Reading Challenges.. Do you do them?

A new year brings a brand new crop of Reading Challenges.  There are so many and they all sound so enticing.  Except I haven’t had the greatest success in completing challenges in the past.  It’s always really fun to pick out titles but then when it comes time to read all those books I’ve lined up, I’m distracted by other shiny objects- reviews of new books, books in my TBR stack, books on display at Borders, books people are talking about on Twitter or at book club; and I think, why did I sign up for this??

Last year I completed the RIP IV Challenge but only with 2 books read.  The year before I completed the What’s In a Name Challenge.  I won’t list the many many challenges I didn’t bother to stick with.

So I got to thinking, why do so many bloggers do challenges?  What appeals to them about reading from a list?  I knew my blogging friends would have good reasons for this, and they did not disappoint.

I posed three questions to a somewhat random sampling of popular bloggers:

1.  Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

2.  Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

3.  Do you host any challenges yourself?

Here are the answers:

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From Toni at A Circle of Books

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I participate in the challenges.  I think it provides motivation, stimulates book discussion and it is fun.  It is kind of like a big big book club.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

E-book challenge, From my Shelves Project, Audio Challenge

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I have yet to host a challenge, but I’d really like to some day.

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From Ti at Book Chatter

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I have participated in a few in the past but have not been successful.  I find that it turns my reading into work and I want my reading to be for pure enjoyment.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

The only challenge that I am doing is J. Kaye’s 100+ Reading Challenge because all books count AND it’s a good way to keep track of what I’ve read.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I haven’t hosted a challenge, for same reason I noted above. I much prefer read-alongs which you can sort of consider a challenge depending on the book. I am hosting a read-along for Moby Dick right now and let me tell you, it’s a challenge!

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From Jill at Fizzy Thoughts

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Yes, I participate in challenges. But only a few each year. Otherwise, they start to feel like chores. I chose a few each year that I think will encourage and motivate me expand my reading horizons. I’m doing Women Unbound because I believe in the topic, and it’s also a way to challenge myself to read more non-fiction this year. The South Asian Authors Challenge will encourage me to read more non-US authors, which is always something I’m striving to do. I also like the community aspect of challenges, and seeing what other people choose to read…there’s such diversity in the challenges!

I’m also doing a few read-alongs, but I think of those as entirely separate from challenges.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

This year, I’m doing Women Unbound (which rocks!) and the South Asian Authors Challenge. And maybe Trish’s OATES, since I have most of the authors already on my shelves. And I might join RIP again, if Carl offers it, but that’s later in the year.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

Nope. Although I’d love to do something similar to the Armchair Traveler reading challenge that was the first challenge I ever joined. I just haven’t thought hard enough yet to make it a reality.

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From Care at Care’s Online Book Club:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

YES, I participate in reading challenges.   I like the shared discussion about books – when it happens and I like to be included in activities.    I like to experience books that I may not have chosen otherwise.     I also like to un-officially participate so I don’t have added stress of HAVING to read something so I do attempt to limit myself.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

That limiting concept gets harder every year!   I love making the lists but then hate the stress of actually reading what I have committed to.     I am participating in Women Unbound, What’s In a Name 3, Woolf in Winter, A Wrinkle in Time (not real name of challenge – I’ll have to go look that up…) LOTR readalong, Flashback, John Cusack, and unofficially Book to Movie, the Well Read Challenge, Global Challenge,  Twenty in 2010 (maybe – I might have signed and forgot), GLBT and…     This is one of my tasks this weekend – to clean up my challenges so I know what I’m doing this year.   I love read-alongs and have a few of these in line, too, with a few other bloggers.   Citizen Reader’s Book Menages are wonderful.   I prefer casual challenges that allow books from other challenges to count.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I’m co-hosting the Women Unbound Challenge.  This is a 13 month long challenge focussing on Women’s Issues in fiction AND in nonfiction.  This is my first challenge hosting attempt and it’s been nice to share duties and to share the discussion of duties, actually.  🙂

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From Florinda at 3R’s Blog:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I didn’t get involved in challenges until I’d been blogging for almost two years, and I still don’t sign on for very many of them. The challenges that have appealed to me address goals I already have in mind or are focused on a topic or genre I would have wanted to read anyway – they just help give me direction. I try to stay away from challenges that would require me to add much to my already exploding TBR collection!

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I’m participating in the Read Your Own Books Challenge this year for the second time – it helps keep me from getting too caught up in review books. It will also overlap with most of the other challenges I’m doing.

I joined two challenges in the fall that are continuing into this year:

Women Unbound Challenge (women’s studies, requires both fiction and nonfiction – I have a surprising amount in TBR that qualifies)
Shelf Discovery Challenge (an excuse to re-read some YA favorites from my own YA days)

I joined the Memorable Memoirs Challenge since that’s my preferred nonfiction genre

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I’m on the verge of announcing my first hosted challenge, but I’m going to call it a “reading project” since so many people have sworn they’re not joining any more challenges this year :-)! I’ll also be co-hosting a read-along in March and April with two other bloggers. However, since I haven’t officially posted about either of these activities yet, I can’t say any more about them now.

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From Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Reading challenges are a lot of fun. Even though some people feel pressure to finish the challenge, I just enjoy giving myself a list and seeing if I can do it. No pressure – if I don’t finish it’s really no big deal. I don’t think there are reading challenge police out there! 🙂 In fact, last year I only finished two challenges – Carl’s RIP and my own Everything Austen.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I’m currently participating in The Vampire Diaries challenge hosted by My Friend Amy, The Shelf Discovery Challenge by Booking Mama and All About the Brontes hosted by Laura’s Reviews. I am super excited about the Bronte challenge as I’ve never read any Bronte before!

Lastly, I ALWAYS participate in Carl’s two big reading challenges each year and will do so again in 2010. I love his Once Upon a Time challenge in the spring and RIP challenge in the fall. They are both great!!

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I hosted the Everything Austen challenge that ran from July 1st to December 31st, 2009. You can read my wrap up post here.   I had over 200 participants and almost 600 reviews were credited to Everything Austen. Overall I gave away 17 different Austen-ish books and had numerous guest posts by authors. It was a lot of work but a ton of fun! It was my first reading challenge that I hosted but probably won’t be my last!

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From Lenore at Presenting Lenore:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I have participated in a couple over the past few years, but for 2010 I am only participating in one official challenge (so far).  I have a hard time keeping up with all the requirements and getting the books read in time if I join too many.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I am participating in the YA debut author challenge hosted by The Story Siren because I love to support debut authors and it looks like Kristi is going to be a active host who has the support of the debut author community.  I may also join in to some mini-challenges like the Kidlitosphere comment more challenge.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I do not host any official challenges, but I have some personal ones such as reading more books in the German language and more classics.

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From Nicole at Linus’s Blanket:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I do! Though I am far from the ideal challenge participant.  I love making lists and thinking about books with the same authors or the same themes, and researching titles that will fit into my challenges, and I just love reading other lists and meeting new bloggers in the same challenges as me.  Challenges are like mixers or bars where you can meet new people!  They really appeal to both the curious and organizer aspects of my personality as well as the social part.  I love perusing the linkies and reading reviews.  I am good at joining challenges, but not so good at posting my own reviews and horrid at wrap-up posts.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

Which challenges aren’t I doing this year might be more easily answered.  So far I have signed up for:

The African Diaspora Challenge, Our Mutual Read, The TBR Challenge, South Asian Author Challenge, 451 Fridays Challenge, Audio Book Challenge, Read The Book See The Movie Challenge, Shelf Discovery Challenge, The Chunkster Challenge, The Debutante Ball Challenge, The What’s In A Name Challenge, The Winter Reading Challenge.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I’m hosting That’s How I Blog’s Twenty Minute Book Club Challenge. I host a Blog Talk Radio Show on Tuesday nights called That’s How I Blog! where I chat with bloggers about their blogging experiences and the books that they enjoy reading.  We have a twenty minute discussion (okay so often it’s a 40 minute discussion) on a book we have chosen to read together.  This challenge is a little different from other challenges because the books are already chosen for you. I really love that you get to chat about the same books with other readers and to participate in the book club at the end of the show, but that you also have the flexibility to read the books out of sync and at your own pace.

I have another challenge in the works for finishing half-read books, but I won’t be starting that til next month.

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From Sandy at You’ve GOTTA Read This!

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I absolutely do participate in challenges.  I love them for several reasons.  First, they keep me focused on books that I have made a priority to read.  If not, I meander all over the place, and don’t end up reading half of what I wanted.  Second, they push me to read genres that are new to me.  Last year, my big stretch was classics, of which I am shamefully ignorant. This year, its graphic novels.  Third, I just thrive on achieving goals – they make me accountable.  (Challenges also seem to work for me in the areas of fitness as well!) Plus, I hate to fail at things.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I still have three challenges continuing from 2009:  Harry Potter Challenge,
Japanese Reading Challenge and Random Reading Challenge.

For 2010, I’ve signed up for ten challenges:

Audio Books
E-Books
100+
Read and Review
Vietnam War Through the Generations
Read from your Shelves
Read the Book/See the Movie
TBR
Support Your Library
Graphic Novels

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I have never hosted any challenges before.  I know it sounds sophomoric, but I’m a little shy about it since I consider myself to be somewhat new.  Maybe next year!   I did consider hosting one where you read all of Entertainment
Weekly’s top books.

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From Teddy at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time:

Do you participate in reading challenges?

Yes, there are many reasons.  Challenges help me get organized for my year of reading.  They don’t dictate everything I’m going to read but they guide me.  There are several challenges that fit into what I plan to read anyway.  For example, I know I am going to read ARCs and a lot of historical fiction.  There are challenge the those both fit into nicely.  I am addicted to challenges.  They are fun.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I’m doing a lot!
O.A.T.E.S.
ARC
Books Won
What an Animal II
China
Year of the Historical
Pub
TBR Lite
Books to Read Before I Die
RYOB
Woman Unbound
New Authors
Audio Book
Hisorical Fiction
Chunkster
Global

I also am doing two perpetual challenges that I have been doing for a couple years:
Books Around the World
Books Around the States

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I currently host 2:

The ARC Reading Challenge is to read ARC’s.  I use the term ARC loosely, any book that is sent to the participant that a review is expected qualifys.  There are 3 levels.

The Books Won Challenge is to read books that you have won in giveaways.  There are four levels.

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From Natalie at Book, Line, and Sinker:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I have yet to participate in any reading challenges.  I’ve been book blogging since March and just haven’t signed up for one.  There are a bunch of great ones out there but I’m reticent to join and don’t know why!  Fear of committment, maybe?  Lol.

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From Mari at Bookworm with a View:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I haven’t participated in Challenges in the past.  Would you believe me if I told you I didn’t know exactly what a Challenge was or that so many existed until last fall?  The ones I am participating in for 2010 are simple in nature (ie: Read’n Review: where you post a review for every book you read). I read about 2-3 books a month and being in two book clubs I fear I would
be over-committing.  Once Spring comes around and I’m busy running outside, I will try to listen to some audio books, which might increase my volume read a bit.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I have signed up for four challenges, two focused on reading books from my book shelves, one to review what I read and the last one focuses on reading a novel by an upcoming/new author (from a set list).

Details:
http://bwavchallenges.blogspot.com/

I missed list another challenge that I am in:  The Canadian Book Challenge.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

No, but I like to think I’m cheerleading from the sidelines, for all of you hosting challenges and for those who read so much, I look up to you – you amaze me!

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From Trish at Hey, Lady!  Whatcha’ Readin’?

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Not anymore. I did when I first started blogging, but I found I’m not disciplined enough to finish a challenge.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

Actually, I’m hosting two challenges, but they’re specifically geared towards the books I want to read this year. They are the O.A.T.E.S. Challenge and the Laura Lippman Challenge (which will be announced on Monday 1/11/).

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I’m hosting two challenges: the O.A.T.E.S. Challenge, which was inspired by Joyce Carol Oates. The idea is to read authors whose last name begin with A, T, E, or S. Joyce Carol Oates is obviously the author you’d read for O. My goal is to read a few JCO books this year, as well as two books by Margaret Atwood, a book by Tolstoy, a book by Steinbeck, and something by Ernest Hemingway. The goal is to challenge my reading this year. The other challenge I’m hosting is the Laura Lippman Challenge. Laura Lippman has written quite a few books, most of them crime fiction, many of which have been nominated for or won awards. While she’s not a particularly challenging author, her books fit in with my reading plan this year.

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From Dar at Peeking Between the Pages

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Yes I participate in reading challenges.  I really enjoy them because they allow you to step out of your comfort zone and read something different; something you may not have read otherwise.  Also I think challenges bring about a great sense of community in the blogging world.  We all get excited about joining the challenges and figuring out what books we’ll read and then updating throughout the year.  It’s fun and I think it brings us all together in a way.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

Lots!  lol!  Here’s the list of my challenges this year:

Vietnam Reading Challenge
Young Adult Reading Challenge
ARC Reading Challenge
Romance Reading Challenge
Chunkster Challenge
Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
eBook Reading Challenge
Reading From my Shelves Project
100+ Reading Challenge
Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge
Outlander Challenge
Random Reading Challenge
Sookie Stackhouse Challenge

Yikes, that’s 13.  Looks like I’m going to have to find myself one more challenge. Can’t be staying at the number 13.  lol.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I don’t host any challenges but I’m still thinking about doing one if not this year then next year for sure.

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From Lisa at Lit and Life

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

When I first started blogging last June, I didn’t really know much about the challenges and wasn’t sure it was something I would be interested in.  Then Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word started the Everything Austen challenge.  As a person that has read every Austen book and seen at least one movie version of each of them, I felt like this was the perfect challenge for me to jump in on.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that not only were challenges a great way to encourage me to read certain books, but that they were also a great way to meet new people and to drive traffic to my blog.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

This year I’ve become something of a challenge addict.  In addition to continuing with the Random Reading Challenge, I’ve added eleven new challenges: What’s In A Name 3, The Michener Challenge, Our Mutual Read, 2010 Read ‘n’ Review Challenge, 451 Challenge, 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project, 2010 Flashback Reading Challenge, You’ve Got Mail Reading Challenge, O.A.T.E.S., All About The Brontes 2010 Challenge, and the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge which I’m hosting.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

The idea for the Gilmore Girls challenge came about, as so many ideas do, when I was talking with another blogger who mentioned that she had come across a list of all of the books ever shown or discussed on the t.v. show The Gilmore Girls.  I loved that show and when I saw how many books and the wide variety of books were included, I knew it was the perfect idea for the challenge I’d been thinking about putting together.  You can check out the Gilmore Girl Challenge HERE.

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From Susan at Suko’s Notebook

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I love to participate in challenges, but I only join the ones which don’t require a great number of books be read, because I’m busy and I like to choose what I’ll read. I also don’t like challenges with too many rules and regulations. But reading challenges are fun to join, and bring more visitors to your site.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I am participating in a few reading challenges this year, The Aussie Author Challenge, The Typically British Challenge, and the All About the Brontes Challenge.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I would love to host a reading challenge on my blog. If I can think up a good one then I will!
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From Anna at Diary of an Eccentric

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Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Yes!  I enjoy participating in reading challenges because they motivate me to read books I’ve wanted to read for a long time or open myself to new authors, books, and genres.  It’s fun to see what other participants are reading for the same challenge.  I’m always adding titles to the long list of books I’d like to read some day.
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Which reading challenges are you doing this year?
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So far, I’ve only signed up for two:  the Vietnam War Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations and the Jane Austen Challenge at the Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object.  If the Everything Austen Challenge at Stephanie’s Written Word happens again this year, I’ll join that one, too.
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Do you host any challenges yourself?

I co-host annual war-related reading challenges with Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) at War Through the Generations.  Last year, we hosted the WWII Reading Challenge, and this year, we’ve switched gears to Vietnam.  We are very interested in the impact of war on people and society, and our participants are encouraged to read fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and even watch a couple of movies if they desire, with whatever war we’re covering as the primary or secondary theme.  We compile related book reviews and recommended reading lists on the challenge blog.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to provide a useful resource to readers interested in war-related books.  And it’s why I limit myself to only a few reading challenges per year.
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Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

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Blog Neglect and Reviews

"Watch me, Mom!"

"Watch me, Mom!"

Due to the lure of summer and the demands of work and children, I’ve been neglecting my blog.  I’m down from 3-5 posts per week to 1-2.  It’s not that I have less to say, only that I have less time to say it.  

But I have been reading!  I read during the kids’ pre-lifeguard classes at the high school. I read while watching their back handsprings and round-offs during tumbling.  I read on the front steps of the library as the girls return their books and look for new ones.  I read at the roller rink while they skate.  I read in the food court at the mall as they and their friends spend an hour at Claire’s poring over $2 earrings and purple and green nail polish, or visiting the puppies at the pet store.  I read while sitting at the pool as they perfect their dives and their butterfly stroke.  “Watch me, Mom!”  “Time me, Mom!”  “On a scale of 1-10, how good was my dive?”  My To-Be-Reviewed stack is piling up.

Speaking of reviews.. I have a few questions for my fellow bloggers.

How long, on average, does it take you to write a review?

Do you read other reviews before or after you write yours?

Do you write your review immediately upon finishing a book, or do you wait a while and let it sink in a bit?

Do you pick up a new book to start the minute you finish one?

Inquiring minds want to know!!

Hope everyone is having a great summer!  Thanks to all of you who still come by and comment even though there’s not much going on around here lately!

LA Times Festival of Books and Bloggers!


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Natasha, Amy, Tracy, Ti, Jill, Trish, Lisa

Natasha, Amy, Tracy, Ti, Jill, Trish, Lisa

This weekend I attended a super-fun two day event, the LA Times Festival of Books. That would have been exciting enough for a book geek like me, but what made it super-fun (as opposed to just regular fun) was getting to meet some of my blogger friends in real life.  What a treat!

The plan was to meet in front of the UCLA book store.  As I wandered up to the steps in front, I immediately recognized Jill from Fizzy Thoughts and Ti from Book Chatter from the pictures on their blogs. Hugs all around.  Then pretty soon Amy from My Friend Amy wandered over after passing by and glancing at us suspiciously two or three times, then Tracy from Shelf Life walked over with a big smile, and pretty soon we were all laughing and talking.  Jill and I went to get coffee (she was so nice and gave me a book I’ve been wanting to read- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson- who I would see on a panel later in the day).  When we got back, we saw that Trish from Hey, Lady! (also my partner in TLC Book Tours) and Natasha from Maw Books had arrived.  I spilled my coffee while hugging Natasha (I was mortified and so glad it spilled on me rather than on her cute white jacket!). Trish was telling the story of why she was a little late, complete with colorful adjectives and funny anecdotes and facial expressions and hand gestures.  For those of you who might have been wondering- yes, Trish really is THAT cute and excitable and funny in person!   It was interesting to see how much everyone’s personalities really shine through on their blogs.

Jill and Florinda

Jill and Florinda

The first panel of the day for most of us was the Social Networking and New Media panel.  The very organized Ti had made a spreadsheet for us showing which bloggers were attending which panels.  We knew that Wendy from Musings of a Bookish Kitty and Florinda from 3R’s blog were supposed to be there, but we couldn’t find Florinda and we didn’t know what Wendy looked like.  We were in a big lecture hall and I was standing up looking around and joking that we should call out “Literary Feline!  Where are you?” when I felt a tap on my arm from the woman seated next to me.  “I’m Wendy” she said in this tiny kitten-y voice.  She’d been right beside us the whole time!  We found Florinda just a couple minutes later (she was easy to spot from her picture on her blog, and because we knew she was short height-challenged) and were able to all sit together.

tweet, tweet

tweet, tweet

That panel was a good one, with Otis Chandler (founder of Goodreads.com), Wil Wheaton (author, blogger, twitter-er, and actor from Star Trek: TNG), and Sara Wolf (dance critic-she was out of place).  Otis said he had a theory that reading was “broken” and that in starting Goodreads he had hoped to make reading more of a social experience and provide a place where people could talk to each other about books.  He said we’ve all experienced social pressure to watch tv (like when everyone is talking about who got kicked off American Idol, and if you don’t watch you feel out of it).  He wanted to try to make that true with books, and gave examples like “All the cool kids are reading Twilight”.  

Wendy and Anjin

Wendy and Anjin

The following question was posed to the panel: “What does social media (Twitter) do to readers attention spans?”  Will answered by saying he blames the dumbing down of society on TV, not technology.  Something Will said really resonated with me as a member of the blogging community- “You don’t have to be in the same room with someone anymore to share an experience.” He was referring to internet communities and conversations that go on in places like Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.  I think our group could all agree with that!  Another question came up about placing limits on and policing social media- having rules- filtering out spam.  Will and Otis discussed that, saying with social media, users “own” it, they make the rules and define how it will be.  Marketers want to tell us what to do on social media i.e. “Here’s how you can profit if you use it my way”, which is precisely why they fail and are seen as spammers. People will use Facebook and Twitter in a way that’s fun for them and ignore the rest.  Meanwhile, the third panelist didn’t seem to have much of a grasp on what Twitter actually is, and was busy talking about the “constellations” in her dance community on Facebook, and how constellating is so great.  Constellating???  Ok….  

Lunch

Lunch

After a quick lunch together, we went our separate ways to the various panels.  Trish, Natasha, Amy and I attended Problem Child, which was a panel with Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Winter Girls), Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole-graphic novel), Jacquelyn Woodfin (Hush, Locomotion, Peace Locomotion) and Suzanne Phillips (Burn).  Laurie Halse Anderson said she “feels so lucky to be able to wake up, listen to the voices in her head, and write down what they say.”  The moderator said that one thing their books had in common was that they all have a really strong, immediate narrative voice.  One comment I jotted down from this panel was that most YA-middle grade novels have a “problem child” because they need a central conflict to make the book interesting, but the characters in these books go way beyond the norm.  We’re talking about eating disorders and cutting, mental illness, kids with real issues. This was a great panel but I had to leave early in order to get to my next panel on time, because there was no way I was going to miss seeing Lisa See!

Lisa meets Lisa

Lisa meets Lisa

Several of us went to Fiction: Window on the World with Lisa See (Shanghai Girls, Snow Flower, Peony in Love), Jonathon Rabb (Rosa, Shadow and Light), Vanina Marsot (Foreign Tongue), and Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)  and her translator.  

I’m a huge Lisa See fan.  She talked about Shanghai Girls, set in both Shanghai and Los Angeles, and said it asks the question “How do we define home?  Is it where you grew up, or in the place that you make?”  An excellent question for a midwestern transplant like me.  She spoke about China City in LA from 1937 until the mid-50s, how it was built to look like a real Chinese city with a mini-Great Wall of China surrounding it, but how much of it was created from Hollywood props and sets.  

Lisa meets Vanina

Lisa meets Vanina

I’m also a new fan of Vanina Marsot, having just finished her book Foreign Tongue a week ago (review coming soon!). I was completely enthralled by it!  Vanina said she wanted to show the non-Disneyland version of Paris, a real city where real people live, not vacation-land. Her protagonist Anna, living in Paris with dual French/American citizenship, is translating a book from French to English.  It’s an examination of both cultures, how things are expressed in both languages, and how some things don’t translate well.  She shared an expression that French mothers use with their children that translates literally into “Stop your cinema”.  Those of us with little drama queens immediately knew what she meant!

Muriel Barbery brought along a translator and was utterly charming.  Jill and Tracy had both read The Elegance of  the Hedgehog and were really excited to see her.  Tracy mentioned later that she had a “girl crush” on her, and I can totally relate.  She was elegant in that effortless French way, hair pulled straight back into a sleek chignon, minimal makeup and jewelry, yet still looked stunning.  She spoke in French and while I couldn’t understand a word, her smile and laugh and sweet tone spoke volumes.  I wanted to buy her book and get it signed but they’d sold out. I did, however, get to say hello at the signing.  She’s adorable.

img_2747I gushed and babbled all over Lisa See!  She signed my beat up ARC of Shanghai Girls (coming out in May) and said that she remembered me from our book club conversation last fall.  Then I gushed and babbled some more all over Vanina Marsot.  She was surprised that I’d already read her book.  I told her the publisher had sent it to me, and that I was a blogger.  She said, “Oh, do you know Jennifer?”  I said, “From Literate Housewife?”  She nodded, and said, “Yes, isn’t she wonderful?”  I, of course, agreed with her (Hi, Jen!) and told her I’d enjoyed her interview on Jen’s blog and loved the pictures. Whatever else I said is a blur.  Did I mention I gushed and babbled?

Amy, Tracy, and I blew off our 4th panel of the day in favor of walking around in the beautiful sunshine, picking up some freebies (mostly bookmarks), and talking. Amy did some shopping and bought gifts for her mom and sister (that’s her with Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark).  

Trish and me

Trish and me

We all met back at the UCLA bookstore, where Trish was once again a teensy bit late, but with good reason, and was oh so excited to tell everybody about the panel she’d attended (she is so darn cute.  I just love her!)  

Then we headed over to Jerry’s Deli in Westwood for dinner.  This is getting really lengthy, so let’s just say a good time was had by all.  Here are a couple pictures from our evening together.  Around the table, starting on the left, we have Trish, Ti, me, Amy, Florinda, Wendy’s husband Anjin, Wendy, Natasha and Jill.  In the last picture, taken outside, we have (left to right) Jill, Natasha, Ti, Florinda, me-Lisa, Wendy, Trish, Amy.  

I went back to the Festival on Sunday for Day 2, but just attended one panel (a middle grade fiction one) with my daughter and did a little shopping.  I picked up some books for my kids and stopped at the Vroman’s booth for The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer (he was on a panel Saturday that I didn’t see, but other bloggers loved!) and The Elegance of the Hedgehog (I was so glad they had it!)  I’ll tell you about my kids’ “adventures in book signing” in another post.

Thanks to all my wonderful new friends for making this a really special weekend for me.  It was a thrill and a pleasure to meet you all and I hope we can do it again next year!

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Matrimony Giveaway

cover150x229Matrimony by Josh Henkin is a much read, reviewed, and revered book around the blogosphere. Josh is a great guy and an author that really understands and appreciates the time and effort we book bloggers put into our blogs and our reviews. He is so supportive of bloggers and has done a great job of marketing his book online. He is generous with his time, offering author chats (by phone and in person) to book clubs all over the country. He loooooves getting feedback on his book and sitting in on discussions!

Josh wrote a wonderful guest post for me last year about book clubs that really struck a nerve, judging from the dozens of comments and incoming links to that post. Josh encourages reading groups to think outside the box and choose titles that are a little different. He noticed that book clubs were making selections from the same 10 or 12 titles and missing out on some really interesting stuff by sticking to the tried and true. Josh, I want to thank you for that guest post, and for always providing a link to this blog whenever you refer to it.. whether that is with Shelf Awareness, Book Club Girl, Reading Group Guides, or various other interviews you’ve done. I really appreciate that! For more on Josh’s thoughts on book clubs, check out this article titled Author, Your Group is Calling, from The Philadelphia Enquirer.

So.. Matrimony. Have you read it? It’s about 2 couples: Julian and Mia, and Carter and Pilar. It’s about love and life and birth and death and everything in between. It was a 2007 New York Times Notable Book. A Book Sense Highlight Pick of the Year. A Borders Original Voices Selection. It’s quite the celebrated book!

Josh is offering an inscribed, paperback copy of his book to one lucky commenter! Just leave a comment by Thursday, February 19th. And since we’re just a couple days away from Valentine’s Day, I’d like you to finish this sentence: “Love is … “

100K Celebration Madness Continues with Another Giveaway!

Today is Day 2 of my giant 100K Celebration, which will be going on for a week here at Books on the Brain! I am having so much fun celebrating and am so glad to share my excitement with you. It’s like I’m throwing a party (everyone’s invited), but instead of receiving gifts, I’m giving them – which to me is always way more fun!

Today Kim Weiss and the wonderful people at HCI Books – “The Life Issues Publisher” – have generously offered 7 amazing books to my readers. HCI is a great publisher of non-fiction whose motto is “Changing Lives One Book at a Time”. There’s a little something for everybody! Leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, February 17th, and let me know which book you’d be interested in winning. Here are the titles up for grabs:

3821The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

Your Essential Resource to Organic and Natural Skin Care, Hair Care, Makeup, and Fragrances

With her friendly, thorough, and helpful advice; fabulous beauty recipes; product recommendations and ratings; Toxic Ingredients List; and a complete appendix of online resources, Julie Gabriel gives you all the information you need to go green without going broke and become a more natural, healthy, and beautiful you.

3667Staging Your Comeback by Christopher Hopkins

A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45

Known as The Makeover Guy ® from his appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other national television programs, Christopher Hopkins believes that as they age, women become more beautiful but often feel less attractive. He’s out to change that. For more than twenty years he’s encouraged women who often feel like they’ have taken a backseat to everything and everyone else to come out of the shadows and take center stage.

3827Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-Formation by Richard Bandler

More than thirty years ago, Richard Bandler set out to discover how some therapists effected startling change with their clients, while others argued about theories while their patients waited in vain for help. Now widely regarded as the world’s greatest hypnotist and one of the most brilliant minds in the field of personal change, Richard Bandler created patterns that became the bedrock of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), arguably one of the most profoundly effective approaches for self-improvement. In Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-formation, he returns to his roots: hypnotic phenomena, trancework, and altered states to provide a highly compelling and effective prescription for quick and lasting personal change.

3811 The Vigorous Mind by Ingrid E. Cummings

Cross-train Your Brain to Break Through Mental, Emotional, and Professional Boundaries

In The Vigorous Mind, professional ‘Renaissance woman’ Ingrid Cummings offers a social criticism and inspiring self-improvement program that details the antidote to mental undernourishment, unfulfilling careers, untapped talents, and unexplained boredom. Through the techniques and insights in The Vigorous Mind, you will build a more complex, interconnected brain and replace indifference with cognitive reengagement, a sense of optimistic gratification, and a full-to-the-brim life lived without regret.

3812You Lost Him at Hello by Jess McCann

A Saleswoman’s Secrets to Closing the Deal with Any Guy You Want

**JESS WILL BE ON GOOD MORNING AMERICA THIS FRIDAY, FEB. 13th!

Whether you’ve found yourself waiting for him to call or given up everything for a relationship that went nowhere, getting a guy to commit can be like getting him to walk over a bed of hot coals. Jess McCann’s tactics work because they make you strong, confident, and irresistible to every man you meet. Whether you’re looking for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, You Lost Him at Hello will help you find him and keep him–while having more fun and fulfilled relationships than ever before.

3848 Zig-zagging by Tom Wilson

Loving Madly, Losing Badly – How Ziggy Saved My Life

Ziggy cartoonist Tom Wilson didn’t see it coming: after losing his beloved young wife to breast cancer, it’s up to him to raise two children alone and keep the laughs coming in his cartoons worldwide—even as his own personal orbit is falling apart. In this mesmerizing and nostalgic account of a beloved artist’s life, Tom Wilson details his compelling journey from growing up in the shadow of his father’s genius to inheriting an iconic cartoon when his father falls ill, all while struggling to overcome a crippling depression.

Leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, February 17th, and let me know which HCI book you’d be interested in winning. This contest is open to residents of US and Canada only (my apologies to my overseas readers!)

Come back each day this week for more great giveaways!

We’re partying all week long!

Holy Sh*t! 100,000 Hits! And a Hachette Favorites Giveaway!

images-11It appears that I will hit a big milestone today or tomorrow. Never in a zillion years did I think this little blog of mine would reach 100,00 hits, but here it is! Unbelievable. Woo Hoo, Partay!

51ipo1fobxl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-dptopright12-18_sh30_ou01_aa115_The wildly generous Miriam at Hachette Book Group is sponsoring a Hachette Favorites Giveaway to help me celebrate! Leave a comment on this post by Monday, February 16th for a chance to win a big box of new fiction from Hachette, including The Little Giant of Aberdeen County 31bhf6sljl_sl160_aa115_(reviewed HERE), One Perfect Day (reviewed HERE), The Bishop’s Daughter (reviewed HERE), Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly, The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent, Run for Your Life by James Patterson and The Makedown by Gitty Daneshvari!

So, a little background on this blog. I started Books on the Brain at the end of September 2007 with virtually no idea about blogging, the book blogging community, html code, Google Reader, ARCs, memes, book tours, etc. No clue. None.

Laura Fitzgerald, author of Veil of Roses (who, incidentally, has a new book out and will be guest posting later this month!), had just talked to my real life book club by speaker phone. She was terrific, and when I emailed to thank her, she wrote back that I should check out her guest post at Stephanie’s blog, The Written Word. I loved the post, but was entranced by the blog. I’d never seen anything like it! I emailed Stephanie to compliment her on it and ask questions (many, many questions). She was so patient with me and so friendly. A day or two later I started Books on the Brain with this silly post, not realizing at the time how much it would change my life.

So let me throw out some stats: in about 16 months I’ve had 99,866 total views (as of this minute), 337 posts, 4,126 comments, 33 categories, and 927 tags. I don’t want to even think about the number of hours I’ve spent blogging. Or reading the blogs of others. Let’s just say it’s been substantial!

But the MOST wonderful thing about blogging, the thing that I just can’t get over, is this wonderful community. The people are so nice, so helpful, so intelligent, caring and kind. I’ve made amazing friends here and I’m so glad I found you. You’ve greatly enriched my life. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, emails, Christmas cards, and surprises (Care, you’re so cool!). Book bloggers are the greatest! Your comments and posts have made me laugh, informed me, enlightened me, given me much to think about, and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you!

Help me celebrate by leaving a comment to enter the contest.  The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada only (no PO Boxes).  I’ll be celebrating all week with special guests and giveaways, so stay tuned!

7 Random Weird Things meme

7bookish-things-picYou know that meme that circulates over and over again where the blogger lists random stuff about themselves?  The one everyone and their blogging brother has already done?  I’ve been tagged for that repeatedly but have never done it.  I can’t tell you who tagged me because I generally ignore it.  Today I was catching up at JIll’s blog and she did the meme.  She didn’t tag me but since I’ve been procrastinating on the two book reviews I need to write, I’m going to borrow that meme today.  I always enjoy an opportunity to do some navel gazing, especially when I should be doing other things.  

I think it’s supposed to be a meme of 7 weird bookish things, but since I can’t come up with 7 of those, it’s just going to be 7 random weird things.  I’ll try to find a way to make them all about reading.  So here we go- let’s celebrate the weirdness of me!

1.  My eyesight hit a wall a couple years ago, yet I will go to great lengths not to be seen in my reading glasses. The first time I noticed it, I was trying to read the back of a Motrin box for the dosage to give my daughter, and I was angry that the Motrin makers had changed the print on the box from small to teeny tiny.  It never occurred to me that the problem was my eyes, not the box.  Then the menus at our favorite restaurant suddenly become unreadable, no matter how far away or how close I’d hold the menu to my face.  I was able to ignore that for a long time by always ordering the same thing and not looking at the menu. Then I found I couldn’t read in bed because the light from my nightstand lamp wasn’t strong enough. Finally I accepted the fact that I was half blind and went to the doctor.  Yep, my eyes are old.  Time for glasses.

2.  I work out 5 times a week during the school year.  I work out zero times a week during the summer.   I see people reading on the treadmills but I’d probably fall off the thing if I tried to do that.

3.  My husband doesn’t read.  He knows how, he just chooses not to.  The only book he has ever read is Of Mice and Men (by the way, he liked it- two thumbs up), and that was just so he wouldn’t flunk high school English.  He does, however, put up with my addiction to reading.

4.  I lost the nail on my big toe on my right foot doing a roundhouse kick in Tae Kwon Do a couple years ago.  It grew back deformed.  I wear sandals anyway (when I’m reading).

5.  I hate going to a person’s house who insists that people take off their shoes before entering.  Probably because of the deformed toenail thing.  One of my book club friends has all white carpeting and you check your shoes at the door.  I have to make sure I’m wearing decent socks or have my toes polished when it’s her month to host.           

6.  I drink 5 or 6 Diet Cokes a day.  It’s 7 am and I’m having my first one now.  My goal in the new year is to get off that chemical cocktail for good. But I always enjoy a Diet Coke when I’m reading.

7.  I have 4 junk drawers in my kitchen.  Most of it is the kids’ junk.  (Sure it is.)  No books in there, however.

Ok, so now ya’ll know how weird I am.  Are you weird too?  I’ll tag:  Patti, Sheri, Robin, Heather, Natalie, and anyone else who wants a reason to procrastinate!  Feel free to ignore the tag, as I usually do!