Big Changes

Dear Readers,

In 2009 I thought BookSexy Review would be a great name for a blog. Before the year was out I decided I hated it.  But couldn’t think of anything better.

It was a bad choice for any number of reasons:

  1. It sounds like a blog that reviews romance novels which, as you know, I do not.
  2. It provides no useful information about the site. Like what kinds of books are featured here.
  3. And it’s terribly cheesy.

But, for strictly practical reasons, BookSexy Review’s biggest failure as a name is that most employers put blocks on sites with words like “sexy”. Which means potential readers can’t browse during their breaks, or at the end of the workday before heading home. Even publishers have problems viewing the site – this issue was first mentioned to me by a Harper Collins publicist years ago. At the time I was too new to blogging to understand the import of what she was trying to tell me.

Skip forward 8 years (god i am old). My goals and interests have changed… as happens.  The site has evolved from a general book review blog to one devoted to books in translations. I’ve begun thinking about how and why I write these reviews.  And along the way I’ve become obsessed with journalism – both the “establishment” book reviewers and the current generation of online bloggers/journalists who supposedly threaten them.  Though, for the record, I remain fairly neutral on the subject of which is better.  Six months ago I decided it was time to rethink how and why I talk about books (a post for another day) and began contributing to other review outlets as part of my quest to become a better writer and reviewer.

Which leaves less content for here.  I realized that if I was going to continue the blog it would have to change.  Over the next month you’ll begin seeing some of these changes, the first being the name. I’ll keep the BookSexy Review url active for another year, but when you type in that name it will (if I don’t screw things up) redirect to a new url.  All of my old content, going back to the ugly beginnings, will become part of the new site. I was pleasantly surprised how easy WordPress makes this.  I’m going to try to do everything gradually, feeling my way as I go, so what you’ll experience will be more of an evolution into the new blog versus an abrupt shift.

The reason I’ve continued this blog for all these years is because of the incredible books in translation community of readers and bloggers who I’ve connected with (I hope you know who you are) from all over the world. Thank you so much for your generosity and passion and support. Thank you for sharing your opinions and reviews and for seeing something here that you thought was worth coming back for. I hope you’ll continue to stick with me through the upcoming changes.

And as for that new name (remember I mentioned my current obsession with journalists?):  a stringer is a freelance journalist who contributes regularly to the same news outlets, but on a piece-by-piece basis. They’re also sometimes referred to as reporters at large. While I may not be a professional reporter, I definitely consider myself a professional reader. Which seems like a good place to start over.

Reader@Large-HEADER

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Summer Slacking

It’s been a sloooooooowww week.  On the up-side, I’ve gotten a ton of reading done.  (Literally a ton. Honest. Would I lie to you?)  This week is obviously going to be a wipe, but it’s Summer so most of you should be outside doing fun stuff anyway.

So what to expect next week (and the weeks that follow?)…

Look for my reviews of –

  • Filipino author Miguel Syjuco’s novel Ilustrado (a NY Times Book Review Notable Book & winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize).
  • Guadalajara, a stunning collection of short stories by Quim Monzó (translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush)
  • Vintage Crime Stories on Audio (It was a dark & rainy night…)
  • Seven Days in Rio by Francis Levy & Two Dollar Radio (who the Village Voice called “Nicholson Baker & Mary Gaitskill’s French-kissing cousin.”)

I’ll also be posting an interview with Lisa Hill from ANZLitLovers LitBlog.  She recommends (and schools me) on the best Australian authors.

Early next week I’ll have an update post on format & content changes – some you may have already noticed – to BookSexy Review.

And of course, Monday is the first meeting of (and my first report on) The Philly Book Club… where we’ll be competitively reading A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Rana Dasgupta Revisited – Another Opinion

A few weeks ago I put up my 100 Pages post on Rana Dasgupta’s Tokyo, Cancelled. While I didn’t like the book, I couldn’t completely bring myself to dismiss the author (which explains my posting an incomplete review).

So, in the spirit of fairness, here’s a link to an insightful review of Dasgupta’s recent novel Solo at the blog Asylum.  Enjoy your weekend!

The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman

Sartorialist

I’ve been a fan of The Sartorialist blog for a long time.  So when a companion book was published collecting  some of the great photography from the site, I rushed out to buy it – literally was at the bookshop looking for it the day it was released.  Why am I a fan?  Because you won’t find a lot of super models in Scott Schuman’s book or on his blog.   The Sartorialist is less about fashion, more about style.

The photographs are of random (and some familiar) people he sees on the street – taken on the spot in a composition style that always reminded me of August Sander.   And it says a lot about his work that designers use Schuman’s street photos for inspiration – versus his doing photo shoots with models dressed head to toe in the latest look (though he does some of that too).

And now The Sartorialist, in book form,  gives you 512 pages of people looking fabulous without having to turn on your computer.

I could gush about Scott Schuman’s work for hours, but he explains what he’s doing better than I ever could:

I saw this gentleman on Fifth Avenue around 56th Street.  Instantly I could tell from the Italian cut and sophisticated colour and fabric of his jacket that he was special.  I stopped him and asked if I could take  his photo, and he looked at me suspiciously and replied, ‘Why do you want to take a picture of me? I am a bald fat man.’  Now, I am a very polite and positive person, so I started to reply that, ‘No, you are not …’; but then I caught myself and instead replied, ‘Yes, but you are a well-dressed bald, fat man.’

That caught him off guard.  I followed up my first response with, ‘So, is that southern Italian tailoring?’  It was, and I knew it was, and my recognition of that was what won him over.  A longtime friend of mine, David Allen, once told me that one of the basic needs of people is to be understood.  I think that the fact that I seemed to understand this man and what he was trying to communicate through his style is why he agreed to let me take his photo.

He goes on to talk about how he received an overwhelming response to the photos of this well dressed man after posting them.  Other men, with similar body types, were printing the photos off their computers and taking them to stores because they wanted style – but didn’t have a blueprint to follow.

Normally, I’d post some of my favorites here.  Instead, check out The Sartorialist and find your own.  Scott Schuman also has a monthly article in GQ Magazine, with more of the same.  My favorite, though, is still the blog.

Duck… Duck… Duck… BOOKDUCK!

If you saw my post yesterday you’ve already gone to look at Bookduck.  If not, what are you waiting for?!  Click here.   I had the opportunity to ask Sarah, the blogger behind Bookduck,  some questions.  I hope you enjoy our interview as much as I did.

I love the story about how your blog, Bookduck, got its name.  Can you tell it again for readers who haven’t visited your blog yet?  And I couldn’t help wondering…was Duck ever your nickname?

My name is Sarah, which starts with an “S”. With the addition of a simple beak and a dot for an eye, cursive “S”s look a lot like ducks. An older girl in my neighborhood showed me that when I was just learning cursive, and I’ve been BookDuckSignatureplaying with it ever since—although I don’t use it on my real signature. Add that to the fact that I like books, and you get “Bookduck”.

Duck, however, was never my nickname.

When did you start blogging?

Bookduck has been around since 2008.  I started on Livejournal and moved my reviews over to Blogger this summer. I still mirror my posts on Livejournal.

So after almost a year of blogging, what do you feel your roll is as a book blogger?

I feel that my role is to post reviews that will help people find books that they are likely to enjoy. As a reader of reviews, I find more books I like because a) I now know they exist and b) a good review often leads me to books I would’ve rejected after seeing the cover and reading the book jacket. Book blogging also gets people talking about books, which is rarely a negative thing.

Is that why you started Bookduck, to get people talking?

I started Bookduck for fun as well as to keep track of what I liked/disliked about what I read. Also, I read a lot of book blogs and one day decided I wanted to join the discussion. I don’t have any big plans for Bookduck, but I would like to try doing more interviews in the future —bloggers, authors, readers, whatever. I do have an author interview coming later this year, and I’m incredibly excited about it. I’d love for something like that to come up again, but if it doesn’t I won’t be heartbroken. As I said, I started Bookduck for fun—and I hope it stays that way.

And you post music to Bookduck as well.  (I love the videos!). Do you consider BookDuck primarily a book blog?

Most of my posts are book related, so I would say yes: Bookduck is primarily a book blog. When I read other book blogs, however, I enjoy reading occasional posts about other topics like current events, art, music, and movies. It’s also interesting to hear a little bit about the person whose reviews I am reading.

I like to post about whatever interests me or might interest others.

What kind of books can a reader expect to find reviewed on your blog?

I read mostly YA fiction with the occasional adult novel or work of nonfiction. As far as genres go I read all over the place, but I do enjoy books that contain realistic fantasy–as in something out of the ordinary that occurs in an ordinary situation and feels like maybe it could really happen. This often takes some research–for example, historical–on the part of the author.

Would you say you lean more towards historical fiction or more towards fantasy?

That’s difficult–I like them both.

I wanted to ask you about your reviews.  Do you try to stick to positive reviews or do you post about the books you don’t like as well?

I mostly post positive reviews of books I enjoy because I’m absolutely terrible at finishing books I don’t enjoy—I have too little free time for that, and since Bookduck is just for fun I don’t feel bound to finish every book I touch. In other words, if I finish a book it’s automatically an okay read. It does not, however, mean that I’m in love with it, and I often have complaints. This is where it gets fuzzy because I want to be honest without being rude.

On the other side of this, just because I put aside a book today doesn’t mean I won’t pick it up later and find it un-putdownable. Some of my favorite books are ones I couldn’t stand when I first cracked them open.

That’s a great word “un-putdownable”!  What are some of the books you’ve changed your mind about – that went from put aside to un-putdownable?

The Murderof Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty;  The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope;  A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray;  Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle;  Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

I’m sure there have been more, but this is what I’ve got off the top of my head.

When you’re looking for something to read to you go to the any traditional book review outlets – like the NY Times or Entertainment Weekly?

Not on a regular basis, no.

So you stick mainly to the blogs?

Yes. The great thing about blogs is finding people who tend to like books you like, which makes finding books to read easier.

Did you discover these bloggers before or after you started blogging?

I discovered them before I started blogging. They were fun to read, and suddenly I started finding all these fantastic books I never knew were there. And I was hooked.

Were you influenced by other blogs?  Any recommendations?

Yes, I was.

The blogging community has affected my blog by being an example–seeing what people write about and how they deal with their layout has definitely shaped Bookduck. And the blogging community has definitely effected how I read books! I’m now more careful to note what I think about books as I read, and also to try to read books I don’t like. Having people to be accountable to makes the page turning easier.

My favorite sources of inspiration are Bookshelves of Doom (http://www.bookshelvesofdoom.blogs.com/), The Story Siren (http://www.thestorysiren.com/), Natural/Artificial (the author blog of Stephanie Perkins) (http://www.naturalartificial.blogspot.com/), and Grow Wings (the author blog of Laini Taylor) (http://www.growwings.blogspot.com/). They’re all great reading.

There are a lot of book blogs out there, so there’s a little something for everyone.  Which is great.

So, here’s the hard question.  What’s your book of the year?

Ooh, that’s a tough one… So far I really like Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. It’s funny and smart and I got lost in it.

Sarah, thank you so much for the interview!