Amy at My Friend Amy paired me with Wendy of Musings of a Bookish Kitty for a blogger interview as part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Wendy has a wonderful blog (Go check out her post from this past Sunday for gorgeous pictures from her recent Hawaiian vacation) that I've been reading since before I started blogging myself. I love reading her reviews and author interviews. Best of all, she's a fellow cat lover. Pictured to the right is her cat, Parker, who looks quite at home on her bookshelf! Many thanks to Amy for pairing me with such an interesting interview partner! You can check out the great questions Wendy asked me here.
1. How did you get started with book blogging?
It is all my husband's fault. He had been trying to get me to start a blog for quite a while and one rainy day a couple of years ago, I decided to give it a try. I have kept a reading journal for the past several years, writing down my reviews and sometimes posting them to online book groups I belonged to. It seemed like a natural progression to move onto blogging.
2. Has your taste in books changed at all since you started your blog? Do you read more genres than you did previously or do you specialize more?
I have always been a rather eclectic reader, and I cannot really say my reading tastes have changed all that much since I began blogging. I think I have come to appreciate different aspects of books more and I pay closer attention to what I am reading, however. I still enjoy reading the same types of books, among which includes crime fiction, contemporary and literary fiction, fantasy in all its variations, horror/thrillers and nonfiction. My problem is that I don't feel like I have enough time to delve into all the different types of books as much as I would like--the old "so many books, so little time" conundrum. I do try and mix up my reading so as not to burn out on any one type of book. I read for a variety of reasons--but always for pleasure.
I definitely do see a difference in what books I am blogging about this year from last, which is directly related to blogging. Last year I went crazy over reading challenges, entering as many as I thought I could handle and was quite faithful to my lists. The majority of the books on my challenge lists were among my TBR collection, ones I had been wanting to read. It was a great opportunity for me to clear out some of the books that had been sitting on my shelves for a while. This year, on the other hand, I have been more focused on newer books, especially ARC's.
3. I love the title of your blog, Musings of a Bookish Kitty. How did you come up with that?
I have always considered myself a dog lover. I was raised with dogs all my life and couldn't wait to have one of my own. My husband, however, was raised around cats, and is most definitely a cat person. We ended up being adopted by both a cat and a dog. It seemed only fair, after all. I fell madly in love with our cat, discovering that not only am I a dog lover, but a cat lover as well.
For as long as I can remember, I always chose online nicknames related to my love for reading and/or my dog. When trying to come up with a nickname for myself and a title for my blog, I decided it was time to give my cat equal attention (yeah, I'm one of those people who has to give the cats a treat if the dog gets one). It was his turn to be in the spotlight. Literary Feline was born and Musings of a Bookish Kitty seemed a fitting name for my blog home.
I actually worried at first that Musings of a Bookish Kitty sounded too cutesy and feminine, but I have gotten over that. Mostly.
4. What's your favorite thing about blogging? Do you have a least favorite thing about it?
One of the most difficult hurdles for me in regards to even starting a blog was putting myself out there in the public eye. I love to write. I need to write. Truth be told though, I don't believe I am very good at it. When my husband and I first met, it was years before I would let him read anything I wrote--and even then he had to sneak a peek. Blogging has been a huge step for me. It has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and given me the opportunity to improve my writing.
I also really like the community aspect of blogging. I had no idea it existed when I first began my blog. I didn't start receiving comments at a steady rate until I started participating in reading challenges. Would it be vain of me to say how much I love receiving comments? I make a point of trying to comment as often as I can on other blogs as well because I know how wonderful a feeling that can be--and because I enjoy being a part of such a great community. Admittedly, it's been harder and harder to do in recent months. Life has a way of getting in the way. Online, I am surrounded by people who share in my obsession for books and reading. I don't have that off line--at least not to the same degree.
My least favorite thing is typing that first word. Some nights I sit down at the computer, wanting to blog about something--anything--but having no idea what to say or where to start. That happens sometimes with my review writing too. I eventually do work my way through that initial moment. What seems to work best for me is to just start writing, even if I begin in the middle. I can go back and add that first word later.
The other downside is when that feeling of obligation creeps in. As much as I would like to write a post every day, I just don't have it in me. Accepting that and telling myself that it's not the end of the world is not always easy. Sometimes I have nothing to say, and that's okay. I can live with that. But not without first swallowing that first lump of irrational guilt.
5. I'm a relatively new blogger. Do you having any advice for folks who are just starting out? Is there something you wish you'd known when you started blogging?
I often feel like I am still new to blogging too, even after two years! I wish I knew more about HTML codes--that hasn't changed. I should buy one of those HTML for Dummies books, but since I have a husband who is relatively knowledgeable, I tend to just turn to him for help. It's the easy way out, anyhow. For those who use Blogger, I understand it's gotten much simpler and HTML knowledge isn't quite so necessary anymore. For someone like me though, who uses an outside template, it can still be a problem.
One thing I did discover soon after I began blogging was how supportive other bloggers are and how helpful they can be. If you like a certain feature on someone's blog, don't be afraid to ask them how they put it together. More often than not, other bloggers are willing to share their trade secrets. We all had to learn somewhere, right?
Another piece of advice I would offer is to try not to let yourself feel overwhelmed. Easier said than done, I know. I think every blogger feels overwhelmed at one time or another. Sometimes you may need to take a step back and re-focus. It's okay to take a break from blogging, if that is what you need to do. As soon as blogging becomes an obligation, it loses its value. Most of us do not blog for money--we do it for fun. Therefore, it should be fun.
Your blog should be about you--it should be what you want it to be. Don't try and live up to someone else's expectations or else you will burn out. Be honest and true to yourself.
And if you want to build up your blog traffic, get out there and visit other blogs. Leave comments, respond to the comments left for you, and participate in reading challenges (if interested), established memes (such as Booking Through Thursday, Tuesday Thingers, Thursday Thirteen, etc) and events like BBAW.
6. What are your favorite books of 2008?
Whew! I am glad you did not ask me what my favorite books in general are. Looking over my ratings, I haven't had one 5 star book yet. I admit that I have been tougher this year in that regard. I have a top heavy rating scale because I like most of what I read (I like to think it is because I am good at choosing books I know I will enjoy). It's the degree of how much I like a book that varies.
Craig Johnson is definitely one of the authors that stands out for me this year. I started reading his Sheriff Longmire mystery series this year and instantly fell in love with it. The Cold Dish was such a great book. Also, Adrian Hyland's Moonlight Downs knocked my socks off. It's another mystery, this one set in the Australian Outback. The Translator: A Tribeman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari really touched me. It was a book that raised my anger and made me very sad. Another book that stands out for me this year is Steven Pressfield's Killing Rommel, set in North Africa during the Second World War.
7. One of the things I love about blogging is that I can recommend books to total strangers and not feel awkward or shy about it. Have you ever recommended a book to a stranger in real life?
Not a total stranger, no. I have recommended books to acquaintances though. I am the go to person in my office for those looking for book recommendations. Since I read a wide range of books and have the reputation of being in the know about a wide variety of books, I can often recommend books in just about any category, depending on a person's tastes.
8. More and more books are being made into movies each year. Assuming you haven't already read the book, what do you do first: Read the book or see the film?
When asked this question in the past, I would unequivocally say read the book first. I still prefer to read the book before seeing the film--I like going into a movie with the background information about the characters. Then there is the fact that I am a walking contradiction. I hate to have books spoiled for me, but I don't mind movie spoilers at all. I have no good reason for it. It just is. Therefore, it's usually best if I read the book first.
I have discovered, however, that sometimes I prefer seeing the movie first, especially if the book is very confusing or the language is difficult to follow. Knowing the story ahead of time (or some semblance of it) by having watched the film first can make it easier for me to follow and understand the book.
I love movies nearly as much as I love books. I can appreciate both in their own forms, regardless of changes made in the translation of a book to film. I cannot help compare the two, however. And usually the book always comes out on top.
9. When you read a book that's the start of the series, do you usually continue with the series? Are you more or less likely to pick up a book that is part of a series?
I do enjoy a good series. I actually have quite a few going right now; an embarrassing amount really. Reading a series book is like visiting an old friend--new adventures and experiences in familiar surroundings. I cannot say I prefer them over stand alones, however. I enjoy reading both equally.
I definitely prefer to start a series from the beginning, but sometimes that isn't possible. If I am beginning a new series, I usually can tell right away whether I will like it enough to continue. I may give a series a couple of tries before deciding it isn't worth my time. As for series I have gotten involved in and enjoyed, only in one case have I given up after several books. It had gotten to the point where I stopped caring about the characters and did not really want to know what would happen next--that and the author's writing going downhill considerably. I am fairly certain I will not go back and start reading that series again even if positive reviews of a new book start pouring in. The author and I have grown too far apart.
10. Where do you get most of your book recommendations? How important are reviews to you when you choose your reading material?
I get most of my book recommendations from other bloggers and readers. I do follow blog reviews but not professional reviews. There is something more honest and genuine in a blogger review. They speak to me in my own language, you could say. I will sometimes come across mention of a book in a magazine or from other sources that will pique my interest, and in those instances, I almost always seek out other opinions.
Unless it's a book that I instantly know I want to read based on the subject matter alone or one written by a favorite author, I do like to do a little research before making a final decision on whether to read a book or not. I appreciate both positive and negative opinions. Sometimes the negative reviews are more helpful than the positive ones. It is often those that will push me in one direction or the other when I am sitting on the fence--and it's not necessarily the direction you might think. I do not necessarily decide against reading a book just because it received a negative review. Books that receive glowing review after glowing review tend to build up my expectations. A negative review brings me down to earth.
11. Do your family and friends know about your blog? What do they think of it?
I have not been too forthcoming with my family about my blog. I may have mentioned it on occasion, but as far as I know, no one in my family (other than my husband) follows my blog. I think if they did, they might worry about my sanity. As for friends, some do know, but most are not interested. They know about my obsession with books, think it is a cute eccentricity on my part and leave it at that. Because I am shy about being in the public sphere, I have a tendency to prefer it that way.
12. If you had a $1000 gift card to your favorite book store and only half an hour to spend it, which section of the store would you head to first?
I would head directly to the new release shelves. My reason is quite practical. If I only have half an hour, I wouldn't possibly have enough time to go through my TBR collection list in hopes of avoiding selecting duplicate books. It would take too long to work my way through my wish list since the books would come from a variety of areas, which wouldn't an effective way to spend my time. The new release shelves are a safe bet because I could easily tell which books I don't yet have but want to get. Thank goodness the new release section at my favorite bookstore holds both hardback and paperback books.
Be sure to visit Wendy's blog, Musings of a Bookish Kitty, and say hello! Thanks so much for the great interview, Wendy!