Armchair BEA 2016: Beyond…

Day 3: Beyond Books and Blogs

If you had asked me ten years ago if the format of approximately 95% of my reading would be in digital format, I’d probably have called you crazy. I find that reading digitally is easier on my eyes and, amazingly, easier with chronic migraine headaches. I also seem to read much faster digitally than I do in print. Go figure?!

I’d probably have provided the same “you’re crazy” response if you had asked me if I’d ever read graphic novels or listen to audiobooks. However, I’ve read quite a few graphic novels over the past few years and thoroughly enjoyed them. I’m still acclimating to audiobooks, primarily because I don’t like the amount of time involved in listening to a book (12+ hours) when I could read it in less than half that time. 

Here are a few of my favorite reads in the graphic novel genre:

I hope to incorporate more graphic novels into my reading over the next few years. The illustrations definitely add another dimension and seem to enhance the overall reading experience. I’ll also have to give audiobooks another chance, perhaps on my next road trip.

Outside of my blog, I try to keep up my Goodreads as well as my LibraryThing profiles. These are excellent sites for keeping track of my reading and TBR lists. For some reason, I’m better at maintaining my profile on Goodreads than I am on LibraryThing, I don’t know why. I also use a spreadsheet for keeping track of my reading and note the author’s gender, nationality, and ethnicity, year the book was published, number of pages, format read [ebook vs. print], dates read, where I obtained the book [publisher, NetGalley, Edelweiss, public library, personal stash, etc.], and my rating [0-5 stars].

To add to my overall reading pleasure, I’m in several IRL book clubs. Three of these meet on a monthly basis and the fourth is rather hit-or-miss but usually meets at least four times each year. Two of these groups are through my local library system (thank you Kanawha County Public Library), one is a local women’s only group via Meetup, and the fourth is via my apartment building (a tenant’s book group). I’m also in several online book groups (okay, it’s three online book groups). I’m good about reading the books and participating in nearly all of my IRL book clubs but only participate about half of the time with the online book groups. I either need to get better at managing my reading time and online participation or give up the online book groups. Better time management it is!

Armchair BEA 2016: Aesthetics

We’ve all heard the old adage about judging a book by its cover, but I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of doing just that…I know I have and do judge a book by the cover. It doesn’t matter that most of my reading is done digitally if the cover is atrocious or just aesthetically unappealing, I’m not drawn to the book. I strive to put this aside when I’m asked to review a book and the blurb/synopsis sounds intriguing. Having said that, nothing can turn me off more than a bad cover. Yes, I could show you some examples of bad cover art, but I don’t want to take another look at the horrific covers out there. You know the ones I’m talking about, the amateurish covers that look as if they were hand-drawn, are woefully out-of-proportion, and are so bad that they elicit an “ugh” response. 

One of the reasons I’m not overly fond of cozy mysteries is that the covers are a bit cartoonish for my taste. I’m guilty of judging books by their covers, especially when it comes to my personal reading. One of my reading pet peeves is when the cover either doesn’t seem to match the theme or plot in the book OR if the cover appears to be a hodge-podge of clip art thrown together without rhyme or reason. 

Is it possible I’ve missed out on some great books by casting them aside due to the cover images? Yes, it is. However, given the multitude of books available and the vast number of books on my ever-growing TBR list, I’ll have to continue to miss out on reading these books…unless or until the covers are professionally redesigned.

Brand Appeal

There are thousands of book blogs on the internet. Most are quite professional in their look and feel and highly distinctive, so much so that it is possible to pull a page from a blog and instantly know which blogger it belongs to. These bloggers have an instantly recognizable brand. It might be the graphics they use, the format of their blog posts, or even the language used in their posts. 

I’m still in the process of establishing my brand and my focus is on the uniformity in formatting review posts and my language. Almost all of my review posts for the past few years begin with the title and author, followed by the ISBNs and publication format (hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook, and Kindle formats), publisher, and publication date. This information is generally accompanied by a graphic of the cover and the synopsis. I’ve recently started linking the author’s name with the author’s website (if available).

My actual review usually begins with a quick summary of the book, followed by a detailed discussion of the action. The last paragraph of the review is normally my opinion of the book. Did I like it or not? Was the book a fast read? (Since I usually read a book a day, I gauge this on how quickly I read the book — a few hours versus the entire day.) Did I enjoy the characters and if so, why? If I finish the book and didn’t really like it, I’ll try to explain why it didn’t appeal to me. 

Another part of my “brand” is the use of the color purple when highlighting text. You probably guessed that purple is my favorite color, so I use it in varying shades in my blog posts. My “brand” is still evolving and I hope that over the next few years this brand will become just as much a part of my blog image as my review formatting and language.

Armchair BEA 2016: Meet-and-Greet

I had grand plans to attend BEA this year in Chicago (primarily because I have quite a few relatives living in Chicago and it’s a tad bit closer to me than New York City). Once again, these darn migraine headaches have wreaked havoc with my plans. Fortunately, I can participate via Armchair BEA (thank you to all of those behind the scenes at ABEA).

As with many conferences (virtual and IRL), there’s usually a meet-and-greet, so let me introduce myself.

My name is Vivian and my family refers to me as “the book diva.” I thought it was apropos to name my book blog The Book Diva’s Reads. I’ve been blogging for a little more than five years. I posted my first blog post on March 12, 2011, with a short post about what I was reading and drinking (an herbal tisane). I’ve participated in ABEA several times over the past few years. 

One of the questions asked of us this year was “do you have a favorite book?” I have several favorites, but one of my all-time favorite books remains Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. 

“What is your favorite genre and why?” My favorite genre is probably mystery-suspense. I’m not sure why this is my go-to genre, but it started with Encyclopedia Brown books in elementary school. I enjoy reading all different kinds of mystery and suspense books, from cozies and romantic-suspense up to police procedurals and hard-boiled mysteries. 

I read the following question and changed my answer about a dozen times, “if you could create a playlist that reflects your bookshelf, what would be the first song you choose?” Okay, the answer didn’t really change that many times primarily because I was waffling between going with classical music, jazz, or R&B. I decided to go with a mix of light classical and jazz with Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1/Var. 1 by the Jacques Loussier Trio. I generally listen to only instrumental pieces when reading and classical and jazz are my go-to musical genres.

“How do I arrange my bookshelves?” With the exception of my signed books shelf and another few shelves set aside for my hardcover books, there is no rhyme or reason to my fiction shelving. If there’s a spot on the shelf and the book fits, that’s where it goes. Since most of my reading is done digitally, most of my fiction shelves are filled with ARCs. The following image shows one of the two 5-shelf bookshelves dedicated to fiction books. (I have three 5-shelf units dedicated to my nonfiction books and about 15 boxes of nonfiction books still in storage.) The top shelf shows all of my signed books. As evident by this picture, I need more shelves, as I’ve started quadruple-shelving my books (two standing rows, back to front, with a minimum of two horizontal stacks on top of the vertical rows).

I’m trying to decide how I can fit at least two more 5-shelf bookshelves in my tiny apartment. If I can, that will help with the fiction books, but I may have to continue to store those 15 boxes of nonfiction books. Thankfully, those books are in storage at my youngest brother’s home and I have visitation privileges.