First Blogiversary: A Question and Answer Session

And just like that, my first year of blogging has come and gone! I posted my first book review on March 21, 2021 on Crisis in the Red Zone by Richard Preston. Since then I’ve posted many more book reviews and other bookish content; not to mention I’ve met a lot of awesome bookish people along the way. To celebrate I decided to do my first ever Q&A session. Thank you to everyone who submitted a question(s) in this Twitter thread! I grouped the questions into two broad categories: Blogging and Reading. So keep scrolling to learn more about my blog and I!

Blogging

How did you come up with the name for your blog? (Maddie @ Inking & Thinking)
This process took a lot longer than I thought it would! I have Carolin at Solo Travel Story to thank for helping me figure out what to name my blog. She’s a linguist, so she had some wonderful techniques to share (like mind mapping) to jump start the blog-naming process. I wanted to make sure I didn’t box myself into a certain genre in case my reading preferences changed. So I wanted my blog name to be broad, but clearly indicate that this space has something to do with literature. With Carolin’s help, and the fact that I was using (and still am) books as an escape from real word stressors, I chose A Literary Escape.

What is your favorite memory of this past year spent in the book blog universe? (Max @ The Geek Pyramid)
My favorite memory is probably when I received my first physical copy of a book from a PR company to review. This happened a little more than a month ago now, so pretty late into my first year of book blogging. It was totally unexpected and in a subgenre I read, so I absolutely said yes. I wouldn’t say I’ve “made it” yet, on the scale of whether publishers send you physical ARCs or not. I’m not trying to “make it” to that level, but it felt validating to be selected out of the many, many other book reviewers who have a platform. That is, it felt nice to know that my effort was noticed outside of the reviewing community (those who write reviews) and had transcended into the PR/publishing space. I haven’t read or reviewed it yet, but look for my review at the end of March.

What is the best thing about book blogging? (Mint @ Mint Loves Books)
For me, the best thing about book blogging is finding others who enjoy the same genres as you do, and then connecting with them over that–especially if you happen to read the same books. The main reason I started my blog, which I mention in this book tag, is that I had no one with whom to discuss the book that left me with a severe book hangover. (Little did I know at the time that SJM has a huge fan base.) It took a little while to find and cultivate my little community among the larger one, but I love interacting with and boosting these people.

What’s the hardest thing about keeping up a book blog? (A Home Library)
Hands down the time needed to write and format the reviews and other book-related posts. Reading the books is the best part. But I’m not a fast writer and formatting in WordPress is a little clunky, so that really bogs me down. Like many others, I have a full time job, so that’s 40 hours a week already blocked off for me to be able to pay for the bills and my hobbies (like this one). Factor in time to do fun things with my husband, make meals, do household chores, and stay physically active (hello, Peloton work outs!), and I’m left with not a ton of time. I err to the side of perfectionism, so I’ve had to learn that it’s ok if I’m not 100% happy with the reviews I write. As long as they convey whether or not I enjoyed a book, then that’s ok. I also cut out putting the summary in my words. That always took me the longest times; it truly is an art form to be able to succinctly and accurately summarize the book in two paragraphs or less. I figured someone has already done that, so I’m going to focus only on my review of the book.

What was something you learned about book blogging you were not expecting when you started? (Brianna @ Pages Unbound)
I can’t think of anything overtly unexpected. I suppose the closest thing that answers this question is the time commitment. But that was my answer in the previous question. Perhaps another unexpected aspect of book blogging, for me, is trying to encourage viewership to hop from social media to my blog. It’s easy to click “follow” on Twitter, but it’s a lot harder to encourage readers to click “follow” on WordPress. I’m a bit perplexed, to be honest; I know others have had their blogs for a similar amount of time and have quite a lot more followers than I do. Does it truly matter overall? No. But I clearly haven’t cracked the code.

How do you view the role of the book blogger in the bookish world? (Dan @ DanFitzWrites)
Overall, I view the role of the book blogger as someone who provides an honest review and reaction to a book they read, whether or not it’s a positive or negative one. If a book blogger’s main focus is reviews, then I feel they should provide their overall impression to better help readers decide if they may or may not want to read a book. I don’t view book blogging as a critiquing space for authors because once a book is published, it’s published. If an author wants to read reviews, that’s their decision. An author has the prerogative to use a review to improve upon any future books, though. (I don’t know how publishing works, but if a book blogger’s main focus is reviewing ARCs before they’re published, then maybe the publisher can relay those reactions to the author for changes before printing.) Long term, I view the role of the book blogger as an easily searchable repository for reviews relative to Instagram and TikTok. Instagram and TikTok have the algorithms on their side in terms of reach and influence, but my biggest annoyance with this type of “fast” social media is it’s not very searchable.

Reading

Which has been the hardest book you’ve ever reviewed? (Ariana Jane @ Book Nook Reviews)
Two books stick out in my mind: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow and She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan. The Once and Future Witches was one of, if not the first, review I wrote (I often post out of order of date written), so I was new at learning how to summarize and convey my thoughts about the book. She Who Became the Sun was difficult for me because despite it being a hyped up book, it wasn’t a 5-star read for me. It also contains themes with which I don’t personally identify because I am a cisgender female. Because of this, I wanted to make sure I didn’t accidentally offend the LGBTQ+ community, so I spent a lot of time being careful with my word choices.

What book most recently found a place in your heart? (Jodie @ Witty and Sarcastic Book Club)
It’s a good thing you incorporated “most recently” into this question, or I would’ve again answered A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The book that most recently found a place in my heart is The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton. I spent a long time deciding whether or not to request it on NetGalley because even though it’s a fantasy book, it’s also historical fiction and comedy, neither of which I read much of within fantasy. However, I’m glad I did. I went in with no expectations and absolutely loved this lighthearted read. It has witty dialogue, rogue pirates, and some not-so-very prim and proper witches chasing after a very important amulet that absolutely everyone must get their hands on, with more than a dash of romance.

Were you into literature/reading when you were in high school? (Lynn)
I remember reading in high school, usually authors that had hit international fame at the time (i.e., Dan Brown, JKR). But most of the time I remember reading what the school curriculum told me I had to read. And that left little time for much else, particularly because I had so much homework thanks to the academic program I was in (International Baccalaureate). Junior year was my hardest year…so much homework, especially for English class; it felt like analyzing literature was never ending and, to be honest, it kind of ruined reading for me for a while. I’m going to pretend you asked me about middle school because I read a heck of a lot then. I read a lot of books in what was then Star Wars canon (pre-Disney tycoon)–both the adult books (hello Zahn) and the YA books about the Jedi training school Luke opened. I was so into that franchise I even got into drawing some of the characters. Sadly I don’t remember a lot of the content anymore, only that I really enjoyed it.

What kind of book series just doesn’t appeal to you, but others love it? (Lynn)
Are there thriller series? There must be. I don’t really read anything in that genre at all. More specifically, I’m not into series (or standalones) about women being stalked in real life situations, or anything similar. For me, it’s enough to read about it in the news. I don’t want to read about it in fiction. The same goes for me with TV shows. Are these types of scenarios present in fantasy? Yes, of course, but the fantasy aspect helps blur the line between realism.

Best short read? (Lynn)
I usually read books that are 300+ pages, so not that short. So if we’re talking a book that’s less than 300 pages, then for me that list is not very long! Out of the books I’ve read over the past 1.5 years, probably An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. It’s a standalone YA fantasy romance with decent world-building (once they’re out of the woods). It’s easy to get sucked in to, but the instalove trope isn’t my favorite.

Shadow and Bone: Alina/Darkling or Alina/Mal? (Lynn)
I admit that I find the Darkling more intriguing and interesting. But in real life, definitely Alina/Mal. Mal isn’t manipulative and he has Alina’s best interests at heart. Is the Darkling more alluring? Yes, so are many other morally grey fictional characters. Does he care for Alina? Also yes, but the Darkling cares more about his own agenda, overall, which doesn’t necessarily make for the fairest of relationships.

How do you separate the art from the artist? (Lynn)
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Especially since JKR seems to trend a lot these days. My short answer is I can’t separate the art from the artist. Where there is a clear dichotomy, I personally do draw that line. I’m not perfect, but for the most part I put my money where my mouth is. However, I strongly feel that an artist who makes an effort to apologize once they realize they’re wrong shouldn’t be permanently canceled. I really hate that about the internet–people on it can be so unforgiving. Humans make mistakes and humans can learn and grow and change their minds. I certainly don’t know all of the “problem authors,” but I don’t live under a rock and I know JKR is considered to be one of them. Emotionally, I have a very hard time with that because Harry Potter was such a huge part of my life growing up. The JKR thing has been going on for so long that I’ve slowly been going back in time to understand where/why it all started; I didn’t pay attention to the origin at the time and now it’s a convoluted mess of social media frenzy. Research is hard when people are heated. I’m hoping Emily @ Frappes and Fiction does a post on this soon (but no pressure!).

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