Sunday, August 19, 2012

Girl With A Pearl Earring

Girl With A Pearl Earring
By Tracy Chevalier

Hi there.

Please allow me to apologize. You see, I have lured you here to my blog under false pretenses.  You have, most likely, come to my blog in search of a review of Tracy Chevalier's charming novel Girl With a Pearl Earring. And while it is most assuredly the most recent novel I have finished, I have very little to say about it that hasn't already been said. It was, after all, a New York Times Bestseller and hardly needs my help as a reviewer. It was a fine novel. I enjoyed it. You might too. Read it. If you only came here for the review, hopefully the above words have satiated your need for literary criticism. I suspect they haven't and therefore the apology. I don't care about this book, but I care about you because I'm hoping you might help me. Please bear with me as I explain.

See, my blog has a certain consistency to it. Every single entry save two (Year in Reviews) have been posts pertaining to the book I have most recently finished. I read one book at a time and blog about it after I finish. Each post title is the name of said book and it is accompanied by an image of the cover of the book and I try to write something witty along the way. I like the consistency. I've been doing this for almost two years now and I've never stopped along the way to introduce myself or explain exactly why my blog is the way it is. It would have ruined the continuity. I don't intend to break that so I've been waiting patiently for a book to come along that prompted minimal feelings for me. I planned to co-opt that book's blogpost and use its space as a way to ask a question to all who visits.

That blogpost just happens to be Girl With A Pearl Earring. Fine book, like I said.

Anyway, enough about all that. I have an agenda today and I need your help. So let me get right to the point:

I'm thinking about changing the name of my blog.

When I first started this blog I was totally unaware that there was an entire world of book bloggers out there. In my blissfully ignorant mind I was a pioneer! I would be the first person to read books and write about them when I finished. I was going to bring literature to the unwashed masses of the Internet. When Blogger asked me to type a name, I did so without much thought and barreled forward toward posting. I had a mission, people, and it did not wait for a witty title! My Life in Books. Good enough.... moving on!

Since then, of course, I have discovered the multitude of wonderful book blogs out there, I realized how entirely inadequate both my blog and my blog name really was. My Life in Books? Atrocious. I aspire to greater creative heights that that! The name simply has to go.

Worse still is that it doesn't reflect what I do here, which is read any and all books that I can get my hands on.

For those unaware, I live in Taiwan. I'm neither Taiwanese nor ethnically Asian. I'm Canadian by birth and identify myself as such, but I live here nonetheless. How that came to be is a decidedly longer and more personal story so it may have to wait for another book that elicits zero feeling in me. I promise, however, that I will write it at some point. Rest assured that it's not important to our task at hand.

Taiwan has very few English bookstores or libraries. Most of the few are relegated to the largest urban centers: Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung. I do not live in any of those cities. I live about as far away from those cities as one can on this island (Hualien if anyone is Google Mapping it). The closest city with an English bookstore is Taipei, three hours north by train or 2.5 hours by car... if the road is open. There are no English bookstores in my town. Imagine that.

There are, however, English speakers in my town, many of which read. So there is a good collection of novels that have trickled down to my town via current and former expat residents as well as books left behind by tourists making the circuit of the island (it pays to befriend the owners of local hostels!). A lot are cheap romance novels, a fair amount of science fiction and way too many Penguin classics. So finding books in my town isn't impossible, but you rarely find exactly what you want.

I do go to Taipei a couple times a year and always buy books. I get shipments of books from my family back home a couple times a year, which is really sweet of them to do and I have a Kindle which means I can get books online. So, if I really want something, I can get it. It will just take more time (this is why I tend to read books that are a bit older than the books most other book bloggers read). I do miss browsing book stacks, though, and I develop fits of jealousy when I see other book bloggers blogging about their trips to bookstores, book shows or libraries and showing off their stacks of new books. I miss that a lot. For those counting, I have seven unread books on my shelf right now. That number will get much smaller before it gets bigger. But don't cry for me or anything. It's not as bad as it sounds. Just different.


I need a new name for this blog!

I would like a blog name to reflect my circumstances but I have not, as of yet, thought one up. This is disconcerting to me because I pride myself on my ability to be creative and yet...

I have been toying with the name Just Reviews to reflect my affinity to posting reviews only (and my attempt to be honest about everything I read), but it's just not capturing me. I thought I'd open up to everyone who visits to see what you think and whether you have a name suggestion. I can't promise I'll use it, but I'll take each and every suggestion seriously.

So, what do you think? Please take the time to offer your comments or suggestions. I'd greatly appreciate it...


The Good Life said...

Somebody should do something about the lack of bookstores in Hualien.

Chiba Chiba Y'all said...

All The Pages I See
This Book
Reviews With A View
Paper Cuts
The Prologue
Thoughts On Chance Tales

Jenny said...

Alas, I cant help with a name. My friend thought up my own blog name. I'm not so creative. I enjoyed hearing a little bit about you, though and have to laugh at your thoughts (or lack of) on TGITPE). I felt exactly the same way. Nothing.

Brian Joseph said...

I have to say Ryan, I like the name that you have. I know that is not very helpful though.

By the way I generally do the same thing as you, when I finish a book I post my thoughts on it. I do occasionally post some random thoughts, usually relating to books.

How about something like; "And the Next Book Is..." or perhaps a variation on your "Just Reviews" idea, "Just Books"?

annieb said...

I like your blog a lot and think it is fine just the way it is--name and all. So I can't help you there. I also like that you do very comprehensive reviews on older books. Realistically, a person can't read everything out there so one misses a lot. It was nice to hear a little about your life and I will look forward to hearing about how you arrived there.

Amber said...

I actually like My Life in Books more than Just Reviews...but they contain the same level of creativity. I don't know, this is really tough.

I like that you provide these thorough, complete reviews on a limited and sort of incomplete collection of books...

You've even alluded to posting consistent reviews on an inconsistent ebb and flow of books (I'm not endorsing any metaphorical blog titles related to oceans, or water, or islands--I'm just sayin')

So yeah, that's my brainstorm in a rambling response, no actual suggestion. Sorry.

I'm sure you'll come up with something brilliant.

Harvee Lau said...

Just Reviews does not tell me "books" and could mean several different things. Read and Review might say it much better, or something like that.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I can't help with a name as I'm not creative enough, but something to do with Taiwan might be good? One of the blogs I follow is called A Kindle in Hong Kong, which is really nice.

Sunrise said...

Republic of Books: (add explanation header here)

neal said...

I agree with Amber, I think your current title is as good or better than "Just Reviews."

I'd also say it depends on some of the reasons for the name change. Just for personal preference? To distinguish yourself from the masses of other book blogs?

I can't think of a poetic way to use it, but having "Taiwan" somewhere in the title at least offers a quick and accurate way to differentiate your title from other blogs. Like, "Reviews from Taiwan" or something.

Man of la Book said...

First, I like your blog.
Second, I like the name.
Third, I'd be more interested to read about Taiwanese literature. As you mentioned, I can read about The Girl with the Pearl Earring in many places (I read it about a year ago and still haven't gotten around to write a post), but books which you can only get in Taiwan, and I'm sure there are many good ones, are hard to come by.

bookspersonally said...

I know what you mean - once you actually get into the blogging, a whole new world opens up and gives you new perspective on what you are & what you want to do! but I actually like your blog title as well, so sadly, I am of little help. but if you must, agree that maybe something to do with Taiwan, just to distinguish a bit from the rest of us with humdrum blog names ;D.

Anonymous said...

I think your subtitle is quite powerful, and evokes the spirit of your site. I would drop the "My Life in Books" part and then call your blog "A Level of Difficulty". Then leave the rest of the subtitle, where you explain the paucity of available books, and your willingness to read anything, exactly the same.

I love the imagery of you scouring the streets, dreaming of Nicholas Hoare.

Ryan said...

Wow. First, I'm surprised and appreciative of everyone who likes my blog title. I always thought it was just something I had dashed off when I started blogging. I guess now I'm going to have to seriously consider keeping it (though there are a few I am also seriously considering. Getting Taiwan in the title might be a good idea.

Zohar... I would LOVE to read more Taiwanese literature, but very little of it is translated from the original Chinese. It's a shame, too, because Taiwan has a very vibrant reading culture (albeit comic books).

Jennifer Hartling said...

I like your name the way it is, but I do understand wanting to jazz it up a bit as well.

JoV said...

Every few years I have this impulse of changing my blog name. For some reason, I can't seem to be wholeheartedly embrace any name for my book blog. It probably doesn't matter in a bigger scheme of things to other people, it's only me that think it is a big deal. So keep your book blog name. Reading from Taiwan is fine as long as it is unique in the book blogging community.

I used to read a lot of Taiwanese literature in the 80's, in its original language. But now I read more translated fiction from China.

I blog at Being a novice I thought a book blog name should start with "biblio" only to find out everyone already took every permutation there is.. "Bibliofreak, bibliophile, biblioaddict etc etc... I'm now "JoV's book pyramid" oh well.

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