As part of the celebration of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Amy, our incredible host for all these festivities, arranged for willing bloggers to be matched up so we could conduct interviews. Count me among the "willing" and let me introduce fellow blogger, Amber Stults.
Amber: I’ve had a personal blog for several years but one if my writer goals for 2008 was to build my author site. The author sites I’ve enjoyed the most have included blogging with regularity. There is only so much I can write about regarding the writing process and my writing progress so blogging about books was a natural turn of events.
Q. Do you have a genre that you specialize in for your book reviews?
Amber: When I write a book review for publication elsewhere the content of the site seems to dictate the genre. For instance, when I review for Niteblade the book is either fantasy or horror because it’s a fantasy and horror magazine.
On my site the book reviewed can be in almost any genre since they are books I’m reading for pleasure. There are only a few genres I have little interest in reading.
Q. What do you look for in a book that you would “highly recommend” to others?
Amber: A book that I’d highly recommend has to offer some new insight, a change in my way of thinking or is unique in some way. For years the book I’ve recommended to people is Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. It provides good examples of how professionals know things but can’t always articulate how they know something to be true.
Q. I recently had a post about choosing the order in which you read your books from your TBR pile. How do YOU determine which books you’ll read and in what order?
Amber: I wish there was a method but it’s random based on what is happening in my life or some tenuous connection to the last book I read. Recently one of my writing friends moved to Sweden and I found myself reading Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell which is set in Sweden. Hearing about the country for a few weeks before her move really brought Sweden to the forefront of my thoughts.
Another time I read Old Books, Rare Friends by Madeline B. Stern and Leona Rostenberg. They are book collectors with a longstanding friendship. It gave me enough knowledge about book collecting to really appreciate the next book I read which was The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte. The Club Dumas features a book detective who finds and verifies the authenticity of rare books. I had no idea they would pair so well together.
Q. What would you say is one of the most rewarding things you’ve found about book blogging?
Amber: On a personal level it’s nice to have on record what I thought of the book at the time I read it. My thoughts often mellow or the details about a book will become fuzzy as time goes on.
On a professional level I think it’s great when someone remarks they thought the same thing about the book or that the review I wrote made them want to buy it. I’ve always been a reader and it’s encouraging to know with multiple studies declaring reading is declining in the US that there are other readers out there.
Q. Are there other book blogs that you enjoy lurking around? What makes them special and worthy of your time?
Amber: There are a few I visit on a regular basis. The one thing they have in common is their unique blogging voice. It’s almost like reading the thoughts of a far away friend.
Damian Daily – I never know what’s going to be reviewed next sprinkled with stories about her daughters is what keeps me coming back. Her reviews are well written and the stories about her daughters usually crack me up.
Devourer of Books – She reads books so fast my jaw drops. I like her reviews, her monthly wrap-ups and her thank you post to blog visitors.
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin? – Her blog posts are funny but she’s serious about her
books. She strikes a good balance between being funny and being serious.
Maw Books Blog – Natasha has a variety of book reviews and author interviews on her blog. She has similar reading tastes to one of my sister-in-laws so I get a lot of gift ideas from her.
Q. You have had some of your book reviews published, what motivated you to pursue publishing and how did you go about pursing that option?
Amber: Believe it or not, I kind of fell into the published book reviews. I noticed OnceWritten.com was requesting reviewers so I followed the query instructions about book reviewing. At first I thought I could just review anything I wanted as long as the author had three or fewer published books. (OnceWritten.com is a source for new and emerging authors.) It didn’t take me long to find out OnceWritten.com has books sent to them with a request to review them. The available books are what I have to choose from.
Rhonda Parrish at Niteblade knew me from NaNoWriMo and is one of my good writing friends. She asked if I’d be interested in writing reviews for her magazine and I said, “Sure thing!”
Q. Who are your favorite authors presently?
Amber: I’ll keep it brief – there are so many!
Three of my favorites are David Eggers, John Irving and Joss Whedon. Eggers has so many interests and has written so much good stuff (fiction and non-fiction) it’s hard to believe he has the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. Irving’s novels always seem to reflect the humor and heartbreak in life. I know, Whedon hasn’t written any novels, but he writes great graphic novels, TV scripts and screenplays. Whenever I watch or read any of his work I instantly become a young kid again who hopes there will be a happy ending for the good guys.
Q. You are an author, yourself; who would you say has influenced the way you write?
Amber: You ask a tough question, Jen! I wish I could say so-and-so has influenced my style but I haven’t been able to pinpoint any one person.
As for my writing method, I can point to Anne Lamont as an influence. Her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life hit home with me that what I write doesn’t have to be perfect when it reaches the page or computer screen. Revisions make it better. The important thing is to write down all the words first.
Q. When you aren’t writing, reviewing or blogging, what keeps you busy?
Amber: Watching movies! If I’m not reading something it’s safe to bet that I’m watching a movie. It’s been many years but I think the most I ever watched in one week was 54 during a film festival.
Q. Which would be the top five books you would recommend to other people from your 2008 reads to date?
Amber: In order that I read them, I’d recommend these five books:
Woman’s Best Friend: Women Writers on the Dogs in their Lives by Pam Houston and Meg McMorris – I’m a dog lover and the stories Houston and McMorris picked for this collection is amazing. Some are funny and others are just heartbreaking. I still think about some of the women and their dogs even though it’s been months since I read this book.
About Alice by Calvin Trillin – I’ve not read anything else by Trillin and most of the anecdotes about his late wife can be found in his other books. This book reminded me of a long love letter and brought tears to my eyes.
The Hunters by Claire Messud – This book is actually two novellas that complement each other. Messud is one of the best at meandering. Her characters thoughts explore seemingly unrelated tangents. It isn’t until several pages later that you realize she’s come full circle on the thought.
Red Ant House by Ann Cummins – Many of the stories are set on Indian reservations and feature characters who feel like outsiders. Whether the story is contemporary or set in the past she creates characters with recognizable qualities.
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida – The main character, Clarissa, learns the day of her father’s funeral that he’s not her biological father. She goes on a journey to Finland to discover more truths and decide what kind of future she wants. This novel has a tightly written narrative the likes of which I haven’t seen in a long time.