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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Is 2019 your year to journal?

Last year, there was a lot of creation and transformation that went on behind the scenes with my bullet journal. I featured some things, but definitely held a lot back. And I think a lot of that had to do with me wanting to find my particular style of bullet journaling.

In fact, I still haven’t found my exact style. And I think that’s ok. I think we’re always evolving and changing as humans, and therefore, our styles likely change as we do. But for now I feel like I am in a place of contentment with my bullet journaling system, and I want to share a little bit of my experience with all of you.

About two years ago, I kept seeing gorgeous planners all over my social media. And I thought I could totally do that. 

So I bought a journal and a sh*t ton of supplies and was so pumped to begin my journey into bullet journaling. I set up my index, my future log, my first monthly spread, and the start of my first weekly spread. I was feeling pretty good. Then I realized about four hours had gone by. My initial enthusiasm slowly began to deflate.

A friend told me I would get better at it. That it would become easier. But as time went on and as I persisted, the traditional system of bullet journaling felt too cumbersome to me.

I would spend hours on pages that I never had a use for. I would lose motivation on certain projects because I had no end goal in sight. This whole hobby (that I thoughtlessly spent a ton of money on products for) kind of blew up in my face.

But the feeling of failure was only temporarily. From this learning experience spawned a new one: mastering the art of bullet journaling in a way that worked for me!

Everyone is different, and therefore, everyone’s journal will look different. What works for me, might not work for you. But below are some tips that I wish I would have read about before I began my journey into journaling.

  1. It is OK to make mistakes. I have seen this one before. But I didn’t believe it or embrace it until recently. Seriously your mistakes are what will help you to grow. They allow you to develop your own style. And they are what makes your first journal special. I look back fondly at my first one I did and I think: I had A LOT of good ideas, but I didn’t execute them just right. Truthfully, you might even become inspired again if you can see your past work with your journal. And if you’re someone like me who wants to tear out a cringe worthy page or gets anxiety when things aren’t just right, here are a few additional tips:
    • Walk away from the journal for some time and come back once your stress levels are down. This actually happened to me recently and when I returned to the journal I was like “Oh, this looked far worse in my mind than it does in reality.” I kept the page and it ended up developing into something I liked.
    • Purchase some Washi Tape and/or white out. Both of these work out fine for covering any minor mistakes like spelling errors or if you want to rephrase something or redraw something. And the Washi tape comes in so many colors and patterns that it really can only enhance your page.
    • I have also seen other journal-ers black out their mistakes with a black pen and then write over it in white gel pen. This is a brilliant way to fix minor errors with text, in my opinion!
  2. Start with the traditional system, but do not be afraid to deviate from it and make it your own. As I mentioned before, one of my major struggles with the traditional bullet journal system is that it is time consuming to maintain. And if you’re someone like me who likes to experiment with pens and markers, and doodle and create themes for every section, it really eats up your time. I recommend starting with the traditional bullet journal system [x], but also not being afraid to mold your journal into something that works best for you. I keep a mix of traditional bullet journal elements, but also kind of do my own thing. 🙂
  3. Ease into purchasing supplies. I think another thing with journaling is that you can easily become so overwhelmed. There are millions of options when selecting a journal, pens, styles, etc. to establish. Buy one journal and tell yourself you are going to fill it to its entirety, mistakes and all. Then select 1-2 styles of pens and maybe buy a few rolls of Washi tape to start. You don’t need to have a million supplies to create something beautiful or “Instagram,” worthy. Simplicity is also lovely and it doesn’t break the bank. (<–Words of someone who wishes she would have heard this advice two years ago, hah). Plus, you might end up wasting pens or markers you aren’t thrilled with if you overspend initially.
  4. Don’t play the Instagram comparison game. We all do it, but try not to let this get you down. Unless you are a born or classically trained artist, NO ONE starts out bullet journaling with gorgeous pages that get 1,000+ likes. It doesn’t happen like that. Instead of thinking (like I have): Gosh I’ll never have pages that look like that. Use Instagram as a spring board for inspiration. There are so many talented journal-ers out there that give me inspiration when I feel my creative juices are low. You can also use some aspects of their work as a way to practice. I wouldn’t recommend copying pages 100%, but there’s nothing wrong with allowing it to inspire your journaling experience.
  5. Do it with a buddy (if you can). If you’re someone like me who’s a little bit more self-conscious about certain things, find a friend you can share your pages with. And if you don’t have one, HI! HELLO MY NAME IS COURTNEY LYNN AND I’LL GLADLY BE YOUR FRIEND! *waves* I have a go to bud (take a guess who if you read my blog pretty regularly ;)), whom I recently started doing dailies with. Its an exciting part of the experience to get to show her my daily entries and to also see hers. So if you want a friend to do something like this with, I’ll gladly be your girl! Or if you aren’t a fan of mine, you should check out journalingyourway. They do monthly drawing based prompts for journals and its always fun to see what everyone comes up with. Or if you just need a source for further inspiration, look no further!

Again, there are no hard or fast rules whenever you begin journaling. But one thing you should always remember when you begin is that it is a process and your skills will evolve over time. Don’t become easily discouraged with it, especially if it helps keep you organized and/or calm. And also know you have a journal buddy in me, if you need a little extra encouragement. 🙂

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Coming up next in the journaling portion of this blog: My journal goals of 2019!

 

Wrapping Up Reads of 2018

Happy Christmas Eve bookish buds! For some reason the holiday season hasn’t been very merry for me. It has had moments of goodness, but there has mostly been a shadow of grey hovering over me.

There are a few things I think that have been consistently triggering this feeling. I have tried to avoid them, but sometimes you have to face your demons. Anyway, I preface this post with some less than joyous tidings because I think this will be my last post of the year.

I have mentioned a couple of books that I intended to read to finish off the year, but I don’t think I am going to cram them in. I think I am going to take it easy for the rest of the year to help restore my mental health and to also try to enjoy the holidays with my family as best as I can.

Below are some of this year’s notable reads that I wanted to share with everyone. I will also remind everyone that these all have reviews in some form on various sites, and to check out the drop down link beneath ‘Book Reviews.’ I included the links to my full reviews below and also some comments on books that I REALLY think everyone should be reading.

32895291My first review of the year: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware [x]. This one straddled between 2017-2018, but I still counted it as my first completed book of this year. 

A newer book that you enjoyed: Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone came out this year, and it was way better than I expected it to be! There is a of course a thriller element to it, the protagonist is an antihero, seeking justice for her best friend who was greatly wronged by a narcissistic man. There are so many comments on social justice and injustice in regards to gender in this. And it definitely gives you down with the patriarch feels! I recommend to all my feminist friends 🙂

An older book that you enjoyed: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This is YA one that is really beautifully executed. I loved how it was so many genres wrapped into one, and they all worked very well together. 

A book I feel is not well known, but deserves all the recognition and praise: If you 36750086enjoyed books like The Kite Runner, I highly recommend Small Country [f: Petit pays] by Gael Faye. It isn’t set in Afghanistan, but in Burundi, and tells a similarly tragic yet beautiful tale of friendship, family, and growing up in a country that descends under the cloud of occupation and warfare. Originally in French, I read the English translation and found the language to be so poignant still. This read might be small, but it is definitely mighty! 

A hyped up book that lived up to the hype: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. If you’re someone like me who occasionally needs to break up serious fiction, thrillers, and mysteries with something more lighthearted, this is a great read to pick up! Its wry, empowering, and I mean…who doesn’t have a thing for a surly Scottish man? 😉 Check it out as a summer read or a summery read to break through the grey-ness of winter! 

My absolute favorite book (can only select one): The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins was amazing! It touched me very deeply. This one is great for so  many reasons. Its well written, highly addictive, and heart wrenching. But seriously just read it. You will have no regrets, I promise. Favorite quote (out of many): “…knowing there are all different types of great love out there, is enough for me for now.”

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The longest book I read: The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon came in at 1,443 pages! And I felt every single one of them haha. This book is in the Outlander series. And while it was a fun one because I did it as a buddy read with my bookish bestie, I felt it went on forever and ever. It was still convenient because I read it when I was flying around a bit earlier this year, so I didn’t need to pack another book 🙂

25403The shortest book I read: The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder came in at 151 pages. I read this for the #BoutofBooks read-a-thon challenge and it really helped keep my motivated to plow through more books due to its length. It was also SO beautifully written. I highly recommend this one if you haven’t read it!

Books I did not finish this year (or least favorite): Northanger Abbey & The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I just don’t think I am one for classical reading.

My last review of the year: For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt was a thrilling read about how far a person might go to save a person they love. This one kept my attention throughout and I actually finished it in a day and a half. I wasn’t as keen on the husband’s POV and the rushed wrap up at the end, but I would still recommend this one.

All in all, I read “40” [d: veertig] books this year, and FINALLY completed a Goodreads Challenge! I feel like it is an accomplishment and was the perfect amount of books for me to read in a single year. Originally I started out at 30 [d: dertig], but met that goal end of October/Early November, so I tacked on 10 [d: tien] more books thinking over enthusiastically “I got this. I can do this.” And for once, I actually did succeed, hah!

Knowing I can get to 40, I think I will aim for that number and then if I meet it early, I can increase the count 🙂 I am not yet confident to increase my number of books to 50, and maybe I am not meant to get that high of a count. But either way, I am content with where I am now, and what my initial goal is for the coming year.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! And if you are one of those people who doesn’t get much face time with your family whether by your choice, theirs, or due to circumstance, know that I can be someone who cares and will do my best to spread some holiday cheer or at least make you laugh with my terribly awkward jokes. Seriously DM me on Insta, Twitter, or just comment below (I won’t approve it, so no one else has to know you are struggling if you do not want them to). You do not have to be alone this holiday season. 🙂

Here’s to 2019 my friends [d: mijn vrienden]!

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To review or not? Do you review ‘bad’ books?

This is a question I have been asking myself with my latest NetGalley read. Should I review it on my blog? Or should I just send the obligatory mediocre review via the NetGalley website?

I know a lot of bloggers fall into the “keep your mouth shut,” category, and I think that is well and good. Why should a reader/reviewer waste anymore time creating content for a book he/she/they disliked? Does crafting hate about a writer and their work turn them into a troll? Yeah, I guess it could if not handled respectfully.

But just like anything in life, we have to take the good with the bad. And I think the same goes for book reviews. But here are five [d: vijf] things I think about after reading a not so stellar book in order to determine if I should or should not review it on my personal blog.

  1. Is this an author’s debut work or are they a seasoned author? I believe writing is a process. The more you write, the better you become. Perhaps an author’s first read isn’t that great, but maybe they will get better as time goes on. (Unless you are super lucky and amazingly talented and your first work is a total hit. J.K. Rowling, what a show off.) This is one thing I try to research on, and try to address if it is something that can be turned from a negative comment into a positive.
  2. That brings me to my next point: try to find a silver lining. I like to describe myself as someone who always tries to look at things from multiple angles (aka what some people might call ‘overthinking’). But this is just how my brain is hardwired. So I think that is why I try to always turn something I perceived to be negative into a positive. Or to try and get into the author’s mind, and argue for what they intended in an effort to make the review come across as less negative. Here’s an example of what I mean by this cut from one of my reviews this year:

    “The dialogue also felt a bit awkward to me. It was overly formal and explanative at times, which made it sound either cheesy or just cringe worthy. After reflecting on this a bit, I think the author was trying to set a “southern tone….”

  3. Is there problematic content in the book that isn’t addressed in a healthy fashion? Are women or other minorities used as plot devices to further the white, male agenda? Are there troubling sex scenes that seek no type of resolution? Whatever you consider ‘problematic content,’ I think these types of things should be addressed. I think it’s important to explain why you felt a book or some component of a book perpetuates something negative in society. And for that reason, calling out these things in a review is acceptable as long as you have valid points to back up your argument.
  4.  Am I not the “target audience?” As much as we want to believe that all books are for everyone, there might be times when this doesn’t ring true. Books are created for a lot of reasons, but one of the major ones is: are they profitable? A lot of market research goes into books and an author’s fanbase that come from the major publishing houses. As a result, they discuss things like which audience they want to target and capture with each read. We as readers aren’t aware of what ‘audience group,’ each book is targeting, and as a result, we might pick something that research suggests isn’t favorable to us. Now, this doesn’t mean we as readers are limited in what we are allowed to like or dislike. I’m just stating that publishers and authors might take different approaches to writing, editing, marketing, if their intent is to appeal to a specific target audience. Sometimes works don’t appeal to us  for that reason. This thought process usually generates the “this read wasn’t for me, but might be for someone who likes x, y, or z…” statement.
  5. Can I understand something better about the book or what the author’s overall message was by reviewing it? Basically, does the book you were not so crazy about have a good overall message? Is it worth exploring in more detail through your review? Is there something worthy about it that you want others to know about? This kind of also ties back to my number two [d: twee], but is more specific in what it is asking. I think if there is some golden nugget that is wholly unique in a book you’re not a fan of (yes it’s happened to me before), then it is worth reviewing and mentioning.

I know these things might seem like they take a negative review and turn it into a positive one, but I don’t think that is the case. I think this thought process works to create constructively criticized reviews. And I think it also helps answer that burning question of: do I review this book or is it just a waste of time?

The answer to my initial question of whether or not to review my latest NetGalley read was found as I wrote up this blog post. I think it is important to offer up an honest review to the team who gave you the free advanced copy, which I have done. But I don’t think you are under any obligation to do a full court media press of it, if you don’t have more than a few sentences of commentary to offer up.

How do you all feel about bad book reviews? Do you have some type of rational behind writing them? Or do you just don’t mention them at all? Would love to hear some differing opinions on this as its my first ‘opinions,’ piece! 🙂

Until next time my bookish friends!

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Feminine Voices in Mythology

Sirens. Half formed creatures. Monsters. Goddesses. Slaves. Captors. Witches. Villains.

These are the words that first spring to mind when I think of women who are widely known in mythology. Sure, goddesses might seem like a complementary word. But when speaking of goddesses in mythology, they generally exist only for the male gaze or for the pleasure of men.

This notion really didn’t dawn on me until I recently discovered two books set in ancient times whose objective was to retell and reform these original ‘classic,’ tales to include a female voice.

Both The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker and Circe. by Madeline Miller, seek to reclaim lost voices that history conveniently skips over. These books couldn’t have more different narrators, but they contain this common theme of shedding light on the female perspective within mythology.

This is a long post on feminism in mythology and how it is needed, so buckle up readers.
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