Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Q&A with Brooke of The Bluestocking Guide

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is here! My Friend Amy has a long list of blogs about books – be sure you copy the list so that you can visit them all! Plus there are tons of giveaways going on at her site and at some of the participating blogs. There’s also a form for you to link to the blogs you like to visit so others can discover them.

Here on Straight From Hel, we’re visiting with the wonderful Bluestocking. You’ll see what I mean by “wonderful” after you read the Q&A and visit her site. On her profile at Book Blogs, she says,
“I'm a lawyer during the day and a biophile the rest of the time. My aspirations are to become the supreme overlord of the world and to have more books that Barnes and Nobles.”
I think she may be well on her way to challenging Barnes & Noble since she’s a speed reader and reads multiple books at once.

She has an extensive site and blog called The Bluestocking Guide where you’ll find book reviews and podcasts. My guess is that you’re going to find so much great information there that you’ll want to come back often. In that case, just hit the subscribe button!

Let’s get started.

Helen: Welcome to Straight From Hel, Bluestocking. Your blog has the description: "Reviews by a Partial, Prejudiced, and Ignorant Reader." Since you don't seem to consider yourself a professional reviewer, how would you say your method of reviewing books has evolved since you first started The Bluestocking Guide?

Brooke: Actually the last half of my website's title is my homage to Jane Austen who wrote a book entitled The History of England by a Partial, Prejudiced, and Ignorant Reader. Jane Austen was an excellent judge of character. She had this way of ironically making fun of people especially their foibles. I guess I do aim to make fun of professional reviews. I find that professional reviews have so many catch phrases in their reviews that in the end the review doesn't tell you anything useful about the book. I just try to keep it real in my own little way. But to answer your question I'm definitely a little bit more personal in my reviews. I think when I first started my reviews were a lot more sterile in personality. I kept the review more cut and dry. But I remedied that by creating a "unique rating system." I think I'm a wee bit more opinionated. I'm definitely not scared to take an author to task for what I feel is stupidity. People seem to enjoy my reviews because I say what most people are thinking about the book. I definitely get more interesting comments now.

Helen: Do you feel your lawyer background influences the way your read books? Does it make your more analytical? More caught up in the details?

Brooke: I don't think being a lawyer affects the way I read. I learned about literary analysis while in college. In addition the history and sociology classes taught me how much surroundings influence an author's writing. That's what primarily guides me. I think being a lawyer makes me more objective. I was always more observant and analytical. I guess being a lawyer helps me target problem areas in a text a lot more quickly. Though I'm sure if you ever talked to author J. Scott Savage he would probably say the fact that I'm a lawyer is why the second half of our interview ended up being more of a cross examination.

Helen: Does that background influence the way you write? Or research?

Brooke: It affects they way I write my essays which tend to be a great deal more analytical. I think you see it most in my copyright pieces which are legal. I think sometimes I follow CRAC which stands for Conclusion, Rule analysis, Application and Conclusion. (Yes that is the form one uses in legal writing) But I don't do this too much as it is rather boring. Being a lawyer I do research like crazy. I do on many occasions look up historical references I find in books. History has a huge bearing on the how and why an author writes. The added knowledge adds perspective and color to what I read.

Helen: You've talked about all the books you have. I feel for you since I don't know where I'll put more books since my own shelves are full. How do you decide whether to keep a book or donate it?

Brooke: I've never donated a book. I double and triple stack my shelves. When I run out of room, I will turn the living room into a library. I re-read my books over and over. I am also very selective in what I read. There are a couple of awful books on my shelf like Pamela by Samuel Richardson. But for the most part, I buy what I enjoy. I am building a library so...

Helen: How in the world do you find time to do all that you're doing?

Brooke: Oh, I read very quickly. For instance I read Deathly Hallows in 5 hours and 35 minutes. I read Farworld: Water Keep in 2 hours and 45 minutes. Other than that, there is a lot of time management. I take the train to work, so I read to and from. I don't watch tv but 3 hours a week total. I review books after I finish reading them and have them stored on my computer for future use. Uhm also, many of the books I am reviewing aren't things I've read recently. A lot of the reviews are of the books I've owned for years. So I have a lot of backlog. I usually keep up with pertinent new releases through B & N.com. Also, I made a choice when I became an attorney to work at a firm that had work life balance. Where I currently work, there is a limitation on how many hours I can bill per day. No one, including the partners, works on the weekend unless there is an emergency. So most times, I'm out of the office by 6 pm. I don't make as much money as if I worked at a huge law firm, but I'd rather enjoy life.

Helen: Thank you so much Bluestocking! This has been fascinating. And I love your site. Truth be told, I’m in awe of your ability to podcast and keep up with everything in your life.

Speaking of podcast – Bluestocking did a phone interview with me and turned it into a podcast. (She’s pulling me into the high tech world.) Stop by her site and listen, then come back and tell me what you think. And you can leave comments here for Brooke. The Comments section is now open.


  1. Thanks Helen. It's funny you thought you'd sound like a dork in your interview because I thought I'd sound like a nit wit. LOL!!

  2. You were an excellent interviewer -- and clearly a great editor. Somehow you took that looong interview and cut it down to the essentials. And, then, created a podcast complete with music and pictures.

  3. Just what I needed—another great website to distract me from my writing! Thanks, Helen.

  4. I've been hearing about Bluestocking and now definitely need to check it out more. Thanks for posting this, Helen - but I also I 2nd LJ's comment - these good blogs I frequent are too darn full of important stuff I gotta go and do and read - when in the heck am I gonna finish my manuscript? LOL

  5. You definitely have to make time for the writing - that's a priority. Maybe you (meaning, we) can set aside a half-hour before we turn off the computer to quickly check our favorite blogs or sites.

    As I said in the podcast interview I did with Brooke, I check my favorites once a day. If they don't have something new up, I most likely won't have time to keep checking.

  6. Good info today and I just got back from the Bluestocking blog. Nice. I'll have to add that one to my visit schedule. Helen, I also check my favorites once a day, at least all the favorites I KNOW are posting regularly. Got soooo many good blogs on the list now, I also have to do some serious time management to keep priorities in order re: career. I blog a lot now, but first and foremost I am a novelist. OK, now back to that manuscript - {-:>

  7. Thanks for the great interview with bluestocking. I am amazed at how fast she can read. :-)

  8. great interview, both here and the audio version - I enjoyed them equally!

  9. Brooke and Helen,
    Great interview. I'm amazed both at how fast Brooke reads and that keeps all her books. She must have a huge house!


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