Friday, 16 July 2010

Blogger Inquest - Ana & Thea (The Book Smugglers)

I am completely honoured to welcome Ana and Thea from The Book Smugglers to the Blogger Inquest interview series. They are paragons of literary reviewing might as well as recipients of the 2009 Best Collaborative Blog and Best Graphic Book Review Blog awards while also nominated for most humorous blog. They've been going strong since 2008 representing both the US and the UK in the YA book bloggerdom.

They're smart, witty and honest ladies who write fantastic reviews, provide stellar reading recommendations and are a shining example of quality book blogging. I want to claim their brains as my own. They inspire me to think more thoroughly, push harder, think creatively and be a better reviewer in general.

The purpose of the Blogger Inquest is to delve into a specific blogger's mind and experiences online. To be up front, I presented each of the interview subjects with 21 questions to choose from and they took it from there. This is a month long series of interviews on Persnickety Snark and I've got a whole host of bloggers (new and old) lined up.

Blogging can be unbelievably supportive and sometimes catty environment – what three guidelines do you find to be good rules to live by in the blogging world?
Ana: I think that the most important thing is to always be respectful when writing a review, especially a negative one or when replying to comments. I also try and stay out of Internet brouhahas as much as possible. Every time I feel inclined to comment somewhere, I take a step back away from the computer. If there is a particular problematic discussion happening in our blog, then I try NOT to comment/reply when I am angry or stressed. I take some time off to think about what I am going to say, or talk to Thea before replying. That usually serves to calm me down. So the three “R” rules would be: Respect, Restraint and Reflect.

Thea: LOL, the three "R"s. I likey! I think Ana and I are pretty good at setting up our site as a DRAMA FREE zone. We're pretty good about ranting to each other should any drama arise (on our blog or elsewhere), talking it out in extensive emails and really taking our time to cool down before posting anything or replying to any potentially catty or inflammatory comments.

Characterise yourself as a blog reader – monogamous, flirty or slutty? Lurker or commenter?
Ana: hummm all of the above? I read so many blogs daily! I sometimes read only the ones I already know, but often go around looking for new ones. There are times when I just want to read YA blogs, then I go through a period of reading only the Fantasy ones. And I go through periods where I always comment and periods where I only lurk. I am a Gemini, if you think that explains anything. *ninja*

Thea: I'm pretty damn monogamous. I find a blog I like, and I am loyal to that blog until the bitter end. I will admit that I do a lot of lurking - from the comfort of my pretty, organized google reader. Now that's not to say I don't read other blogs - because I do! But my feed reader is for my absolute favorites, my MUST READ OR DIE blogs. It's an exclusive club ;) (*snorts* Of course, this is all just in my head, by my standards. I'm pretty sure no one cares if they're in my feed reader!)

For the life of me I cannot find it within myself to like Ann Brashares work. Is there an author whose work you find yourself irrationally disliking?
Ana: Do you know, I can’t think of any? I am sure there must be something…I just can’t think of it now!

Thea: Oh that's ok dearest Ana, cuz I've got a few. *rubs hands together eeeeevilly* Anne Bishop - I cannot STAND her plotting or the shameless exploitative nature of her relationships. Lilith Saintcrow - because repetition really pisses me off. Kresley Cole - because of EVERYTHING. Maggie Stiefvater - I cannot for the life of me get into any of her books (and believe me, I've tried). Ann Aguirre - because again, repetition and pitiful plotting.

I'll go hide from the angry fans now.

Blogger envy – do you get it and what over?
Ana: OMG yes: Angieville. I have the biggest blog-crush on Angie’s blog, because her posts are always so heartfelt and when she talks about a book she loves I feel like I am sitting in a room having tea with Angie whilst she tells ME and only ME about it. There is a sense of intimacy there is just beautiful, and I can’t tell you how many books I bought because Angie loved them.

Thea: Awww, I love Angie too (she's in THE FEED READER)! But my biggest blogger envy is probably for the folks behind Fantasy Book Critic - they write awesome reviews, they post more frequently than Ana and I do, and I always discover new books at their site. AWESOME.

Newest old find that you wish you had read years ago?
Ana: This one is easy: that would be Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen Thief series (which not surprisingly I picked up because of…Angie) . I found them last year, devoured The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia in three days and never looked back. The Thief has been since the late 90s and I never heard of these before Angie started talking about them but now they are on the top of my favorite reads of all time. I adore these books like you wouldn’t know.

Thea: (*snorts* believe me, I've heard more about Megan Whalen Turner's damn books than you can possibly imagine) For me, I'm gonna go with the incomparable work of Stephen Baxter. I ONLY discovered Mr. Baxter last year, and have since been devouring his backlist. He writes hard science fiction Thea-crack. There are no words to explain my love for his books.

How aware (and/or supportive) are people in your everyday life of your blogging?
Ana: Oh everybody and their dogs know about the blog. Friends, family, colleagues, even my boss knows about it. In fact, my boss is probably my most ardent fan, whenever we have a visitor to our office he introduces everybody by their job titles except for me. I am always: “This is Ana, she has a fabulous blog called The Book Smugglers”. It is way embarrassing but also very cool. So yeah, everybody is aware but I don’t think most of them actually read the blog because the genres I read are not “real” books (yeah, direct quote from some of my friends) . My partner is very supportive though even if he doesn’t read (at all) !

Thea: It's pretty much the same story for me! At my last job (finance analyst), NO ONE knew a thing about my blog. At my current job, yeah, they know about TBS...but don't really go to the site at all. My mom knows, my sisters know, and they are supportive...even though they don't read the site at all! My boyfriend knows and at least scans our reviews - like Ana's partner, mine doesn't read books. Which is pretty bizarre, given how much I read! Despite that difference, he's the most supportive person ever.

What word is most overused on your blog?
Ana: I am pretty sure I use “awesome” more than I should. Sometimes I have to refrain myself from using when writing a review…”hey, haven’t I just used this word yesterday?”. I honestly use a dictionary sometimes just so that I can find different words for “awesome”.

Thea: Yep, I was gonna go with AWESOME too (although we only use it when it's deserved, of course!).

Writing a book review (for a title you’d ideally like to marry if legally possible) is one of the tougher tasks for a book reviewer. What is your approach to writing an informed, glowing review?
Ana: Do you know, I don’t think writing a glowing review is a tough task at all…it is actually the easiest one to write, I love writing reviews for awesome books. I also find writing negative reviews for books I didn’t like, easy. It is the ones that stand in between, the not AWESOME, but also not BAD ones that I find hard to write because I need to explain what makes it good without making it AWESOME. Or how the minor problems I had actually don’t make it that bad. And of course, they are the majority of books out there – the books that are Good but not One of Those. Do you know what I mean? (also, see what I mean about “awesome”? It is a default word).

Thea: Oh, I think I'm on the other side of the spectrum here. I'm gonna say that Ana writes more gushing reviews than I do, on a more frequent basis. I don't think there's ANYTHING wrong with that - provided that one explains what, exactly, is so gush-worthy (like she obviously does). But for me...I always feel a little bit uncomfortable writing a "ZOMG THIS BOOK IS AWESOME" kind of review. I think it goes back to the three "R" rule again - especially with regards to the restraint "R". 10 rated reviews are really, really rare for me - and unless a book is absolutely, positively perfect, I'm not really comfortable gushing. Hell, even if it IS perfect, I'm not comfortable gushing. But I chalk that up to a personality difference - Ana is a little more... exuberant than I (which balances us out pretty well, I think!). My approach to writing a glowing review is no different than my approach to writing any review - I go over the story itself, discuss the level of writing/pacing, the characters, and point out anything I especially loved (or hated). Voila!

You can find Ana and Thea at the following places:
The Book Smugglers


Steph Su said...

Ohmygoodness. Angie. YES.

You are all made of win, that is all I have to say. :)

CeeCee said...

A great batch of questions with great answers.
I'm fairly sure there is a lot of blogger envy for the book smugglers.
The r's are a great rule.
I love this series of questions


Angiegirl said...

Aw, man. You gu-uys!

I still remember the first time I ran across your blog. It was clear even then The Book Smugglers and Angieville were going to get along just fiiiine.

And it's a tribute to your reviewing skills that I always feel like I know how I'll feel about a book, but never feel spoiled, when I finish reading them.

Chachic said...

I'm actually surprised that The Book Smugglers feel blogger envy because they are AWESOME (I use that word a lot too) but then so is Angie so I guess I understand where they're coming from. I've gotten some pretty great recommendations from both Ana and Thea and I like their style of reviewing because even though they do lengthy reviews, they never include spoilers. Also, I'm always curious about books that they give a rating of 10 because it rarely happens.

Michelle said...

Love the 3Rs! Love Ana and Thea! Loads of love going on here :)