Bloggiesta, Olé! It’s Bloggiesta Time Again Fall 2012

Bloggiesta weekend starts today! I’m going to be in Maine for all of Saturday, and have to work today, but we’ll see what I can get done on Sunday. Here’s my to-do list, short but extremely time-consuming. All but the first item on the list are repeats from my first Bloggiesta in the spring (#fail):

  • Move to self-hosting on WordPress (Eek!)
  • Start some personal “Best of 2012” lists (still undone from my spring Bloggiesta list)
  • Catch up on reviews (maybe by doing mini-reviews) (ditto)
  • Create a page of book lists and readalikes (ditto)

Bloggiesta is a weekend to devote yourself to spiffing up your blog. I believe it’s mostly book bloggers, but not restricted to book bloggers. Does it sound like fun? Want to join in? Sign up at There’s a Book.
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A More Diverse Universe: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Cover image of The Hundred Thousand KingdomsBook bloggers were the ones who put The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit Books, 2010) on my radar, so reading it for the A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour seemed like the perfect reason to move it to the top of the TBR list.

First in a trilogy, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms lays the foundation for an overarching story but also has a satisfying completeness in itself. It took me a little while to get hooked, but about halfway through, I realized why so many readers liked this book so much.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, as you might guess from the title, mentions multiple countries in the course of the story, all under the rule of the Arameri family of Amn, in the palace of Sky, in the city of Sky. The story is set many years after the Gods’ War, when one of three powerful gods vanquished the other two and the world changed for the humans living under the sway of the pale-skinned Arameri, who wield the power of the one remaining god, the Skyfather, also known as Bright Itempas.

Yeine, the main character and narrator of the story, is a nineteen-year-old warrior chieftain from the forested country of Darr, the child of a Darren father and an Amn mother, who was the exiled daughter of the ruling Arameri family. Yeine describes herself near the beginning of the book as “short and flat and brown as forestwood, and my hair is a curled mess.” When she is thrust into the thick of palace intrigue and succession squabbling right at the start of the book, no one is more surprised than she is.

It doesn’t take Yeine long to get her bearings. It took me a lot longer, what with all the skillful world-building going on and the backstory of world mythology that was common knowledge to Yeine but had to be told to the reader. (I’ve never been good at geography. Or mythology, for that matter. All those gods and who does what…) Themes of race, gender, slavery, wealth, power, and religion thread through the book, but are never allowed to take over. The strong plot and the ultimate bad boy love interest move the story along quickly, once the story gets going and as Yeine starts to understand more.

I haven’t read a lot of straightforward fantasy to compare The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to, so I’m not the best reviewer of this book, but The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms won the 2011 Locus Award for Best First Novel, so judges who are very familiar with the genre have recognized its merit. Readers looking for a fantasy with a strong female main character and detailed world-building should definitely give it a try.

Read the first chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms here.

View the complete schedule for A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour hosted by Aarti at BookLust.

Ten Signs You’re Obsessed with Book Blogging and #Bloggiesta

Today is the last day of Bloggiesta, hosted by Suey (@sueysays) at It’s All About Books and Danielle (@the1stdaughter) at There’s a Book. If you’ve never heard of Bloggiesta, then you’re probably not obsessed with book blogging. But if you’re here today because of Bloggiesta, then see whether these signs of obsession apply to you. And, yes, #5 really happened to me this morning. (We haven’t been able to catch it, and the little thing gets bigger and more brazen every day!)Bloggiesta badge

Ten Signs You’re Obsessed with Book Blogging

1. You couldn’t possibly finish your Bloggiesta to-do list in a week, much less a weekend.

2. You appreciate when authors use initials instead of first & middle names (e.g. NK Jemisin) because it’s Twitter-friendly.

3. You’ve started to #think in #hashtags.

4. When you see a new book cover, you think about how good it would look on your blog.

5. You sit still so long with your laptop, commenting on book blogs, that a mouse strolls out from under the chair beside you.

6. You’ve signed up for so many book blog challenges, it’s a challenge to keep them straight.

7. You’ve stopped being jealous of other bloggers’ Mailbox Monday and In My Mailbox posts, and are just relieved you don’t get as many books to review in a month as they do in a week.

8. You pore over blogrolls, hoping for the thrill of seeing your blog listed.

9. Your family doesn’t recognize you without the glow of the computer screen lighting your features.

10. You barely have time for reading books.

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2012 Massachusetts Book Award Winners

Winners of the 2012 Massachusetts Book Awards were announced on Friday!Massachusetts Book Award seal

Fiction
Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

Nonfiction
Killer Stuff and Tons of Money
by Maureen P. Stanton

Poetry
The Trouble Ball by Martin Espada

Children’s/YA
Chasing the Nightbird by Krista Russell

Visit the Massachusetts Center for the Book for details about the winners and about the 12 Must-Read titles in each category.

Follow Massachusetts Center for the Book (@massbook) on Twitter and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/masscenterforthebook.

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Book Blogger Appreciation Week Day Five: Saying Goodbye to #BBAW

graphic for BBAW 2012Friday’s Topic for BBAW: What did you get out of this week? What will you take with you in the future?

Even though I could only manage to post on the first and last days of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I’ve visited and commented on a lot of new-to-me blogs this week.

Thanks to BBAW, I’m a new follower of all of the following:

Book Monkey (WP)
Book Rhapsody (WP)
Doing Dewey (WP)
Farm Lane Books (GR)
Following Pulitzer (WP)
JulzReads (WP)
Leonicka Valcius (GR)
Lit and Life (GR)
The Literary Omnivore (WP)
Necromancy Never Pays (WP)
A Novel Attachment (WP)
The Perpetual Page-Turner (email)
A Reader’s Journal (GR)
A Room of One’s Own (WP)
Shelf Love (WP)
Too Fond (WP)

I also caught up with some old favorites that have been languishing in my overflowing Google Reader queue. (Now even more overflowing after adding a few more.) I especially enjoyed the Day #1 appreciation posts and visiting everyone’s favorite blogs.

BBAW, now five years old, was started and organized by Amy at My Friend Amy.

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This One’s a Winner!: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (AUDIO)

I take back everything I’ve ever said about authors narrating their own audiobooks (don’t, please, don’t!) after listening to Libba Bray‘s incredible performance on Beauty Queens. She brings to life her own satirical look at advertising and news media, corporate ethics, commercialism, and pop culture, through the darkly humorous story of teen beauty pageant contestants who survive a plane crash onto a jungle island. (Only a small percentage of the original fifty states’ contestants survive. Miss Massachusetts is not among them, although her gown does come in handy at one point.) The airline staff, the camera crew…all dead. As if in a reality show without the show, the girls appear to be on their own with only few supplies other than some waterlogged bags of airline pretzels and a surfeit of beauty aids.

With this year her last chance to win before she ages out, the bold and brassy Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins, representing Texas, takes charge, insisting that the girls keep up their pageant routines while Adina (Miss New Hampshire) sardonically observes that shelter, food, and water should probably take priority, but is ignored. Each of the main characters has a story that gets revealed as they begin to trust each other, but there’s no time to sentimentalize each girl’s individual discovery of strengths she didn’t know she had, as the author throws the girls into one dangerous situation after another, and not just snakes, tropical storms, slumbering volcanos, or other jungle threats. The author’s wild subplots involving terrorist, politics, reality shows, and more, keep the action and humor going strong. And, yes, some hot boys do eventually come into the picture, so there’s romance too, but with a few twists on the usual YA romance fare.

Like the Miss Teen Dream contestants themselves, who are not all as they present themselves to pageant judges and each other, this young adult novel is more than meets the eye. Under the hilarious satire, skewering everything from product placement to international arms dealing, lie serious themes that readers of both sexes can think about and form opinions on. The salty language, frank talk about sexual desire in teens, left-leaning politics, and the distinctly Sarah-Palin-by-way-of-Tina-Fey voice of Ladybird Hope (former Miss Teen Dream now presidential candidate) might make this book slightly less humorous to social conservatives than to more liberal-leaning readers. But I was impressed by the author’s even-handedness in many parts of the book where she avoided the common pitfall of only being open-minded about opinions that match our own, allowing for the girls from both red and blue states to experience some brief, eye-opening moments of understanding before switching the story over to crazed villains or hot pirates.

The audiobook production – with its distinctive voices for each contestant, sound effects signaling the end of a CD, and Saturday Night Live-worthy “commercial breaks” – is far more than just a reading of the book. It deservedly won this year’s Audie Award for best narration by an author. An interview with Libba Bray at the end of the audiobook is also humorous and enlightening.

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Book Blogger Appreciation Week Day One #BBAW2012

graphic for BBAW 2012Monday’s Topic for BBAW: Appreciation! 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.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is a great time to find a new favorite book blog or catch up with an old favorite that you’ve lost track of. Every day, I realize how many more book blogs there are out there than I am aware of, or could possibly read weekly – much less daily – but here are just two of my current faves for book and audiobook recommendations that are a good match for my reading/listening type.

Beth Fish Reads — I admire the look of this blog and the detailed reviews of mostly literary fiction, but other types of books, as well. In working on this post, I realized that I never actually subscribed to Beth Fish Reads, and have just been visiting scattershot, so have now subscribed.

Devourer of Books — In addition to posting thoughtful, well-written reviews of mostly literary and women’s fiction (and beautiful baby photos), Jen at Devourer of Books reviews a lot of audiobooks. She also offers a regular Friday feature, Sound Bytes, that rounds up links to new audiobook reviews from other bloggers.

The Guilded Earlobe — Although I’m off zombie books for the moment, I still like to see what Bob at The Guilded Earlobe thinks about the latest in S/F and zombie lit in audiobook format. I’ve actually purchased a few audiobooks on his recommendation that were hard to find at the library, and that proves he is a bad influence and an enabler of my audiobook habit.

Read in a Single Sitting — Stephanie at Read in a Single Sitting shares her own bookish thoughts and keeps readers up to date on publishing news, literary scandals, outrageous online opinions, and other highlights of the week in the blogosphere. I also appreciate her excellent book reviews. She recently reviewed the audiobook edition of The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides so well that I doubt I will ever get around to writing my own.

There are other blogs that I’ve been trying to keep up with lately, where I can read reviews or just bookish conversation. These bloggers, in addition to the two I’ve mentioned already, have also been very welcoming to me in the blogging community at large. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but all of these bloggers are very faithful in their updates (much better than me) and I like to keep up with what they are reading and doing:

BermudaOnion’s Weblog — Kathy is so nice!
The Bibliotaphe’s Closet – Zara’s book habit is much worse than mine.
The Bluestocking Society — Who knew there were so many Utah authors?
Book Chatter — Ti tells it like it is…
Book Journey — No one can really keep up with Sheila!
Care’s Online Book Club — I never miss a post!
Coffee and a Book Chick — Natalie puts out a fun, literate blog.
Fyrefly’s Book Blog — Nicki’s TBR pile stats are phenomenal.
The Literate Housewife — Love Jennifer’s audiobook recommendations!
Popcorn Reads — Fun posts from Mk that I get in my email.
PubWrites — Caitie F. is reading her way through 1,001 books.
Readerbuzz — Deb is a cook as well as a reader!

There are so many others that I follow on Twitter (and check in on their blogs from there) that I know I’m forgetting to mention here. I should have prepared this post ahead of time! I’m sorry if I forgot you, faithful posters and commenters! Especially if you’re one of those super-organized bloggers with posts scheduled days or weeks in advance, because you won’t understand and excuse my unpreparedness for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. (I had the darn badge on my site for over a week; I thought I was doing so well!)

Thank you to Amy at My Friend Amy for organizing Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2012!

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