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”!

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Why I Don’t Review On Goodreads Or Amazon

There are a lot of things to like about Goodreads. It is a diverse community and there are many benefits to belonging – finding reviews and recommendations, tracking statistics on your reading, notifications of new releases, a strong author presence – among other things. But there are two gigantic reason why my reviews aren’t found on Goodreads:

  1. I dont like the review system
  2. And, the comments found in those reviews

Most of you who read my reviews know that I don’t use a scoring system. Why is that? Because a scoring system, unless extremely detailed, doesn’t offer any flexibility in assigning book scores. And even if you design in some measure of flexibility – such as a score of 1 to 100, or scoring using multiple categories – defining criteria for a scoring system is difficult to implement consistently. Books must either be compared against other books, or they must be compared against your own internal means of measure, which may be as simple as “I liked it this much”, or it must check off certain boxes to achieve a score.

In a system where the only rating options are 1 to 5 stars, there is a distinct lack of flexibility in assigning a rating. Furthermore, a rating is not an opinion; it is simply a score. There is no context within a score to give the value meaning. Let me use an example I have relied on in the past. Forsaken Kingdom has a total rating of 4.16 on Goodreads, while The Wise Man’s Fear has a total rating of 4.58. Those total scores, however, are disingenuous to my own rating, because I can only leave a score of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 in my own review. The Wise Man’s Fear has its flaws and is not a perfect book – I don’t equate it to my “cream of the crop” novels, so let’s say I gave it a 4. Forsaken Kingdom is a novel that plays it safe and doesn’t come close to attempting the depth and lyrical beauty of The Wise Man’s Fear, but isn’t terrible. So that means I should rank it lower but not too low, perhaps a 3. Now along comes The Crown Tower. I feel that it is better than Forsaken Kingdom but not as good as The Wise Man’s Fear. Yet my only scoring options are to make The Crown Tower equal in score to either Forsaken Kingdom or The Wise Man’s Fear, instead of somewhere in between.

This is the problem I have with the “star” scoring system – it allows zero flexibility when scoring books. And let’s face it, the score of a book can often influence its success or failure. Whoever set up the 5 star scoring methodology on Goodreads did the reading community a poor service. Amazon uses the same scoring system. This is primarily the reason why I won’t review on Goodreads or Amazon – I refuse to use that type of a scoring system. Yet on both sites, if I want to leave a review, I must use that system.

The other reason I won’t leave a review on Goodreads has to do with the social media aspect regarding comments on reviews. If I were to post a review, I would expect that like many social media sites where anyone and everyone can leave an opinion, the comments section would degenerate into arguments and name-calling. One need look no further than the reviews of Prince of Thorns. There are so many angry comments about rape, and also people saying things like “I can’t stand to follow a murderous character like Jorg” or “I don’t understand how a fifteen year old boy can be good at all these things.” I can see their viewpoint, and I respect it. I would never try to argue with them that what they are feeling isn’t right. That is their opinion.

Yet in the comments section, arguments and name-calling ensue. To me it seems that many of the reviews or comments missed the entire plot of the book – this boy was merely a tool used by a wizard and had little to no control over his actions. It changes the entire context of the story, yet it is as if none of these people actually read the book, or at least came away with an understanding. It’s far too easy to simply deride and shout down differing opinions, and it’s something I want no part of. At least here on WordPress I can moderate comments and ensure that type of thing doesn’t happen to me.

It’s a shame, because there are a lot of thoughtful and wonderful people on Goodreads that have interesting things to say, and aside from the scoring system, the site has some great features. Yet it is the baseness in the comments section that ruins it for me. If that was the only reason to avoid Goodreads, I could probably overcome it. But added to the scoring system, the site just isn’t a good fit for me. Perhaps one day I will reconsider, but for now I’m happy to stay exclusively right where I’m at.

The Limping, Crawling Blog

This post has been a long time coming, and I’ve been avoiding it as long as possible. I apologize to those of you who follow the blog, and feel I owe you an explanation:

It began some time ago, when I tried to introduce TV show reviews in order to be a little different from other blogs, and there was too much downtime between reviews. It came to a head when I attempted to write a review for Bloodfire Quest. I found that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give voice to a review that would distinguish me from the multitudes of others out there.

And that’s really the underlying issue: there are a world full of book blogs out there. My voice is just one in a sea of many. At times, it has felt as if I were drowning in that sea of anonymity. Book review blogs are popping up all over, and there are many other sites that devote their full attention to books (some with multiple reviewers) and do it far better than I. Unfortunately, I’m not that focused. As you can tell from my blog, I have several different interests and hobbies.

The thing is, my other hobbies that I blog about are fairly unique – there aren’t any other sites like them on the Internet. Every post that I create here, adrift among the endless seas of book blogs, is a post lost for those other unique blogs. And I want to be unique and different, not just another book blogger. Blogging takes time, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness, with time being the greatest factor. With 5 other blogs running, I’m hard-pressed to devote the time it takes to make this one outstanding. Two of those other blogs have brought up monetary possibilities, which also gives them an edge.

I’m going through a transitional phase right now. Maybe this will all blow over and some book will come along that sparks my imagination. Or maybe I need to go in a different direction. I might even have to shut this down. What I do know is that I need a little more time to decide what to do…

Nihilism and Tolkien

Pat’s blog today had a link to an article that seems to be causing quite a stir. It is a post that bemoans the state of modern fantasy, and you can find it here:

http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/lgrin/2011/02/12/the-bankrupt-nihilism-of-our-fallen-fantasists/

These “modern”, ‘gritty” books are not an antithesis to Tolkien – they are a response to the Feists, Eddings, and hundreds of copycats (including Harry Potter) that are a coming-of-age story about a young person’s journey to become a hero, which are derivative of Hobbits becoming heroes. During the 80s and 90s it seemed like you couldn’t take a step without tripping over one of these stories. This formulaic approach to fantasy lead others to desire a break with the stereotype and create something new. I don’t see the need to bash this “modern” fantasy…to expect authors to all re-write the Lord of the Rings is quite ludicrous. I love the response from R. Scott Bakker, found here:

http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/the-fourth-tribe-or-going-for-baroque/

As for myself, I’ll vote for what I like using my wallet. There are plenty of places to read reviews that allow me to determine whether or not to pursue a book. I’m not really into the realistic fantasy, as I prefer imagination to realism. Still, I recognize and approve originality over derivation, and there are plenty of outstanding works by authors like Sanderson, Rothfuss, and Hobb.

Were the modern, gritty, realistic fantasy to become too prevalent, you would see the same kind of movement that spawned its creation – the desire for something new. And then, who knows? We may be back to re-writing Tolkien after all, or we may be sailing into uncharted waters…