Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Book Haul, Books, Personal

October Book Swap

For about two years (wow!), I’ve been participating in a private book swap with about 15 friends/participants. The host schedules about 3 swaps per year, so every few months we get a new partner, time to shop, and time to ship. I have participated in every round so far because it is just so much fun to shop for books and personal gifts for someone who loves these sorts of things just as much as I do. Something I’ve neglected to do, though, is share my own gifts from others (except in our private group page where we all talk.) I would like to change that from now on!

This swap, taking place in October, was a fall/Halloween theme. Now, Halloween is my favorite holiday – my husband and I even got married on that holiday! I’ve been lucky to get swap partners in the past who have been thoughtful enough to think about not just me, but my anniversary. This year, as you can see, I got an awesome framed decorative “skeleton couple,” which I have set out for the season (but to be honest I’ll probably keep it out all year). In addition, I receive three awesome books from my wish list: Thank You for Arguing; Tropic of Capricorn; and Poe: A Life Cut Short. I’ve already read the Poe book, and it was good! It put me in the mood to see The Raven, John Cusack’s film from about a decade ago. I usually watch it once per year, around Halloween of course.

I also received two cool bookmarks, one from Iceland (along with Icelandic chocolate!) and one of a young Kurt Vonnegut, along with a Kurt Vonnegut doll. As plenty of people know, Vonnegut is one of my all-time favorites (he and Poe are probably my two favorite male writers). I’m so grateful for all these gifts, plus a pumpkin candle that smells absolutely incredible (we have been watching Halloween-themed movies since October 1st and light it for the viewings — atmosphere!), and a personalized drawing from my swap partner’s  daughter (which is now hanging up in my office, using the little Poe magnet I also received in this swap! See it sitting there on the Ackroyd book?) And of course, the card is perfect. 

When people ask why book blogging is so great, why I continue to bother with it, this is a great example. It’s not about the gifts (although giving and receiving are both great); it’s about the community. I’ve known some of these folks for almost a decade, now, and whether or not we’re all still keeping up with our blogs isn’t even the point. Wherever we are in the world, and we are everywhere, the connections we first made through our love of books and writing about books has gone so much farther and deeper than that. It’s not anything I ever expected to happen, but I’m sure grateful for it.

BBAW, Blog Post, Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Wrapping Up & Winding Down (#BBAW Day 5)

Wow! Has it been a week, already?  Alright, one week is not a whole lot of time, in the grand scheme of things.  But this week in particular seems to have flown by!  I think I spent more time visiting blogs, commenting, and writing up posts than I have in a very long time (maybe since BBAW last  year?!). 

Granted, I did a lot for last month’s Austen in August event and will probably do a lot for next month’s The Literary Others event, but the larger feel of BBAW – the “all of the book blogging world can be included” aspect of it just felt so good. 

What did I get out of this week?  Well, I got the opportunity to express how I felt about book blogging.  I was able to meet some new-to-me book bloggers (and even subscribe to a few!) and to share one book that I really loved, but which seems to fly under the radar.  I also gave a shout-out to a few favorite bloggers who really deserve the recognition.

From this experience, I take with me a renewed respect and appreciation for the book blogging community and for the time and effort, generally unrewarded (in the literal sense) that we each of us put into this “hobby” of ours.  No one knows better than the book blogger what it is to pursue an interest with passion and vigor – it was amazing to see that passion in action this week, in such a concrete, measurable way.  Might I suggest: We are an extraordinary group of people

So, for now, I say ‘thank you’ for visiting with me this week & for introducing me to new blogs, new bloggers, new books, and new authors.  I say ‘goodbye’ and ‘until next year’ when, hopefully, we will all meet again.  And I leave you with a few of my favorite posts of the week:

The Classics Club is Spotlighted for BBAW

O Délaissé Recommends a Flaubert Book that Looks GREAT

Fiktshun’s Thoughtful Post on the Meaning of Book Blogging

Jillian from A Room of One’s Own Interviews Herself (Hilarious)

There were so many great, interesting, hilarious, and thought-provoking posts generated throughout the event.  It is impossible, really, to pick “favorites” (even though I sort of did, didn’t I?) – so my suggestion would be to spend some time going back through each day’s posts and read what these book bloggers have to say.  There are some real gems out there, thoughts from all different types of bloggers who are interested in all different types of books, and who live all over the world. 

Until next year!

“We read to know that we are not alone.”  – William Nicholson

BBAW, Blog Post, Book Blogger Appreciation Week

This Book, I Love. (#BBAW Day 4)

Today is Day #4 of Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  Our task (or goal) this time is to recommend, promote, shout about, or “pimp out” a book we have discovered that we feel needs and deserves more love & attention. 

As our host states:  One of the best parts about book blogging is the exposure to books and authors you might never have heard of before. Pimp the book you think needs more recognition on this day. Get creative! Maybe share snippets from other bloggers who have reviewed it or make some fun art to get your message across.

Originally, I was going to blather on about multiple books – one from each major genre that I have read over the past few years; but, I realized that was going to be a lot of work and people would probably stop reading.  So, nearly impossible as this is, I have narrowed down that original list to just one book which I read rather randomly, fell in love with, and really feel deserves more attention.  It is a book I have spoken of on a few occasions, but with good reason!

The Book: Under the Poppy

The Author: Kathe Koja

My Full Review: Click Here

Where/Why Bought: At Borders – Because I fell in love with the cover!

A Brief Synopsis:

If you can imagine a marriage between the coy, tongue-in-cheek, clever mysteries of Agatha Christie and the melancholic, whimsical, romantic lyricism of Shakespeare, then perhaps you have an understanding of what Kathe Koja has created with Under the Poppy.  The place is 1870s Brussels, amidst what one assumes is the beginnings of the Franco-Prussian War.  The book’s main players – Rupert Bok and Istvan – are life-long lovers, drawn together in boyhood, pulled apart by circumstances.  The two, in their youth, somehow became entangled with the darkest, most powerful and secretive of high-society.  That entanglement, coupled with the two’s dangerous romance, results in a perpetual cat-and-mouse game between the story’s antagonists (de Metz and his servants – the General, in particular) and the puppeteer-players. 

If ever the phrase “all the world’s a stage / and all the men and women merely players” were to fit a novel – this would be that novel.  Koja leaves the reader stunned by the brutal honesty of the story – no punches are pulled, and yet the tale is told so beautifully, so passionately, and so artistically, it becomes hard, at times, to pull one’s self off of this stage and remember that we are only the audience to this bittersweet drama. 

I have given away a few copies of this book to folks who I think (hope) will enjoy it.  It’s also on the list of recommendations/suggestions for my upcoming reading event (October’s “The Literary Others: An LGBT Reading Event“).

BBAW, Blog Post, Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Events, Personal

What Book Blogging Means to Me (#BBAW Day 3)

So, here we are on Day 3 of Book Blogging Appreciation Week.  It’s about the half-way point of this incredibly fun and interactive event and today’s topic/question is a good (but sorta tough!) one:

“What does Book Blogging mean to you?”

Goodness gracious, where does one begin with a question like that?  I sit here wondering:  Should I take the question literally and point out the various elements of Book Blogging that are specifically relevant to me and my blog, such as writing reviews, hosting events, or babbling about literary topics

Or, perhaps I should talk about the events like Top Ten Tuesdays, Literary Giveaway Blog Hop, and Banned Books Week that are hosted by other bloggers, but which are enjoyable for me (and so, therefore, I try to participate in them as often as possible).

But, the more I think about it, the more I want to really answer the question of meaning.  For some, book blogging is a fun hobby: it is a way to connect with other like-minded people who have similar interests.  Book blogging can be a means of expression, or it can be a reading journal, or it can be a professional platform which is intended to lead to bigger and better things. 

All of these elements of Book Blogging are valid and important, and they are absolutely part of the purpose for me, too; but purpose is not meaning.

So, what does Book Blogging mean to me?  Well, this is where I put my serious face on.  This is where I become sentimental and revelatory.  This is where I thank the casual readers for stopping by and let them know that I understand if they decide to click on to the next blog, now. 

Book Blogging has meant, for me, two things:


Most people who I know now or whom I have met recently assume that reading has always been an important (or even the most important) part of my life.  After all, I currently hold two degrees in English (B.A. – English; M.A. English, emphasis in American Lit.) and I’m working on my third (Ph.D.) right now!  But, actually, it was not until my second year of college that I really became a reader.  In fact, I started college as a Biology Pre-Med major, with every intention of going on to Medical School and becoming a physician (oh, if only I had a Time-Turner!). 

Sure, I read books when I was a kid.  I read Goosebumps when I was young (I used to wait eagerly for the Scholastic catalogs to come out so that I could get my hands on the next ones!).  In junior high, I read The Giver, My Brother Sam is Dead, and And Then There Were None.  In high school, I remember reading Of Mice and Men, Kaffir Boy and Macbeth.   I enjoyed reading – I liked pretty much every book I tried (with the exception of The Great Gatsby, which I learned to love much later), but I never saw reading as a pursuit or hobby that could actually “be something.”   

After my first year of college, I had some medical complications which quickly and permanently resolved me against the pursuit of an M.D.  I was in search of another major.  I tried History.  I tried Geology.  I tried Spanish.   I found myself, in the middle of my junior year, still without a permanent, satisfying major: What the heck am I supposed to be doing with my life!?  And then I tried English.  College-level English.  The in-depth, close-reading, study and analysis of literature.  Hello, World!

Once I figured out that my place, my destiny, was to be with literature, always, it wasn’t long before I discovered the world of book blogging.  I had already been keeping an online journal for my personal thoughts and creative writing.  But I was reading so many books for classes (and promptly forgetting what they were all about just a semester later) that I realized I needed to store this information somewhere, for future reference.

My first blog became a second.  My second became a third.  The third blog, finally, was specifically a book blog – and that blog became Roof Beam Reader.  Now, more than three years later, I have a distinct “Book Blogger” presence and personality.  It is so different from what I ever expected of myself but, somehow, it is everything I always wanted it to be. 


For all my life, I have been gay and, for most of my life, I was very overweight.  Although I did not “come out” until college, I suffered from a young age the burden of hiding who I truly was.  I also had the added difficulty of growing up “the fat kid,” who was teased, bullied, and picked-on from time-to-time (though my experiences were not nearly as horrendous as I have witnessed of others).  In college, I managed to get in shape and to become friends with an extraordinary group of people; but, though I became more comfortable and satisfied with my physical experience – it was still what the world couldn’t see that was haunting me. 

There was (and, to some degree, there still is) a fear of not being accepted or of being simply “tolerated.”  And, scariest of all, there is always a fear of being truly persecuted because of who I am.  For the most part, I have been fortunate enough to have friends and family who are incredibly caring and accepting (although, they’re so beyond “accepting” that accepting doesn’t seem to fit).  Still, there have been and always will be people who just can’t seem to look past this one part of me to see the whole of me, or to even be willing to try.  I remember one day, in college, coming home from class to see the word “FAG” written in black permanent marker on my apartment door.  I couldn’t imagine what I might have done to upset someone that much, and it was a very long time before I realized that I wasn’t the one responsible for how they felt and for what they did.

For me, although I have had a semi-charmed life, compared to what many have experienced, I have learned enough about life and about human nature to know that we all need a safe space.  Roof Beam Reader, just a book blog, is, nonetheless my book blog.  It is my space to say, think, and feel what I want, without fear of rejection or disapproval.  It is also my space to welcome others – all others – and to guarantee that, when they are here, they, too, have a safe space to share, to communicate, to learn, and to laugh.       

So, this is what Book Blogging means to me.  It means owning who I am and welcoming others to be a part of my journey.  It means giving others, those who are like me or not, a safe space to talk about the one thing we all have in common: a love of books and reading!  It means meeting people from all over the world, growing vicariously through their experiences and hoping to share with them some of my own.

Book Blogging, in effect, means more to me than I could ever express, and I sincerely thank each and every one of you who have made a place for me in this world.

BBAW, Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Events, guest post, interview

#BBAW Day 2: Interview Swap! (Obsession with Books)

I am honored to have Sharon of Obsession with Books visiting for BBAW Day 2’s “Interview Swap!”  

Please give her a warm welcome!

1)      Tell us a little about your blog – when you started, what your focus is, why you do it, etc.

I started Obsession with Books in March 2011; I had been reading and reviewing on Goodreads but ‘stalking’ book blogs regularly so I thought why not? I can do this; it was an easier way for me to log my thoughts on books and series as well as meet like-minded book lovers and promote authors.

My main focus is promoting books and authors I love in the Young Adult genre, I was all over the place initially, having no clear direction and my book range was quite eclectic so I am now more focused about what I read and blog about – I want to continue to blog for fun and as a hobby.

Blogging is an outlet for me to express my thoughts, get in contact with people who are as passionate about reading as what I am and it’s also an introduction to new books and authors.

2)      Can you give us three books that you consider “Must Reads?”

Can I cheat on this one and give your three series? 😉 My all time favorite author is Karen Marie Moning, her Fever series is one I have read over and over again and I’m sure I’ll continue to. The world she has created is phenomenal and thoroughly entertaining.

Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series is another favorite; I love her fantasy world and the characters; each of her books is wonderful and left me thinking about them long after I had finished.

I am hooked on Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Covenant series at the moment, the characters and her take on mythology is compelling and enjoyable and I love the humor she includes in each of her books.

3)      What do you most appreciate about book blogging?

The community as a whole; I have no ‘real life friends or family’ who share my love of reading so I appreciate the ability to be able to chat with other bloggers about books, series, authors etc. and know they understand what I am carrying on about. Also, being able to share my thoughts and opinions about a book with others and believing I am in some way, shape or form helping to influence what they chose to read. It’s also great to be able to promote an author I really like.

4)      When you are not reading or blogging, what else do you like to do with your time?

I have two children so a lot of my time is spent doing mummy things like homework or playing with them – one is in year one and the other in pre-school so my spare days while they are at school gives me a lot of time to do things I love like cooking (I’m a sweet freak), socializing with friends or watching movies (I’m a huge action movie fan) and I am about to start studying by correspondence to be a Teaching Aide.

5)      If you had the opportunity to go back in time and write any book (one that you now consider a favorite), which book would it be and why does it appeal to you?

Most probably book three in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay – I am a huge fan of this series and although I loved this book I would actually want to re-write it; there were too many loose ends and it felt very rushed, the ending made me sad whereas I wanted happy after everything these characters had endured. It was a bittersweet ending to an otherwise brilliant thought-provoking series.

6)      How would you describe your perfect reading day?

Housework done, no plans whatsoever – down at our local park under a tree with enough snacks and no interruptions to laze back and enjoy my book, far away from real life.

7)      Share an interesting/weird/random/funny fact about yourself with us!

Hmm, this one is hard! I am extremely introverted and shy and have a huge fear of being surrounded by strangers or put on the spot.

None of my family (besides my husband) or friends has any idea I have a blog or that I read as much as I do and filling out interview questions freaks me out 😉

Thank-you so much Adam! It was wonderful ‘meeting’ and getting to know you.

Thanks, Sharon, for stopping by and sharing a bit about yourself and your blog!  And, thank you for your response re: Mockingjay! I completely agree with you about the loose-ends!

Folks, feel free to head on over to Obsession with Books to read my interview responses!

BBAW, Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Events, Uncategorized

BBAW Day 1: Appreciation! (#BBAW)

Once again, I am participating in Book Blogger Appreciation Week this year.  According to BBAW’s “About” page, “Book Blogger Appreciation was started by Amy Riley of My Friend Amy in an effort to recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading.”

Today’s Topic is: Appreciation!

As BBAW states, “there are no awards this year, but it can still be hard to navigate the huge universe of book blogging. Share with your readers some of the blogs you enjoy reading daily and why.”

Last year, Roof Beam Reader was privileged enough to have been nominated and then short-listed for “Best Literary Fiction” blog.  It was a humbling and gratifying experience, but I am excited to focus entirely on the larger community, this year!

You can visit the BBAW Site to find links for other blogs participating in BBAW.   

There are honestly dozens upon dozens of book bloggers out there who I would love to recognize individually but for the sake of time and space (and all of our sanity), I have decided to choose 5 book bloggers with whom I communicate regularly and/or whose blogs I visit consistently. 

Allie of A Literary Odyssey:  Allie was one of the first book bloggers I “followed,” when I left my little independent self-hosted bubble and joined the connectivity-happy world of Blogger.  Her blog and her journey through the Classics are special and unique, which makes her posts a joy to keep up with.  I have collaborated with Allie on a few projects, and we are currently two of the co-moderators for The Classics Club.

Jillian of A Room of One’s Own: Jillian is the founder and another co-moderator of The Classics Club.  What I love about Jill is that she considers herself more of an “explorer” than a blogger or reviewer.  She is also a very smart cookie!  She and I often disagree on books or topics, but what is so great about our disagreements is that they are always classy and well-argued, largely because Jill doesn’t let anyone get away with stating an opinion and walking away.  She wants to know why people see things a certain way, which means I get practice thinking deeply and critically about my opinions whenever she & I have a discussion.

Judith of Leeswammes’ Blog:  Leeswammes and I tend to have similar but different tastes in books; or, if not tastes , then experiences.  While we have read a lot of the same books, Leeswammes tends to read more contemporary literary fiction, whereas a majority of my time is spent with the Classics.  This is great, though, because a lot of the contemporary works I have added to my wish list have been ones I read about on her blog!  She also hosts the Literary Giveaway Hop, which I participate in twice every year.  It’s great to find other bloggers dedicated to literature and literary fiction, in a world largely dominated by YA/Paranormal reading.

Bev of My Reader’s Block:  What I enjoy most about Bev’s blog is its depth and range.  While it is primarily about books, she includes other things from time-to-time, which allows her readers a glimpse at who she is, not just what she thinks. This adds a nice layer of personality to the blog.  What I enjoy most about BEV is her engagement!  She actively participates in all sorts of events – she responds to comments and she visits other blogs to comment on others’ posts regularly, too.  She seems to have a real spirit of community and community is what I most love about the book blogging world.

Laura of Owl Tell You About It:  Laura hosts a self-identified “eclectic book blog,” wherein one might find reviews of classics, thoughts on contemporary or YA fiction, personal posts, giveaways, and much more.  Laura is one of my newer favorites and what I love about her is her passion and enthusiasm, and of course her willingness to try new things (with regard to reading).  This is something I try to do, too, so I respect her for it!  How could you not love a blogger who currently has This Side of Paradise, The Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Marbury Lens on her reading docket all at the same time?!  Not to mention some David Levithan (a personal favorite) and short stories/novellas as well as longer fiction.  Hers is an exciting blog that I am grateful to have discovered!

So, who are YOUR favorite bloggers?  Do you read any of the blogs above?