Bookish Radness

Instagram is My Jam

Even though my blogging has slowed down quite a bit, I’m still reading all the things and wanted to let y’all know where you can find more consistent book reviews and features!

Instagram Account Numero Uno (@jamielynne82)
I post at least once a week about books, but am trying out Instastories more. All that to say: BOOKS! (And occasionally my cat, my favorite humans and adventures.)

Instagram Account Numero Dos (@theinklings1926)
I haven’t told many folks about this yet, but I started an account dedicated to the Inklings. It’s a mix of quotes, mini reviews, fun facts about Tolkien and Jack, and sometimes pretty pictures of books.

And didn’t want to forget Goodreads! If we haven’t connected already, let’s!

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Bookish Radness

Books and Beverages 2016 Favorites

It’s that time! It’s my final post of 2016 (how in the why and what in the world?). It’s been a year hasn’t it? I can always depend on my books and wanted to share my favorites from this year. I’ve linked to my blog post or Goodreads (if I didn’t review). What do y’all think? What are some of your favorites?

(As always, the Tolkien and Lewis’ books aren’t listed, because y’all know how I feel about them. #NotEmbarassedOrAshamed)

Here they are in no particular order:

  • Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson
  • The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr
  • The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell
  • The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
  • Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs
  • A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte
  • Dressed For Death by Julianna Deering
  • The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert
  • The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim
  • Jaded by Varina Denman
  • When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks
  • Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund
  • The Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
  • Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin
  • The Shattered Vigil by Patrick W. Carr

Another favorite from this year has been the start of The Diversity Series. I’m thankful the conversation is happening and look forward to continuing it in 2017.

What were some of your favorite reads this year?

Bookish Radness, Changing the World

Diversity in Christian Fiction – A Series | Part 1

Can we take a moment (or two) and talk about diversity?

Du du du…..I said Diversity. I know.

But before y’all run out of here faster than how I eat my Del Taco, I want to be real. I want to have a place where we can talk about things that need to be talked about. Where it might get uncomfortable, but we’re willing to stick it through because it will be worth it.

While I know that diversity, rather lack thereof, is an issue across the board of not only books and publishing, but other industries as well, this series will be focusing specifically on traditionally published Christian fiction. I’m know I’m not the only one who has thoughts about the lack of diversity in Christian fiction and I think you’d be hardpressed to find someone who would say that there’s plenty of diversity in Christian fiction. Because there isn’t. We all know this is an issue, but where to even start right?

While we know the questions, the answers aren’t always so easy.

Before I continue with some of the key questions I want to discuss (I’m excited to share from others as well) and why I’m blogging about it, I think it’s important to include some key disclaimers – especially if you have come across my blog for the first time and don’t know me.

  • I love Christian fiction (I read it, I work in it and I blog about it)
  • I will continue reading it.
  • I don’t believe there is one person at fault. It isn’t only the publisher’s fault or the editor’s fault or the author’s fault or the reader’s fault. But we need to be in this together.

So why am I bringing this up? Well first up, I like reading books about different people (my people, my friends’ people, all the people). I’m mixed and I love all the cultures I come from (French, Black, Mexican and Spanish, if you were curious), so it’s discouraging and frustrating that there aren’t many books that feature people of color. Why is that? Of course I haven’t read every book published, but I’ve been reading and blogging about Christian fiction for years now and I can count the number of books on one hand. And honestly, I can’t think of a published person of color in this market (again, traditionally published authors. Please share if you know of any!)

The truth is, there aren’t many. It’s okay to say that out loud (especially since this isn’t only an issue in CBA). It’s important to recognize that most of the novels released in Christian fiction feature Caucasian characters. (And just in case you missed it – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with these stories. I love them, I read them, and I celebrate their message).

But can we get a brotha up in here? Y’all know what I’m saying? I’m a fan of Asians too. And Mexicans. And anyone else for that matter. And if I read more stories of interracial couples, y’all, I WILL PASS OUT (of excitement!).

How did we get here though? How do we move forward? Are there more stories out there? Do white authors not feel comfortable writing these types of stories? Are there not people of color writing Christian fiction? Does the audience not want these stories? Do they not sale? If not, then why? Because if that’s the case, what does say about readers? Does reading about other people groups make us too uncomfortable? Do people not care?

In different surveys I’ve researched about CBA readership, I haven’t found a survey that asked about race. So while there is plenty of research on the ages, gender, preferred genres, physical or ebooks preferences and what state CBA readers live, we have no information about the racial background of the readers. Why wouldn’t this demographic be helpful? What does this mean, I wonder, if anything? (As before, please share if you have something different!)

I think what finally pushed me to bring my questions and thoughts to the internet was a book cover discussion. You know how I mentioned the novels I could think of that featured people of color? Even though the stories had these characters, the covers didn’t represent that (except one had a Black model on the cover, so yay!). One you could only see the dress, another featured a male lead (who was white) and in a series following ancient Middle Eastern women (an Egyptian, Israelite and Canaanite), each model was 100% White. I was speechless. Please hear this, I have no doubt the stories are wonderful Biblical fiction and yes, the models were great, but I had zero clue it was Biblical fiction until I read the back cover. It could have been a story of Irish and English women based on the models. And the many reactions around the web praised the covers and I didn’t understand why no one else seemed to notice. My first reaction was sadness because I thought man, that was the chance to celebrate a beautiful culture! But instead I thought, well maybe they based it off what would sale. Am I wrong? Is my reaction way off? Maybe. But I can’t discount it.

I posted about this series and so many of y’all provided fabulous feedback. I want to share some initial thoughts and questions that came up:

There was a lot of discussion about staying away from stereotypes. Is “olive” the only way to describe a black person? (Editor note: All you gotta say is the brotha looked like Denzel and people.will.know! ;)) Does the token black kid always have to be from juvie and be “rescued”? Why is there such a lack of main characters who aren’t white?

These things may not have even crossed your mind, but how important is it to recognize how this might hurt our fellow believers and sisters (and brothers) in Christ?

I believe story can truly change people. In a climate that desperately needs to have understanding, empathy, engagement and more love, I believe the Church needs to be leading the way. And not reluctantly, but bravely and boldly leading the march towards reconciliation. The heart of the Gospel is reconciliation. The world needs to see that Jesus does that. That is who He is. A reconciler and a redeemer. Call me a dreamer (I’m not the only one), but I believe with all my heart, fiction can help carve that path. Is Aslan still not spoken of in awe and reverence? Has Redeeming Love not touched the hearts of millions and drawn people to God’s unrelenting love?

So yes, I’m sticking to that truth and I’m believing we can bring together the Church and thus change the world….one diverse novel at a time.

I don’t have all the answers – or really any at the moment – but I do know I want to talk about it. So let’s. I hope to have other voices join in and will share those as they come. Please, share your thoughts and don’t be scared. Let’s make a difference together! You can comment below or join in on Facebook!

Bookish Radness

9 Reasons Readers Are the Easiest People to Buy Gifts For

I love finding the perfect gift for someone. It makes me happy when a gift comes as a surprise and brings joy. But then there’s some people who I have to work to find that perfect gift. I’m sure we all know someone like that. You’re worried they won’t like it or they already have it (to which I say Amazon.com Gift Card Internet). But you know who isn’t hard to buy for at all?

Readers.

I have decided we are the easiest group of folks to buy for in the entire universe. If you don’t believe me, here’s 9 reasons why I’m right 😉 Also, my birthday is in July. I kid internet! Kid!

1. You give us a book and we’re happy. Worried we already have 379 unread ones? That means nothing to us. Aren’t sure which one to get? I’ll let you in on a secret: Goodreads. The “To Read” shelf will have at least 50 to choose from. Mine currently has 394, so trust me when I say books are always a good option. If they’re not on Goodreads, I’m sure there’s an Amazon wishlist.

2. They have at least one fandom. What’s a fandom you ask? It’s a very natural and totally healthy obsession with a series, book, author etc. Why is this a good thing? Once you find out what it is, the gift options are endless. Worried you won’t ever find out what their fandom is? Don’t worry, we let the world know whether they want to know or not. I’m pretty sure my third cousin’s best friend’s mom has heard about my love of Lewis and Tolkien.

3. Buy them a fancy edition of a favorite book. Have they mentioned a favorite book? You’re in luck. For the classics that means there’s been several versions published and we love collecting all the awesome covers. Whether it’s Jane or Tollers, trust me on this – I myself own several copies of The Hobbit (even one in Latin), The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

4. If a gift shares about how awesome reading is, get it. We love pretty much anything fun about how awesome readers are and how fun reading is. We’re talking Laptop covers, iPad cases, book bags, phones cases. Really endless possibilities.

5. If they love classics, congrats, there’s an awesome online bookshop to buy things from. It’s Out of Print and for every item purchased they donate a book. I have spent a bit of cash in this store both as gifts and for myself.

6. Another shoutout goes out to Litographs because they make your life much easier as well. Anything from their shop will make a reader happy. Plus they also make a donation with every purchase. You just can’t lose.

7. You can always buy a Gift Card to B&N or Amazon or any book retailer. If you think a gift card to B&N is impersonal, let me set you at ease: it isn’t. Instead, it is seen as manna from bookish heaven. This gives us readers the chance to try something new, get an awesome edition of a favorite or buy bookish accessories.

8. Book related clothing makes us happy too. We are a proud group and we aren’t afraid to show it. I think half of my non-work shirts are related to books. Cute v-necks that express my love of epic literature? Yes please!

9. Give us a gift to help spread our love and we’re in! Find cute note cards or postcards (I happen to know of some ;)) that express the love of reading and favorite authors? PERFECT. Then we can convince our friends and families to join the reading radness club.

What do you think? Is there a group easier to buy for? What’s another reason you would add to this list (you know for an even 10)?

Bookish Radness

5 Things You Can Do With Your Kindle…It’s like I don’t even know my Kindle

Do y’all ever highlight on your Kindle? I highlight quite often when I’m reading. I like to go back and check out the quotes and sections I really liked whether or not I need to use them for a blog post. Recently, I was wondering where my “highlights” went and this started a “how-to” search and WHO KNEW there were so many things I could do with a kindle! So here’s a few I discovered and/or thought would be helpful! (I guess it helps to read the manual, but ain’t no one got time for that when the fate of fictional characters is in balance).

1. So where do you find the highlights?
This link here. Then you can copy and paste away!

2. You can take a screenshot.
Say whaaaaa? I didn’t think I would use this any time soon, but then a book I read came with some recipes. Done.

On the Kindle Voyage and Paperwhite, press two opposite corners of the screen at the same time to capture a screenshot.

To download the images, simply plug the Kindle into your computer and grab the .png files!

This is what the .png looks like from the Paperwhite. I’m also fixing to become besties with Jane again.

3. You can lend books.
This one is fabulous. Sadly not all books are lend-able (a word? yes? no?). It depends on the publisher, but it’ll tell you if it is or not (please see my amazing graphic below). I believe most books you can lend for 14 days. As my niece likes to say “sharing is caring!”

4. Turning off recommendations.
This one made my day – you can turn off the recommendations. This bugged me more than it should have. Don’t they know I have blogging and book club friends who take care of recommending for me? Here’s how: Go to Settings > Parental Controls > Restrictions > Turn off Kindle Store. Boom. Done.

5. Sending documents to Kindle.
This is especially great if you have to read PDFs (sidenote: I do find my iPad much better for reading PDFs) or get a lot of .mobi files (like when I borrow digital books from the library). It’s an app you can download to your desktop. I simply drag the document and hit send. The file is waiting for me next time I open my kindle.

Hopefully if you have a Kindle, these tips and tricks are helpful! Is there something you’ve discovered your kindle can do? Please share!

Bookish Radness

An Open Letter to Goodreads

Dearest Goodreads,
I have to say we’ve had a really good relationship this past year. I feel like we’ve grown together and shared some good times. When we first met, I kind of ignored you. I’m sorry. I didn’t fully see all who you were and all the friends you would introduce me to. That is 100% on me. Mea culpa Goodreads. Mea culpa.

And while we’ve grown stronger, I feel there are some things I need to bring up. As we all know the key to any good relationship is communication. How many books have we read where if there was some quality communication things would have turned out much better? So here we are.

Know I say these things in love, because I wouldn’t be a true friend if I wasn’t willing to bring up the problems.

1. Can you cut us some slack when it comes to your search option? With Amazon (who well…owns you) I can type in Houbittee and it will know I’m looking for The Hobbit. But with y’all, I’m one letter off and no mercy! I’m glad you think I’m intelligent and should know how to spell every single word and author’s name, but I confess, I can’t spell every word in every language ever written. So maybe just a wee bit of slack?

2. I’ve already discussed the whole star rating shenanigans, so I’ll just say this one more time: PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF THE WRITTEN WORD HALF STAR RATINGS. Thanks.

3. You know what else I love to do? Re-read my favorites, so can we maybe toss around the idea of a re-read shelf option. Yes, yes, we can create a new list called something like “2015 Reads,” but I’ve been know to read the same book twice (or more don’t judge me, you don’t know my life!) in one year. So what’s a book nerd to do? My friend Wesley brought this to my attention and all I can say is truth! I’m not going to lie, I take pride in the books I read and Goodreads is the perfect place to rep that. So maybe a shelf option kay?

Phew! I don’t think that was too bad right? I’m sure there’s a few other thoughts people have, so they might mention them in the comments below, but please don’t take it too hard Goodreads. It’s only because we love you!

Sincerely Yours,

Jamie

(If you’re on Goodreads, let’s connect! Since I don’t blog about every book I read, it’s a great place to still chat books – Connect here!)

UPDATE: In case you’re wondering, here’s their thoughts on half star ratings. Boo. NOT GIVING UP.

Bookish Radness

Organizing Personal Libraries….Mine is a Hot Mess These Days

I recently had to purchase another book shelf. My shelves were already double stacked and then there were all kinds of wonderful books from the INSPYs, purchases and recent tours, so I deemed it necessary to spend $20.00 at Target instead of having my room become random mountains of books.

So while books are no longer all over the floor, my organization is all over the place. For the Monk in me this is no fun. It got me thinking (and you can thank Pinterest) about how I should organize my books. So what about you?

How do you organize your books?

My dilemma is this. My previous (and full) shelves are nice and organized. Fiction books are organized by author and then alphabetical order, my Inklings have two shelves of their own and non-fiction is, for the most part, divided by topic. Anyone else have to keep non-fiction and fiction completely separate? I like knowing I can go to a certain section and find books about a specific topic. What I can’t have is a grad book (that I can’t seem to let go of) about the Nazi agenda in the 1930s German Church next to 1984 next to Timothy Keller. Commence panic mode in my house. The woes of a reader right? 🙂

This new shelf? It’s all kinds of chaos. Most of it is my TBR mountain and the rest is recent books I’ve read, sorta organized by author, but mainly squeezed in to make as much room as possible.

So I did what I do best when I need ideas.

I took to Pinterest.

Well, instead of solving my shelf organization dilemma, I found beautiful libraries instead. Oops. Here’s a few favs because sometimes I just need to stop and appreciate the beauty.

via here, here, here

(L) Jay Walker’s Library: So entrepreneurship is the way to go to get this. I mean, y’all. (R) Clearly I need to be friends with George Lucas. via here and here

I’m really curious how your bookshelves are. Do you have a system? Or are you more of a read and pass along the book? Do you stick with borrowing from the library (I will say I adore mine)? I look forward to stealing all your ideas :).

Bookish Radness

The History of the Book Cover | CBA Edition

Oh the book cover! Put out any book cover and you’ll get all kinds of different opinions. In the CBA market, there’s been shifts, changes, movements and it continues to vary between genres as well. There’s been some funny covers, some cringeworthy (my reaction to most trends of the 90s), some encouraging and some inspiring.

Today, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at a some of the changes over the years of the different genres. I’ll sprinkle some of my thoughts throughout, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it! Do you have a preference? What changes do you see happening that you’d like more of or less of? So, please don’t be shy and let the discussions begin 🙂

I’m kicking off with a classic (and favorite), not only because it’s been out for a really long time, but I feel like it’s one book cover that has seen many changes. Here’s Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love.

I personally have a soft spot for 2001 cover, but I also like the 2005 (which is the current one) cover as well. That 90s cover though…;)

I rarely read Amish fiction, but since this is a staple in the CBA market, I thought it was worth including.

I tend to see many Amish novels that have the same vibe as this Lewis’ example. The staple outfits and country-ish backgrounds, so the reader will know immediately it’s Amish fiction. I think that’s why I like Petersheim’s covers so much (and probably because I love her stories too. Seriously, READ The Outcast). They show the story is connected to Amish roots, but I think set themselves apart.

Lynn Austin is not only one of my favorite and go-to authors, she’s been a staple in Christian fiction for a while. She was even recently inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. She is also one of the authors who I see such a variety of design with her books. Here’s some of her popular historical and biblical works:

Confession: I’m not too much of a fan of the new edition of Fire By Night. I really like the original one, but that might be more due to the fact it’s one of my all-time favorite books and it holds a soft spot in my heart, so I see no need to change it ;).

Now onto the contemporary stuff. One of my earliest introductions to any type of Christian Fiction was the lovely Robin Jones Gunn’s Glenbrook Series. So let’s look at these shall we?
Weren’t the 90s fabulous? I had the 1999 version and this series is a good example of moving toward the use of models in recent years. What do you think?

Here’s a few other things I’ve noticed in the current trends (this is by no means a massive comprehensive account, since I haven’t investigated every genre or cover, but I still did catch some themes : )

  • Fantasy covers: Even with models, you don’t often see their face. This genre also has quite a bit of variety.
  • General Fiction: I’ve noticed this genre doesn’t use models as often. If it does, we usually don’t see their face. At all.
  • Historical Fiction: I would say a significant chunk of books use models on the covers. Sometimes, there’s models off in the distance too.
  • Contemporary Suspense and Romance: I would say 92.9% of the time there’s models.

Have you noticed any common trends with specific genres? Do you agree?

I’ll close with a few of my favorite recent or upcoming releases:

Now that I’ve probably talked way more about book covers than y’all cared to read, I’d love to know what you think and where you see things going! Do you have a preference?

(Thank you Goodreads for having all the cover editions available for our viewing pleasure!)

Bookish Radness

My Love and Hate of the Star Rating

You know what is the absolute worst in the world of book blogging? STAR RATINGS. Can we have a more confusing and nebulous aspect of reviewing books? I can talk to 100 different book bloggers and they’ll come up with 100 different rating systems. It’s not just blogging folks either – where we post these reviews? They only add to the confusion. A 2-Star rating on one website shares the same description of a 3-Star rating on another. Below is a comparison between Goodreads and Amazon, but I found the same differences/confusions with Barnes & Noble and CBD. I’m sure you’ll find them on others too.

Whether people use stars or catchy phrases, there’s all kinds of rating systems. The stars kill me. I don’t use a rating system on my blog. Before it was because I had a hard time adding a rating. Now, not only have my ideas on ranking change (I’m not ready for such a commitment ; ), but the viewpoints vary so much with people, I’m afraid folks might have a different vibe by simply looking at how many stars I give.

Even thinking back to my early blogging days (I kinda am embarrassed to admit this), if I thought the book was good, it got 5 stars. To which I must ask my two-year-ago self what was I thinking handing out 5 stars like candy canes at Christmas?

Maybe you haven’t thought too deeply into this, but I’ve become very protective of my 5 stars. Do any of you feel the same way?

And since I brought this all up, if I was forced to have a system, it would probably look something like this:
5 – I own a hard copy and e-copy and I demand you read it immediately! I probably won’t let you borrow my copy though, because there’s simply too much risk in losing it :). (Although please don’t hold my ratings from previous years against me ; )
4 – Excellent book, so happy to have had the chance to read it and I’d recommend it.
3 – I’m not sad I read it (there were some good qualities), but it also wouldn’t necessarily be my first recommendation.
2 – Meh
1 – This probably means I didn’t finish the book.

Also FOR THE LOVE OF KITTENS CAN WE GET .5 STAR RATINGS GOODREADS??

Alright, how about all of you? How do you handle star ratings? Do you stick with stars or do something a little different?

Author Interviews, Bookish Radness

An Interview with Jack Neary & Litographs

When I love a book, I LOVE a book. Shocking right? 🙂 I’m sure y’all know what I’m talking about. When there’s a way to share my love of said favorites, I tend to jump at the chance. Mainly because the world needs to know of the awesomeness found on those lovely pages.

Enter in Litographs, another fabulous bookish company that provides just the opportunity!

Art From Books

Every Litograph design emerges from the text of a book. Just as the words on the pages of your favorite novel come alive in your imagination, our products are designed to illustrate the memorable characters and scenes rooted in text and imitated on stage.

We work closely with professional artists to create a new visual experience for classic and contemporary works alike. From a distance, the artwork illustrates a theme, character, or setting from each book’s descriptive pages. Move closer and the text becomes fully legible.

Lucky for me, Jack from Litographs took some time to share more about the company, so enjoy!

1. How did Litographs get started? Where did the idea come from?
Litographs has always been a means for celebrating the relationship between a reader, authors and the books that brought them together. We felt like there was no better way to do so than by using the actual text of these books and we want each design to act as a conversation starter around that book and literacy more broadly.

2. Now there’s voting for new shirts that come out – has that always been the case or did the first shirts come from favorites?
We started with classics and now that we’re incorporating more contemporary works, the voting platform is helpful for letting us know what books are favorites within our community of readers as well as demonstrating to authors how popular their books would be as Litographs.

3. Speaking of favorites, do you have a favorite classic?
On any given day, one of us will be wearing The Great Gatsby or Darwin’s On The Origin of Species in the office. My personal favorite is Walden.

4. Tell me a bit more about the artists you work with.
We’ve been privileged to work with many talented artists in the past, artists who care just as much as we do about the books they’re illustrating. Even more exciting is the recent addition of Benjy Brooke as our Creative Director. He’s responsible for creating our original six designs and you’ll see many more designs from him soon.

5. I’d love to hear more about the connection with the International Book Bank. How did that partnership start and how does Litographs support them?
Our founder, Danny, has been on the IBB’s Board of Directors almost as long as he’s been making art from books. What drew us to the organization is their modus operandi of not just sending books en masse, but fulfilling a demonstrated need. For example, they might send a set of textbooks so that everyone in a class can follow a lesson together. For every Litographs product purchased, we help send one of those books to a community in need.

6. What are you reading right now?
I just wrapped up a long summer of Infinite Jest and am looking forward to starting The Art of Fielding next.

7. Please tell me Lord of the Rings is the next release :).
We’d love to add LOTR to our collection! Licensing contemporary favorites is something we’re actively pursuing and Mr. Tolkien’s works are a high priority. The next release we’re excited about is The Time Traveler’s Wife and we hope to squeeze in a few other favorites before the end of the year.

4 Questions

1. What is something about your life right now that you would have never imagined 5 years ago?
That going to work would mean spending days solving problems and creating really cool art from books with three of my best friends.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
If changing anything in my past would spit out a present day that was any different than this one, I wouldn’t do it.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
Trading in business casual for shorts and a Litographs t-shirt.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
The joy of thumbing through dog-eared pages in a book you’ve read a hundred times.

Thank you so much Jack! I appreciate you taking the time to stop by :). So are you convinced yet to buy all the shirts, totes and prints? You’re welcome! Or maybe I should say sorry instead 🙂

Where to find Litographs on the web
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