Ah, Book Blog Spotlight, my favourite bit of a week. How I miss you when you are not here.
Review blogs are well established by now as one of the best and most popular routes by which readers find recommendations for good quality books in the endless slush pile of new and otherwise unknown authors. This is word of mouth, made grand and far-reaching by the power of the internet age, and in this column we will spotlight a different blog each week to talk about what they review, how and why.
This week, one of the old guard of book blogging: Grasping for the Wind! Here to talk about science fiction, fantasy, and getting talked into blogging by friends who think you’re a loudmouth.
CQ: To start us off, can you tell us a bit about your site and what new readers can expect?
Grasping for the Wind is one of the old biddies of book blogging. I’ve been reviewing science fiction and fantasy eclectically since 2004 and to be honest, you can’t ever be sure what to expect. That said, I have a good team of writers helping me (and always looking for more!) one of whom writes and interview a week with SF/F’s top names and another whose semi-daily roundups of geek news from around the web is one of the most succinct places to learn about everything from art, movies, books/comics, tech, science, and beyond.
CQ: What made you start the blog?
I originally started out when a friend of mine said, “Hey you’re opinionated, so why don’t you start a blog on this host I’ve created?” So I did. I began with personal stuff, but after a while just started writing about what I was reading, others discovered me and liked what I had to say so I kept writing. Then I put in a lot of time garnering a name and a reputation for honest reviewing, and the rest just grew naturally.
CQ: You do not currently review self-published books. What catalyzed this decision? Did you try it (and if so what was your experience), or is it just something you’ve never fancied?
I’ve read self-published books. (You almost have to when you are starting out.) I found them (in 2005, mind) to be almost universally bad. That has since changed with the growth of eBooks, and I have on occasion reviewed a self-published book by an established author. In other words, if you have already proved yourself with the gatekeepers – be they big publishers, small press, or successful Kindle, etc. sales – then I might just give it a try. Still, there is so much traditionally published, and the good self-published stuff often gets re-published (e. g. Michael Sullivan) that I’ll let others do the work of weeding out the chaff and stick to reviewing books I actually want to read.
I also found that self-published authors are less forgiving, less charitable, and less professional when given a bad review. Such behavior is an instant turn-off, and since I blog as a hobby, I don’t need the grief.
CQ: Similarly, you review hard copy only. What are your opinions on the eBook revolution, and is it something you might consider in future?
I love the eBook Revolution! Now I have someplace to keep all those books I want to read but don’t have shelf-space for! However, I don’t review them for one simple reason; I don’t own an eBook reader. I’ve always been a slow adopter of technology due not to lack of desire, but lack of funds. My hard-copy only rule is forced on me by circumstance. Should I feed my growing family, or buy an eBook reader that will be technologically obsolete a month after I buy it? No brainer decision. And though I have read on a borrowed Kindle, and enjoyed the convenience and portability, I still do enjoy holding paper in my hands.
CQ: What anticipated new releases are you really looking forward to in 2012?
I rarely look ahead. If one of my favorite authors, liked Terry Pratchett, Brandon Sanderson, Neil Gaiman, etc. have a book coming out then I tend to anticipate it. So too, any books published in the Forgotten Realms milieu, but otherwise I let books come to me and pick and choose what seems most fitting to my whim of the moment. The result allows me to read broadly within genre, and not be pigeonholed by categories.
CQ: Since you started, do you find you read more, less, or about the same? Has the act of reviewing, of recording the strengths and weaknesses of a book for your followers, changed the experience of reading for you?
Truth be told, it cycles. At one time, I read two books a month and posted in-depth reviews. Then I was reading a book a week for a year or two and posting reviews as often. I felt that I was only giving surface treatment to a lot for those books. Now I read just as much, but review less, preferring to spend time on an in-depth analysis of a book. It will cycle back as my personal circumstances change, as it always has.
CQ: Who are your favourite authors – both lifetime friends and ‘flavour of the month’?
I mentioned a few already, and here are some more: Brent Weeks, Peter V. Brett, Poul Anderson, Orson Scott Card, George R. R. Martin, Robert V. S. Redick, David Eddings, R. A. Salvatore, John Scalzi.
CQ: Which two books would you recommend to a person new to the Sword & Sorcery genre?
For those new to sword and sorcery I would recommend the anthology THE SWORD AND SORCERY ANTHOLOGY, edited by David Hartwell and Jacob Weisman, which mixes old and new S&S for a broad spectrum overview that really captures the multitude of flavors. I reviewed it story by story HERE.
You might also give any Forgotten Realms novel a try, though I would start with the Erevis Cale trilogy by Paul S. Kemp. It’s a good introduction to the world and the anti-heroes that can inhabit it.
CQ: And finally, use this space to give a shout-out to one of your own favourite book blogs.
Hmmm. That is a tough one. I don’t read many book blogs anymore (their thoughts crowd out my review voice) but the communal site Fantasy Literature
is consistently good and broad in their coverage. The folks over at Fantasy Faction
are pretty awesome too, if fantasy is your game.