Blogger Query – The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Reviews

Another blog I’ve been following since forever is The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Reviews. The Mad Hatter has been around since 2009 and is one of the more prodigious readers I’ve come across. I wanted to learn more about the man, the blog and the hats, so I invited Michael for a Blogger Query. He said yes and today you get to read the results.

Let’s start with the basics. Who is Michael?

A man with obsessive tendencies, especially in regards to books and hats.

What got you into blogging?

It is all my wife’s fault. It goes a bit deeper than that though. I lost touch with one of my bookish friends a few years ago. We use to get together every few weeks and trade and talk books. Once we fell of out touch rather than my wife be stricken with me telling her about all the books I’ve read she thought I should inflict it upon the internet since I was spending time reading other blogs. Don’t get me wrong my wife is a reader too. I don’t think I could be married to someone who isn’t, but we don’t always mesh on tastes. [Ed. Note: Oh, I know how that goes!]

Why The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Reviews?

Honestly, I came up with a bunch of ideas and found out they were all used. I nabbed and was just going to call it The Booktionary for awhile, but my book shelves at the time had lots of hats on them. I said jokingly to my wife that I should just be The Mad Hatter and it stuck from there.

What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?

I like to think I mix up my content a lot. I don’t like doing the same type of post back-to-back though it has happened occasionally. My character interviews are probably my favorite thing. I’d like to do more, but it takes finding the right character I think I can play with and an author is willing to go back-and-forth with me like Kevin Hearne’s Atticus or Gail Carriger’s Alexia and Lord Maccon.

What are your goals for your blog?

To have a good time, inform readers, and for time-to-time spark a larger conversation.

One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?

When I first got into blogging I liked ratings, but as I’ve progressed as a reviewer I’ve grown less interested in them. I do rate using hats as the score indicator, which is more out of habit now, but it still makes me laugh a little. 3 out of Hats you know. Who does that? Anyway I actually changed my rating system last year form X out of 10 to X out of 5 as the larger system left too much variance. Is there really a big difference between a 7 out of 10 and an 8 out of 10 when if I wrote the review another day I may be swayed one way or the other by distance from the work? Not really. So a X out of 5, at least to me, gives it a more general sense and also matches up better with the star system on Amazon and other sites where I put my reviews up. I also don’t rate every book any more.

Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?

Yes, because above all things I try to be honest with my assessments. Sure I’ve been glowing towards books at times and I’ve done what I later consider to be hatchet jobs that usually come about because something profoundly disappoints or infuriates me.

There are some bloggers who say they don’t do negative reviews because why spread negativity? I say why let other people read a book that might not be worth their time? A well written negative has both turned me off a book and turned me on to seeking it out. Because as everyone has seen tastes vary greatly. One person’s A Game of Thrones is another person’s Da Vinci Code.

You’ve recently done some micro reviews. I’d imagine those are harder to write than full reviews as you have fewer words in which to give your opinion. Is that observation correct?

In my case no. My micro reviews came about because over the last year I’ve fallen behind in regular review writing and there were books I wanted to talk about more than my reading log allows. The micro reviews are mostly comprised of notes/thoughts I made during the reading of the book or half finished longer reviews that I condensed down. I don’t take notes with every book, but if I have a thought I’ll e-mail myself the note. Sometimes my notes are longer than my review. For The Way of Kings I had almost 2,500 words of notes for a review that ended up just shy of 1,600 words.

How important are blogs to your reading choices?

Fairly important especially with other bloggers I share similar tastes with. Graeme of Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review and I have a scarily similar takes on many books so usually if he goes bonkers for a book I know I’ll generally like it. He’s a bit more into Zombies than I am though. [Ed. Note: Uhm, yeah way more into zombies than me as well.]

How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?

Just like they always have. Bloggers are just a new label that has been on the rise. You could certainly say long-time Amazon reviewers and forum frequenters have been bloggers for longer than most of us “bloggers.” As for how they fit in the “business” they are just a more personal outlet publishers now can have access to.

What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?

You caught me between fiction. I did just finish The Kingmakers by Clay and Susan Griffith, the last of the Vampire Empire books, which mixes Vampires, Steampunk, Magic, and Romance perfectly and hearkens back to the adventure pulps of old. Good stuff. Right now I’m reading the Hellfrost Players Guide for a Savage Worlds role playing game I’ll be starting soon. I’m planning on something a little different with my character. He’ll be a Frostborn Half Giant, which is a little against the rules as half breeds aren’t usually allowed in the world, but I’ve worked out a heck of backstory that the GM (Game Master) feels will fit in with his plans. I’m thinking of calling him Riskin Frostbane. He’s not a nice fellow and is probably going to get my group into all kinds of trouble.

What I am looking forward to? I can’t limit myself to just one. So how about 3? The first would be Martha Wells’ The Siren Depths. The world is just incredibly original. The next is Joe Hill’s Nos4a2 as his last novel Horns blew me away. And I like short fiction so I’ll throw John Joseph Adams’ The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination into the hat. [Ed. Note: I see what you did there ;-)]

Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than books?

Well, hats of course. I have probably more than 2 dozen. I’m also a bit of a gamer usually going for more involved board games such as Pandemic, Small World, or Dominion.

Last February you blogged about your gorgeous new bookshelves. Did I mention I was jealous of those? Anyway, at the time they were lovely and neatly shelved. Are they still as neat or have your recent procurements already overflown your available space?

Those shelves are still fairly neat, but not in the pictures are another 4 free standing bookcases that get most of the new books and they do usually have a couple of piles of books sitting precariously on the edges. Though I did just do a book purge giving more than 70 books to my local library.  The influx of review copies has gotten a bit out of hand and I barely ask for specific books anymore. Plus I still buy books at a prodigious rate.

Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?

My long term plans call for alphabetizing my collection, but right now it is more haphazard  My collectible books usually go in one area grouped by author. I do have Steampunk and anthology sections and also I like to keep some favorite books at eye level. Just a habit I guess or a lightly veiled attempt at getting visitors to ask me about some of my favorite books. I also keep review copies I intend to read on one shelf versus a shelf of purchased books I’d like to read sooner than later. So like I said it is a bit of mess, but it encourages me to look around a bit when deciding what to read next. And if asked for a book I can usually tell you right where it is located.

Thank you, Michael! Go check out The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Reviews if you haven’t already and you can follow Michael on Twitter as well.