Another Extended Reading Goal Update

I finished King of Thorns last night, which means my pages read total for the year is now 13475. This leaves 525 pages to be read in order to make my extended reading goal of 14,000. I’m still on schedule…The Silver Sorceress has 498 pages, so if I can finish it in the next 2 weeks, I will be just 27 pages shy of the goal with another 2 weeks remaining in the year.

Look for a review of King of Thorns within the next few days…

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Book Review: The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

grey bastards

Format:  first hard cover edition, 2018

Pages:  421

Reading Time:  about 10.5 hours

One sentence synopsis: Jackal and his “Hoof” (gang) of half-orcs encounter challenges both natural and supernatural, which threaten not only the Hoof and the wilds, but also the entire kingdom of Hispartha.

 

I first learned about The Grey Bastards when it won the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) in 2016, beating out titles such as The Path of Flames and Paternus to claim the top spot. To win such a title, a book would have to be very good, but considering the subject matter, I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d like. I became very intrigued, however, when it was released in hard cover earlier this year. Although I was still unsure about it, I picked up a copy and decided to squeeze it in to the queue once I had met my reading goal. So my review is below, and contains a few spoilers, which I will point out. First, though, some other reviews around the web…

 

James Tivendale of Fantasy Book Review states: “The camaraderie and banter of the Bastards’ is top quality throughout and reminiscent of the crews in Malazan or The First Law. Orcs are often presented in fantasy as brainless brutes but with half human emotions thrown into the equation as presented here they often extremely likable and relatable. The majority of the characters are fully fleshed out and each have detailed motives and opinions…The worldbuilding is excellent throughout with the environments and its inhabitants brimming with details and intricacies. Although The Grey Bastards includes a fair amount of fantasy tropes including wizards, elves, orcs, halflings – it is crafted in such a way that combined everything feels new, fresh, exciting and original. There are many different nations, races, and factions each with their own religions, hierarchies, and histories which are all well-crafted, however, I still believe we’ve only just touched the surface of what The Lot Lands trilogy has to offer…This novel is filthy, dirty, and gritty but in the best possible way. It is dark fantasy done right. The Grey Bastards is extremely adult in nature featuring certain moments of vulgarity and also the swearing count is high from the very first page. There are a plethora of standout scenes dotted throughout this sharp brilliant debut. Ambushes, swamp-battles, and an assault made by beasts straight out of mythology are but a handful of occasions that spring to mind. There are many exquisite and dramatic confrontations but a scene that stood out the most to me was a conflict battled with wits and words rather than javelins and swords. The character dialogue throughout is unbelievably tight, not just for a debut novel but for any top fantasy novel. In The Grey Bastards, just when I thought I knew what was going to happen next I was blindsided and then the chaos, twists, drama, and unpredictability gave me an Orc-powered punch to the gut! French has composed a stunning opening chapter to his trilogy that is well worthy of the hype that has been garnering.

Bill Capossere at Fantasy Literature writes: “It’s foul-mouthed, has a good amount of graphic language…sex, and violence, and much of that is aimed in ugly fashion at women…It was a close call as to whether it was a book for me and honestly, I’m not sure I would have finished it had it not been a review copy. Now, I don’t want to imply the author is espousing these views, and there’s an argument to be made that the author is highlighting the negative aspects of a culture. Plus, there are hints that things are changing. But I do think the execution muddies how these views are meant to be seen, and that is problematic. There’s a lot to like in French’s novel if you can look past all that, but I had great difficulty in responding positively at many points; it often took me out of the reading experience, and made me frequently wonder if it was all truly necessary…First and foremost, the characters are a lot of fun. Jackal, as the main character, is mostly likable and has an engaging personality and voice. Even better, and one of my favorite aspects of The Grey Bastards, is how he’s presented as someone who thinks he has all the right answers and motives. And in most novels, that’s where the characterization would end. But time and again Jackal is thrown for a loop (as is the reader), and his confident plotting thrown awry by learning that the world is more complex than his relatively short life experience has prepared him for…The worldbuilding is slowly revealed as The Grey Bastards goes on, and it’s still not fully laid out by the end; it’s more than a little thin, but clearly there’s a second book coming and one assumes we’ll learn more about it. The exposition can be clunky at times, and though the war/division of land at least explains why the regions are homogenous, I admit I’m a little tired of the one-race/one land set up and am ready for some fantasy that presents lands as more cosmopolitan…Plot-wise the action is vibrant, fast, bloody, and deftly handled in terms of logistics. The entire book is also nicely paced and shows good balance and smooth transitions as it moves between fight scenes, chase scenes, political arguments, and more intimate one-on-one conversations. A few cliché moments pop up, as do some a few unexpected twists to balance them out. Dialogue is quite well done for the most part, save the aforementioned language, misogynistic, homophobic “bro talk” moments.

Finally, Writer Dan at Elitist Book Reviews opines: “The world-building French has done here is pretty good, despite employing the fairly cliched races of orcs, centaurs, halflings, and elves. The story begins fairly tight, focusing solely on the half-orc hoof and small bands of human soldiers that occasionally come into the badlands called the Lot. This is the world of the hoof, and so little more matters. The humans don’t want them around, the orcs are too violent to abide, and any time a half-orc is sired the child is given to the hoof to raise. As all of the half-orcs are sterile, this is the only way to grow their numbers, and this fact lends to an overabundance of sexual freedom that has obviously defined their lives. It is present in every aspect of their life; from action, to thought, to speech and definitely humor. As such, women are debased as objects and left to raise what children are left with them, and the males play the strong and powerful…From a plotting standpoint, French also did a marvelous job. Right from the get-go, there is conflict and consequence and decision and action. One piece moves us to the next and the next, never lagging in its pacing or level of tension. Several times I was surprised by what happened, and the consequences of those happenings…There was one point though that really held the story back for me. About halfway through the book, I realized that it had lost some steam, but the story was still moving along at a great clip, so it took me a while to figure out what might be going wrong. Eventually, I realized that I was losing my excitement for the story because of how little characterization there was of the main character, Jackal. Once I realized that, I started looking for those pieces that define character for me, and I found they were almost completely absent. This was something else that really surprised me because I had so enjoyed the beginning of the book and literally ALL of the other characters. But I realized at that point that I really didn’t know Jackal much at all and he should really be the character that I know the best. I mean, I knew that he wanted to be chief of the hoof, but other than that he was mostly a blank. So, I was losing that drive to read more of the story because I didn’t understand his motivations: why he’s doing the things he’s doing, or why he’s making the choices he’s making.

 

All the bloggers above make excellent points…I can’t say I really disagree with any of it. I guess I’m done here.

Just kidding.

Yes, the story is trope-ridden, and yes it is full of cursing, homosexual jokes, misogynist material, and a few sex scenes. However, it also has some positive things going for it. The worldbuilding is superb. French has captured the contrasts in the badlands perfectly…from territorial battles to banding together against a common foe, from humans that seem to be one thing but are actually different, from dangerous elves on one side to dangerous orcs on the other. Now imagine all that, in a setting that is a cross between a medieval village and the old west of America. French has put a lot of thought into how the half-orcs would eek out a living in a land with limited resources – what kind of ideals would drive the Hoof, what the roles of everyone would be, and the constant threat they live under that requires a violent response. It’s really quite brilliant.

On the other hand, I didn’t quite appreciate the characters quite as much as my fellow bloggers did. Most are a little too one-dimensional, although there are some standouts like the wizard Crafty and the mysterious Hoodwink. Jackal himself is likable, and his flaws of ignorance and overconfidence, as Bill states above, make for great characterization…things often don’t go the way Jackal plans them, and he discovers that he doesn’t know half of what he thinks he knows. However, Writer Dan is spot on when he says that we don’t always know why Jackal does something – he just does it, and there’s not enough insight into his thinking.

The plot takes some interesting twists and turns, often in directions I wasn’t expecting. There were at least a few times when I had no idea where the story was headed, but even seemingly random events all tie together nicely by the end. The pace is fairly brisk, never really bogging down, as scenes which are not driven by action either have crisp dialog, or tension as events build up, especially at “the table”, which almost reminds me of the Knights of the Round Table, if the knights were ax-throwing half-orcs that rode giant boars instead of horses. There are a few deaths at the end of the story, and two of those were lacking a bit in emotion (maybe that’s by design), but the third had a big impact on me and made me a little sad.

As Bill infers, at times the swearing and sexual innuendos seem a bit – I don’t want to use the word gratuitous here, perhaps overused is more appropriate – and so one of the same things that makes the story fairly unique also holds it back a little, as it is occasionally jarring and causes the reader to focus on that aspect instead of the story itself. As to the misogynist material, I’m a bit conflicted. On one hand you don’t want to pretend that those types of things don’t happen, as they surely did in the American west near the end of the 19th century or in medieval times. It feels like something that would truly be present in a half-orc society. On the other hand, that doesn’t make it a pleasant reading experience, and a writer treading that slippery slope can really struggle with it and risk alienating readers, as my review of Glen Cook’s Port of Shadows can attest to. Ultimately I have to say that while it’s not a good choice for the author to make, here French has defined it as part of his half-orc society – it is a cultural norm. In this manner, it’s still possible for the story to overcome such unpopular views.

And to a large degree, The Grey Bastards does just that – the good outweighs the bad enough to make it a good read. Between the unpredictable path of the plot, to the fine worldbuilding and the fast pace, The Grey Bastards has a lot to offer. I never felt like I wanted to put the book down and walk away, and I very much enjoyed many aspects of the story, in spite of the negatives. I’ll definitely spring for a sequel if French decides to write one.

Extended Reading Goal Update

I finished The Grey Bastards today, which means my pages read total for the year is now 13026. This leaves 974 pages to be read in order to make my extended reading goal of 14,000. I’m right on schedule, as I need to finish a book every 2 weeks from this point forward to get there. Next up: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence.

Look for a review of The Grey Bastards sometime this weekend…

Book Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

way of kings

Format:  Hard cover, first edition, 2010

Pages:  1001 (not including appendices)

Reading Time:  about 25 hours

One Sentence Synopsis:  Highprince Dalinar fights battles against a hostile race, political foes, and unusual visions; the slave Kaladin attempts to keep his fellow slaves alive; and young Shallan must make a bold attempt to steal an artifact that can save her family.

 

The Way of Kings has been sitting in my “to be read” pile for 7 years. The thick, doorstopping, massive tome had been intimidated me for those 7 years, because I knew it would take a long, long time to read, and I wouldn’t have much to blog about while I was trying to complete it. As time passed, the sequels Words of Radiance and Oathbringer came out and added another 2200+ pages on top of the 1001 pages found within The Way of Kings. I asked myself if I really wanted to tackle these massive works when I already have my hands full with the Malazan series, and with visions of Robert Jordan’s bloat in my head. On the other hand, Brandon Sanderson brought that bloated Wheel of Time series to a close, so perhaps he deserves the benefit of the doubt. I finally managed to conquer The Way of Kings, and have a review ready, but first I’ll look at other reviews on the internet.

 

Thomas Wagner of SFReviews.net states: “But what we are left with at the end of the day is, for all its very real merits, one of those thousand-page tomes in which far too little takes far too long to happen. For all the artistry of its execution, The Way of Kings never duplicates the sheer breathless entertainment value of the Mistborn novels. It’s too invested in being literary to remember to be plain old fun. Sanderson fills the book with one absorbing scene after another. But up to the point we’re nearing the climax — literally, I pegged the 900-page point with the note “things finally starting to get exciting” — The Way of Kings reads less like a novel than a collection of beautifully-written scenes in search of a novel. It all comes together just fine in the end, I’m pleased to say. But the readers who’ll end up appreciating The Way of Kings the most will be fans of epic fantasy who care far more for an immersive worldbuilding experience than taut storytelling. Sanderson has some of his characters experience the philosophical epiphany that life is much more about the journey than the destination. I’d have preferred a few more thrills along this journey, that’s all…In this way, the book’s length is a liability. Sanderson could easily have shorn about 200 pages from the final draft, not deleting anything of great import, but simply condensing passages that go on and on in a way that conveyed the same information. And, being tighter, the result would have been more palpable suspense…For all this, I remain deeply impressed by Sanderson as a writer, and it would be a real disservice to fail to mention the book’s virtues. I was fascinated by just about every aspect of Sanderson’s development of his world, all the way from its deep history, to its flora and fauna, to its intricately detailed system of magic, which is pretty similar to that in his other books. (This physical component is tied to that power, and so on.) The expected climactic battle scene is still plenty exciting, and there are good hints that the sequel will considerably raise the stakes. And while it’s hard to ignore that, like Sanderson’s previous books, this one eventually reveals itself to be a superhero story at heart, the superpowers some characters find themselves with are just part of a greater storytelling picture, and not the whole.

Joshua S. Hill of Fantasy Book Review writes: “I wasn’t even a quarter of the way into this book before I realized I was beginning something impressive. Sanderson writes as if for his life, knowing just when to leave a point of view for another, when to bring the character back from the brink and when to test a character’s mettle. From a purely writing standpoint Sanderson is showing himself to be one of the best. Not only is his grasp of his characters impressive, but the way that he imparts that to us is stunning. Every character seems to be intricately carved into what we read, with a mixture of flaws and qualities that make them figuratively jump off the page. The action scenes – whether they be from the lowly servants to the mystically enhanced generals – are nothing short of spellbinding and leave you breathless with anticipation throughout…Maybe the area in which Sanderson achieves his highest praise is in the manner with which he depicts the headspace our characters live in. Not only in their reaction and understanding of the world around them and the manner in which it reacts and has reacted to the continual storms that batter its landscape, but also in how the characters seem to be baffled by concepts that to us are normal, but in their world are foreign. Their bafflement leaves the reader similarly baffled, all too great effect.

Finally, Aidan Moher of A Dribble of Ink says: “It’s difficult to argue that any novel requires 400,000 words to tell its story. It’s an even tougher road to expect a series to need ten such volumes to reach its conclusion. On the surface, The Way of Kings should be enough in-and-of-itself to solidify any chance of anyone arguing successfully for behemoth-sized novels: it’s slow, plodding, over-complicated, and, even at the end of it’s final page, feels more like a prologue to a larger story than one of the longest published novels of the last decade. There’s a lot wrong with The Way of Kings, by all means, it’s a slog of a novel, but despite all of this, I found myself eagerly looking forward to every opportunity I had to crack open its many pages, to immerse myself in Roshar…Sanderson is so earnest, so effusively enamoured with his fictional creations, that it’s difficult to read The Way of Kings and not be washed over by the love that the author has imbued in his work. It’s a love of his own creation, but also of the epic fantasy’s lauded history: the enormous scale of Robert Jordan; the worldbuilding and ethnic diversity of Ursula K. Le Guin; the clashing armies of Terry Brooks; the otherworldliness and humour of Jack Vance. The Way of Kings is an homage to ’80s and ’90s fantasy, and, for anyone who grew up reading the great authors of those eras, there’s an almost irresistible desire to forget the novel’s flaws and just enjoy the ride…The Way of Kings has that same obsessive, addictive quality that makes all of Sanderson’s other works so effective. It’s not so much about what it offers readers, but about what it can offer readers. Promises abound, hints of world-changing events, and mind-bending character developments to come. Nobody does foreshadowing in epic fantasy as well as Brandon Sanderson, and, if his previous work is any indication, every small detail in this early book will have a ripple-like effect on the volumes that follow. Every chapter is full of questions, full of the type of plot developments and world building that fills chatter around water coolers or playgrounds…The Way of Kings is very clearly the first chapter of a much larger tale. Despite its flaws, The Way of Kings proves that Sanderson has the ambition to fill the hole left after the conclusion of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, and continue establish himself as one of the most successful and prolific young fantasy novelists. Like many opening volumes before it, The Way of Kings convinces readers that the best is yet to come.

 

There’s something special about this book. I do remember that early on I was surprised to see that 400 pages had gone by and I hadn’t noticed the progress I had made. At 800 pages I remembered thinking that the amount remaining was just a small part, compared to what I had already read, and I wasn’t sure how I had gotten through those 800 pages so fast. Despite its size, Sanderson’s prose, as it has in previous novels I’ve read (such as Towers of Midnight or Mistborn), flows effortlessly. As Aidan says above, the book has its flaws…despite that, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the story. Here you won’t find ponderous language, extreme attention to every little detail and overly complicated plot devices like you do in other books of this size; rather, while the pacing does stagnate at times, it never feels as if size or page count is the impediment to finishing The Way of Kings.

In all respects, The Way of Kings does what it is supposed to do as the first book in a series – it sets up the narrative and background while introducing us to the main characters, at the expense of action sequences. This is normal for an introductory book, and I would very much expect the next two releases to have a different focus and pace. As Sanderson uses The Way of Kings to explore the world he has created, the reader can see the passion he has for that creation in the details…at times it seems like Sanderson has thought out every effect and consequence of those details that he has created. From races such as the Parshendi (with their black and red skin and armor growing out of their body), to the rock based plants, to the various Spren, to the extreme weather…Sanderson has created a completely alien world. At times Sanderson lays it on a bit thick – I remember thinking, “not another type of spren!” when a new one was introduced later in the story. Still, it is quite ambitious to imagine such details, when most authors are content with variations of Earth’s Dark Ages. And I love the Highstorms…I had once imagined extreme weather as part of the setting of my own book, but Sanderson’s ideas are far superior to my own.

Although the world-building is top notch, at least with respect to flora and fauna, I still haven’t wrapped my head around the thousands of years of history that precedes the current time. Much of that is by design, as Sanderson has some secrets that he is not yet ready to reveal. As a result, we hear things like the Heralds, the Voidbringers, and the Knights Radiant, but what is revealed is often contradictory and confusing…this is by design but it doesn’t make things easier. A few bones are tossed to us at the end of the story, but there’s still a long way to go until clarity is achieved.

The characters in The Way of Kings are its strongest assets. Highprince Dalinar seems to be a by-the-book, straight-as-an-arrow, goody two-shoes, but he wasn’t always that way; in fact, not only was he a supremely talented fighter on the battlefield who enjoyed killing, he very nearly did something extremely dark in his past to a family member. Those less than noble deeds and thoughts still haunt him at times, and he strives to hold his older, current self to a higher ideal. It’s a concept that takes what should be a two dimensional character and gives him more depth. During Highstorms, Dalinar has visions of events in ancient times, but its never really clear why only he receives them and why the visions only come during Highstorms.

Kaladin was probably my favorite character. He has the ability to manipulate the feelings of people around him, as well as certain events, without even realizing it. Some of this is through magical talent, and some is through force of will. There is a quote on the back cover from Orson Scott Card that says, “It’s rare for a fiction writer to have much understanding of how leadership works…Sanderson is astonishingly wise.” This quote particularly applies to Kaladin and the way he naturally leads others by example. It seemed very familiar, but I was unable to remember where I had read something similar before. The closest parallel to Kaladin’s story that I could think of was Richard Rahl in Terry Goodkind’s Faith of the Fallen – not an exact parallel, but rather some of the elements are similar. The only issue I had with Kaladin’s story is that much of his past is detailed through flashbacks, which I feel are a far too common vehicle for storytelling these days. Flashbacks have become routine and more accepted than I would prefer, often bogging down a story to visit a time in the past and destroying pace and continuity in order to develop a character, simply because it’s trendy. Other than that nitpick, however, I did enjoy Kaladin’s viewpoint the most.

Shallan is a bit of a mixed bag. At the beginning we learn she must steal something to save her family, but there really isn’t enough emphasis on why we should care or even why it should be compelling in the grand scheme of the plot. It is only later that we find out that Shallan has some kind of unique gift, which may become important in the future – but it was of no importance to the overall plot of The Way of Kings. In essence, by working for the scholar Jasnah, Shallan proves to be a vehicle for disseminating information to the reader that we wouldn’t otherwise know, and that seems to be her only function in this first book. Time will tell if her role justifies the amount of pages devoted to her narrative. There are a few other viewpoint characters: Adolin, Dalinar’s son; Szeth, the Shin assassin, who has a minor role here that seems like it will become more important in the future; and another random viewpoint or two.

In his typical fashion, Sanderson drops a few reveals at the end of the story to whet the reader’s appetite, reminding me a lot of the ending of the first Mistborn book. I should note that there are other elements that remind me of Mistborn, such as the way men can move with superhuman speed and strength in their shardplate (magical armor), and also in the way that Szeth can walk on walls and ceilings while lashing (pushing and pulling) objects. Then there’s the magic system itself: using certain gemstones determines the magic that can be used, which is incredibly similar to the well-defined system of Allomancy in Mistborn. Of course there’s an index in the back of The Way of Kings to refer to if you get confused about what the gemstones can do. And finally I should note the illustrations within the book – they are numerous, useful, and occasionally beautiful. The beginning of each chapter has a strange saying, along with a notation by some kind of scribe. These sayings and notations are at first meaningless, until a reveal near the end brings clarity to their use.

In conclusion I’d have to say that despite its flaws, The Way of Kings is a masterful work, ambitious in scope and easy to read. As the action picks up near the end and the pace accelerates, and Kaladin crosses paths with another viewpoint character, the tension ratchets up and I actual got a little misty-eyed as events unfolded. I hadn’t expected that powerful of an emotion to manifest during the story, and it was a pleasant surprise. The first part of the book drags a bit with regard to pace, as do some of the chapters devoted to Shallan, but once you get past that, the story moves along just fine. There’s an incredible world here that Sanderson has developed, and I’m actually looking forward to Words of Radiance, the next 1,000+ page entry in the series, which suddenly doesn’t seem quite so intimidating.

New End Of The Year Goal

In my last post, I talked about how I met the reading goal I set for myself this year. But wait! The year’s not over yet. It’s exciting to think of how much farther I can push the “pages read” count by December 31st. What follows are the details to my approach for the rest of the year.

There are over 7 weeks remaining in the year. If I could read a book every 2 weeks, with an additional week to finish The Grey Bastards (which I’m over halfway through), that means I could have 4 books completed in that 7 week span. The titles and page counts look something like this:

The Grey Bastards = 421
King of Thorns = 449
The Silver Sorceress = 498
The Tainted City = 402

total = 1,770 pages

Adding that to the 12,605 pages I’ve read to date, that would be 14,375 for the year.

Over 14,000 pages. Wow…

So there it is…my goal for the remainder of the year. I’ve updated the crawl chart in the upper left sidebar to reflect this new goal. I hope I can pull it off!

Reading Goal for 2018 Conquered

It’s done. I did it.

I hit (and exceeded) my reading goal of 12,000 pages for 2018.

This morning I finished off The Way of Kings. The sheer page count was intimidating, but I shouldn’t have worried. The pages, especially the last third of the book, seemed to fly by. Back at the end of September I predicted I’d have a review for The Way of Kings done by early November. Indeed, here we are in early November and I will be starting on the review shortly. But first, I’d like to talk about my approach to blogging this second time around in the context of my reading goal.

In a recent post titled “Dear Book Bloggers, I’m worried about you”, Redhead almost brought me to tears with her concern about book bloggers…particularly about how much of our lives, and time, blogging consumes. I know that all too well after crashing and burning in 2013. This passage that she wrote I particularly took to heart, due to the reading goal I set this year:

And you, the book blogger who decided ten reading challenges look fun, and you thought reading 100 books this year was a worthy goal (and don’t forget the bingo card!), and then college started up again, you got diagnosed with a chronic illness, you moved cross country, you had to give your cat away, and now you are wondering how are you ever going to meet your goal of reading 100 books this year?

I set an incredibly ambitious goal compared to what I had done in the past. Why did I do that? Was I looking to test the theory that history repeats itself? No, the key lies in what Redead wrote further on:

Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.

Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.

This is why I failed my book blog, and my audience, the first time. I have mentioned the multitude of other book blogs that were cranking out content like crazy during 2013. I felt that I couldn’t keep up, that I needed to provide an equal amount of content to be heard, that my voice was lost among the multitudes. It’s why I started reviewing TV shows, because I felt that I needed to provide something during the long gaps between reviews.

Redhead has shown an incredible amount of wisdom and sage advice in her post. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to hike to a monastery high in the mountains of Tibet and find her seated cross-legged, wearing the robe of a monk and mastering throat singing while reading!) If I had simply kept plugging along at my own pace, not worrying about page hits and visitors, not obsessing about supplying enough content, I’d be in a very good spot right now. That’s because nearly all of those other bloggers that were cranking out content burned out, moved on to other projects, or just went silent. Had I taken my time and paced myself, I would have kept going without burning out. Book blogging is not a race, but if it was an apt comparison, there’s something to be said for that old adage about the tortoise and the hare. So in that context, how do you “win?” Redhead offer some insight in that regard:

Being the bloggeriest blogger who ever blogged is not winning. Winning is showing up. Winning is being your authentic self. Winning is talking about books you care about, books that make you think, or cry, or laugh, or grow. Winning is coming to the bloggish community as you,  not as who you think we want to meet. Winning is recognizing burn-out for what it is, taking a break when you need to, and keeping it fun.

Blog when you feel like it. Blog on a schedule that works for you. If you have a schedule that was working, and it isn’t working anymore, change it. Blogs are not made of stone and neither are  you. Your blog works for you, not the other way around.

Therein lies the true secret of reaching my goal this year: I have learned to manage my time appropriately. I fill in the dead spaces between book reviews with status updates, reading goals, interviews and book orders. And if I need a short break, I take one. So even if I hadn’t made my goal, I wouldn’t be upset. If I can’t post twice a week, or if  I break for two weeks between posts, so be it. I calmly accept that if someone follows my blog, and enjoys reading what I have to say, it is their choice as to whether or not they can accept that I can’t give them content everyday. To my readers who are content with those terms, I say thank you very much, it means a lot to me.

For now, it is time to celebrate success, and to wonder what I can accomplish by the end of the year, while imagining what next year may look like.

It’s time for me to acknowledge that I have won as a blogger – I showed up, I was authentic, I talked about how I felt about the books I read, and I blogged when I felt like it, without being worried about what other people wanted, and I still achieved my goal. That it is no small thing.

And it’s also time to give Redhead a big hug and thank her for caring, and for accepting me for who I am…and if there’s one thing that’s certain it is this: I’m certainly not the “bloggeriest blogger”!