Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Interview with Melissa from Mel's Books and Info

September 13-17, 2010 is Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Founded by Amy Riley, "The week spotlights and celebrates the work of active book bloggers through guest posts, awards, giveaways, and community activities."

For September 14th, book bloggers were invited to interview each other. Through the sign-up list, I was paired up with Melissa from Mel's Books and Info. Her popular blog focuses mainly on teen literature, and uses a 1-5 star scale for ratings, similar to Goodreads.

Welcome to my neck of the woods, Melissa. Tell us about yourself.

Thank you for interviewing me on your blog! Well, I am a teen librarian at our local public library and I absolutely love my job. My favorite part of the job is selecting new teen books for our collection and recommending those books to teens who come into the library. I also recommend them to adults to and am simply amazed by how many adults in our community, including our own library staff, are starting to get hooked on YA fiction. I am also married and have one son who is 2 years old. My two year old doesn’t like it when mommy reads her books. He wants me to read to him all the time!

When did you start blogging?

My first attempt at blogging was with Live Journal back in 2006. It was really a testing ground of sorts, and the entries weren’t the greatest. I didn’t really start seriously blogging until earlier this year.

Why did you start blogging?

Originally it started out as a project for work. We were talking about how we could start a blog at our library to post our programs on, updates for our book orders, and even do some reviews. I really wanted to be able to convince them that we could have a whole lot of useful information on a blog and that it would be good advertising for the library. It also has the added benefit of being easy to update unlike our organization’s web page. I figured the best way to convince them was to show them how a blog could look, and what it could contain, so I just started one and started writing reviews. My personal blog was originally my testing ground for what I would later do on the library’s blog. Eventually though, I got hooked and started finding other bloggers out there who share my interests in reading and are even reading the same types of books I do. I had always wanted to be in a book group, but I never had the opportunity because of the small community where I live and because I am normally working during the library book discussions. When I discovered that other bloggers like to talk books too, and I had a place to share my love of teen lit I was completely hooked.

As a teen librarian, what types of library-patron reading habits have you noticed over the years? Did anything become unexpectedly popular?

I’ve noticed that interests tend to go in phases. Witches and wizards gained popularity with Harry Potter and everything coming out for a while was compared to Harry Potter. Since Twilight, vampires, who have always been popular, suddenly are huge. Werewolves have also taken off lately, as have fallen angel stories. You see these trends come and go. Paranormal has also been on the rise lately. While these always remain popular to some, I admit that I have been surprised by the fact they seem to be taking over. 90% of the requests I get from patrons tend to be paranormal, vampire, and werewolf books. This seems to be overshadowing the realistic fiction which has always been a YA staple. Another genre, and one of my personal favorites that is on the rise is the dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction--I never would have seen that coming, but the books in this genre are so good they are catching a lot of interest.

Another trend that has surprised me of late has been the number of adults in our library turning to YA books. I sometimes have better luck selling teen books to adults. I have even gotten my coworkers and my mother hooked on teen lit. Staff members at our library are constantly coming to me and asking me if I have read this teen novel or that. It really helps, because if I haven’t read it, I can usually ask one of them. It is great.

What has been the most surprising aspect of reviewing books?

I think the most surprising aspect of reviewing books for me is how much my reviews have changed over time. I know they say the more you write the better your writing gets, I think that is true with reviews too. When I look back at the early reviews I wrote, I ask myself, “Did I really write that?” and not in a good way. In some cases I want to go back, re-read the novel, and re-write the review. Right up there with that change in the reviews, would probably be that people actually comment on my reviews! I love comments, even if you don’t agree with my reviews, I love to hear what people think. The blogging community has been so receptive and supportive, it makes reviewing so much fun.

On your blog, you've spoken a lot about your love for novels set in dystopian futures, for instance, The Hunger Games. For people new to your site or new to the genre in general, what makes these books so appealing?

On the surface, dystopian novels would seem to be somewhat depressing. You are looking at a world gone horribly wrong and a teen stuck there just simply trying to survive. Despite how negative it sounds, I have found dystopian literature to be strangely hopeful. It shows you how one person can really sometimes make a difference and change lives. I definitely prefer the teen version of dystopian fiction, because unlike many of its adult counterparts, teen dystopian fiction retains that hope and you can see change occur in these societies that have gone so wrong. In some cases they are even somewhat cautionary tales, warning us about taking care of our environment, and the dangers of governments that control too much of a people’s personal lives and choices. They can promote discussions that get us to think about issues in our own worlds. And then of course they are usually full of action, danger, and adventure.

Outside of teen lit, what are your favorite books?

That is a tough question, so much of what I read is teen fiction. I would have to say one of my favorite adult fiction series is the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I like them because they make me laugh. Every June when the new one comes out I put down what I am reading to read the next novel in the series. Another favorite series would be Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I am anxious to finally see how this series ends. I also love Laurie R. King’s Mary Russel novels. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is one of my favorite books to re-read. Finally, the other book that ranks on the top of that list would be The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Is there anything else you would like to add or anything you would like to let readers know about you or your blog?

You can come visit me at Mel’s Books and Info. Please feel free to comment, I love to hear what you have to say! You can also follow me @wheems01 on Twitter, and follow my reviews on Goodreads.com.

Read my interview with Melissa over on her page.


  1. Thank you too for the interview! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, we are moving our library today back to a newly remodeled building and I've had to schedule all my posts for the week in advance since when I get home I am completely wiped out! Moving a library isn't fun! :)

  2. Really interesting reading about evolving YA trends. I wonder if the increase in escapism has something to do with how things are today -- lots of news (economy, wars, etc) going on that we have increased awareness of now because of the internet, etc. I don't know if my thoughts are making sense :-) .

  3. No that makes some sense, Valerie. There was an interesting article about teen dystopia lit in the New Yorker a couple months ago that had similar thoughts. I'm sure the article is still up on their site.