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).

Four Years of Writing About Books // A Reflection

Four Years of Writing About Books // A Reflection

This August marks the fourth year I’ve been on bookstagram and blogging about books. It’s been such an incredible ride thus far and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this experience.

When I first started making bookish content for the Internet, I was in a way different space than I am today. I was working way too much traveling for my job and spending a lot of time by myself. I lived in hotel rooms. I ate a lot of meals alone. I wanted to make some friends, but having trouble doing so because I couldn’t always go out for dinner or coffee with them. So after perusing bookstagram as a casual viewer, I decided to start my own account including this blog. For the blog, I knew that I would always spend time writing about things. I didn’t think anything would come from it, but I did it anyway to at least have the credentials to request books from Netgalley.

Now, I write and read and share full time. I love coming here everyday than going to the office. I love chatting with the lovely folks I’ve met through this community and engaging with people who understand me. It’s truly a blessing for me to be here and do this with you all. This hasn’t been an easy four years. I’ve been met with a lot of my own personal roadblocks. First off, I’ve never considered writing full time. It was something I imagined I would do for a publishing house or a company, but I never thought I would be writing for myself full time.

Secondly, getting myself off the ground was very difficult. It took a lot of energy to be engaging, writing content, and reading the books. I felt like my personality and my writing style were also roadblocks. I’m always worried I come off too weird or not personable. Race played a small role in it too with that nagging thought that maybe people don’t like me because I’m Asian.

But once I got the momentum, figured out how I want to present my work and thoughts, and basically created a system of making content and reading books that it started to get a little bit easier. I say a little bit with such a grain of salt because I still combat with my insecurities everyday. I still combat the feeling that people don’t understand me or I’m too weird. I find myself still backing out of blog posts or deleting stories because I don’t think it’s good enough. I still hate my photography. These are feelings I try and overcome on a daily basis and because of my overthinking brain, I think about this a lot. I think about this before bed. I think about this the moment I wake up. I think I might even dream about this.

But what I’ve learned in the time I’ve been here is that you can’t please everyone. Some folks will think you’re weird and think that the topics you bring up are a little out of their wheelhouse. Some folks won’t like your content because you post the same kind of things. Some folks won’t like your aesthetic or your opinions or you. The biggest learn I’ve learned in my four years is that I should be writing and working for myself. I make content that I would appreciate and I would love. What I’ve realized from being myself and working for myself is that there are more people who are similar to you than people who don’t like you. The people who don’t like you or are just plain trolls are loud, but they are minimal. You’ll find that there are more people who enjoy you for you. It’s still something I’m getting used to.

A lot has changed since I came on here with the intention of writing book reviews and bookish content. I feel my blog is an extension of what goes on in my head packaged to make sense, of course. LOL. I’ve used blogs since I was 14 years old writing about my daily life and terrible poetry on sites like Livejournal. Remember those days? Back in those days, I was writing for the 10 IRL friends that I had trying to figure out if my friends have had relations with certain crushes and the like through their words. I even found out I had a secret admirer through a blog post they wrote and I read. It’s kind of surprising when someone names you as their crush and would gladly move to America (they lived in Australia at the time) for me. Ahhh, the good old days.

Of course, things have changed and blogging here is much different than when I was 14. Now I write for a much bigger audience who values my input and has interesting conversations with me about books and reading. It’s still a place to find book reviews, but sharing what’s happening in my life and what’s going on is a different little tidbit I never considered for myself. And that part is something that I want to extend further in the future. I’m always thinking up of ideas for posts here and while I’ve been a little shy to share them immediately, I do plan on fully investing in that part soon.

And the wild part is that I’ve read more in these past four years than I think I’ve ever done in my life. I wasn’t a big reader when I was a kid. I only got into it when I became an adult and only after a year or so post-grad. My boss at the time was the lifesaver who shared with me some great books that she thought I would love. I’m thankful for her suggestions everyday because from the spark she set in my heart, I’ve molded and made my own. In a year, I would have read 2-3 books when I was a kid. Now I read over 100 books a year, which tiny Simone would have been so surprised by that little data point.

Books have brought me comfort that music did as a kid. When I was younger, music was everything to me. I even have the tattoos and degrees to prove it. But as time moved on, books somehow took the place of music and what drives me are excellent stories written with a ton of heart. I love a good story that transports you to another world, makes you consider different perspectives and lives, and makes us all dreamers. Finding the genre that works for me was also super exciting because I finally have a place where I can adore almost every book I read. When you know what genre you like, it’s very difficult to find a book you don’t.

What’s been the most surprising part about this entire endeavor is that I’m still learning. I’m testing myself and experimenting with my own reading to see what works and what doesn’t work for me. I’ve also been changing the way I write my reviews and focusing on creating content that will not only entertain, but relatable. I’m always trying to make TBRs a thing for me and I’m always considering ideas for bookstagram and beyond.

The final thing I want to reflect on here is the community. While we have our disagreements on stories and opinions, they’ve never been met with vitriol or passive aggressive nonsense that I see all the time in other communities. Perhaps it’s because the book community knows that books can be interpreted differently and what someone gets out of a book might be different depending on the person. But the discourse is always exciting and I love hearing other people’s opinions and what they picked up from a book even if I didn’t like it or don’t fully agree. The community is one of the main reasons why I do what I do because engaging with you all and hearing your thoughts and creating content that you can relate to is important to me and I don’t plan on stopping that any time soon.

So, thank you for being with me for four years. Thank you for engaging with me and being open. I can’t wait to see what the next four years have to offer. Cheers!

My Reading Journal and How I Write Reviews

My Reading Journal and How I Write Reviews

This is going to be a two-for-one post because my reading journal is also where I keep my notes for book reviews. I’ll first share how I keep my reading journal and then I’ll share how I write my reviews.

There’s a billion ways I’ve seen people take notes. Some folks keep it all in their heads. Other folks write in margins of the book and tag pages with book darts or tabs. Even further, other people just take notes on their phone. The first step is to find the best way for you to organize your thoughts.

I love having the book journal because I like having all my notes in one place. I also love being able to go back and see all the books I’ve read. Granted, I also have a spreadsheet to keep track of all the books I read, but I also love reading how I felt and what the books were about.

First off, the tools:

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My philosophy when it comes to journaling is use whatever materials you like. Journals are made for you, so design them however you want to design them. Make them feel good for you because you’re the one archiving your thoughts into a physical place.

I write my notes in two separate columns; a plot side and a thoughts side. The plot side is riddled with spoilers and points from the book. This side is mostly for me so I’m reminded of what happened in the book and can reference that in my reviews. I don’t include the spoiler parts and if the plot would spoil the book, then I try to avoid adding them to my reviews.

The thoughts side is where I put down…well, my thoughts. Characters I like, how I think the book is going, and some dislikes. Glaringly obvious issues that made me cringe or questions I asked myself. I really love writing this stuff down so when it comes to review time, I can easily recall those points. I hate it when I write a review and forget something I wanted to add, then have to go back and add it in. Usually I forget to add it in.

I also like to start each page with a few notes to myself. For example, I note if the book is a reread or if I’m doing a buddy read with someone or how I came across the book. I really like making my reviews more personal by adding a little about why I started reading this book or if I’m doing a specific challenge. I just think it gives my reviews a little more of a personal touch than facts.

The best part about this is that it fosters more thinking and thoughts. For example, if I write a note saying I read a book for a reading challenge, then I might be inspired to write about the challenge later on. Inspiration comes from anywhere, so writing down my inspiration inspires more!

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For decorating my book journal, it’s really all over the place. I love working on my handlettering skills by writing out the title of the book with marker. Sometimes I decorate the page and sometimes there’s too many thoughts for me to sacrifice that space. I like using colorful pens to match the book cover colors. This is really just me doing what I like and you should be inspired to do the same!

As for writing reviews, I like to think of readers when I’m writing a review. What information will make it easy for the reader to read and understand if the book will be for them? For me, that’s writing style, characters/plot, and overall feelings.

How is the writing style? I always think of this one first. How was the overall reading experience and did the writing get in the way of that? Think about the pacing, the perspective, and other little attributes of the author’s writing. Does it read quickly? Does it drag in the middle? Is there representation and did it do it properly?

How are the characters/plot? Is it riddled with tropes? Is it based on actual events? Providing some plot or points in the plot that you loved or hated will help. Which characters did you love? Which characters made you seethe with hatred?

What are your overall feelings? Would you recommend this book? I feel like everyone has an overall feeling about a book even if it’s short or just the rating. If you were to elevator pitch this book to a friend, what would you say?

I also like to get inside the author’s head. What were they thinking when they wrote a specific section or why they wrote a character a certain way. I like to figure out where the author was when they were writing the book to help better understand what I read. Here’s some more things I like to keep in mind:

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Only include a summary if the synopsis doesn’t do a good job explaining the book. I hate being in the dark about a story and I most definitely dislike vague synopses. I like sharing a little bit of the story I read so that other readers can get a good idea of it too. I get wanting to create buzz about a book, but it doesn’t help readers make the crucial decision on whether to actually read it. However, I avoid including synopsis if it will spoil the book or if the book is so long I can’t condense its plot into a few sentences.

Avoid bashing a book. I don’t know what it is about the Internet and opinions, but people love expressing them online especially if they’re a negative opinion. I don’t have any problems with negative reviews. I don’t mind if books didn’t work for someone or it made someone feel uncomfortable. I don’t mind if the book did have a great plot or you didn’t resonate with the characters, but please don’t continuously talk about how terrible a book is. These kinds of reviews really help no one with understanding if the book is worth their time. It’s also really unproductive to just hear someone complaining without resolve or reason. Usually if I see a Goodreads review riddled with eye-rolling gifs, I just scroll past it. Bashing a book means you’re going through special means to make sure the author feels terrible for writing their book. I never know if I should read a book when the review just stomps it into the dirt.

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Include content warnings for sensitive readers. In 2020, we all have our thing. I don’t think there’s a human in the world that isn’t going through something at this very moment. I have my thing and because we all have our thing, we should be mindful that some subjects may warrant bad feelings. When I’m reading reviews, I want to know if there are certain triggers included in the story. This allows me to either prepare myself for the content of the book or make me reconsider reading the book all together.

There is a belief that including content warnings are a spoiler. I don’t believe that. I don’t think you’re spoiling a book if you note there’s a rape scene or the content deals with suicide. If anything, it makes the reader more aware and prepare for the scene if they choose to read the book. I would much rather know what I’m getting myself into than blindly go into it and trigger myself.

You don’t need to be a cunning writer to write reviews. I see a lot of folks go through a lot of work to sound like a professional book critic in their reviews. I love the eloquent writing, but I don’t think it’s a per-requisite to writing good reviews. Good reviews allow the readers to understand the book better. What did you like and what you didn’t like will help make up the minds of other readers. You can write it in a very professional style, but I love reviews that read like I’m talking to my friend. And of course I take friend’s suggestions over a professional reviewer.

But generally, just share your thoughts! They don’t have to be the most erudite things. Honestly, reviews should be written not only for the reader but for yourself. If you have thoughts and need to share them or write them down, go for it! There’s no hard and fast rules, but I do hope that the points I mentioned help give you some sense of what goes into writing a review. Be honest. If you didn’t like the book, share why you didn’t like it. If you loved the book, share that too. No one should find fault in either of these kinds of reviews and if people disagree, then people disagree.

The big takeaway in all of this is that books aren’t made for everyone. It’ll either be a hit or a miss and that’s just human nature. Make the reviews for you and what you’ll find is that others felt the same way.

The State of Simone: Where I’ve Been and My March 2020 Wrap Up

The State of Simone: Where I’ve Been and My March 2020 Wrap Up

2020 has been busy.

I moved to another city, but that wasn’t easy. We had to scout the city first and then find a place to live and then plan the rest of the move.

And then the Corona virus hit.

We moved a week before we were told to start practicing social distancing. I can’t believe I bought my toilet paper and paper towels for our new house right before it started selling out in stores. My husband and I’ve been staying home, staying safe. He’s been working, but since the virus broke out there’s been a slight hiring freeze. All the applications I’ve sent to places are now languishing in some HR limbo waiting for release. I mean, I think we’re all waiting for release.

So I’ve been keeping busy. We’ve been working on some projects at home and also keeping each other entertained while in quarantine. Hubby built a squat rack and platform (which is something we’ve been wanting and started working on before quarantine) and we were right at the start of working on our garden before everything shut down. I’ve set up a little reading nook in our third-level loft. It’s now the comfiest place to read, meditate, and just get away from the rest of what’s happening on ground level. I even bought Animal Crossing on Nintendo Switch to play.

As for reading, not so much. Since March was when they announced California would start “shelter in place,” I’ve been feeling a little lethargic. Like everyone else, the feeling of wanting to be at home vs. forced to be at home are quite different. As you know, I’m an avid homebody and love being home and doing things at home, but being told you can’t go anywhere really changes things. Normal walks require me to walk across the street whenever someone comes in the opposite direction. Keeping socially distant to avoid catching the virus. Constantly washing your hands or waiting in line for groceries because pandemic has made other folks hoard supplies. It’s been exhausting.

However, I also know that our lives are pretty privileged. We don’t have any kids so we don’t have to worry about school. We aren’t over the age of 65. We don’t have any respiratory issues or pre-existing conditions that would make us more susceptible to the disease. All we can do as able-bodied citizens is stay home, stay safe, and avoid contact with others. As the able-bodied, we are the ones that have to be more careful because our privilege lets us leave the house whenever we want. Our privilege lets us do jumping jacks without being out of breath. Our privilege needs to be under check through this time because those without the privilege won’t survive if we don’t.

So lethargy, I can get over. What I’m doing is protecting my mother who is over 65 and my father who has asthma. We’re protecting the huge senior citizen community that live here. We’re keeping our healthcare workers and essential employees safe from the virus. We’re putting those who are disadvantaged first because there’s no room to be selfish when there’s a virus going around that will literally strangle people of their breath.

But despite the pandemic and having an anxiety attack every time I go to the grocery store now (grocery stores were so soothing and now they’re panic inducing), I read seven books. I read my monthly average, which I’m very surprised and grateful about. There were so many accounts I’ve read from friends who can’t focus on their reading. So many people who are struggling with their mental health to sit down and enjoy a book. So many parents who need to focus their free time on taking care of their kids. So many folks who are working from home and trying to maintain a good work/life balance despite it all happening in the same place. The world is a little chaotic right now, so I’m grateful I read one book let alone seven.

Out of the seven, there were really only three that I wanted to highlight. You can find all my reviews on Goodreads, but a quick list of recommendations from me include:

For April, I plan on spending more time reading at home, working on my mocktails (a new hobby of mine), and baking to pass the time. What have you been doing to pass the time?

 

Reading Break // Plum Deluxe Tea

Reading Break // Plum Deluxe Tea

Look, something new! No, I’m actually excited today because I get to share my first tea review with you all. Recently, Plum Deluxe reached out to me asking if they could send me some tea. Gratefully, I said “sure” and picked out a couple of their teas to sample.

One of my all-time favorite beverages when reading a book is a hot cup of tea, but I’m also quite picky about the kinds of tea I like. I don’t like a lot of added flavors to my tea. I think tea tastes great on its own, so there was a tiny gamble that I wouldn’t like these.

Lo and behold, I do! I like that these teas have a subtle flavor rather than bolting you with a palate of lavender or roses. I was worried the pumpkin spice would be too overpowering with the flavor combos, but they were all subtle. You can also really smell the flavors without it getting too much into the tea.

Here’s the flavors I chose:

Deluxe Pumpkin Spice tea

Made from Honeybush Tea, Black Tea, Cinnamon Bark, Cardamom, Ginger Root, Cloves, Calendula, Safflower, Natural Pumpkin Essence, Love, Gratitude. Low Caffeine

Reading Nook tea

Black Tea, Rose Petals, Lavender, Chamomile, Vanilla Essence, Love, Gratitude. Has Caffeine.

Gratitude Blend (aka Strawberry Earl Grey) tea

Black Tea, Orange Peels, Blue Cornflowers, Strawberries, Raspberry Leaves Bergamot Oil, Strawberry Essence, Love, Gratitude. Contains Caffeine

I received these teas for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by Plum Deluxe.

 

 

 

How to Build a Positive Reading Habit

How to Build a Positive Reading Habit

Over the years, I’ve encouraged many people to read more books. With my bookstagram, I’ve even brought people to pick up their reading habits again and that brings such a huge smile to my face. I love helping people rediscover books and how much fun it is to read.

But there are a few people who always tell me they never have the time, or they want to read more but they’re just so tired after work to do anything other than watch TV. I completely understand that as well. Working all day and then coming home to your family all you want to do is spend that quality time with them. Or without them. I’m not here to judge (lol).

If you are one of those people who would love to get into a reading habit, but struggle with responsibilities of life, then I hope this blog post helps you to create a new reading habit.

Read What You Want

I cannot express enough how important it is for you to read what you want. Don’t read what you think is important to read and don’t read what you don’t want to read. This is a golden rule for all the books you’ll ever read in your life. Let’s think of it this way. If there are 15-20 novels being put out by an editor every year and there are 20 editors at one imprint, that’s already 400 books being published in a year by one imprint. Now tack on all the publishing houses and their imprints and you’ve probably got over 1000 books being printed each year. With that many books being printed a year, why waste your time reading something someone said you should read?

Instead, consider picking up a few books from your library; things that you might not read normally, things you would absolutely love to read, things that struck you as interesting. Start with these books and don’t get sucked into the popularity of a book or the whole “intellectual” thing where people scoff you for not reading Ta-Neishi Coates.

Start Small

When trying to start a new reading habit, start small with both your time and your reads. I would strongly discourage anyone from jumping into War and Peace or a 1000-page fantasy novel right off the bat. Instead, start small. There’s this great YouTube video that explains that reading for at least 30 minutes a day will accomplish more reading in your life than if you tried to sneak it in every once in a while. Here’s the video cued up to the moment where the math is explained:

So when it comes to creating a healthy reading habit, start small. Read what might be a quick read everyday for 30 minutes a day and then move on from there.

You can also start a book club and read that one book. If you were read one book every month for an entire year, you would have read 12 books. Perhaps keeping a book club with some close friends will keep everyone accountable and give you a group of folks to talk about the book together. I think one of the most key factors to reading a book is the discussion after and I’ve had some amazing conversations with friends about some books.

Keep a Journal

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For all intents and purposes, I think the first two steps are probably the most valuable. Read what you want and do it in a small, digestible way, everyday to build the habit. However, if you want to go full reading mode you can also keep a journal of what you’re reading.

Journaling in general is said to improve everyone’s life. Writing in a journal helps process emotions and thoughts that might need a moment on the page to make sense. Why not keep a journal of your reading progress? The only thing I would keep in mind with your journal is not to be upset if you only got to read for five minutes one day and ten hours the next. Life demands different things from us everyday so if reading is impossible one day, don’t feel bad about it. Just pick up your book when you have the chance next time and move forward.

DNF Books

If you’re unaware what this phrase means, it means “did not finish.” It’s a common acronym people in the book world use when they didn’t finish a book. It’s also an extremely contentious activity because a lot of people will continue through a book they hate because they just can’t not finish a book.

I’m here to tell you to put down the book. If a book you’re reading isn’t fun or interesting to you, then don’t read it. Even if it’s a book you’re reading for a book club. Even if you begged the publisher to read the book for an early copy. I can’t express this enough; don’t read books you don’t like. It’s a waste of time to read something you don’t like. It’ll make you unhappy. And it’ll reverse the work you’ve put into creating a reading habit. Remember, there’s thousands of books that get published every year so why are you stuck reading the one book you hate?

Do As Much As You Can

The final piece of advice I’m going to give you is this; do as much as you can. There’s no competition to read all the books. There’s no one on your back telling you that you have to read. You can even be a bookstagram lurker who just goes on Instagram to look at all the pretty book pics. Just read as much as you can, do as much as you can, and forget what other people think. Because this reading habit is yours and despite the community and all the ways you can connect with someone over a book, the reading part is completely on you, so make your own terms and own your own reading habit.

What other advice would you give to a new reader?

 

Get Ready to Fall For Fantasy

Get Ready to Fall For Fantasy

Happy Friday, readers!

The weather is finally changing from summer to autumn, so you know what that means. It’s time to read fantasy books!

I don’t know why, but I correlate autumn with fantasy. I think it’s because all the Harry Potter books came out in autumn or they just invoke those feelings of autumn and now I’ve got it in my head that I need to read fantasy when the weather is cooler. Who else feels this way?

So while you get your pumpkin spice pantry stocked and pull out the sweaters from storage, here’s what you can expect from me as I sit amongst the golden leaves of Autumn:

Book reviews

I don’t think a book blog is complete without reviews. It’s a part of the entire process and I will be reviewing some amazing books (and hopefully my most anticipated). I’ll be sharing more fantasy reads publishing these months including some new releases! I also want to dive into some book series I’ve been meaning to read and finally putting on my radar. Doesn’t it seem like if a book is published before the month you’re currently in, it somehow disappears?

Lists and Recommendations

I haven’t done this a lot mostly because I worry people won’t like what I recommend, but I’ll be doing more lists and recommendations for folks within the genre. I hope you like my recommendations even though I’m slightly nervous on how they’ll turn out.

Essays

And of course, you’ll get my essays on reading. I love when you all read my thoughts on a subject and respond back. I want to do more think pieces for you all this season within the fantasy realm and anything else that sort of crops up in my head. I always love the conversations we have whenever I publish one of these, so I hope to fill my month with many more essays on reading, books, and fantasy stories!

Can’t wait to get started! Will you be reading fantasy books this fall? What do you have on your radar?

 

 

 

My Intro into Historical Romances

My Intro into Historical Romances

Recently, my friends and I started a new book club focused on reading romance and exploring the genre. So far, we’ve read one contemporary novel and two historical novels. We wanted to really deep dive into the genre and set aside our pre-existing opinions or notions about it. I feel like we get a lot of contemporary romcoms marketed at us with their cute illustrated covers, but not a lot of the other genres. So might as well look into it, right?

Well, it’s been quite an adventure especially now that we’ve read a few historical romances. When we were kids, my mom was really adamant about kids being kids so I read mostly Goosebumps and Babysitters Club books. But I knew a few friends in high school who loved themselves a historical romance and had a few sitting on their childhood bookshelves. As someone who’s never read a historical romance in earnest before, it was time for me to really get down and get dirty with them.

I picked three books by three different authors to try:

The Duke and I and Devil in Spring were book club picks, but I picked up Wicked and the Wallflower on my own. While all these books are backlisted titles, it gave me a good idea of what the genre was like and where it’s evolved to nowadays. But I read these with an open mind and the objective of finding if historical romances are the books I want to read. Here’s some of my learns:

Historical Doesn’t Mean Old and Tired

I mean, don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of language here that’s dated, but it’s really there for effect. You’re reading historical fiction probably taking place during the 1800s in Britain and language needs to be accurate to the time. No one wants to hear a Duke call his friends “bros,” you know?

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On that note, there’s quite a lot of antiquated thinking in these books. My friends and I struggled with some of the themes because they’re not the same as they are today. In historical romances, the patriarchy still dominates. Women are “ruined” by spending 10 minutes with a guy in a room alone. Women can try and own a business, but women are oddly owned by their husbands. It’s a lot of old thinking, but funnily enough it lends itself well to the stories.

You have to remember that these books are written for the time period. I think it’s good to remind ourselves how far we’ve come in terms of gender equality, but at the same time these authors are so good at taking these antiquated thoughts and turning them on their heads.

In each of these books, the women were fierce. They had sharp tongues and didn’t always listen to what the men said. I feel like despite the era these authors decided to write these books, they tried to keep in mind the generation of people reading it. Take for example, The Duke and I. For most of that book, I was a little bored with the parties and the coyness of both Simon and Daphne, but towards the end there were some huge moves that back in 2000 probably made women feel more empowered than they might have back in the real 1800s. It’s these little touches to the story that make them more intriguing to me.

There Are A Lot of Tropes

Whenever I read a review for a romance novel, I always see people get upset by certain tropes that come up. I can never tell by the review if the reviewer knows that these are tropes, but I figured that if you’re not a fan of these then you should steer clear.

But as a fan of tropes (I freaking love tropes I should write a whole blog post about my love for them), I really loved the ones in these books. I’m a huge fan of anti-heros, so I got my fill of them with Wicked and the Wallflower. I also loved fake relationships trope, which was in pretty much all three books I read. I’ll even take the royalty trope because each of these books had a member of the royal family somewhere.

I think the one thing you also need to be a fan of is the journey. When it comes to tropes, you can find that many books share the same themes and the same storylines and if you see books that way then you’ll get really bored of them. However, if you invest your time into reading the books and see how the author uses these tropes, you’ll find a much richer story that might be funny, serious, sad, or incredibly happy. It’ll also make it easy to weed out the books you don’t want to read if there are tropes you’re not a fan of. There’s a lot of tropes within the romance world and depending on your tastes, you can find ones you really love and avoid the ones you hate. I would strongly suggest checking out Smart Bitches, Trashy Books’ trope reference.

The Sex is Steamy

For a long period of time, historical romances were also known as the “bodice rippers.” I’ve learned from my friend, Leigh, that this phrase isn’t used to describe these books anymore and that’s totally understandable, but I like to think it explains the level of steam. Consensual as the love making is, it feels like authors don’t hold back. I’ve read some sexy contemporary romances, but these three books were probably sexier than those.

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Maybe it’s because our brains automatically imagine women with pennies held between their knees and the extreme prudence you see in movies like Pride and Prejudice. So when you see characters literally ripping their shirts off and men getting down on their knees to do more than propose between your legs, it’s often shocking and surprising. But honestly, I loved it.

You can have your opinions on sex and they are totally valid, but I believe that sex between two partners can be a beautiful experience and in none of these books did I get the sense that the characters felt ashamed at their acts or judged by it. They did it. They loved it. And their relationships are somehow better for it. It also helps when authors tease the relationship so hard that the reader is just begging for sex to happen. lol.

Conclusion

So I only highlighted three parts of the historical romance here, but there’s ton. I’ll definitely be doing more research in the future and finding out way more in this subgenre than I’m starting with here. This is just my introduction into the genre and in conclusion, I like historical romances. I love that authors sees their time period as a challenge rather than a burden. I love seeing feisty women fall in love with their counterparts. I love the triumphs and surprises and twists. I love me a steamy book too, so that’s never wrong.

I also love that historical romances almost read like fantasy books. Take away the magical elements, the fairies, the elves, the fight for the throne, and you’ve basically got a historical romance. I couldn’t help imagining Wicked and the Wallflower taking place in some faraway world. Maybe it’s because it read like a sexy Six of Crows, that I liked it the best.

I honestly feel like the only issues I have with historical romances are more technical ones. There’s some repetitive language in Devil in Spring and there wasn’t very much action in The Duke and I. These technical issues are more issues with the writing style or the author’s approach, but that’s the whole point of me trying out these books. I want to find what works for me and I hope that this post encourages you to read a little historical romance and find it out for yourself.

I’m a Slow Reader (And That’s Okay)

I’m a Slow Reader (And That’s Okay)

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, then you might not know that I’ve been struggling to keep up with the books I’ve been reading. I want to read faster, but don’t know how to approach that when it comes to reading.

But after researching and watching videos, what I’ve learned is that speed reading isn’t a real thing. As readers, we know this but there are two objectives to reading: 1) Read the words on the page 2) Comprehend what they’re saying.

Of course our brains do both of these actions at the same time. We read, we comprehend, we move forward to see what happens next. The tone and pace of a novel will also help with this process especially if it’s written well.

But when you speed read (or push yourself to read faster), you sacrifice one of these objectives. You read the words on the page faster, yes, but your comprehension drops significantly.

Why? Because while your brain is busy reading the words, it doesn’t have time to make that synapse to comprehend what was just written. It could be a subtle difference like not knowing the color of a character’s eyes or it could be a big difference like skipping over an important plot point that will crop up sometime later. As a person who reviews books for a living, I need to comprehend otherwise my review may contain some biases I didn’t anticipate before.

I’m a slow reader and that’s freaking fine with me. While I wish my brain could read more words a minute, I cherish comprehending the book more than trying to finish it. I’ve realized that reading isn’t a race and it shouldn’t ever feel that way. The only person I’m competing against is myself and adding those arbitrary goals to yourself that mean little to anyone else means that I’m stressing out and I don’t need to be.

But I know that when I read I’ll be able to really immerse myself into the story. I’ll remember small details I might have overlooked. I’ll enjoy the time spent with my book because I’m not trying to finish it.

If you’re considering speed reading or quickening your pace, go for it. I don’t want to stop anyone from doing something they’re willing to try. However, I would keep track of how much you’ve comprehended and if you missed anything. It might make the difference as to whether or not speed reading is right for you.