Discussion Time: Spreadsheets!

Discussion
I promised this post so long ago, and I was waiting to see if I could get my second spreadsheet up and running, but the truth is, it’s not gonna happen for quite a while. So I’m here to talk about my reading spreadsheet! I dunno if you guys know this but I’m a little obsessed with organization. I’m also obsessed with stats, like let I love having more information than anyone really needs to know about things. But hey this spreadsheet I found really just wins everything.

I should note real fast that I downloaded this spreadsheet from someone else, it was last updated in 2012, and it had a lot of information or things that I didn’t need and so I spent a lot of time updating it and fixing things so it suits my needs. If you’d like a copy of my version of this spreadsheet feel free to ask me. As for the original link? It seems to have been taken down, cause I sure can’t find it anymore…

But anyway onwards! When you load into the spreadsheet this is what I see.

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Yeah, I know there’s a LOT of information there, isn’t it awesome? But lets break it down a little bit shall we?

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This is by far my favorite section of the spreadsheet. And not just because this year I have been KNOCKING THE BOOKS OUT! But also because I love getting all of this information. All of it is pretty self explanatory and as a bonus I can compare it to last year:

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Where you can see I didn’t do nearly as great. The one thing I should mention is the second Pages Per Day is excluding audio. Which is a feature I would love a whole lot more if I listened to more audiobooks (Seriously I need to get on listening to more) But lets move on.

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These are the actual books for this year, as you can see you can put in the length of the audiobook if it was an audiobook. Now the last two columns are my favorite, they tell me what date I need to finish books by in order to stay up with my yearly challenge. Same goes for the # of pages side, that shows how many pages I’ve read total, and because it’s green it means I’m on track. Lets see what happens if I jack up my challenge and pages read, hm?

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Probably my favorite feature here is this one. As you can see I made my books goal 150, and my pages 100,000. Well now my # of pages is red cause I’m not gonna make my goal at those numbers (Although apparently with The Crown and the Arrow I’m on task for 100,000 pages and that’s mildly terrifying) it also shows me which books I’m actually on task for reaching 150 books for, which isn’t a lot. Seriously if you want pressure this spreadsheet will GIVE YOU PRESSURE. As for me? I like to keep things simple and see all kinds of green.

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As for the rest of the spreadsheet, well it can give you all the information you need. It lets you count up things like genre and where it came from (Oh and how much money you’ve spent on books this year. That always makes me so HAPPY to see. Also I hide that spot from my parents like you wouldn’t believe). Now I realize there’s a LOT of slang in this, some of it obvious some of it probably not so much cause it relates to me personally. But don’t worry we’ll get into that too. Cause you see this page isn’t the only page for the spreadsheet. Nope we’ve got a home page too.

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Now you can see what all my slang stands for, not to mention a comparison between the two years, in both number and visual format! ORGANIZAAAAAAAATIONNNNN!

So basically if you want all of the information about your reading habits, whelp, here’s the spreadsheet to tell you all about it! (Also congrats you’re getting a super close look into my reading habits ahaha) overall I could use this spreadsheet to stress me out, I could make things bleed read and put goals that would push me to read harder and farther. But instead I like to be able to just see at a glance what I’m doing and what I’ve been reading when. It lets me see how I’ve been improving (or lacking) from last year and it lets me know exactly how long it’s been since I last reread some of my favorites.

What do you guys use for organization?

Sondra

Discussion Time: Skewed Ratings? Or Picky Reader?

Discussion

 

So when I put together my end of the month wrap up I always realize “Man I read a LOT of five star books this month.” every single month this happens without fail too. So really it falls into one of two categories: I’m very easily swayed and fall in love with everything I read. Or I’m very picky, and very moody, about what I pick up. I truly feel like it’s a combination of the two but before I get ahead of myself lemme explain what I mean a bit more.

Skewed Ratings:

The truth is that I can often overlook bad things in a book. Or sometimes I’m so swept up in the story and the characters that I just go along with bad plot choices. I often find myself talking to someone else who read the book and going “Oh…I didn’t even notice that y’know you’re right that does bug me.” or the opposite of “Huh, I noticed that but, meh, it wasn’t that big of deal was it?” time and time again this happens to me when discussing books. Which makes me think, maybe I’m to heavy handed with giving out 4 and 5 star reviews? Maybe I’m not critical enough of the books I read?

Picky Reader:

If a book doesn’t at least sound good to me, I won’t pick it up, I won’t even add it to my GoodReads TBR. Sometimes I even wait for those in the community to read it to decide if I should pick it up or not. I listen to reviews, but I also go through reviews knowing what will and what won’t bother me. If I think something is going to bother me, I won’t waste my time picking it up. Life is to short to read crappy books, right? I’m also a very huge mood reader. I’ll buy books that look good at the time, and then leave them on my shelf instead of diving right in, sometimes for weeks or months at a time…Then comes a time when I’m walking by my bookshelf and go “aha. Yes. That’s it. The time is now right.” I can’t tell you how long I’ve had Percy Jackson on my radar to read, I’ve wanted to read it but I’ve just never felt swayed to pick it up. This year I finally felt like the time was right and guess what? I adored the books. Would I have adored them if I’d picked them up a while back? I don’t know, that’s a question for the universe.

So what about you? Do you fall into one of the two categories above? Or are you like me and because of that tend to fall into lots of 4 and 5 star ratings? Sound off in the comments and let me know!

Sondra

Discussion Time: Writing Negative Reviews

Discussion

Something I’ve learned about myself last year is that I really don’t enjoy writing negative reviews.

I don’t read a whole lot of books I end up disliking, at least partially because I look books up on Goodreads extensively before reading them, and can usually tell whether I’ll like something or not in advance. But I did read a handful of one-star and two-star books last year, and I only ended up reviewing one of them.

It’s not that I’m scared that people will be angry with me, or at least, that’s not entirely it. Every time I write a review, whether it’s positive or negative, there’s always this fear that someone will comment on it to say, “LOL let me list all the ways in which you are wrong.” Dealing with that fear is just a part of book blogging, and I can usually handle it.

It’s also not that I don’t like being critical. In fact, sometimes I like writing three-star reviews better than I like writing five-star reviews. As fun as it is to gush about every little detail of a book I loved, there’s also something very satisfying about being able to fill up a “what didn’t work” section. My three-star reviews (eg, Red Queen, A Little in Love, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, Everything, Everything) tend to be the ones I’m most proud of.

But anything below that is just not fun for me. I recently wrote a review of Lock and Mori, a book I really didn’t enjoy, and writing it just felt like dragging myself through concrete. I can do a mini-review like that in a monthly wrap-up, but a full review just feels exhausting.

Sondra here. I’d like to add just one thing to this post. For me it’s also about feeling a little guilty. Like Polina said I like when I can fill up the What Didn’t Work, especially since that section is so hard for me. But I always worry “What if the author finds this? What if the person who dedicated years of their life finds this?” I always worry about that person behind the computers feelings because I didn’t like their book.

And I read a lot. I haven’t counted, but I assume my average is around 14 books a month. I usually don’t review every book I read. I choose the ones I want to talk about the most, and generally, I would rather devote my time and energy to books I enjoyed at least a little bit than books I didn’t like at all.

And I realize negative reviews are in important part of book blogging, and I feel guilty for not writing them as often as I should. So right now I’m torn between “I’ll try to write them more just to balance things out” and “I do what I want”. To be honest, right now I’m leaning towards the second one, but we’ll see how this year goes.

Polina

Discussion Time: To Review or Not to Review, That is the Question.

Discussion

So I started thinking about this when I finished Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I really enjoyed the book, but I got to wondering, is it worth reviewing it on my blog? Is it worth writing a fully detailed review for this story that pretty much everyone knows?

Then my answer came quite simply. Why not? Why shouldn’t I? And not just because I need blog posts each and every week, I’ve grown used to missing weeks now and then. But I write reviews because I enjoy telling people about the books that I’ve read and enjoyed (Or didn’t enjoy for that matter). Even if I’m the last person in the entire world to read a book why can’t I still scream it to the void that I loved it? Why is there this pressure with blogging to only review new books?

Obviously a lot of this falls on the shoulders of ARCs. There’s always discussion about people who start blogging just for ARCs and the way that other bloggers feel about those people. I’m not going to dip my toe into that discussion right now. But what I am going to say is that ARCs present this feeling of “I HAVE TO READ THIS AND REVIEW IT NOW.”

It means that when we, as bloggers, get time to review books, we spend most of our energy reviewing the books that we feel pressured to get up on our blog. Then that turns around and leaves all of our blogs looking the same, and with the same reviews. It’s not publishers fault, they’re trying to raise attention for books, and we love to help them. We want these books to get all of the love and attention they deserve when they’re published!

But it means that amazing books, that used to get all kinds of notice and love, now start to slip away and slide to the background. They’re left on the shelf at the library, or on your personal shelf unread. It means that the excitement that was once there for that book has faded. Obviously Percy Jackson isn’t one of those books, but I could list millions of others, I’m sure you could look at your own bookshelves and find a large number of them too.

So I guess what I’m trying to say in this slightly rambling post is lets change things 2016. Let’s pick up those older books, and let’s review them. Let’s remind people of those books that they forgot to read years ago. I know I’m going to review those books this year.

Sondra

 

Discussion Time: Character Deaths…or Lack Thereof

Discussion

Recently, I read this one book and LOVED it. Loved it so much I read 600 pages in under 24 hours. It was intense, it was original, it was gripping, it made me feel things. One particular moment that made me feel things was the revelation, about two-thirds of the way through the book, that one of the main characters was dead. I’m not going to lie; I cried a little. More than that, I was impressed that the authors were willing to go there.

Turns out, they weren’t willing to go there. The end of the book revealed that the dead character had actually been alive all along. Surprise! :/

I still loved the book. I’m not retracting anything I said in the first sentence. It was amazing. But mixed in with the OH MY GOD WHAT WAS THAT and I THINK MY TEARS ARE CRYING and SDGSJFKDSJLSFDKJF!!!!!!! there was this little seed of disappointment.

Maybe I’m just weird, but I don’t like when books do this. And so many books I’ve read in the past couple of years have done that, made me cry about losing a character only to have them (a) come back from the dead, or (b) not have been dead in the first place. I feel lied to. I feel like I’ve been given this Big Emotional Moment and it wasn’t real. I don’t like being tricked. (I like being surprised, but that’s not the same thing as what I’m thinking of here, though the line can be very thin). I don’t like realizing that all my emotions were for nothing.

Sometimes an author will talk about how brutal an upcoming book will be and how people! will! die! only to pull something like this, and then I feel double disappointment. If it happens often enough in a series, I’ll start to expect this kind of thing, and then, no matter how much I like other parts of the story, I’ll be less into it.

Just to be clear, I don’t always hate this trope. I think it can work well, especially when:

  • Bringing a character back has consequences. (Magical consequences are good. Emotional consequences are good. Emotional and magical consequences at once are absolutely amazing.)
  • There have already been major character deaths in the story. (If the author has shown that they are willing to kill characters, I don’t mind if one or two characters escape once in a while. Please note that this doesn’t work quite as well if it’s minor characters who die and major characters who constantly escape death.)

Even without these two things, character death fake-outs can work. I can think of plenty that have worked, because they fit with the story the author was telling. (The weirdest example I can think of is The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy, where the author’s misdirection regarding a major character’s death was so blatant that my annoyance reached an extreme point and doubled back to me being okay with it.)

And of course, going too far the other direction is also not good. If everyone dies all the time and there’s no hope ever, I’m going to put the book down and go watch The Princess Bride several times in a row. Optimism is important.

But most of the time, I’m okay with characters dying. I like the proof of higher stakes, and I like the emotional fallout. A well-placed, well-plotted character death that works with the character’s arc can make a book so much stronger for me. Especially if the character stays dead.

Polina

Discussion Time: Book Pirating

Discussion

I’m sure every single one of you reading this has at least heard of book pirating. I won’t say if you’ve ever done it yourself or not. I won’t also say that I don’t know that this is an extremely hot topic. Instead, I am going to talk about my own personal experiences. Because once upon a time I was a book pirater. That’s right. I did it. I had a great website that put up clean, new, e-books, and I downloaded them for my Kindle. Oh, I had a myriad of reasons as to why it was okay, ranging from “I don’t want to support Amazon Kindle more,” to the typical “It’s no different than the library.” Pirating ARCs is something though that’s very new since I have left the ye ol pirate ship. And that’s not exactly something I want to get into here, because I think everyone, and I mean everyone, can understand how crazy insanely wrong that one is.

Now I’m not going to stand here on a rock and look down on the people who pirate because I was there, I did it. And if I’m being 100% honest with myself? There are times when have done it more recently than I would care to admit. However, never once since learning the truths of piracy have I pirated a book without either checking it out from the library, or purchasing the book itself. Is it right? No. Does it fix what I’ve done? No. Do I have absolutely perfect reasons that I can explain? Sure. Does that even fix the problem? No.

Because at the end of the day the problem is that books aren’t cheap. YA hardbacks are luckily cheaper than adult hardbacks, but that might change before long. Of course, the ones who take home the most money are B&N (another way you could rationalize away your pirating). I’m not saying the system isn’t screwed up, because guess what? It is. I’ve seen how much power the big box bookstores have myself. But that itself is a topic for another day. But because the books are expensive, there’s a knee-jerk reaction that just says “Arrrr, I could get ye book free online!” (Scientific fact says if you book pirate you start talking like one. Can’t argue with science, friends.) But that instant reaction is hard to squash, especially if you’ve ever taken a trip down the piracy lane. Because once you do something and get away with it, it becomes easier to rationalize away the second time, and then easier still the third. Think about going five over the speed limit? Well then what’s the harm in seven over? Psychology, my friends!

Which is to say that like love, drugs and rock and roll, book pirating is a slippery slope. Now if you have never found yourself at the top of that hill then I honestly, and truly, congratulate you. I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way at all! Because I was never that way until I was educated on the truths of piracy.

But this is a discussion right? So here’s where I turn things over to you guys. I want to know your thoughts, have you ever pirated books? Have you ever found it difficult to avoid it at all costs? Tell me all of your thoughts!

Sondra

Discussion Time: Some Thoughts on Audiobooks

Discussion

1) The narrator can make or break and audiobook for you. I’m just going to state the obvious up front. Sometimes, as with The Wrath and the Dawn or The House of Hades, I can tell the book is objectively amazing, but the narrator is just a little too flat, or not very good at character voices, and as a result I love the story a little less. Other times, as with Snow Like Ashes or The Scorpio Races, the narrator is spot-on and actually makes me like the book better than I would have otherwise.

2) Audiobooks take a very long time. Another fairly obvious point, and one of my least favorite aspects of being an audiobook reader. It usually takes me 1-2 weeks to finish and average 12-hour audiobook. Sometimes, around the halfway point of the story, I want to start listening to something else, or I start wondering when the book will be over already.

3) You can listen to audiobooks at times when you wouldn’t be able to pick up a regular book. Now let’s move on to something I LOVE about audiobooks. I can listen to them when I’m eating, or doing chores, or walking to class. As a result, I have time for more books in my life, which is always a good thing.

4) Audiobooks can be such an intense experience. Maybe this is just me, but when you’re in the right mood for it, try turning out all the lights in your room, lying in bed, and listening to an audiobook you love. If it works, you can get immersed in the world that much more strongly.

5) Somehow, your OTP kissing in an audiobook adds a little more excitement to an already exciting event. Again, maybe this is just me. But the OTP kisses I’ve freaked out the most about–as in, jumping up and down and making tiny little whale noises–are Alek/Deryn in Behemoth and Luke/Elliot in Wings in the Morning, both of which I listened to on audio. Possibly, this is because audiobooks force me to take everything slowly, increasing the anticipation. Or maybe I’m just weird.

6) Audiobooks are really freaking expensive. This generally isn’t a problem for me, since my library has a really large e-audiobook collection. But once in a while I’ll really want to listen to something they don’t have, and I’ll look up the price online and spend the rest of the day being very sad.

7) Concentrating on audiobooks can be hard. This, and the narrator not working out, tend to be the biggest issues I’ve heard from people who aren’t into audiobooks. This particular thing isn’t usually a problem for me (which is strange, actually, since I’m normally terrible at paying attention). Still, it happens to me sometimes, and it sucks to zone out for five minutes and realize you missed something that’s actually kind of important.

8) Be careful when listening to audiobooks in public! I’ve already mentioned the somewhat embarrassing public reactions I had to my favorite fictional couples kissing in audiobooks. I’ve also read audiobooks with extremely sad scenes in public, and generally it ended with me sitting on the sidewalk with tears in my eyes, trying to process what had just happened. I got a more than a few strange looks.

9) Full-cast audio is a thing! It’s exactly what it sounds like–there’s an actor reading the voice of every separate character. I haven’t heard a whole lot of full-cast audiobooks, but I’ve loved the ones I’ve heard–it’s a little like a movie playing in your brain. My personal favorites are The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. GraphicAudio has a whole bunch of Brandon Sanderson ones, but unfortunately they are painfully expensive.

10) Personally, I am a huge fan of audiobooks. You know, just in case you couldn’t tell from my moments of fangirling and references to the many audiobooks I’ve heard. Audiobooks mean that I can read more, and that I can enjoy a different experience. If you haven’t given audiobooks a chance yet, I highly recommend you try it.