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!

Kernels of Nonsense: Blogging Hiatus Announcement

Kernels of Nonsense (2)

Kernels of Nonsense is a discussion feature here on the blog where I like to discuss various book and blogging related topics. I haven’t written a discussion post in ages and that’s entirely on me. I’m planning on doing better for the remainder of this year, so expect to see more of these.

For this post I want to discuss my plan for a blogging hiatus. I’ve been a book blogger for two and a half years and while I enjoy every moment of it, there are times when I kind of feel the pressure to read all the books, to write all the posts, and to be involved in all of the blogging projects. I have those moments where I know I can’t possibly accomplish everything and I start to panic a bit. I’m the kind of person who has to get stuff done, I can’t flip a switch and not care. I do care, sometimes too much.

I’ve never taken a break from my blog aside from a few days here and there, but I wanted to carve out a week and make myself take a break. With this hiatus, I’m hoping that the break will refresh me, that it will give me a different perspective on blogging, and that I’ll be a little less stressed not having to put posts together for the week I am off.

This week I’ll be working on making sure I have most of my posts done for the month, so when I return I’m not trying to play catch up. What’s the point of a break if I come back with a bunch of work to be done? October is also right around the corner and I’ve gotten into the habit of putting together Halloween-themed posts throughout the month and while I still plan on doing so, it probably won’t be as much this year compared to last year.

So starting September 17th through the 23rd, I will not be blogging or logging onto my blog. I won’t be participating in any memes that week, so no Top Ten Tuesday or The Friday 56. But I don’t want my blog to be completely dead, so I do have two reviews scheduled to go up during that week: Kasie West’s P.S. I Like You and Jack Thorne’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’m planning on getting back into gear on the 24th, responding to comments left on my blog throughout the week as well as taking a look at what posts I’ve missed from all of you.

What will I be doing while on hiatus? Probably reading and wondering what the heck I’m missing out on. I have a feeling that I will spend a lot of time contemplating the blog and will have lots of post ideas when I return. I will still be on Twitter during my hiatus, trying to keep up with the happenings in the book blogging community and I will also be updating my Goodreads account, but other than that, I won’t be doing much blogging wise. I’m temporarily turning off my WordPress notifications on my phone, so I won’t be able to see if someone comments on my blog, but if you do need to reach me for any reason, Twitter or email are good places to start.

Have you ever taken a blogging hiatus? Do you have any tips for me? What was your favorite/least favorite part about taking a break? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Kernels of Nonsense: The Perils of the Twitter Grapevine

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense has been a bimonthly discussion feature on my blog for nearly two years now, but for the last few months, I’ve been shirking my duties. But instead of stressing about how I’ve only been able to write one discussion post a month instead of my usual two, I’m going to go ahead and simply call this a discussion feature. That way I won’t continue to kid myself when it comes to producing a certain amount of discussion posts in a month. Now that that is out of the way, let’s get started…

If you are a part of Twitter, you probably haven’t missed the numerous issues that have arisen within the book blogging community over the past month or so. I’ve only been on Twitter for about a year and although I love it (it’s a great way to find other bloggers and engage in bookish discussions outside of the comment portion of our blogs), I’ve also noticed it’s a place where disagreements often happen.

For the sake of this post, I will not be going into too many specifics (there will be no naming of names) as this post is less about pointing fingers and more about how limited a platform like Twitter is when discussing certain issues.

Early last month after BEA took place in Chicago, a few people on Twitter expressed their dismay at seeing ARCs from the event on sale online. As most of us bloggers know (I’m hoping all), this is a huge no-no. Selling ARCs is not okay, but even though it blatantly says not to on these copies, people still sell them. This started a discussion about bloggers needing to be more professional and whether or not it was best if they didn’t attend events like BEA at all. Many bloggers found this offensive and this whole thing ensued where bloggers felt the need to defend the role of book blogging within the publishing world.

We can go into the details of it and argue one way or another, but I really want to discuss how these disagreements suffer because they take place on places like Twitter. It seems to me that while I think social platforms, Twitter in particular, make great places to discuss issues like this within the community, it’s really limiting when it comes to clear communication.

With only 140 characters available per tweet, it’s often difficult to put everything you want to say in a single tweet (or even a series of tweets, as it’s very easy to start flooding your followers’ timelines). I’m often in awe of those who can get their point across so easily on Twitter because for me, I always end up typing up a tweet and then having to edit it so it fits within the character limit. Apparently, I haven’t fully adapted to this new form of communication. This is made even harder when it’s something that’s really important to you. I find that I have a ton of things to say on certain subjects and I either do not have enough time to post it on Twitter (I’m usually checking it on my phone while I’m on the go) or I feel that it’s a better topic for a discussion post than a 140 character tweet.

It’s wonderful that so many people within the book community are willing to engage with one another on topics they might not agree on, but I always feel that these discussions are incomplete because of the platform they take place on. This leads to another issue. Miscommunication. At the same time people were talking about BEA ARCs going on sale, there was another issue brought up about bloggers taking more than one copy of a book. I’m not going to argue one way or another (though I do have a definitive view on the subject) but as the discussion unfolded, one of the bloggers in question said the whole thing was a misunderstanding and that they had asked to take more than one copy for giveaways, a request which was granted.

I’m not sure if this would persuade those who don’t think bloggers should take more than one copy, but it occurred to me at the time that there is no way that Twitter interactions are free from miscommunication. Have you ever sent a sarcastic text only to find that it completely missed the mark with a friend? So much of the English language relies on tone and tone is not something you can always communicate digitally. Also, when it comes to communicating with others online, you really never know how your words might sound in the other person’s head. A criticism may seem harsher to their ears when you were only trying to point out an inconsistency in something. People in general get pretty defensive, pretty quickly and if there is a breakdown in communication, a simple disagreement can escalate rather quickly.

For me, another concern I have is how fast these discussions (and mainly arguments) spread on Twitter. I often see a hashtag emerge or catch a tweet or two from someone I follow, but I’m unable to really follow the discussion because they materialize and expand so quickly that unless I’m present on Twitter the moment something happens, I miss out on a lot. Sometimes, I just close the app on my phone because I know there’s no way I can get a full, complete picture of what’s been happening. This is really limiting to those of us who might want to engage in a debate, but who have no idea where to start when it’s difficult to trace Twitter discussions back to their origin.

I think Twitter is a wonderful place to hold important discussions. You get a wide variety of perspectives, as it allows everyone a chance to share their opinion. There are some issues that are brought up on Twitter that I believe everyone needs to consider and I love when bloggers continue the discussion by exploring them more in depth on their blogs. But Twitter is still an extremely limited way to communicate and has plenty of pitfalls that make it difficult to call it a truly productive place to tackle difficult and complex issues.

How do you feel about Twitter discussions? Are you comfortable discussing important issues over tweets or do you find the 140 characters limit frustrating? Do you ever find it difficult to follow a Twitter discussion? What are some of the advantages or disadvantages of discussing issues on Twitter? Let’s discuss in the comments!