14 September 2010

Day 171: Jen Karsbaek (Interview)

This interview is part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  I signed up to exchange interviews with another blogger, and I had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing Jen Karsbaek from Devourer of Books.  This is an edited version in which I look less stupid, fix typos and spelling, and cut out some of the irrelevant chit chat.

LibsLIB:  Good evening O Devourer of Books.  I believe we have an appointment. 
Jen:  We do indeed, hello!  How are you this fine evening?

LibsLIB:  Not too bad, haven't been sleeping well lately, but I have the feeling that's due more to allergies and late night video game binges than ill health.  Yourself?
Jen:  I also didn't sleep well last night, but more because I was awakened right as I was falling asleep, then just couldn't get back.  I saw your posts about Mockingjay, did you stay up late reading it? 

LibsLIB:  I read it in two sittings, my room mate brought it home around 6, I think I started reading it at 8 and read it until almost 2am, and then picked back up at around noon.  I needed to put it down quite a bit to think about certain parts, so it took me longer to read than expected.  So how long have you been blogging and what got you started? 
Jen:  I've been blogging about two and 1/2 years now, I started in February of 2008 after finding out that such things as book blogs existed through a conversation on LibraryThing. Since many of the people in my real life were sick of hearing about what I was reading, I thought the internet might be interested (or would at least give me an outlet to express my thoughts).  Plus, I had so many people asking what I was reading and what I had thought of it, I thought it might be easier to just point them to my blog.

LibsLIB:  Have you had any posts that caused a great deal of uproar, either from spoilers leaked or disagreement about review, etc.?  If not is it something you worry about.
Jen:  I'm very careful not to give out spoilers or, if I am going to do so, to be very clear that there will be spoilers, so I haven't had any problems with that.  The only reader disagreements I have had with my reviews have come from young teens finding some of my YA or Middle Grade reviews that have been less than positive (Twilight and one or two others).  I don't worry about it too much, I either ignore them or, if they are too rude/abusive, I don't allow them the privilege of commenting. I don't care if people disagree, but I do care that they are civil. 

More obnoxious or worrisome are  comments from authors or people who are quite obviously friends of authors who take issue with negative reviews.  That doesn't happen often, but it does happen occasionally. and primarily with self-published authors.  This is why I just don't accept books from self-published authors any longer, and I haven't really had an issues since then.  Google alerts are a great thing for authors, but I think there are some authors who probably shouldn't be using them, if they cannot either accept or ignore negative reactions to their books. You're never going to do anything creative that is universally loved.

LibsLIB:  Ah see, I thought they just spent all day searching for themselves, didn't realize Google had that service.  How many books do you try usually read per week, and how often do you post?
Jen:  I try to finish at least 3 print and one audio book per week, depending on the length of the books. I generally post 5-6 days per week right now, but that is going to increase to 7 days a week next month during my special Chicago authors feature month, and will likely stay at 7 days per week, because I am planning to start a new 'Saturday Story Spotlight' feature on Saturdays to talk about the books my son is enjoying or I am enjoying reading to him

LibsLIB:  How old is your child, do you have more than one?
Jen:  He's one, actually, he's our only one right now

LibsLIB:  How do you manage to find time to read and take care of your family?  Do you work as well?
Jen:  Yes, I am working part-time. Audiobooks are a big way I sneak in extra reading time, when I'm driving, cooking, cleaning, etc. The other thing is that I end up prioritizing reading over doing things like putting away laundry, because it is my relaxation/escape, even if it is a heavier book.  Plus I just carry a book everywhere I go to squeeze every possible reading moment out of my day (like if my son falls asleep in the car, etc).

LibsLIB:  Do you participate in reading challenges or book blog memes?  What do you think about them in general?
Jen:  Last year was the first time I signed up for challenges and I think I signed up for 15 or so, but I've found that my reading revolves so much around my review copies and what I've taken out from the library (poor, neglected books I own!) that I never make a point to read anything for challenges. This year I'll only be signing up for a couple of challenges, and only ones like What's In A Name that I can complete by accident.

The only meme I participate in regularly is the Sunday Salon, and that's not really very meme-y. Every so often I'll do a Library Loot or Teaser Tuesday, but probably not even once a month these days.

I think memes have their place, particularly for people who are just starting out in blogging and can use them to connect to the community, but at a certain point  people need to move beyond them and just pick one or two favorites that they really embrace and sort of make their own, or they risk having their own voice lost amongst content largely developed by other people.

LibsLIB:  What is the best book you've read this year, and the worst?
Jen:  I've finished 160 books so far this year, so it is tough to pick just one! Among the best are "The Weight of Heaven" by Thrity Umrigar and "Red Hook Road" by Ayelet Waldman.

If I've read anything that was really terrible, I've DNF'd it and can't even remember now, but I think "The Captive Queen" by Alison Weir was the biggest disappointment, because the first 20 pages were pretty bad, and I generally like her work

LibsLIB:  How do you choose what to read, and where do you usually get your books from?
 Jen:  The majority of my books these days are review copies that come from publishers, authors, and outside publicists, as well as Shelf Awareness and LibraryThing Early Reviewers.  I decide what to read based on release dates, how long I've had the book, and pure interest/whim.

LibsLIB:  I noticed in your about me section that it says you're a knitter, if you were going to design a scarf for your favorite character/author who would it be for and what would it look like? 
Jen:  Well, it would probably be for Cathy from East of Eden. That's my favorite book, and she's the most interesting character therein who would wear a scarf...  I think it would have to be cashmere, mixed with something shiny in a subtle way, a dark scarf with a bit of a spark.  Plus an intricate design that I'd probably have to do a lot of research to figure out, something  that wraps around and repeats itself.


  1. Really fun interview! I love how conversational you made this!

  2. Fun interview! I have both The Weight of Heaven and Red Hook Road on my shelves but haven't read them yet. I hope to before the end of the year or in early 2011. So many books...

  3. Lisa,
    Thanks, I had a very cooperative and engaging subject. It always helps. Thanks for commenting, glad to see you're also following.

    I know the feeling. It would take about 4 years to get through my current TBR list, and that's only assuming I don't put anything else on it. Unlikely! I was a little more interested in the description of Red Hook Road, myself.

  4. What a fun interview! The conversation aspect was great. And that scarf sounds wonderful Jen :)

  5. This was a wonderful interview of Jen! Thanks Amy :)

    Jen is a great blogger! I am always amazed by how many posts and activities Jen is able to be involved in and how many books she reads each week having a family and a part time job. I really enjoy her reviews and other posts and like her taste in books.

    I really enjoyed your interview in Jen's blog, Amy, and looked forward to reading your posts!
    ~ Amy
    Thank you!

  6. I'm a fan of Jen's already but I'm new to your blog - hi! I see that you just read THE WAVE. I can't wait to get my hands on that book - it looks so good!

  7. 160 books this year so far? I don't think I realized she read that much already. I'm a huge fan of Jen, and I really like how you brought out her personality in the interview. Great job!

  8. Amy,
    I agree! As a knitter myself (however incompetent), I thought this would be a fun question...and also maybe a good blog project for an ambitious literary knitter? I would watch it.

    Other Amy,
    Welcome to the Amy clan! I already have at least two people in my close inner circle who are Amys. We tend to be awesome, so I hope you enjoy the blog.

    It was a great read and Casey obviously enjoys her topic and the people she gets to work with, but I found myself skimming the last surfer-dude chapters. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, if not more!

    I, too, was astounded, I've only read half as many and have even fewer obligations! I guess I need to lay off the video games...nah, I like those too.


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