Friday, February 27, 2015

February Firsts: Ryan of Wordsmithsonia - First Book Boyfriend

Welcome back to the blog, Ryan from Wordsmithsonia!

We all remember our first time.  It's a little hard to forget the way your heart sped up, or the way you forgot to breathe.  You had that tingly feeling in the pit of your stomach, you know the one I'm talking about, it was the one that wouldn't leave you for days.  You had to have more, and the idea of not spending time with him, made that feeling turn into painful disappointment.  You needed to hear his voice, gaze into his eyes, feel his arms wrapped around you, and no matter how much you desire it, craved it, it was never going to be.  For those of us who get lost in a book, falling in love isn't always as easy as asking for his number.  Every once in a while falling in love sucks.  There is no number to get, no flirtatious looks you can use to your advantage, it's a little hard to get the man of your drams when he only exists on paper.

Vanyel Ashkevron
The first man I met, that I knew I couldn't have, was Herald Mage Vanyel Ashkevron.  I was just out of college, and I hadn't really had a lot of time to explore gay fictional characters over the last few years.  In high school the only books I could find were what some would call the "gay classics," written way before me time.  They, for the most part, had depressed men, living sad depressed lives, and rarely had a happy ending.  So I ignored the works of Jean Genet, James Baldwin, E.M. Forester, Christopher Isherwood, and others.  I'm not saying they were all bleak and depressing, but I had enough of that crap in high school.  By this stage in my young life, I was hooked on fantasy and I got turned onto the Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.  I believe it was one of my brief boyfriends who told me to read them, and once I started Magic's Pawn, I was hooked. 

Vanyel is not my normal type.  I generally stay clear of long hair on men, it's never done much for me in the past.  Nor do I like someone who can be so self effacing and arrogant, all within 5 minutes, but there was something about him that had me captivated from the start.  Through the course of three books, Vanyel went from a confused, lonely, sullen teenager to a strongly selfless man who was willing to sacrifice himself for those he loved.  What made me fall for him though, was that he's the perfect guy.  He's caring, intelligent, has a wicked sense of humor, hot as hell, has gifted hands, emotionally sensitive, physically strong, has the voice of an angel, and is as gay as I am.

He was the first openly gay character, from a non gay author, that I can remember coming across that wasn't a negative stereotype.  He was a fully fleshed out human being, who loved and lost, bled the same way we all do, and doesn't allow those around him to define who he is.  He was not only the perfect man to fall in love with, but he was the perfect example of what I wanted to be as an openly gay man.

I still visit him about once a year.  I still get those fuzzy feelings in my stomach when he makes his first appearance.  I still smile when he first deals with his attraction to Tylendel.  I still share in his anguish when his first love is ripped away from him.  I rejoice when his life is slowly put back together, and eventually finds himself fin the arms of Stefan.  And by the time I'm done with the third book, Magic's Price, I still have tears in my eyes, bereft at the sacrifice that they had to make.  I"m still a little in love with Vanyel, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thanks for sharing, Ryan!!

Leave a comment for Ryan below!  Maybe share your own first book love!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February Firsts: Kelly Rogers - First Graphic Novels

Please welcome Kelly from The Written World to the blog today!

Let's face facts... I used to think I was not a graphic novel person. I wanted to be, but I didn't understand how a graphic novel could be anything as wonderful as a full-length novel. And, it came down to finances. I read fast. How was I supposed to justify reading something that cost so much in less than an hour?

So, graphic novels just circulated around me and I held my wallet close. In 2006, I read what I consider my first graphic novels, namely Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. They were review copies, though, so I didn't feel as stressed about the financial side of things. And, I admit that I loved them! But, I still wasn't clicking with the medium. As a result it was not until 2009 that I finally braved the graphic novel world...

Every year for Christmas my 'big gift' is gift cards to buy books with... I decided this was the year that I was going to be brave and buy some graphic novels that I had been hearing good things about: Maus and Fables. (Now that I look back on that, those were two very different experiences to start with!) It didn't matter though
because it happened! It clicked! And, now I may be a graphic novel junkie. By the end of 2009, I was caught up with Fables. And, I consider it my first graphic novel love because it has been an on-going love. I still get excited with every release.

I am not sure if I would have taken to graphic novels if I had never started this blog. It was all because of glowing posts and pressure from other bloggers that I even ventured into the medium. And, even then, I was reluctant. But, it has lead to many other firsts and I hope it continues to inspire great experiences in my reading. Fables may be coming to an end this year; but it will always hold a special spot on my shelves and you never forget your first love....


Thank you for sharing today, Kelly!

Leave a comment for Kelly below!

Friday, February 20, 2015

February Firsts: Violet Crush - First Books That Hooked Me On Reading

Today welcome Violet Crush to BBI!  
I started reading when I was around 15. People often ask me how I became such an avid reader. My mom and dad enjoy reading occasionally but having 3 daughters didn't give them enough time to indulge in it. 
There was a girl who lived in the apartment above us who was my younger sister's age. We used to go to her house sometimes to spend time after school. One day she showed us a tattered copy of 'Round the World in 80 days by Jules Verne'. I took it home to read and finished it in a few hours. I loved it. As we didn't have any compulsory classic reads for English class, this was my first tryst with a full-fledged novel. I wanted to return it but she forgot and I didn't remind her either. I thought I'd read it one more time before returning but I never got around to it. 
After my first read, I became very curious and went to the school library to explore. I read a lot of Nancy Drew books sitting in the library. After a few months my dad gave me a book that someone had gifted him. It was 'The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn'.  A 500 page book published in 1973 on the Soviet forced labour camp system might have been a little too heavy for a 15-year-old but I read the whole book nonetheless. I've read a lot of books since then but these 2 books have a special place in my heart. 
I always tell people it's never too late to acquire a love for reading. Some people are lucky to have it right from their childhood and some are lucky to discover the world of books later on. It's just a matter of finding that 'one' book to get you hooked. Either way, all's well that ends well.
What book(s) got you hooked on reading?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February Firsts: Melody - The First Book I Bought as a Child/Teenager

Today, please welcome Melody, who blogs at Melody's Reading Corner from Singapore!

I couldn't remember the exact time I first started picking up a book (probably when I was in Primary 3), but I could remember very well the first book I received as a gift - Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

Books are considered a rare gift in my family, not that my parents didn't encourage reading but books are considered expensive in those days (well they still are) and most of all, I could always go to libraries for books. To earn more income for the family my mother became a babysitter (or a nanny) to a family with two young children (during those days it was very common for middle-aged housewives to be babysitters. These days, however, is hard to even find a nanny since most would rather employ foreign domestic helpers as not only they could help take care of the children but they could do household chores as well.)

Anyway, the children's mother worked full time in an office and as a child she gave me the impression of a modern woman who is generous and knew how to dress well. And every Christmas she would give my younger sister and I presents. I remember there was one time in which she asked me what I wanted for a Christmas present, and without hesitation I told her I wanted a book. I wish I have a picture of the edition I owned but it was lost during the move. I googled it and the picture below is the edition I used to have.
Black Beauty is a great classic, and now looking back I can understand why this book makes a great gift to children and adults alike. While this book is written in the style of an animal autobiography, it is also very much a story that teaches its readers to be kind, sympathetic, and respectful in general, be it people or animals.

By the time I got into secondary school, I decided to use some of the money I saved to buy books. Nancy Drew books remain my favourites and I bought my first Nancy Drew's -  "The Mystery of the 99 Steps." Imagine the exhilaration I felt for getting my hands on it! My reading horizons have also expanded during that time, since the secondary school library has so much varieties as compared to the primary school's. Barbara Cartland's, the Sweet Dreams series of numerous standalone teen romances (such wonderful memories as I think they are all out of print now) were my favourites too.

It is no surprise I later signed up to be the school librarian (I'd participated in playing volleyball and was a cadet with the school's St. John Ambulance but being a school librarian remains the top.) Looking back, I am glad my passion for reading continues through adulthood. After all, reading is not only a form of communication but also as an escapism; to promote creativity and analysing things from different perspectives. And last of all, reading is fun.

Thanks so much for sharing today, Melody!

Leave a comment for Melody below!

Friday, February 13, 2015

February Firsts: Tamara - Susanna Sigelbaum

Welcome Tamara from Traveling with T to the blog today!

When Rebecca  put out the call for guest posts for the February theme February Firsts- I at first thought I would write about the first book I loved in the women’s fiction category. Or my first Southern Lit book. Or…. And then.. The book gods smiled upon me and gave me an idea- where I could get a little soap-box bookish and take a trip down memory lane….

Do you remember the Scholastic Book Fair coming to your school when you were a kid? I vividly remember it! Now, if you know me at all- you know it’s been well established that I love the BSC books as a kid and my mom kept me well stocked in them, so I used my allowance at the Scholastic Book Fair for other books. Some were duds. Some were not. But this book was def not a dud. And it’s got some lessons for life- if you are willing to embrace them.

What is this book? It’s SUSANNA SIEGELBAUM GIVES UP GUYS by June Foley!

Being in the 4th/5th grade at the time when I got this book, I was already beginning to see that the smart girl didn’t necessarily get the guy. Why that was I could never figure out- but the jump from lower elementary to upper elementary didn’t just change the recess schedule- it changed the structure in our class.  I was smart (not like super-genius smart- just smart. Like straight A’s smart).  I was already seeing that, a girl, I was expected to downplay my grades to be more appealing and it hurt- because who wants to repress a side of themselves? So, I opted to be smart. To do the best I could in class- to not worry about being popular. Already being known as the bookworm (another ghastly sin), I often wondered why the girl can’t be both smart and popular?

Then Susanna Siegelbaum in her fictional glory entered my life.

The cover shows a pretty girl with a knowing smirk. The cover doesn’t even do justice of revealing what is inside the book. Within the first chapter or so- June Foley has Susanna talking about Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights. The Bronte’s!  And so much more! Susanna was smart AND popular- she dated! She didn’t just date the nerdy guys- she dated the jocks, the regular guys, the hot guys!
And hold on to your hat: SHE LIKED TO READ.

In fact this is a quote:
“In fact next to boys and Cassidy and my family, I liked books better than anything.”
I felt like I had found my soul mate. There was someone out there who knew it was possible for a girl to be smart AND popular. That reading books was not a bad thing.

Did this knowledge help me in my day to day life? Ehh, not so much. But I knew that someone out there knew smart and popular could coexist in the same girl- that there were people out there in the wide world that knew this- and I knew one day I would find these people.

So, thank you Susanna Siegelbaum for being smart and popular. For letting this small town girl know that it was ok to be smart. It was not something to be ashamed of. To hide. To downplay.

Thanks to Becca and Book Bloggers International for letting me talk about the first book that showed a girl who was smart, liked to read, was popular and dated!

Thanks so much for sharing, Tamara!

Please leave a comment for Tamara below!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February Firsts: Serena - For the Love of Poetry

Today, please welcome Serena, from Savvy Verse & Wit, and Poetic Book Tours!

For the Love of Poetry
By: Serena M. Agusto-Cox

Reading is most often a family affair.  Families sit together, curled under blankets with open books.  Young kids are read to, on an almost nightly basis, and kids are reading to their parents as they age.  My own parents may have read, but I never saw it as a kid.  Now, looking back, I wonder how I’ve become the reader I am, not to mention a great lover of poetry, a form many readers are fearful of trying in the first place.

I suppose it was my Nana, my homework sounding board, who introduced me to the classics, like Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and Gaston Leroux.  She was a petite woman, who would quietly steer you in the right direction, and her gentle nudging was almost imperceptible.  The first collection of poems she gave me, Best Loved Poems to Read Again & Again compiled by Mary Sanford Laurence, came on Valentine’s Day.  I was 15 and had been writing my own poems since age 12.  Nana had been the only one who knew.

It’s a great starter collection of poems, including some of the greats from Percy Bysshe Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Oscar Wilde.  Imagine reading these poems as a teen, reading how the fountains and rivers mingle in Shelley’s “Love’s Philosophy.”  I remember reading this poem, which is in the “Affection” section of the book, and thinking how everything in the world is connected!  And even though it’s all connected, there are still differences that make the world and us stand out – the mountains are tall and the rivers are winding.  And yet, while this poem appears to be about affection, it also presents a desire to be loved, and don’t we all want that?

I still have this great collection. It sits on the top shelf of my poetry cabinet.  I still have all the little scraps of paper stuck in the pages of poems that I love.  I’ve never removed them, even as I return to the book and read the poems again and again. 

It is the book that first introduced me to Byron and Blake, propelling me to search for books that contained their other poems.  Many of these poems I bookmarked as a lovesick teen, I now find them sappy.  But they still hold a warm place in my heart because of who gave me the book.

The collection may be without its dust jacket, thanks to several moves after leaving my parents’ house behind after college, but it is in well-preserved condition.  Where does that love of poetry begin?  It begins in the first poem you read and connect with – maybe because someone you love gave you the poem, or maybe because it reminds you of someone you love.  It doesn’t matter where the love of poetry begins, but that it does.

Thank you for sharing, Serena!

Please leave Serena a comment below!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Featuring: Laura from Books Against the Current!

Today please welcome Laura, who blogs at Boats Against the Current.

What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?
Boats against the current' is actually from the closing line of The Great Gatsby: 'So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.' It's one of my favourite quotes from literature, so I decided to use it as my blog name, even if it doesn't have any immediate relevance to books!

How long have you been blogging?

Since July 2014, so only about six months!

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?
I review a huge range of genres from the classics and literary fiction to fantasy, sci-fi and YA. I also do a lot of discussion posts about reading and blogging, and have been known to do the odd post about writing, because that is another of my passions!

What genres do you write about most, and why?
I read most genres, but my all time favourite is definitely fantasy, so I write a lot about that.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?
Hell to the no! At school they used to make us write notes in our books and it was almost physically painful for me!

What's your favorite place to read or blog?
I would love to say I sit at an antique desk in my study surrounded by bookcases full of leather bound books, but admittedly, most of the time I just sit in bed and blog! If I had such a study I would blog there, but unfortunately I don't.

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?
I know a lot of people love 'The Catcher in the Rye', but I started it and just couldn't get into it.

To DNF or not to DNF?
I really hate not finishing books, but I think if a book makes it so that you really don't want to read, or really can't be bothered reading, then you should just admit defeat, and move on to something you're excited to read.

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?
I love writing (both fiction and non-fiction) and photography.

What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?
Most of the time I'm not too keen on book to movie adaptations, but I do love The Lord of the Rings films!

Thank you for joining us today, Laura!

Remember to check out Laura's blog, Boats Against the Current, and leave a comment or question for Laura below!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February Firsts: Jennine G - Two Firsts in a Life of Reading Extremes

Today, please welcome Jennine G of My Life in Books!  

Two Firsts in a Life of Reading Extremes

When one has a hobby, one will sometimes go to extremes to participate in it. The funny thing is, said person doesn't always realize she is going to extremes. Take third grade, nine-year-old me. All she knows is that she would rather be reading than anything else. Conveniently, grandma babysits, so a "stomach ache" is easily feigned and a day of school becomes a day of reading. 

Literature of choice is none other than Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary. The Curious George of dogs, Ribsy gets himself into all kinds of scrapes. And nine-year-old me loves dogs...and Beverly Cleary. Plus, not being an adventurous kid, Ribsy provides a little vicarious fun.

Lying behind the La-Z-Boy rocking recliner all day, forming a right angle on my back with legs up along the wall and book hovering over my face, grandma had to know I wasn't all that sick. But I'd have to say that day was one of grandma's wisest, whether she knew it or not. At age 35 I still look back on that day as two...of my "reading firsts." It was the first time I broke a rule so I could read...and playing hooky from school no less, my future being that of a teacher! The second first, I read the entire 200+ pages of Ribsy's slightly larger font that day. My first time reading a book in its entirety in one day, but certainly not my last.

I didn't realize at the time how strange it may seem to others that a young child would be so taken with reading. And I didn't realize at the time how that hobby would become a routine in my life. In sixth grade I made a reading themed sweatshirt for a competition. In eighth grade I was incensed that our school didn't allow us to attend the local college's reading festival because they considered the books questionable. In tenth grade I realized (and wondered how) I knew more about classics than my English teacher. Senior year my government teacher always came by my desk "to see what [I was] reading now." And then two degrees in English to top it off. At this point, I don't consider reading a hobby, something I do in my spare time. It is a staple for which I purposely carve out time. Reading has helped me connect to others and the world, taught me history, given me imagination, and formed my career. Reading has literally formed my life, so forgive me if it seems a little extreme.

Thanks, Jennine!

Leave a comment for Jennine below!