Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten books on my TBR list for fall 2017

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is the top ten books on our fall to-be-read lists. I have waaaaay more than 10, but here are the ones I’m especially excited about.

 

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
Release date: 9/26/2017
Blurb: In this spectacular father-son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men? In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.

Well, of course I want to read the newest from Stephen King, and I’m curious to see how this father-son project works out. But holy hell, it’s 720 pages! Deep breaths…

 

And speaking of the King family…

Strange Weather by Joe Hill
Release date: 10/24/2017
Blurb: A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill

“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.

At this point, Joe Hill has become one of my auto-buy authors, and while I usually avoid story collections, there’s no way I’ll pass this one up.

 

Odd & True by Cat Winters
Release date: 9/12/2017
Blurb: Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

Cat Winters is another author on my auto-buy roster. I’ve loved everything I’ve read of hers so far, and I have no doubt that Odd & True will live up to my expectations.

 

Artemis by Andy Weir
Release date: 11/14/2017
Blurb: Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

Does anyone doubt that this follow-up to The Martian will be huge?

 

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Release date: 11/14/2017
Blurb: Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

I am crazy excited about this follow up to the super creepy novella Rolling in the Deep (review).

 

LaRose by Louise Erdrich
Release date: 5/10/2016
Blurb: North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.

The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.

I’ve been wanting to read LaRose since it came out last year, and now that my book group has it on the calendar for a group read, I finally have a deadline!

 

Standard Deviation by Katherin Heiny
Release date: 6/1/2017
Blurb: A rueful, funny examination of love, marriage, infidelity, and origami. Simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, this sensational debut will appeal to fans of David Nicholls, Nick Hornby, Nora Ephron and Lorrie Moore

Graham Cavanaugh’s second wife, Audra, is everything his first wife was not. She considers herself privileged to live in the age of the hair towel, talks non-stop through her epidural, labour and delivery, invites the doorman to move in and the eccentric members of their son’s Origami Club to Thanksgiving. She is charming and spontaneous and fun but life with her can be exhausting.

In the midst of the day-to-day difficulties and delights of marriage and raising a child with Asperger’s, his first wife, Elspeth, reenters Graham’s life. Former spouses are hard to categorize – are they friends, enemies, old flames, or just people who know you really, really well? Graham starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did he make the right choice? Is there a right choice?

This is another book group pick for this fall. Sounds like fun, right?

 

The Book of Dust (La Belle Sauvage) by Philip Pullman
Release date: 10/19/2017
Blurb: Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them, a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .

Oh. My. God. A new series in the world of His Dark Materials? So freaking excited.

 

 

 

 

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
Release date: 10/17/2017
Blurb: A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays…

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.

For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley, and think it sounds totally charming and fun.

 

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
Release date: 11/7/2017
Blurb: After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.

Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.

Another ARC from NetGalley — I’ve read a few of Katherine Reay’s books, and love the way she mixes Austen-ish themes with modern-day stories.

What books are on your fall TBR list? Share your link, please, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Loved During My First Year of Blogging

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is a Throwback Freebie. One of the suggested ideas is Ten Books I Loved During The First Year I Started My Blog. I love it! Let’s face it — the first year of blogging is tough. We’re trying to find our footing, our voice, our community… and I know I have bunches of reviews from early on that basically were never seen because I was just starting out.

Here are 10 of the books I reviewed in my first blogging year (or thereabouts), along with a link to the review. Sweet memories!

1) Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (review): I think this may have been the very first book review I posted!

2) The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen (review): A pretty cool twist on the time travel genre.

3) Fables, volumes 1 – 3 by Bill Willingham (review): The start of a meaningful relationship! I quickly became hooked on the Fables world and read every bit of it, until the very final volume. Yes, there were tears.

4) Ocean’s Surrender by Denise Townsend (review): Look, I don’t normally review erotica, but when it’s by a favorite author writing under a pen name, I’m game. All the steam you’d expect, with a strong plot underlying the sexytimes.

5) Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (review): I’m really not much of a short story reader, but a few of the stories in this collection really caught my fancy.

6) The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (review): Post-apocalyptic fiction with gorgeous writing.

7) Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (review): I was doing more kid fiction back in my early blogging days, as my kiddo was still in the phase where I could read aloud with him. Sadly, he no longer lets me read to him. (Okay, fine, he’s in high school, so I suppose it’s understandable.)

8) The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (review): I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful the writing is in this book. You really just have to experience it.

9) Every Day by David Levithan (review): I’ve read bunches of David Levithan books by now, but this one is really something special. There’s definitely nothing like it out there. (Read it before the movie comes out!)

10) Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce (review): I was so sad when this author passed away in 2014. He’s the author of one of my very favorite books, The Silent Land (which I read in my pre-blogging days). This one is really special too.

What’s on your list this week? Please share your TTT link and I’ll drop by for a visit.

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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Summertime slacking

Summertime, and the living is easy… or so I’ve heard.

And although I’m not lazing away my summer days on tropical beaches, I am trying to do a bit of relaxing and refreshing. Between my time away in early June for family matters, work craziness, and lots of upcoming projects and planning, I find myself in desperate need of more down time.

And so…

I’m planning to slack off a bit and cut back on my blogging commitments. Specifically, I’m putting the two memes I host each week, Shelf Control and Thursday Quotables, on a bit of a break. Have no fear — they shall return! Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to reading whatever I feel like, posting on my blog according to my whims, and living commitment-free for a couple of months…

Okay, not exactly commitment-free. I still have a job and a family, places to go and people to see. But for July and August, I’m letting myself off the hook in terms of the need to stick to a weekly posting schedule.

Aaaaah. I can practically feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair!

Welcome back, glorious summer!

I’m baaaaaaaack!

Hello all!

It’s been a long 2 1/2 weeks, but…

Unfortunately, my time away wasn’t exactly a vacation. I was on the east coast, working with other family members to relocate our aging parents and settle them into a nursing home. This ended up involving interstate flights, wheelchair transportation, nursing aides, moving trucks, visits to hospitals, and transferring medical records, but in the end, we made it.

Good company and a few glasses of wine certainly helped.

I’ve been completely absent from my own blog, and definitely have been checked out from the world of social media, following anyone else’s blog posts, and all that other good stuff to be found on the interwebs.

But hey, I’m back!

I did manage to read a ton while I was gone, thanks to all those flights (and a few sleepless nights). I think I’ll do a bunch of mini-reviews to catch up on all the books I read. Some were great, some only so-so, but I’ll try to share thoughts on all over the next few days, in between trying to catch up on everything I missed at home and going back to work after a couple weeks away.

Bette Davis supposedly said:

(I say “supposedly”, because I’ve seen 3 or 4 different versions of this attributed to her, and haven’t found the definitive version yet.)

In any case, old age ain’t for sissies, but neither is being the folks making all the arrangements! I have to say that I feel lucky and blessed to have had some wonderful family members to partner with to make it all happen.

And now, I’m taking a few deep breaths and diving back into my normal, day-to-day life.

It’s great to be home!

My blog and my memes

thinking

So I’ve been thinking…

I’ve been blogging for over four years now. Hard to believe! My interest and energy levels have gone up and down over time, and right now I find myself in a phase where I’m not as willing to devote dedicated time to blogging, especially when it comes to blogging on a schedule.

I still enjoy writing book reviews, random other pieces, and participating in some regular, ongoing features. Where I’m having difficulty right now is with the “have to” parts of my weekly schedule. Because I host two memes, I feel obligated to get my posts up every week, on time, no matter what. And frankly, lately it’s been feeling like a chore.

The thing is, I really like my memes and the concepts — and when I’m in the mood, it’s a lot of fun.

My two active memes at the moment are:

Shelf ControlShelf Control: Every Wednesday, highlighting books on the shelf — basically a chance to feature books that we already own but haven’t read yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

quotation-marks4Thursday Quotables: Highlighting a great quote or passage from the current week’s reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, gone but not forgotten:

ffbutton2Flashback Friday (which needs a better icon): This one has been on hiatus since last year, but I may bring it back from time to time. The point of Flashback Friday is to feature a book from our reading pasts, something published at least 5 years ago, and talk about why it’s special and why people should still read it. I really had fun doing this one, but eventually got a bit burned out and decided to put it on pause for a while.

 

My problem at the moment is that sticking to a weekly posting obligation — coming up with a Shelf Control post every Wednesday and a Thursday Quotables post every Thursday — has lately started to feel like work, not fun. Which makes me want to reconsider how, when, and why I do all of these.

I don’t particularly want to give them up — but I’m not sure I want to continue feeling like these posts are a chore than I must complete no matter what.

Maybe one solution is to take them out of “meme” world and just continue doing these type of posts when the spirit moves me — so if I do them as a feature on my own blog, rather than setting them up with linky sign-ups and encouraging others to post, then I have no obligation to stick to a schedule.

Or I suppose I could make one or more a monthly meme, rather than weekly.

I’ve also considered putting one or more of these memes/features up for “adoption” — seeing if anyone else would like to host, instead of me.

Basically, I’m back to the complaint that most bloggers have at one time or another. When blogging feels like work rather than play, for me at least, it means something isn’t working.

I don’t blog for money or fame or glory — good thing, since I’m not getting any of those! I just blog because I enjoy it — the creativity, the writing process, the sharing, and the community. When it stops being fun, I need to change my ways.

Which brings me back to the main issue of this post — what to do about my memes. I’m riding out my inclination to stop for now. I’m going to stick with things as is for at least a few more weeks, to see if I’m just in a temporary rut or if I really want to change things up.

But I’m looking for input too. Do you have regular features on your blog, and if so, what do you do when you start to lose interest?

Any suggestions for me and the future of my memes?

I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts!

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Input, please! I need your opinion.

Hello, friendly booklovers and bloggers! I’m working on a new weekly feature that I’ll be doing here at Bookshelf Fantasies. For now, this is just something that I plan to have fun with myself, but if there’s interest, I can certainly turn it into a meme/link-up/shared kind of thing.

As an alternative to participating in a couple of different Wednesday posts that focus on upcoming new releases, I thought I spend some time featuring books that I already own, haven’t read yet, but really want to get to! I’m noodling around with a couple of formats and approaches, but meanwhile, I haven’t quite settled on a title. And here’s where you come in:

Take a look at the possible titles for my new feature, and let me know which ones you like! I’m going with a “shelf” theme, and have a bunch of variations so far. Vote for your favorite… although I warn you now, votes are not binding! I may end up using the one with most votes, but then again, I may invoke the blog host prerogative of going with whatever suits my mood.

So what do you think? Vote for up to your top three choices, and feel free to suggest your own twist!

Heading north of the border

A quick note to say au revoir — for now!

I’m heading north to Canada! I’m about to leave on a 10-day road trip through Alberta, with stops in Jasper, Banff, and Calgary. Much as I love my bloggy friends, I’m looking forward to a little time offline.

Jasper.National.Park.original.1399

Mountains, lakes, ice fields… bliss! Oh, and plenty of books…

So, a little programming note: While I’ll be mostly absent, please do come by for Thursday Quotables as usual! My Thursday posts are queued up and ready to go.

Wishing you all a wonderful middle of July! Let’s catch up when I get back, shall we?

Read, skim, or skip?

About two weeks ago, I wrote a post about how following other blogs is key to building community in the blogging world, and yet it can potentially take up so much time that it’s impossible to stay on top of it all and still have any time to work on our own writing projects (not to mention little things like eating, sleeping, and saying hello to our friends and families). You can check it out here if you’d like.

Since I wrote that post (which, by the way, led to some really interesting input and discussion), I’ve been thinking more about the whole issue. I have quite a few blogs that I follow. Some are by people I feel I’ve developed a real connection with; others are blogs that I might visit occasionally or blogs that caught my eye with an especially interesting post or two. Still, the overall traffic can be overwhelming, between my WordPress feed, my Bloglovin’ feed, the daily email digests, and the Twitters links. There simply isn’t a way to read EVERY SINGLE THING, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I’ve read comments over the past couple of years about people’s blog-reading habits. Some folks say that while they spend the most time writing book reviews, they tend to not read reviews on other people’s blogs. Some prefer discussion posts, some prefer funny pieces, some are all about the memes.

Clearly, not everything is going to be read, or read thoroughly. I’m sure we all have our own approaches to keeping up. I’ve realized that I can divide up my actions into three simple categories:

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So how does it all shake out? More or less, these are my habits:

Book reviews:

  • Is it by a blogger whose work I always enjoy? Read.
  • Is it for a book that I read recently, especially one that I liked enough to want to discuss? Read.
  • Is it for a book that I plan to read soon? Skim. (I don’t want to know too much, but I’d still like the general idea of whether you liked it or not.)
  • For a book that’s completely out of my interest zone? Skip.

Memes:

  • A meme I’m participating in? Read… usually.
  • Top Ten Tuesday posts? 90% of the time, if the topic grabs me — Read. The other 10%? No interest in the topic, so I skip.
  • Weekly reading wrap-ups (like It’s Monday. What Are You Reading or WWW Wednesdays, for example): Read.
  • Book hauls, shelf stacking, in the mailboxes: Skip. I’m just not that interested in these unless they’re folded into some other sort of post, like a reading update or a weekly recap.
  • Teasers, random book excerpts, quotes: Read. I like these little snippets, and I’ve found a few good books through these kind of posts that I maybe might have missed otherwise. Plus (shameless plug here), I host a quote meme (Thursday Quotables! Come check it out!), so clearly I like this sort of thing.

Other book stuff:

  • Cover reveals: Skip.
  • Author Q&As: If it’s someone I’m interested in — Read. Someone I’m not familiar with but who seems interesting or quirky: Skim.
  • Chit-chat or discussion posts related to reading, reading habits, etc.: Read. Usually.
  • Month in review posts: Skip. If I’ve been following a blog, then I’ve already seen all the posts for the month, so I don’t need another post summing up what I’ve already seen.
  • Giveaways: Read. Don’t we all love free books?

Bloggy stuff:

  • Technical tips and tricks, like making blog graphics or cool resources for bloggers: Read.
  • Blogging tips, like increasing traffic or considering self-hosting: Skim, to see if there are some good nuggets in there. Skip, if it’s not something I’m considering.
  • Discussion posts about being a blogger: Read, usually, unless it’s a topic I feel I’ve seen time and time again. Still, it’s always interesting to get a fresh take!

Non-bookish stuff:

  • Personal updates: Read. If you’re a book blogger and you take the time to put yourself out there and share your personal moments or challenges, I want to honor that.
  • Other non-bookish miscellany: Read or skim. I entered the blogging world specifically to chat books, and I’m not terribly interested in branching out too far. Still, if someone I talk books with also writes about other topics, chances are I’ll at least check it out to see what’s going on.

Automatic skips:

  • Anything with GIFs. Sorry. I just can’t. I know, I know, people love these. But they make my brain and eyes hurt, and I just can’t enjoy reading anything with GIFs flashing around on the page.
  • Cover reveals.
  • Posts with hard-to-read fonts, colors, or too many typos.
  • Challenges: I don’t do challenges, and reading other people’s challenge update doesn’t seem all that interesting to me.
  • Blog award posts: I seem to have 5 – 10 of these in my feeds each day, and as much as I may love the individuals, I just can’t read these any longer.
  • Rants about Goodreads, author behavior, and blogging/reviewing politics. There’s only so much time in a day, and I’d rather focus on the positive.
  • Wow, I sound like a total grouch, don’t I? I’m not putting down any of the above, really. I know people like different things, and what’s boring or a turn-off to some may be totally hilarious or thought-provoking to others.

Really, the read/skim/ skip division is the only way for me to keep my sanity and not get swamped with all the keeping up I need to do. So don’t hate me if I don’t read your meme posts or LOL over your clever graphics! I’m happy to be an enthusiastic audience for the posts that grab me… and I hope you’ll read the stuff of mine that catches your eye or strikes your fancy — and skip the stuff that bores you!

What type of posts do you always read? What do you skim? What do you skip?

Share your thoughts, please!

Following, following back, and keeping up

When I first started blogging — almost three years ago! — I really had no idea what I was getting into. I was focused only on the “me” parts: I’d write my book reviews and other content, and people would read what I wrote.

Ha! I really knew nothing about blogging, obviously.

Readers don’t magically appear. It’s all about connections. If I want people to visit my blog, I need to reach out and connect with other bloggers. It’s a back and forth — you comment on my posts, I comment on yours; I visit your blog, you stop by mine.

It’s not a quid pro quo, really, just simple networking and connection. We all want visits and views, but people have to know we exist in the first place in order to come for a visit.

Over the years, my circle of favorite blogs has grown and grown. Here’s the challenge: How do I find time to cultivate and nurture my own blog when so much online time is devoted to visiting and reading other people’s blogs?

If people follow my blog, I tend to follow back. (Side note: If you’ve followed me and I haven’t followed back, it’s probably an oversight, so let me know!)

For WordPress blogs, new posts show up in my reader, and I can opt in to receive daily or weekly email alerts. For non-WordPress blogs, I tend to subscribe by email for ones that I really don’t want to miss, or else I’ll follow via Bloglovin’ or Twitter. (Twitter is least effective for me, as I’m not on all that much and I miss a lot).

At this point, with all the blogs I follow, it’s an enormous task to try to read everything every day. I get about 20 – 25 daily emails about new posts. My Bloglovin’ feed is huge, and so is my WordPress reader feed. There just isn’t enough time in a day for me to read all the new posts and still have time for reading books and writing my own blog posts.

I’ve been trying to prune a bit lately, so I’m trying to make sure I’m not following the same blogs on WordPress and on Bloglovin’, for starters. For WordPress blogs that I interact with less frequently, I’m starting to turn off the email alerts. I can still read new posts in my WordPress reader, but that way, the daily list of emails with blog updates will hopefully be a bit more manageable. Plus, there are some blogs that feel like priorities to me — people who share similar tastes with me, or write pieces that I find particularly engaging, or those who I’ve developed a virtual friendship and rapport with — and those are the ones I want to see in my email inbox each day. When I get email alerts for all the blogs, it’s hard to separate out the ones that I really want to read from the ones that I might read if there’s time.

Meanwhile, I’m still thinking about the whole following back thing. If someone is nice enough to follow me, I really appreciate it, and I feel like following back is the right thing to do. And yet, if I see that their blog is focused on a genre that I never read and that our book tastes have no common ground, I’m less likely to actually read their posts.

What’s your approach to following? Do you automatically follow back when someone new follows you? And do you actually read your blog feeds every day? How do you manage to keep up?

I’d love to hear how others handle the challenge of keeping up with other bloggers. Please share your thoughts!

 

The Fault in My Stars (or, why I don’t use a ratings system)

If you’ve read any of my book reviews — well, first of all, thank you!

But as I was saying, if you’ve read my reviews, you’ll notice something missing that seems to be almost standard on book blogs — a ratings system. And that’s a deliberate choice, not just an oversight or poor planning.

I’ve debated adding in a ratings system off and on since I started blogging. And I always come back to the same conclusion — stars or their like just don’t really work for me.

Let’s look at Goodreads: The ratings system on Goodreads does actually have an official set of definitions:

1-star: Did not like it
2-stars: It was ok
3-stars: Liked it
4-stars: Really liked it
5-stars: It was amazing

That’s kind of vague, isn’t it? How do you differentiate between “it was ok” and “liked it”? If all I can say about a book is that I liked it, then that probably means that it was okay. Hmm. *scratching head in befuddlement*

So are the stars meants to be a comparison? A 5-star book should be the best ever, a 3-star book would be average among all books read, and a 1-star book would be the bottom of the barrel. But compared to what? Here’s where I get completely mixed up.

If I read a YA novel by a new writer and I think it was really good, I’ll give it four stars. Fine.

But then what does that mean in terms of well established, truly excellent writers? Is a 4-star debut YA novel equivalent in quality to, say, The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien? Of course not. Yet by the Goodreads ratings scale definitions, I’d give The Two Towers four stars because, while I really liked it, I wouldn’t call it amazing.

And then I fall into the same-author-relativity trap. I love Stephen King, but I love some of his books more than others. My absolute favorites get 5 stars, without a doubt. But when I read a Stephen King book that doesn’t appeal to me as much, do I give it 3 stars because relative to other SK books, I only liked it? Or would I say that in the grand scheme of all books ever, any SK book should be at least 4 or 5 stars simply because even at his less-stellar, he outwrites a good percentage of other writers?

Argh. I’m overthinking things, I know. And on Goodreads, I play along and assign stars. I try to have some level of consistency, and reserve 5-stars only for books that stand out as the best of the best. But below that, it gets murky. I tend to give 4-stars to any book that I like a lot, but wouldn’t consider the very tip-top. Three stars tend to be my “fine” books — you know, the book was fine, but I wouldn’t write home about it or anything. Two-stars are already in the realm of not liking. My two-star books aren’t “okay” (as Goodreads would have us think) — they’re books that I didn’t care for. And one-star? Hated. That’s all, plain and simple. (For the sake of fairness, I don’t give any rating to DNF books, since I don’t have enough information to assess the overall quality — unless I quit because the writing was atrocious, in which case, 1-star!)

How does that relate to what I do here on my blog? It’s the same thing, really. When I read a book, I have so many feels. Did it make me laugh? Did I tear up just a bit? Maybe I gave an unladylike snort over a particularly snarky passage, or I shook my head in bewilderment over some bone-headed plot twist. Did I like the characters but thought their actions were silly? Did I think it was well-written, but something about it just didn’t really appeal to me? Was it a foray into a genre I don’t typically read, and therefore I don’t feel well-equipped to judge its success?

How do I boil all that down to a quantitative rating, whether it’s stars, happy faces, or dancing bears?

Generally speaking, I can’t. I can tell you if I enjoyed reading a book, and if so, what I especially liked about it. I can tell you when I have mixed feelings about a book, and what are the different factors that play into my reaction. If I think some people might enjoy a book, but not others, I’ll say so. And on and on and on. So much goes into reacting to a book, and for me, I need to write it all out.

On the flip side, I do sometimes appreciate it when I’m visiting other book blogs and see a review for a book I’m curious about. Especially if it’s one I still plan to read, I’d rather not know much about it ahead of time, but I do want to know if the blogger liked it or not. So seeing someone else giving a book 5-stars or 3-stars or 1-star is helpful in that case — a quick and easy summary of the person’s opinion that I can get at a glance without reading through the details.

If anything, I could see myself using a report card style of ratings. I think I know what an A+ means, relative to a C or a D-. If I graded the books I read, rather than tried to assign stars, I think I could achieve a greater level of consistency in terms of what the grade means.

Of course, there’s still the Stephen King problem. Is second-tier Stephen King (or Tolkien or Austen or whoever you consider top of the heap) still better than some other writer’s absolutely best work? Is it fair to grade everyone relative to the best? Are there different standards for different genres, different topics, different levels of comedy and tragedy?

I keep coming back to the same old conclusion: For me, as a reviewer, I need words to express my thoughts, not stars. (Or smiley faces. Or dancing bears.) I don’t seem to be capable of assigning a number — which I think of as objective, definite, and purely quantitative — to something that is essentially subjective, personal, and qualitative.

What do you think? As a reviewer, do you like using ratings or do you feel boxed in by them? When you read reviews, do you prefer the written word or to see a grade or star-rating?

Please share your thoughts!