Things I Wish I’d Known Before Joining NetGalley

See the source imageWhen I first joined NetGalley as a reviewer, I felt a level of importance. I felt like WOW I’m one of those “cool,” book bloggers/bookstagrammers because I request books and publishers give them to me. That feeling soon faded as I came to realize a few things:

  1. The format is not always polished (or even readable). This is probably my biggest issue with reading books from NetGalley. I had to quit several books because they were full of typos, wordweresmushedtogetherlikethis (and no, the book was not in Dutch, where that might have actually occurred for good reason), and the scene breaks were not clearly defined. I understand that ARCs are not the final draft, I do. But there were many books that were just unreadable and lowered my opinion of the writing quality.
  2. Well known authors are impossible to get while debut authors basically auto accept. This wouldn’t have been an issue had I known this from the beginning and not requested 20 galleys and then felt so much pressure to read them all before their publication/archive date. Which brings me to point #3.
  3. There is immense pressure to read by the pub date/archive date. I don’t know about you, but I think a big part of bookstagram or book blogging is finding ways to stay relevant. A lot of people do this by reading books and posting reviews prior to their publish date. That’s just too much stress for me. I read to escape and for pleasure. This added pressure to read the book by the publication date made me chastise myself and think what kind of content are you really contributing if you aren’t ahead of the crowd. And that mentality was just too much for me. Plus, I am a total mood reader, and being forced to read something to be cool or popular isn’t conducive to my reading lifestyle.
  4. Negative reviews or refusing to review a galley lowers your approval rating, and therefore ensures you don’t get coveted, clean versions. Yeah, I kind of found this out by checking out a few other readers complain about how their approval ratings lowered when they left less than 3 star reviews. I don’t think you should be penalized because a book didn’t resonate with you. I think you should be able to explain why the book doesn’t work and offer constructive criticism in order to help the writer.
  5. I’m not always getting the full, completed copy and it is not always being disclosed until AFTER I download it to my device. This happened to me twice, and was disappointing. One of the books I wanted to read in its entirety, but once I discovered it was only two chapters, I kind of felt like what’s the point? I just don’t feel like critiquing a few chapters and basing a review off of that alone works for me for a couple of reasons. If it’s not a showstopper in the beginning then I’ll rank it lower. I’ll nitpick more easily, and I hate sounding entirely negative. Reading excerpts doesn’t really give me an opportunity to find the silver lining. And yes, I am a “find the silver lining/deeper meaning,” kind of reader. So these types of reads offered within NetGalley just don’t work with my read & review process. 

In concept, I think the site functions well for people who are willing to accept that what they are getting are often free, unedited versions. From a business perspective, the publishing houses rationale behind for doing all of these things I mentioned makes total sense. People will always want to read books early and/or for free and likely won’t care if the quality isn’t as great.

But from someone who is a bit of a perfectionist and is often critiquing simultaneously while reading this service just didn’t do it for me. Maybe I’m just getting more particular in my “old-ish” age? Maybe being an English Lit student totally ruined the way my brain approaches reading? Maybe it’s just the way I’m wired.

I know a lot of people who utilize NetGalley and think its a great way to get those books before they go to publication. And also, did I mention they are also free? 😉 If that’s how you like your reading experience to be or if you have limited options in obtaining books, then great! Go for it! Request all the galleys!

In the end, this just didn’t work out for me and I wish I had known about how it all worked and the quality of the galleys before I signed up.

Anyone else out there leave the whole NetGalley scene? What are you thoughts on unscrubed ARCs? Do you enjoy them less/more than you would a final product? How do you shut off that critical part of your brain when reading them?

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Featured Read: Pachinko

29983711“A man must learn to forgive–to know what is important, that to live without forgiveness was a kind of death with breathing and movement.”

This story is as beautiful as its cover! Everything about it was truly captivating. Pachinko, tells the story of a Korean family who immigrates to Japan. It unfolds across three generations and is told from an omniscient point of view.

The story begins in Korea with the birth of Sunja, who is the pride and joy of parents Yanijn and Hoonie. Tragedy and hard times fall upon the family through this short introduction, and we soon learn that Sunja is pregnant. As an unmarried woman, this threatens to shame her entire family. Good fortune soon arrives in the form of Isak, a Christian minister, who is on his way to settle in Japan. Isak offers generously to marry Sunja, and their quick yet necessary relationship manifests in subtle yet poignant ways.

Once the couple immigrates to Japan, they come to realize that the country is not quite as they imagined. The discrimination they face for being Korean and living in Japan creates a struggle for survival that lasts for the rest of their lives and carries into the lives of their children and grandchildren.

In addition to this lovely couple, we come to know and care for Isak’s brother, Yoseb and his wife, Kyunghee. Childless, in love, and hardworking they serve as supporting characters who share their lives with Sunja, Isak, and their children.

Min Jin Lee crafts a true masterpiece with Pachinko. This book brings up many heavy themes like cultural identity and how one integrates/conceals two culture identities in order to survive. The story also brings up the value (or non-value) of women. Then there is also this idea of history repeating itself within families.

Lee expertly creates tension, evokes emotion from readers, and transports you to the many times and places within this sweeping novel. You become one with the family, their story becomes part of your story, and I felt this book is one that will change you if you let it.

I don’t have much else to say because I think this one speaks for itself, but I highly recommend this one to everyone!

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Featured Read: A Woman is No Man

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“You’ve never heard this story before. No matter how many books you’ve read, how many tales you know, believe me: no one has ever told you a story like this one. Where I come from, we keep these stories to ourselves.  To tell them to the outside world is unheard of, dangerous, the ultimate shame.”

There are so many things I could rave about in regards to Etaf Rum’s debut novel, A Woman is No Man. It is one of those stories that make you sit back after finishing and just breathe in and out a few times as you quietly digest what you just read.

This story is packed with heavy thematic elements such as: a woman’s worth, integrating one’s cultural identity with one’s immigrated identity, breaking that vicious cycle of history repeating itself in potentially harmful ways, the power of books and story telling, and the infallibility of memory. I won’t dive into all of these thematic elements, but I just want to let you know they are all there, in case one of them encourages you to pick up this book.

Told from three different points of view across the span of three generations, we hear three clearly distinct voices of Fareeda (the grandmother), Isra (the mother), and Deya (the daughter). Each of these women gives their own voice to what it means to being an Arab-American, all differing opinions of course that harness the majority of the novel’s tension.

While they all might feel differently about being Arab-American women or see the role as meaning something different, the three of them echo similar sentiments about what it means to be a women in their community.

Fareeda: “A man is the only way up in this world, even though he’ll climb a woman’s back to get there. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Isra: “For a moment, Isra could hear Mama’s voice in her head, mocking as she hunched over the stove. Palestine or America. A woman will always be alone. Had Mama been right all along? No, Isra told herself. That couldn’t be true. She just needed to earn Adam’s love.”

Deya: “It was only as she got older that Deya began to understand her place in the community. She had learned that there was a certain way she had to  live, certain rules she had to follow, and that, as a woman, she would never have a legitimate claim on her life.”

Questions of female worth are brought up constantly in this novel and also relate to how each woman holds onto or dismisses facets of their cultural identity as a result.

We hear Fareeda and Isra’s mother consistently make their daughters feel worthless when compared to their brothers. They make remarks about how Sarah and Isra are burdens to them, and only will marrying them off will make them find relief and comfort. These two are examples of women who grew up in Palestine and follow the old ways and hold tightly to these ideals that comprise their cultural identity. We see Fareeda’s constant struggle for power in holding onto this identity while living in America, not only for herself, but for her family as well. She believes her worth as the matriarch of the family to be greater than her daughter-in-law, Isra and granddaughter, Deya.

Deya, who is born and raised in America, is the polar opposite of her grandmother. She’s outspoken and questions certain traditions, like the one that insists she marry after graduating from high school. She does everything in her power to resist her grandmother’s attempts to match her with potential suitor’s, and eventually discovers more secrets about her family’s history that prompt her to break away from this piece of her cultural identity. She often feels as though she is torn between being her two identities with no real means of escaping the inevitable. Deya values her self worth the most out of all the women, but due to circumstances of her childhood, it becomes clear why she so adamantly feels this way.

Isra’s character falls somewhere in between Fareeda and Deya. She’s constantly hoping to please her mother-in-law and to uphold their traditions. She believes by being a good daughter-in-law and wife, she can in turn be a good mother. She hopes for love above all, and finds herself sorely disappointed upon realizing its in short supply. Like Deya, Isra also feels torn between two worlds, but she fears becoming too exposed as an American, and thus compromising other aspects of her life, not necessarily limited to cultural identity, but to the relationships she has with other characters. Her view of her own self-worth changes over the course of the novel, but also comes with a price.

Sarah is a minor character who serves to further develop all three characters in various ways. She serves as a reminder of hardship to Fareeda, a source of friendship and courage to Isra, and a beacon of hope to Deya. I can’t say too much about her without invoking some spoilers, but that is my overall analysis of her as a character.

Rum deftly creates three distinctive and deep personalities with these three protagonists (and also a bit with minor character, Sarah), all with secrets of their own that take the entire length of the novel for you to fully understand. Her writing is painfully exquisite with the emotions it stirs inside of you. Her descriptions of Palestine and of New York City are lovely, but what she really excels at is the dialogue.

The novel is primarily told within the confines of the family’s house, which is not much to describe beyond the first few introductory pages. But you feel a strong sense of emotion and how fragile and insecure the ties that bind the various family members together are; how easily they could become severed if one were to disrupt the dynamics of the family and/or their cultural identity that’s rooted in their traditions and beliefs. That alone creates an atmosphere of immense tension, intrigue, and suspense that dares you to read on.

You probably are not surprised to learn that from this review, I gave this one five stars. There are so many other things once could discuss about this book, but this idea of female worth in regards to one’s cultural identity was most prominent to me.

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Monthly Highlights: February

One week into March [d: maart] and I am finally getting around to my February [d: februari] journal highlights!

As I mentioned earlier, that bright & shiny new year feeling dwindles the further into each year we get. And while that good feeling may have disappeared, we can still find ways to track our goal progress throughout the year.

In reflecting on my multitude of goals for 2019, I think I’m doing ok. I’m certainly not perfect, and some goals may be more prominently focused than others from month to month, but all in all, I am working them all.

Below are some highlights from all three [d: drie] of my journals. Again, I use a combination of daily journaling & bullet journaling to keep track of my life and goals. Under a read more post because this is lengthy due to photos used. Read More »

Coffee Over Cardio Benefits

Last November, I became a barista babe (aka brand representative) for a coffee start up called Coffee Over Cardio. They are a group of individuals, primarily on IG, committed to leading healthy lifestyles, while maintaining an unhealthy obsession with coffee.

I will mention that I am not paid by the company to make posts about them. This is purely me telling you (with no benefits to myself) that this brand is great for all coffee lovers out there trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle!

Most nutritional guides will say you can have between 2-3 cups of coffee without killing your diet. And most health professionals will tell you that this is also a safe amount to drink. But unless you are a hardcore, black coffee type of person, it’s not the coffee itself that is killing your diet, but the unhealthy additives that go into it. The syrups, the sugars, or even worse, the sweeteners, and the creamers all add up to calories that pack on the pounds. These types of drinks taste great in the moment, but often leave you with a bloated feeling or make you crash so hard that you have to keep buying into this vicious cycle. Not to mention, they are expensive and can break the bank if you aren’t careful!

Which is why Coffee Over Cardio is such a great coffee brand to help break you of these habits (if it is an area of concern). From the minute I got my first package, the smell hit me like that familiar sensation of walking into a coffee shop. Immediately my senses knew they were in for a treat. And after brewing my first cup, I knew my relationship with coffee would never be quite the same.

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Here are what I believe the top reasons why you should stop drinking your current brand and switch to Coffee Over Cardio:

  1. Less caloric intake due to using less flavored creamers, sugars, and other unhealthy additives. This is important if you’re someone who is conscious and actively working to achieving a fitness goal(s). The flavored coffees allow you to use less creamer or milk (almond milk will curdle in a couple, but although it looks funny, doesn’t really impact the taste), which gets rid of that bloated feeling. The taste is rich, smooth and has a hint of whatever flavor you choose. Side note: Everyone needs to try Messy Bun (Cinnamon Roll flavored), at least once!
  2. Organic coffee beans mean low acid coffee. Now, full disclaimer, I am not a health professional or a licensed nutritionist or anything. I am basing this statement 100% on the fact that I usually have stomach issues after drinking really strong coffee. With Coffee Over Cardio, I have none of this! In fact, I feel my gut health has improved. I feel like if you’re someone who experiences stomach issues directly after drinking coffee, this might be a great solution for you too! Of course, everyone is different, so there are no guarantees with this, but it is definitely worth trying!
  3. Long lasting coffee bags. As a barista babe, I am required to make one purchase per month, so I kind of have a revolving order on their coffee in place. However, I will say that two bags of Coffee Over Cardio lasted me two months! Pro-tip: I mix one scoop of dark roast with a flavored roast for optimal flavor, and caffeine kick.
  4. Eco-friendly for those Keurig fanatics. Well, mostly any coffee that you purchase in a bag is! But this is available in bag form, therefore forcing you to use reusable K-cups, cutting back on plastic waste.
  5. Discounts! If you want 10% off a product, you can use my promo code: reading10 when you check out.

This product is fantastic! I absolutely love the flavored coffees and think they encourage you to use way less creamer then you otherwise would. Unless of course you like your coffee black. I still believe you could find something that works for your taste buds with six different flavors!

Besides, who doesn’t love to curl up with a good cup of coffee [d: koffie] and a good book [d: goed boek]?

Until next time, bookworms!

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Monthly Highlights: January

Another blog series on journaling, brought to you by COURTNEY LYNN!

That is how I envision myself introducing this post to you if it was in video format. But alas, I am far too awkward and ramble WAAAY to much to ever consider vlogging. Kudos to all of you who have the patience to do all that work! And for feeling comfortable doing it!

Anyway, I am slowly moving this blogversation (get it, aha? yes, I am FULL of “Mom,” jokes already hah), off topic. Let’s refocus our efforts here, shall we?

I mentioned in another post on journaling that I have monthly pages or things I put into my journal’s to help keep my life organized, help keep me on track with my goals, etc. I figured I would do a few snapshots each month, along with some of my own reflections on what I did well, what I can improve, and see if anyone else out there has suggestions to help me better myself/my journaling experience!

I’ll also include any major progress that has been made (if any), on some of my annual pages. Basically this is a way for me to hold myself accountable, share some of my original creations I am most proud of, and maybe give some of your newbie journalers some inspiration to keep going!

Remember: the mistakes you make, make your journal your own! 😉 Channel some Bob Ross and think, happy little accidents. 

The first page I created while I was on my Christmas break was this cover page for January.

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I really enjoy doing cover pages for my months (and incorporating a little Dutch) as I think it helps kind of section off the different parts of your journal. I was really proud of this idea, because it felt super unique compared to the “standard themes,”  that a lot of people select for their journals.

Next up, is my habit tracker! I have already showed you guys my habit tracker when it was half filled in, but here it is totally done *clears throat awkwardly*.

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As you can see, I started off the year REALLY strong and then my interest in filling it out kind of dwindled. In fact, this tends to happen to me quite a bit with my habit trackers. Most months I create a habit tracker and am like YES I AM A BADASS AND I CAN DO THIS. Then it tapers off, and I totally forget about them. It really is tough to delegate your time appropriately when there is so much you want to accomplish!

Below I will go through my weakest habit areas:

  1. NOVEL WRITING. Like hi, hello, one of my life goals is to become published one day, and I totally forgot that piece of myself in January I guess. Anyway, I already addressed how I would fix this come February, and I really hope that I stick to trading in my reading time for writing/revising time.
  2. Crocheting. Yeah….this is one of those habits that is a struggle to incorporate if I am spending 98% of my time reading. Since I padded my reading goals pretty good in January, I’m thinking I can step it up in the crocheting arena next month.
  3. Working out. I know, I know. I’m not giving up on this one though. It’s just been cold. I was really depressed this month. It was hard. I went more than once, so I am proud of myself for that.
  4. Prayers. This should be like my number one concern. I need to get better at this. I want to be more spiritual. I need to really just make time. Also, I’m a harsh critique when it comes to this. Because sometimes I see the box isn’t checked and so I say a quick prayer and then I’m like “does that even count?” All that Catholic guilt man. A vicious cycle all around. I will try to start and end my day with God on the mind though. And slow my roll on rolling over and instantly picking up my phone.

If I am being honest. These were the only ones that I had major concerns with. If you know me personally and see this, you know it’s a very big deal for me not to drink everyday anymore. I am really cutting back from the “functioning alcoholic status,” so I am really freaking proud about that.

Really quickly, I mentioned how I also include some traditional elements to my bullet journal. One main element that I make sure I take the time to set up is my monthly spread. This helps me visualize what social events I have going on for the month, important dates, and also what some of my major goals are. It’s basically just a calendar spread that I fill in as the month goes on.

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Alright, now let’s move onto my reading pages. So I won’t go into detail on the individual review pages that I’ve already shared. Also, I feel like I’m losing some steam/motivation to do them. I definitely enjoy doing the quote(s) page, but like beyond that…I think I might go back to typing out reviews on here and inserting a picture here and there for fun. We’ll see.

This is my rolling list that I am keeping in Journal #2, until I run out of space.

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As you can see, I read seven [d: zeven] books in January [d: januari]! And I am so pleased that out of these , five [d: vifj] were female writers and two [d: twee] were from my diverse female writers list. Now I recognize I still have more work to go as far as reading more diversely. But this is already better than my stats from last year. Seriously I read one non-white female! I couldn’t believe it. This year things are changing already. 🙂

I also have decided that instead of weighing myself weekly (because it fluctuates so much if we’re being honest), I am going to do so monthly. So here is my progress on both the exercise tracker AND the weight loss tracker.

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As you can see I am halfway down with my gym exercise tracker. I haven’t even touched the non gym going one yet, but I really need to give that one a shot. My goal is to complete 14 at home work outs and the rest of my gym exercise tracker for the month of February [d: februari]. And I am down a few pounds, so that is good [d: dat is goed]! Only four more pounds before I will “splurge,” on a new, fancy water bottle. 🙂 All in all, for how cold the month’s been, I am proud of myself for at least setting foot in the gym a handful of times.

And finally, I want to include some of my favorite daily pages. I have blurred some personal content, but otherwise, I hope you still enjoy these pages!

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That tape matched perfectly with a photo I found on Pinterest. Seriously it was a total, happy accident!
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Mostly shared this one for the centered quote on page two! I think it’s so important!

^^ Was trying to be a little artsy. The first page was a prompt from journalingyourway. And the next two were basically me fangirling about the “live,” version of Rent on FOX.

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Lastly, I was just excited about this spread overall! And it was a great night to definitely remember! Pens won!

So that was everything in Journals #2 and #3. Let’s talk about Journal #1 aka my Language Learning Journal. So progress has been made on the 365 words in Dutch pages. I now have two pages of words completed! I’ve shown you the first one completed, so now I’ll show you the next page with the overflow as it wasn’t exactly two full pages, but slightly more! 🙂

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Out of the thirty-one [d: eenendertig] words [d: woorden], there are only about ten [d: tien] I don’t know. I am going to include reviewing them (and eventual conjugation of the verbs), in my daily Dutch lessons. Which I will alternate with French in February. 

So all in all, I think I did ok. There’s always room to grow and improve, but I am fairly satisfied that I stuck with journaling for a full month now!

Anyone else out there proud of certain designs/spreads? How is everyone’s habit tracking & goal setting going this year? I want to hear it all!

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The Long Term Goal Conversation

Now that we’ve all gotten those resolutions for the year off our chest and January is nearly gone, let’s talk about what comes next.

Like so many people out there, I am complicated. My hobbies are multi-faceted, and it can be a real challenge to prioritize accomplishments. I want to get so much out of this single life I have, how can I make my dreams into more of a reality?

Most of us will undoubtedly lose that spark of enthusiasm that jetted us off into 2019. The mantras containing “new year, new you,” will be forgotten for another 348 days. So how do we keep ourselves moving towards our goals? I’m sure there are many ways to motivate yourself. And everyone will find that their ways of motivating themselves is different. But for me, I find that keeping my long term goals alive, involves my journals.

Shocked? I know right? I have talked about my journal experience more in 2019 than I have since I began my journey with it two years ago. But I swear, writing things down really helps me visualize where I am going/what I need to do in order to get to a specific endpoint. 

And yes, you read that correctly. I have more than one journal that I use for achieving my goals. A little crazy? Maybe. But I promise you it will make sense once I explain it a bit more to you.

So in order to prepare my journals for 2019, I did an overall goals page. I split up everything I wanted to achieve into six major categories. Here they are below:

  1. Creative Goals (includes craft projects also)
  2. Health & Fitness Goals
  3. Financial Goals
  4. Marriage Goals
  5. Spiritual Goals
  6. Language Learning Goals

I won’t share all the information or details on two of the six goal areas since they contain private information, but I will at least give you the basics and my tips for tracking my progress for the rest (once I figure it all out). It is a LONG post, so I placed them beneath the cut for your convenience.  Read More »