Let’s Talk About: How I write my book reviews

Once upon a time, Gerry wrote about writing book reviews. I left a little summary of how I write my reviews, Bibi commented on it saying she’d like me to expand, and I thought… hey, why not. So here I am today, telling you all about how I write my book reviews.

This is not a post about what you should or shouldn’t do in your own book reviews. I always get a little annoyed when I see a post talking about what you should always or never do in a book review. However you personally want to get your thoughts and opinions out is fine, whether it’s one sentence, five thousand words, or anything in between. You can choose not to review books you didn’t like or you can rant forever about why you hated a book. Your blog is your own.

I’m going to talk about my three main types of reviews in this post:

  • my standard review
  • my “number of thoughts” review
  • my mini-review

the standard review

I’d guess that at least 90% of my reviews fall into this category. In this kind of review, I give my general thoughts without going into (too many) spoilers. I’ve tried a bunch of methods for writing this kind of review over the years, from taking meticulous notes while reading (too time-consuming) to typing my thoughts in a draft of the review every night before bed (I kept forgetting) to just winging it when I finished (the usual). What I’ve found the most helpful is talking about the book while I’m reading it.

You see, I have a pretty great boyfriend and he almost always asks me what I’m thinking of the books that I’m reading. He’ll ask me how many stars the book has so far, what’s keeping it from being a five-star read, or what I’m loving about it. This helps me start a review in my mind while I’m reading because I know I’ll more than likely be answering those questions. When I sit down to write my review, I already have a pretty basic idea of what I’m going to say. Then it’s just expanding on those thoughts (or, sometimes, cutting them down to a more reasonable length).

In my standard review, I try to include, at the very least, what I liked and disliked about the book. I don’t have any set formula for my reviews, but I do try to talk about anything that I think could be controversial or surprising (without giving away too many spoilers, that is). Aside from that, sometimes I include quotes and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I do bullet points and sometimes I don’t. Most of the time, I really just do whatever I feel like and hope for the best.

Examples of this type of review:


the “number of thoughts” review

This is, by far, the most time-consuming type of review to write. It usually takes at least a couple hours, so if you see one of these reviews, you know that I either really loved or really hated the book. (Really hated is more common.) That said, it’s actually my favorite type of review since I feel so much better after ranting about a book for so long. These reviews are all FULL OF SPOILERS.

So, how do I write this kind of review? If it’s an ebook, I make a lot of notes and highlights on my Kindle. If it’s a physical book, I fill it up with sticky notes so that I’ll remember quotes I want to use. I’ll usually write at least a word or two on the sticky note to remind myself of my thoughts. That’s time-consuming on its own, but then I have to transcribe all of those thoughts into my review! ūüėÖ

These “number of thoughts” reviews usually get a ton of interaction, which I love! If it wasn’t so time-consuming, I’d do it for every book I read.

Examples of this type of review:


the mini-reviews

When I don’t have a lot to say about a book, or when it doesn’t really fit into my usual reading tastes, I tend to do a mini-review. These are usually just a couple of sentences touching on what I liked or disliked about the book. I did these a lot more when I first moved to WordPress than I do now, but they’re nice because they’re quick and easy.

Examples of this type of review:


So, there you have it — three ways that I write my reviews. I hope that this was at least a little bit helpful. If you want me to expand on anything, please feel free to leave a comment! ‚̧


What style of review do you usually write? What’s your favorite to read? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Let’s Talk About: The lowest-rated books on my TBR

I recently posted a list of books with low average ratings on Goodreads that I actually enjoyed. Today I’m going to flip that around and talk about the books on my TBR with low average ratings and why I want to read them!


Meternity by Meghann Foye

Goodreads average: 3.04 stars

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway about three years ago and I still haven’t read it because of that average rating. It’s probably the only book on this list that I don’t actually want to read, but feel obligated to because the publisher sent me a free copy. I’m hoping to read this at some point this year, but… I’ve also been saying that for the last three years.


Providence by Caroline Kepnes

Goodreads average: 3.37 stars

This book might not have the best ratings, but I know that Caroline Kepnes can write. You was the best book I read in April and I’m planning to read Hidden Bodies soon. It only makes sense to see what else she’s written.


There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Goodreads average: 3.38 stars

I’m a big fan of Stephanie Perkins’ fluffy YA romances. Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After… I loved all of them. Mostly I want to read this book to see how she handles a thriller.


Lucky in Love by Kasie West

Goodreads average: 3.51 stars

I’ve liked and disliked books that I’ve read by Kasie West. I never quite know what I’m in for with her, but this one sound cute!


The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams

Goodreads average: 3.53 stars

I loved The Babysitters Club books when I was younger, and now we’re adding witches to the mix? PLEASE. I’m not sure why this book has such low ratings, so I’m still pretty excited to read it.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What are the lowest-rated books on your Goodreads TBR? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Let’s Talk About: BookCon 2019!

In case you missed all of my yelling (and my giveaway post from a couple days ago), I went to BookCon! You might remember from the giveaway post that I attended with Daniel from Page to Page. We somehow ended up with VIP passes and, overall, at least, I had a much better time than last year!


Day One

Look at me all awake and alive and excited! I did not look like this by the end of day two, that’s for sure. Even though I went to BookCon last year, I didn’t really know what to expect this year with the VIP badge and attending on both days.

The number one priority for day one was meeting Rainbow Rowell. I’ve read everything she’s written and she’s one of my favorite authors. Once those doors opened, we hurried to the Macmillan booth for tickets to her signing party and luckily, we made it in time and got our tickets!

Another thing we wanted to make sure to do was attend Rainbow Rowell’s panel about Wayward Son. I loved Carry On and was so excited to hear Rainbow talk about the sequel.

In general, Saturday was a lot busier than Sunday with a lot less going on. Only seven of the nineteen books I got for free came from Saturday’s events, and five of them were just because of my VIP badge. One of the others, Permanent Record, wasn’t even one I got for myself. I had been talking about how much I love Mary H.K. Choi while I waited in line for a chance to win a Simon & Schuster ARC, and although I didn’t win anything, someone who had been in line with me won that ARC and wasn’t really excited about it, so she just gave it to me! (If you’re reading this, thank you so much! You made my day!)

Saturday was also the day that I met Sarah Dessen! I’ve loved her books since I was in middle school and took my copy of Someone Like You to be signed. I was too nervous to really talk to her, but she commented on how cute that edition of her book is and how YA covers don’t look like that anymore.

We had tickets for Leigh Bardugo’s signing but ended up giving them away because the line was crazy and we didn’t want to miss the Rainbow Rowell party. Hopefully our tickets made someone else’s day since her signing had been sold out.


Day Two

Here I am, nearing the end of day two, absolutely exhausted and waiting in line to meet Marissa Meyer. (And still very excited.)

Sunday was definitely a lot calmer than Saturday, and it seemed that there were a lot more opportunities to get ARCs and do fun events.

When the doors opened, everyone rushed to the Macmillan booth for tickets for that day’s signings and to the Hachette booth for The Bone Houses, while I went to the Lion Forge booth so I could get tickets for the Mooncakes and No Ivy League signings later that morning. Everyone was still waiting in the Macmillan line when I got those tickets, so I just wandered around for a little bit to see what was going on. I found out that Scholastic was giving away piles of ARCs of Technically, You Started It and Tarnished Are the Stars, so I was able to get those really easily.

After that, we did a trivia game with Epic Reads, where we had a ton of fun coming up with huge lists of books (one of my favorite things, honestly) and answering multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. Our team won and we each ended up getting an ARC of Serpent & Dove, a yoga mat, and some fun swag.

Sunday’s VIP signings were Meg Cabot and Sarah MacLean. I was definitely excited about Meg Cabot since The Princess Diaries was one of my favorite series when I was younger! I think I have a conversation about the spelling of my name with every Sara(h) I meet, so that’s what I talked to Sarah MacLean about.

That afternoon, we had signings for Marissa Meyer and V.E. Schwab, so a lot of our time was spent waiting in lines. By the time Schwab was done, BookCon was pretty much over, but a lot of publishers had swag sitting out on tables or were offering huge discounts. We had won tickets to Romance Candy Crush but had to miss it because we were in the Schwab signing line, but luckily, we ran into the people hosting that event as they were leaving and they gave us the books anyway!


The Haul

FREE

  • The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez (ARC)
  • No Judgments by Meg Cabot (ARC, signed & personalized)
  • Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson (ARC)
  • Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor (ARC)
  • Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett (ARC)
  • Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi (ARC)
  • Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu (ARC, signed & personalized)
  • No Ivy League by Hazel Newlevant (ARC, signed & personalized)
  • A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel (signed)
  • Misfits by Jen Calonita (signed)
  • Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean (signed & personalized)
  • Project Duchess by Sabrina Jeffries (signed)
  • As Good as the First Time by K.M. Jackson (signed)
  • The Fresh New Face of Griselda by Jennifer Torres (ARC)
  • I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn (ARC)
  • Hired by Zoey Castile (signed)
  • Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin (ARC)
  • Queen of the Conquered by Kheryn Callender (ARC)
  • Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman (ARC)

PURCHASED

  • Crazy Cat Lady by Agnes Loonstra & Ester Scholten (so that I could get a cute tote bag)
  • Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer (at her signing)
  • The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen (at her signing)
  • I also preordered both Pumpkinheads and Wayward Son at Rainbow Rowell’s signing

Signings!

I am not very good at talking to people that I admire, so I mostly just mumbled a lot and smiled. But that’s still more than I did last year! Here are some pictures of me with Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Dessen (my childhood hero), V.E. Schwab, and Marissa Meyer!


Tips, Tricks, and Plans for Next Year

  • Bring your lunch! We packed food, water, and snacks and it was so much less stressful than wasting time and money for food that’s not even good.
  • If you can only make to BookCon on one day, go on Sunday. I was honestly a little bit disappointed with Saturday, but Sunday more than made up for it.
  • Do your research! There were so many events that weren’t announced anywhere other than Twitter, and we missed a few authors that we would have liked to meet. I ended up turning on post notifications on Twitter so that we’d be more likely to know what was going on, but even then, you have to be in the right place at the right time.
  • I think VIP was worth the extra money, but I’m not sure that I really need to experience it again. Next year, I think we’ll try to go to BookExpo and maybe just attend one day of BookCon.

Did you go to BookCon this year? Do you plan to go in the future? Do you have any additional tips or tricks? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Let’s Talk About: Books I loved with low ratings on Goodreads

A few weeks ago, Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books shared a list of books she’s loved with low ratings on Goodreads. I thought this was such a fun and interesting idea that I had to check my own shelves to see which books I’d loved that had low overall ratings.

I decided to only share books I’ve read in the last five years, because I will openly admit that I had questionable taste in books before that. I also tried to exclude books that have low ratings because of bad author behavior, since, while I may have enjoyed the book, I don’t want to condone their problematic actions.

So, that said, here are four books that I really enjoyed with average ratings below 3.5 stars.


My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageris

Goodreads average: 3.36 stars
My rating: 4 stars

If you like sarcastic humor and books that make fun of their genre, you’ll probably love this interactive romance novel. Yes, it’s full of cliches, but that’s because it’s making fun of the cliches. The love interests are laughable because it’s making fun of the characteristics of classic romance love interests. If you’re looking for a serious, historically accurate romance, this isn’t it. If you’re looking to have fun and laugh, this might be a book for you.


We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards

Goodreads average: 3.41 stars
My rating: 4 stars

I just scrolled through the negative reviews on Goodreads and they all seem to be along the lines of “this was clearly written for teenagers.” To be fair, it is YA. It’s not meant to scare the pants off of you or anything. I liked this book because it had a spooky vibe without actually being scary.


Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk

Goodreads average: 3.44 stars
My rating: 4 stars

I understand the problematic behavior in this book that a lot of reviewers have brought up, but… that was kind of the point? In this book, a cupid-in-training accidentally messes up his arrows and hits only half of his target. The result is a girl who’s head-over-heels for a boy who couldn’t care less about her, and that boy definitely takes advantage. His behavior is despicable, but what would this book have been if it wasn’t? (Boring, probably.)


The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian

Goodreads average: 3.46 stars
My rating: 4 stars

One of the things that I liked most about The Last Boy and Girl in the World is how realistic the characters were. Keeley was an incredibly realistic teenage girl who has no idea how to handle her whole town going underwater. She’s not always likable. In fact, a lot of the time, she says or does the wrong thing. I guess I can understand why a lot of reviewers couldn’t connect with her, but I think this book would have been incredibly boring if everyone in this book had known what to do in this very strange situation.


What are some books you’ve loved with low ratings on Goodreads? Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? Let’s talk in the comments!

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The Great Book Unhaul of 2019

Every so often — by which I mean maybe once every three to five years — I do a huge book unhaul. I’m so, so bad at getting rid of books I own. Even books that I’ve absolutely hated have a place on my shelves. I just like being surrounded by words.

But in all of my unpacking, I realized that I’ve moved into a much, much smaller place than I came from. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I have maybe a quarter of the space that I used to. I went from a two-story, two-bedroom townhouse to a small one-bedroom apartment. My old place had a built-in, floor-to-ceiling bookcase in the living room. Needless to say, my new place does not.

I thought I could do it. I moved all of the books. But there’s really no place. So an unhaul it is.

I can’t really say that there was a method to my madness, because there really wasn’t. All I can say is that I’m getting rid of 102 books. Honestly, it felt really good and I’ll probably end up doing another pass through my books at some point.

So, what did I get rid of? I’m glad you asked.


Let’s start off with the twenty-five books that my ex wanted to throw in the garbage. Whatever my feelings toward my ex, I think we can all agree that books do not belong in the garbage. Most of these are books that I gave to him over the years, but some are old textbooks and some are nonfiction books that he bought himself. I should probably also mention that I’ve already gotten rid of ten or fifteen other textbooks that he nearly threw away.

But enough about him and his books. On to the more exciting ones.


Next up is the thirty-four YA books that I’ll never re-read. I didn’t do a great job taking pictures of these ones, so I’ll also include here the sixteen adult books I’m getting rid of and the ten non-fiction books I’m passing on to a better home.

(I’m not sharing pictures of all of them because it’s just too many.)

These books really range from ones I really enjoyed, like the Anna and the French Kiss series and a bunch of Huntley Fitzpatrick’s books, to ones I really hated, like Down and Across and Lone Wolf Lawman. I’m also getting rid of The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, because… obviously. There’s also a Hunger Games box set that I really, really hope I didn’t spend $54 on.


I’m also getting rid of a whole series (thirteen books) that I was absolutely obsessed with when I was in middle school — Cathy Hopkins’ Mates, Dates series. I loved this series so much that I’d save up my money to go to the Bookworld on Main Street and buy the next book in the series. Unfortunately, the books are not nearly as good as I remember, or maybe I’m too old, because I definitely cringed all the way through a re-read of the first in the series.


Last up is a pretty small stack of ARCs that I’m just going to donate to the used bookstore’s ARC shelf. I never quite know what to do with old ARCs, but my favorite used bookstore (in NJ, at least) has a shelf of free ARCs since, obviously, selling ARCs is not allowed.


My first stop is going to be the used bookstore that I mentioned above. They give store credit for any books that they accept, and hopefully they’ll accept most of these. Quite honestly, I’m okay with getting very little money for them because I just want them out of my apartment so that I can free up some space. I believe that the bookstore will donate any books they don’t accept to the library, which is nice.

Fingers crossed that I’ll be back with The Great Book Unhaul of 2019, Part 2 later this year, since I’m sure my book-buying problem isn’t going anywhere.


Have you done a book unhaul recently? What do you like to do with the books you no longer want to keep? Have you read any of the books I’m getting rid of? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Let’s Talk About: My spam problem

Well, here’s a post that I never thought I’d make. I usually go through my spam once a day just to make sure that no real comments have been accidentally filtered out. And for months, I’ve just kind of been silently shaking my head as I delete comment after comment after comment. One day, though, the spam was out of control¬†and I had to tell someone.

So I thought, “Who appreciates my sense of humor and also actually knows that I have a blog? Hmm… Daniel.”¬†So I sent him a million pictures and screenshots (okay, it was maybe more like ten) with some commentary and he told me I should write a post about it! So I did! And, honestly, he deserves like 95% of the credit for this because he also had the foresight to screenshot the best of the snaps and send them back to me.¬†In case you hadn’t noticed, he really is the best.

So, basically, all of these Australian car places think that I’m a porn blog.

I don’t know what I ever posted that makes me literally get hundreds of spam comments each week that refer to me as a porn blog, but it’s a thing that happens and it’s blowing my mind. I got 227 spam comments in one day just while I was at work.

“Me and my neighbor were just preparing sex”
Wow, thanks for letting me know.

Sometimes I get really exciting and wonderful quotes. Other times, they randomly replace words in well-known quotes with “porn” and “sex” and some magic happens. In this case…

“Oh, what a tangled porn we weave, when first we practice sex deceive.”

This is possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Sometimes I’m just like… is SELL MY CAR trying to proposition me because I’d rather not.

“i am having a look ahead sex touch you”

“definitely you are going sex a famous blogger”
Thank you for the words of encouragement.

And other times I’m like, “Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t gotten any weird sex spam comments all day!” and then I find out that I should have kept my mouth shut.

At least my porn style is perfect.


Do you check your spam comments? What’s the weirdest or funniest one you’ve found? Do you know why all these Australian car places think I’m a porn blog? Let’s talk in the comments!

Let’s talk about: Planning out my (blogging) life

This post has been in the works for a long time, but I think I’m finally ready to talk about how exactly I plan and schedule my posts so far in advance. I’ve talked about it a little bit in a couple different tags and in the comments with a few different people, but I wanted to go into much more detail in hopes of maybe helping somebody.

Back in June when I did the Secret Life of a Book Blogger tag, Libby commented that she wanted to know more about my planner! I didn’t know if I had enough to say about my planner to do a whole post about it, but I figured I could combine it with my many other organizational methods and write something about how I keep track of everything I need to do when my brain is always moving in 23 different directions at once.


To start off, the planner. This is the planner that I have and I absolutely love it. It’s shiny and it has month views and week views and pages in the back for notes. It has a pocket in the front for stickers and sticky notes. It also gives me advice and compliments every week, so that’s nice.

I used to actually write in my planner, but I’ve recently started doing sticky notes instead. I can just move those around if I need to, instead of crossing things out and making everything look messy.

When I have a post planned for a day, I add a sticker to the month view so that I can really easily see whether I have time for something else. October is fully booked!

My theme for November is cats (shocking, I know) and I love it. November is almost full at this point, which might sound impressive, but really isn’t. Let me explain.

There are some posts that I do every week: Top Ten Tuesday and the Weekly Update. That’s already eight posts planned for November.¬† Then there are the posts I do monthly: page count, monthly favorites, and a Monthly Motif update. So we’re already at eleven posts. I also review three books for my #killingthetbr challenge (the last three Fridays of the month), so that’s fourteen total posts planned, or almost half of the month, without really any effort on my part. After that, I just fill in the blanks with other book reviews, reading challenge updates, and lots of tags.


I might do a lot with my planner, but it’s really just the beginning.

Because I’m possibly the most neurotic person you’ll ever meet, I have to organize things in fifteen different ways before I’m satisfied. It’s not enough for me to write everything down in a planner. No, I also have to use¬†spreadsheets. This is the point in the post where you realize that Google Docs might actually be my best friend.

I have a spreadsheet for everything. I actually have more spreadsheets than I’m sharing here because I think just sharing these already makes me look a little excessive. I also used to have more spreadsheets than I do now, but some of them weren’t helping me as much as I’d hoped, so I got rid of them. Anyway, I have one big Google Sheet called BOOKS that houses all of my various spreadsheets.


So, there’s one for my¬†Killing the TBR¬†challenge.

As you can see, with the exception of Saint Anything,¬†I hate almost every book that I own. Currently I’m only tracking the books that I’ve read for the challenge, but I think I’ll tweak the spreadsheet for 2019 so that I can more easily see which books qualify. That would be much more helpful.


Then, of course, there’s the spreadsheet for my¬†Debut Author Challenge.

You can see that I’ve tended to like most of the debuts that I’ve read this year! They’re listed in the order I got them, so obviously I really need to get on¬†The Queen’s Rising. This is also kind of an old screenshot since I read (and reviewed)¬†How to Breathe Underwater¬†more than a month ago.


 

On to the Monthly Motif sheet:

Sometimes I kind of, sort of plan out what I’m going to read for the Monthly Motif challenge, but sometimes I also wait until like the 25th of the month and then totally freak out because I haven’t read any appropriate books. This is a really old screenshot, too. August is over and done with and I’m also already done with September’s prompt.


My favorite of all my spreadsheets is the¬†ARC tracker. It’s empty right now, so here’s a very old screenshot of it! I’m not requesting any more ARCs until next year (it’s time to catch up on the books I actually own), but this thing is so helpful. The last thing I want to do is forget about a book I’ve agreed to review!


This last spreadsheet is how I’m keeping track of¬†everything¬†I’ve read in 2018.

Here I track (1) how many books I’ve read, (2) the format, (3) the rating, (4) when I finished it, (5) the number of pages, (6 & 7) obviously the title and author, (8) the gender of the author (J means joint), (9) where the book came from, (10) the age group, (11) whether it’s a debut or not, (12) anything special, and (13) whether I wrote a review yet.

I haven’t really done anything with this spreadsheet yet (other than not forgetting to review something), but I think it’ll come in handy when I do my big yearly wrap-up post.


That’s pretty much the basics of how I plan everything out! Do you plan out your blog posts, or do you just go with the flow? Do you have any questions for me? Let me know in the comments!