BBAW: Read this book. Please.

If there’s one book you’re going to hear me discuss to death for the remainder of 2012, it’s Jennifer Gooch Hummer’s Girl Unmoored. And not because Jennifer is an incredibly nice person (she is) . . . but because this book made me feel All The Things, as Raych would say.

Here is a list, in no particular order:

• Joy
• Rage
• Sorrow
• First love — and the excitement therein
• Unrequited love — and the disappointment therein
• Contentment
• Fear
• Hope

When I picked up this book in April, I went into it without expectations — and maybe that’s part of why it completely blew me away. Though it hasn’t yet gained all the exposure it deserves, if I have my way? I will single-handedly slip this book into the backpacks, purses and briefcases (sure, why not) of people everywhere. And I will sit nearby as you read it, admiring the way you effortlessly giggle, tear up and restore your faith in mankind.

And I’ll give you a cupcake, too. Because I’m not totally unreasonable.

So you can read about this book more on Goodreads or LibraryThing, or you can buy it from Amazon or the indie store of your choice. It’s in paperback and Kindle format — and I’m also available to read aloud to you before bedtime. And I’ll bring your glass of milk.

Totally your choice.

BBAW: Meet Linda of Silly Little Mischief

Today I’m pleased to welcome Linda, a new-to-me blogger, to write meg! Linda runs Silly Little Mischief, a really fun blog about reading, food and life. I’ve enjoyed perusing her page and getting to know her better through Book Blogger Appreciation Week’s interview segment, one of my favorite parts of the event. (In the past, I’ve interviewed Gwen, Laurel Ann and Jodie.)

Designed to celebrate the effort and passion book bloggers devote to championing reading, authors, literacy and more, BBAW is an annual event bringing together our widespread book-loving community. Find out more at the main page, and get to know Linda below. (My interview is up here.)

1. Hi Linda! Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and how you entered the world of blogging.

I’m a native Washingtonian. I live about a mile from the home I was raised in, in a suburb of Seattle, WA. I started blogging in 2007 after getting engaged to my then-boyfriend, now husband. Originally I was a bride blogger but knew that I wouldn’t continue the wedding talk past the wedding. I always saw Silly Little Mischief as a place where I would talk about my loves in life — books, foods, and adventures with my husband.

2. I saw on Silly Little Mischief that you’ve read Julia Child’s My Life in France, a book that’s been on my nightstand forever. I’m a huge fan of Child myself. How did you feel about Paris after finishing the story? Did it inspire you to want to cook more, or take a walk through the French countryside?

Reading My Life In France gave me the courage to cook more. I was cooking before reading My Life In France but I limited myself to recipes that were easy, looking to use the skills I already had. Child gave me permission to try above my skills, to look beyond what I could do. My Life In France only fanned the flames of my desire to travel to France but the biggest takeaway for me was that life is about constant learning. Child learned to cook at 37 and despite that she failed sometimes, she kept on trying. I try to emulate her when I’m struggling!

3. It looks like you’re an avid fan of your local library. I didn’t get my first library card as an adult until last year. Why do you think supporting libraries is so important? How many books do you typically check out at a time?

I’ve always been a fan of libraries. I remember being 4-5 years old and bringing home bags of books from the library. My mom would take me 3-4 times a week so I could replenish my stack. I still have the same library card and account number from when I was a tot.

Libraries bring so much to the community. Not only are there books, but libraries also have computers, classes, author readings, story time for children, book clubs, and homework help. Libraries have something for everyone. When my dad started to loose his eyesight he wanted to buy some adaptive equipment, but wasn’t sure what he needed. Our local library has a selection of adaptive equipment that my dad could check out so he could see what would suit his needs. The closest library to me is situated in a mall. It has the latest books so I can always get my hands on a bestseller. Our community is very multicultural so I love walking through the library and hearing visitors and staff speaking in Hindi, Russian, Spanish, or Cantonese.

It really varies on how many I check out at a given time. I try to place a lot of books on hold so I can just pick up what I want. But if I browse the shelves or go to a larger library, then I can pick up anywhere from two to twenty. I typically have between twenty and fifty library books in my pile at any given time.

4. What’s your favorite genre? Which book would you recommend to readers who might not have explored those types of books before?

I’m a fan of fiction. Such a broad category, I could never select one book for someone. If I was going to recommend a Young Adult book, I would suggest The Fault In Our Stars by John Green or Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson if you didn’t want to use up all your tissues. For Urban Fantasy, I would suggest either Kelley Armstrong’s Women of The Otherworld series or Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series. If you wanted to try Steampunk, I loved The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.

5. Your recipe for peanut butter cup brownies made my mouth water. What’s your favorite dessert? Do you have any recipes you always reach for when asked to bring things to work or family functions?

My favorite dessert is cookies unless there is chocolate cake. I’m happily addicted to Pinterest so when I need to make something I usually browse my pins till I find something suitable. But I have made these Chunky Peanut Butter Cookies, Salted Caramel Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Brownie Surprise (photo at right, by Linda) for parties and not walked out with a crumb left.

6. What appeals to you most about blogging? Do you see yourself continuing to discuss books five years from now?

I love the community that blogging brings. Books have always been part of my life and I can’t see them going anywhere. I can see myself talking about other things (hopefully some travel) but food and books will always be something I blog about.

7. Did you have any book series you loved growing up? What’s your favorite children’s book?

I read the Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins, and Amelia Bedelia. My favorite children’s book was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg. I wanted to run away to a museum or library as a kid.

8. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Or could you never live on one book alone?

Right now I would choose Ready Player One by Ernest Cline on audiobook. Not only am I in love with the characters and the world that Cline made, but I love listening to Wil Wheaton read it.

BBAW, day four: Changing how we read (and live)

We’re still sailing through Book Blogger Appreciation Week, happening now through Friday, and today’s topic is an opportunity to discuss how our reading habits have changed as a result of book blogging. Has book blogging affected our book acquisition habits? Have we made new connections with others because of book blogging?

And my simple answer is: yes.

The most obvious example of my changed world of reading is evident in my “to be read” stack, which is now less a stack and more of a . . . well, of a bookcase. Once upon a time — so far back now, I can barely remember — I had a literal stack of novels by my bedside (pictured below). Of the few dozen books in my room, these were the only books I hadn’t yet read — and once I was done with them, they would move on to other readers in my life: my sister; my coworkers; a friend from school.

When I began actively blogging about books and left my job at Borders, I became gluttonous. I truly remember stopping to think, “Now that I won’t be picking up so many books at work, I need to find another source.” Like an addict on the hunt for her fix, I turned to the Internet, my old friend, as a way to continue my conversations about books and add more to my pile.

And the pile grew. And grew. And grew. I joined websites like BookMooch, where I would trade my already-loved books for others. I entered tons of blog giveaways. In time I began receiving advanced reading copies of books from publishers . . . and that’s when I really began my downhill descent into madness. My “to be read” stack hasn’t been an actual stack in years; it’s now shelves upon shelves of beautiful books, all waiting patiently for their time in the sun (or my hands, as the case may be).

And I totally blame book blogging.

Here’s the thing: you all tempt me with your “You have to read this book!” talk so much that I’m powerless to resist your recommendations. When a blogger I love and admire says in the serious tone the well-read, “You can’t miss this one” — well, I can’t miss that one. So whether I’m accepting a review copy, buying it myself or tearing into a package from a generous friend, I have to have that book.

The more I read about books, the more I want them. The more I write about books, the more I want to read more of them. I love reading so much that I could happily spend most days wrapped up in words and plots and characters, and I never realized other people did, too. Not even when I spent every minute of most days in an English program in college. Not even when my other literature geek friends wanted to chat about Jane Austen and Shakespeare and Edith Wharton.

It wasn’t until I started blogging about books and “meeting” so many of you that I realized I had found “my peeps.” Not to get all sappy, but at a point in my life where it’s difficult to make new friends — we’re out of school; we’re working in the same job for years — the friendships I’ve formed through book blogging have filled a tangible gap in my life. And as I wrote last year, blogging has given me confidence to excel in so many areas of my life. It led to real-life work opportunities, a renewed interest in photography, and my friendship with fellow blogger Jessica — a buddy who would later encourage me to join an online dating site. And that’s how I met Spencer.

Could I have found this man I love without Jessica — or the dating site, or my blog? Eh . . . maybe. But probably not. And I don’t think it’s too big of a stretch to contribute the awesomeness of my life to the connections I’ve forged through blogging. And that’s to say nothing of the friendships I’ve formed with countless other people, and the fun “real life” times we’ve had at events like the Book Blogger Convention and National Book Festival (that’s Deborah and Heather above!).

So I love you guys. Thanks for making my “to be read” stack into less of a stack and more of a room, and for encouraging me to be funny and silly and ridiculous and open in a way that I never thought I could. Thanks for giving credence to some of the random things I say, and for making me feel so confident and free. Thanks for reminding me that I matter — and that we all do. Just thanks for being here.

BBAW, day two: Interview with Jodie of Book Gazing

One of my favorite parts of celebrating Book Blogger Appreciation Week, happening now through Friday, is the chance to find new-to-me bloggers and see what they’re all about. In the past, my interview with other bloggers have been such fun and helped me forge friendships with folks I might not have discovered on my own.

In that vein, I’m pleased to welcome Jodie from Book Gazing today! A U.K.-based blogger, Jodie is a big Oasis fan with a penchant for the written word (like so many of us). Through email, we recently discussed my adventurous ability to try haggis in Scotland and I gushed unabashedly about what a crazy anglophile I am. Seriously, it’s to the point that I freak out when I encounter a Brit and want to break out in a crazy accent.

But I’ve been really working on my British accent. Maybe it’s not so scary anymore.

Without further ado from yours truly, get to know Jodie in our interview swap for BBAW!

1. On your blog’s main page, you write, “Have you ever found yourself sat in front of a bookcase entranced by the options in front of you? Then you’re a bookgazer . . .,” a statement to which I can happily relate. When wandering a bookshop, what’s the fastest way to get a book in your hands? What qualities in a book cover grab you immediately?

A pretty cover really is the way to open my purse, as I’m afraid I’m terribly shallow when it comes to impulse purchases. I’ve been known to override doubts about content because a book looks delicious, which has obvious problems. Fortunately I have pretty wide tastes in book covers, so a book needs to be attractive, but I find that beauty comes in many forms.

2. I see that, like me, you’re a panelist in the Indie Lit Awards — and as voting members, we’ll be getting our reading list from open nominations in the months to come. Do you enjoy assigned reading? Or would you rather choose all of your reading material yourself?

I can be contrary when it comes to assigned reading. I contribute to a group blog called Lady Business and I look forward to the other contributors giving me book recommendations. Last year I had no trouble getting excited about reading my five Indie Lit books. I’ve taken part in a couple of successful readalongs, with individual bloggers and a group called The Slaves of Golconda.

However, although I love all the list-making I consistently fail at reading the books I pick for other people’s challenges. I think the key to getting myself to read assigned books is to keep the unreasonable little voice inside me from harping on about approaching deadlines, otherwise I have a bad reaction and ditch books as some kind of weird readerly rebellion against pressure I’ve put on myself.

3. What do you think is the most underrated young adult novel you’ve ever encountered? Are there any YA books you’d really like to champion — and try to promote when you can?

This is a hard one to answer, because I don’t interact with all the different kinds of readers who pick up YA (young readers, teenagers, readers who aren’t bloggers) and living in the blogging world skews my perception of how certain books are being received. I would never have guessed ‘The Monstrumologist’ wasn’t making enough money, for example, because I kept seeing lots of bloggers talk about it.

Sarwat Chadda’s two Billi Sangreal books ‘Devil’s Kiss’ and ‘Dark Goddess’ about a teenage girl who belongs to the Knights Templars always felt rather neglected by mainstream media, but it’s possible we’ll see a film adaptation soon, so how neglected it really was must be up for debate. Chadda’s books are well written, well paced adventure novels featuring Knights Templars, who live to fight the forces of evil, have proved extremely popular in the adult book and film market. Billi skews the stereotypical kickass warrior character by retaining her ability to emotionally connect and I think we realy need more warriors like that in literature. I’m really pleased to see that Chadda has received a publishing contract for a new series.

Here’s a sampling of some other YA books I think deserve more notice than they get. I am constantly banging on about them all over the place, so sorry for repeating myself:

• ‘8th Grade Super Zero’ by Olugbemisola – contemporary fiction that contains a very relateable, conflicted teenage protagonist

• ‘A Wish After Midnight’ by Zetta Elliot – a ‘be careful what you wish for’ time travel narrative that deals out very real consequences to a girl who tosses pennies in a fountain

• ‘Ten Cents a Dance’ by Christina Fletcher – a girl struggles to keep her family afloat and herself out of the depressing cannery factories by becoming a taxi dancer, as WWII begins

• ‘What They Always Tell Us’ by Martin Wilson – contemporary YA about emptiness, brothers, running, and happy, romantic love between boys

• ‘The Agency’ series by Y S Lee – Female spies in Victorian London. Need I say more?

4. What’s your favorite part of running a book blog? What do you find the most challenging?

I’m terrible at design, which is why I got my banner from a talented graphics professional. I also generally lack enthusiasm for all the upkeep that can be necessary to make a blog really great (SEO work, tidying etc).

My favourite part has to be all the people that I get to engage with (I know, sappy). This year I feel like I’ve started to become really close to a few bloggers, even though I haven’t been posting as much. Hugs to everyone!

5. Let’s play the desert island game. You can take three books from three different genres with you to a desert island — and that’s your only reading material for a year. Which do you choose?

If I can only read three books for a year I need a couple of guaranteed re-reads. There has to be something by Pratchett (I’ve reread most of his books already). It’s a hard choice but in the end I plump for ‘Good Omens’ by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, a book from the fantasy genre.

Next I’ll fill a slot with a classic that would have been contemporary fiction when it was first written. I have a feeling I could learn a lot about patience and being a grown up from a reread of ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen.

Finally I’d choose something new and unread for variety, something I’m really looking forward to digging into. Maybe some historical fiction, like ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters, since I’ve just finished her fourth novel ‘The Night Watch’. Her writing consistently floors me.

And don’t miss my interview questions over at Book Gazing!

BBAW, day one: Community

You know, I never would have imagined I could find a group of people — strangers, initially — with whom I could talk about books and life and cupcakes and form these lasting friendships that have already sustained me through challenging times.

Here’s the thing about book blogging: we’re not just reviewing books. We bring to our environment a shared passion for the written word — whether that’s fantasy, romance, science fiction — and never let it go. We connect with each other over novels but come together with so much more. In fact, when I imagine the major milestones in my life — marriage, children, a new job — I often fantasize about how I’ll share the news with my book blogger buddies.

Is that weird? Maybe. But I love you guys.

Today, the first day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, we’re asked to recognize the people who have made book blogging a unique experience for us. I long consider Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog to be a mentor of sorts — mostly because she’s awesome, and she’s one of the first book blogs I discovered. We got our sites up and running around the same time and both worked for corporate booksellers back in 2008. A friendship blossomed and I’ve been overjoyed as her range of influence has only widened, and she’s a darn hilarious and fine person. So rock on, my friend.

Over time, you may have noticed that the quality of my photos is slowing improving . . . and I’ve worked harder to make write meg! visually pleasing. I’ve always been interested in graphic design and enjoy the coding aspects of blogging, but it’s Kay from The Infinite Shelf who really inspired me to step up my game. Her blog is both interesting and beautiful, and her photos are incredible achievements. She inspires me with her cute comics and awesome book thoughts, and I feel motivated to make changes here every time I visit.

And who do I credit with turning me onto my favorite book series of all time? Natalie of Book, Line, and Sinker, who is also a stellar friend. A few years back she encouraged me to read Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series, and it wasn’t long before I rejoiced in my new book crush. I’ve remained devoted to Marcus ever since. Sloppy Firsts was probably not a book I would have picked up on my own, so I’m eternally grateful to Nat for contributing to Marcus’ and my blossoming romance.

The first person to get me to crack open a graphic novel? Credit goes to Lu from Regular Rumination, a blogger I adore. Her recommendation that I read Craig Thompson’s Blankets was perfect, and I fell in love with Thompson’s tale of first love and the way it affects the rest of our lives. His illustrations paired perfectly with the book’s emotional content, and I never thought a graphic novel could make me cry. But it did.

In January, I read several awesome works of literary fiction for the Indie Lit Awards — including Safe From The Sea, which is one of my favorite reads this year. It was a novel that surprised and moved me, and another book I wouldn’t have read if I hadn’t gotten involved in the awards process.

My friendships with book bloggers have impacted my life in countless ways, and I’m grateful for the way they’ve inspired me to try new books and branch outside my vanilla reading life. My bookshelves are heaving beneath the weight of their recommendations — and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Autumn, contests, awards and more

It’s September! A bright and shiny new month! And the start of fall, my most favorite of all seasons! Though the leaves are still that bright-and-shiny green, I’ve decided to throw caution (and sanity) aside and already whip out my fall wardrobe. According to my sister, today I’m rocking a look that screams “college girl in 1952.”

It’s really just an excuse to wear both my new red cardigan and houndstooth scarf — even in 86-degree weather. In an ideal world, I would look like an extra on “Mad Men” and channel Audrey Hepburn in my daily wardrobe . . . especially if that meant wearing a little extra something from Tiffany daily. But in this world, I’m just a run-of-the-mill writer who hopes she doesn’t look like a crazy vagrant most days. And she can keep her hair from frizzy badly enough to block out the sun, all the better.

I love the fall and seem to write these sorts of posts yearly — updates about life turning a new corner and exciting things that are afoot. On my mind now is the Indie Lit Awards, honors given by literary bloggers to the best of the best in new books out in 2011. I served on the literary fiction panel last year and had the best time — especially since that’s how I discovered Peter Geye’s Safe From The Sea, one of the most powerful novels I’ve read in a long time.

Now in its second season, the Indie Lit Awards are a great way to discover notable books in a variety of genres — and nominations are now open. Think about the books published in 2011 that you’ve devoured whole, then pushed into the hands of every reader in your life. We want the books that blew your mind. That changed everything. Nominate now using a simple form in categories including biography/memoir, GLBTQ, fiction and more. I’m proud to again serve on the fiction panel and look forward to our “reading list” being established from the nominations.

Next up on my list of random Meg thoughts: um, how delicious is Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin spice latte?! It’s out now and sent me tumbling into a delightful sugary rush yesterday afternoon. Starbucks is a bit behind the times this year, not bringing their concoction back until next week, but I’m all right with that. As long as I can get my ridiculous pumpkin fix, I’m happy. (And I promise not to post too much on my pumpkin obsession this year — I think I’ve already got that covered.)

I also wanted to thank everyone for their nominations in this year’s Book Blogger Appreciation Awards, which are happening Sept. 12-16! I’m thrilled to have been long-listed in the Best Written Book Blog and Best Eclectic Book Blog categories and really appreciate the support! I’m looking forward to participating in this year’s festivities — it’s always a great time and a wonderful way to meet new faces in our book blogging community.

In somewhat related news, I recently learned that I did not win the “Jane Austen Made Me Do It” short story contest — and though disappointing, the talent on display in that competition was tremendous. Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Austenprose, will debut her Austen-inspired anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It on Oct. 11. Congratulations to Brenna Aubrey, author of “The Love Letter,” for penning the winning short story — and thank you all for your votes and encouragement in February. Writing “Spinning White Hair Gold” was an exciting challenge and I really appreciate having made it to the Top 10! Can’t wait to read the book this fall.

. . . Well, this was an amazing amalgam of material. I’m getting ready to venture north and visit Spencer’s family in New York over Labor Day weekend, and Laurie Notaro’s It Looked Different On The Model will be my eight-hour-car-ride companion! I’m also super pumped for my friend Erin’s wedding on Sept. 10 and am still depriving myself of anything chocolate, carb-heavy — or flavorful. My “diet” has been intense, but that bridesmaid dress is not going to wear itself.

Though it is snug enough to stand on its own.

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for Kristine Gasbarre’s How To Love An American Man, one of my favorite reads this year. Krissy and her publisher were kind enough to increase the giveaway to two copies, and I’ve extended the deadline to Tuesday, Sept. 6. Just share your family memories here to be entered.

BBAW: Celebrating the vast awesomeness of our community

Though I give this same spiel every year, I can’t believe it’s almost September — and time again to celebrate Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

Now in my third year of blogging, I see with clear eyes how much work and dedication it takes to make a site succeed. It’s not just about reading books and reviewing them, as we all know; it’s about personality. Panache. Passion. (And some other “P” words I can’t think of right now.)

BBAW is our yearly celebration of all things book blogging — and the voices behind those websites: yours and mine. Speaking at the Book Blogger Convention this year reaffirmed my commitment to and love of all things book blogging, and I hope you’ll take some time to honor your favorites by participating this year.

The awards process has changed for 2011 — basically, you create an account with the site, register with your own profile and then nominate your much-loved blogs in many different categories. Also note that self-nomination is not allowed this year, which is a change-up from previous BBAW celebrations.

But BBAW isn’t only about awards. In the past, our blogging community has come together to interview one another, celebrate books we’ve loved in the past and so much more. Last fall, I shared how blogging has made my life pretty awesome — and I still mean every word. The idea is really just to celebrate one another, raise our collective (metaphorical) champagne glasses and toast one another’s hard work.

Because we’re important. Our voices matter. The publishing industry takes us seriously. Some of our favorite authors know who we are. And you know what? We’re pretty great. Talented, erudite, honest and great.

I mean, I love us. So let’s all spread that through BBAW participation.

Award nominations are happening now through August 13 at the site, so don’t forget to march your little self on over there and get to it!