On Why I Became a Book Blogger

I’ve talked about the evolution of my reading life here and here, but today I wanted to talk about why I decided to switch gears and close my weight-loss/ healthy living blog and start a new life as a book blogger. And why that was the best decision I ever made.

I’m really not sure what drew me to blogging in the first place. I started to blog as a member of a weight loss community, but the blogs only lived within that community. I had friends within the community that had blogs outside the community and I started checking them out occasionally. Soon I had taken the plunge and started a few different {failed} blogs on a variety of topics. Eventually I found myself settled into a weight-loss and healthy living blog that I maintained for 3 years with a few month-long breaks here and there. I enjoyed blogging, but fell out of love with the topic and started posting a mish-mash of different things.

During the time I was writing a bunch of random stuff, I started reading more. And I was way more interested in book blogs {and cat blogs}, than I was in healthy living blogs. Plus I wasn’t living a really healthy lifestyle, so I felt like a total fraud. I considered just quitting altogether and not blogging any more. But I really loved the act of blogging itself, I just didn’t love my topics any more. Something had to change.

Once I decided I wanted to continue blogging, but change my subject matter, I had to decide what I wanted to write about. Considering my cats were being fostered at the the time, I figured a cat blog wouldn’t be a great idea. Books, on the other hand, were something I had access to through the library.

In the beginning, I was unsure as to how my book blog would be received as I didn’t have access to a lot of new releases. I found that this wasn’t an issue and discovered a {mostly} warm, open, accepting community of book lovers. I joined in memes and challenges and started developing connections with other bloggers. People started following me and commenting on my blog. I started receiving eARCs through Net Galley. I was inspired.

In a little more than a year, I have been exponentially more successful as a book blogger. The funny thing is that while I was obsessed with becoming a success in my previous blogging life, and never did; I’m really not concerned with the numbers now. I’m just having fun sharing books that I’m passionate about, fangirling over favorite series, and talking books with like-minded people. And I think that translates to the computer screen so people are more receptive to it. Maybe.

Do you blog? Why did you start?

On My Experience With Kindle Unlimited

In an effort to find an inexpensive source of multiple audiobooks per month, I signed up for a free trial of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. Many of you have expressed and interest in hearing how this service has worked for me, so I decided to share the pros and cons of this service with you today.

First of all, what is Kindle Unlimited? It’d a service through Amazon that provides you with unlimited access to ebooks through their Kindle devices or the Kindle app for $9.99 a month. It essentially functions as a type of library, allowing you to check out a maximum of 10 books at any one time. When you finish a book, return it and check out a new one. Books stay on your devices until you return them or your membership expires.

The Pros:

  • The books are available on all devices. I can access the book on my Kindle, through the Audible app on my Kindle, through the Kindle app on my Iphone, or through the Audible app on my Iphone. You are able to pick up right where you left off, so I can listen through my phone in the car, then pick it up on my Kindle when I get home and not lose my place.
  • If the ebook has Audible narration available, you get that free with the book.
  • You can keep the books for an unlimited amount of time, as long as your membership is in good standing
  • No late fees or needing to renew books
  • No holds necessary, the book is always available for checkout, regardless of how many other people are also reading it.
  • I can try out new to me authors or series without risk

The Cons:

  • No new releases or best sellers available
  • Most popular authors not available
  • Limited selection with Audible availability

Overall Impressions:

While not ideal, the library is certainly a better option if you have access, Kindle Unlimited is a good alternative for me until I have access to a digital library system again. The expense is minimal and there are enough books available in Audible format to meet my needs. This isn’t something that I will continue with library access however.

Have you ever tried Kindle Unlimited?

On Why I Don’t Read Reviews {and When I Do}

In the world of book blogging, reviews are the king. Everyone writes them and everyone reads them… or do they? I honestly don’t read a lot of reviews. I also don’t write a lot of reviews either, but that’s not what this discussion is about. This week I want to talk about reading reviews, and why I don’t, but sometimes I do.

Many readers voraciously read reviews to determine which books should go on their TBR, taking into consideration the thoughts of those who have read the book before them. I am not one of these readers. I tend to avoid reviews, especially those for books that I really want to read, because I don’t want someone else’s opinion to color my view of the book.

When I choose books to read, I go by author, description, cover, title and word of mouth. If I’m hearing a lot about a book, I’m probably going to pick it up. But I don’t dive deep into reviews because I want to experience the book for myself. I don’t want to know that someone else thinks a book is “problematic” because what they see when the read the book isn’t necessarily the same thing that I’ll see. There have been many times that the general consensus for a book is lots of love, and I don’t enjoy it as much. And, more frequently, there are books that most people tend to not like, but I love. And I want to have my own experience, untainted.

There are some instances where I do read reviews, however. The first is when there’s a book I’m on the fence about. If a blogger whom I respect and share similar tastes with reviews a book that I have mixed feelings about, or that I’m just not sure of, I will read their reviews to get a general idea of their feelings for the book.

Along similar lines, when I finish the first book in a series {or a middle book} and I have mixed feelings about continuing the series, I’ll look for trusted sources who have reviewed the rest of the series to see the direction the series moves in. At this point I’ve already developed personal feelings about the characters, so a divergent opinion will be less likely to color my impressions of the future books.

And the final reason I read reviews if when I love a book so much, I just want to see how much other people love it too. At this point if I see an opposing opinion in a review I just brush it off, because I already know I love the book. I have done this for the opposite reason too… if I just really did not like a book I might check out reviews to see if others agreed with me or to see what they saw that I missed.

Are you the type of reader who likes to read all of the reviews first? Or do you prefer to jump into a book with a fresh perspective?

On Who I am Now as a Reader {In my 40s}

Last week I talked about my reading life in my twenties and thirties and discussed my progression through reading romance, to a new awakening at the end of my thirties. Please see here if you missed it.

This week I want to talk about the transition that happened when I discovered Harry Potter and Eat, Pray, Love. Prior to this point I thought young adult books were for kids and I was far from a kid. I also felt that memoirs were dry autobiographies like the ones I had to read for school reports back in the day. Never mind that in addition to reading romance, I had also been reading a variety of self help and various nonfiction topics for years.

There are internet memes that state that Harry Potter is a gateway book to a new world of literature and that was certainly true for me. In reading about the magical world of Hogwarts, I learned that young adult books aren’t necessarily just for children, that adults can enjoy them as well. Harry Potter opened the door for The Hunger Games, Inkheart and Divergent. Then came John Green’s books and the doors to the YA world just opened wide to an entire array of books. At this time I would estimate between half and two-thirds of my reading is young adult.

Where Harry Potter took me in one direction, Eat, Pray, Love took me in another and opened me to not only a personal spiritual journey, but also to the world of memoir. Soon I was adding travel and food memoirs to my already overflowing bookshelves. And exploring facets of myself that I never knew existed.

Around this time I also experienced a personal change and moved from San Diego, California to Seattle, Washington. While my interests had opened and I was reading a larger variety of genres and topics, I wasn’t spending a lot of time reading. My life focus was all over the place and reading fell by the wayside during this time. I was reading between 13 and 33 books per year during the time I lived in Seattle.

It wasn’t until I moved to Oregon, about a year and a half ago, that my reading picked up again… with a vengeance. Not only did I start reading in quantity again, but I also discovered the world of book blogging {I had been a blogger for years, but never of books} and found so many new and different things to read. I started visiting the local library and grabbing anything that caught my eye and soon found myself reading not only romance, memoirs, and young adult; but also science fiction, literary fiction, fantasy, and the occasional thriller.

Just over a year ago I launched this blog, and my reading adventures have only continued to grow. I read 133 books last year, and am on track to finish even more this year {on top of a busy work schedule}. I have continued to add new genres, diving back into old childhood favorites and exploring children’s series that I have never read. I’ve also added new formats, going from reading exclusively physical copies to adding a Kindle and coming to enjoy the world of ebooks. And even more recently I have discovered the joys of audiobooks and never listen to the radio in the car anymore, preferring to drive accompanied by a book instead.

If you had asked me when I was in my twenties where I would see my reading life in twenty years I would have thought you were crazy to ask. I had absolutely no idea the changes that would happen in my reading life, or my personal life for that matter, and would never have imagined that my love of books would come to be a defining quality in my life. I’ve always identified as a reader, but now I identify as a bibliophile… and am proud of it!

How has your reading life changed over the years? Have you expanded your reading interests? Or honed in on a specific focus for all of your reading?

On Who I Used to Be as a Reader {In my 20s & 30s}

I have shared my reading story here in the past, but it’s been a while and I have quite a few new readers, so I thought I would  share it again as part of my new discussion series. I’ll be sharing my story in two parts, the past {my 20s & 30s} and my present {40s}. This week I’ll be sharing my past.

I was always a reader and was introduced to Harlequin romances in high school. I started devouring them. I could read one of the standard Harlequin Presents in a few hours. At the time, Harlequin {and Silhouette} had programs set up where you got the entire selection for a certain imprint each month {I don’t know if they still do this}. And I signed up for them all. Or at least most of them. I was getting approximately 25 books each month, just through Harlequin and Silhouette.

I started looking for other books by my favorite Harlequin authors and found the wider world of romance and historical romance, so these books started joining my shelves as well. Since I was still getting the imprints each month, I was now adding somewhere around 30 or more books each month. And reading around 15-20.

This love of romance, and the exploration of additional books by my favorite authors lead me to romantic suspense books and I was instantly hooked. I soon shifted to wanting a little more substance in my plots than just the romance itself, so my monthly deliveries stopped as I entered my thirties and I started increasing my collection of romantic suspense, as well as other longer, mainstream romances.

Unfortunately, it was also in my thirties that I stopped reading at a high level. I was working longer hours and doing other things outside of work and reading just didn’t seem to happen as often. My bookshelves were filled to overflowing with Harlequin and Silhouette imprints, historical romance, mainstream romance, and romantic suspense. I was still purchasing new books, because the book love was still there, but I was only getting through 1 or 2 books a month.

Getting laid off and being unemployed towards the end of my thirties brought me back to reading for a while. It also brought about the start of a change in my reading tastes. Two significant books came into my life the last year of my thirties to spark this change in direction… the Harry Potter series and Eat, Pray, Love.

Next week I’ll share where those books have taken me into my forties!

On What Makes a 5-Star Read

Everyone has something different that they look for in a book, something that makes them fall in love with one book and not the other. This week I decided that I wanted to talk about what it takes for me to give a book 5 stars.

While there are several things that go into making a book a 5-star read, the number one most important things for me is a personal connection. The book has to make me feel. Generally this means at some point in the story, the book will break my heart, but that’s a good thing because it means that I’m invested and I care. If the story or characters don’t draw me in and make me feel, then the book is going to hit a 3-star rating at the most.

The next key component is the characters. Some people are more plot driven, but I’m more character driven. If I can make a connection with the character, believe in them and their motivation, then I’m hooked. I love characters that are full of flaws, but also have redeeming characteristics as well. I am likely to rate a book higher if the characters are great even if the plot is weak. As a matter of fact, many of my 4-star reads fall into this category. And I can love a character, or cast of characters, without developing that break my heart connection that is necessary for a 5-star rating, but if both of those are present its a rare case that I’ll rate it lower.

I’ve already stated previously that I can forgive a less than stellar plot if there are really great characters, but there are some plot follies that will knock a book down even with amazing characters and a break my heart connection. Generally, as long as the above two criteria are met and the plot is not either completely confusing or incredibly slow, the book is going to lock in a 5-star rating. I have no problem with cliche tropes or canned plots, if the characterization is there. But confusing plot lines are really hard to overlook and even the most beautifully drawn character can’t keep my interest if nothing is happening for extended periods of time.

What do you think? What is absolutely necessary for you to rate a book 5 stars {or your highest rating}?

On Why I Don’t Comment {Very Often}

I read a lot of blogs, and I read most of them every day, but I rarely comment on them. I will also never join a comment for comment group or challenge. It’s not that I don’t think that your blog deserves a comment or that I’m not grateful to you for commenting on my blog, it’s just that I want my comments to be genuine and real.

There are a couple of reasons why I don’t comment. The biggest reason is that while I read the post, I don’t have anything to say about it, other than “nice post,” which I feel isn’t a real comment. If the post moves me in some way and I have something genuine to contribute, I do comment, but if not, I’ll read the post and move on.

Another reason I don’t comment is if I have a divergent opinion that may open me to attack from other posters. I shy away from all forms of confrontation whenever possible,and that includes in the virtual world. There have been times where I have actually typed up a comment in response to a post {or a comment on the post}, but my anxiety pulls me back and I don’t actually publish my comment.

I want any comments that I leave to be genuine, heartfelt, and meaningful. If I can’t come up with a comment that fits that bill, I won’t leave one. I also want the comments that I leave to be positive and respectful, so I won’t leave a negative comment, even if I find a post to be inflammatory.

When it comes to replying to comments left on my blog, I use the same philosophy. I try to answer any questions and thank people for any compliments. But I don’t reply to every comment left on my blog because I want to start genuine conversations, not simply say “thank you for posting.” Please note, however, that I do thank you for posting! I love getting comments, but my favorites are those that are truly thought out and address something I’ve talked about in my post. There is also the fact that I spend 40+ hours a week working and another 10+ hours a week commuting, which doesn’t leave me a whole lot of time for replying if I want to get any actual reading done.

What do you think? Do you comment on every blog you read? Do you reply to all of the comments on your blog?

On My Fear of Discussion Posts

There are so many reasons that I don’t write discussion posts. Mainly, I feel like I don’t have the right way to frame my words so that they are understood. And because sometimes I have an unpopular opinion and I REALLY don’t like confrontation in any form, so I don’t want to get attacked if my opinion doesn’t follow along with the rest of the group. Because quite frankly it has been exhibited time and again that people are more than happy to turn on you if you don’t subscribe to the school of thought that they deem as “right”. This keeps me from commenting on other people’s discussion posts a lot of the time as well.

But I really do want to include more discussion pieces and not rely solely on memes and reviews {though I really love participating in memes}. I want to share my opinions on social media outlets and how they affect perceptions. I want to share my opinions on the need for more diverse authors being published in general and that not every book has to include elements of diversity. I want to talk about ageism, changing perceptions, and what it means to be a blogger. I want to talk about perceived problems with books and that not everyone’s experiences are the same. I want to talk about separating my love of books from the intolerance I witness on social media. I want to create an open forum where people can express themselves respectfully without being attacked, but based on what I have witnessed, I’m not sure if that’s possible.

And I also want to talk about the joys of finding a great used book store, or the feeling of receiving book mail. I want to share the different ways I choose to display my books and the ideas I have for bookstagram photos. I want to discuss the things I love about the book blogging community and what inspired me to become a book blogger. I want to share my love for non-fiction books and total fluff. I want to share how libraries and cover buys have helped me to evolve as a reader, and how reading in my twenties was very different from reading in my forties. Then I wonder if anyone really cares about any of that.

So, now I have to figure out how to overcome the fear so I can share these thoughts and ideas.Unfortunately, even though the virtual world provides a certain sense of anonymity, my social anxiety comes into play and holds me back. And while I know nasty comments are not the same as physical attacks, in my mind they have the same effect. And while I can choose not to publish nasty comments, I still see them, so they still have an impact. Of course, I may not get any nasty comments, especially since I have a relatively small readership, all things considered. So is the fear I have really even justified?

What would you do? Do you let fear hold you back from posting certain things? Or do you just go for it?