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: Meet Gwen from Chew & Digest Books

In keeping with our Book Blogger Appreciation Week festivities through Friday, today’s prompt asked us to get to know another member of our awesome and rapidly-growing book blogosphere (do y’all like that word: blogosphere? I remain undecided, though I use the term often. Out of necessity).

My interview partner is the lovely and talented Gwen of Chew & Digest Books, tagged by its creator as “mostly nonfiction book reviews for book lusters.” Paging through a few of Gwen’s most recent posts, you’ll come across an enticing mix of bookish and personal posts — and those are often my favorite sort of blogs. As Gwen and I discuss later in the interview, I really love sites that allow me to get to know the author as well as — if not better than — the subject on which they’re writing. And after spending some time over at Chew & Digest Books, I’m well on my way to being one of Gwen’s big fans.

And check out my answers to Gwen’s thoughtful questions!

1. Meg: In your “about me” section — which was hilarious, by the way — you state that while you mostly read American history, memoirs/biographies and mystery/suspense, you’re “never opposed to try[ing] something new.” Why do you think so many of us tend to stick like glue to our favorite genres? How have you busted out of that and expanded into reading different things?

Gwen: First, I think that people are human and being human, they dislike change. Once you find a genre or style of reading that you like, you tend to stick with it. We also make a lot less time to read in these days, so taking a risk on a new genre could often wind up a big waste of precious time if we pick the wrong one.

Personally, I think the above is hogwash and short sighted. If you never try anything new, you get stuck in a rut and reading is the one place in your life where you should take risks because really, what are the consequences? The worst thing that could happen is that you are out the $10-20 for a book and an hour of your time. It isn’t like skydiving where you pay $350 to get up in a plane only to realize that you are terrified of heights! It is a book, not a death-defying act or a tattoo related act of rebellion against your parents.

Second, has a lot to do with blogging. Niche. Let’s all take a moment to thank the French for creating one of the major buzzwords of blogging. Some blogs can pull of being about everything, but let’s face it, most can’t quite pull it off successfully. By focusing on one subject, or in the case of book bloggers, one genre, our audience knows what to expect. By planting your flag in one genre, you tend to find lovers of the same genre to subscribe to you.

I am a freakishly eclectic in just about every aspect of my life. That is a nice way of saying that I have the attention span of gnat. I have had a million jobs in many different fields, listen to everything from classical to Irving Berlin to Maroon 5, cook, paint, sew, refinish furniture, landscape, bungee jump, etc. I have no problem trying new things, but sticking to genres? Well, that is hard.

2. You focus pretty exclusively on nonfiction at Chew & Digest Books. For you, what is the appeal of nonfiction over a novel? What do you experience in one that you cannot experience in the other?

The short answer- I have a dream of being on Jeopardy and every nonfiction book is another step in that direction.

The long answer- I read nonfiction because I have always had a thirst for knowledge and learning. Each nonfiction is a lot like a scavenger hunt with the clues. For example, I just read a book called The Associates by Richard Rayner and in a couple of sentences about Horace Greeley intrigued me. After losing the Presidential Election in 1872 to Grant, Greeley went mad and died a month later. How can you not be intrigued by a man that was put in an asylum and died just a month after running for president?

Little things like that get me excited and start me on a trail to another book. Which in turn, might lead me to another book, etc. Fiction doesn’t really do that for me. Sure, there are sequels and reoccurring characters, but there isn’t that wee trail of bread crumbs leading you from one subject to the next.

3. I love your “A Bit About Me(Me)” posts. For me, part of the fun of reading someone’s blog is getting to know them as a person. Do you feel that way, too? When visiting a book blog, how much of the blogger’s personality do you want to show through in their posts?

Personality is HUGE for me in a book blog, or any blog really. If I don’t know what makes you get up in the morning, how I am going to trust your review of a book? So much of what makes a book good or bad is how it reacts with a person’s lifestyle and their life experience. When a blogger reviews a book by telling me how it relates to them, I am on the bus. It is a risk to put yourself out there, but a calculated risk.

By putting yourself into your blog and your reviews, you are giving a gift and helping to create a community. You are talking with me as opposed to talking at me. Totally win/win in my book.

4. A stereotype surrounding most avid readers, like us, is that we’re mousy, quiet and naturally introverted. How do you defy or embrace that description? Are you introverted or extroverted by nature?

I hate stereotypes and labels! There are three kinds of people in the world of Gwen; Cool people, people that aren’t cool but I am related to them in some way so I have to put up with them, & people that I don’t know yet.

I think that I am a homebody extrovert. I rather be at home with a good book, but if you take me out I am open and outgoing. I tend to be a leader when out in public. Hmm, I wonder if that is why I work best from home?

5. In a recent post, you mention shopping for bookcases. Just how bad is your “to be read” stack? Has it taken over your living space and threatened to consume you, or have you kept it at a manageable level?

We downsized houses earlier this year and there is nothing like moving to make you realize that your book collection is out of control. I instituted a policy of not going batcrazy with books, so my TBR stack is a manageable 40ish books. (call it my own version of the one-in-one-out theory)

6. When do you get the bulk of your reading done — morning, afternoon, evening? In the tub, on a treadmill or on a lunch break? How and where do you make time to read?

I work from home and read constantly. Part of my job is reading and reviewing books, so that gives me the perfect excuse for not cleaning as often as I should. “Sorry honey, these 6 books are due on Monday. No time to make you a birthday cake.” The only time that there isn’t at least one open is when I am sleeping. Even then, my iPod with the Kindle app is right under my pillow.

For me, it isn’t so much as making time to read, but making time to live.

7. Like me, you’ve been blogging since June 2008. What’s been the most challenging part of maintaining an active book blog for two years? The most rewarding?

Coming up with my own ideas so that the blog isn’t all reviews, all of the time is the hardest part. I am lucky, my work means that I get to finish about a book a day and I could throw up a review for most days of the week. The problem is that it wouldn’t be very interesting for readers and wouldn’t allow for me to use sharpen my chops as a writer.

The most rewarding is the friendships that I am developing. Like I said, I work from home and that means that I don’t often get the opportunity to get out and about amongst people that I have things in common with. Sure, I can tell my dog or boyfriend about the most hilarious thing I just read, but it doesn’t work for long. And- I also thing that the boyfriend has been giving the dog eye rolling lessons. Not cool when your dog starts rolling his eyes at you.

8. As an animal lover, what are your favorite books featured our favorite furry friends? Any you recommend to avid dog lovers that won’t make us burst into tears?

Shockers! I don’t read animal stories because no matter what, they always end up dying…. even if it isn’t in the story. You know that there have been like a million Goldens with the name Air Bud for the movies, right? Just like there were how many Rin-Tin-Tins and Lassies, too depressing.

BBAW: Let’s talk to Tif!

Tif_1As Book Blogger Appreciation Week continues, I’m thrilled to welcome another awesome blogger to write meg! — Tif of Tif Talks Books! I’m so happy to have discovered her blog, filled with great thoughts on reading and children’s books, especially. Without further ado, Tif, let’s chat!

Meg: You read and review a variety of works, but children’s books seem to be a central focus on your blog, Tif Talks Books. What do you love most about them?

Tif: In the past, I would not have said that children’s books have been the central focus of my blog. I love adult fiction! However, at the beginning of this year, I made a goal for myself to read all of the Caldecott Honor Books and Award Winners. Along the way, I decided to start reviewing more of my favorites and those of my children. It’s grown and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it! Nothing beats being able to cuddle up with my kids and a good book, going on different adventures all within the walls of my own home!!

Did you have a favorite book as a child? Why was it special?

I think that my favorite book as a child was probably The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Growing up, I was a very independent little soul and loved how Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny could make it on their own, turning lemons into lemonade. They used their imagination, made everyday activities into an adventure, and truly appreciated the small things in life. I could even be found playing The Boxcar Children in my friend’s loft, making our own brooms, discovering treasures in heaps of junk, and fending for ourselves!

As a bibliophile, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is eventually sharing my love of reading with my (future) kids. You have children—are they following in your footsteps and adopting your reading habits?

From the time that my son was a newborn, he has been surrounded by books. In fact, every night before bed, I would nurse him and read chapter books aloud to him! Who knew that a child of 5 months old had a Harry Potter book (and so much more!) read to him for every month of his life?!?! We have read to him every day since and today, he is one of the few 4-year-old boys that can sit for extended periods of time reading books. He is even often found reading with piles of books next to his bed or sleeping with him!! My second child is still fairly young (she just turned one a couple of months ago). I have carried on the same tradition of reading chapter books during the evening nursing sessions and can rely on a book to calm her down as we cuddle and rock. I only hope that this trend will continue!!

harry_potter_stoneWhat’s one of the books you’re most excited about sharing with your son and daughter as they grow older?

Hands down . . . Harry Potter!!!! I love these books and have read them multiple times!! I cannot wait to share Harry’s adventures with my kids!! It will be like experiencing them again for the first time through their eyes!!

Which contemporary author do you love the most?

This is a hard one because I love so many different authors!!! I think I’m going to go with an author that writes about some very controversial topics that are facing us today. She does her research, presents very real issues via fiction, and attempts to do it an unbiased way, ultimately creating an internal dialogue with myself on my current beliefs. And, she is usually a hit for book club discussions as well! If you have not guessed it yet . . . Jodi Picoult!!!

edgar_allan_poeYou participate in Poe Fridays, a weekly look at the works of Edgar Allan Poe. How is Poe’s work significant to you? Why do you think, like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, it’s become timeless and considered classic?

During my teen years, I had a tendency to gravitate to the darker writers like Poe and Sylvia Plath. I was particularly fascinated with poetry (often writing a lot of it myself as a form of expression!) and firmly believe that it reflected this darker time in my life. Now that I am older and have grown in maturity and taste, I see it for so much more than just something to relate to. Poe was a much more complicated man and author than I initially believed him to be. I appreciate his work, what it did for the horror genre and literature in general, and to be honest, am fascinated with his life and his way of expressing himself! (My background is counseling psychology and I tend to be intrigued easily by human behavior, particularly those who use art as a way of expressing themselves and how in turn, it reversely affects them.)

Poe has become classic simply because of his boldness in writing and his diverse talent! He could genuinely write horror, love stories and poems, stories with with and humor, and you cannot forget that he is the one that inspired the one and only Sherlock Holmes!!

When you first began Tif Talks Books, did you have a particular plan for your blog? Did that plan change over time?

When I began Tif Talks Books, I had no idea that there was a whole book blogging community out there! I started it strictly for myself as a way to keep track of my books, share my thoughts and have a way to refer back to them, and maybe even share my recommendations with others that were close to me. I would randomly get emails from acquaintances asking me for recommendations because they knew that I was a bookworm! After about a year and a half, I began to discover other book bloggers out there and learned that there were others out there just like me!!

Has my plan changed? Not really! I still blog to keep track of my books and to give my recommendations, but I feel that I need to be more accountable because my audience has grown! I no longer write just for myself!! I write to share my love of books and hope to spread of the importance of literacy to others as well!

Since you started blogging about books, do you find yourself reading more—or less?

Less!!!! And, at times, it drives me crazy!!!! I now find myself writing more during my usual reading times!! There have recently been a lot of changes in my life and I’m simply trying to find a better balance. Reading provides me a better release than writing (most of the time!) and with my increased load, I need the increased reading to release my worries and stress!!

You have a great post on your blog called “Books As Bridges,” discussing the ways reading has changed your life and brought others into it. What do you love most about books, and how are you able to share that with others?

Books have always been my safe haven. I can always rely on a book to take me away, clear my mind, learn of new cultures and people, and overall, let me take a break from my busy life! If I’ve had a hard day, I can always rely on a good book being read at the end of the day to soothe me and ease my tension before falling to sleep.

As for sharing with others, I have done so in a variety of ways! I’ve used books as a way to relate to children I’ve worked with in an educational counseling setting (i.e., bibliotherapy). I’ve used books as a way to connect with older students and move beyond the technical issues that usually take place within my meetings with them. And, on a personal level, it has helped me to connect with new friends after moving to a new city/town multiple times!! Plus, after moving a LOT the last few years, I have found that hooking up with my local library is one true way to make a new place feel like home!

What’s one book, of any genre, you think absolutely everyone should read?

I love a LOT of books, so I can think of a lot of books that I think everyone should read! Some examples that come to mind are Harry Potter, Maus I & II, maybe a Picoult or Hosseini novel. However, I think I’m going to go with Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl’s accounts his experiences as a Holocaust survivor and his theory on how to live a better life, a life with meaning. It’s short, sweet, and to the point and can be so very inspiring for a first time read or for those of us that need a reminder in the hard times!