Awkward Moments in Book Blogging

This weekend I received a request to review an indie published book from the author. His name rang a bell, so I assumed I knew him from twitter or had read him before.

Yup. I had read him before. The same book, actually, two years ago. Clearly, record-keeping isn’t his strong suit. But, that’s no big deal. I figured I’d hit him with the URL to my original post, say something jokey in response, and call it a day.

But, I hated the book — gave it 1 1/2 stars. My post on it was sketchy, because to really get into what I thought of the book, I said, “it’d just be mean.”

So, yeah, I think this’ll be one of those emails I forget to reply to…


Where the Magic Happens…or something

So, I’m just too tired to write anything real tonight — besides, I have to wait until next week before I can talk about most of what I’ve read lately. So let’s do a little behind the scenes . . .

Three years ago when I switched to a day job, my reading habits had to change — among other things. It took almost no time at all to realize that reading in the break room just wasn’t going to work — it was too loud, there were too many things going on, you couldn’t sit by yourself, really. And then there were all these nice people wanting to talk.

Actually, people in general being around was something to get used to, but that’s another story.

Then I realized that there were perfectly good stairs a lot closer to my work space than the break room was. So I started hanging out there and reading — sometimes, sitting on the stairs, other times leaning against the railing — it’s at a decent height for that. Nowadays, that’s where 40-60% of my weekday reading happens while on break.

It’s not perfectly quiet, but it’s close enough. Except when the flautist practices every couple of months. There are people who pass through — and some of them talk to me, but the conversations are short — because they’re on their way to somewhere else. Sometimes it’s just a “hi,” occasionally I workshop ideas for posts here when someone asks about what I’m reading. I’ve even been given a couple of good recommendations.

Now, the keen-eyed among you might have noticed a couple of post-its on the wall (circled below).

So, for a couple of years people would joke about putting up a sign where I read with my name on it or something (more than one person has suggested getting me a chair). But last December, I moved to a different floor, and within a month, someone had put up the larger post-it reading “[H. C.]’s Reading Spot.” This would be in the larger circle.

A couple of weeks later, that person asked if I liked my sign. I had to confess that I had no clue what she was talking about and apologized profusely. Who pays attention to the walls along the stairs? Especially when you’re not climbing the stairs, but are focused on the book/eReader in your hand. So when I went out for my next break, I went looking for it — and she’d added another post-it (the smaller one), “<– This is the sign.”

Very helpful.

So, yeah, that’s where I read and recharge from all the interaction with people so I have enough energy to get back to work and interact with more people.

Sure, it’s not as snazzy as some of the reading nooks you see on Instagram, Bookstr, etc. It could be more comfortable, that’s for sure. But I’ve gotta say, when the book is halfway decent, I don’t notice. That’s where the magic happens.

Looking back at 2018 for Books and the Blog

As we kick off 2019, I wanted to take a glance back at 2018. 258 books read (plus comics, picture books, short stories, and the like that I don’t know how to count) — I exceeded my goal (nothing like exceeding an arbitrary number to boost the ol’ ego), 380 posts (short of my goal by a couple hundred, and worse — 15 fewer than 2017, which was down from 2016. This is a trend that I need to reverse). I had some strong gains in traffic — views and visitors — actually, strong gains doesn’t quite cut it. Consider my mind boggled. I’m also seeing good growth in followers here and on various social media fronts, which is encouraging as all get out — not just growth in numbers, but I’m actually interacting with people (and vice versa).

So here’s my breakdown of books by genre, like the one I did last year. Genre labeling is more difficult this year, I read a lot of hybrids, but I tend to go with the overarching genre (for example, Brassley’s The Drifting Lands books are fantasy novels in a SF setting, I went with Fantasy). Mystery/Suspense/Thriller is back to where it should be. Fantasy jumped up a bit, and Urban Fantasy took a dive. It’s been forever since I’ve read a Western, I guess (at least one that wasn’t a hybrid with Urban Fantasy or SF or something) — and I had to add a category for Poetry. Theological books went down in actual numbers, not just percent — but I read some big, technical stuff this year that take a lot of time/energy to read, so I’m not too bothered by that. Still, for someone who doesn’t plan too thoroughly, the percentages stay remarkably the same from year to year — tastes (and series I follow) apparently stay the same.

Genre 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Children’s 11 (4%) 7 (3%) 5 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Fantasy 30 (11%) 7 (3%) 31 (13%) 17 (9%) 11 (7%) 15 (8%) 12 (6%)
General Fiction/ Literature 22 (8%) 29 (10%) 27 (11%) 17 (9%) 7 (4%) 30 (16%) 30 (14%)
Horror 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (.4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Humor 3 (1%) 1 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (1%) 3 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller 107 (38%) 102 (37%) 61 (25%) 64 (34%) 62 (37%) 63 (33%) 73 (35%)
Non-Fiction 22 (8%) 10 (4%) 11 (5%) 8 (4%) 4 (2%) 2 (1%) 11 (5%)
Poetry 1 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Science Fiction 25 (9%) 27 (10%) 37 (15%) 16 (8%) 17 (10%) 14 (7%) 11 (5%)
Steampunk 3 (1%) 1 (0%) 2 (1%) 7 (4%) 3 (2%) 3 (2%) 11 (5%)
Theology/ Christian Living 25 (9%) 30 (11%) 33 (14%) 42 (22%) 42 (25%) 37 (19%) 10 (5%)
Urban Fantasy 29 (10%) 45 (16%) 36 (15%) 19 (10%) 20 (12%) 26 (14%) 48 (23%)
Western 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (0%)

Have a great 2019, hope you find plenty of good things to read!

2019 Reading Goals/Plans/Expectations

All this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, obviously. Maybe a salt lick. Remembering all too well the poet’s lines:

           But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!

So, I’ve got 6 Reading Challenges in the hopper — I looked at a number of others, but these are the ones that clicked with me. Last year was the first that I really got into Reading Challenges, and appreciated the way they made me think about what I was reading (and outside of maybe 3 or 4 books, they didn’t direct my reading).

Additionally, I’m going to focus on bringing down the number of books in my Physical and Electronic TBR Pile/Mound/Heap (33 and 21, respectively, not counting review copies). Those numbers aren’t as big as some people’s, I realize. But that’s 2 months and change of reading if I read nothing else. This is a personal challenge, that I’m dubbing The Reader Who Went up a Mountain but Came down a Hill. We’ll see how well that works.

I’m also going to finish off my Rebus-catch up, I’m going to try to read the rest of the DC Fiona Griffiths (although I’ve been saying that for 2 years now), and I want to read every Fredrik Backman novel I can get my hands on. Actually accomplishing these three would only chip away two books from the above mountain…

But mostly, I’m going to focus on “Serendipity and Whim” like Alan Jacobs talks about. By all means feel free to throw suggestions at me.

2018 While I Was Reading Challenge

I finished this challenge last night (the other reading challenges I participated in this year were just “how many of X can you read?, so there’s no real end point). When I signed up for this last year, I thought it’d be no trouble whatsoever (except the poetry thing), and I’d just finish this by reading what I’d normally read. I was almost right. But not really.

I had to go hunt down about half the titles here — and even that didn’t go right. I tracked down one book (that I ended up enjoying) for “Read a book with a child narrator” that turned out to have a child protagonist and a third-person narrator. Thankfully, I had read a book that qualified about 5 months earlier, and didn’t think of using it for the list. Similarly, I re-read/listened to Robin Sloane’s Sourdough because I couldn’t think of anything else to work for “favorite food in the title,” and sourdough’s close enough to a favorite that I could live with it. Then a month later than I got a book tour review request for Mr. Pizza (which was incredibly accurate). So with patience, I might have been able to handle it all without much effort (except the poetry).

I’m doing this challenge again next year, because I did it, but I’m planning it better — I have things in mind for about half of the items already, and am pretty sure I can fill the rest of it out with little effort. But I’m not waiting until the Fall before I get serious about it.

✔ Read a book that takes place in one day: The United Smiths of America by Jon Voss
✔ Read a memoir or biography of a musician you like: So Let It Be Written by Mark Eglinton
✔ Read a collection of poetry: Dog Songs by Mary Oliver, John Burgoyne
✔ Read an audio book with multiple narrators: Ways to die in Glasgow by Heather Wilds, Napoleon Ryan
✔ Read a self published book: Profane Fire at the Altar of the Lord by Dennis Malley
✔ Read a book you received as a gift: The Crescent and the Cross by Kurt Scheffler
✔ Read a book about a historical event you’re interested in (fiction or non): The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865 by Janet Elizabeth Croon, ed.
✔ Read a book written by an author from the state where you grew up: Arsenal by Jeffery H. Haskelll/Twisted Magics by J. C. Jackson
✔ Read a book recommended by one of your parents (in-laws count): Ross Poldark by Winston Graham (link forthcoming)
✔ Read a book with your favorite food in the title: Mr. Pizza by J. F. Pandolfi
✔ Read a book with a child narrator: Picket Town by Chris von Halle
✔ Read a book you chose based on the cover: Know Me from Smoke by Matt Phillips

Thanksgiving 2018

Happy Thanksgiving/Turkey Day/Thursday

(depending on your location/preference)

When I think about all the great things that have happened around the blog and behind the scenes this year leaves me at a loss for words, let me list a few things I’m thankful for — a very incomplete list, I assure you:

    • The readers of this blog, the authors who’ve corresponded with me/provided books for me to read/encouraged me — even promoted this here project. The messages of support/care/encouragement that we received from you all when my son got his kidney were inexpressibly helpful.
    • The publicists, publishers, book tour hosts, etc. I’ve been working with this year who’ve especially made things great — I typically hesitate to mention any by name, so as to not inadvertently miss anyone and cause offense (and make me feel bad). But I want to mention two by name this year — Lori Hettler of TNBBC Publicity and Emma at damppebbles blog tours. You two have expanded (and pushed) my boundaries this year, exposed me to some great reads I’d have not tried, and put up with my quirks and memory lapses with grace.
    • Books
    • Authors!
    • Books
    • Coffee (and other beverages both caffeinated and adult)
    • Books
    • Time to read
    • Books
    • Easily finding an appropriate image for this post for the second year in a row
    • Books
    • Easily finding an appropriate image for this post for a change
    • Audiobooks and talented narrators
    • The Nampa Public Library (and The LYNX! Consortium) — and their generous grace period
    • Books
    • Rediscovered Books and
    • Books
    • Goodreads, WordPress, NetGalley, BookLikes
    • Books
    • Evernote (but you’re making it harder)
    • Books
    • Organ Transplants (just to get serious for a moment)</li)
    • Authors!
    • Authors!

My supportive, understanding and encouraging wife and kids who do a pretty decent job pretending to care when their old man drones on and on about what he’s reading or what’s going on with the blog.

  • Again, all of you who read, follow, like, tweet, comment, email, etc. this page — you have no idea how much every little bit is appreciated.

The Mail I Get – While I was Out Edition

More than a few book bloggers, bookstagrammers, and other book types that I follow here and there will occasionally post pictures of the books they get in the mail — I’ve never done that, because usually the stuff I’m given is in e-form, and it’s hard to get a good picture of those (not that I’m a fantastic source of good pictures — I’m working on it).

But, while being gone for 30+ days, I got a few books/book-related items in the mail, so I figured I’d share a picture–

So, that’s a copy of Kill the Farm Boy by Deliah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne (and some pins the publisher sent because I preordered); The Annotated Big Sleep which I’m really looking forward to diving into; a copy of The Lobster Boy And The Fat Lady’s Daughter by Charles Kriel with a snazzy new cover; ditto for A Mint Condition Corpse by Duncan MacMaster, Pugs Unleashed by Dave Kellet (and some nifty postcards I got for Kickstarting it); and that furry fella — (a better picture is below) is Oberon from the Iron Druid Chronicles (via Worldbuilders) — I wish I could take a better picture of him, because he’s adorable (and a little larger than I assumed), click the link for a photo taken by a capable photographer.

I may leave home more often if that’s what’s waiting for me when I get back.