Monday, October 12, 2009

Reviewer Time: Nerissa from "Confessions of a Bookwhore"

It’s Monday. I know. I promised to never let this happen again and here I am hacking away at my schedule with a steel axe. Funny thing about this “Reviewer Time” entry is that I received the questions 40 minutes to midnight, but I hadn’t prepared my commentary. Sadly I had been at a small gathering to celebrate the new crib two of my friends rented. Another well crafted excuse aside, this week I give you Nerissa otherwise known as Smirking Revenge, the owner of “Confessions of a Book Blogger”.

My commentaries are normally positive as my aim is usually to entice readers and bloggers alike to increase the number of blogs they visits, so I don’t list anything, but here I am going to make an exception and it’s so much of a negative side other than a warning. Nerissa is a bit too slow on her updates and periods between posts can extend to a couple of weeks. On one side it’s way easier to follow a sporadic blog, when your Google Reader spews a 100 posts on a daily basis, but quite unsatisfying if you are generally hooked on the content that gets posted and such is the case here with Nerissa. Some blogs a person visits to be updated, but then there are the blogs with which a person simple clicks.

It was love at first sight, when I laid eyes on “Confessions of a Blog Whore”, whose template is intricate, highly detailed and screams of awesome. As a highly visual person [as probably I have said a couple of times] I am drawn to beautiful visuals. So within ten seconds I was hooked and after that came the reviews. Nerissa is a top notch reviewer as the majority of us are so there is no denying that her reviews are informative without crossing the line to spoilers and she has neatly grouped her opinion to positives and negatives. What makes Nerissa stand out from all the other bloggers is her choice and taste in books, which are usually outside the spotlight at the time being. When I visit I always learn of a new title that I absolutely must check out for either the cover art or the premise or the review itself.

“Confessions of a Book Whore” is a great stop to see the diversity in the publishing business and experience the darker, creepier side that genre literature has to offer.

Harry Markov: Okay Nerissa, let’s start cracking at this. Who are you, when you are not on your blog what do you do and why is your avatar picture reminding me of Cameron Diaz, playing hard core?

Smirking Revenge: Ooh a question I know the answer to. I like the way you start things off Harry. I know it will come as a big shock and surprise to all that my name isn't actually Smirking Revenge. I am named after my great great grandmother who was named after the character from The Merchant of Venice which could possibly explain my love for all things Shakespeare. Maybe it is in the blood.

When I am not blogging, which is a lot I fear I work in the mental health field which is a job I find most satisfying. I live in Montana where the setting is spectacular but one has to get used to being snowless only two and a half months of the year. I am also a voracious pop culture junkie; a girly geek who loves a delicious pair of heels as much as my Chucks. It’s pretty much there in my little profile. In my lifetime I have been called the following: spunky, intelligent, creative, geeky, quirky, sweet, random, indecisive and eclectic. I agree with all. It just depends on the day really. As most know I am a big reader, addicted to my ipod, fascinated by most things, willing to try anything at least once, obsessed with traveling and all things Joss Whedon, thinks bats are cool not scary, and I said it is all there on my profile.

As far as my profile pic goes, I adore Battlestar Galatica and Katee Sackhoff who played the beautifully damaged and extremely snarky Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace. For the longest time I had an icon that was nothing but her smirking and it fit the whole Smirking Revenge moniker. Same woman new picture now.

HM: To dig deeper into your psychological profile, please submit three things that your readers most likely would never ever guess about you?

SR: Hmm, now we are getting to harder stuff. I think most people wouldn't guess that I have a deep abiding fear of needles. I don't have too many of the traditional fears. Spiders, not a problem. Actually bugs in general not really a problem. Not that I want them crawling all over me mind you, but not that scary. Snakes - I want to pick them up and pet them. Mice, also not scary. Afraid of the dark - nope. What about heights - not really. But needles. Yeah, we are not friends. Zombies, monsters, scary serial killers not that frightening. I am a horror fan, but needles... *shivers* I would give blood, donate to the cause, but can't. I tend to freak. I think it is the only reason I don’t have a tattoo...or three.

Two: I make odd noises when I am cold. Been doing it since I was little, my mum thought it was adorable. Not sure if anyone else does. A quirk that is me I suppose.

Three: I love Greek mythology. Zeus, Artemis, Athena, Apollo, Nemesis...their stories make me smile. Maybe it started after watching Clash of the Titans when I was a kid. Or maybe it was stargazing with my dad. He'd point out the constellations and I would want to know the stories behind their names. Another bit on the ever expanding to do list is to go on a mythological sabbatical and visit Greece and then to Italy and do the Roman side of things (even though they blatantly stole from the Greeks because like Eddie Izzard said: They invaded Greece, conquered them and stole all their gods... and renamed them with Roman names, ‘cause the Roman gods before that were kind of crap, you know - Geoff, the god of biscuits, and Simon, the god of hairdos… "Oh, let's get some of those! Thank God they've got some gods, ‘cause we have these crap gods")*smile*

HM: From what I get from your blog you are a bad girl [the handle: Smirking Revenge] and you have a weird sexual fetish towards books [Confessions of a Book Whore]. How in the world and several dimensions do you come up with these names?

SR: I know that once again I will shock you, shock you with my deviant behavior, but I am actually a nice girl. I know my snarky sex kitten image is now forever ruined by said admission, but on a day to day basis I’m fairly mild mannered. But then again so was Bruce Banner. I’m a gemini, so trust me it’s like having two personalities sometime in a very non crazy sort of way.

Smirking Revenge came about due to my love for Chuck Palahniuk and more notably Fight Club. In the book the Narrator stumbles upon a series of articles in some old magazines where the organs in the body talk about themselves in first person (E.g I am Jane’s Uterus, Joe’s Prostate, etc) and throughout the rest of the novel the Narrator uses it to express his feelings such as (I am Joe’s Smirking Revenge, I am Joe’s Broken Heart, etc). Couple that with my additional love for all things snark, the fact that I have perfected the smirk and Smirking Revenge came about quite naturally.

Confessions of a Book Whore just seemed to fit I guess?

HM: So, as most shrinks say, let’s start at the very beginning. What converted you into a dedicated and incurable bibliophile?

SR: I’m blaming it all on genetics. My father suffers from that incurable disease that renders one completely incapable of leaving a bookstore without buying something first. I too suffer from said affliction, though I suppose it’s not a horrible disease to have...unless you’re poor. Together, I think we can start our own library. But I am also blaming my dear papa for reading to me at night when he was home from his trips, for taking me places that I had never been to and letting my imagination soar quite happily. Thankfully I had two parents who really encouraged reading and I soon became that little girl who would go join the boys for a game of kickball then go climb up a tree and read Nancy Drew all while probably in a dress much to my mother’s chagrin. For a girl and a woman with a very active imagination books are the perfect escape.

HM: In connection to the last question what lured you in the dark spooky alleys of fantasy and spec fiction at the first place?

SR: I think I have always been drawn to the speculative fiction side of things because there’s the ‘what if’ factor. What if vampires existed or the world was overrun by zombies? What if magic existed or the neighbor next door was part of the Unseelie Court or even a wizard for hire? It’s the side of fiction that lets your imagination work over time and to be honest who wouldn’t want a superpower or two? I don’t know if it was a certain book or a child’s love for Unicorns and wanting my bedroom to look like Andromeda’s from Clash of the Titans, but it has always been my little niche. I think there is something utterly fascinating about a modern day setting with a bit of the abnormal and the supernatural thrown in. It lets your imagination be as creative as it wants to be and is truly an escape from the mundane.

HM: What’s the thing about writing a review that fulfills you and what aspect of reviewing gets on your nerves?

SR: I love to share my opinions on books. It may be a dialogue between you and a bunch of people you may never meet, but it’s almost like having your own little book club. You get to talk about why you loved or hated a book and sometimes you get other people’s opinions as well. I know that as a reader I often pick up books because people recommended them or wrote reviews. Hopefully I am providing the same sort of service, albeit very slowly and sporadically.

I think the thing that gets on my nerves is my utter lack of being consistent. As of this moment I know I have 6 books that I have already read, but that I actually need to sit down and type a review. I also think that sometimes you want to write about certain scenes, certain aspects of a novel as if you are really trying to have that little book club session but don’t want to be a spoiler for those who are just trying to get a second opinion on whether they should pick a book up or not.

HM: Are you a quitter or do you push through a novel, because you have sworn that it’s your duty as a reviewer to read it from cover to cover?

SR: Not a quitter, but sometimes a skimmer and...*gasp* a last page looker. To be honest I think that there is always something redeemable about a book that makes me want to read the entire thing. Granted it may take me a long while to do so, but there is always a scene, a snippet of dialogue, or even a character that pushes me forward. I also know that someone put a lot of effort into those pages and I feel as if I owe them to finish it even if I do cheat a bit now and again.

HM: Do you judge a book by its cover and how much can a cover prevail over your decision what book to read?

SR: If I always judged a book by its cover I would have missed out on a while lot of amazing books. I will admit that I am drawn to covers. I cannot help it as I am a very visual person. I like the pretty. However, I more often judge a book by the back teaser summary. If I am still torn I will flip to a random page and see if the prose catches me. Lately, I tend to pick up books that dont look like everything else hoping that it might be something new to the genre I love.

HM: Now it’s time for a “Reviewer Time” classic. Apart from enjoying reading the written word, have you ever had any writing aspirations of your own?

SR: No, I am far more a reader than a writer. Oh it is true that I have tried: angsty poetry from the 11th grade, an 8 page book about a princess and her pet unicorn when I was six or even some fan fiction. But I just dont have the gift. I am too critical, too slow, too non linear when it comes to all things me. I have run a few interactive fiction (play by email rpgs) games to get a few stories out of my head and it is quite cathartic and fun to write a character and let them and the other players take you on a journey. Right now I am part of one that is distinctly spec fiction in nature. However, I dont think anyone would enjoy my stuff other than me.

HM: What is the kind of story that will always engulf you no matter how many times you see it done? Naturally, if you don’t have one, your latest trope obsession applies.

SR: Oh that is hard. I read such varied things from graphic novels to thrillers to urban fantasy. I think I will always be fascinated by an authors take on the fey. While I am not drawn to high fantasy, I will usually read anything involving the Seelie or Unseelie Courts. Lately its been zombies or a good ghost story or two.

HM: On the polar end, what is the current trope or tropes that annoy you beyond words?

SR: Despite my moniker I am a bit bored with the snarky heroine, who has to choose between the werewolf and the vampire as her new boy toy and carries fun weaponry whether it be magic, a sword or guns. For me I miss the fantastic plots that seem to have been put on the back burner to romance. Not that I don’t love romance, I do, but if it consists of more than a half of the book I am not interested. And we won’t even get onto a tirade about Anita Blake (trust me I am a lover of smut, but come on...really?) So much for me being a hopeless romantic girly girl. I also hate that previously mentioned heroines are always Angelina Jolie hot. I think that is why I loved Sunshine by Robin McKinley because she was just a girl. Or why I love Mercy Thompson. She recognizes her vulnerability, but she is strong and independent.

There are a few authors that have brought something fresh to said little stereotype, but I miss plots. I think what I really miss are the thrills, the mysteries and the action. I just want something new and inventive, not just riffs on the same thing. It’s like seeing the trailer for the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street in which I scream, NO!

HM: Completely randomly I remembered the time, way back in high school, when I was forced to read and dissect books. Those years in high school put a damper on my interest in reading. What was your relationship with books, when they were forced mandatory?

SR: It really depended on the book and the teacher. As a frequent mover (Air Force brat is me) there were a few books that I had to read multiple times such as Huck Finn. I think it was always interesting on whether the teacher wanted to create a deeper discussion about a book, to make you think and to ponder or whether it was just to get through the lesson. There were a few books I absolutely detested (The Stranger by Albert Camus) and wouldn’t read ever again. Even when my dance card was full of homework books I think I was still reading two or three other books at the time. I am a reader. It’s in my blood.

HM: Okay, now seriously, what’s the deal with the sporadic updates on your website? I feel like I am waiting on the next G.R.R. Martin novel. Explain yourself this instant. [Pretty please?]

SR: Umm...I know I am absolutely horrible. I really am not that slow of a reader. I am actually quite fast, but I am really that slow of a blogger. I would love to be more active, to actually be more of a daily poster instead of a sporadic possibly bi-weekly sort. What can I say I get distracted very easily. Oh look a squirrel. You name it: chocolate, sunshine, Nathan Fillion, more books, the urge to dance, Big Bang Theory, my boyfriend, a good gin and tonic, preparing for the zombie apocalypse, or life in general seems to distract me from writing reviews. Not terribly creative, but I am also total rubbish at returning emails, blogging in general and gourmet cooking.

I don’t know what it is but I really do seem to collect unwritten reviews the way I add more books to my TBR piles. If only someone could create a device that extracts them from my brain so I don’t have to write them down or type them. It would make life so much simpler. I have thought about getting one of those voice things of awesome that translates your speech into wonderful typing, but buying more books has kept me from that. It is my one resolution I hope and aim to keep in the coming year. We’ll see how that goes.

HM: So I bet that you must have heard about the FTC and their little plan to regulate the blogging community, forcing us to disclose our connections to publishers and such. What is your official stance?

SR: Well I only started receiving ARCs in the past couple of months, which by the way completely rocks considering I have been a book blogger for only a year and told all of two people about said blog (How the rest of you lovely people stumbled upon it I will never know, but thank you, thank you). I never thought that people would send me free books as I have always been quite happy to spend money on my obsessions. For me, the majority of the books I review are ones that I buy myself. Now that I am starting to get review copies it wont change my blogging or reading habits. I will still write my opinion and it may not necessarily be positive. I don’t think that is why the publishers are sending me the book, to get a positive endorsement just because I got a freebie. Maybe that is naive of me, but I think they really want to know what we as avid readers think. It is a bonus when we love it and recommend it and the buzz begins to grow.

I am extremely annoyed to discover that the FTC is trying to regulate bloggers, but I also think it is highly amusing that they think it will change anything. I also think it is absolutely riotous that they equate a free book with compensation. Trust me I would much rather have cold hard cash to review something thank you very much. I don’t mind disclosing on whether I received a book from a publisher or author because I know receiving those books hasn’t colored my point of view at all. I’m not trying to sell books, I just love reading and then writing about what I love. What I do worry about is will the publishers be wary of sending things out now because of taxes, etc? Cause that would suck, I love reading books lately that I wouldn’t have heard of or picked up otherwise because they may not be in my local bookstore yet.

I don’t know. I dont plan on changing anything, but we’ll see how it all goes.

HM: Man, it’s Halloween. Do you plan on dressing up and what costume do you think of wearing? Also does the thing you are dressing as used to scare your or does it still do?

SR: Halloween is absolutely my favorite time of year. In fact, if I could live in Halloweentown for the entire winter season I completely would. And if I could dress up and play a character every day, whoo hoo (Quite possibly why my minor was theatre). I have had many costumes from an Ewok when I was little (which everyone thought was bear because yes bears have spears. You have to forgive the adults who don’t know the awesomeness of Star Wars) to May from the horror film May (I even had a little cooler of body parts). This year I am going to go as a greek goddess. The dress I have been making it similar to Queen Gorgo’s purple dress when she visits the Senate in the film the 300. Although if whether in Montana continues to be this cold, I may freeze my cute little Amazonian ass off. I don’t think any of my costumes have ever scared me. Then again I have never dressed up as Pennywise. *shiver* Clowns.

HM: Are you a zombie person in general? Again this is a Halloween question and do you think you could survive an eventual apocalypse via flesh eaters?

SR: Yeah zombies. Zombies make everything better I tell you. It’s true. Thank you George Romero for my love of all things living dead. I am a horror movie junkie whether it is old Hammer films or Dario Argento, even 80’s slasher flicks. They make me happy. And zombies are just interesting. You can read a lot of commentary into them and that is fascinating. How it changes characters, how it changes society, how it makes you question faith, etc. Lately I have really enjoyed the variety of ideas on zombies in literature. You have World War Z, but you also have Generation dead or Happy Hour of the Damned.

As far as the zombie apocalypse goes, I am fairly set. I have my escape plan mapped out, have plenty of swords with which to hack and slash (blades = pretty), live out in the middle of a field so I can see them coming, have begun to train Sage to be a zombie sniffing dog, and have a set of rules I am not about to start bending if the dead start crawling out of the ground. Oh and I have my manual just in case I have any questions I hadnt thought of yet.

HM: As a reader do you prefer series or standalones and why?

SR: I am mixed on both. On one hand when I fall in love with a world or a character I don’t want the story to end. I want to read more and explore and share in all of these amazing experiences I am convinced they will have. But on the other hand sometimes series really go on farther than they should. The characters get dull as do plots, etc and you feel like you are reading the same stuff over and over again. I think if an author has an idea, an overall story arc that they need to get out and it just takes 7 books, I am okay with that as long as I feel as if there is a beginning and an end, not just I am writing more books because my publisher is making me.

I love that there are books out there that don’t need to be continued, but sometimes it is hard to find those out there. Or maybe I am just not looking hard enough.

HM: There have been some strange literary occurrences, such as the zombie improved version of pride and prejudice and soon there will be a novel about Abe Lincoln as a vampire hunter and I think there is one about Queen Elizabeth as a Buffy character. I find it both amazing and a bit weird. What say you?

SR: I think they are hilarious. I have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters in my TBR pile as I couldn't resist picking them up when I saw them at the bookstore. I think it is great taking these characters and putting a decidedly different spin on them. Sometimes they may work and other times maybe not so much, but you cannot fault the author’s for trying. I will back to you on that one after I have read them all. Hee hee, Queen Elizabeth as a Slayer. That works.

HM: Okay, the end has come. Please, type some finishing words on your own.

SR: Wow, okay so I would like to thank Chai tea for accompanying me on my many trips into the worlds of literature, to the Scholastic book fairs when I was a child for consuming my monthly allowances, to the lovely Shelfari ladies who introduced me to book blogging, my dog Sage for her wonderful contributions on not getting me to blog aka take me for a walk already and to my dad who should really start his own chapter of Bibliophiles Anonymous.

Honestly Harry, this has been some of the best fun I have had in a long time. I really do think I need to interview you next time as it is only fair. You are an amazing reviewer and blogger that I am privileged to know. And that is not just lip service dear sir. Thanks for having me and thank you to such a warm and welcoming community. Book bloggers are the best and I hope to meet a bunch more of you. Ciao!


Smirking Revenge said...

Thanks again Harry. I will try to work on that whole non update thing. OOh look a shiny!

Harry Markov said...

It's been a pleasure. TRULY a pleasure and damn it. NO SHINIES!

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