Why I Try to Comment on Every Blog Post I Read

And you should too!

As book bloggers I always see people talking about blog hopping, or comment groups, or posts titled “how to make me comment”. Comments are really important to us, partly because they help us measure the success of our posts, but mostly because we want to engage with our readers.

(Which is just fancy blogger talk for “we want to TALK to you!”)

But I’m going to do you one better. I try to comment on EVERY blog post I read.

Let me start by saying that I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I just can’t think of anything to say, especially on Top Ten Tuesday posts or book tags. Always writing “great review!” feels disingenuous, so if I didn’t connect with the post at all I sometimes just can’t think of a comment. But I would guess this only happens to me maybe once every three or four days. I can almost always think of something to SAY.

Why though?

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What is a Young Adult Book?

Okay, so. I notice that as book bloggers or members of bookish social media we have a *really* hard time determining when books are young adult and when they aren’t. Partly this is a direct result of using social media. If a blogger we love who mostly reads YA books is reading a book, we may assume it is YA. (That happened to me with Red White & Royal Blue. Oops!) We may check the Goodreads shelves, and lord knows THEY cannot be trusted. Partly this is because publishers don’t necessarily go out of their way to let us know if something is YA. They tend to let marketing and the imprint speak for itself. But I don’t know about y’all, I don’t know which imprints do YA. And even if I *did*, Harper Collins doesn’t put the word “Teen” anywhere on the outside of the book, even though the imprint is Harper Collins Teen.

So, yeah, it can be a tricky field to navigate. I get that.

But I also see a LOT of misconceptions when I’m reading reviews and discussion posts about YA. So let’s take a second to define things, shall we?

“Definition”

I think the most important thing I need to address going in is that there is no hard and fast definition or rule of what makes a Young Adult book. The phrase “Young Adult Literature” hasn’t even been around all that long, even if the concept has been. It’s constantly changing. Even experts in the field can’t all agree on what YA is, so that’s part of the reason the whole thing is so ambiguous.

But, essentially, Young Adult is a marketing category created by publishers in order to target books at young audiences. This means that when writing the book the author has teens in mind, when publishing the book the publisher has teens in mind, and when marketing/selling the books booksellers have teens in mind.

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Discussion: Do Big Books Intimidate You?

Today’s discussion post is brought to you by bringing home Lonesome Dove from the library and THEN realizing it was written in 1986! YIKES! 600* pages of 20th century American writing? Good luck to me…

*Did I say 600? It’s closer to 900.

So I notice a lot on social media, especially Bookstagram, that a lot of people talk about how intimidated they are by long books. This is often cited as the reason for purchasing but not reading The Priory of the Orange Tree and Jane Eyre in particular. And I get it, those books are long. I know a lot of people set massive reading goals for themselves, and it can be hard to read 20 books a month if one of them is 800 pages long. Even if that isn’t you, long books can be scary. What if you don’t like it? What if it’s long AND slow? What if it takes you forever and you have to give it back to the library before you’re done? What if you lose interest halfway through?

Personally, it’s never been much of a deterrent for me. Maybe it’s because I read The Lord of the Rings in 7th grade and therefore became immune, lol. Also, people don’t have any problem reading a series that goes on for 6+ books, and that’s a lot more to read. I just see my long books as a whole trilogy wrapped up in one convenient package! Also, it doesn’t get worse the longer it goes on, so double plus!

But, on the other hand, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m terrified of the idea of Lonesome Dove. I usually love long classics, but I’m not a huge fan of 20th century literature. And I’ve never read a Western. So I’m not sure if I’m going to like it, and it’s a really long book to slug through if I don’t…

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Why are books never in first person anymore?

This is going to be less like a discussion post and more like me complaining, but seriously, what is up with that?! I love first person! But you never see it anymore. Everything is always in personal third.

First person is just so intimate. You really get to know the character really well, and I love that it feels like they are talking directly to you. In first person you really get characters that feel like they could be your best friend forever.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t like third person POV. That personal third person is the most popular choice for a reason. It works, WELL. But there’s just nothing like some good ol’ “I” and “me”. Am I right?

Authors, pretty please, write me some awesome first person fantasy? ❤

Things I Miss Most, Book Edition

Hey friends.

We’ve been home for a while. I think we’re going on week seven here? Now that my family is getting adjusted to being at home without murdering each other, we’re starting to fall into a routine. Things are more comfortable, we aren’t scared all the time, the whole thing is becoming so … normal.

But now that things are slowing down a bit, I find myself missing the outside world. Not like I did at first, where I just wanted OUT OF THE DANG HOUSE. More of a dull ache. Sort of like you might feel about summer vacation mid-September. Wistful, nostalgic, maybe just a little blue.

We’ve all talked it to death. We miss our friends, our families, our jobs, going to restaurants, going to the park. But here’s the book version. The things I miss the msot as a book nerd.

The library

I miss the library so much it hurts. I miss checking out books. I’m running out and I’m going to have to start spending money soon. I miss the smiling faces. I miss bringing home something new for my kids. I miss storytime. I miss the sense of community I got from reading the same copy of a book as hundred before me. I miss the smell. This is the longest I’ve gone without visiting the library in years.

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Discussion: Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

There are two kinds of readers (she says the sweeping generalization well aware that less than a week ago she said there were four). People who like fiction, and people who like non-fiction. Okay, three, because there are also people who like both. BUT! In my experience most readers tend to prefer one over the other.

Fiction has the benefit of being escapist. It also offers a lot more potential variety, with the endless possibilities of fantasy and science fiction. Fiction tends to be more emotionally charged, and first-person narration can allow you to really feel that you know the character intimately. Fiction can also be written more accessibly and page-turnery, though that is not always the case.

Non-fiction, on the other hand, has the benefit of being real. Sometimes reality is more bizarre than fiction could ever be. (Tiger King, anyone?) Often the reader of non-fiction feels like they are learning something, which might be felt as self-improvement. Non-fiction is deceptively varied, ranging from history, to science, to food, to fashion, to memoirs. And while the writing style is often more aloof and less emotional, I often find that the events portrayed really stay with me longer, possibly because they are grounded in reality.

Now, I’m not here to say one is better. I truly don’t think that is the case. I believe it is entirely a matter of preference. What do you like to read?

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Seriously, what are you annotating?

Okay friends, I admit it. I am utterly befuddled about the current trend of annotating a book.

I should start by clarifying that while I am not one of those people who can’t bear to see a spine cracked or page dog-eared, in general I prefer not to write in my books. I prefer to completely submerge myself into a book, loosing myself if possible, and seeing writing or highlighting in a book really brings me out of it. And while I’m not against annotating, I’ve no idea what all that entails.

And friends, I have ASKED. Typically I get the vaguest of answers. “Oh, just any passage that I really like.” Ummmm, what does that mean? “Things that help you get to know the characters.” I did that to Pride and Prejudice in high school once. I assure you, it did not help me understand the characters any better. “It depends on the book.” Gee, super helpful.

My favorite answer to this question came from Liberty from Book Riot during the All the Books podcast. She has a copy of The Secret History by Donna Tartt that she re-reads every year, and each year she adds annotates according to a different schema. What stood out to me was that one year she underlined every time she saw the word “the”. hahahaha

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Discussion: Social Distance Reads

Hey friends!

How are you all holding up? I haven’t been around much since all of this Covid-19 business started here in the western hemisphere. We moved in the middle of it all, and didn’t have internet, and were adjusting to working at home. Plus grad school. The result is that I had literally zero time for blogging. Nearly everything you’ve seen in the past three weeks was written months ago. I hadn’t been checking my comments or reading other people’s blogs. So I have no idea how you all are doing.

On Instagram it seems like book people are generally doing ok. I guess a lot of us rather prefer to stay home with one or two people we love and a good book. I know if you’re a parent you’re probably getting tired of social distancing. I am. This would be a lot more fun with adults, am I right?

So my question for you today is, What are you reading to keep your mind busy?

I’m reading The Mirror & the Light, the final book in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy. It is so so so so sooooooo good! And nice and long, which is perfect for keeping my occupied while the libraries are closed and Amazon isn’t shipping any books. Guess I spent all my gift cards at just the right time, eh? I am just having SUCH a great time reading about the years in Henry VIII’s life that I knew the least about. I mean, y’all, this stuff is even more bananas than fiction! It’s almost impossible to believe all this shenanigans really went down! And I’m not talking about Henry’s wives. Also, though I know a lot about the Tudors, I have no idea what happens to Cromwell. I sort of think he’s beheaded, but goodness I hope not!

Anyone else have any great reads during this difficult time?

Stay healthy y’all, and stay home when you can. Love you.

Thoughts about Classic Sci-Fi via The Martian Chronicles

I’ve always considered myself a fan of classic Sci-Fi. I love Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Kim Stanley Robinson, Carl Sagan. Though I admit to having never read any Octavia Butler (sorry, her books look weird!), I feel that I’ve read a good chunk of the well-known authors. But I’ve never been a fan of Ray Bradbury’s.

Fahrenheit 451 is just … not for me. But I thought that this year I would give The Martian Chronicles a try to see what I thought. While I liked it better than Fahrenheit, I discovered that a FANTASTIC story was not enough to help me overcome my distaste for the way Bradbury writes. It’s not bad, it’s just not what I enjoy. But as I was reading, I really noticed a lot of the things that make classic sci-fi so entertaining, and I thought I would share my thoughts with you all.

Seeing their predictions of the future is fun.

This is always one of my favorite things about reading classic sci-fi. It’s really entertaining to see what they got right and what they got wrong. One of the main things that is nearly always wrong is the timeline. In The Martian Chronicles Bradbury has people settling Mars by 1999. Haha, Hank and John Green would be tickled. Instead, we’re sitting here on 2020 hoping beyond hope that our next robot makes it safely to Mars.

The technology is always so hit and miss too. Like in this book, they have the capability of getting to Mars, within a few short months no less!, but they haven’t developed any means of communicating with Earth once they get there. I don’t know, that’s just really fun for me, to see how their predictions held up.

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To Literary Fiction, or Not to Literary Fiction?

Ah, it’s that time of year. All the award lists are coming out, and the talk is flowing about books that I … haven’t even heard of. Or, if I have heard of them, I made no effort to read them. The Women’s Prize, the National Book Award, the Booker the Pulitzer … those aren’t books I read. Because I don’t really read literary fiction. Ever.

But, like, I kind of want to?

When I have a good experience with literary fiction, it’s always an amazing experience. Y’all, there’s a reason people love these books so much that they give them awards. High quality literary fiction is so good. I used to read books like that, a long time ago, but lately … I don’t know. I just don’t like them as much.

I talked in a post a few weeks ago comparing literary fiction to genre fiction about how literary fiction tends to be so bleak a pessimistic. It’s not like I expect the book to be hilarious, or as swoony as a YA book. I just don’t want the overall theme of the book to be that life is depressing. So often the literary fiction I’ve read has such a dark outlook on the world. And that’s not how I see the world, nor is it how I want to see the world.

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