Kernels of Nonsense: My Month of Mini-Reviews

Kernels of Nonsense is a discussion feature here on my blog where I like to discuss both book and blogging related topics. I wanted to take a moment this month and write about my experience with review writing in July.

If you’re been around my blog for the past month, you may have noticed that I’ve been posting mini-reviews instead of full ones. In July, wanting to get to as many books as possible, I decided that I’d write mini-reviews for all my reads. If you’re like me, you sometimes struggle to get through full reviews. Mini-reviews have been a saving grace for me. There’s always a book or two a month that I struggle with finding all the right words for and settling on a mini-review for them has taken loads of stress off my shoulders.

I ended up surpassing my usual number of reads in July and I credit the mini-review with this. I have a very strict routine when it comes to my reads and reviews. I know a lot of bloggers can wait some time after finishing a book to write the review and can even read more books in between finishing one and reviewing it. I can’t do this. I have to write a review for my last read before moving on. This isn’t always ideal when the words just don’t seem to come and I’m eager to move on.

In July, I felt like an incredibly efficient reader and blogger. After I finished one book, I was writing a mini-review almost right afterward and picking up my next novel a lot quicker. Not all of my reviews came out super easy, but because they were condensed versions of my full ones, I was able to get through them a lot easier.

If you were to ask me what’s the hardest post to write as a book blogger, I’d probably say the review. We all approach the review differently and I don’t have a set formula for how I write out my thoughts on a book. I take notes while I read and while this does help me when I’m looking for direction, sometimes all those thoughts and feelings aren’t easily expressed. I even struggle with taking notes when I’m just not feeling much of anything for a novel and knowing I have a full review ahead of me does not keep the pressure off. I’m always in the mind set that I need to come up with a good three or four paragraphs discussing the book in front of me. This isn’t always easy and sometimes I just don’t have the time or the motivation to do so.

Writing only mini-reviews in July felt like a kind of vacation. While reading, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I may not have enough thoughts to write a full review, I didn’t get antsy in between reads, and I ended up picking up more books than usual. I had a couple of personal things come up during July, so in retrospect, I probably could have read a couple of more books that month.

Will this change the way I approach review writing? Will you be seeing more mini-reviews from me? Not likely. I like the balance I’ve achieved, writing only one pair of mini-reviews a month. While I’ve said writing full reviews can be a struggle, it can also push me as a reader to dig deeper into the book I’m reading. I read for pleasure, yes, but I also want to get something from the experience and writing full reviews helps me to do so.

Do you write mini-review on your blog? Do you struggle with full reviews? How to you handle writer’s block when it comes time to write a review? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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Kernels of Nonsense: Where Does Rereading Fit into a Blogger’s Life?

Kernels of Nonsense is a discussion feature here on the blog where I like to discuss book and blogging related topics. I know I’ve been terrible at discussion posts this year, but I am attempting to do better. This week I’m discussing rereading and its place in a busy bookworm’s life.

Way back when I first started this discussion post feature, I wrote about how much I loved rereading. I love the idea of visiting old favorites and reliving that magic. If the characters had a strong impact on me, it sometimes feels like I’m visiting old friends and catching up. And there is the added benefit of hindsight when it comes to rereading. Sometimes you find little breadcrumbs the author left behind that you never noticed before or you discover new things about these books that you didn’t see the first time around.

In 2015, I joined the Re-Read Challenge because I really wanted to find time to reread some of my favorite books, and sometimes I find it necessary to reread a novel if I’m picking up the sequel because I literally will forget everything if enough time passes. That year I managed to reread ten books, but since then, I’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the number of rereads I do each year. This year for example, I’ve only reread two books and have no immediate plans to pick up any others.

One of the reasons I’ve picked up very little rereads is the sheer amount of books on my TBR. There is literally always a new book in the wings waiting to be picked up. I sometimes feel so overwhelmed by the number of books I need to get to that I can accidentally send myself into a reading slump. Although I managed to delete 100 books from my TBR as part of my Spring Cleaning goals this year, I still have over 300 books it. And every week I’m adding something because although I’d like to keep this number low, who can really resist a good recommendation from the blogging community?

Rereading feels like a luxury that I don’t always have. There are tons of books on my shelf that I have yet to get to and whose number seems to be increasing every month. My TBR, though not an outrages number, still demands my attention if I have any hope of getting to all these books that have caught my attention. Blogging itself zaps a lot of time and energy out of you, and although I enjoy it immensely, I sometimes feel like I spend more time blogging than I do reading. Then there’s life itself outside of blogging that you need to contend with and at the end of the day, you sometimes need to reach for your laptop for a little Netfix binging instead of the book on your nightstand in order to unwind.

So where does rereading fit in? I’ve considered holding myself accountable with a reread every month, but as a mood reader, I’m not always comfortable making myself pick up a certain kind of book every month. I’m afraid that added pressure will make me enjoy the rereading experience less. And if I’m honest, there is that little voice in the back of my mind telling me that readers are less interested in a review of a book from years ago than a review of a nice, shiny new release.

Where does that leave this blogger? I’m not sure. I still have a special place in my heart for rereads and in some cases, I do find it necessary to pick up a previous book before diving into a sequel. I want to find more time to reread, but I’m just not sure that’s possible as of right now.

Do you reread old favorites? How do you make time to do so? How do you feel about rereading in general? If you had more time to read, would you reread more than you do? When is the last time you reread a book? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Kernels of Nonsense: Are ARCs Worth it?

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a discussion feature where I like to tackle various book and blogging related topics. This week I’m discussing ARCs and if they are really worth pursuing as a book blogger and reader. I know this isn’t a new topic around the blogosphere, but this is what my mindset currently is with regard to ARCs.

I have a confession to make. I’ve been avoiding NetGalley. I recently submitted a review that made my feedback ratio 100%. It’s been a while since I’ve had every NetGalley request reviewed and I think for the time being I’m going to bask in this sense of accomplishment.

There is another reason why I’m avoiding NetGalley and that’s the added pressure that comes with these ARCs. As a mood reader, having to read certain books by a certain time can have a huge impact on how I enjoy them. I’m not always in the mood for a certain genre or a certain book and when that happens, I put down the book and pick up another. I can’t do that with ARCs because they come with deadlines attached to them. And while I understand that I’m not going to be disciplined if I read an ARC after its release date, I sort of feel like I’ve entered into an agreement with the publisher that I will read and review these books before their release dates. And so I do.

When I first started blogging, I wanted it to be fun and low-pressure. Things don’t always work out the way you intend. Although I will say that blogging can be really hard work, it can be the kind of hard work that’s worth it. I’m proud of the fact that I work hard on my blog. I’m proud of the fact that writing a review doesn’t always come easy, but I still get through them. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve grown both as a blogger and a reader since joining this community. Still, I’m learning that there has to be a limit to how much time and energy I devote to blogging. If I’m overwhelmingly stressed when it comes to blogging, it’s no longer a hobby but an obligation.

I confess that another reason I’m less excited about ARCs is because I end up not enjoying most of them. The last two ARCs I read received 2-stars ratings from me and really, I’d rather be spending my time reading books I enjoy than ones I don’t. Below is a graph of NetGalley ARCs I’ve read by rating (please note that 5-star percentage was rounded up, so it’s actually below 3%).

netgalley-arcs-by-ratings

I ask myself why I am still requesting these ARCs. Is it the blog stats? We know there’s a desire for early reviews among readers and these ARC reviews are a way to drive traffic to your blog. Is it impatience on my part? Sometimes I want a book so bad, waiting a few extra weeks to buy or check it out from the library seems impossible. Neither of these reasons seem good enough when I’m trading my time for ARCs I’m not loving.

So as of right now, I will not be requesting any new ARCs on NetGalley. I don’t know how long I’ll be on this “ARC strike,” but I’m aiming for the summer. And if summer comes around and I’m still not feeling the need to request, I’m not going to force myself to get back into the swing of things.

How do you feel about ARCs? Has your opinion changed since you started blogging? Have you ever looked at how you rate the ARCs you read? Do you think the added pressure is worth it when it comes to ARCs? Let’s discuss in the comments!

cc-banner-march-1Special Note: Sign-ups for the Winter 2017 Comment Challenge for March are now open. This is the final month for the winter challenge and we’d love for you to join us. We’ll be partnering you with another book blogger and all month long you will be encouraged to comment on each other’s blogs. Click the image to the left for all the info. Special thanks to all those who have participated this season! Note: the final day to sign-up will be the 25th.

Kernels of Nonsense: Preordering Debut Books

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a discussion feature here on the blog where I like to tackle various book and blogging related issues.

With 2017 just getting started and with it an endless lists of new authors making their debuts, it’s time to start contemplating which debut books are worth a preorder.

Confession time: most of the books I order throughout the year are preorders. I like planning out my purchases and usually I end up buying a bunch of books all at once (usually after Christmas and my birthday because taking advantage of all those gift cards is how I roll). Last year I tried to be more picky about what books I bought because I know that even though I would love to own all the books, they may not all be worth my money.

Last year I bought six debut novels without knowing too much about them aside from their synopsis. And while all of these received positive ratings from me, I think it would have been wiser to wait on half of them as they would have been better library reads than purchases. In hindsight, I should have waited for my fellow bloggers to review them, because then I would have known this.

So I ask this question: how do you decide which debut novels are worth purchasing when you haven’t read anything by these authors?

I’d like to think that a synopsis alone isn’t enough to persuade me; after all, I (and I’m sure everyone else) have experience being letdown after being completely pulled in by a synopsis. But in many cases, this is all we have when it comes to impending debuts.

I know for many bloggers, early reviews can help decide whether these books are worth preordering. I tend not to trust early reviews, not because I think bloggers are being dishonest, but because the pool of bloggers is so small. If I really want to know how the book community feels about a certain novel, waiting a couple of weeks (or more) after its release is the better way to go. There are exceptions to this, however, because the more you’re a part of this community, the more you start to create a rapport with certain people and if your tastes in books really click, then you’re bound to trust their judgment more than others.

There is another way to get a glimpse of what’s to come with these debuts and that’s excerpts. Sometimes publishers make the first few chapters of a novel public to entice readers. For me, this is the least enticing thing imaginable. I hate spoilers, I’d rather go into a book not knowing anything than knowing a little too much. Whenever I see teasers from series I’ve been reading (Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss comes to mind), I panic and stay as far away as I possibly can from these excerpts. I don’t want to know anything until the book is in front of me. This of course means that these sneak peaks for debut novels are no help to me.

I want to be even pickier this year with debut novel purchases. There are tons I’m really interested in (see my TTT post: Top Ten 2017 Debuts I’m Excited For), but I want to be more patient. There’s also the library option and while it sometimes requires more patience than I can sometimes handle, I really must keep in mind that I don’t have to buy everything I get excited about. So far I’ve only preordered Lilliam Rivera’s The Education of Margot Sanchez and Rhoda Belleza’s Empress of a Thousand Skies. Both sound incredible and I want to support more diverse authors this year, so this works well in that favor. I’ll likely add Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give to this list. Honestly, I’m just waiting for the price to drop and as soon as it does, I’m buying it. But what other debuts should I consider purchasing? It’s only the first month of the year and I might not have as much self-control when fall comes around and another slew of debuts get published.

How many debut novels do you buy in a year? What persuades you to take a chance on these novels? Excerpts? Earlier reviews? Perhaps an author interview? Have you preordered any 2017 debuts yet? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Kernels of Nonsense: End of the Year Slump

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a discussion feature on the blog where I discuss blog and book related subjects. I haven’t done a discussion post in a long while, but I wanted to make sure I at least got one more in before the end of the year.

Today I’m discussing something I’ve been experiencing in my reading and blogging life for the last month and that is an end of the year slump. November was an incredibly stressful month for me. I won’t get into all the specifics, but it just felt like everything was going wrong. I took a mini-hiatus from blogging in order to regain my focus, but I never really did get back into the swing of things.

My blog posts for the month of November equaled about half of my posts in October. The only reason I really was able to post anything during and after my hiatus was because I blog a lot in advance. I usually manage to read around seven books a month, but in November I was barely able to finish four. Aside from being pretty busy, I just found it really hard to sit down and focus on reading. Usually my reading slumps are over in a week (if not less). I don’t think I’ve ever been in a reading slump that surpassed a week and a half. It now feels like I’ve been in one for a month. I thought this reading/blogging slump was just a temporary feeling and that by the end of November, I’d finally feel like myself again, but it is now December 11th and I’m not sure the end is coming any time soon.

Instead of enjoying blogging and reading, I’ve had to really push myself. I had planned to do a lot more discussion posts before the end of the year and although I’ve managed to compile quite a list of topics, nothing has me itching to write. In terms of reading, nothing on my shelf is truly speaking to me. I made a November/December TBR list that has very little hope of being fulfilled. I’ve been able to read and get through a few books, but when it comes to sitting down and writing down my thoughts, it’s a struggle (I mean, more of a struggle than usual).

Meeting my Goodreads goal early hasn’t helped things. I’m the type of person who has to meet my goal no matter what. Not having it complete is all the motivation I need, but that’s completely disappeared now that I’ve met my goal. On top of that I’ve reached almost all of my other yearly goals that I signed up for, so that ever-elusive motivation is even harder to find.

Have you experienced an end of the year slump? How do you stay motivated when you’re just waiting for the year to be over? How do you get yourself out of a blogging and/or reading slump? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Kernels of Nonsense: In Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a discussion feature here on the blog where I like to talk about various book and blogging related subjects. This week I’m doing something a little different in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

This post is a little late, as Hispanic Heritage Month began more than a week ago, but with my blogging hiatus approaching, I didn’t have time to finish putting this post together in time. There are still a few weeks left in Hispanic Heritage Month, so I hope you’ll forgive me. This month is special to me because I am Latina and it’s really important to me that we recognize and celebrated all of the wonderful contributions Latinxs have made in the world. As a book blogger and avid reader, I want to see more books that feature Latinxs. I want to see myself on the pages, not as an illegal immigrant, maid, or sassy best friend. I want Latinxs to be anything and everything. I want dragons and magic, I want kingdoms and castles, I want sword fights and hand-to-hand combat, I want it all. And until we make a demand for these stories, until we showcase the Latinx authors already writing, Latinxs will continue to be underrepresented in publishing. For this post I’m featuring some of my favorite books written by Latinx authors as well as an assortment of books on my TBR also written my Latinxs (small note: the last three books haven’t been released yet, so look for them in the future). I hope you add some of these to your own TBR. Covers are linked to Goodreads.

Books Written by Latinxs That I’d Recommend:

TBR Books Written by Latinxs:

Have you read any of these or are planning to? Are there any books by Latinx authors that I should add to my TBR? Let me hear from you in the comments!