Your Book Reviews are Valid

Your Book Reviews are Valid

Recently, I finished reading a book that I absolutely loved. I loved it so much I already knew it would be one of my favorites of the year. And I went and did what I usually do, go to Goodreads, mark it as Read, rate it, and check what other people thought about it.

Turns out, this book isn’t wildly loved as I thought it would. The reviews weren’t terrible, but I was expecting a much higher rating percentage. I thought this book would be universal. Alas, it isn’t and I was a little disappointed by that.

But one thing I did notice when I was looking at ratings and reading reviews is that I paid less attention to what people thought and how that reflected on me. In the past, I would gripe over negative reviews for a book I liked because I thought maybe I missed something. I’ve doubted myself and my ability to read comprehensively for so long that every time I read a book that I really loved and people didn’t, I thought there was something wrong with me. Yeah, welcome to my insecurity.

This time, things were different. I looked at the reviews, reviewed the ratings, and none of it changed the way I felt about the book. I still love it. I don’t think what the reviewers said was wrong, but I also took what they said with a grain of salt and let me tell you, this was a first.

Reading books is an extremely unique experience. While you may find people in your book club or online who feel the same way you do about the book, there’s also that group of people who didn’t feel the same way. The varying degrees on how people feel changes depending on the person, their experiences, their life up to that point. And all of it is valid.

Because there’s no one way to read a book, you’re going to read based on how you (as an individual) experience life. If you’ve suffered through some traumatic event, you’ll approach a book that features a similar event differently than someone who hasn’t. If you’re the falling in love type, you may feel differently than someone who’s never been in love. And when you go to write your review and share your opinions on the book, it’s going to be different in a few ways than the ways other people have read it and that’s just such an interesting perspective! Collectively, our opinions together give other readers an idea of the book. While some may drag a book for its negative aspects, others will look past them and see the truer story behind that. And that’s also where we find our common ground. By sharing our opinions regardless how vastly different it is, we’re able to connect with others in an interesting manner. Isn’t conversation and debate one of the reasons why we like to read in the first place?

No opinion is wrong because it’s exactly that, your opinion. Of course, I don’t mean to discount critical opinions when an author doesn’t do justice to a certain group of people, includes racist/sexist rhetoric, or bullies people, but I mean the ways you fell in love with the book and the ways you hated it. It will be your opinion and yours alone and the beauty of holding that opinion out there is reflected in the number of people you find who think the same thing.

So don’t feel embarrassed if you liked the book everyone hated. Don’t feel bad if the book everyone recommended you didn’t work for you. All you can do is read the opinions of others, see their perspectives, compare it to your own, and then move on. There’s no dark judgments on you because of what you thought. It’s just you out there, with your thoughts on a book, telling others how you felt too.

Why Do I Struggle With DNFing Books?

Why Do I Struggle With DNFing Books?

This month has been a bit of a struggle when it comes to reading books. I’ve picked up about six books and put down three. I wasn’t feeling them! I tried to read them, but they didn’t capture me or set my mood. I wanted to spend more time doing something else than reading the book, which is huge indicator that things are not okay with me.

But the one thing I hate the most about reading is putting down a book. There’s a piece of advice I give everyone all the time: if you’re not loving the book, you can let it go. The wild part about this bit of advice? I never actually follow it myself.

DNF or “did not finish” is a term used by the bookish world to describe a book we, well, did not finish. These are the books that didn’t capture us or we hated and couldn’t read another word of even if we tried. It’s common practice because not every book you pick up will give you the wow factor you want from a book.

And as easy as it sounds to just drop a book when you’re not enjoying it, it’s actually much harder than you think! Many people struggle with this. Some folks have been taught that you MUST finish every book you start under penalty of death. Others just don’t have the heart to put down a book they started. I’m in the latter camp and it’s starting to get frustrating for me.

There’s plenty of reasons why you should put down a book that you’re not enjoying. First is the most obvious: you’re not enjoying a book. There’s no point in continuing to read something that’s not giving you anything in return. Even if the book you’re reading is actually a textbook where you’re studying for a class, you’re getting something out of that read. If you’re reading for enjoyment and you’re not happy, that’s going to lead to some disasterous results.

My Pollyanna brain is always looking for the silver lining in everything. Maybe it’s because I’ve already spent so much of my reading time into reading them that I want that return on investment. Maybe it’s because I always think that if I give it another 100 pages that it will get better. I already know how toxic it can be when I’m trying to find the silver lining and I’m not happy and that’s something I’m working on, but I’m always hopeful there will be something that will pull me into it. I’m always hoping a book will surprise me and that surprise is hidden on the pages I haven’t read. But maybe it’s just me not liking the book.

But that also results in me reading a bunch of books that were fine, mediocre, or just meh for me. I try to be fair with all my reviews, so you don’t see me telling you “it’s just okay,” because I know someone else out there will probably enjoy it more than me. However, it’s a habit that I want to break for a few reasons:

If you try to extrapolate the number of books that are published each year (and I’m not just talking fiction, I’m talking about everything), there are thousands and thousands of books coming out. As humans, we only live a finite number of years and depending on the type of reader you are, that only means a specific number of books. Even if you read 100 books every year from the time you were 15 to 100 years old, that’s only 8500 books which only covers maybe a couple of years of published books.

On top of that, there’s time. I work full time, I have other hobbies, I make time to hang out with my husband, I workout regularly. I like going for walks and getting out in nature and all of that is done without a book in hand. If I have a finite amount of time to read on a daily basis, then why do I want to waste that time reading books I’m not enjoying?

So we have time against us, the number of books coming out is way more than anyone can possibly read even if you are the type that can read A LOT. So shouldn’t you be picky about the books you read?

I recently read this article at Book Riot about how you don’t have to read everything. And there’s some really great practical advice you can take away from this post if you’re considering being a book blogger, but the most valuable lesson I took away is that I don’t have to read everything. I don’t have to be Wonder Woman and read every book I put in front of me. I’m allowed to put down a book. I’m allowed to be in the middle of eight books at one time! The whole point is that reading should be just as enjoyable as any other thing you do.

It’s definitely something I encourage anyone to do because it isn’t worth the time and energy to read a book you’re meh about. And it’s actually something I’m coming to terms with myself. I’ll continue to DNF books and hopefully it’ll become second nature.

Letting Go of Bookish Things That No Longer Serve You

Letting Go of Bookish Things That No Longer Serve You

Do you ever look over the stuff you’re working on and think to yourself that maybe you’ve taken on too much? I always worry that my plate is super full, but I can shuffle things around and get some more on there. I feel like I’m at the Thanksgiving table and there’s just too many good items to eat and very little space left, so I try to make some time to evaluate my plate and see what I can take off or push over for something else.

Over the weekend, I was doing a bit of soul searching trying to figure out what about reading is bringing me joy. Yes, I not only Konmari my things, but my life. If you’re like me and put your hands in a bunch of pies, it’s always a good idea to take a look at what you’re enjoying and what you want to let go of. It’s easy to take on a bunch of projects and ideas, but it’s another to actually get them done. When I go through this process, I always consider what makes me happy. Because if you’re not happy or interested in what you’re doing, then you’re going to make your life a bit more of a chore. It always feels so overwhelming when I have too many pies and not enough hands, so I dug through all the things I want to accomplish and what I want to let go of.

Ultimately, what I realized is that my reading life is changing. I can’t read as much as I wanted and I need to come to terms with that sad truth. And one of the things I’ll be letting go of is reading challenges. It’s a bit too much for me to challenge myself with reading when I already challenge myself to read a certain number of books a year, run a book club, and do everything else. I’d much prefer if my required reading was limited to one or two books a month rather than half my TBR.

So I’m letting go of my Hugo Awards challenge. I know this was a challenge I made for myself and I have plenty of time to read, but it’s become more daunting to try and read all the books I need to read before the award show. I also have a huge backlist of books that I want to read as well and juggling all of that plus new releases and book club books, it makes reading such a chore. I was really excited to take on reading all the books for the Hugo Awards, but at the same time it feels more like work than enjoyment. I don’t want to feel that way especially with a hobby I love to do because there’s so much room to do different things.

I’m also letting go of keeping up with my Netgalley score. I do still receive books through Netgalley and plan on submitting my reviews, but this also became such a chore for me. Read and review, read and review, and it doesn’t help that Netgalley suggests an 80% feedback rate. I’ll just read the books that I want to read and if it just so happens to coincide with a Netgalley book, then I’ll take the time to submit those as well.

I won’t be completely abandoning the books, though. The list had some great options to read, but I don’t think I’ll be reading them with the timelines I set for myself. This brings up a bigger conversation about what really matters when it comes to reading. I know many of us struggle with a crippling TBR, a small amount of time to read or you’re dealing with some real world stuff that’s keeping you from your books. I struggle with the same kinds of issues and I try my best to read as much as I can, but I also have to remember that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

I don’t plan on ending my love affair with books and reading any time soon and I want it to be a lasting relationship that takes me into my golden years and beyond. But if I’m forcing myself to read, pushing myself when I’m tired from work or unmotivated, I know that that relationship will end sooner than later.

It’s time for me to take my own advice, my time to read what I want. Perhaps I won’t read all the books, but at this point in my life, it’s more about quality vs. quantity. It’s about being able to read the books I’ve been eyeing and not be tempted to take on too much. So here’s to the new chapter of my life. I’m very excited to read for a very long time.

I’m Turning Into a Poly Reader

I’m Turning Into a Poly Reader

I’ve always been a one book at a time gal. Spend my time reading one book at a time and immersing myself in that book so fully that other books can just wait. However, it seems more and more I want to read from my mood. I want to have some fun stuff while I’m still in the middle of a book. So I decided to try and read multiple books at once or be a poly reader.

A poly reader is someone who has several books going at once. Depending on your mood, you can jump from a romance to a science fiction to a non-fiction on audio. When you read from multiple books, then you have multiple choices and depending on the situation or mood, you can make a choice to read one over another.

Then I realized something, we have been poly reading our entire lives. If you were like me and majored/minored in something that required a lot of reading, you were probably reading multiple texts at once and we’ve been trained to do this with the level of school and classwork we’re assigned to do. But it didn’t occur to me that I could do this with my leisure reading.

Keeping track is what I’m most concerned about. I’m worried I’ll write a review for one book and somehow mix it up with my other book and then confuse everyone and myself on what I wrote. But we shall cross that bridge when we get to it. Here’s some tips on how to make yourself a poly reader:

Reading different genres

This is the biggest piece of advice I received; read from different genres. It’s a good thing I do like books from a bunch of different genres, so I can easily pair a romance novel with a fantasy book or a sci-fi with a literary fiction. What people mentioned is that reading from different genres allows you to compartmentalize the information. The space story is in one part of your head while the historical romance with the rake is in another part. It could get dicey if I ever find a historical romance that takes place in space (free idea for a book if anyone wants it). But if you keep your genres separate, then you should be able to better keep track of what you’re reading. I already started with a romance and a fantasy that are entirely different from each other and have no problems keeping those stories separate.

Reading on different media

Now that our worlds are filled with enough technology that it keeps us awake at night, we can use different media to read our books. I was thinking about how I was younger and we didn’t have computers in our pockets and had to get all of our books from the library. The option to poly read on different devices didn’t exist, so I wonder how those folks did back in the day? Perhaps they did a trade paperback and a hardcover. Or a mass market with a hardcover.

But I’m glad we live in a world with more technology because changing up the medium is a great way to read multiple books. I also like using my ereader to be in-between a bunch of stories because then I can just switch between one book or another without having to get up and find the book.

Assigning books to certain times of the day

Some folks read one book in the morning and one book at night. But I think this is a valid way of reading multiple books at once. I think the time spent away from one story and then picking up another is good too. Sometimes I get confused if I start tooo early on a new book after finishing the last one. I also like trying to finish a book and then give myself a few hours to write my review and work on some other things before picking up another. It’s enough time to clear what you’ve just read and start a new book.

The most important; reading for your mood

If you’re not feeling up for anything too challenging, pick up something light. If you want to get deep into a fantasy world, pick up a heavy hitter. The point being is the ability to poly read means that you can pick up a book when you feel like it. Also, if one book is catching your attention more than another, allow yourself to read that book for a bit longer. The whole idea of poly reading is a choice; you choose what feels good at that point and you can read it or read something else.

I think the only thing I’m worried about is that I’ll start a book, put it off to read something else, and never pick it back up. I guess if that does happen, I can just chalk it up to me not liking the story and officially DNFing the story. I need to keep an eye out for that because I can already tell there will be books I put down and never pick back up.

I hope this post helps you! What are some other ways you use to keep on top of your poly reads?

Mid-Month Reading Update

Happy middle of November! I can’t believe that we’re already in the middle of November, which means Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? What are you doing this year?

I’m already thinking about ours and planning a super low key Thanksgiving with me and my husband. Instead of the traditional meal, I was thinking of making some of our comforting favorites. Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

This month is shaping up to be a “ignore all the books you need to read and read whatever you want” kind of month. I’ve read four books, put down one book, and in the middle of two books. My reading life feels really uneven lately, which isn’t the greatest feeling in the world. But at the same time, I feel like the first half of the month was also just me sitting and refreshing the election polls in the US to see the results of the presidential election. So while I want to read more, I was doing a lot more viewing on my phone. I hate weeks like that, but I’m hoping it turns around in the second half of the month.

Let’s get into the books I’ve read so far:

What I’ve Read

So far, all romances or women’s fiction. I thought that November would be a little bit better in terms of my mental health, but with the elections and the number of cases of COVID going up, I’m just a stressed out mess. I knew I wanted to read something, so I picked a few light reads to listen to while I worked on my knitting projects.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

I was pleasantly surprised with this one especially since this book came out during the summer and I was expecting it to be much more light-hearteded and “fun.” And in many ways, it was but in other ways, it was the story about two young people who both went through some emotional turmoil and needed guidance and a boost from each other to grow beyond what has happened in their lives. I also really liked the conversation between genre fiction and literary fiction. It’s an interesting topic because one is always considered low brow while the other is considered high brow. In my opinion, what you read is what you read. You can put whatever intellectual label you want on it, but a good or bad book can’t hide behind a label.

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

I was a fan of Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, so I picked up Roselle Lim’s second book. Overall, it was a fun and quirky story that will make you so hungry. I really liked this one for its depictions of Paris, the food, and also the magic. It’s usually books like this that fill me with a little warmth and tell me that everything’s going to be okay. I think it’s because I always imagine a world with a lot of magic in it (if you’re willing to see it). Reading a story that feels real in so many ways, but with that little hint of magic reaffirms my love of romance in the world and I most definitely needed a little reassurance in the past few weeks.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

For some reason, I went into this one thinking it would be an enemies-to-lovers romance. I think it’s because it has two strangers coming to live in an apartment together. I thought it would be a little of the “odd couple” trope where one is a neat person and the other is a messy person. Turns out, I was wrong on all accounts. The story is quite interesting being a story about two people living in the same apartment, sleeping in the same bed, and never setting eyes on each other. With opposing schedules, it works out for them and the little post-it notes they shared with each other was way too cute.

Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman

I received a copy of this one for promotion later this month, but I couldn’t help sit down and read it. It took me twenty minutes to get through this one. There aren’t many dialogue bubbles or a lot of dialogue in general, but what Alice Oseman is able to convey without words is what makes this graphic novel really good. The faces on the characters and the juxtaposition in the situations they are in bring so much life to the story without having to spell it out to the audience. Also, the feelings are SO REAL. Charlie and Nick’s journey through their friendship and then the possibility of it being more really made you root for them. What they felt fit exactly in with how I felt when I had a crush or liked someone. It was so authentic that it will whisper at your heartstrings. I will probably read the second volume before the end of the month!

Currently Reading

Of course, there were books that I assigned myself to read this month and I’m so glad that I only put three books on my TBR. They were The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter, Black Sun by Rebecca Roanrhose, The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan.

I’m in the middle of The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter. So far, it is soooo good. Honestly, I’m putting Evan Winter on the level of Brandon Sanderson. I’m not comparing the two because both their stories are completely different with different characters and situations, but Evan Winter is one of those prolific fantasy authors that really digs into the world building and delivers a hero’s story of revenge and military might. It’s for sure a military fantasy, but it also has that cast of characters that you can’t help but to have a favorite. The main character, Tau, isn’t some Mary Sue and works doubly hard to beat out people who are

I’m not usually the type of person who reads multiple books at once, but since I took a break from Rage of Dragons to allow my mind to settle down, I wanted to read something in between. So I picked up The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren. So far, it isn’t my favorite Christina Lauren, but that’s okay. It’s light-hearted and fun to read, so I don’t mind a bit that it’s not the best. I’ll probably finish this one sooner than later so I can make room for my current read.

How I Make the Time to Read

How I Make the Time to Read

If you’re a huge fan of reading like I am, then you want to spend as much time as you can possibly muster into reading your book. You carry it with you everywhere you go. You open your e-reader app on your phone whenever you’re forced to wait anywhere. You might even create a space for yourself without any distractions for optimal reading.

So how do you make the time to read? Well, let’s first talk about how much time do you have?

I currently spend about 3-4 hours a day reading. It works out for me because reading is what I do and share here on the Internet. Despite not really having a full time job, I still manage to fill my day with content to create, messages to follow up on, and then take care of things around the house. But it gives me a good chunk of my day set for a project or two and that’s where the reading time comes in.

I know not everyone gets 3-4 hours a day. I know some folks only have 30 minutes a day to read, but what if I told you that 30 minutes is enough? Check out this YouTube video about time and reading:

There’s a lot to take away from this video, but the biggest takeaway is that if you allot yourself 30 minutes a day to read (and that could be a meal, that could be an audiobook on the drive home from work), then you can read way more books than you imagined. When you do the math, you’re able to read much more with just 30 minutes a day. I feel like I’m selling you on an ab routine, but like any skill in this life it requires practice. Once you’ve built a habit of reading daily for 30 minutes, then you’ll find that reading everyday is manageable and your reading life will thank you.

The biggest component to this is you must make time to read. Similarly to working out three times a week or spending an hour on the phone with your mom every Sunday, you build a habit to reading every single day. Pretty soon, you’ll see that you want to read more and dedicate even more time to reading. Like any habit, you must build it. It won’t come to you easily, but if you can spend three hours on Tiktok everyday and somehow still do your job and spend time with your family, then you can also read a book for thirty minutes.

The other major component is finding the right books for you. We are inundated with so many books all the time. Not only do you see recommendations at bookstores or with your close friends, but now with social media there’s an overabundance of recommendations. New books are published every week and thousands upon thousands of books are published every year. So how do you choose the right book for you?

That requires you looking at yourself and figuring out the genres you like to read. Do you want to gather more knowledge? Perhaps nonfiction is right for you. Do you like a little more escape and read something light and easy? Then maybe a romance novel is for you. The advantage of having a thousand books being published yearly is that there are thousands of choices. You don’t need to rely on the New York Times Bestseller list (although that gives you a good idea of what to read next or put books on your radar) because the choices are endless. Amish chaste romances? Got ’em. Thrillers featuring a female character that somehow is also an amateur detective? Done and done. Fantasy novel based off the retellings of some obscure folklore from Eastern Europe? You know it exists. The biography of that one dude who won that one battle during The Revolutionary War? Yeah, it’s there. Figure out what works for you and read those books.

Here are some other tips and tricks that I also use whenever it comes to a reading session. Of course I don’t enter a reading session without the proper tools and perhaps these tools will also help you when it finally comes down to reading.

Set a reading time

Figure out how much time you can dedicate to reading and then make the habit of reading everyday. For me, I set my time for the hours between 2PM and 6PM. Depending on my day, it might be more or less, but those are my undisturbed reading hours. I don’t look at my phone. I sit up in a distraction-free space. My husband even knows to respect those times because that’s when I’ll be the most focused.

The first part of creating a healthy habit is to actively do it. Actively set up the time. Actively focus on the book. Habits take a while to develop (from my experience, it’s about a month), so keep reading and keep setting up a time and eventually you’ll see yourself just sitting down and picking up the book without having to actively make the time for it.

Make it an event

You’re about to sit down and read, so you might as well make the most of the moment. Make yourself a cup of tea. Set up some cookies. Get into your pajamas and pull up that comforter you love to wrap yourself in. Light some candles. Throw up an ASMR room on your iPad or put on a calming playlist. Creating space for yourself to read and get lost in a story is important especially if you have many distractions around you. It’s also a form of self care. Giving yourself the time to read and making it an event with your favorite treats, drinks, and whatever else you want is similar to that of taking a long and luxurious bath. You’re treating yourself to a lovely session, so might as well reap all the benefits.

Worry less about how much you’re reading and more on what you’re reading

The major piece that always makes me read less is trying to figure out how much to read. If I assign myself 200 pages in a day (which I don’t. Yikes), then I might feel beholden to that. It might jack up my stress and anxiety and then I’ll feel failure at the end of the reading session because I didn’t reach my goal. Don’t worry about when the story will end (unless the book is boring, then end the story right now), but allow yourself to be immersed in it. The story will eventually end as all stories do, so just enjoy the journey. You’ll eventually get to the destination.

Stop when you feel like it

While you may assign yourself only 30 minutes a day to read, you’re also not held to that. Like assigning yourself pages to read, assigning yourself time could be just as stressful. Allow yourself to take breaks. Give yourself the space to not read if your mental health isn’t optimal. Reading is meant to be enjoyed and while we’re here trying to develop the habit of reading daily, stopping after 10 minutes isn’t going to be the end. The only time you should worry is if the book will keep your attention. If you’re not into the book, then dump it. There are far too many books to choose from in this world for you to read a story that you’re not enjoying. Enjoy your reading.

Use a focus app like Forest to keep off your phone

If social media and your phone pose as your biggest distraction from reading, I highly recommend a tool like Forest. This app basically forces you to not look at your phone. You set your time to focus, grow “trees” on the app while you’re away from your phone, and if you ever check your phone or close the app, you lose the trees you’ve grown. It also comes with a myriad of different trees to pick from, settings for music, and you can even compete with friends on how much you can stay off your phone.

I use this app daily because I constantly check social media. It’s a habit of the job! So, putting the focus app on makes sure that I don’t pick up my phone unnecessarily. And I do take breaks. Once I’ve reached the time I’ve set, I take a little 15-minute break to see what’s happening on the Internet.

And if you can’t manage that or if your mental health has been crap because the pandemic, the election, the end of the world and 2020, then audiobooks might be for you. Having the mental power to read a book might just be out of your reach at this point and that’s totally okay. The unpredictable future of our lives really takes it out of all of us and it’s double if we’re struggling with work or finding a job. Audiobooks is like having someone read the book to you. You still retain the story and still get deeply into it, but you don’t have to use the additional mental power to read and comprehend at the same time.

But most importantly, enjoy it. Reading is for you and our worlds always make a way to collide with each other and the restraints we put on ourselves with other components of our life can make reading even more difficult. Enjoy reading because it’s really a gift that keeps on giving.

I hope this blog post helped! Here’s some other blog posts I’ve written about the subject:

What I Did Last Week

What I Did Last Week

Happy Monday! Last week, I decided to take some time off to recharge. I was trying to decide if I should post something about it, but I decided to just go ahead and take the time off. Let me tell you, it was time so well spent.

I feel like I’ve been taking more mental breaks lately, but I’m not surprised. This year and the pandemic has drained so many of us with all the restrictions, the weary future, and made me rethink a lot of what I do here. So taking some time to decompress, center myself, and refocus has been immensely helpful. Something about being present in the moment and enjoying everything that’s happening around you rather than being cooped up in your phone really breaks you away from stress especially doomscrolling.

But you’re probably curious as to what I did while I was away. I will say, I didn’t just sit in front of my TV all day (even though that was a large component of my time off). I kept busy and I wanted to share a little bit of what I saw with you.

Finished the pieces of the cardigan I’ve been knitting. It’s almost done! I just need to block the pieces and then sew them together. I hope that the sweater turns out cozy because the yarn wasn’t that fun to work with. Also, I messed up and restarted often with this piece, so I’m excited for this labor of love to be done with.

Read a bunch of romance/women’s fiction novels. Well, this year has put me back on romance and womens fiction novels. It’s funny because I can see myself at the same time last year talking about how I won’t be reading these books anymore. And here we are, one week into November and I’m three books in.

Specifically, I read Beach Read by Emily Henry, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim, and The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. I think my favorite was The Flatshare because that’s just an experience I’ve never had before (sharing a one-bedroom apartment with a stranger that you share opposite schedules with so you never see each other and leave cute post-it notes all over the place with your conversation). I was expecting it to be an enemies-to-lovers with some more passive aggressive notes sent to each other, but this book really surprised me and filled me with joy.

The other books I read were exceptional as well. I felt Vanessa Yu was an embodiment of me and Beach Read had some interesting conversations about books and their genres. All three were quite entertaining and kept me happy while I was away.

Worked on my Animal Crossing island. This one is silly, but I was watching a documentary on a gardener who owns one of the most beautiful gardens in the entire world. It has inspirations from all over the place and grand French landscapes that reminded me of my time in Versailles. I wanted to recreate that landscaping a little with my Animal Crossing island (since where will I find the money and land to actually create a lush garden?). The results look good, but I’m still working to improve it and finally get my five-star rating.

Took a walk on the beach. Bucky and I were chatting about how we don’t spend enough time outside. We haven’t gone on many hikes and we haven’t gone to the beach at all since the pandemic broke out. So we made a date to meet at 4pm and head out to the beach for a little 1:1 time with the sunset.

I absolutely loved this time especially since we went to the dog beach. Watching little friends running around and having a great time while the sun nestled behind the horizon is levels of comfort that I wish I could have everyday. The sun’s rays are also exceptional at this time of year as the weather finally cools down.

Started doodling in my journal. This was sort of a leap, but I started to doodle in my journal. It came about because I wanted to buy one of those little printers for your phone. I thought to myself “well, I could always try and draw it” and now my journal has silly little doodles of food I’ve eaten and moments I want to remember. Of course, the photo of the thing looks better than my drawing, but my journal is for myself so I can do whatever I want.

Bought a book. I’ve been trying really hard with only buying books that I’ve read, but a book I’ve had my eye on for a while went on sale and so I picked it up. It’s Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zao. I heard a lot of things about this book (both the good and the controversial), but I can’t resist a dark fantasy novel and this sounds really intriguing with some good representation.

Caught up on my Korean Dramas. I’ve been obsessed with Tale of the Nine-Tailed, which is a fantasy drama about the nine-tailed fox. It features some of my favorite Korean drama actors and has some excellent fantasy and romance elements to it. I feel like the show did a good job of mixing Korean folklore within the K-drama outline. The show is also only 11 episodes long and at this point I’m just waiting for that final episode to premiere. If only American TV could be as good as this show.

Organized and purged my massive TBR. I’ll write about this one later since it’s a pretty big project and I have a lot of takeaways, but I went through my entire existing TBR and removed a lot of books from it. The whole idea of this purge is to focus my physical books to the ones I will most definitely read. I want my collection of books to match what I’ve actually read and having over 200 books that I haven’t read The rest will be donated or given to friends and I’ll borrow those books from the library. I have a feeling I’ll eventually re-purchase books in the future, but only if I loved it so much that I need to have it in my collection.

I hope you had a wonderful week and weekend. Can’t wait to see what this week has in store!

I’ve Gone Digital: How I Keep a Digital Book Journal

I’ve Gone Digital: How I Keep a Digital Book Journal

Over the years, I’ve told you about my reading journal. It’s a physical journal I kept while I read to jot down notes, put my thoughts down, and have a single place I can turn to see what I’m reading.

But I have a confession to make. I’ve gone digital…and I love it.

The reason I switched from analog to digital is really simple. I type faster than I can write, which means my thoughts get written down faster. I think A LOT and having a page or two dedicated in my notebook made the entire process really messy. So I created a Trello board for myself and I organized it in a way that keeps me up-to-date with my reviews, gives me space to write my endless thoughts on a book, and organizes my blog, my Instagram, and my Patreon content. There’s a lot of stuff I put out into the world and this allows me to do just that.

Before I get into it, I do want to mention this wasn’t my idea. I got the inspiration for my Trello board and how to set it up from Book Bumblings. Their Trello board is more extensive than mine and you can check out their blog posts for the original idea.

What is Trello?

A screenshot of my Trello page. Some of the cards are blanked out because they are upcoming blog posts.

Trello is basically an organizational tool used by many companies to keep track of what projects to work on. They’re are these columns you can make with each column representing a group of tasks. It could be a big project with smaller tasks that you need to manage. This allows you to manage that, collaborate with your coworkers, assign tasks, make comments, and keep your projects on track.

For my reading needs, I’m a one woman show so I don’t need most of the tools they provide (and most of those tools require payment). Instead, I use this to organize the reads I’m reading, the books I need to review, blog posts that I want to write, and other tidbits related to content work on social media.

Creating one board is free. I think adding more boards requires more money, but if you’re working on your blog solo then this might be perfect to keep you organized.

How I Organize My Trello Board

What works for me is this assembly-line system. Each column represents a step in my writing process and each card either represents a book or a blog post I want to write about. You can move cards either by dragging and dropping them or you can choose the column to move the card. I really like this method because then you see the cards move from section to section. It’s like a perfectly coordinated symphony. Everyone knows exactly what they need to do and where to go, so there’s no guesswork. It just flows!

On the far left, I keep all the books I plan on reading that month. Each book I read gets a card with the title and the number of pages in parenthesis. When I start to read the book, I move it to the Currently Reading section. Each card has a description section where I basically jot down my notes on the story and my thoughts. This is the most convenient part of the entire process. Because instead of setting up a page in my journal to write these notes, I have this digitally. This also works great on the go because you can download the Trello app to your phone and make notes when you’re not close to your notebook.

When I’m ready to write my review, I move it to the To Review column. This is more organizational for me so I can keep track of what needs a review and what I’ve already worked on. On each card, there’s a section to add a description. I literally use the description section to start my review. It’s all super rough mixed in with pieces of the story I wanted to keep in mind, but when it’s finally time to write my review I’ve already got something started and can easily add or edit from there.

An example of how I write my reviews for a book before they go on the blog

The To Post section is where I keep all my blog ideas. I didn’t want to mix them in with the book reviews because my book reviewing process and my blog post writing process are quite different. Each card is a different blog post idea I had. In the description section, I start off with the bigger parts of the blog post I want to write. I eventually just copy and paste what I have there and use that to start the blog post. It makes putting these posts together much easier than sitting with a blank page trying to make it work. It’s also great when you’re worried your work will suddenly disappear while you’re writing it.

When I’m done posting my blog post or if I’ve finished my review, I’ll move all those cards to my Done pile. It’s the most exciting thing to put things in the Done category. It’s like a checklist where you satisfyingly put that checkmark on your To Do. You get stuff done and to see them physically move off your plate really helps psychologically. The best part of the Done pile is that none of those cards get deleted. They accumulate there so I can always go back and visit the messy thoughts I had about a book.

I also have a section for anything Extra. This includes things I might have skipped from months before, work I plan on doing in the future, or ideas that don’t really flow with the theme of what I’m creating.

Final Thoughts

To be honest, this Trello board has become one of my favorite tools for blogging, writing, and creating content for you all. I’m able to keep track of what I want to write, I never run out of ideas (maybe more steam for writing things), and it’s all neatly organized in one place, which is so important for me. As much as I loved keeping a physical journal of all my book thoughts, I found myself getting lost a lot. I had ideas written in tiny margins and reviews that spanned over four pages and onto post it notes. It was so messy that I felt my life was messy because of it. Now my physical journal is an actual journal and To Do list for my day. This also keeps my To Dos super simple because I know exactly what needs to be worked on.

You can use this Trello board in any manner you’d like! If you mostly work on your own or if you have a team of people working with you, this is a great way to keep track of everything. The best part is that I can download the app to my phone and make changes on the go. That’s always good when ideas strike me at any time. I would highly recommend checking out that post from Book Bumblings. It’s pretty comprehensive and shows you how to use tools like the calendar or labels. I tried using labels but I kept forgetting what each label meant lol.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how a digital journal might benefit you over a physical one. I won’t stop journaling (that’s physically impossible, I believe), but at least the book part of my journaling life is a bit more organized.

Patreon Picks: How I Create My Monthly TBR

Patreon Picks: How I Create My Monthly TBR

Today I’m sharing a new feature to my blog: Patreon Picks. Every couple of weeks, I’ll be asking my patrons on Patreon what blog post they would like to see. I shared a few different suggestions and they all voted. And the votes are in. This week’s Patreon Picks is a look at how I pick my monthly TBR. I just recently shared my TBR for September too, but excited to get into the details on how I decide which out of the dozens of books I want to read.

If you would like to read this post and would love to participate in Patreon Picks, head over to my Patreon page and join the Simone and Her Books community!

I Like Big Books (And I’ll Tell You Why)

I Like Big Books (And I’ll Tell You Why)

Big books. Chonkers. Doorstoppers. They come in various names, but the one thing we all love about them is that there’s a lot of story.

And somehow, I do. I’ve read many big books and don’t really shy away from them. From character-driven literary fiction novels to epic fantasies filled with tons of world building and character development, each big book holds it’s own weight when it comes to story.

But for some reason, many of us are wary of them. We don’t stay away from them, but there’s most definitely a hesitancy to start them. I know exactly how that feels because I’ve felt it before. Even now when I start a new big book, I need a big cup of tea and a deep breath to get myself ready. What are your methods of coping with big books?

I think when I was younger, I worried that big books meant a lot of big ideas. There were going to be concepts covered that I won’t be smart enough to understand. I worried constantly that the language and writing style would be too much for me. There’s also that massive worry that a big book will take me forever to read.

Then I realized that I was picking books from the wrong genre. I think finding a genre that suits your taste will make reading a big book less daunting. I probably won’t read another big Donna Tartt story, but I’ll happily read 1000+ pages of Brandon Sanderson. If it’s a big fantasy book, then I know what to expect because I’ve read enough fantasy to know what most authors write about. Knowing your genre and choosing a book that matches your taste will most definitely put you in the mood to read it more than reading something outside your taste.

Also, knowing your authors. If there’s an author that you’ve read before and you love their work, then perhaps picking up their bigger novel won’t be too worrisome. You’ll already know the writing style and language. You’ll already know that the author’s great at what they do and you’ll expect that in a big book too.

I don’t think there’s any advice I can give on how to get into a big book. You just need to dive into it. You need to tell yourself “I’m reading this big book and I’m starting now.” I know it’s easy to say, but when you don’t worry about how many books you read a month or if you’re keeping up with whatever book trend is out there, picking up a big book becomes a less daunting task. I’m still trying to give myself grace and forgiveness when I don’t read enough, so this is something I continue to practice on my own.

I took a poll on my Bookstagram account to see what were the biggest hurdles for people who don’t read big books or for people who love big books, but find themselves putting it off. I got a lot of responses, but many of them cover the same issues. I’ve broken them down into three big main issues. I hope you enjoy it!

The biggest concern was time

Ah, that elusive clock that we all set our lives on. As a slow reader, I am always gauging how much time I’m spending with a book. Because I read so much and have a dedicated daily schedule for reading, I tend to feel more pressure to finish a book so I can start the next one. It’s actually a big issue for me and I’m not kind enough to myself for not reading others.

But I think that the biggest thing I learned about reading a big book is just savoring it. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Yeah, I can be putting off the other books I need to read or I feel that weird ache of knowing I’ve been spending too much time reading a book. But more times than not, I devour the big tomes. I absolutely stuff myself with story and I fall so deeply in love with them. Giving big books a chance allows you to deeply explore a world you didn’t anticipate before and I absolutely love when a book can pull me out of reality especially when reality is not looking so good.

For the most part, many readers are concerned that reading a big book will take away from the time spent on other books. Big books take dedication and hours to read and when you’re the type of reader who’s reads in the car waiting for the kids or on the commute to work, then it might not be advantageous to read a big book. Most readers would rather read smaller books (around 300 pages) and get them read quickly. I can totally understand that. There’s a certain psychology around accomplishing a task like reading a book and if the book is short, then it’s more manageable.

What also helps is audiobooks. With audiobooks, you don’t have to set dedicated time to reading the book. You can be reading them in the car. You can read them during your lunch breaks. All you need is your listening device and a pair of headphones. I even thought reading complicated fantasy or science fiction would be tough via audiobook, but you kind of get used to it. And if you’re like me who listens to books at 2x speed, then you’re actually finishing the book in half the time. This is a big hand especially when you’re on a reading schedule.

But I think the most important thing about reading a big book is making the time. It won’t be an easy task, but if you dedicate at least one book a month to a bigger read and schedule out the rest of your other reads, then you’ll see how you can make time for both the big books and the little books. I think the biggest advice I can also give you is not to feel intimidated by how many books you’re reading. It’s always about the quality not quantity. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Reading 10 books a month may be a great feeling, but reading 3 big books in one month might introduce you to an epic world you didn’t know before. You can also always make up for lost time the month after.

There’s also the intimidation factor

Many bookstagrammers wrote that they don’t like reading big books because they are…big. I completely get that. How am I going to read this big tome when I’ve got a week to read it? I mark out the pages. For example, if I’m reading a big 500-page book and I want to dedicate 5 days to reading it, then I can mark out 100 pages a day to read. Of course, those are big numbers, but do whatever works for you. Read 50 pages a day for a couple of weeks. Read 10 pages a week for two months. Breaking out the book into more manageable chunks will not only resolve your time spent on a book, but also make the book a little bit less intimidating. Do whatever works for your reading life. Make sure you’re enjoying it. Because there’s nothing worse than reading a big book that you’re not into.

My other trick is to get bigger books on my e-reader. With readers like Kindle, I don’t see a giant book. I see a tiny reading device. I can easily remove the percentage and page numbers so my focus is more on the story than on the book. I always surprise myself when I read this way because I find that without the distracting page number or percentage, I immerse myself in the story and get deeper into the book. It’s also a blessing to your fingers who don’t have to hold a giant book while you read it.

The last thing people mentioned is whether the book has substance

Books with a ton of filler and very little substance are difficult to gauge from the synopsis. This is very difficult to discern from just the outer package. You have to actually read the stories to ensure it’s not full of fluff. All you see is the giant book and your patience wearing thin. And there have been some big books that bored me to tears. I remember reading Anna Karenina and skimming a lot of those harvesting scenes because listening to Tolstoy describe how grass grows is as painful as watching grass grow.

Adopt really good DNF rules. DNF (did not finish) is not a bad thing. In fact, I highly recommend folks to have rules around when they will DNF a book. For example, I always give a book 100 pages to impress me. If there’s something within those 100 pages to keep me reading, peak my interest, or intrigue me, then I’ll keep reading. There’s really no point in reading a big book if you’re not captured by the first 100 pages. That time can be better used reading something else.

However, I think the main thing you’ll also need to do is get comfortable with lulls in a story. While I haven’t come across an entire book that’s super slow, there’s definitely going to be fluff or filler in your story. Many contemporary authors understand that readers don’t want to know how grass grows. They’re more concise delivering a story that may have its lulls, but ultimately keep you reading. Don’t be worried about filler pages because sometimes they’re not necessarily filler. It could be a bit more character development or world building the author is adding. Hopefully the author has a good editor that helps to keep things tightly written than loosely slow and repetitive.

All of this to say, read the big books. There’s no magic about how to read them. You just need to motivate yourself to do it. I like to motivate myself by adding the big tome to my TBR and making sure it gets read before the end of the month. I try my hardest not to put them off because of its size or its substance because if I did, I probably wouldn’t read any big books.

The biggest component of the big book is that you’re getting more story. If you’re the type of person who loves getting lost in a book, escaping reality, or learning about something new, then big books are exactly for you. Just because a novel is twice the size of the average doesn’t mean that there’s some magical thing happening that other books don’t have. It’s just more story. Take your time. Drink your big glass of tea. Enjoy that big breath of air when you first begin. Because as much as I love an average size novel, there’s something way more romantic about being lost inside a big old book. Also, it does help that I get some arm exercises in (lol).