rest of that series, of if they can just jump in anywhere. Discovering that you are reading book 5 of a series and are completely lost is a VERY disappointing experience.

Aside from your reviews, you have a variety of different features on your blog – which is your current favorite?

I like different features for very different reasons. Blog Hops are terrific for getting traffic. I do Stacking the Shelves and the Sunday Post because they help me stay organized. I hope people enjoy those features, but they do serve a function for me as the blogger.

My favorite features have been Amy Daltry’s semi-regular guest reviews. She picks interesting books, including a lot of genre classics, and she writes a terrific review, whether the book is terrific or not. She’s clear and honest about what she likes and doesn’t like in a book, and it is great to have the opportunity to feature a reviewer whose perspectives are different from my own.

The most fun feature I have is one that I wish I was able to do more often, and that’s joint reviews with either Cass or Amy. It is particularly fun and frequently hilarious when we are able to write together in real time.

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

Cass and I have a joint review for Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop coming in March that made both of us ROFL. It’s not that the book is funny, it isn’t and it’s not intended to be. But we love to out-snark each other.

I’m very excited to read In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen. I’ve heard such marvelous things about her work, but this is my chance to get in at the beginning of one of her series.

My favorite upcoming cover is Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James. The joke going around Facebook among librarians is, “What, only 12?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

Evidence of a life either misspent or well spent with books, by someone who can’t resist sharing.

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Sherlock Holmes. I have an absolute weakness for Holmes pastiches, and I love Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series.

Your favorite 2 authors for Fiction titles:

Only 2? Inconceivable!

Science fiction: John Scalzi
Fantasy: L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Mystery: Louise Penny
Historical Mystery: Charles Todd
Science Fiction Romance: Anna Hackett
Fantasy Romance: Jeffe Kennedy
Romance: Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

John Scalzi, hands down. And conveniently, he is still alive. I would love to go on a book tour, or even part of one, with him. I’ve heard him perform at several, and he’s always both thoughtful and funny, as he is on his blog at Whatever, although the ratio of thoughtful to funny there is slightly different. And I’d get to quiz him about his upcoming books. And possibly meet his current cats, the Scamperbeasts.

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Reader Spotlight

We’re excited to be spotlighting Charmaine Atrooshi, who works in the Homebound Services department of the Ottawa Public Library. She is passionate about social justice, and providing equitable library services in order to build strong communities. She has been in her current role for the past seven years, and spends most of her days providing readers’ advisory services to her homebound customers. She believes robust readers’ advisory skills and services are important in public libraries as they help to connect people, and provide access to library materials that help us relax, learn and escape….. Charmaine holds a Master of Arts in Legal Studies (Carleton University), Bachelor of Arts Honours in Law (Carleton) and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology (Carleton). She is currently pursuing an MLIS online with the University of Alberta, and is looking forward to fusing her legal background with librarianship.

A nice place to start is with your library origin story – how did you become involved with the Ottawa Public Library (OPL)?

I started working for OPL as a summer student while I was completing my first undergraduate degree. My role was to provide children’s programming in rural library branches. I later applied for a paging position, was hired on permanently, and here we are now, 11 years (and several different roles and degrees) later! Public libraries are a dynamic place to work—they are constantly changing, innovating, and creating new ways to reach out to their communities in order to construct services and programming that are relevant to their needs. Every day brings something new and exciting!

Can you describe what Homebound Services does, those who use it, and why it’s essential to your community?

Homebound services is a department that selects and delivers library materials to OPL customers who have difficulty accessing a library branch on a regular basis due to age, illness or disability. The majority of our customers are older adults and seniors. We offer two types of services; one is a home delivery service where library materials are selected monthly by staff and delivered to their door, and the other is a mini library service where we bring a selection of library materials to various retirement residents for the residents to peruse and select from. We have around 500 customers that we select for monthly, as well as approximately 150 mini library customers. OttawaHomeboundServices

Services like these are really important in our community as they help to remove barriers to access, provide equitable library service, promote information literacy, and are a means of connecting customers with the resources, materials and services they require. We encourage our customers to contact us with feedback on their selections, and to request titles/authors they enjoy.

Has having access to digital galleys/proofs impacted your collection development strategy? Has it also affected the types of titles you recommend to your customers/patrons?

Having access to digital galleys assists greatly when it comes to recommending and selecting titles for our Homebound customers. Many want to hear what the next ‘big thing’ is, and to find read-alikes for their favorite authors, and they look to us for feedback. Reading the blurbs on NetGalley and having the opportunity to access some of these materials ahead of time is great, as it helps me keep my finger on the pulse of publishing trends—so when someone asks me for the next “Girl on the Train” I can provide some great suggestions for new thrillers!

OPL has a centralized content services department that is responsible for the materials selection for all 33 Ottawa Public Library branches (plus Homebound and Bookmobile Services). They do a great job of providing us with materials that are relevant to the needs of our Homebound customers, and are always open to suggestions for items we think our customers would enjoy.

Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?

Years ago, I read a book from NetGalley called Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler. Calling Me Home
I loved it so much—Kibler painted such a vivid, incredible (slightly heartbreaking) story and I knew that this was something that many of our Homebound customers (and colleagues) would enjoy. I sent this title to many of our historical fiction/family sagas customers in hopes they would enjoy as much as I had—and I was right. A few people who we rarely heard from contacted us to say how much they enjoyed this—and would like more by this author (unfortunately, she hasn’t published anything else yet – but we found some read-alikes in the interim). One customer at a mini library enjoyed it so much, she gave a mini book talk to the other residents in the room- encouraging them to read it as she enjoyed it so much! It was a great feeling!

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?

Jojo Moyes- Paris for One & Other stories (as we have a big Moyes following) and Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter. I don’t read a lot in the science fiction/fantasy type of genre, but Crouch had this way of sucking you in right from the first chapter. I couldn’t put it down—it was a refreshing shift from what I normally read and I think many others would also find this book captivating! Mini libraries are excellent opportunities for recommending titles and having readers’ advisory conversations—these chats help us all to expand our reading horizons and try new titles/authors/genres that we may not have picked up otherwise.

Paris for One     Dark Matter

What is the most requested title in your library?

We have had a lot of requests recently from our homebound customers for Jojo Moyes and Louise Penny titles as well as Giller Prize winning authors.

And to finish up, what is the last book that made you smile?

I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster
I Regret Nothing  

Thanks so much Charmaine, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out the Ottawa Public Library and their Homebound Services

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Book Addict’s Guide
Your name: Brittany Smith

Let’s start with your origin story - how long have you been blogging about Mystery & Thrillers, and why did you start?

This is a really fun question because mysteries and thrillers really were my origin! I started my blog in April of 2012 after my friend and I started haunting a local used book store. I was really into adult cozy mysteries at the time and my shelves are still filled with all of the cozies I bought there! I wanted my own place for my reviews outside of Goodreads so I had decided to start a blog. I really wanted to share what I liked or didn’t like about a book and really help people find some good recommendations. I also “discovered” YA around this time with the dystopian trend and I quickly started devouring young adult books as well! My blog quickly became a combination of adult mystery and anything YA, although now it definitely has a strong YA focus.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

I used to not be a fantasy reader (I know!!) because I just hadn’t found the right books for me and now I truly can’t get enough! I used to immediately say no to magical realism because again, I hadn’t read the right books for me, but when it’s done well, it’s SO incredible.

I’m also really excited to see a lot more mystery/thrillers in YA now because there was a long while where I really couldn’t find many, or they at least weren’t getting a good spotlight. And I cannot get enough books about heists/spies/espionage!! (And can we just say how AMAZING it is when heists & fantasy meet? It’s all of my loves together!)

I used to be so in love with dystopian but I think that’s really fizzled out and I totally burned myself out on it for the time being.

Do you have a preferred approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years, particularly since becoming a blogger?

My review style has totally changed since I first started blogging! My very first reviews are so embarrassing! I basically wrote a few sentences and called it a review. I mean, there’s no “right” way to write a review but now I really get into plot, world building, development, and even have sections talking about characters and specific points that I really enjoyed or conversely, things I was missing. I hope my reviews are helpful tools for people who are looking to find some spoiler-free feedback on a book because that was the whole reason I started my blog!

I used to try to take notes about what I read or marking quotes but I found that stopping to write things down really took me out of that reading experience, but I do still update Goodreads along the way! It took me a while to find my own personal reviewing groove but I’ve been sticking with this one for the past couple years and it’s really worked well for me!

On your blog, you publish a “Book Title Buzzwords” series, as well as other features. Can you briefly explain how you came up with these, and how they help structure your blog, which titles to review, etc.?

Book Title Buzzwords is one of the newer features on my blog. I came up with it after noticing some title trends in titles to include similar words, especially within the YA community, and thought it would be fun to talk about titles that featured them, both old and new! It was a great way for me to bring up some older titles, titles that I had just read and not yet reviewed, and titles that I planned to read in the future.

I also have some other staple features like Book and a Beverage, which is a blogger (and sometimes author) spotlight feature! I found myself frequently photographing my current read with my current beverage and I figured other people did too! I invite bloggers to share their current book and beverage as well as some things about themselves & their blogs.

I love the different features because it brings something new to my blog. I’ve been blogging for over four years and as much as reviews will always be a staple, I like having a different way to talk about books that’s a little something different and keeps the conversation fresh!

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

My wish was just granted for The Bear and the Nightingale and I’m so excited! I’m also loving the covers for Caraval and The Bone Witch and can’t wait to read those too!

The Bear and the Nightingale    Caraval    The Bone Witch

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

A place to share bookish obsessions. A happy mix of reviews and fun features.

Your favorite snack(s) to eat while reading:

Popcorn! Mmmm

The 1 book you wish was never-ending:

Just one!? Ummm. THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater because I wish the series would never end.

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

Can I take two? (Do people totally always cheat on these questions?) I would take a road trip with Maggie Stiefvater because 1) she’s so much fun, 2) she has amazing cars, and 3) she knows really cool places. I’d also love to take a road trip with Leigh Bardugo because I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her several times and she’s one of my favorite authors to talk with and meet in person! She’s so kind, really cracks me up, and I bet between her, Maggie Stiefvater, and myself, we could discover a whole lot of interesting places in our travels that we never knew existed!

Thanks so much Brittany, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out The Book Addict’s Guide and more Teens & YA available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Suspense Is Thrilling Me
Your name: Chelsea Humphrey

Let’s start with your origin story - how long have you been blogging about Mystery & Thrillers, and why did you start?

Technically I have only had my blog since May of 2016, but I have been reviewing books on Goodreads since September of 2015. I’ve always had a deep love of reading; after my second child was born I wanted to find something I could do for “me time”. I started writing reviews and found it so enjoyable that I knew I had found something special. Eventually, I had some wonderful authors like Mary Kubica, Angela Marsons, Emily Carpenter, and James Renner offer to back my blog and help me get it off the ground with some interviews and giveaways. I’ll never forget their kindness; the fact that they believed in me before I could believe in myself is what got me started and loving the world of blogging!

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

I am a huge fan of the psychological thriller! That has always been my #1 go to if I’m stuck in a rut. I’m also partial to crime thrillers/police procedurals; I have recently discovered a new liking for medical thrillers and even a few political thrillers. I think I speak for most readers in the genre who would like to see the “Gone Girl” craze disappear. I adored that book when I first read it; I found it very unique and original for the moment, but once the floodgates opened to all the similar books that style got old quickly. My dream is one day to be able to pick up a psychological thriller with no mention of the word “Girl” in the title or a blurb. I’ve really enjoyed this recent trend of stories being told out of order; All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda was so unique in the fact that we discover the story backward, from end to beginning.

Your review style is very engaging - you take away something different from each book and bring in your own knowledge. For example, in a recent review you gave readers a heads up about possible triggers in the book, and in another you praised an author for his honest depiction of the struggles of parenthood, and you pull in additional information about the author and publisher, and giveaways/events that readers may not know about. Can you describe how you formulate your reviews and what you’ve found works the best for yourself and what resonates with your followers?

Thank you! To be honest, I had to play around with formatting and what I wanted to include in my reviews for months before I found a set “go to” standard. For instance, I have followers from all walks of the reading spectrum; some are fellow reviewers/bloggers, some are aspiring/current authors, and some are just fantastic readers looking for an honest review to help them narrow down that ever growing To Be Read list. I always like to include publisher, author, and series/genre information, as some readers aren’t sure where it falls in a series and some fellow reviewers need that information to request review copies easily. I try to always be constructive in my reviews, as there is no need to be cruel. A book is a project that someone has worked on for many months, sometimes years. I do try to include information that might be helpful to a reader on deciding if a book is for them. In the mystery/thriller genre, there are a number of triggers that might affect someone poorly and be a book they likely shouldn’t pick up. Graphic violence, rape, murder, and abuse of humans and/or animals can be common in these types of books, so I like to point out (in a spoiler friendly way) if these types of triggers make an appearance in a book. I do post many reviews as I read an average of 4 books per week, but I also like to mix things up with other types of posts as well. My favorite posts are author interviews that include giveaways; many publishers/authors have been so generous and just all around awesome by providing everything for those types of posts. I have heard from numerous readers and winners of the giveaways that they were able to find a new-to-them author that is now a favorite they might never have found otherwise. It’s a win for everyone involved! I love nothing more than promoting books for a debut author and spreading the word on their fabulous new story.

Aside from your reviews, you have a variety of different features on your blog – which is your current favorite?

While I thoroughly enjoy all the excerpts, reviews, cover reveals, and interviews/giveaways, I think my favorite current feature is my weekly wrap-up that occurs every Friday. I try to include what I’m currently reading, books I’ve won in various giveaways (thank you Goodreads!!!), and book mail from various publishers/book buddies. I have a few blogger/reader friends that we mail each other books we weren’t able to get our hands on, and all my friends/family know me as the crazy book peddler because I give away all my books (except the special signed ones) once I’ve finished reading them.

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

I’ve recently been approved for Wintersong by S. Jae Jones (and that cover is GORGEOUS!), Dark Water by Robert Bryndza, Bloodlines by Angela Marsons, and Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall- all books I’ve been anticipating for months now! I can’t wait to review these because I can already tell you I’ll be pushing all four heavy. One that I haven’t read yet that just went up is The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek; the cover is gorgeous and the blurb has me hooked.

Wintersong    Dark Water   Bloodlines   Tell Me No LiesThe Nightwalker

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

The Suspense Is Thrilling Me focuses heavily on the Mystery/Thriller genre, but also includes reviews of Women’s Fiction and YA. It’s growing quickly and I couldn’t be more pleased with it’s success!

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Isabel Spellman in the Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Your favorite 2 publishers for Mystery & Thriller titles:

Bookouture and Minotaur Books

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

There are many, but a top pick would be Harlan Coben. I feel like anywhere would be an adventure with him, but NYC would be a blast, and I hope he’s as funny in real life as he is in his books.

Thanks so much Chelsea, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out The Suspense Is Thrilling Me and more Mystery & Thrillers available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: On Starships and Dragonwings
Your name: Anya

Let’s start with your origin story - how long have you been blogging about Sci-Fi & Fantasy books, and why did you start?

I started the blog in 2010, so six years, time flies! It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I started blogging about sci-fi and fantasy books because I wanted to try out blogging in general and realized that books were the thing that I would never get tired of! It’s worked so far I guess :).

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

I try to switch between subgenres every book so that I don’t get bored with any one. I’ve found that my preferences don’t align with elements special to any particular subgenre, but more what makes books excellent no matter their subject: strong voice, unique world, beautiful writing, etc. In all subgenres though I’m seeing a trend of authors working hard to bring in mythology from places other than Western Europe and I love that. Since I tend to be more interested in new-to-me magic and monsters and worlds, stories that pull in myths I’m not familiar with are exactly what I’m looking for.

Can you describe the Sci-Fi & Fantasy community? Is there anything unique amongst those contributing to and interested in this genre that perhaps isn’t a characteristic of other literary communities?

Like any community, the Sci-fi and Fantasy community is far flung and varied of course. There is an interesting split between those who read predominantly young adult versus adult sci-fi/fantasy though. I feel like I cross between those two groups of speculative fiction readers and am always trying to push books from the other age category on to readers. Something that has been under close scrutiny lately is diverse representation in sci-fi and fantasy: if you have elves and aliens, it shouldn’t be hard to also have humans with different skin tones and sexualities. Recent outspoken groups against representation seem to have largely united our community to start fixing the problem in response. I’ve always found the sci-fi and fantasy book blogging community to be exceedingly welcoming in part because we’re mostly made up of the nerds and outcasts that often didn’t fit in growing up. We know what it is like to feel excluded and want a space where no one has to feel that way.

Do you have a particular approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years, particularly since becoming a blogger?

When I was writing my very first couple of reviews, I tried to write them as paragraphs waxing lyrical about the book for thousands of words. Then I realized that I both didn’t like trying to write that way and didn’t particularly enjoy reading those reviews. That’s when my bullet-list review style was born! I had always taken notes of the things I wanted to discuss on a post-it note with bullet points and decided to try keeping that format and just expanding a bit where it was appropriate. I’ve stuck with that review style because I really do think that it helps my readers quickly figure out if they’d like a given book and because it makes writing reviews so much easier for me. There are times when I want to break out of that pattern a bit, and at those times I do, but I always find myself coming back to bullet-lists of pros and cons.

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

RoseBlood by A. G. Howard is absolutely gorgeous and I’m excited to see a new series starting in that world so that I can jump in without having to catch up (always so much to read!). I’m also excited to see Wake of Vultures up on NetGalley to request in the lead up to the sequel Conspiracy of Ravens and HIGHLY recommend both!

RoseBloodWake of VulturesConspiracy of Ravens

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Lightning Round!*

Your blog in two sentences:

Just a grad student geeking out over books. Find your next sci-fi or fantasy read here!

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Just one???? Cress from Cress by Marissa Meyer!

Book you’d like to see made into a movie or tv show:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

Anne McCaffrey! The Dragonriders of Pern was my first fandom and I dreamed of visiting her in Ireland before she died.

Thanks so much Anya, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out On Starships & Dragonswings and more Sci Fi & Fantasy books available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Prism Book Alliance®
Blog URL: http://www.prismbookalliance.com
Your name: Brandilyn Carpenter

First: how did you initially get started reading and reviewing GLBTQ+ books, and developing your own site dedicated to this genre? Is there one specific book that really inspired you?

First of all, thank you for inviting Prism Book Alliance® to participate in the spotlight celebrating GLBT Book Month™. NetGalley actually plays a decent-sized role in this story.

I started reading GLBTQ+ fiction with Cut & Run by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban back about 4 or 5 years ago.

I have been an avid reader for years and was reviewing some of the mainstream romance offerings thanks to NetGalley. A few fellow romance readers helped convince me to try gay romance. After a little coaxing, I tried Cut & Run. I haven’t looked back. ave read almost 3,000 titles in the genre (not counting re-reads) and have too many favorites to mention.

What really inspired me start Prism was talking with some of the lesser known authors in the genre. I wanted to give them a way to get their name and work out to people that may not have heard of them before. I had already been running a product review blog that I had slowly converted to to book review blog with the help of NetGalley, but it sat all but unused since I stopped reading mainstream fiction.

However, I knew from my experience before that I could make it into something that could do good for more than just authors. (I will go into that more in a bit). Somewhere along the way, I got the idea to invite some of my fellow M/M Romance fans to review with me. We took a few months to get our act together, and we officially launched on 1 Jan 2014. We have since grown from those original 10 reviewers. We are currently at a pretty steady 18. My team considers for review titles from all across the GLBTQ+ spectrum and are constantly looking for ways to get new GLBTQ+ titles and authors in front of people.

What are your favorite aspects of GLBTQ+ as a book genre? How have you seen this genre grow and change since you joined the community?

My favorite aspect of this genre is certainly the community. Most of the people are very open and welcoming. I have made some great friends on both sides of the pen who I know will be around for life.

I have maintained since day one that I think this genre is more important than words on a page. This genre opens people’s eyes, minds, and hearts. This genre is important in the larger fight for equality we see being waged at the national and world levels. It teaches the younger generation that it is okay to love who they love and it is okay for everyone to be who the need to be.  It teaches acceptance. We are writing (and reading) the characters fighting for and living the equality that we want to see in the world.

For the most part, I see this reflected in how the community acts toward each other as well as outside of itself. Some of us are more vocal in our support, and some of us are just living as examples of tolerance, acceptance, and love.

Since June is GLBT Book Month™, does Prism Book Alliance® have anything special planned?

You know what? we should. I don’t have anything planned right now, but I will do something for it. Just have to work out what.

We will be launching a new column this month reaching out beyond the genre a bit. I don’t want to go into it too much, but watch for it on starting (hopefully) the second Sunday of the month.

Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out? Perhaps advice about managing a blog with multiple contributors as well as a review schedule?

Learn the word “No”. It is a simple word, but so hard to say sometimes. Even in a genre as small as ours, it is easy to get overwhelmed by requests.  It is also easy to take on way more than you can read/handle. Reading and reviewing is supposed to be fun. You can’t give a book a fair chance if you feel forced to read it. You just can’t. Start slow. (She says as she looks back at the craziness that was Jan 2014)…

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. One of the best things that happened to me was finding a fellow book blogger to bounce ideas off of.  She is now a great friend, and still a great source of advice for me. She kept me sane my first year. She isn’t blogging any longer, but you can find her over on the USA Today Happily Every After Blog on Fridays.

Which upcoming books on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending? Are there any reviews your team is currently working on that you’re particularly excited to share?

Oh there are so many coming up on NetGalley that have us excited!

Riptide Publishing has a few – The Silvers by JA Rock, Starting New by S.C. Wynne, Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper among others.

There is also Due Diligence by Anna Zabo from Penguin/Intermix (Berkley Publishing Group on NetGalley).

Less Than Three Press has a few as well: The Pirates of Fathoms Deep by Megan Derr, All the King’s Men by Alex Powell.

Bold Strokes Books is one of my go to publishers for Lesbian fiction. Our LesFic reviewer snapped up Carson Tate’s Above the Law and a few others. We also have their gay fantasy In Shining Armor by E.L. Phillips in our queue and the moment.

Oh and Beta Test by Annabeth Albert comes out on 30 May. My reviewer has already requested the next one, so I will be watching NetGalley for it!

The Silvers   Gays of our Lives   Due Diligence   The Pirates of Fathoms Deep   All the Kings Men    Above the Law   In Shining Armor   Beta Test

Anything additional you would like to share with the NetGalley community?

Take a chance on a new genre, even one that makes you uncomfortable. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. You never know what new love you may find.

Lightning round!

Your site in 2 sentences:

A celebration of diversity through literature. (Okay, I cheated… that is a take off on our tagline 😉 ).

Your favorite author(s):

Oh heck. In the genre? Jeff Adams, Andrew Q Gordon, Jamie Fessenden/James Erich, John Goode, Mary Calmes, Rhys Ford. The classics: JK Rowling, Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Neil Stephenson, Orson Scott Card (Can’t stand the man, love the books)

Book you’d like to see on the big screen:

Tales from Foster High by John Goode & The Champion Gods series by Andrew Q. Gordon.

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

Kurt Vonnegut. Titan. (if you have read Vonnegut, you understand).

Thanks so much to Brandilyn for spending some time with us and answering our questions!

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

GLBT Book Month

 

PBA_logo_with_tag_web

For more information about GLBT Book Month™ you can visit the official website.

And make sure to visit Prism Book Alliance® on their website, Facebook & Twitter.

Plus, view LGBTQIA titles now available on NetGalley!

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Books and Biscuits Blog
Blog URL: http://booksandbiscuits.com/blog/
Your name: Brittany at the Books and Biscuits Blog

First, let’s start with how you initially started reviewing mainly Christian fiction books on your own blog:

I actually started the Books and Biscuits Blog after being cooped up for a few too many days trying to recover from a winter cold. However, my focus on Christian fiction was never as spur of the moment as that story implies.

The women in my family have read Christian fiction for years, oftentimes sending bags of books between houses. I absolutely fell in love with those books! They contained incredible stories with fun and interesting characters.  Plus, Christian fiction is particularly known for its clean content and language, making it a great place to start reading “adult” fiction at a relatively early age.

I ended up reading Christian fiction throughout college and grad school, which I partially credit for keeping me sane through those stress-filled years. By the time I wrapped up my degrees, I was left with extensive writing skills, a few too many academic book reviews in my files, and a head filled with great stories. My family became used to hearing my verbal reviews of the various books I was reading at any given time. By the time the Books and Biscuits Blog went live, I already had a backlog of reviews ready to go from my own collection of books.

What are your favorite aspects of Christian fiction,as a genre? And, do you find there are any unique qualities amongst those interested in these books, that perhaps isn’t a characteristic of other literary communities?

My favorite aspects of Christian fiction come down to a few simple concepts. There’s a phrase “good, clean fun” that I think really fits the genre. It takes incredible talent to write a story and develop characters that fit that description.

I would also say that the genre leaves the reader thinking, even as it offers a mental escape. Many stories and fables used to be focused around moral concepts and lessons to be learned, using a fictionalized approach to teach, as well as entertain. Christian fiction very much captures this otherwise disappearing element of storytelling. Many of the authors present a moral quandary or challenge for their characters that reflects Biblical principles, as well as many of the timeless problems that readers face in their own lives. I know as a teenager, I found great comfort and lessons within Christian fiction, as it illustrated realistic challenges and those who overcame them, whether in a historic or contemporary setting.

Additionally, I am always amazed at the diversity within the genre. I focus my blog on contemporary, historical, and suspense Christian fiction. However, there are other bloggers that write about other sub-categories in the genre, including fantasy, Amish, science fiction, young adult, mystery, and children’s, as well as countless other non-fiction works released by many of the same publishers. The genre also comes in many forms, as authors are constantly releasing novels, novellas, and short stories, while frequently collaborating with one another to develop collections and series.

In terms of a unique quality, I would say that the people themselves really make the Christian fiction genre. As a reader, the books are wonderful. As a blogger, I have also had the opportunity to partner with the authors, publishers, and other people involved in and around the field. Their perspective adds another level to the genre, as you come to understand the unique perspectives that they bring to their work. In many cases, the people affiliated with Christian fiction see their writing as a ministry and vocation. Their blogs are particularly focused on their walk as Christians and connect with readers on a level that I’ve never seen in any other genre.

Do you have a particular approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years, particularly since becoming a blogger?

LOL! Yes, I do have a rather quirky and particular approach to writing reviews. After spending enough time in academia, I focus my Christian fiction book reviews on many of the same areas of analysis that I would for an academic text. If you read any of the reviews, you’ll notice that there is somewhat of a set formula for my writing. As I’ve posted my reviews in more places, I have started adding just a tad more “fluff,” as they can otherwise come across as being overly formal. Regardless, I try to present an honest perspective of the books that I read, which does include some constructive criticism. The hardest part of writing the reviews is actually posting them on other websites where people can indicate if they are “helpful” or not. It can be exceptionally frustrating, especially in the cases where I end up writing a constructive review. I don’t think most people skimming through reviews on a website realize that I’m not necessarily the “average” reviewer, but bring a level of expertise to my work.

Which upcoming books on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending? Are there any reviews you’re currently working on that you’re particularly excited to share on your blog?

I’m very excited about some of the upcoming books for this spring! Becky Wade’s Her One and Only releases in early May, which wraps up the Porter Family series that she’s been writing for years. Also, I just finished reading Karen Witemeyer’s forthcoming June release, No Other Will Do.  Based on that book and Ms. Witemeyer’s blog posts, I’m already really looking forward to her next novel, which also focuses on the same town and group of characters as No Other Will Do.  Both Her One and Only and No Other Will Do are excellent, fun-filled reads that really capture the heart of the genre.

Her One and Only     No Other Will Do  

Your blog also focuses on cooking, as your blog name suggests – do you find these two interests intertwine? For instance, do you ever find inspiration from the books you’ve read to try a new recipe?

Yes, the blog does actually focus on cooking, too. My husband and I spend an incredible amount of time sitting at the dinner table talking about all sorts of topics. Our conversations around books and food are pretty much legendary in the family, so creating a blog about those two topics felt like a natural connection.

After creating the blog, I started noticing just how often the concepts of food and cooking come up as a frequent theme. I created a “Foodie Characters” tag to use on my reviews and I’m very surprised at how often I find myself using it. Looking at the genre, I’m not too surprised that’s the case, as a fair number of authors also include recipes in the back pages of their books.

Lightning round!

Your blog in 2 sentences:

A fun look at Christian fiction, with weekly reviews of some of the newest books in the genre.

Your favorite author(s):

I can’t say that I have one favorite author, but I definitely have a top tier of authors whose books I make sure to read immediately after they are released.

In alphabetical order: Sandra Bricker, Elizabeth Camden, Deeanne Gist, Rachel Hauck, Dee Henderson, Sarah Sundin, Melissa Tagg, Becky Wade, Susan May Warren, and Karen Witemeyer.

Book you’d like to see on the big screen:

I’m not typically a fan of the movies based on books in the genre, because they oftentimes come across as being really cheesy. However, it would be neat if someone could figure out how to make a great movie based on any of the books by Rachel Hauck.

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

I would have to say Melissa Tagg. We collaborated on a blog post early last year, which was an absolute blast!  Rather than going somewhere specific, I could see us doing something together related to nonprofits and philanthropy, since we both work in that field for our day jobs. 🙂

Thanks so much Brittany, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out Books and Biscuits and more Christian books available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Cracking the Cover
Blog URL: http://www.crackingthecover.com
Your name: Jessica Harrison

First, let’s start with how you initially started reviewing children’s, and more specifically, middle grade books:

During my senior year of college, I was an intern at a local newspaper. Working in the features department meant covering a number of topics — music, dance, theater, food, etc. — but it was reviewing books to which I gravitated. Following graduation, I was hired by the newspaper as a copy editor. Soon I began covering music and books on the side. When the book editor retired, I became the paper’s in-house book critic, responsible for coordinating all author interviews and book reviews for the Sunday arts section. I covered books for all ages and in all genres, but I gravitated toward books for young readers.

In 2010, the newspaper underwent massive layoffs, and my position covering books was eliminated. I though that was the end of things, but life had other plans. January 2011 began with an invitation from Penguin Young Readers Group to moderate their Breathless Reads panel featuring Ally Condie, Andrea Cremer, Kirsten Miller, Beth Revis and Brenna Yovanoff. The event went well, and by the end of it, my husband had come up with the idea of me starting a blog. Cracking the Cover was officially launched March 7, 2011.

Deciding what to cover was easy. Books for young readers had become my passion. Picture books are full of whimsy, and young adult novels pack a powerful punch. Middle grade hits at a magical time — imaginations are ripe for the picking, and the need for romance is often unnecessary, freeing up authors to follow other paths.

Having a somewhat unique background and approach to reading and reviewing books, have your reading habits changed since you started blogging about books?

I’ve always been a fast reader, but reading on deadline made me more efficient. In the beginning, I probably read more as a blogger than as a newspaper critic. I would read whenever and wherever I could, which was pretty much anytime and anywhere. That changed significantly once became pregnant and gave birth to my daughter. Now I do a lot of reading on my phone — thank you, NetGalley! — because I can surreptitiously read while my now-almost-2-year-old plays. Physical books are reserved for quiet time and after she goes to bed at night. (She’d much rather I read with her than by myself — a rough problem, I know.)

Do you have a particular approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years, particularly since becoming a blogger?

In many ways, my approach is still the same. I keep track of all books I receive — physical and digital — and set deadlines for those I know for sure I want to review. The others go into my TBR pile and work their way into the lineup as I flesh out my plans.

The physical reading is also the same. I jot down thoughts as I go but like to give myself some time between completion and writing a corresponding review so that I can gather my thoughts.

Evolution has come with writing, as it should, particularly when it comes to reviews. My interview and feature style has always been more conversational, which works well for blogging, but my review style as a newspaper critic was much drier. Adapting my reviews to that more casual style is an ongoing process — it’s hard to write in first person when you’ve been trained not to!

Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out?

Do you. What works for me may not be what works for you. Find your own format, your own style, your own layout. Success won’t come from copying what others do. You must find your own voice and run with it. And if you ever feel as if things are too hard or aren’t going the way you want, rethink your approach.

Which upcoming Middle Grade books on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending? Are there any reviews you’re currently working on that you’re particularly excited to share on your blog?

I’m just finishing up a number of books — I usually am reading three or four at a time. I’ll be running reviews for a couple of NetGalley books in the next two weeks or so. The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary, and Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban, were released earlier this month. On their face, the two books are polar opposites, but as you delve into them, their main characters bring forward moving truths. I’m looking forward to The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn by Sam Gayton, and Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance, which have February publication dates. I’ve started both and can’t wait to see where they go. Of course, I’ve also got some picture and young adult books in my review pile that will get sprinkled in there as well.

The Night Parade  Paper Wishes   The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn   Behind the Canvas

Lightning Round!

Your ideal reading spot:

Curled up with a blanket next to a heat vent. (We’ve had a cold winter this year!)

Your blog in 2 sentences:

Cracking the Cover is dedicated to picture, middle-grade and young-adult books. It offers readers an inside look at new worlds, enticing characters, magical places, and the authors who bring them to life.

Your favorite childhood book:

Naming just one book is impossible. There are so many that made an impact, so I’ll share a few of my favorite middle grade. The first chapter book I remember was B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood; The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes is timeless; and the “All of a Kind Family” series by Sydney Taylor was a perennial favorite.

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

I’d go with Katherine Paterson to Terabithia, of course!

Thanks so much Jessica, for spending some time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out Cracking the Cover and titles in Middle Grade now available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series?Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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