Random Chat: Samplers

What makes a good blurb?

Step up, take a seat, make yourself at home and let’s chat!

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!

So I noticed sometimes Netgalley has samplers up for grabs and I am sure other sites do as well.

I wondered if this is something you do – read samplers, or otherwise read the first chapters in a book.

Does this influence if you buy the book or not?

Since the large majority of the books I get are ARC from Netgalley I prefer to read the entire book but I would love to hear your thoughts!

2016 Yearly Wrap-up

I wasn’t going to do this post but then I figured… Why not. A lot changed in 2016 and I feel like marking it.

The new job I got a few months prior to the year beginning got more challenging and more rewarding, which also meant more time-consuming. Therefore both my amount of books read and focus on reading plummeted.
There were still a few books I truly enjoyed and I would like to highlight them.

My reading preferences also changed. I have grown weary of reading short story anthologies as I feel I can’t write a proper review without mentioning each of them and that grows tiresome and makes reading a chore, which is exactly what I want to avoid.
Also, I used to be much more into sci-fi and fantasy, particularly dystopias, but the YA direction those books took over time let me down and I ended up shying away from those and focusing on my new thing: psychological thrillers. I really enjoyed discovering this wonderful genre.

Out of a total of 60 books read, and in chronological order as they were all different and I can’t really say I preferred one over the other, here are my favourite five books of 2016. The cover links to my review and the name to the book’s page on GoodReads.


 


Room

My, what a book. It was unlike anything I had ever read. A 5 year-old as a narrator will do that, I guess. But the circumstances in which this boy lived and the way he interpreted them was what was so moving and heart-breaking.
This book confronts us with the uggliest of humanity and you cannot help but became in awe at Jack. Granted, some things may not have been very realistic but really, they were so minor it isn’t even worth getting into it.
I highly recommend this book. Do be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotions.

 


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1)

This was my fantasy book of the year. It is utterly enchanting. The way Jacob’s life turns from the mundane to the wondrous was masterfully done and there were many surprises along the way, as well as a great dose of tension and suspense, that made this experience quite a treat.
It is amazing that an author can conceive such a story from viewing a few photographs of real peculiar children.
I have the sequel sitting on my shelf for a while now but I pre-ordered the third book of the series so am aiming to read #2 closer to that date.
Oh and so much better than the movie, as usual.

 


Different Seasons

This book has been around for decades but I only manage to get to it in 2016. It was well worth the wait. Three of these novellas were adapted to movies and for good reason.
There were a few things in The Body that annoyed me but it was still a heart-warming story. As for the other three… Wow.
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption was so clever. King’s prose is so engaging and part of the charm is how Red, the narrator, portrays Andy Dufresne. Both these characters grow on us and if you haven’t seen the movie the unveiling of how Dufresne did it will certainly wow you.
I had heard about Apt Pupil but it caught me so off-guard. That kid was creepy as hell.
Again, I found the story so much better than the movie – there is just a depth that King’s words can reach that is just not possible to convey through images.
It took me a while to remember the The Breathing Method but when I did my eyebrow went up. It got a bit grotesque at a point and it is part of its charm. Of the four, I would say it is the only one with a heaviest hint of fantasy, and the closest to what King usually writes.
Terrific collection!

 


When She Was Bad

I guess this was the psychological thriller of the year for me!
The narrative goes back between past and present events and it is very well done. There are three main events: the murder which is set as a premise for the other events, a disturbing case that our narrator Anne was in contact many years prior, and the events triggered by a group’s boss being fired. These are all very different and I enjoyed reading about all.
The several voices we read about are excellent and the narrative style only took a bit of getting used to and then it did not become overwhelming at all. I remember that when each chapter finished I immediately had to read what came next and was disappointed when the voice changed because I really wanted to know what came next but it was good anticipation.
The reveal blew me away and this was simply a terrific reading experience that I definitely recommend to fans of the genre. I would love to read more by this author.

 


All We Shall Know

This was definitely not something I would have usually read. The Irish dialect was intriguing and the way the author phrased the events left me breathless because those sentences were long but I really didn’t mind, it kept me engaged.
This main character is indeed quite flawed. Her introspection is enthralling and while I never really felt sorry for her I related to her conundrum and that is proof of great writing, in my book.
There is a lot of depth to this character and I really loved her father.
It’s one of those stories you can’t really delve into what happened, it just needs to be appreciated to its fullest.


And that’s it for my yearly wrap-up.
Do you have one? Please link the post in comments!

Thank you for reading.

Random Chat: YA and NA

What makes a good blurb?

Step up, take a seat, make yourself at home and let’s chat!

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!
I came across this article a few days ago while browsing facebook and it prompted me to post something I have been mulling over for ages now:

Author Claims YA Does Not Exist

It links to the following article: There Is No Such Thing as the Young Adult Novel.

I am not sure if any of you have noticed, but I don’t have YA as a book genre in my blog. Quite frankly, the notion still baffles me. I am not even sure if I fully understand it, because I have seen it defined accordingly to the characters age and also to the audience’s age. It seems that the latter prevails, or at the very least a mixture of the two.

While I can understand that it may make books easier to find, defining a book by age categories seems extremely restrictive and I have found that the same formulas get used over and over again.
Ever since the YA genre came out, I cannot seem to find, for instance, a fantasy book I enjoy. Sure, there is New Adult now as well, but I cannot seem to relate to either the writing or the topics in books classified as such. On the other hand, if I pick up a YA book I am usually faced with much of the same teenage dramas, romance and, at times, tantrums.

I thoroughly miss a solid fantasy novel with characters I can relate to and which does not necessarily include romance. Something that presents a new world, one that is unique but makes sense and utterly enthrals me in the story. I cannot seem to find that anymore and I am convinced it has gotten worse since these categories were released to public.

What do you think? Have the YA and NA categories done more good or harm to the book industry, in terms of quality of books, not marketability?
Do you find any of the points I made make sense?
Tell me everything!

Random Chat: What Is a Good Review?

What makes a good blurb?

Step up, take a seat, make yourself at home and let’s chat!

Thanks to Chris, I came across this post. The author of it writes about what it is like to be on the other side when dealing with a review – as an author instead of a reader. I have often wondered what that would be like, so figured it was time to post about it and see what you fine folks think.

Today’s random chat is:
WHAT IS A GOOD REVIEW?

First of all, regarding the post I linked, I agree with most of what the author wrote, except for his ‘golden rule’:

One last thing (and this is a “Golden Rule,” as far as I am concerned): If you can’t give at least a 3-star rating for a book, on a scale of 1 through 5 (or, in academic parlance, a C), then it’s best not to post a review at all. My rationale for that is that anyone who devotes anywhere from six months to a couple of years writing a book, deserves, at a minimum, a passing grade of C, or a 3-star rating for their effort alone. Anything less is an insult, and that violates the “no personal attacks” thing.

I have to say that, as a reviewer, I found it difficult not to take offence when reading this. As far as I am concerned, everyone is entitled to share their opinion as long as it is done in a civilized manner, with no intent to offend or hurt anyone. Every single time I have given a 1 or 2 star review, I can honestly say that is what I have done. At least tried my best to; obviously I will be annoyed at wasting my time, but it is never personal. To me, reviewing a book is exactly the same as reviewing any other product. I will state what I liked, what I did not like, and why – period.
So reading that what I take such care to do – so thoroughly explaining why I did not like a book -, putting me in the same bag as all those This book sucks!!! sort of opinions and whatnot is insulting and constitutes as a personal attack is incredibly disappointing, to say the least. I can honestly say I have never tried to hurt an author’s feelings – on the contrary, more often than not I will say that just because this book did not work for me that does not mean other people won’t like it -, and I can surely say the same for the incredible amount of fine reviewers I have met since I started reviewing the books I read.

Now I would like to stress that I am not posting this with any intent of bashing this author; as I said, I did agree with most of his post and I think he makes great points. It’s just that I believe several people may agree with the part I quoted, and so I wanted to both have my say and find out what other people think about this.

While I can understand why an author would say something like this, as far as I am concerned, two main things:

1) Not everyone that takes 6 months to a couple of years to write a book should have done it. Not everyone can be a writer. Just because you put a lot of effort into something does not mean it is good. If it’s your passion, fine, go ahead and do it, and always try your best, but you should have no expectations. That goes for pretty much anything in life, in my opinion.

2) You are never going to please everyone. While another person loved a certain thing, someone else will hate it. That happens with every single thing in life! I am not going to feel offended because, say, someone did not like my cooking. Should I make it personal just because I put so much time and effort in it? Hell no. I may be disappointed, but so what? I know some people will say that is not the same, and they will be right, but the principle is the same: take it and move on. That’s life.

Let me start with the obvious: Personal attacks are pointless and only speak ill of the reviewer. However, a low rating does not mean that a review is bad, if it is well explained and justified. As far as I am concerned, all authors need to be prepared to receive 1 and 2 star ratings as much as 3, 4 and 5 ones. Giving a low rating is not a matter of rudeness or lack of respect, but of honesty. If we didn’t like the book, then we will not give it 3 or more stars just for the sake of not hurting the author’s feelings. It is a matter of respect towards the other authors whose work we have read and thoroughly enjoyed.

Now, onto what makes a good review.
Again, this is a matter of personal opinion so, if you think differently, please don’t be offended.

I see a lot of reviews where roughly 80% of the text describes in detail what happens in the book. That is not a good review in my book. I don’t want to know what happens in the book, I want to discover it as I go. If the blurb does not give a good idea of the book, then summarize it. Briefly. Only enough to get a clear picture of what one can expect from it.

I do, however, want to know what feelings and thoughts the book awoke in the reader. Did he or she like it? If so, why? What did they think of the writing? Was it easy to follow the story, did it flow well? Were the characters multi-dimensional, and could you see them grow throughout the narrative? Is the world well-developed? Were the plot twists predictable? Did the reader experience any emotions? If so, which?
I want to know those things in detail so that I can know if I would enjoy the book or not. Often times, the issues that the reviewer had with the book are things I would find annoying myself, so that’s when I know if I would like it or not and that is what will ultimately help me decide if I will get the book – not because I know the story beforehand.

Something that should be obvious – NO SPOILERS!!. The very least people can do is clearly tag them (I do that by changing font and background colour, so people who want to view spoilers will have to highlight the text). Please, don’t give away major plot twists. It totally ruins the experience.

And that’s about it, other than not writing something too big, but I am guilty of that myself. I do proofread and edit my texts several times before posting, but everything seems important for one reason or the other. Because of what I wrote above, I think some things will appeal to one reader more, other things to different readers.
I guess low rating reviews will naturally be longer, since I try my best to explain why I am giving it.

Anyway, I try to do these things in my reviews, though I will be the first to admit I may not always succeed. Not on purpose, though!


With which points of this post do you agree and disagree with?
What do you feel makes a good review?
What do you think I should do differently in my own reviews?

Please share your thoughts in the box below!

Reading Habits Tag

Geoffrey at High Tea Dreams was kind enough to nominate me for this book tag, which I am very excited to do because the questions are right up my alley (at long last!!).
Go visit his blog and give him a follow, will ya?

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
Yep, my bed! I don’t own a really comfy chair or have any other nook, and I absolutely love to read myself to sleep, so it all works well.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Always a bookmark. I have many and some are so cute!

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/a certain amount of pages?
It usually depends on how tired I am and long the chapters are. Lately the books I have read have pretty long chapters, so I am unable to finish them when the letters start dancing around. I will however try to stop where I can easily get back on a track, like a clearly marked paragraph, especially if there is an empty line or some sort of a page break.

Do you eat or drink while reading?
You will catch me reading while having lunch and dinner fairly often, but if what I need is a quick snack then I will take a break from the book and resume when done, otherwise it’s just too distracting.
So I don’t really snack while reading or anything of the sort, just main meals.

Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?
Nope, too distracting. I think just about the only sound I can tolerate is waves crashing on the beach :) Or maybe birds singing. So yes, nature!

One book at a time or several at once?
I very rarely read more than one book at a time, unless it’s a different genre and in a different format – audiobook and e-book are the most popular combo.

Reading at home or everywhere?
I will read anywhere I can catch a break, but I focus much better when I am home.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?
Silently, though I may make some funny faces when I am deeply engrossed – I really wouldn’t know, I have rarely caught myself doing it. I may read the odd sentence out loud, if it is not making sense to me or I am not quite there yet.

Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
Heck no. As a rule of thumb I don’t even skim passages. I think I can count by the fingers of one hand the amount of times I have done it, and only because I felt that, if I didn’t, then I would not be able to finish the book because I was just not being able to focus.
Other than that, I will take as long as I need to finish a book, because I feel that any book deserves my undivided attention if I am going to provide a fair review.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
I strive to keep my books as pristine as possible.
That said, I have been known to maybe be a bit forceful on the spine, so I can try and get the book not to close without me holding it because I need my hands to urgently do something else.

Do you write in your books?
Never. As I mentioned above, I want to keep every single one as pristine as possible. When I am reading a paperback, I usually have a separate piece of paper or even a notebook where I can jot down my notes.

And now I nominate…

Every single person who has not done this tag yet and wants to!
It’s getting hard keeping track of who’s done what and has not already being nominated!
So please post your link here if you do it, k?

Much love <3

Gallery

The Good Things in Life

This gallery contains 5 photos.

I have been in an instrospective mood lately and, quite frankly, I needed a breather. So in a last minute decision, I threw myself in the car and off I went. There are few things that make me a happy as being on the beach with a good book. Throw in lovely weather and fresh […]

Would You Rather Book Tag

I was tagged by Tiffani @ Book Venom. I found her blog very recently but it has become one of my favourites already and you should definitely check it out!

Would you rather only read trilogies or only read standalones?
I would have to go with standalones. My reading habits are too sporadic. Meaning I cannot stick to the same genre for long, I have to switch every now and then, and reading a whole trilogy would not really let me do that. Not to mention I would most likely not always be able to read them back to back, which I don’t appreciate at all. When I read a book, I want to live and breathe in that world and watch the characters grow, so if I am reading a trilogy, I want to read everything at once; no waiting and no other books in between. But only trilogies would get tiresome, for me.

Would you rather only read male or female authors?
Hmm I think the author’s genre does not really matter much… To be honest, sometimes I do not even know whether I am writing a book by a female or male author, since they seem to love using initials these days!
What matters to me the most is what they write about. I have to tell you, I am sick and tired of reading books where the main character is a rebellious teenager. That just does not cut it for me anymore and has become one of my main pet peeves because it just seems to be everywhere.
I don’t know if women write about that more than men or vice-versa, so whoever doesn’t do that will have my preference!

Would you rather shop at Barnes and Noble or Amazon?
I actually have no experience with Barnes and Noble. I have used Amazon for a while now and am happy enough with it. I love my Kindle Paperwhite too! So I will go with Amazon.

Would you rather books were made into TV shows or movies?
I will have to go with movies.
I generally do not like adaptations, since they vary too much from the book. When I read a book, I get immersed in it, I build the characters in my head and grow fond of them that way. If they are made into something completely different, I would rather be done with it in a couple of hours than a whole season.

Would you rather read only 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?
Oh gosh, this one is hard. It depends on how busy I am!! If I am doing my night job I will most likely only have time for 5 pages per day! However, I could never do that while I am on vacation, for instance. I love dedicating as much time as possible to reading then, especially at the beach, so 5 books a week would probably not be a problem, depending on their size, of course.

Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?
Oh, this one is easy. I have no desire whatsoever to write a book, so reviewer it is. I love travelling to different worlds!

Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?
Hmm I honestly don’t know. Whatever requires less book knowledge? I tend to stick to my preferred genres and would not really be able to help someone outside of that box.
I have to say I love libraries, though, even though they are slowly becoming extinct, at least where I live. But the thought of being surrounded by books, in the midst of all the silence, especially if it is a more traditional one with great architecture and shelves thoroughly appeals to me.

Would you rather read only your favorite genre, or every other genre but your favorite?
Oh, come on. That is just plain evil.
Well, as I mentioned in my first answer, I feel the need to switch genres often, so I suppose I would have to go with every other genre but my favourite.
But I would not be a happy camper. -.-

Would you rather only read ebooks or physical books?
Oh man… That is haaard! I love the feeling of a physical book but the fact is they are not as practical as e-books. My e-reader contains almost 1000 books, I can choose font type and size, margin and line space, brightness, can accompany the progress by percentage, chapter and time till book is over, not to mention the battery lasts weeks… I guess my choice is made, huh?


My nominees:

I tag every single person reading this post!
I promise it is not because I am lazy, I would honestly love to know everyone’s answers, so consider yourselves tagged and, if you decide to do it, please post below a link to your answers so I can read them!

Random Chat: To finish or not to finish

What makes a good blurb?

Step up, take a seat, make yourself at home and let’s chat!

I posted previously about this topic and would like to elaborate on it now.

So today’s random chat is:
TO FINISH OR NOT TO FINISH A BOOK YOU ARE JUST NOT INTO?

Ever since I started writing reviews of the books I read, I have never left a book unfinished.
Before that, I can probably count by the fingers on one hand the amount of books I dropped before finishing.
Why? Let’s see.

1) I hate leaving anything unfinished.
Quitting on something, be it a book or something else, always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
I never feel closure and this dreadful feeling will usually keep gnawing on my mind long after the deed is done. Or rather, not done.
Telling myself I will get to it later also does not help, since leaving things pending puts an insane amount of pressure on me.
Weird, I know. Been like that my whole life, though.

2) Guilt.
Most of the books I get these days are free from authors or sites like Netgalley. That means I will feel obligated to read the whole thing because a review is expected, or rather, required. Which gets us to point 3:

3) Not fair to rate.
If I don’t finish a book, how can I rate it? How will I ever know if the pages I have not read don’t turn my opinion around, even if just by one star? Granted, some sites allow people to only write reviews and not rate, but that does not really matter to me because of problem #2.

4) I already spent time reading it, might as well finish.
If I don’t finish it, then it won’t count to my read books count – not that I worry about it too much. But if I have already wasted time reading a chunk, why not finish? Because as far as I can see, you need to read quite a bit before realizing you don’t like it, right?

5) I will never know if the book will grow on me.
On more than one occasion, I started by not enjoying a book and then it completely turned on me and my opinion changed and actually did feel engaged by the story.


So these are the main reasons why I don’t leave a book unfinished.

Now I realize this is probably not the best attitude to have towards the situation. Why?

1) Since I try to be fair in my reviews, especially the negative ones, I don’t skim. If I do not like a book, I try to include specific examples of what and why, and even citations. Obviously, that means it will take me even longer to finish the book.

2) Taking so long to finish a book I am not enjoying often leads to reading slumps.
Reading for obligation is the worst. It takes the joy out of an act that is supposed to bring relaxation to one’s life.

3) Sure, I may have wasted a bit of time reading the beginning of the book, but that doesn’t mean I need to keep wasting more time, right? I should probably pick up something I know I will enjoy reading, to avoid a creeping slump.


So I keep weighing the pros and cons and have not really been able to reach a conclusion. Ultimately, what keeps me from dropping a book unfinished is the commitment I took to the writer or publisher to rate and review it.

At the end of the day, time is precious, and so is keeping such an amazing activity enjoyable, so I do wonder if I should change my attitude.

What do you think of all this?
Have you ever had similar issues?
What is your method for leaving a book unfinished? As in, how do you decide to drop it? And do you write a review? What about posting a rating?

Tell me everything!