Tag Archives: Reading

Discussion: Blogging Slumps

discussion

THE DREADED BLOGGING SLUMP

It’s been over four years but… I finally hit that blogging slump. I’ve been so in love with blogging that I just didn’t see it coming! I’ve been so passionate about my blog and what I do here that I just didn’t anticipate falling into a blogging slump! Sure I’ve had book slumps and ARC slumps but I just didn’t see a blogging slump happening… but as I sat in front of my computer, trying to think of a new blogging topic on and off all day, I realized it had finally hit me.

I’m still passionate about blogging but a little thing called life got in the way. Ever since the candle company really started picking up, I just haven’t had as much time to keep up with blogging as I used to. I do most of my candle work on the weekends and at nights but there’s also a lot that cuts into reading time and things to keep up with when I could be blogging. When it comes down to it, I end up doing things for my business first and then for my hobby second, naturally.

 

Then there’s just the matter of a slight burn out after doing this for so many years. After over four years of blogging, you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. You see so many people come up with creative ideas that you admire but don’t want to copy. It’s become a sort of vicious cycle with me as well to feel like I don’t have interesting posts and then I come up with one new thing to either hate it later or it was so time consuming that I just don’t have time to repeat it. Reviews are a staple but they take a long time to write. Top Ten Tuesday is always an option but I don’t feel like as many people are interested in stopping by as they used to for that and I feel the obligation to link and post photos but that’s so time consuming as well. Not every blog post has to be a long blog post but I’m so long-winded and at times maybe too thorough that I have a hard time coming up with a meaningful, short post.

I think it’s my own fault, in some ways. I used to have so much content (and so much time) that I would post every weekday. It was fun to come up with new posts and I couldn’t wait to share them with everyone! Now that I have much less time to write, it’s not a “chore” to come up with a blog post but I don’t have those creative writing juices flowing as much and the posts that I used to spend literal days on, I just can’t do anymore. I also got used to the post-every-weekday routine that now that I don’t have as much time, I feel like I’m totally slacking when I don’t. I know that’s silly and it’s totally me but it’s making me feel like I’m in more of a slump than I am.

So how do I get out of this blogging slump? I’m not totally sure! Maybe I’ll try to come up with some shorter yet fun blog posts. Maybe I’ll just write all the reviews that I need to catch up on and do all of those at once. Maybe I’ll try to allow myself not to post every weekday (I truly don’t need to) and keep the content fresher because it doesn’t feel as urgent and forced. New blogging ideas are always so much fun but after four years of writing posts, it does get hard to come up with new things every once in a while! Right now, the dreaded blogging slump is hitting me hard but I’m sure I’ll swing back up when I get some creative inspiration!


What’s your method of busting out of that blogging slump? Do you try to stir things up with new ideas or simply take a break? Where do you go for inspiration when you feel like you’re totally out?

Discussion: Kicking ARCs to the Curb (Sort Of)

discussion

In my previous discussion on book slumps, I talked about how I’ve been having a lot of trouble with “okay” books lately and feeling like I was just being too hard on books recently. The more I thought about it, it wasn’t necessarily that I was being too hard on any particular book but the more I keep on reading, the more I realize quite precisely what I like and dislike, and more particularly, the more my TBR stacks up with books I really want to read and books I sort of want to read. My reading habits and TBR tackling-strategies tend to waffle back and forth between reading on a schedule and throwing caution to the wind but I’m really starting to lean back to the “caution to the wind” side of things again. 

Like I have in previous times, I think part of my reading slump was due to reading too many “obligation” books. I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with publishers and I’ve gotten better at saying no and picking up only the books I’m really interested in but I also think I still have a little room to improve on that. I’m sure you’re asking, “Why ‘obligation’ books? You’re choosing them yourself, aren’t you? This isn’t school.” Why you are correct. I am choosing those books for myself. BUT once I’ve made a commitment to read a book or read it on a specific timeline, it starts to feel like an obligation. Even if it’s a book I wanted to read anyway, once I make a commitment to read a book and send a review back to the publisher or to participate in a blog tour, a lot of times it becomes — dun dun dunnnn — WORK. It’s silly because reading is always fun but then I have a stressor there of having to read it by X date and make sure my blog post is done so I can post it or send it along.

So here’s my recent (or really not recent at all but recurring) issue: ARCs always have dates attached to them. No matter when I receive an ARC, I always feel like there’s this little clock looming over my shoulder counting down to the publication date. There are still so many times I totally forgot that a book was coming out soon and I see the “book birthday” tweets on social media and feel just terrible that it was another book that I didn’t read “on time”. So then I scramble to try to read it and push more books to the side that maybe I want to read more than my “commitment” book. Then I don’t make time for my must-reads because I’m too busy playing the vicious cycle of catch-up on all of these ARCs.

I will admit that it’s very, very hard for me to turn down the nice and shiny and new. I’ve been blogging for over four years now and some of the shininess of ARCs still hasn’t lost its appeal. One thing I am resolving now — like, right now — is to really fight that urge to request (or simply accept) some of these ARCs that I don’t need to read right away. I had started slowing down on ARC and egalley requests a while ago but I was still having a hard time when being directly presented with an opportunity — a blog tour, a review copy, a chance for promo — and those were still stacking up on a list of things that I had to accomplish and frankly, my time to read and relax these days has shrank even more. The last thing I need is a list of “things to do” for my hobby when I can’t even finish my list of things to do around my house. So as of right now, I am making a better attempt at really only requesting and accepting the review copies of books that I really want to read RIGHT NOW. If it’s not a book I want to read RIGHT NOW that means I’ll push it aside. If I push it aside, it’s not something that I need a review copy or advanced copy of. This allows someone else to read the book who may have a lot more time to read it than I do, who may appreciate it more than I do, and who might be able to do better promo than I can right now and I really want that person to have the book instead of having it sit on my shelf until I can get to it. If time passes by and I still want to read it, I can always borrow it from the library or buy it and then it’s back to being a leisurely read and not something that I feel like I have to finish by a certain date.

This is not commentary on other bloggers’ habits or reading habits. This is not commentary on how others use (or don’t use) ARCs. No matter what anyone’s opinions are on that, this is not the post for it. This is my own personal statement and promise that I want to be held to because at a time where my must-read books are going unread, it’s time to take back control of my TBR pile!

I’m not saying goodbye to ARCs for good. I love working with publishers and having books presented to me that I might not otherwise know of or choose for myself. I’ve found some awesome surprises thanks to publisher recommendations and review copies! But I am making a sincere effort to read those books that are truly calling my name and I am still more than happy (understatement) to get my hands on my most-anticipated books early in the form of ARCs (I’m eyeing you, HEARTLESS and GEMINA and others) and taking a step back from the maybes for now. I do still like mixing things up and requesting something that may be flying under the radar or requesting an ARC on a whim but for now, I think I’m pulling way back — at least until I can get my TBR stacks more under control!


What’s your relationship with ARCs? Are you swimming in unreleased titles? Overwhelmed with current releases? Making your way through backlist books? Have you pulled back with requesting as well?

Discussion: In Defense of Instalove

discussion

A few weeks ago, Fierce Reads proposed an interesting question for the Twitterverse to answer… and for me the answer wasn’t easy! 

There’s a lot of animosity and instant negative reactions towards tropes like love triangles and instalove, especially because I think a lot of us have been inundated with both of these concept and/or seen them done errmmm… not well (to put it nicely) too many times. I know that when I hear a book has a love triangle or instalove, I instantly brace myself, preparing for impending doom BUT I don’t always think that’s a fair snap judgement.

It was really interesting to see the answers to this tweet and I was actually surprised to see SO many answers filled with rage about instalove! When it’s done poorly or clumsily, I’m not a fan of it either, but I don’t think it’s something to be counted out, especially when reading YA (come on. I know I suffered from instalove when I was a teenager). I feel like instalove is a term that can encompass more than just the negative instances so I was surprised to see so many reactions!

Okay, story time. I personally consider the way that I met my husband to be a bit insta-lovey. I went to a party with my friend (she had to convince me a little to be honest haha!) and I met Shane there. We instantly hit it off and he even scheduled his plans just to come out and see me if our groups of friends were getting together. He changed his entire opinion of marriage after we started dating (before we officially even started dating, actually). He never wanted to get married and here we are! On our way to our 1st anniversary.

I guess what I’m saying is that for me, it depends on how instalove is written. Do I believe in LOVE at first sight? No. You can’t LOVE someone instantly BUT I do believe in a genuine connection upon first meeting and an instant attraction which is a ridiculously good assistance to falling in love quickly. I firmly believe in insta-attaction and and instant connection but the love part does take time. I think where we have the most issues lies in books like fantasies, sci-fi, and dystopians where two characters meet and then all of a sudden are willing to do anything and everything for that person. In that case… no. That would be instant dedication and maybe instant obsession and attraction but that’s not quite a spark of love.

I also think that it’s such an issue in YA because we’re reading about teenagers. I can remember a VERY specific time when I thought I was in love… from dating a guy for a week. It’s a tumultuous time and easy for a teenager to think that they’re in love because they don’t quite know what love is and have a very strong attraction. Insta-love may be closer to a teenager truth sometimes but that also doesn’t mean it makes it any easier to read! (I much prefer the stories that feel more natural, even if teens do jump into the “L” word too quickly sometimes!)

I could read several books that could be deemed instalove based on a definition and never consider them to be instalove because the relationship just felt natural. I think we just notice when instalove isn’t written as well that sticks out in our brains, giving the concept a generally bad connotation! When it’s written well, I don’t even notice it. I just call it love!

Which is worse for you — instalove or love triangles? Do you think instalove can be written well? If so, what are some great examples?

Discussion: On Going in Blind

 

discussion

Very recently, I’ve started a few books — namely ARMADA and THE ACCIDENT SEASON — having totally forgotten what they’re about before I started them so the idea came to me to share a little piece of my reading habits: going into books (mostly) blind. 

I’m sort of a “read a synopsis once and done” kind of girl. Usually when I’m adding books to Goodreads or my TBR or my bookshelves, I read the synopsis (of course) to see if I’m interested and then don’t really read it again… maybe ever. It seems like a silly thing to do, right? I bet you’re wondering how I can possibly know what I want to read if I don’t know what a book is about, but that’s the beauty of being both a mood reader and an obsessive Goodreads shelver — I don’t really have to!

By the time a book lands on my Goodreads shelves, I already know that I’m interested in reading it. If I obtain a copy of it, I mark it accordingly so I know it’s available for me to read and each book that I add to my shelves, I put on a different shelf according to genre. Sometimes I’m a liiiittle bit off if the description is vague but mostly I can place what sort of feel it might have. This is where my mood reading comes into play: by the time I’m ready to pick up a new book, I’m picking based on what I feel like reading so I usually choose based on genre, whether that’s browsing my Goodreads shelves or staring at the ones in my home. However I decide to pick a book, one thing is for sure — I don’t pick it based on synopsis.

I usually don’t read the blurb again until after I finish a book (or during if I’m starting to feel like the book is taking a weird turn) or when I start writing my review. It may seem crazy to some but I love going into books blind. Why, you ask? Because I love discovering every little surprise and secret the way the author intended. I know that sometimes blurbs or synopses have to include some minor plot points in order to get that hook out to readers to get them interested so I like to totally forget the specifics of a blurb by the time I pick up a book to read!

It may not seem like much but I’ve discovered big surprises within the first quarter of a book which can often times be given away because that’s the first big twist in a story to get the reader invested in the book… But if I’m familiar with the blurb and then go to pick up the book, that’s no longer a surprise for me. It may not seem like a big deal but I find a book so much more enjoyable when I’m able to discover those things for myself. Big twists and surprises really enhance my reading experience and I often bump up ratings because of a good twist at the end of a book or a surprising moment that I just really didn’t see coming.

Of course, going in blind does have its drawbacks sometimes. I can think of a couple books where I forgot exactly what the synopsis said (like I usually do) but then missed clues to the actual feel/genre (I thought the book was sci-fi, for example, and it was much more dystopian) or hints about a genre-changing twist (from mystery to straight-up paranormal). Those sorts of surprises aren’t the greatest because then I have to totally reassess the book that I’m reading and I feel disappointed because the book wasn’t what I thought it was. The happy news is that A) that doesn’t happen to me often and B) if the book really was going well for me, those surprises would have flowed naturally and I would have been okay with the change instead of them feeling totally out of place.

Thankfully, I haven’t had many bad or frustrating experiences but not fully knowing every detail about a book’s plot before I start it. Going in blind almost always enhances my reading experience because I’m a TOTAL spoiler-avoider and even those little twists make a big difference!


How about you? Do you ever go into books blind or do you like to be fully prepared before you pick up a book? Does mood reading help you decide or do you usually pick based by a book’s description?

Discussion: Why We Need to Cut Ourselves Some Slack

discussion

Asheley from Into the Hall of Books had a great discussion the other day called Making Bloggy Mistakes which led to a fun chat with a few other bloggers on Twitter. Later on in the day, I was putting off writing the five reviews that had started piling up and was brainstorming what kind of new creative post I could come up with as I was doing my work (all the while pinning both just-for-fun things and helpful blog things on Pinterest) and the perfect post popped into my head. It wasn’t about anything particularly creative at all — in fact, it’s sort of the opposite.

I think we book bloggers all need to cut ourselves some slack.

Asheley’s post sort of started that idea swirling in my mind, but really the more I thought about it, the more I felt the need to post about it… My blog is turning three this year in April — hooray! — and I’ve learned a LOT over these past three years. From what I can tell, I probably hopped onto the book blogging scene right as it started “taking off”, so to speak. Maybe that’s my perception because I knew nothing about it at the time, but I feel like the “veterans” of the book blogging world tend to be going on their 4th, 5th, and 6th years (and beyond!) and I tend to know a lot of people who started right around the time I did — give or take. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve also seen quite a few veterans hang up their blogging hats too. They’ve all had their various reasons — whether that be more important things in life, starting a family, worn out by drama, or just burned out on keeping up with the blog — and although we miss their presence in the book blogging community, they’ve all had some wise parting words, the most important and most-often repeated of which is this:

You are reading and blogging as a hobby. Always keep it fun.

Those words always strike home with me since the whole reason I started blogging was just to have a fun outlet for my book reviews and had hoped to reach out to an audience who was looking for book recommendations. I didn’t know ARCs existed, never thought I’d talk to authors or publishers, and never thought my blog would come as far as it has today.

Starting in 2015, I decided to really make sure that I was doing this for fun. I mean, I always have fun with my blog but admittedly, sometimes I put way too much pressure on myself in a few different ways. For some people, “keeping it fun” may mean cutting down on the number of posts and reviews or not letting themselves get stressed about posting X amount of times each week… It’s hard work and I do work hard to achieve those, but that’s not the thing that I felt pressured to accomplish. It all had to do with reading.

I started blogging in 2012 and my eyes were opened up to a WHOLE lot more books than what I found in Borders (RIP Borders) and the used book stores near my house. Suddenly I was reading way more books based on other people’s recommendations and reactions, but hey, that was a good thing because that’s why I started my blog, right? But it was easy to get swept up in the popularity of a book or a blog or a post. I ended up reading books that were popular — which I might have done blog or no blog — and I wasn’t always enjoying them but now the difference was that when I didn’t enjoy the books everyone was raving about, I felt like I should have. I wanted to like what the popular bloggers liked. I wanted to be one of those bloggers who received ARCs from publishers and who authors talked to and who got tons of comments on their awesome posts — because really, how is that not appealing —  so what did I do? I read what they read.

That worked out okay sometimes. Most of the time, actually! I didn’t pick up EVERYTHING that was going around but I tried to read the books with the biggest buzz. I thought a book may not be for me but I tried it anyway. YES, I have found some books that I didn’t think I’d like and I LOVED them and that was a great experience… But I’ve also forced myself to read (and finish) too many books that I wasn’t enjoying.

I didn’t really start reading a LOT until 2011 and I started my blog in April of 2012 and it’s pretty interesting to see my reading habits and ratings broken down in percentages! Four-star books seem to always dominate and that seems about right, but I think what’s most interesting is the change in DNFs and two-star ratings. It’s hard to tell by the actual numbers but the percentages for two star books increased as did DNFs from 2012 to 2013 (right when I started blogging…) and I’m actually sort of surprised that the number of three-star books went down! I thought that would be higher. But the GREAT news is that my number of five-star books increased!

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(Yes, I made graphs and charts for this… Follow me here…) 

Anyway, I can analyze what I read in the past for days but really this shows me that I’ve been picking up too many books I knew I wasn’t going to like. I KNEW IT. I picked them up anyway because of obligations. So charts and graphs and ramblings aside, where am I going with this…?

Read what you want. Always.

In 2015, I’m REALLY trying to read what I want to read and not what I feel obligated to read. I know, I know, despite how many times we say that blogging is our hobby and we shouldn’t feel obligated to read anything, we all have those moments where we feel like we should read something — whether that’s because of a group read, because we requested it from a publisher, because we met the author, or any other number of reasons. It’s taken me three years of blogging to be okay with not reading everything (which is great since that’s impossible anyway). It may sound silly to some people who have never had this problem because they do always read what they want BUT I do think we’ve all been in that spot at some point in time and I’m sure almost all of us have forced ourselves to keep reading at some point in time.

Reading what you want is freeing but in a way it also requires a bit more work. I’m trying really hard not to request books from publishers or via Netgalley/Edelweiss if I really don’t think I’m going to read it SOON. There are plenty of books I’d like to read but I really don’t have the time to read them all as ARCs or egalleys. The books that aren’t a priority, I can wait until they’ve been published and then I can buy or borrow them. It will also free ME up to read what I’m really dying to read and not stare at all of those books that I requested and wonder when I’ll get to them.

So far in 2015, I’ve read 17 books. Only one two-star book so far and a couple three-stars but that was more “this book wasn’t what I thought it would be” versus “I don’t feel like reading this book but I am anyway”. I have been SO HAPPY with everything else I’ve read so far this year and I’m really excited to keep picking up books that I really feel like reading. Very long story short, I am giving myself a break!

This can extend to how much you want to put into blogging too.

I really love putting a lot of work into my blog so that’s not something that ever feels like a stressful thing for me, but if you find yourself struggling or rushing to finish a post, do it later. If you don’t want to post, then don’t. If you want to do something totally different that you’re not sure “fits” on your blog, do it anyway. Your blog is YOUR creative space and just because it’s a book blog doesn’t mean you can’t post other things on there. This is your hobby and you should feel comfortable doing what you want with it. Try not to worry about what other people are doing or feel pressure to fit a certain mold. I think it’s easy to fall into a competitive spirit and sometimes that’s fun or drives you to become a better blogger but I don’t think it should be something to stress about!


So what are your thoughts, friends? What sort of reading and blogging pressures do you feel? Do you ever feel like throwing your “plans” out the window and doing whatever you want? Do you think we put too much pressure on ourselves to be this “perfect blogger”?

Discussion: Diversifying Reading vs Being a Diverse Reader

discussion

There’s been a lot of talk everywhere about diversity + the book/reading/book blogging communities… This post isn’t so much about diversity in the market so much as my personal reading tastes and how they’ve evolved to become more diverse than they used to be and the tricky business of stepping outside of my comfort zones.

My reading tastes used to be very narrow. First, I read Harry Potter. Then I re-read Harry Potter many, many, many times until my sister started recommending the books she was reading. Then I accepted a recommendation from my friend Alison and started reading Twilight which lead to reading those books and then re-reading those books. I read a bit of adult contemporary (almost all recommendations) and then I started picking up cozy mysteries and read mysteries almost exclusively. Then my friend Lisa recommended The Hunger Games and after falling in love with that series (and binge reading it), I finally started to seek out books on my own, which is how I found all of the amazing young adult fiction that I read today!

I feel like I’ve branched out with my reading a lot in just a few years and yet even still, I find myself falling back into my old comfort zones. I found a series and then stuck to it (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games). Then an author and stuck to them (Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella). Then genres and stuck to them (adult contemporary, mysteries, dystopians). And now I think I’m the most diverse in my reading that I’ve been so far with all of the different genres I enjoy, but I’m still mainly stuck in YA and rarely branch out to adult or middle grade now (though I’ve made progress with that as well, lately). Although… I wouldn’t really say that’s an issue…

If you’re coming from a diversity aspect, sure. I’m not the most diverse reader out there. I could really dip into a lot more issues or perspectives or backgrounds, but I’ve always been a reader who has stuck to what I love and what I know I love. I’ve slowly branched out from only reading fantasy when it was Harry Potter to thoroughly enjoying fantasy and now it’s one of my favorite genres to read… But even when I first started reading fantasy, I thought I hated it.  I didn’t know where to start as far as fantasy was concerned so I was just trying things other people liked with no clue as to what I would enjoy. Sometimes it worked out amazingly (Graceling) and other times, I just couldn’t get into it (Lord of the Rings). It took a long time of picking books and trying them before I finally started to realize what kinds of things I appreciated in fantasy and what things I really didn’t have interest in, and really that’s the same with every genre.

As far as this post goes, I’m not talking about diversity meaning race or religion or sexual preference. I don’t really choose books based on any of those (unless it’s something like Christian fiction because I already know that’s something I don’t personally connect with). I’m talking about diversity in my reading meaning picking up different genres, male vs female POVs, trying to pick books based on what sounds interesting and not caring whether that means YA or Adult or MG. When I look at where I started as a reader and where I am now, I never could have predicted all of the different genres and subject matters and types of characters that I read — and yes, race and religion and sexual preference fall in with that too. I never really chose books with the express purpose of avoiding one thing or the other but I always fell back into my reading comfort zone. I do dip out of it from time to time, but I also like staying within that comfort zone because that’s when I find the books that I expect to love and in fact do fall in love with — because I know those are the books I will identify with the most. I don’t always have to identify with a book to fall in love with it, but that’s usually a really good way for me to get hooked so often times those are the books I seek out.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m making progress! I feel like I’ve come a long way already in the books that I pick out and the books I end up enjoying. Even within a genre or a topic that I expect to love, I find books that just don’t live up to my expectations. Other times I’ve picked up books I think I’d enjoy and find out that I really just don’t enjoy books set in a certain time period or a certain setting or characters who have certain personality traits. Some things vary from book to book and some things, I find out, really do end up falling under a generalization of things I do or don’t enjoy, but I’m able to make that generalization because I’ve tried so many books with those elements and truly don’t enjoy them.

While I’m trying to step out of my comfort zone, I think it’s important for me to edge out slowly… test the waters… pick something in between something I love and something that’s totally different. When I tried diving into fantasy, for example, I tried FULL OUT FANTASY with worlds and creatures and terminology and I was utterly overwhelmed, and I think that can be true with any reader. If you step too far outside of your comfort zone, it can easily be scary and overwhelming. So far, I’m enjoying expanding my reading tastes little by little and pulling those new and exciting topics or genres into my bubble of familiarity. Some people can make big leaps like that but that usually doesn’t work for me. I’m really enjoying growing as a reader at my own pace because that’s really what’s working so well. When I try to force things because other people are reading them or because they’re all the rage or because they’re a hot topic, sometimes I’m just not ready for that yet.

I think it’s important for readers to try new things and expand their reading horizons because it’s true — you don’t know what you’re missing out on if you don’t try — but also remember that you’re reading because you love to read. You’re doing what you love and it’s something that makes you feel passionate. It’s always okay to stick within your comfort zone when you want to/need to because those are the things that make you love what you love!

How do YOU define being a diverse reader? Do you think that pertains to stepping out of your comfort zone little by little as well having a variety of genres and topics to choose from?

Do you think you’ve developed your reading repertoire over the years and have expanded your reading horizons? Do you tend to just read what you love or take the plunge and dive into something totally different than what you usually read?

 

Total Romance Domination?

A lot of my discussion posts happen to be based on current trends in my reading or trends I’m noticing throughout the blogosphere and lately I’ve been having issues with fantasy and dystopian books. Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE them. I appreciate the action, adventure, and world building that they provide and they will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’ve been wondering if lately we as readers are being marketed books based off of their romances instead of the foundations of the stories themselves.

I love a good romance in ANY book. Of course I’m expecting (and hoping!) to see a good romance in most of the books that I read and I think romances add a great depth to any given book in any given genre. I tend to learn a lot about a character by who they choose as a love interest and how the two interact. My issue lately is that I feel like romance is taking over the non-contemporary reads. I love a good contemporary romance and hello, it says it right there — contemporary romance. I fully expect (and want) the romance to be one of the major plot points in those books… But I’ve been through a string of books lately that could have very easily been five star books, except for the fact that the romance seemed to take over the story, pushing a lot of the world building to the back burner. Then the world building didn’t reappear much until the latter half of the book when it was needed for plot twists or reveals or the history of a specific character. I know this is my personal reading preference, but for me? I need a lot of that world building up front. When I start a fantasy, sci-fi, or dystopian, I’m entering a totally new world. I don’t know the history of it. I don’t know the people. I don’t know the culture or the traditions and may not even know the language, and all of those things are really important to me in order to be immediately captivated by this new experience and this interesting place which admittedly, I’m always eager to explore.

Of course, I don’t need ALL of the world building right away. There’s a fine line between establishing a world and explaining as the book goes along and infodumping. I’m no author so I can’t say exactly how hard it is to toe that line because I haven’t attempted to do it. (Actually, I made one sad attempt during NaNoWriMo of 2012 and I wrote myself into a corner with both plot and world building so I’m gonna say, it’s pretty hard!) I guess what I’m saying is, I feel like a romance should be interspersed throughout the story. It should grow from beginning to end, whether that relationship was previously established or two characters are meeting for the first time. I don’t like when the heroine (as it’s usually a female in the books I’ve read) gets so overwhelmed with her current relationship issues (whatever they may be) that all of these amazing details about this new world that the author has created take a backseat. I always appreciate when an author is so skilled to mix in world building, plot, suspense, romance, and character development all in one and I honestly don’t know how they do it because it’s incredibly amazing when it all meshes so perfectly!

  

Part of it makes me wonder… Am I noticing this because it’s intentional? Is the market swinging toward heavier romance subplots (or in this case, becoming a main plot)? Are authors being swayed by editors and publishers and other industry professionals to amp up the romance? Or is this just a totally random thing happen to pick up with my recent reads?

Now, I know we all have different reading tastes and obviously that’s a good thing! Some of those books I ended up rating completely differently than I might have had the romance aspect not taken over the plot and dwarfed the world building. Is that a personal preference? Absolutely. But I’m also wondering if this is something that anyone else has noticed too. Those same books that I ended up rating lower because I felt so overwhelmed by the romance and underwhelmed by the world building, others really loved.  I always feel like I’m missing something when that happens, but I can’t help but feel like the book had so much potential and I was just too blinded by this love interest and the drama that surrounded it that so many other things just got lost.

Obviously I can’t agree with everyone on every book — and frankly, that would be boring! — but I have to ask if anyone else has been feeling like they’re drowning in romantic drama lately. Are we (Readers? Authors? Editors? Publishers?) putting a larger emphasis on the romances in the books that we’re reading nowadays? Or is it just something that I’m feeling personally because I’m someone who is obsessed with world-building?

So let me know! Do you have issues with certain romances in some of your dystopian, fantasy, or sci-fi reads? Do you ever wish for more world building in place of the stage time some of the romances take or is a good romance a key element of your non-contemporary reads?

Reading Resolutions: 2014

HAPPYNEWYEAR

Well, we made it through another calendar year and I’m so happy to say that The Book Addict’s Guide is still going strong — stronger than ever! 2013 was a BIG year for me and I went through a lot of changes — both good and a little stressful — and so my 2014 goals are going to be totally different than everything I wanted to accomplish in 2013!

challenges

  • LAST YEAR: I started the year by participating in the Debut Author Challenge, The YA Contemporary Challenge, and was working on my own version of Epic Reads’ United States of YA.
  • THIS YEAR: I am signing up for ZERO challenges. I have a tendency to take on a LOT of different things because it’s so fun to participate in everything! But you know what? It’s really hard and time consuming to try to do it all! I actually ended up giving up on keeping tracking of both the Debut Author Challenge and YA Contemporary Challenge less than halfway through the year. Updating and maintaining my Goodreads, designated blog page, and staying on track for the challenges became overwhelming. I also decided the United States of YA was fun but also not something I really wanted to update and maintain all the time. 

readalongs

  • LAST YEAR: I participated in the Song of Ice and Fire read along, reading five massive books totaling over 5000 pages. I hosted and participated in the Gayle Forman Read Along (another 5 books, but much less in terms of pages). They were only two, but they were a MASSIVE undertaking and while they were a lot of fun, they took up a huge amount of time.
  • THIS YEAR: I’m not saying no to read alongs, but I’m going to be a lot choosier about what I sign up for. Read alongs are really a lot of fun, but that’s also time that I have to designate to a book while reading another book for my own personal reading time. Alyssa, Amy and I will be doing our “Three’s Company” read alongs this year which is really less for a formal read along and more for us just reading some really good books together and enjoying them all at the same time. I’m REALLY looking forward to this because it’s so much fun to read the same books at the same time and this will definitely be much less pressure than a formal read along and then I also wouldn’t have to read multiple books at once. I already know that it will also push me to read books that are maybe a little bit out of my comfort zone (whether it be genre, content or adult/MG vs my usual YA) and expand my horizons to new things!

arcs

  • LAST YEAR: I still had some trouble with reading ARCs on time and keeping track of them really well. I also went to BEA and picked up a ton of books there… I had this grand plan of reading them all in order before the pub date and… well, that didn’t really happen at all. With my read alongs and older books I wanted to read and newer books and egalleys… Well, a lot of books got tossed to the side to make way for all of the newer books and then those got pushed to the side for commitments. COMMITMENTS. So much fun but caused lots of trouble haha!
  • THIS YEAR: This year I’m going to try to request WAY less egalleys and really pick and choose the books that I want to read. I’m going to try to stay on track with the ARCs I currently have and start working on the ARCs I had requested and work on reviewing those as well. I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to work on catching up on the books I already have/own/have downloaded and I also really want to start cleaning up my shelves and reading what I’ve already purchased.
    I plan on going back to BEA this year and while grabbing books was a certain thrill, I really want to pick up only the ones I’m really interested in. I thought I did a good job of this in 2013 but at the same time, I still have a lot of unread books at home that I knew I probably wasn’t going to get to. I feel bad that I have so many books that I took because I felt like they had potential but really in the back of my head, I knew I was going to push them aside for my “must-reads”. (Sadly, some of which are STILL sitting on my shelf unread. See??)
    I’m also going to try to do better at reading ARCs around their pub dates. Some have really gotten lost in the mix because I just requested to many and there are so many egalleys and physical ARCs that I need to get to still that I’ve actually been dying to read!

shelves

  • LAST YEAR: Let’s face it. My blog is called “The Book Addict’s Guide” for a reason. I have a problem. And that problem is buying books. My shelves continue to grow with more new books and then I read ARCs or egalleys and I forget about those glorious books I have on my shelves! I’d be interested to see how many new releases I read last year versus books I already had on my shelves but…. that’s too much work to actually find out haha!
  • THIS YEAR: Although unofficially, I’m going to try to read more of a mix. It’s hard to read a variety of old and new when there are so many new releases at my fingertips via ARCs from publishers, Netgalley, Edelweiss, and whatever I’ll haul from BEA this year, but I really do want to read some of the books I already have! I finally read LEGEND by Marie Lu this year and I don’t know why I waited so long! I know there are hidden treasures hanging out there and I want to be able to get to them!

GRCHALLENGE

  • LAST YEAR: I barely squeaked by, reading barely more books than I had last year (only by two but hey, I did it!) because it was SUCH a busy year! 2014 is probably even more busy so…
  • THIS YEAR: I’m hoping to beat 2013 but I guess we’ll see how the year goes! I have so many things going on that I hope I have time for that much reading but we’ll see what the year holds. I read 131 books in 2013 so my goal in 2014? Starting at 132 haha!!

2014 is going to be a busy year for me. I’m planning my wedding, visiting Alyssa & Amy in a few weeks, travelling for two destination weddings (April & June) and have two more locally (my two best friends from elementary school — one in July and one the week before mine!!), BEA in May, and well… I think that’s plenty! I’ll try to keep up as best as I can which is why this year I am actually planning to commit to a lot less outside of my own blog. I can keep up at my own pace but I’m trying not to commit to other things for fear of not making deadlines!

End of Year Book Survey – 2013

One of my favorite bloggers, Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner, hosts a wonderful thing called the End of Year Book Survey. I had an absolute blast completing the survey for 2012 so I was excited to hop on board for the 2013 END OF YEAR BOOK SURVEY!

As usual, all links will take you to my reviews for these books so if you see something you’re curious about, check out my reviews!

BEST IN BOOKS 2013

1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)
HAHA okay, for sure I have to cheat. There is no way I can one ONE favorite. Cheating all around!!!
Fantasy (and book of the year #1)Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2) – Leigh Bardugo
Not actually published in 2013 (and book of the year #2… or #1 haha): Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) – Marissa Meyer
Contemporary: Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell,
Historical Fiction: Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
Re-Read: Where She Went (If I Stay #2) – Gayle Forman
A Little Bit of EVERYTHING: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress (review to come!) by Marissa Meyer

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Chantress (Chantress Trilogy #1) – Amy Butler Greenfield: I was SO SO excited for the premise for this one but I just was not getting into it at all and ended up not finishing it. It wasn’t BAD but it just totally was not for me. I actually wrote a DNF review for it because I had a lot of things I felt I needed to say about why I chose not to finish!

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?
I’m actually going to say A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R.R. Martin. I was curious about A Game of Thrones once the series started but with the length and the fact that I still wasn’t 100% sure about fantasy, I was SUPER hesitant to start it. Thanks to the #SOIFRA read along that I was happy to host with a few other awesome ladies, I ended up REALLY getting invested in this series and A Storm of Swords really blew me away! 

 4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?
Definitely The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler. I FELL IN LOVE with this book and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I can.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
Hands down, The Lunar Chronicles. I read Cinder at the very beginning of the year, read Scarlet not too long after, and devoured my ARC of Cress the other month. I even wrote a post about how The Lunar Chronicles is My Latest Bookish Addiction! (Love you, Marissa Meyer!)

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?
Marissa Meyer. She’s just so amazing!

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I was craving a really great Halloween read and Alyssa recommended this book, being a big Neil Gaiman fan. She was SO right. I listened to the audio narrated by Neil himself and it was fantastic 

 8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
Oooh. Tie between Siege and Storm and Cress!

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Oh wow, that’s hard. I actually did a TON of re-reads this year (Catching Fire, Mockingjay, Harry Potter 1 and 2, If I Stay, Where She Went, and Just One Day) sooooo. I actually don’t have a lot that I’m meaning to re-read anymore except for ones that I haven’t read in 2013 haha. I want to re-read Anna and the French Kiss for SURE and continue re-reading Harry Potter on audio!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
I think it’s actually Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger. I liked the book, but it wasn’t my favorite… I did LOVE the cover though. My favorite thing about it was that I knew the EXACT spot in the book that this moment on the cover happened and it really helped me get a much better picture for everything too! I heard Shannon Messenger talk about her cover art and she actually got to work with the artists on it. She even changed a minor description of Audra in order to match this exact moment so everything would be just perfect… and it really was!

Let the Sky Fall

11. Most memorable character in 2013?
Captain Carswell Thorne (swoon!)

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater: I honestly just love Maggie’s writing and her writing style feels so unique.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
I know it was a re-read but Just One Day by Gayle Forman still absolutely killed me. It was a HUGE inspiration for me as I was writing my WIP during NaNoWriMo this year and her books always hit me hard!

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?
Legend by Marie Lu! Me and dystopians and everyone loving it… How did I not read this sooner!!!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?
Oh, those are always so hard because I’m so bad at keeping track of them! *checks Goodreads*
Yep, cheating again. Just One Day again. Because the best quotes. Ever.
“We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.”

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?
Shortest (novella/short story): The Queen’s Army (The Lunar Chronicles #1.5) – Marissa Meyer
Shortest (non-novella/short story): Fortunately, The Milk – Neil Gaiman
Longest: A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) – George R.R. Martin

 17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
Basically the entire time I was reading Cress. GOD can people read this yet!? I’m dying here!!!! (Want non-spoilery reactions? Check out my mini-review/ravings!)

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Friendship: I just finished Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr and I loved how that friendship evolved.
Romantic: Everything in Cress? Yes.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Okay, I CANNOT say Cress again. (As much as I want to.)  HMMM. Well, there’s always Siege and Storm hahaha. It’s SO HARD not to repeat! Okay. Then I will say The Dream Thieves (The Raven Boys #2) by Maggie Stiefvater.

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
Oh! I already said it, but SOLELY on a recommendation was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 🙂 Thanks, Alyssa!

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
OOOOH good question. I’m sure Goodreads has a way to figure that out. BA-BAM! To the stats we go!
It looks like contemporary! Which that almost surprises me but it doesn’t. I’ve been reading and enjoying a lot of contemps this year!

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?
Captain Carswell Thorne (Scarlet, Cress). HANDS OFF, LADIES. HE’S MINE.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?
Oh phew! Something I can’t answer a sequel a for!! Haha. Darn, even still that’s hard. I’m gonna say he Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider or Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
Cress? AHHH I’M SORRY. Okay, I’m also going to say Harry Potter because I re-read it in 2013 and it’s actually amazing the amount of world building that JK Rowling has in these books! I was really amazed. It was the first time I’ve re-read Harry Potter since I started blogging and I look at books in a totally different way. It was quite fabulous!

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?
Cress!?! AHH this is too hard. I’m not even joking. It’s that good to answer for every question, but honestly. I’m trying.
Okay, Siege and Storm HAHAHA.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
I BAWLED reading The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler. Seriously ugly crying. 

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
I think The Summer I Became A Nerd by Leah Rae Miller probably deserves WAY more mention than it has. It was so adorable and one of my favorite contemps this year!

 

Book Blogging/Reading Life 2013

 

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2013?
WOW, that’s hard. There are so many amazing blogs out there and 2013 was a long year haha! It’s actually really hard to say who was new to me in 2013… I’m trying to remember who I didn’t know before! I think The Quiet Concert was a new-to-me book blog in 2013 and I LOVE these girls and feel like we often have similar tastes! Stormy, did we know each other in 2012? If not, I’m counting Book.Blog.Bake. because Stormy is an awesome person and we ALSO have very similar tastes! We’ve also had some really awesome discussions — both through our blogs and on Twitter! And of course Maggie from Just a Couple More Pages! I feel like we’ve really gotten to know each other this year and I’ve loved getting to know her and her blog!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2013?
Again — IMPOSSIBLE. Hmmmm.
I actually think my review of Siege and Storm really was my favorite. I had so much to gush about and I was super excited to give away my ARC for someone else to read! I had a blast writing that review.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
I really enjoyed my “How to Make Goodreads Work For You” post that I did for a Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge. I feel like I had a few good discussion posts! My Best-Friend-Turned-Boyfriend-Romance wasn’t really a discussion but it’s what gets me the most search hits so I’m super thankful for that!
Also (not discussions?) but ones that I really, really, really loved were my “Guides”: Contemporary and Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?
Oh, wow. I don’t do blogging world recap posts so unfortunately I honestly don’t remember. Maybe I’ll make a note to remember next year (although I’m sure I said the same thing last year haha). 

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I was SO SO thrilled to be the “featured blogger” at the Fierce Reads event this past November! I got to hang out with the authors and interview them and do an awesome giveaway thanks to Fierce Reads and Macmillan!
Also BEA (recap here!). Hellooooo. Best thing of my blogging life. (Or regular life.)

6. Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?
I’d have to say… see above! Fierce Reads, BEA… Oh, let’s see. Winning an ARC of Cress (HAHA, you saw that coming, amirite?) and honestly, I did a happy dance and a huge squee when I was offered the chance to take a peek at Macmillan’s winter/spring catalog and request ARCs from it! I felt like I had finally “made it” so to speak haha! Working with Macmillan on various events and projects has been PRETTY fantastic!

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
Definitely The Best-Friend-Turned-Boyfriend-Romance. It was popular when it first was posted but every day it’s pretty much a popular post because it gets a lot of hits from people searching for something similar. Thank you, SEOs! After that, it was my Book Addict’s GUIDE to Contemporary which makes me SO happy because I absolutely LOVED that post! 

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
Hmmm, that’s hard to say. Really anything that got little to no comments, I always hope for a little more love, but such is blogging life! Not every review or post will have a ton of comments!

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Well, after Google Reader shut down, I did kind of fall in love with Bloglovin’! I’m so happy to be able to organize things haha. 
I ALSO just started self-hosting my blog this year so just that whole experience (WordPress.org, hosting with Bluehost, etc) has all been a blast! And a special thanks to the forums on WordPress.org for helping me out with CSS when Google didn’t do it. I consulted them many times!! 

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I actually had to take my Goodreads challenge down by a few books BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT I checked the page count and I’ve already read more pages this year than last year. I did read the first four books in A Song of Ice and Fire so honestly. That’s totally the reason why I’m not meeting my book count goal this year. I read four 900-1000+ page books with those so that’s really why!
I started out participating in the Debut Author Challenge and the YA Contemporary Challenge and abandoned them after a few months. I think the one thing I’ve learned this year is not to take on too much. I CAN do a lot but then I miss a lot of things I want to do for myself because I have so many commitments. I quickly tired of keeping track of things for a yearly challenge, ya know?
I actually was proud that I did so many re-reads this year! I felt like I was going to do none and I ended up re-reading If I Stay, Where She Went, and Just One Day by Gayle Forman; Catching Fire and Mockingjay; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.
I think if I were to set a goal for myself in 2014, it’s to take on less commitments and to read more on my time. I ended up dropping a book club, dropping challenges, and getting frustrated with read alongs (although I don’t regret doing them — just the amount that I took on all at the same time hahah) because I was doing too many things at once!

LOOKING AHEAD

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?
OOOH well. I actually have a shelf of books I wanted to read this year and yep. They’re still sitting there. A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor are definitely ones I wanted to get to. Also, The Distance Between Us by Kasie West!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?
Time to go to Goodreads again! 
RUIN AND RISING! Wait, is Winter 2014 or 2015? 2015, right? Yeah, Ruin and Rising!!!!!

3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
Probably Dorothy Must Die and The Murder Complex!

4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014?
OHHH yep. The Grisha Trilogy. AHHH I’m so excited! I’m so scared!!!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?
I mostly want to start reading “for myself” again. I still want to keep on a general schedule for ARCs and whatnot, but I want to get a good mix of ARCs and older releases in again. I’ve been reading a lot of new releases and I enjoy that of course but there are still so many books that I want to read that are still new to me that I haven’t discovered yet!
I also really, really, really want to commit to fewer things. I think I spread myself pretty thin this year and although I really did enjoy everything that I did this year, it’s been a lot! I need to not do as many read alongs haha. I did quite a few blog tours last year too which I enjoy but I’ve started to be a bit pickier about which ones I’m a part of now.
I’m hoping to catch up with my reviews again! I used to write a review almost right after I finished a book because let’s be honest. I have a terrible short-term memory sometimes so I start to lose details immediately after I finish. I haven’t been reviewing right after I finish my books lately so when I write reviews days or even weeks later, they’re just not as good as they should be. I want to get back on top of things!

Thanks again to Jamie for this awesome survey! So much fun and a great way to look back at the year!

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: How to Make Goodreads Work For YOU!

I first joined Goodreads in 2010 when one of my friends introduced me to this awesome website that let you make lists of books and keep track of what you read. Awesome! In the beginning, I didn’t do much except for add all of the books I read and keep track of what I was currently reading. Then I found out that there were a LOT more features on Goodreads that I didn’t even know about. Back then, they still had their book exchange feature which quickly became my main purpose for using the site. (I do miss it… Although I don’t do a lot of swapping anymore!) Then I found out they had giveaways. I could win free books! Even books that… *gasp* weren’t published yet! (Side note: Clearly this was before I knew about ARCs and a year and a half before I even THOUGHT about starting a blog.) This Goodreads site was AWESOME.

As the years went by, I found more and more features hiding in the depths of Goodreads and once I started blogging, it pretty much became an essential tool for helping me review books, create blog posts, and fill out the weekly memes.

The stars aligned when I saw the blog post about signing up for a Bloggiesta mini-challenge and I had thoughts of Goodreads dancing in my head. I knew a lot of people did instructional-type mini-challenges but just having been blogging for a year and a half, I surely didn’t feel like I knew anything more than those blogging pros (from whom I do pick up lots of tips)! Then it came to me… I could talk about Goodreads! Not so much as an instructional post (despite the fact that I titled it starting with “How-To”) but more of a mass-sharing of how people utilize Goodreads and what exactly we may be missing out there!

Before putting my post together, I went to the best possible source I had to help me gather information: YOU! A huge thanks to everyone who filled out the survey because it was so interesting and great to see so many responses and how different they all were! After crunching all the numbers and gathering all the data, here’s what I got from all of the responses:

GoodreadsInfographic

SHELVES

Shelves seem to be the number one thing you guys LOVE and could not live without. The shelves on Goodreads are fantastic because not only can you add books to the Goodreads-supplied “Read/Want to Read/Currently Reading” shelves. Readers can create ANY amount of shelves for ANY kind of categories they want. Personally, I have shelves for various genres, some to indicate where I got the book, some for the age range (YA vs adult), and any other variation you can possibly think of.
Another beauty of the shelves is that you can create MORE exclusive shelves than just what Goodreads offers. For example, I needed a place to put the books I chose not to finish. I still wanted to keep track of them but they didn’t belong under “read” to “to-read” so I created my own “did-not-finish” shelf and voila! Organization at its finest!

I have TONS of shelves (all of which are necessary).

I have TONS of shelves (all of which are necessary).

Another fantastic feature of the shelves is that you can SORT THEM. Where would I be without this feature!? I’ve found that it’s especially handy for things like Top Ten Tuesday (and other memes). Want to find out what the longest book is you’ve read? No problem. Go to your “read” shelf, make sure you have the “number of pages” column visible (if you don’t, click on “shelf settings” and you can add any columns available there to the shelf you’re currently viewing), sort by page number. VOILA. I use this constantly. Not only for page numbers but sorting by pub date, rating, date added, date read… I’m always always always sorting and re-sorting my shelves to find things. THANK THE HEAVENS that Goodreads has this feature because I don’t know what I would do without it.

shelfsettings

Another fan-favorite is the “Currently Reading” shelf. This was something a lot of people were very vocal about and how much they loved it. I know so many people like to update their page number (or percentage, if that’s the case) as they’re reading and one of the best things is that you can make comments as you read too! Sometimes I even go back to the comments I’ve made to help me remember quotes, specific instances, or OMG moments for when I write my review! Some people even use this instead of a bookmark!

RECOMMENDATIONS

One of the things that the survey participants felt that people underutilized was all of the different ways to send and receive recommendations. Understandably, one of the biggest pet peeves from Goodreads users was people spamming them with recommendations, event invites, and book pushing. I definitely fall into that category myself… I’ve actually unfriended a few people on Goodreads because of over-spammification (the technical term). I had approved a friendship and instantly I got event invites and books suggestions. Unfortunately there isn’t way to reel in the spamming with filters (that I know of… I’ve searched!) so the only option to filter out those spammers is clean up your Friends List.
Reasonably, the recommendation options can actually be touchy subjects… But from your trusted & close friends and by exploring your own personal recommendations, you can probably find some great new books!

One of the easiest places to start is to click on the recommendations widget on your Goodreads home page.

Recs

This takes you to a glorious page that lists TONS of recommendations based on any of your current shelves. (Another reason to make many, many shelves!!!) The more books you rate, the better your recommendations get. Don’t like a recommendation? No problem. Just hit “Not Interested” and you won’t see that one again. When this feature first came out, I spent hours looking through these and adding ALL THE BOOKS to my TBR list. Golden.

Recs2

And here’s a two-for-one picture… Love a book? Want to see books similar too it? There’s a little widget on the book’s info page called “Readers Also Enjoyed”. Scroll through the books listed there and you may find a book very similar to it and see what else people who liked that book also put on their lists!
Want to recommend that awesome book to a friend? Just click “Recommend It” and you can quickly send that recommendation off to your fellow Goodreads friends.

recsandreaders

EXPLORE GOODREADS

Goodreads has an “Explore” menu — some of which I’ve explored, some of which I haven’t — but that’s where we find some of the “hidden gems” of Goodreads, if you will.

Genres: Genres is one I don’t use a lot, but if you’re a subscriber to the Goodreads newsletter, it looks a lot like that format. It lists some books under… well, genres. From “Movers & Shakers” to “Young Adult” to “Paranormal” and of course many, many more. One of the good things about the Genres feature is that you can search for books and get a lot of suggestions for very specific subgenres/related genres. Like science-fiction but looking for something different? No problem. Click on “Science-Fiction”, check out “Related Genres” and hey… There’s a whole page of space operas. Yeah. Goodreads is where it’s at, friends. We get pretty specific here! This feature is probably really similar to the personalized recommendations if you utilize a variety of shelves, but this is a good way to hunt down recommendations if you’re not interested in creating genres for your shelves.
Listopia: Listopia is a user-driven feature full of lists, lists, and more lists. You can browse user-created lists by tags (most often which are different genres), do a specific search, or browse recently updated lists. Some are not as well-put together as others, but most are pretty good! Readers are allowed to vote for books for each list as well, so the more people who vote, the better the lists get. I’ve used Listopia for finding books by a specific publication month (i.e. searching “October 2013”), a specific theme (“Egyptian mythology”), or just a general genre.
Giveaways: Goodreads First Reads Giveaways are a wonderful feature on the site! Giveaways are usually hosted by a publishing house or author. They can be for physical copies, advanced reader copies, or even ebooks and audiobooks. They’re always changing and always being updated. Sometimes hard to win, but I’ve actually won a few here and there (two when I first joined Goodreads and I actually JUST won a copy of Antigoddess… three years later).
Popular: I actually don’t use popular much (or ever), but that’s a good place to see what books are gaining readers and reviewers if you’re looking for a book that everyone else is reading!
Goodreads Voice: I haven’t visited Goodreads Voice in a while but it’s a cool little place! It has everything from Author Interviews to Author Suggestions (Good Minds Suggest) to Debut Author Snapshots and even more literary articles. It’s a great place to read up on some authors and find out what else is going on in the book community!
“Fun”: There’s also a “Fun” section filled with Trivia, Quizzes, and Quotes for bookish fun! (Tailored to the books on your shelves!)
“Community”: Lastly is the community section — which I don’t personally use as often — where you can explore Creative Writing from other users, fellow Goodreads users, and search upcoming events.

PERSONAL NOTES ABOUT A BOOK/REVIEW SECTION

Did you know that there’s a lot more you can add to your personal notes about a book? Besides just writing your review, you can keep tracking of where you purchased a book from, what date you purchased it, who recommended it to you, how many times you’ve read it, and so much more — all under your review of that book.

review

I actually filled in a lot more than I usually do for the sake of example, but if you do a great job on keeping up with your personal notes in the review section, you’ll have TONS of info at your fingertips at all times.
This is a rough example because this is my review of WHERE SHE WENT, which I recently re-read. One thing a lot of people said is that Goodreads should make it easier to show and update re-reads. I originally read WSW in June of 2012 but when I marked it back to “Currently Reading” when I picked it up again, it reverted back to my last page number before I had marked it as complete. There’s also no good way to update the dates on a re-read without wiping out your previous data and starting all over. I chose to just leave my original start date and add my new “Finished reading” date. (The finished reading date is also important if you want that book to count for your yearly Goodreads challenge! All books towards that challenge need a finish date in that calendar year otherwise it won’t count.) I also used the “Number of Times I’ve Read This Book” to help me keep track of re-reads, but the actual progress could be set up better!
In this section, you can also update where you got that book, when and if it was a recommendation, who suggested it to you. If the person who recommended it to you is a Goodreads member, you can tag them in the recommendation. You can also mark specific notes about that book in “Private Notes” that only you can see. (One survey-taker’s absolute favorite underutilized feature!)
This is also the section that Goodreads has for you to mark that you own a copy of the book. I actually don’t use this section so much anymore because I found it hard to keep track of my books through their system. I just created a shelf for my “currently-owned” books because it’s MUCH easier to sort and search, in my humble opinion!

PERSONAL STATS

One of my favorite things — especially for my monthly recaps here on the blog — is personal stats. You can go to “My Books”, scroll all the way down and in the left hand column under a heading called “tools”, you’ll see a link to “stats”. You can see ALL or your reading statistics since you’ve signed up for Goodreads, separated by year. (You can also find this under the Goodreads Reading Challenge widget!) If you click on details, you can get a LOVELY picture that will look somewhat like this:

STATS

PHEW. It was a long adventure discovering all the ins and outs of Goodreads but now you have some good insights to the hidden gems and fun features!

I hope you’ll join in the Bloggiesta mini-challenge that I’m hosting to help Goodreads work for you and make your reading/blogging life easier!

The mini-challenge is simple: Pick anything (or everything) that you’d like to utilize more from Goodreads. It can be linking up your reviews to your blog, investigating Listopia for recommendations, cleaning up your shelves, or organizing… well, anything! The sky is the limit! During Bloggiesta (Sep 20 – 22), designate some time to make those changes, explore Goodreads a little bit more, and get a bit more organized. Then write up a mini-challenge post to let us know what you did to use Goodreads to your advantage and how those changes or discoveries make your life easier as a reader and/or blogger! It can be as simple as cleaning up/creating Goodreads shelves, updating your full reviews & blog links to Goodreads, or really digging in deeper and exploring new features. The choice is yours, but whatever you choose, we want to hear about it!!
Once you’ve got your post, link up to the Linky below so everyone else can see what you’ve accomplished with Goodreads during Bloggiesta time and what new things you discovered!

Before I close this post, I just want to say that I know there’s been a lot of drama surrounding Goodreads and some instances of negative author-blogger interaction… Another survey-taker said that as long as you don’t let the drama get to you or invade your experience, Goodreads can be a fantastic tool for anyone — And I totally agree. When it all comes down to it, Goodreads is what you make it! Don’t let the negatives intimidate you because you’d be missing out on some really great tools, features, and community!

I think Goodreads is a fantastic tool, especially as a blogger, and I completely agree with one person who said that Goodreads is for readers and makes it easier for avid readers and casual readers alike.

UPDATE 9/19: The Bloggiesta list of mini-challenges is now posted! Don’t forget to check out the other mini-challenges for this Bloggiesta and let me know in the comments if you’re going to be taking part in my Goodreads mini-challenge! I can’t wait to see people’s posts!!

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