I decided to try something new for me today and do a book tag. I’ve been watching a lot of videos of BookTubers answering some fun questions and I thought maybe I should do one. It’s a sunny Sunday here in Groningen and the weather is surprisingly mild. A stressful week of lectures and thesis writing is almost upon me but writing a blog post is always a nice time. Unlike the BookTube community , I feel that when it comes to blogging, it is more difficult to get to know the people behind the writing. With this thought in mind I decided to not only do a book tag but also create a book tag. So here it goes:
Question #1: You are a (book) blogger with an X number of people from all over the world following your blog. But these people only get to know you through your posts. What are the five basic things that everyone you meet would know about you by the end of your face-to-face conversation?
One of the first things I usually say to people I meet is that I have two dogs. Then people usually want to know more about them so I tell them I have a small Maltese, his name is Ziggy and he is 3.5 years old, and a lady Labrador who is almost 2 years old and her name is Rhea. People also quickly find out that I am a Master student of Clinical Neuropsychology in Groningen which is a small but heavily student populated city in the far north of the Netherlands. I am planning on finishing my studies in July and I’m looking into a PhD on animal assisted interventions which is also the subject of my Master thesis. The third thing one should know about me is that I am from Greece and I was born and lived all my life – before I came here – in Athens. I read lots of books every day but I am a slow reader so it takes me a while to finish them. Finally, one thing people find out about me only when they meet me in real life is that I am a quiet and reserved person and it usually takes me a while to warm up to new people.
Question #2: What kinds of books do you like to read the most and what genres do you prefer to review on your blog?
My favourite books to read are big fat fantasy series with multiple characters, complicated plots and intricate world building as, for example, A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb, The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson and The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Usually these are the books I find enjoyable right from the start and believe me, I am a very picky reader. I also enjoy big literary fiction works that dive deep into the main characters in a way that as a reader you get to know details about them and almost become friends. I know that many people find books like that tedious and tiring sometimes but I usually love very detailed fiction. Some examples are Donna Tartt‘s The Goldfinch and The Little Friend or Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Finally, I have slowly been breaking into the massive world of science fiction and enjoying it a lot even though I have only scratched the surface. For a slow reader it is not the best thing to enjoy huge volumes of books, but what can I do?
When it comes to reviewing, things change a bit. I find fantasy books to be the hardest to review. In each review you want to be able to offer a comprehensive overview of the story without giving away potential spoilers. Fantasy works are usually very difficult to summarise. The story unfolds slowly and by the time you get a grasp of the “main plot” you are halfway through the book. Not only that but epic fantasy books I like to read are based on very complicated storylines. Consequently a given synopsis will end up either way too long or way too short. I would say then my favourite books to review are shorter fiction works – well, shorter meaning 250-400 pages in length – and, to be completely honest, I just enjoy the review more when the book has a pretty cover because it inspires some beautiful pictures!
Question #3: People tend to develop some quirky habits when doing things they love, in our case reading. How do you like to read your books?
People who know me well know that I am a very quirky person and I have little rituals for almost anything. When it comes to reading books, I like to sit on the couch next to the big window, under a blanket, with some water, tea or coffee, and I usually listen to some jazz (Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, John Coltrane). Pretty basic setup, right? Then begin the “rules”. I usually read two books at the same time, the rule being: one book from a series and one standalone. The second rule I have is to read 50 pages of one book and then change to the second book, read 50 pages from that one and then back to the first. The third rule is that every ten pages I pause and watch a YouTube video then get back to the book, read ten more pages and then pause again. I use a bookmark to indicate the 50 page mark and anything else I find, usually pencils or pens but also random pieces of paper, letters, my earphones, my phone, to mark where I actually am in the book. And that’s about it. Now you can see why I am such a slow reader but if you ask why I have these rather unhelpful habits the answer is disappointing: I don’t know, I just do.
Question #4: How do you go about blogging, what is your creative process?
First, I start with the pictures. I want to use pictures in every one of my posts because I think it makes them more attractive to look at and read. In order for me not to stress out about not having pictures, I begin by going out, when the weather allows it, and doing a “photoshoot” if you will of the book about to go under review, or by moving around books and props in the house to utilise the tiny amount of sunlight that we are given here. After that I start writing the post. Before I review a book I first read reviews from journals and newspapers online to refresh my memory on the main points and also get a second opinion about it. Then I make a very rough draft and start writing and editing as I go along – I am usually aware of a bad sentence as I am writing it and it can take me a long time to get unstuck from it. Then I find quotes from the book to add to appropriate places in the review. After that I edit my pictures and add them to the post, do a spell check and then read the post again one last time to correct any inconsistencies and edit it some more. After all this is done I am ready to post. If I am not reviewing a book I usually don’t make a draft at all instead start writing right away. The editing and picture-taking parts stay the same throughout all of my posts.
Question #5: Reflect on your reading goals for this year and tell us what you are currently reading.
One of the goals I had for this year was to read about 75 books which, realistically speaking, is not going to happen. According to Goodreads I am 22 books behind schedule and the books I want to read are way to long for me to actually catch up this year. But that’s alright, I refuse to adjust my Goodreads challenge to a more achievable goal. Another goal I have for this year is something I am planning to turn into a project called My Year With… This year I am doing My Year With Joe Abercrombie meaning I am planning on finishing his First Law series and his Shattered Sea trilogy. I am currently finishing up The First Law trilogy and will soon pick up the three standalones that complete it. I also have Half a King to begin the Shattered Sea trilogy. I have also decided on the author I will be reading next year but I will be announcing that later, probably in December. Another one of my goals was to read the two novel I haven’t still read by one of my favourite authors, Donna Tartt. I have already finish The Little Friend back in January and I am planning on picking up A Secret History later this year. Every year I set a goal of reading four classics and this year so far I have read only two – Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Animal Farm by George Orwell – and honestly I don’t think I will be making it to four. My final goal is to spend October reading only horror books – I will be talking about this project in a few days in my October TBR.
I am currently reading several books. First, I am finishing up The First Law trilogy with Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie. I am also going through the Man Booker shortlist and just started reading Elmet by Fiona Mozley. I am also going to be reviewing The Inkblots by Damion Searls for my university’s blog called Mindwise which is about the life and work of Hermann Rorschach.
Question #6: Do you often tell people that you are a book blogger? And when you do what is their response?
Honestly, I don’t usually mention that I am a book blogger to people. First, I tell them I read a lot of books and depending on their response to that – whether they show interest or say that they are readers as well – I might go on and mention my blog. The usual response to that is: “A book blogger! And what do you do with your blog?” I then tell them I write book reviews and talk about books, by which point I feel people have lost interest and so I rush off to another topic. Every once in a while though, people do ask for my blog address which makes me very happy and a little nervous of showing my work to someone who knows me outside of the internet. After that, half of the people who asked for the address do have a look on my blog and the vast majority don’t really return to it. I am still looking for a satisfying answer as to why that is…
Question #7: How do you acquire new books? Do you go to a bookstore or buy them online? Do you prefer hardcovers, paperbacks or ebooks? Do you receive books from publishers or prefer to buy them yourself? And how do you decide which book to buy next?
As you will have inadvertently noticed by now, I am a quirky reader. These peculiarities apply to my book buying habits as well, of course. Ideally, I would buy all my books at a bookstore. I think it is a wonderful experience, to walk into a place filled with books that you can touch and read from before you make a decision to buy one. There are people who can help you by recommending something to you and you leave with at least one book in hand. Unfortunately, buying books at a bookstore here in Groningen is much too expensive. Not only that, but because I prefer the hardcover editions as they are sturdier and last longer in crisp condition, it is difficult to find the books I want specifically in hardcovers at the bookstore. Because of that I resolve to buying books online which means I also have to wait for a few days for them to arrive. It also means though that I get to open packages which is exciting. I don’t enjoy reading ebooks at all even though I own a Kindle and I really, really wish I could be one of those readers that can read on their tablets and their phones. It’s cheaper and much easier, you have a lot of space and can buy thousands of books without thinking about your next move and how to transfer them safely. I also much prefer to buy my own books instead of getting them from a publisher because for me the process is much more enjoyable: I bought my own book that I can read in my own time and hate it or love it as much as I want to without worrying about the review I will post on my blog. Receiving books from publishers is undeniably very exciting but to me it was not worth the added stress for the review.
Now, let’s talk about how I decide what to buy next. With series things are simple and again, I have rules. The whole series needs to have been completed by the author before I pick it up – I am not going through another Game of Thrones tragedy of waiting, no sir. I then download a sampler of the first book on my Kindle and check it out: Do I like the writing style and am I drawn to the story? Then I go ahead and buy the first book. After I have rea the first book and enjoyed it, I allow myself to buy the whole series – this has happened with the majority of the Malazan books (which I haven’t read) and The First Law series, for example. With standalones things are a little more complicated. If I find an author I love, I will buy any novel they have written, as is the case with Donna Tartt. Otherwise, I tread carefully through book reviews (to avoid spoilers) by critics I trust and find titles and new authors I would most probably enjoy, like Neal Stephenson whom I still haven’t read but own three of his books.
Question #8: How do you decide what to read next and what happens if you are hating the book you are reading?
I will begin with the second question here: If I am hating a book I will put it down and then get rid of it. Life is too short to spend your time reading something you are hating, I have decided, and finding out what you truly enjoy reading is a process but once you know a book is not for you, why force it? I used to force myself to finish books that I started but thankfully I am not doing that anymore.
Deciding what to read next with standalone novels strongly depends on whether I am currently undertaking a new project, like my Project Man Booker 2017 which dictates I read the Man Boooker books one after another. If I am not working on a reading project then I go with what I feel like reading. I pick up a book from the shelves, I look at it, I start reading it and if I don’t feel like it I put it back. Otherwise, I keep reading. With series, I like to take breaks between books so I read three different series “simultaneously” meaning, I read the first book in Series A and then pick up the first book in Series B and then the first book in Series C. Then I go back to Series A for the second book and so on.
Question #9: What other platform or social media do you use to talk about books?
I have a Facebook page about my blog which you can find here: My Bookshelf Dialogues Facebook page. Whenever I upload a new post I also put the link on that Facebook page.
I also have an Instagram account: My Bookshelf Dialogues on Instagram but I mainly post pictures here on the blog.
And of course you can find me on Goodreads as Mens Rea.
Question #10: Now that we got to know you a little better, who would you like to know more about next? Tag some bloggers here so we can all learn more about each other.
Okay, I talk a lot. This turned out to be a long post.
I’d like to tag (for the first time ever) a few bloggers here, starting with Bill from Kenyan Library.
I’m also tagging Drew the book blogging rock star from The Tattooed Book Geek.
And my fellow Greek blogger here in the Netherlands, Zizeloni from Zizeloni Van Kat.
Also I would like to tag Jo from bookskeptic.com .
And finally, I’m tagging Zucky from BookBum.
I hope all of you guys will answer the questions of my very first tag. I’m looking forward to reading your responses! 🙂