On Reflections of the Year Gone By {2017}

As the year comes to a close, I wanted to look back at what 2017 has meant to me in terms of books, reading and the blog.

Challenges:

I signed up for a lot of challenges this year. I mean A LOT. Some of them I just bombed completely, others I excelled at, and still a few others were somewhere in the middle. I’ll be posting a final update on how I did with each individual challenge at the end of the month. I will say that I am not going to participate in as many challenges next year. I just had way too much fun signing up this year!

ARCs:

I didn’t request a lot of new ARCs this year, mostly because I am so far behind on getting my reviews done! And I feel so much guilt at not reading them and getting reviews up at the time that the books are published. But I am determined to review every ARC I’ve received, and to not request any new ARCs until I have cleared at least 75% of my current load.

Audiobooks:

This was the year of the audiobook for me. The majority of the books I read were in audio format. With my long commutes and work trips, I was able to finish an average of 2 audiobooks per week this year. This was far and beyond what I ever expected to accomplish.

Library:

I rekindled a love of the library at the end of 2016 that carried into 2017, until it was sadly cut short by the elimination of the libraries in the county where I lived. Now that I’ve moved back to Washington, there are a multitude of great public libraries, so I will once again have access to this wonderful resource.

Book Buying:

I bought a lot of books this year, probably at least twice as many as I read. Part of this was because for the last several years I was on such a strict budget that having extra money to spend immediately translated into buying all the books. I can’t wait to share my shelves with you in the new year!

Blogging Ahead:

I had no idea when I participated in the Blog Ahead challenge in October 2016 that I would be hit with the need to blog ahead quite so much, but at busy times like now I am so thankful that I was. As of this writing, I have every post for the end of 2017 written and scheduled, aside from 2 discussions and the weekly updates. I also have about 60 posts written and scheduled for 2018.

On Organizing Books

There are so many ways out there for people to organize their books, and I have tried a lot of different ways! I wanted to share my favorite organizing techniques and which ones just don’t work for me.

Row of Books in Shelf

Alphabetical by Author
I think this is pretty standard and is a format I used for a long time, but when you own as many books as I do it gets really hard {and tedious} to have to reorganize the shelves every time you add a new book.

Alphabetical by Title
While this method works really well for my DVD collection, it would be even more tedious to add new books than rearranging the shelves by author!

Woman Reading Book

By Genre
I have never actually sorted by books based simply on genre before, though I do use a loose method of this in my current organization plan. I think it might be fun to break things down by romantic suspense and YA fantasy, but I think there are too many books that could be categorized in multiple genres for it to really work for me {I have tried this with my DVDs and ran into this problem}.

By Series
I use this method somewhat in my organization. I hate to have a series divided, but I also hate to have authors divided, so when it comes to a series that has multiple authors contributing, I have a hard time knowing where to put it.

Free stock photo of books, room, library, bookcase

Rainbow by Cover
Aesthetically, this method is gorgeous and I love looking at pictures of rainbow shelves. Realistically, for myself and my OCD about this type of thing, it just doesn’t work. It would separate my authors, series, genres, etc. and I just couldn’t deal with that.

Wherever they Fall
This is the easiest organization method to maintain, because you essentially just books the books on the shelf wherever, with no need to keep authors or series together. I use this method for my CD collection because I like to mix up my music, but definitely not for my books.

Free stock photo of books, library, indoors, information

Spines Hidden
This is something new that I have just started seeing {as of this writing, approximately 3 months ago}. People organize their books on the shelf with the spines hidden, so you see the pages and not the spine. This way it’s a surprise when you pick your next read.

My preferred style is kind of a mix…
I start with separating books that have been read from books that have not been read. All read books that I am keeping are kept together regardless of category or genre. I then do a rough separation of unread books by genre category: YA fiction, Adult fiction, Memoir and Nonfiction. From there I sort my nonfiction further by category, but everything else is sorted by author, but not alphabetically. I have all of an authors works together, but the authors are in random order on the shelves, as are their books {with the exception of series, which are in order}. Because I’ve been reading- and collecting- adult fiction much longer, this category takes up the largest section of shelves. Memoirs take up the smallest section.

How do you organize your books?

On My A and B List Authors

I tend to classify authors in my head into a few different categories. There are the A and B list authors that are pretty much always going to get added to my TBR with a few notable exceptions. Then there are C authors, New authors, and No authors.

Now, my A, B and C classifications actually stand for: “Automatically add to TBR”, “Bet you’ll add to TBR”, and “Could possibly add to TBR”. I decided I wanted to share my A and B authors with you, just for fun!

Woman Reading a Book

The A list is relatively short, but these are authors who have produced a body of work I have loved from start to finish. I have read all or most of the books published by these authors and have not been disappointed.

A List Authors, aka they could write a phone book and I’d read it:

Nora Roberts/JD Robb
Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick
John Green
Cherry Adair
Christina Lauren

Letter Cookies

My B list authors are one whose work I’ve enjoyed, but I haven’t read enough to consider them an automatic read. For some of these I’ve only read one series from them, for others I’ve read a few stand-alones. This list is constantly growing.

B List Authors, aka I probably wouldn’t read their version of the phone book, but I might*:

Rick Riordan
Cora Carmack
Cindy Gerard
Suzanne Brockmann
Catherine Coulter
Sophie Kinsella
Matthew Quick
Cassandra Clare
Eoin Colfer
Gayle Foreman
Johanna Lindsey
Rainbow Rowell

*This is not a complete listing, just a selection of the authors on this list.

Who are your A List Authors?

On Reading in Different Formats

I used to be a strictly physical book reading type of girl. And then I started blogging about books and everything changed! I now read in all 3 formats that are currently available {at least as far as I know}.

Physical books will always be my tried and true go-to for reading. And definitely my preferred method for collecting beloved books. But they can be heavy, take up a lot of room, and can be expensive. So in order to have access to more books and to be able to take more books with me when I travel, I caved and got an e-reader {Kindle Fire in my case}. These two formats let me happily spend hours and hours reading. Then I got a job an hour away from where I live and realized my commute was costing me valuable reading time… so I added audio books to the mix.

Macbook Pro on Brown Wooden Desk

So now I read using all three genres and am able to experience books more fully than I ever have before. Physical books still allow me the pleasure of feeling the page, digital books allow me the portability of taking my books with me without having to bring a separate bag just for books, and audio books allow me to turn commute time into productive reading time.

I think that opening myself up to additional formats allowed me to open my entire reading experience. I feel like I get a fuller experience overall because there are so many ways that I can enjoy my favorite activity and I can always have a books available to me in one form or another.

Do you read from multiple formats?

On Why I’ll Never Conquer My TBR

I think I’ve pretty much covered all of the reasons why I’ll never conquer my TBR in other posts, but wanted to pull them all together in a nice comprehensive list for all to see…

~ I read from multiple genres
Which means that there are so many amazing new books being released every month! If I only read from one genre, there may be 3 or 4 really good books released during the average month that I want to add, but with so many genres to choose from, that goes up exponentially!

Free stock photo of books, bookshop, school, ladder

~ I read in multiple formats
And I look for different books in each format. Physical books are the ones I really love and will probably want to keep. These are my top authors and series… and ones with pretty covers I find at the book store. Ebooks are those that I want but don’t necessarily want to pay a lot for, so can get for free or pretty cheap through Kindle sales. This is where I try out new authors and series that look good. And then there’s audiobooks, which is pretty much anything that looks remotely interesting and is currently available through Kindle Unlimited.

~ I buy a lot of books
I love them and if I have any extra money {and sometimes when I don’t} I buy books. I would rather buy books than clothes or shoes or makeup like many women do. The only things that I buy with an regularity that comes even close to books is nail polish and hair accessories.

Free stock photo of books, room, library, bookcase

~ I like everything
Seriously, I enjoy most books, so I like everything and am pretty willing to try almost anything {I have some taboo topics}, so I want to add all the books to my TBR.

~ Blogger friends recommend so many books
Because I like everything, I also read a lot of blogs and follow bloggers who specialize in different genres and therefore see recommendations of so many good books I haven’t seen on my own. I therefore must add all of these books to my TBR immediately.

Free stock photo of wood, person, woman, relaxation

~ Life gets in the way
This is the biggest obstacle to ever completing my TBR. If only I could read all day long, but there’s that thing called work, and everything that comes with it. Maybe someday they will actually pay bloggers for all of the work we do to share the books we love!

What are the reasons your TBR is beyond control?

On How I Choose Books

I think we all have a process that we go through when we decide which books to add to our TBR. I thought it might be fun to share my process with you today. So here are the steps I take to determine what books I add…

Free stock photo of love, heart, romantic, writing

Step 1: Look at the author… are they one of my A list authors? {“A” standing for “automatically buy their books”} If yes, ADD IT; if no, go to step 2

Free stock photo of books, education, knowledge, encyclopedias

Step 2: Is it part of a series that I am currently reading? If yes, ADD IT; if no go to step 3

Close-up of Heart Shape

Step 3: Read the synopsis, does it sound interesting? If yes, ADD IT; if no go to step 4

Free stock photo of books, bookshop, display, book

Step 4: Is the cover pretty? If yes, ADD IT, if no go to step 5

Close Up of Flower

Step 5: Does the books contain one of my taboo topics? If yes, SKIP IT; if no go to step 6

Free stock photo of woman, books, desk, school

Step 7: Can I think of any reason why I shouldn’t read this book? If yes, SKIP IT; if no ADD IT

Pile of Books in Shallow Focus Photography

Perhaps this method is why my TBR will take me approximately 200 years to complete!

On Reading Multiple Books at the Same Time

Once upon a time, I had a very strict rule of reading one fiction book and as many nonfiction books as I wanted at one time. This was back when I only read one genre of fiction. Then as my reading tastes started expanding, I allowed myself 1 book from each genre. Then I added new formats, and allowed 1 book from each genre in different formats. It got to the point I was reading at least 15 different books at a time {I got up to 23 on one occasion}. Needless to say this got a little overwhelming.

So after reading all of the books at the same time, I cut back to just one in each format {physical, digital, audio}, but I have found this isn’t working too well for me either. All of my review books are digital, but I also have several series and other books in digital form that I am anxious to read as well. By only reading one digital book at a time I am getting further behind on my reviews and it’s taking me forever to get to other books that I want to read. It makes me anxious and then I’m not enjoying what I’m reading.

Another issue when I cut way back on the number of books I read at once is that I end up just reading from one genre for a while and I feel like I am missing out everywhere else. If I’m reading a physical romance and a digital review and I’m listening to a young adult audio book, then I’m missing out on memoirs and science fiction, and probably either fantasy or contemporary as well. Again, this makes me anxious about missing out on the other reads and makes it harder to focus on my current reads.

There is a happy medium. And for me that number is 5. I can happily have 5 books going at one time and not feel overwhelmed by all that I’m trying to read or feel anxious about all that is not being read. I listen to one audio book {generally whenever I’m in the car} and read 1-2 physical books and 2-3 digital books. This keeps me from getting bored and allows me to read for both reviews and for fun.

Do you read more than one book at a time?

On My Problem With Buying Books

Hello, my name is Michelle and I am a book buying addict. Seriously, when I have the money {and sometimes even when I don’t}, I can’t seem to stop myself from buying books. Trips to the bookstore, online orders, Kindle deals and free books… any and everything to put more and more books on my shelf and inside my Kindle.

The truth of the matter is that I probably already own more unread books than I can read in this lifetime… and I’m not stopping. There are so many amazing books being written and published each month that my literal TBR bookcases will remain overflowing perpetually. But honestly I’m ok with that. I like that I’ll never really run out of things to read.

Of course this addiction to adding more and more books to my shelves does come at a very literal cost. Books, and places to house them, don’t come cheap. I try to take advantage of sales and discounts when purchasing books. And I try to get creative in using the space I have to fit as many books as possible {my books are generally double stacked on the shelves}.

I decided to share the various sources of book buying I indulge in, and how I try to keep my budget in check at each one…

Traditional Book Stores:
In my area this pretty much means Barnes & Noble. I have 3 very strong strategies for shopping at B&N. First, I pay for the annual membership because I more than earn that expense back throughout the course of the year with the discount. Second, I don’t shop the shelves… I only shop the tables where they feature sales. I especially enjoy the Buy 2 Get 1 Free table. And thirdly, I shop the Bargain area. I can usually find a lot of hard cover books here priced less than a new release paperback of the same title.

Online Stores:
I tend to shop from discounted book sellers like The Book Outlet. While some of their books have minor cover markings or stickers, all of the books I’ve received have been in great condition. The Book Depository also has lower prices and has free shipping, but since most everything ships from the UK and I live in the US, delivery time takes a while.

Amazon:
I use Amazon in a lot of different ways… I hit their sales for both Kindle and physical books on a regular basis {and have Prime so I have access to a free new release every month, as well as free shipping on most physical orders}. I hit their marketplace for hard to find, out of print books, and have been happy with the quality of books that I received through this {both new and used options are generally available}. And then there are all of the free Kindle titles that I fill up my Kindle with. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve used their Kindle Unlimited lending service as well for audio books, {a smaller selection of these books are available for free through Prime Reading- also a lending service- but the selection is not as big for the audio versions}. Plus I’m an Amazon affiliate, so every few months, if people shop off my links, I might earn enough for a $10 Amazon gift card… which goes right back for more books!

What strategies do you use to keep book buying from breaking the bank?

On My Bookish Confessions

I have some things that I need to confess…

There are some secrets about my reading and blogging habits that I feel I finally need to share and come clean about. Hopefully I won’t shock you when I reveal them… and hopefully you will all still love me when I’m done {assuming you love me now haha}.

~ I don’t care if my series match.
I have several series that switch between paperback and hardback, and a lot of them have mismatched covers or mismatched sizes among the paperbacks. And it really doesn’t bother me at all. I do prefer to have the entire series in either physical form or digital form, but I’ve become flexible on this as well… unless it’s a series I want to keep, then it must all be in physical form.

~ The cover doesn’t matter that much.
To clarify, I love beautiful covers as much as the next person, and there are books that make it to my TBR or into my shopping cart simply because I fall in love with their covers. But if I there is more than one cover design out there, I’m not going to obsess about getting a specific cover, I want what’s between the covers more. An addendum to this however, is if one design has snakes on the cover I will avoid it at all costs… I can’t do snakes.

~ I actually like spoilers.
Yeah, I really don’t care if people spoil books, though I try not to in my reviews because I know most people prefer to be surprised. In fact there are times that I look for spoilers in series. And I generally spoil myself because I am famous for skimming ahead and always know what’s going to happen. I still go back and read everything in between, but I like to know the end. This is why I don’t really read mysteries. The only books I can’t read ahead in are audio books {but I usually look for spoilers if I really want to know}. Maybe I should try a mystery audio?

~ I don’t always use a bookmark.
I absolutely 100% do not dog-ear pages in books {that is an evil habit I cannot support}, but I don’t always use a bookmark. I have been known to grab whatever is handy and have used things such as the tops of treat packets, the subscription card from a magazine, advertisements, index cards, receipts, and other random pieces of trash laying around.

~ I prefer series to stand-alones.
I want to remain with the characters I fall in love with for as long as possible, so I’m always looking for a series over a stand alone. And while I enjoy series that switch up the main characters for each book, it’s those that continue to follow the same characters throughout that I truly adore. I just can’t get enough!!

~ I actually like insta-love!
I like slow burn, friends to more, and other types of romance tropes as well, but I really do enjoy insta-love! Basically I love most romance tropes.

~ I probably haven’t read the book I’m featuring in my quote memes {yet}.
I blog ahead… very far ahead. As of this writing {which is approximately 6 weeks before you will be reading it}, I have all of my available memes scheduled for the remainder of the year. When I was putting together the posts, I made piles of my books and picked the quotes I was going to feature. As you saw above, I have no problem jumping ahead and spoiling myself, this works with picking quotes too. Once the posts are written, the books then get packed in boxes to prepare for my move {As you read this I will be alternating my time between more work travel and apartment hunting… and yes I’ve been preparing to move for a year now, I know}, so the odds are I haven’t unpacked them again to read them before their post goes live. In fact, I am starting to plan out next year’s schedule with the new books I just received before they get packed away.

So have any of my confessions shocked you?? Do you have any secrets you want to share?

On Reading From Multiple Genres

I learned fairly early in my life that I have a pretty short attention span. I tend to get bored if I don’t switch things up regularly. One of the things that has helped me to read a lot more was introducing new and varied genres to my reading list.

While Romance is still my number one genre, and I prefer books from any genre to have a little romance in them, I have come to love multiple genres. I would have never imagined that I would love science fiction, but The Martian is a favorite of mine. Literary fiction was something I figured was reserved for required reading for school, but books like All the Light We Cannot See changed my mind about that. Thrillers used to be a genre I avoided at all costs, but The Girl on the Train was enjoyable. Young Adult, Middle Grade, even Children’s books have made their way back to my reading list… and I’ve read more books over the last two years than I did in the 5+ years previous combined.

Opening myself to new genres, and therefore a multitude of amazing new books, I’ve been able to overcome any boredom I used to run into. Instead of not reading for a while when I lose interest, now I just jump into a different genre. Or I just jump between genres anyway to prevent myself from becoming bored in the first place. My options are pretty much limitless and I’ve found that stepping out of my comfort zone when it comes to books is really easy now… because my comfort zone is basically just good books! There are really only a couple of genres that I still don’t read from (horror and mystery) and some sub-genres that I tend to avoid (vampires), but for the most part I’ll try anything.

Now all of this openness to read new things does come with a few problems… I buy way too many books and my TBR list grows exponentially when new releases are announced. I’ll talk more about these two issues at a later time.

Do you stick to one genre or branch out?