This post is something that was inspired by conversations that have stemmed on the part of the blogger blackout in discussions on Twitter via the tags of #HaleNo and #BloggerYes. In this conversation, I talk about how I started as a book blogger, my perspective on the roles I take on in this identity, how I handle controversy, and other fun bits. I’m hoping this starts a much longer conversation in terms of allowing you guys to get to know me, and also contributing to the larger roles of blogging and contributions made in the book community. If you guys have any suggestions for questions, please feel free to comment, I may even feature your question as this moves forward!
Q: How did you get your start as a book blogger?
I’ve had my mainstay blog, “Writing Through Rose-Tinted Glasses” since about 2007, though it used to be under a different name: “Media Through Rose-Tinted Glasses.” The blog was a showcase of different forms of media I perused, whether it was music (including Japanese and Korean Pop/Rock) of different languages and genres, anime, TV series or movies, among other forms. It started as just a way to reflect upon the media I picked up and recommended by choice. It was a fun way to pass the time, and it was something I maintained while taking undergrad and graduate courses at my universities.
I think the shift to reviewing books occurred as I was reading more and rediscovering a love for that, though I’ve always been an avid reader and writer. It really wasn’t difficult for me to shift to book reviews since I’d already been writing reviews in various capacities of other media, but I think it was definitely a transition since I started becoming involved in specific book communities. My first communities were Goodreads and Librarything back in 2010 (I joined around the same few months), but ultimately Goodreads became my first mainstay book community. I connected with a lot of people there and – at the time – it was the easiest of the communities for me to navigate and share reflections on what I read.
When I realized I could cross-post my reviews from Goodreads to my blog, I jumped at the chance to do that. And since then, reflecting upon the things I’ve read has become a very prominent (and fun!) part of my life. I’ve since expanded sharing reviews on multiple communities (BookLikes, Leafmarks, etc.)
Q: How do you read so many books so quickly?!
Rose: *laughs* I’m a creature of habit. In my college years, I had to cultivate a very healthy and heavy reading habit, considering I had textbooks, supplementary books, and academic journals to read. Much of that being very heavily in the health sciences, which is my degree field. And if you can believe it, I would read sometimes to take a “break” from all that reading, so I ended up having a very disciplined approach to my reading habits. I never thought to write reviews on what I read, but when I put two and two together in terms of what I was already reviewing, I figured “Why not?”
I’ve had a very diverse and quick reading habit since I was younger too. I think when I was in middle school I read something like 400+ books in a summer. It was crazy! I think my reading speed now is something like 1300-1400 words a minute and I can read a 250 page book in an hour or two if I’m uninterrupted and really into what I’m reading. Most days (with a day job and multiple responsibilities), I don’t always have that uninterrupted time, but when I can make time, I try to do my best to read what I can. I love doing it.
I try to approach reading like a muscle I keep building strength upon. I read in different genres, I try to read around the same times (when I commute to work, lunch breaks, an hour or two before I go to bed), and as I mentioned, it’s a matter of habit, so I just build upon that and go from there.
Q: What kinds of books do you typically read?
Rose: That’s like asking me what brand of chocolate I most like. I try them all, and love a variety! I started blogging mostly about middle grade and YA when I first started blogging, but then it grew to non-fiction and health/self-help when I realized I could take some of the books that I read relating to my career passions and interests. It’s since grown even more than that. I think I’m at a stage where I can say that no genre or age group in my reading is outside of my consideration, though sometimes it’s a test of wills because there are some genres that appeal to me more (YA, non-fiction) while others were a struggle – for me personally – to get into, either at first or at present (erotica, new adult).
Q: What books do you tend to struggle with and why?
Rose: Ideally, I’m open to anything and everything, but I’ve reached a point where I know what makes me tick: I’m not into books that are a by-the-book formula where I can tell what’s coming a mile away. I like to be surprised, and I like to really get into the experiences of the characters I read about. I struggle also with books where motivations of the characters are undefined. When I say undefined, I mean I like a balance of not knowing what the characters are thinking and being able to figure for myself “Ooh! So that’s why they were thinking and acting the way they were!” If it’s overtly telegraphed to me, or there’s no possibility of lining up that character’s motivation with their actions, that tends to turn me off.
Lastly, I’m of an open mind to incorporating a multitude of different types of characters and diversity in literature. I struggle with narratives that don’t present characters of various diversities in a positive or realistic light. I try to point that out when and where I see it in my reflections, so as to help people understand why it tends to be a turn off and why I get upset over it. Being a woman of color myself, I feel that it’s important people see when, why, and where this is an issue.
Q: You write a lot of critical and expansive reviews; is this a challenge?
Rose: It can be a challenge, because I think there’s various expectations and approaches for how different people approach reading and reflecting upon books in general. My approach and methodology may not be the same as someone else’s. I’m totally respectful of and eager to peruse the diversity/various ways I see people reading and reflecting on and in their reviews.
I read books for various reasons: for enjoyment, for enlightenment, for critical assessment, for just a multitude of reasons that don’t fall into one scope. I love to read, simply put, and I love the experience that each book provides me, even if I end up not liking a work. It may be that I dislike a text, but the conversation I have about it with someone else provides a very valuable experience where I learn a lot from it, and I’m a lover of knowledge/learning. It can be difficult if I read a series of books that challenge me in one steady stream, but that just gives me motivation to shift gears and read something else for another reason/motivation and then jump back and forth as I go along. I think the most challenging thing can be to know how to put my reflections in words, because I know that I’m critical, and by that, it may not sit well with everyone. But I say that critique’s a necessary thing because promoting dialogue about and around books of various measures feels like the most important thing to me, not just for books I love, but also for books that I may not like as much (or even hate, if you want to put it that way!)
Q: How do you deal with critical assessments of your reviews?
Rose: This is a challenge that a book blogger may face that isn’t often addressed, but I think it’s important to do it because this comes up more often now than not, especially in the realm of social media and sharing your perspectives in such an open environment. You’re going to come across a diversity of people who have different means of and voices sharing/reflecting upon what they read. Some only choose to blog about books they like, some may be more exclusively critical, some in the far between and beyond. I think that’s important to understand in order to realize not just the diversity of opinions that are out there, but the reactions that may come to those reactions. By doing so, there’s better understanding of why it happens and how to approach it, especially if some rough exchanges occur.
Having said that, there are times when – as a book blogger – you may have people who disagree with your assessment of a work, passively or actively. I usually write reviews based on my personal and mindful reactions to a work and I write them for myself, from myself. It’s a catharsis and a way that allows me to express my reactions, and it can be a (direct/indirect) promotional thing, but I don’t think of reflecting upon books as “just” promotional, or primarily promotional. Whomever finds my reviews can peruse them as they will for what they offer and make decisions to read/peruse based on that if they wish. If a person reacts critically to my criticisms of a work (I’d say Inception, but that’s a joke that’s been used one too many times), I mostly take it for what it is and deal with it on an individual basis.
I think people need to remember that book bloggers have a diversity of voices and have a right to express how they react to a work in a free environment. Their spaces and the environment in which they express such reflections, regardless of what they are, need to be respected. I take on the idea that the freedom of interpretations on a book (or any creative medium or service, for that matter) are a welcome thing, positive, critical or the wide-range between. I try to stress that in any exchange which my approach may be challenged or a source of disagreement. I write critically and strongly because I am passionate about what I read and that is sourced from my knowledge, experiences, and previous things I read or have written about, and that’s another thing I stress for understanding the place from where it comes. I only hope that people can respect that for what it is.
Q: Do you have any book crushes?
Rose: I plead the fifth!!! Too many to name, really. I tend to like characters that are smart, charming, and/or funny. (If a character can make me laugh, bonus!) Or they have a sense of justice and way of standing up to adversity.
If push comes to shove, I’ll defer to Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. I also love Samwise from Lord of the Rings, and Sherlock Holmes. There are many others, so it’s just the tip of the iceberg. 🙂
Q: What do you love most about being a book blogger?
Rose: I don’t think it’s just one thing. I love the diversity of literature that I read, I love the communities, the people that I meet and read opinions from. I love discussions over what I read and being able to have the camaraderie that I have with people, even if I may not share the same views as others on a work or set of works. I keep coming back to it for more, and I’m just happy that I have the chance to be a part of the experience.