Tag Archives: bbaw

BBAW 2012: Pimp That Book!

13th September 2012

Today, the goal for BBAW posts is “pimping” a book I feel doesn’t get enough attention. Well, a. I don’t follow rules well, and b. I absolutely hate picking just one of anything, so you’re getting an assortment here.

However, I will focus on a specific type of book. Though it isn’t something I think I’ve ever mentioned here, I wrote short stories once upon a time. I fell in love with them in high school when I read Ernest Hemingway’s short fiction, and I loved the idea of doing so much in such a small amount of space. As an undergrad and later as a grad student, I fell in love with short stories again, particularly because I wanted to improve my own and felt I should read as much short fiction as possible.

Short story collections are difficult to review. I’ll be the first to admit that, and I’ve often wondered if that’s why I don’t come across many on review sites. But my own love of them has never faded. Writing good short fiction requires such mastery in writing (I feel), and they can easily go wrong. But when they’re good? Damn.

So today I’ll highlight my short story writer trifecta (I’m not including Flannery O’Connor because oddly enough, even though she’s a woman, her collections are rather well known. Nor am I including Ernest Hemingway. Ditto.):

Source: Goodreads

Part of what I love about short fiction is the payoff. When you read a novel, sometimes the payoff is long in coming. In short stories, you don’t have long to wait, and the first time I read “Cathedral” [full text link], I sat, book in hand, tears in my eyes. Because Carver’s characters are nothing special. They’re Joe Blow, shallow, jealous, profane, insensitive. They’re you and I on our worst days. But there is some spark, some moment that lifts them from their ordinary lives, and the result is profound.

Start with: “A Small Good Thing”/”Careful”

Source: Goodreads

Cheever. John Cheever speaks to the lost magic and wonder of adulthood. His stories are often called “stories of suburbia,” but in truth, they’re about the humdrum life of the adult, and those ways in which we either fall prey to it or challenge it.

If you’ve read anything by John Cheever, odds are it’s “The Swimmer” [full text link]. And, if you haven’t read it, click on that little linkamajink, stat. Cheever’s stories are rife with internal conflict, but there’s also a sense of wonder in his stories that never fails to amaze me because of the sober subject matter. “The Swimmer” is the story of a man who decides one lazy Sunday afternoon to swim across town in swimming pools. And if that sounds odd, just wait until you see where these swimming pools take him. When we discuss this story in my Intro to Lit class, I have students help me create a map of the pools along with complete descriptions before we analyze this epic journey. It never fails to involve just about everyone (and if you teach, you know how difficult this can be).

Start with: “The Enormous Radio” [full text link]/”The Country Husband”

Source: Goodreads

I would say, of the three, Dubus is the most different. Whereas Cheever and Carver’s characters are isolated, whether they know it or not, Dubus’ characters are so humane. His character sketches are so sympathetic and forgiving of human failings. These are people facing loss of different sorts, and they react in the ways we do or the ways we might want to but cannot or do not.

Again, to focus on one particular story, “Killings” is probably his most anthologized story. A mother and father grieve for their son, and justice is far from being done. Watching his wife is almost as painful as Matt’s own grief, and that grief leads him to act in the only way he can conceive. It’s heartbreaking, and his anger, guilt, and sadness are palpable, urging you to understand and forgive, even if Matt himself cannot.

Start with: “A Father’s Story” [full text link]


So there you have it. The best of the best in terms of relatively lesser-known or recognized short story writers. And if you’ve been hesitant to read a short story collection, I think they’re ideal for bedtime. You can limit yourself to one or two stories without feeling the need to continue and stay up way too late finishing. I’m currently finishing up Junot Diaz’s collection This Is How You Lose Her, and it helps me get ready for bed but also to savor the stories individually.

Winners of BBAW Giveaway

22nd September 2011

Using random.org, which uses ugly-sounding words like “algorithms” and “atmospheric noise” to come up with true random winners…I pulled the winners for the BBAW Giveaway are as follows:


Nadia of A Bookish Way of Life won The Arrival.

Kate of Nose in a Book won City of Glass.

Thank you all so much for entering!

BBAW Day 5: Don’t Overthink It

16th September 2011

Before talking about today’s topic, I just want to thank Amy of My Friend Amy who began Book Blogger Appreciation Week. If you’re not a blogger, it may have gotten a bit tedious (I hope not!), but it has been a huge shot in the arm for me. Blogging is work, and though I love it, it can be difficult to tack on another few hours of behind-the-scenes blog work each day. So thank you Amy for creating some time for us to share more deeply in the community!

Today’s topic….

The world of blogging is continually changing. Share 3 things you think are essential tried and true practices for every blogger and 1-3 new trends or tools you’ve adapted recently or would like to in the future.

Hands down, the absolute most difficult part about blogging (for me) has been reviewing. Take a look at my older posts: they are incredibly long and unwieldy. Hell, I’m an academic. I was writing freaking essays. And I labored over each post. I mean, I seriously was a crazy, straight-up neurotic in those days. One day my sister told me, “I love your blog, but you sound so smart, I never have anything to add.” I say this, not so you’ll tell me I’m smart; there are plenty of smarter people out there. I tell you this so you can understand the WHOA-slow down, I’vebeendoingthisallwrong-damn moment I had. Because who wants a blog no one feels they can comment on? Not me. I love comments. I mean, to go out on a limb here, I check my email all the time after I post. Talking to you guys about books is awesome.

And the crazy academic in me is still here. Hell, I can’t kill her totally, I’m a teacher. BUT (p.s. can I copyright the all-caps “but” because I need to). I can harness her. Reign her in. And when I get particularly twitchy, I go to Twitter where people like Sean from Read Heavily tell me …butbutBUT how did the book make you feel?? And I stop everything and revise the review. Because isn’t that what you really want to know? It’s what I want to know. Did you connect with this book? Did you like it? Why? Did you hate it? Why?

I tell you what I think. You tell me what you think. If that means you think I read the book upside down and backwards and that’s why I didn’t like it, tell me. Because sometimes I do read books upside down and backwards. [Only if I’ve had lots of champagne. Or am exhausted.]

I won’t and don’t apologize for getting a little analytical and twitchy from time to time about things like structure that drives me up the wall or why. authors. use. so many. awful. similes. It’s who I am.

So what am I saying? In shorter terms: be yourself. I know it’s the most catchall phrase and pretty trite at the same time, but it works.


  • Be yourself.
  • Have fun.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Don’t be a jerk.
  • Make friends.
  • Interrupt a conversation. That’s why bloggers blog.
  • Post when you can.
  • Use gadgets if you like.
  • Don’t use gadgets if you don’t like.
  • Stop pressuring yourself.

Everything else follows, and you’ll have a space you can live in and live in well. I don’t have 50 million followers. I don’t have 100 comments on every post, but I do have community. I do have regular readers and people who comment, and I love that.

P.S. Did you miss my giveaway post? I’m giving away two graphic novels: The Arrival by Shaun Tan and City of Glass by Paul Auster. Head to this post to comment and enter.

BBAW Day Four and Giveaway

15th September 2011

So, today’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week topic is:

Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!

And while this is a great topic, I want to put this into action by sharing books you may not pick up on your own. Last year, I had such a great time reading, reviewing, and discussing Madame Bovary with Frances of Nonsuch Book. I don’t know if I would ever have picked up that particular book otherwise. If you’ve been around here a bit, you know I love graphic novels, though I don’t read too many of them. So today, in the true spirit of the thing, I have two books up for grabs. Two for two of you, two for me (so not solely altruistic). Two graphic novels – neither of which I have read, both which look intriguing:

My only experience with Paul Auster was a bad one and, unfortunately, highly stereotypical, as in “I wanted to throw the book at the wall” sort. I know. I’m ashamed. I promised I’d never use that phrase here. Alas.

City of Glass is the story of a detective on a meaningless case, who questions who he is, what he is, and how he got here. For some reason, I can see this translating really well into a GN. Plus, I’ve heard others rave about Auster, and this graphic novel with an intro by Art Spiegelman has me pretty pumped.

This is one of those books I’m not sure why I haven’t bought before now. I have heard amazing things about this wordless book. So know up front: no words. Is it still a book? Of course it is. Just a different kind. It’s about an immigrant’s isolating experience in a new place, and I think, as a new ESL teacher, the timing is perfect.


So…who’s in? All you have to do is leave a comment (with email address) telling me a little bit about your experience with comic books or graphic novels. Then, on Sunday, I’ll draw a winner for each book. Plus, if you enjoy the book, I’d love to do companion posts – hey, it’s all about book blogger community. And I’d love the chance to review a graphic novel with someone else.

Please note: Since it is, in fact, Book Blogger Appreciation Week, this giveaway is open only to bloggers. It is, however, open internationally. 🙂


Open Internationally

Open only to book bloggers

Open until Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 8 p.m.

Emails will be sent to winners. Winner must respond within 48 hours.

BBAW Interview: Meghan from Medieval Bookworm

13th September 2011

Today, as part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW), participating bloggers were paired up to do interviews of one another. This is a really great way to learn new-to-you bloggers, so I urge you to head over to the main site to check out all the links.

My interview partner is Meghan from Medieval Bookworm, an American living as a Brit with her husband. I was so excited to find out she was my interviewee because when I first started blogging, she was one of the first blogs I came across. I very rarely commented, but I always loved her take on books. Meghan mostly reads and reviews historical fiction, but she has a wide variety of tastes, and if you check out her blog, you’ll see a romance novel, historical fiction, and sci-fi all on the front page of her blog.

She and I decided we were tired of the more traditional interview techniques, so we are taking a page from Pop Culture Nerd and the ever-popular My Life as a Book meme to answer our questions. For each question, we had to come up with a book title to accurately describe our answer. It was so fun, and I’m so glad she was up for something different. Enjoy, and check out her blog!

1. You were voted 2010 Best Historical Fiction blog. How would you describe that experience?

I’d say I’M FEELING LUCKY (Douglas Edwards) – there are so many great blogs out there now that it’s incredible to still be nominated!

2. What, other than reading and blogging, are some of your favorite things to do?

AT HOME (Bill Bryson) I like to study THE DISTANT HOURS (Kate Morton) – in other words, history! I like to watch TV about history, go to
local events and visit historic buildings (as well as, obviously, read about it).

3. So – since you are a historical fiction blogger/reader, in which period of history do you think you’d like to live?

I can tell you that I would certainly need THE TIME TRAVELLER’S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND (Ian Mortimer) although I think I’d rather visit and not actually live there!

4. If you had to choose one book that is representative of your blog, which would it be?

I think the book that actually comes closest, although it’s not medieval, is THE MAGICIANS AND MRS QUENT (Galen Beckett). It’s set in
a previous time period with fantasy and romance, plus it’s basically an homage to some of my favorite classic novels. It would be perfect
if it was set in the Middle Ages!

5. Describe your process for sitting down and writing a book review.

I think FAR TO GO (Alison Pick) is appropriate here – every time I sit down to write there are always many book reviews awaiting my
attention! Once I get started, though, it’s HUSH, HUSH (Becca Fitzpatrick) – I need all the peace I can get.

6. What has blogging/your blogging friends taught you?

THINKING ABOUT ALMOST EVERYTHING (Ash Amin) to do with books is definitely worth my time!

Bonus: What do you REALLY think of Jenn since she made you answer these questions ONLY with book titles? (No worries. Threats will not be reported to authorities.)

She’s CRUEL AS THE GRAVE (Sharon Kay Penman) … except not really! It’s been fun, and a great twist on normal interviews.

Meghan – Thank you so much! I love your answers, and I will definitely look up The Magicians and Mrs. Quent. This has been so much fun.

P.S. Isn’t Meghan’s answer to the bonus question great? I love bloggers with a good sense of humor… 🙂