BBAW Day 5: How To Fight Reader’s Block

I missed Day 4!! But between job interviews, submissions and classes, I found no time to blog yesterday. Anyway, here is the last prompt for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week, how do you keep things fresh in your reading?
Short answer, I don’t always. If you scroll back through this blog, you will find complainey posts nearly every seven months, about not finding time to read, about being tired of thrillers, bored of fantasy and too swamped to write reviews. I always have phases in reading, the Ayn Rand phase, the horror obsession, the latest is memoirs. But over the years, I have discovered a few ways to make time for reading and make it through lulls. 
1. Visit book stores, book sales and libraries – There is something almost unfairly attractive about paperbacks. Even if they were to lose the convenience argument to ebooks, physical books were the ones that made most of us fall in love with reading. A walk through a bookshop or library can be so inspiring. You never know when a book might pop out at you and open new reading doors. A discount only helps the process.
A couple of favourites I stumbled upon at libraries and book sales: Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice by A.S. Byatt, Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
2. Bring diversity to where you read – Do you always read in your armchair? Or on the bed? Or in commute? My favourite is lying on the bed, with the book propped open in front me. But I have realized over the years that if you only stick to one place where you read, you will end up in a rut. Read a chapter on the train, sneak in a page in the kitchen, find a cosy spot in a garden, on a bench, in a coffee shop and even in your library. A creative choice of place adds to the atmosphere of the book. 
3. Join a book club – You will meet like-minded people and very different people. The good thing about being in a book club is, it will sometimes literally force you to read books you would never have picked up otherwise. And while that is not always a good thing, you will end up with some cool new reading experiences. Not to mention, get some worthwhile recommendations along the way. 
4. Consider other modes of reading – Seriously. I am not the biggest fan of audiobooks, but they are a real time saver. And a good narrator can do wonders. I know lots of people who most of their ‘reading’ through audiobooks, and I can understand the appeal. At the end of the day, it is the content that matters, not the mode. Graphic novels, similarly, are a whole different treasure, and one every reader should branch out into. (I am pretty much a novice when it comes to these, though, but recommendations are welcome.)
5. Find inspiration wherever you can – Be it books you find mentioned on a TV show or in a movie. Participate in readalongs and reading events. Join Goodreads, follow and interact with other bloggers. Take on book challenges. The list is unending.
My favourite inspiration post – Books I Read Because of Gilmore Girls
And to keep the blog from suffering through your reading ups and downs, post about other things, be it travel, recipes, music, movies or interesting stuff from your daily life.

BBAW Day 3: Thank the Blogger

When I read the prompt for today for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week at The Estella Society, I did not realize we could be talking about bad books. So mine is a politer Thank the Blogger instead of Blame the Blogger. I made a list of some of the books I discovered on my favourite book (mostly) blogs and entirely loved. 
1. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, discovered in March 2014, on Postcards from Asia. From my own review,
“The Golem and the Jinni meet by accident, and discover, instantly, each others’ true identities. After the initial fear and discomfort, a mixture of curiousity and loneliness brings them together and they become unlikely friends, exploring New York together, strangely free in the dead of the night. The Golem and the Jinni is an absorbing fusion of ordinary and miraculous.”
2. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, discovered in March 2012, on Vishy’s Blog. Again, from my own review,
“I think the book is worth reading. It is rather unique. It’s not long, though it sometimes loses momentum. If you like history, magical realism, dark fantasy, mythology, art, specifically grotesques, give The Gargoyle a chance.”
3. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, discovered in September 2012, on Nylon Admiral
The Uncommon Reader is a charming little book woven around a simple idea – what would happen if the Queen were to fall in love with books? Among many dollops of wisdom on reading, the book gave me one of my favourite quotable quotes – “Authors are as much creatures of the reader’s imagination as the characters in their books.”
4. All short stories by Alice Munro, discovered in January 2014, on Viktoria’s Bookshelf (now One Sketch A Day
This is my favourite discovery. I remember how blown away I was by the first Alice Munro story I read, only minutes after reading Viktoria’s post. I found the story Dimension in the New Yorker. I read it once, twice, rushed to buy a book by Munro, intro-ed her to the book club. Seriously, you haven’t experienced short stories until you have read Alice Munro.
5. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, discovered in October 2015, on Listen Watch Read Share
When I say You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, I am only saying it to keep the list consistent. What I actually mean is I discovered a lot of really good music on Denise’s blog. So You Have Been Publicly Shamed is a tough, scary book and I did appreciate it; but what you should be checking out is her blog, for all manner of fun things she writes.
The sweetest thing about BBAW is how it is making me stroll down memory lane every day. I have stuck to blogs that are still running here. But I stumbled upon so many I used to follow three and four years, old exchanges and emails and recommendations. I felt like I was in that scene in a movie, where I am standing still and the seasons change around me in fast-forward. Nice, but also sad. (The other thing this post established in my mind is how urgently I need to make a blog roll.)
The prompt also asks which books I keep pushing on people. Oh SO many. And ironically, I can’t think of a review I wrote or book I made someone read that got the anticipated reaction. Maybe three. However. It has not kept me from going on an on, yet!

BBAW Day 2: Interview

The second day of the Book Blogger Appreciation Week is interviews! Those of us who signed up were assigned bloggers as interviewees. I got Heather from Based On A True Story. And got interviewed here at Tea Time with Marce.

I love this day’s task! I perused Heather’s blog, discovered so many new books to add to my shelf, was overcome with guilt by how regularly she blogs (look at my sad attempts at consistency) and got to meet her adorable pets. Do go visit her site! 

Bookish Questions:
1. What is your idea of the perfect book?
It needs to pull me in immediately with the writing. I can usually tell on the first page whether I’m going to DNF a book or not. I can feel myself sinking into the story right away. Choppy sentences or poor grammar will take me right out. The subject matter could be anything. I don’t mind what the topic is as long at the writing engages me and the story isn’t abusive or cruel.
2. Tell us about a book you reacted strongly to and what brought it on?
Throne of Glass. I read it because so many people on my Twitter feed loved it. I didn’t. This might be an instance where being an older reader made a huge difference to the enjoyment of the book. Younger readers think it is romantic but all I could see was abusive relationships because of an uneven power dynamic. Then I went off on a rant.
3. Do you have any quirky reading rituals?
I have to know the publication year before I can read. I’m not sure why. I’ve noticed that a lot of ebooks put the copyright page at the end now and I don’t approve. I have to find it and read the year.
4. Which is your favourite genre and why?
Fantasy is what I read the most of. I love the imagination of it. It can be anything. I’m also getting into the speculative fiction aspect of fantasy which is guessing what the world will be like in the future. One of my favorites last year was Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias.
Blog Questions:
1. Tell us about your lovely critters and how they feature into the blog!
My URL is because I didn’t know what I was doing when I was setting up my own domain way back in 2005. I thought it was like setting up a user name and I always used my horse’s name.
This is Spirit, the blog namesake, during his retirement from showing so he was allowed to have crazy hair. He died in 2008 at the age of 33. Since then I’ve gotten out of the horse hobby which is something that I never would have imagined. Now I live with my 11 year old Springer Spaniel/Beagle mix Freckles, a 13 year old cat named Powder, a 11 year old Senegal Parrot named Jules, and a 2 year old cat named Paul. They get to be blog fodder when they do something bizarre.
2. How do you manage to blog regularly? Do you follow a plan?
I don’t really have a plan. I write when I’m inspired. I tend to write in advance of when things are going to post. I like to have a least a few posts ready for the next week at all times. I do read a lot and I review most of the books that I read so that helps make up a lot of posts. I use prompts like Top Ten Tuesday if I like the topic. I use blog events to post ideas too. I’m doing Weirdathon in March about weird books so I have a few post ideas for that ready too.

3. I love your blog design. Is there a story behind it?
Thanks! I get antsy with the design every so often and need a big change. My last theme was pretty white and minimalist and I suddenly got bored with it. This theme is called Nice Blog. I liked having more color and the ability to have big featured pictures. The background is an extreme closeup of a cherry tree in blossom that I took in Washington D.C. I think you just see a solid background if you are reading on mobile though. I can’t figure out why but it looks ok so I’m not going to argue with it.
4. Which has been your favourite blogging experience?

In 2008 I was going to be in LA to be on Jeopardy (end result – I lost big). The mother of one of my blog readers at the time decided to escort me around on a free day I had. She and a friend came and picked me up and showed me around the city and took me to dinner. 

This year I’m going to Book Expo America for the first time. I’m looking forward to that.

Personal Questions

1. If you were an animal, which would you be and why?

I think I would be a whale. I’d be big enough that no one would eat me and I could go see what was going on in the ocean. Maybe I’d be an environmentalist whale and make seals pull sleds of ocean garbage back onto land for people to clean up. Nnedi Okorafor had a pipeline-fighting swordfish in her book Lagoon. That would be my inspiration.

2. What is one superpower you want? What would you do with it?

Teleportation. I’ve thought about this way more often than you’d think. I would love to be able to travel all over the world and be back for work tomorrow so I can afford to eat.

3. Which TV shows or movies do you geek out over?

Doctor Who! I went arranged a whole English vacation in a way to be able to go to Cardiff just to see the Doctor Who Experience. I recently got my husband addicted against his strong objections. He got me a TARDIS nightlight for Valentine’s Day. I also like anything Marvel and Supernatural and any kind of genealogy television show.

Thanks for the fun answers, Heather! A TARDIS nightlight is such a cool Valentine’s Day gift! I would love to meet the environmentalist-whale-you. And thanks for going through how you post regularly, I can sure use some of the tips.

BBAW Day 1: Books That Represent Me

I decided to participate in the Book Blogger Appreciation Week after reading about it on Deepika’s blog. The Book Blogger Appreciation Week is an event hosted by The Estella Society. The first day’s task is to introduce yourself, but creatively, with a list of books that represent you. My favourite authors do not make it to this list, that I love their books is a given. JK Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Stephen King. Here are books that I read at turning points in my life, books that witnessed a new dimension taking shape in me or perhaps the very things that dragged me around a corner into an altered perspective. I think about these books a lot, and here is what each gave me –
“All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.”

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The story of a Pi Patel, an Indian boy who loses his family in a shipwreck, survives 227 days on the Pacific in a lifeboat with a Royal Bengal Tiger. The story revealed creases in the fabric of reality and helped me reconcile with parts of myself that I wished to be rid of. Words fail me when I try to describe what this book did for me all those years ago. The humour, the quirk sprinkled into the terrible horror of it all, the story turned me from sceptic to believer. Not in God, like Pi, but a believer in belief.
“There are things that happen and leave no discernible trace, are not spoken or written of, though it would be very wrong to say that subsequent events go on indifferently, all the same, as though such things had never been.”

Possession by AS Byatt. This book led me to discover the romantic in me. It is a literary mystery, the story of two long-dead poets and a secret uncovered. It is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. Byatt is a linguistic genius and Possession stoked in me a rare appreciation for poetry. 
“To come to the end of a time of anxiety and fear! To feel the cloud that hung over us lift and disperse – the cloud that dulled the heart and made happiness no more than a memory! This at least is one joy that must have been known by almost every living creature.”

Watership Down by Richard Adams. An epic adventure about rabbits. This book illustrates the utter genius of storytelling. Suspension of disbelief taken to a whole new level, with rabbit languages, rabbit friendships and rabbit mythology. I have yet to find a book written with such unparalleled conviction in the power of fiction. 
“Why does everything you know, and everything you’ve learned, confirm you in what you believed before? Whereas in my case, what I grew up with, and what I thought I believed, is chipped away a little and a little, a fragment then a piece and then a piece more. With every month that passes, the corners are knocked off the certainties of this world: and the next world too.”

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Another take on one of the craziest, ruthless and most intriguing stories of scandal in English history. The story of Henry VIII and the Anglican Church told from the point of view of one of the key movers of the time, Thomas Cromwell. This book is everything I love about historical fiction and more. It defines and defies history, shows us the gaps in common knowledge, leads us to the dark crevices in truth, and makes us peer in for a look. 
“Somehow, irresistibly, the prime thing was: nothing mattered. Life in the end seemed a prank of such size you could only stand off at this end of the corridor to note its meaningless length and it’s quite unnecessary height, a mountain built to such ridiculous immensities you were dwarfed in its shadow and mocking of its pomp.”

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. A coming-of-age story. A horror, a fantasy, a mythology. Things came full circle for me from when I read Life of Pi to eight years later, two years ago, when I read this. Bad things in my life were just bad things now and I had a choice to either laugh or cry and I came of age. There is no better writer of fantasy or better presenter of reality than Ray Bradbury. This is a must read.

I chose these books off the top of my head. There are others I keep mulling over all the time. The Crucible by Arthur Miller about the Salem witch trials, Embassytown by China Mieville, a sort of linguistic science fiction, Ghost Story by Peter Straub which describes my love for horror and so many more. Which books would you say represent you?