Each year during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, we have the opportunity to be paired up with another blogger and to get to know him or her better through an interview post. It’s also a chance for our readers to be introduced to another book blog and someone who might broaden one’s literary horizons.
I was thrilled to be paired up with Julie from My Book Retreat. Julie’s blog is no stranger to my Google Reader; I was already a subscriber before this year’s BBAW and I was delighted to discover the same is true with her.
One of the downsides of reading so many blogs via a reader is that you don’t often see the actual blog layout – which is why I didn’t know that Julie has my blog included among those in her blogroll. I’m very appreciative of that, and I’m equally grateful to Julie for her patience this week as I scrambled amidst a bit of chaos to get this interview completed.
And now, without further ado, I give you Julie from My Book Retreat.
Melissa: I noticed you are a fan of historical fiction. That’s a genre I’m just starting to get into. What would be some book recommendations (or authors) you could suggest for those new to the genre?
Julie: Most of the historical fiction I’ve read has been with my neighborhood book club, and some of my all-time favorite books are within this genre. For someone who has not read a lot of historical fiction, my advice would be to choose a time frame or location that is of most interest to you, because that will definitely impact your enjoyment of the story.
Some of my favorites are The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, and Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill are excellent too, but they’re much more complex and long. You might start with one of the others first, or search for books that take place during a time period that interests you.
Melissa: Tell me about your job as a content strategist. I would imagine that helps with the blog …or does it feel more like “bringing your work home”?
Julie: One of the tough parts about writing book reviews is that I spend my entire day writing, editing and dealing with web content, so it is hard to get into the swing of writing reviews at night. I have to say that’s one of my biggest challenges. But I love reviewing books and I love my job, so it all works out in the end!
In my job, I’m responsible for all of the “content” on my company’s website. Actually, I work for a huge company, so it’s really all of the content on a smaller website within their website. But what matters is that I write every piece of copy on the site, and I help make decisions about what copy, videos, white papers, case studies and other items go on which pages. I also have input into what pages we have on our site and how they are organized. I’ve been a web writer and editor for a long time but have only been a content strategist since the start of the year and I have to say I love it!
Melissa: You’re hosting the Non-Fiction Non Memoir Reading Challenge (while I’m the host of the Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge 🙂 (Note: I’m participating in the Non-Fiction Non Memoir Challenge.) What suggestions or tips do you have for others contemplating hosting a reading challenge?
Julie: Borrow from others! I’m serious. When I started my challenge, I first visited other challenge pages to get ideas for what sorts of policies to put into place and how to organize it. Also, only commit to what you think you can do. I set my challenge up with a range of levels. I didn’t choose to participate at the highest level, but I included that high level for others who might want to commit to that. I also think having a linky for not only sign ups but also reviews helps. I know I love to have a place to link up my reviews when I participate in challenges.
Melissa: What are your 5 favorite books read in 2012?
Julie: My favorites so far this year are Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen, and The Mine by John A. Heldt (I’ll be talking about this one on my blog on Thursday – haven’t written the review yet).
Melissa: Tell me about your neighborhood book club.
Julie: I joined the book club when I first moved to my neighborhood in 2006. It was started by a group of women who live on my street a few years before I moved in. It’s a great group of about 15 women, and we meet monthly. We take turns hosting; when it’s our turn to host, we provide snacks, desserts and drinks, and oversee the discussion. Generally we spend the first hour or so just socializing and trying whatever the featured drink of the night is! Then we move to the living room to discuss the book. While most hostesses have a list of questions, we often discuss the book in a more unstructured way. It’s a lot of fun and has helped me discover many books that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise.
One of the nice things about our book club is that the hostess chooses 3-4 books and then we have a Yahoo group where we vote for our favorite. This way, the hostess can choose some books she’d like to discuss, but the club as a whole gets to choose the specific book we read.
Melissa: I love how you incorporate your kids’ reading into your blog. What books would THEY recommend to others?
Julie: I’m guessing my son, who is in 3rd grade, would recommend the following series: Harry Potter (he’s read the first four books), Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dragonbreath, and Origami Yoda. My daughter, who is in kindergarten, would recommend these series: Elephant and Piggie, Fly Guy, Biscuit and The Pet Club Series.
Melissa: What do you find to be the most challenging part of blogging?
Julie: Finding the time to blog. I have two kids and a husband. I work full time and so does my husband, so our time with each other and our kids is in the evenings and on the weekends. I feel bad ignoring all of them to sit at my computer and blog (as I’m doing right now!). I also love to read, which is why I started my book blog. So I find myself reading when I have some free time, rather than blogging.
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