Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bookish Discussion #4 // Libraries vs. Ownership

Over the past three blog posts, I’ve covered my opinions on the issue of bookish aesthetics and whether caring about a book’s appearance makes a reader shallow. (You can find the links here, here, and here.) If you’ll recall, I’ve written these posts in response to some negative opinions on BookTube, and now I want to tackle another issue: the fact that some bookworms get judged for buying a lot of books. 

First of all, let me just say, I do think it’s possible to buy too many books, but only under certain circumstances. If you’re having trouble making ends meet, for instance, spending a hundred dollars on books is not a wise choice, and you would be buying too many books for your situation. On top of that, there is also the issue of space. Sometimes you just don’t have enough room to store your books, and it would be unwise to buy more, as you could suffocate under a pile of books and die. And we can’t ignore that books can become a status symbol, and that those with larger collections can forget why they buy those books in the first place. No one likes a snotty bookworm who lords their book collections over the less fortunate. But aside from a few exceptions, I don’t think you can buy too many books. So let’s talk about why I'm always growing my collection. 

When I was young, I frequented the library, and I eventually reached a point where I had read the majority of the interesting-looking selections on the YA shelf. (It wasn’t a huge shelf, but it was still a grand achievement in my eyes.) At that time, I didn’t own too many books of my own, and it was perfectly natural to borrow the books I wanted to read. But then I got one of my first introductions to the frustration of libraries. After reading and falling in love with THE HUNGER GAMES, not only did I have to wait for CATCHING FIRE to come out, I also had to wait for everyone and his uncle on the waiting list to read it first. It was horribly inconvenient, and I still haven’t recovered from the shock of it (okay, that’s a lie, but hopefully you get the point). Then there was the matter of those books never being on hand again when I wanted to reread them. Consequently, my then-minuscule book collection got its first major kick start when I asked for THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE for Christmas. 

Suddenly my reading life was so convenient. I could read those two books as often as I liked. I could finish THE HUNGER GAMES and then read it all over again if I wanted to. There was no one to complain about due dates and late fees and all that lame stuff. Furthermore, I didn’t have to worry about whose grubby hands had touched those books before me (because I can be a bit of a germaphobe). They were mine, and mine alone. And during that glorious time, I began to realize how important ownership was to me. When the physical copies because truly mine, so did the stories themselves. They became more a part of me than I could have ever thought possible. 

So many of the books I libraried during that time have faded from my memory, and if I hadn’t kept detailed records of my reading habits, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you the titles of some of them (and I have a really good memory for book titles). 

Nowadays, with the benefit of hindsight, this feels like a loss. There were so many stories that I read and loved, and I didn’t get to keep them—I didn’t get to cherish them. I feel their absence. One of my biggest goals is to buy copies of all the books I loved during that time so I can remember those parts of myself. 

See, the thing is, when I read stories, I like to absorb them and allow them to shape me (or not, if they’re awful). They become mental scrapbooks for my thoughts, and rereading them strengthens my memory. However, that doesn’t happen with library books anymore. Instead, I feel like I’m reading them with gloves over my mind. I can enjoy the stories, and even engage a little, but they don’t touch me in the same way. I feel more like an observer than a participant, and that bothers me. But I can’t seem to allow myself to experience them in the way that I would like to because, in the end, I have to return them. And it hurts so much more when it feels like I’m returning a piece of myself. As strange and lame as it sounds, I find greater peace and comfort in reading something I know I can keep for the rest of my life. I can allow it to effect me, because I know I won’t have to give it up. I won’t have to feel like there are slices of my soul, lined up on shelves for strangers to paw through and wear out. 

Not to mention, we eventually switched libraries, and our new library didn’t have as great a selection. Sure, we could use interlibrary loan, but we had to pay about three dollars shipping for each book we borrowed that way, and it just seemed more logical to pay money for books I could keep instead of books I had to return. Now that I’m in Virginia, I have a relatively large library with a great book selection at my disposal, and I have been using it. In fact, I prefer to borrow books I’m unsure of, so I don’t have to regret buying them if they’re awful. But if they’re great, I’ll still end up wanting to buy them. 

On top of that, there’s another, larger reason why I prefer to buy books. Authors must eat (strange, I know). They must provide shelter for themselves, and they must wear clothing (unless they are nudists). Not to mention, they sometimes like to go out to the movies, or eat at restaurants, or buy books for themselves, among other things. In order to do all this, it helps if they get payed for the books they write. (You can call me Captain Obvious, if you’d like.) While I realize that my book orders won’t buy an author more than a candy bar, if that, I know that sales add up. And I want to support authors and the industry I love, even if I can only do that in small ways. Libraries are wonderful, yes, and I highly recommend them. But it has always bothered me that, when a library is concerned, an author only gets payed once for something fifty or a hundred people will read. Wouldn’t it be better if they got payed fifty or a hundred times, instead? I would rather pay for my admission to a story, so to speak, even when there is a free ride available. I want to do my own small part to help the publishing industry thrive. 

I could go on and on about my other motivations for buying large quantities of books. But I’ve taken enough time as it is. In the end, regardless of my many reasons, it all boils down to this: buying books is a good thing. Some people don’t have the money, and they shouldn’t feel bad. Some people prefer to avoid clutter, and that’s fine. Some people don’t reread, so buying books feels extraneous. That is okay. Some people just really love libraries, and I support that. I won’t judge you for your book buying choices. They are yours. But I would also like to enjoy my own large book collection without feeling like that makes me shallow, just as you should feel free to enjoy your stamp collection or your bowling ball collection or your taxidermied fish collection. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? What are your book buying habits? Do you prefer to keep your collection small, or are you growing your collection? Do you like libraries, or do you prefer to read books you own?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bookish Discussion #3 // Cover Love

Last week, I spent a couple days discussing bookish aesthetics and why I don’t think it’s okay to judge people who are concerned with the way their books look. (You can find the links here and here.) But today, I’d like to talk a bit more about the importance of nice book covers. 

Let’s say you’re in a well-stocked bookstore, and you’re just browsing, hoping something wonderful will catch your eye. It stands to reason that it’s in the publisher’s best interest to provide books that do just that. Granted, an ugly book could be a thousand times deeper and more interesting than the gorgeous hardcover displayed next to it. But let’s face it, there are so many books out there, and you’re not going to be able to read them all (GASP). Which is why it’s nice to have a system that helps you choose which books are worth your time. 

So, without any further ado, let’s talk about some book covers and designs that do their jobs well. 

ILLUMINAE is a prime example, not only because the cover is gorgeous, but because the insides are gorgeous as well. Just by flipping through a couple pages, you can tell the book took a great deal of time and effort to design. Of course, the insides could still be rubbish, and you wouldn't know that until you read it, but hopefully the design conveys that the publishers at least thought the story was something special. Had it looked like it had been thrown together at the last minute, you might come away feeling uneasy, and perhaps you’d be a little slower to buy it. As I've said before, a publisher that doesn’t seem to care about the outward product might also not care too much about the story itself. Hopefully you would love it anyway, regardless of its exterior, but you have to want to pick it up first. 

I do intend to discuss the whole DIVERGENT trilogy at a later date, maybe in a month or two. For now, I just want to say that I vastly enjoyed INSURGENT the first time I read it, but found myself a little disappointed when I reread it. Even so, every time I see it on my shelves (which is every day), I get the urge to reread it because the cover is insanely beautiful and atmospheric. True, the cover doesn’t make the story any better. But it does improve my reading experience, and it ensures that I will give the book at least a third, or fourth, or fifth chance (I reread a lot). 

Covers are always a matter of personal taste. What looks wonderful to me might not look so great to you, and vice versa. Some people love covers that feature girls in dresses, for instance, but as a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of that design format. To me—and this is just my opinion, so take it or leave it—those sorts of covers don’t convey much about the story they’re representing. In fact, they seem like the easy way out, like the cover artists didn’t have enough time, ideas, or money. Or maybe they just didn’t care enough. Either way, it looks like they chose something easy and generic—attractive, usually, but not special. However, ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is a notable exception. 

Because Anna’s outfit plays such a huge role in the story (in case you hadn’t gathered that from the title), the dress is relevant to the plot. But there is also detail beyond just the girl and the dress, and that helps set the mood even further. For instance, we have the blood dripping off the hem of the dress and down her legs, and we have the whole vintage feel going on. We can see a thick ground fog in the foreground, and a haunted-looking house in the background. Bits of torn red ribbon (at least, I think it's ribbon) provide accent and visual interest. Even Anna’s posture communicates a great deal. Added together, all these elements set the tone of the story. We know we’re going to be reading something creepy, dark, and atmospheric, but also a touch whimsical, romantic, and sad. Ultimately, the cover is one of the reasons why I bumped ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD up on my book-buying priority list. 

Yes, book covers aren’t necessarily indicative of the story’s worth or the author’s skill, and it’s possible that focusing too much on lovely book covers can lead you to miss out on some wonderful literary gems. But with so many stories to read, and so little money to spend on them, I prefer to library the ugly books and buy only the books with covers that delight my heart. And that brings me to my next discussion topic, library vs. ownership, which I’ll be discussing on Wednesday. 

In the meantime, here are some random book covers for you to analyze (if you’d like to). I’d love to know what you think of them, what emotions/thoughts you think they convey, and whether they would have any impact on your book buying decisions. 


Well, that’s it for today, little coffee beans. What are some book covers that make you go all grabbyhands? What are some book covers that do the opposite? How do you decide which books to buy and which books to borrow? What are some of your favorite book covers, and why? 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Bookish Discussion #2 // Bookish Aesthetics

In case you missed my first Bookish Discussion, let me just catch you up a little. On Wednesday, I referenced a video (which you can find here), that summed up of some attitudes in the bookish community that have been bothering me. Now, I do recommend that you watch the video to get both sides of the argument, because I don’t believe this BookTuber shouldn’t have said what she said or that she is dumb or anything like that. Of all the BookTubers who shared similar sentiments, hers is the politest, most intelligent representative. But the main point I want to address here, that was referenced in her video more nicely than it was in most other places, is the idea that BookTubers and book bloggers who are concerned with the aesthetics of their books are too looks-oriented. 

So, first of all, let’s talk about used books. Plenty of readers prefer used books over new books because they have character and because they have more story to them than their newer counterparts. They’ve been read, reread, annotated, dog-eared, stained, loved. To many readers, the lives these books experienced before reaching their hands is just as fascinating as the books themselves, and it makes those books treasures. They are valuable, like aged cheese. (Blogging rule #127: When in doubt, include a comparison to food.) Not only that, but used books are often cheaper. 

And you know what? I see nothing wrong with enjoying or even preferring secondhand books. If those bring you loads of happiness, then that is wonderful. But while I don’t hate used books, they don’t bring me loads of happiness, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either. 

When I was younger, I tried so hard to get into the mindset that it was foolish to pay more money for new books when you could simply buy used. After all, I didn’t have much money to work with in the first place. I tried to convince myself that it was stupid to care so much about whether or not the spine of a book was cracked or if the cover got creased. I got angry at myself for crying when I lent out my books only to have them come back worse for the wear—dirty, ratty, water-damaged—and I told myself it was silly to contemplate replacing them with my hard-earned money just so I could have new-looking copies again. I told myself it was selfish not to want to lend them out just because I didn’t like them getting damaged, and I told myself it wasn’t fair to ask people to be super careful with them. It wasn’t fair to get upset when they didn’t treat them as well as I did. I thought there was something wrong with me because damaged books took away the joy of reading. 

And then, after a few years, it hit me. That is my personality type. I was wired to keep a neat, orderly collection—to crave cleanness and newness. I was wired to love the beauty of a pristine book. I wasn’t wired to love well-worn paperbacks, and it wasn’t fair for people to ask me to change my own personal preferences simply because they didn’t understand or share them. Just because my books are in perfect condition, doesn’t make them any less loved. In fact, when I love a story, I show my respect and affection for it by taking care of the book. Just because I love my books differently than others doesn’t make my methods any less legitimate. 

So let’s break down the way my brain works, starting at the superficial and going deeper. 

To me, new books just look so much better. I get a rush of happiness when I see all the shiny, new books while shopping in Barnes & Noble, and I like getting that same rush from seeing my Barnes & Noble-esque bookshelves. 

I have found that the more effort I put into keeping the shelves in my room aesthetically pleasing, the more my room feels like a haven. Some people visit museums or art collections in order to center themselves and reduce tension. Well, my books are my own private art collection, and I treat them accordingly. Where some people might hang paintings, I display the books I find particularly attractive. They are my decorations, and to assume that the inside of a book is the only form of art involved is to miss the art of the exterior. I handle my books carefully, to make sure that the art I love doesn’t get destroyed or defaced. After all, you wouldn’t shove your favorite painting into your backpack, or touch it with greasy fingers, or fold it down the middle (at least, I hope you wouldn’t). I value books like I would value a Van Gogh, and so I treat them accordingly. And I bet it’s similar for other bookworms who prefer keeping their books in good condition. (However, if your preferred art form is a battered book, than that is your prerogative, and we can live in peace, provided we respect each other’s personal styles.) 

Another, very personal reason for keeping my books in good condition is this: A lot of traumatic things happened to me when I was a child, and often books were the only safe place my younger self could find. Sometimes the only control I had in my life was the way I treated my books. I might not have been able to prevent myself from losing my home, friends, and possessions twice, I might not have been able to keep my church body from ripping apart, and I might not have been able to stop all the other bad stuff from happening to me, but I could at least make sure bad stuff didn’t happen to my books. To this day, books are still my haven, and I like to keep my safe place untarnished. If you have not experienced a difficult childhood and needed a safe place of small control like that, I don’t fault you for not understanding where I’m coming from. But lack of comprehension doesn’t make it okay to judge. 

My last major reason for taking good care of my books is more on the practical side. Let’s face it, books cost money (I know, I was shocked to learn that, too). There are so many books out there that I would love to buy, but I only have so much money to spend on them. I would rather not burn through cash replacing books I’ve worn out. Instead, I would rather make sure the copies I have last for a good long while so I can focus on growing my personal library. 

In the end, it all boils down to individual preference, and neither choice of style is wrong. It’s not wrong to like pretty things, and it’s not wrong to not care as much about pretty things. Granted, yes, some people take it too far and focus so much on the exterior of their books that they forget why books are valuable in the first place. But I would recommend withholding judgment until you truly know a person, or you run the danger of focusing too much on that person’s exterior (their outward behavior) and too little on their heart. And wouldn’t it be nice if we could just all respect and appreciate each other for our differences, even if we don’t understand life on the others side of the fence? 

What about you, my little coffee beans? Are you cool with lending out your books? Have you had any bad experiences from lending out books in the past? Do you prefer used books or new? Are you extra careful with your papery darlings, or do you not mind if they get roughed up a little?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bookish Discussion #1 // Judging a Book...

Note: I realize I’m quite behind on commenting on blogs and answering comments on mine. I'm so sorry about that. Rest assured, I haven’t forgotten any of you, and I will try to catch up over the next few weeks. In the meantime, please bear with me. 

For the next few days I figured I would tackle some topics I’ve been meaning to discuss for a while but haven’t felt entirely confident addressing. If you’ve been reading my blog over the past month or so, you’ll know that I started following a bunch of BookTubers because I figured it was about time I got a feel for that sort of culture. But a little while ago, I encountered a corner of BookTube that had been “calling out” vloggers who are concerned with the aesthetics of the books they buy (these videos would have been filmed about a year ago). One vlogger, especially, argued that buying books based on cover love—as well as avoiding ugly editions and used books—is shallow. She also expressed confusion about why vloggers don’t feature many library books in their videos, and why buying books is such a huge fixation in that culture. 

Please don’t get me wrong. It’s perfectly okay if you just don’t understand people like me who like buying nice books and keeping them in good condition. But it does genuinely bug me when people imply my bookish habits make me shallow, so I figured I would speak up about my own point of view. (If you've read my blog long enough, you may have noticed that I love inserting unsolicited opinions into the mix.) 

Today we’re tackling cover love. (And, in case you’re interested in my plan for the next few posts, I’lll be talking a bit more about bookish aesthetics on Friday, analyzing some book covers on Monday, and broaching the subject of libraries vs. ownership next Wednesday, if all goes well.) 

Traditionally published authors rarely get much say in what their book covers look like. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Some writers—like Stephenie Meyer and Michelle Hodkin—get to offer varying degrees of input on their cover designs. Usually, though, the piece of art that represents a story to the world at large has nothing to do with the author’s vision or desires. 

Because authors don’t often get to pick their cover art and all that fun stuff, it doesn’t seem fair that my decision whether or not to read a book should hinge on something so superficial and seemingly irrelevant. “A story is a story,” people argue. “The book is the words and the thoughts conveyed, not the pages and the pretty picture. It’s so shallow to avoid ugly or second-hand books just because they don’t look good. You silly person.” 

Hold your horses. I shall explain myself. 

One reason why ugly covers can be a big turn-off is that cover artists are supposed to convey the feel of the book. If I don’t like the emotions or thoughts conveyed by the cover, that could be a good indication I won’t like the emotions or thoughts conveyed in the book. Of course that’s not always the case, but it is possible, so it’s something I take into consideration. Additionally, if a cover is tacky or shoddily done, I do have to wonder how much faith the publisher (and the artists by extension) had in the book, and how much time and money they were willing to invest in making quality cover art. If they don’t seem to have put that much stock in their own book, I’m naturally going to be a little leery. 

Perhaps you don’t find that reason sufficiently satisfying. “That’s based on guesswork and subjectivity,” you argue. To which I say, “Fair enough. Let’s try something more personal.”

I have synesthesia, which means something that triggers a single sensory response in a normal brain triggers multiple sensory responses in mine. (I’ve mentioned before that I see letters, numbers, and words as having color. That is just one manifestation of synesthesia.) Many people don’t hugely care about their book covers because those are completely separate from their reading experiences. They may not find a cover particularly attractive, but they don’t consider it detrimental to their enjoyment. This is, by far, not the case for me. While reading, my mind automatically equates the color, design, and texture of the physical book with the story itself. This means that, when you mention INSURGENT, you think INSURGENT, but I think INSURGENT. (Putting it that way is overly simplistic, but I'm not sure how else to convey the thought—sorry.) For me, the aesthetics of the physical book are a strong part of the story itself, and I cannot separate the two in my head. The cover is the book and the book is the cover. Both the superficial and the tangible matter equally to me. This isn’t an indication of how shallow or deep a person I am—it’s simply how my brain is wired. 

If a book is absolutely fabulous, an ugly cover can still mar my reading experience, as hard as I try to keep the insides and the outsides separate in my mind. In the same vein, cover redesigns bother me because, once the color and texture of the story have been set in my head, no other edition feels like the right fit. This is the main reason why I spend more money and more time buying books selectively to make sure I get attractive editions, and this is why I am more likely to be forgiving of lesser books if they have great covers. This is also why I’m a little leery of libraries, but I’ll go into that more next Wednesday. 

If my reasoning makes me seem even more shallow and superficial than I did before you read this, oh well. I tried. Have fun judging me. In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting here, stroking my gorgeous bookish darlings. Enjoy your jealousy, and don’t forget to come back on Friday for further discussion on bookish aesthetics. 

Well, that’s it for today, little coffee beans. What are your thoughts on cover love? Do you prefer attractive books? If your answer is yes, what are some of your reasons? Do you not care what your books look like? If so, why? What are some attitudes in the blogosphere or the BookTubesphere (I don’t think that’s the right word, but I don’t know what else to call it) that bother you?

Monday, March 21, 2016


Rating: Five Stars—ajklsdflk (when words fail to describe how wonderful a book is)

I finished Kendare Blake's ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD way back in January, on the same day I finished ILLUMINAE, and now I’m finally getting around to reviewing it. Hold the applause, please. 

Admittedly, I was a little less sure what I was going to rate ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD. As stories go, it was a bit simpler, and a bit more predictable. Yet it was nonetheless beautiful, engaging, and atmospheric. (In fact, the eerie, brooding mood of ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD reminded me somewhat of IMAGINARY GIRLS, which is never a bad thing.) So, in the end, I decided to give it five stars because four stars felt too low and I do feel a little awkward about giving half stars, even though I do from time to time. Another bonus is that ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD has grown on me even more in retrospect, and that's always a good sign. 

The Story. Like his father before him, Cas is a ghost hunter, and he has never forgotten his ultimate mission: to kill the spirit who murdered his father. But when a violent ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood spares Cas’s life, he is forced to revisit his understanding of the spirit world. 

As a general rule, I don’t read books like this, but I had heard a lot of good things about ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD from readers I trust, so I decided to give it a go. (I can’t lie, the cover drew me in as well.) Obviously, I’m glad I read it. 

The Characters. While I loved all the characters, for various reasons, these four are my favorites: 

Cas. On Goodreads, I noticed several reviewers mentioning that they found Cas annoying, which surprised me. I really liked Cas. Yes, he sometimes comes across as arrogant, but only because he knows what he’s doing when it comes to killing ghosts and because he has learned to focus on his goals at all costs. In fact, that’s one of the aspects I liked most about his character. Granted, I’ve never been a ghost hunter myself (just haven’t had the time, really), but even when I was his age, I was super focused on writing. So I could relate to his willingness to enjoy a social life in small amounts while still remembering what his higher priorities are. He is incredibly driven and incredibly talented, and his voice was a refreshing break from what I normally find in YA. 

Thomas. I love Thomas so much. In many ways, his friendship with Cas reminds me a bit of Four and Sam’s relationship in I AM NUMBER FOUR, which I think is one of the most adorable friendships ever. He reminds me of a little puppy, wanting to follow his beloved person everywhere he goes. Ultimately, he is brave and caring and one of the best sidekicks to be found. Now the question is, where can I find somebody like him in real life? 

Anna. While Anna is super scary and mysterious, she is also extremely tragic, and I empathized with her. Though she is, in many respects, one of the main antagonists, she is also one of the main protagonists. And I’d tell you more about how amazing she is, but I don’t want to ruin the story for you. 

Carmel. Honestly, I was so impressed with Carmel. On the one hand, she’s popular and pretty and all that fun stuff, but on the other hand, she’s down-to-earth, brave, and kind. She’s in no way your stereotypical queen bee, so that was exciting. Hopefully the sequel will feature her just as much, if not more. 

The Ending. After shoving this book in your faces, I feel it’s only fair to warn you that it ends with a pretty bad cliffhanger. ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is the first in a duology, and I have yet to get my hands on the conclusion, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES. On a completely unrelated note, I also have yet to sleep at night. 

Content Warning. Overall, the story is fairly clean, but there is some strong language and graphic violence. There is also some thematic material (ie. Voodoo). 

In Conclusion. I very much enjoyed ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, and I am hoping to get my hands on the sequel within the next few months. I highly recommend it, especially for those who like moody, atmospheric stories. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? Have you read ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD? What are your thoughts? What is your favorite scary story?

Friday, March 18, 2016

2016 New Releases

When I was a small human, I wasn’t very in tune with the publishing world. I didn’t follow many authors or pay attention to most new books as they were released, and I didn’t really try to get in the know. Until a couple years ago, the only authors whose work I kept up with were Ally Carter, Stefan Bachmann, Rick Riordan, and Marie Lu. One of the major reasons for this is because I’ve always had a long list of books I’ve wanted to read/buy, and I wasn’t interested in keeping up with most of the new stuff until I had caught up with the old stuff. I still have a list of classics as well as books from between 2011 and 2015 (specifically) that I want to get my hands on, and it’s an embarrassingly long list. But ever since I started blogging, I’ve realized how fun it can be to keep up with the publishing world. So I’ve compiled a list of 2016 releases I’m especially excited about. I’m planning to get some of these right when they come out, but I’ll just have to drool over the rest for the time being. (Click the covers for the Goodreads descriptions.) 

Also, just as a note: The release dates I give are for United States publication, and I can't vouch for when these books come out in other countries. Publication dates are also subject to change (which is why I'm only giving the month for most books). 


If you read my review for ILLUMINAE, you’ll know I loved it beyond all reason, and you can bet your brass buttons that I’ll be scrambling to get my hands on a copy as soon as it comes out in October. 


FIRSTS was published in January, and I won a copy courtesy of the publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin. I’ve already read it, and I have to say, it’s very good—just definitely not something I would recommend blindly. It deals honestly and openly with some sensitive subject material, which I really appreciated. I plan to share my full opinion on it soon. 


STARS ABOVE came out in February, and I just finished reading it yesterday. While I’m sad that we’re done with the Lunar Chronicles universe (unless Meyer decides to write a spin-off series), STARS ABOVE was a great way to bring that chapter of Marissa Meyer’s writing career to a close. 


I pre-ordered A DROP OF NIGHT before it was released on March 15, and now I’m just waiting for my copy to come in the mail. I’m also trying not to die of anticipation, so we’ll see how that goes. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of Stefan Bachmann, and I’ve kept up with his work ever since I stumbled across his blog in 2012 (a few months before his first book came out). His writing style is unique, rich, and textured, like a priceless tapestry. And I’m extra excited because this is the first full book he’s published in three years. 


I have an ARC of this one, and I read it a month or so ago, but I don’t plan on reviewing it until closer to its release date in June. Basically, VINEGAR GIRL is a fun and quirky modern retelling of Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW


Okay, so I realize the hardcover copy of this came out last year, but since I own THE YOUNG ELITES in softcover (and since I like my series to match editions), I have to wait till the paperback comes out in September. While I wasn’t a massive fan of THE YOUNG ELITES, I do very much like the feel of the story, and I think it has a lot of potential. 


Two words: Marissa Meyer. ‘Nuff said. I guess HEARTLESS is about ALICE IN WONDERLAND’s the Queen of Hearts before she was evil. Also, if I’m not mistaken, I believe it’s a standalone, which is exciting because I don’t own enough standalones.  Now I just need to keep myself occupied until it comes out in November. 


While I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book, the main reason I want it in my life (aside from the gorgeous cover) is that it’s Russian fantasy, and that is my absolute favorite kind of fantasy. So, you know, this was obviously a match made in heaven. THE CROWN’S GAME comes out in May. 


I’m especially interested in this one, since the protagonist’s ten-year-old sister is a psychopath. In case I haven't mentioned it before, I have a thing for books featuring psychopaths, especially psychopathic children. So now you see why I need this book. MY SISTER ROSA is another November release. 



I read THRONE OF GLASS last year, and I haven’t had a chance to read any of the sequels yet. But I’m still excited for EMPIRE OF STORMS to come out because I want to catch up on buying and reading the series. EMPIRE OF STORMS comes out in September. 

Additionally, the paperback edition of QUEEN OF SHADOWS comes out in September, which is exciting since I'm collecting the series in paperback. 


In case you hadn’t already guessed, the title is what really grabbed me on this one.  (I'm not a huge fan of the cover, unfortunately.) KILL THE BOY BAND follows a group of fangirls who get carried away and end up kidnapping one of the members of their favorite boy band. It was released in February. 


While I’ve only read two books by Lauren Oliver, I’ve been wanting to get my hands on more of her work, and REPLICA is at the top of my priority list. REPLICA is a flip book with two versions of the same story told by separate narrators who each offer unique information essential to the plot. I’m really excited to see where that will go (although I'm slightly nervous as well). REPLICA is expected to come out in October. 

I could go on for pages and pages about the other 2016 releases I have my eyes on, but I’ll just show you the shiny covers for a few more and spare you the details. (This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I don't want to exhaust you, either.) 

Well, that’s it for today, little coffee beans. What are some 2016 releases you’re excited about? Who are some authors you follow?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How I Write Blog Posts

A while ago, Katie @ A Writer’s Faith explained her method for writing blog posts, and she encouraged other bloggers to do the same. Since her post-writing process is so different from mine, I thought it would be fun to share my own method and compare notes with other bloggers. (Imogen @ Gossiping with Dragons has done her own post on the subject, and it is hilarious. You should definitely check it out.) 

So here it is, a rough breakdown of how I write blog posts: 

Have Idea. As a general rule, I like to keep a handy-dandy list of topics on my computer so I can consult it every time I need to write a post. Occasionally I don’t find anything on that list that works for me in the moment. I’m not always in the mood to tackle old ideas, and if I’m not excited about writing something, I can’t expect you to be excited about reading it. Which means it’s back to the drawing board. 

Write Rough Draft. Either way, once I’ve decided what I’m going to write about, I have to take on the sleeping dragon—my least favorite step in the entire process. I don’t need to spend a lot of time writing the rough draft. I just have to get some of my thoughts down. Typically, I end up with several poorly-fleshed out paragraphs and a few random, unconnected sentences tacked on to the end, just enough to give me the necessary framework for editing. 

Time: All in all, this step generally takes about fifteen to twenty minutes. 

Freak Out/Reevaluate/Break. After finishing my rough draft and realizing how awful it truly is, I have a minor panic attack. At this point, I’m scared that I’ve ruined the post idea entirely and that I’ll have to come up with something new. Approximately one fourth of my first drafts never make it past this point because this is the stage where I determine how sound my post idea is, how much I have to work with, and where I see the piece going. If I’m sufficiently unhappy with it, I set it aside (with the idea that I might come back to it in the future) and start the process with a different topic. But, if I’m happy, I take a break from the rough draft to let it settle in my mind. 

Edits // Round One. After taking a good long break (if I can manage it, schedule-wise), my confidence starts to return. Sometimes I skim my rough draft before beginning edits (just to remind myself of what I’m working with), but usually I don’t even do that. From thereon in, my revision process for blog posts is almost identical to my revision process for novels. So at this stage, I rewrite the entire post—line for line, word for word—implementing all the changes I can think of along the way. During this stage, the post ends up lengthening by about 60%, which makes it way too long, so I make a mental note to worry about that later. As I rewrite everything, I flesh out my thoughts, organize them semi-strategically, and focus on saying what I want to say. I enjoy this stage of revisions the most because, during this part, my brain starts to feel like it’s actually working. This stage is also fun because, while I avoid coffee when I’m drafting a post (it only heightens my anxiety), I make sure to drink at least one cup while revising (since it helps me get in the zone and stay in the zone). 

Time: This step usually takes about one to two hours. 

Break. Even if I’m scrambling to write and edit a post on the day it’s supposed to go up (like I did with this one and this one), I make sure to take at least a thirty minute break between drafts. Ideally, I like to let each draft sit overnight, but that’s not always possible. 

Have Small Panic Attack. At this point, my deadline is getting close, and I realize I’ve procrastinated too much. I need to start working if I’m going to get my post up. 

Edits // Round Two. Here's where I get nitpicky. My post is structurally okay, but now I need to trim it down to a more readable length. I evaluate every paragraph, sentence, and word, and try to determine what’s necessary and what isn’t. About 50% of the time, I find it easier to rewrite the entire post (again), line by line, word by word (like I did with the post you’re reading right now). Because I write everything in Scrivener (I used Word before I switched to Mac), if I want something bolded or linked or italicized or you name it, I need to make a note about that in the document itself. Otherwise I’ll forget when it comes time to format everything. And I need to make sure my memos stand out so I don’t miss them and publish my post with notes like [INSERT LINK HERE] still in it. That would be awkward. 

Time: Overall, this step takes about an hour. 

Break. Once I’m confident the post is tight enough, I take another break. 

Edits // Round Three. For this phase, I read through the entire post, keeping an eye out for typos, missing words, awkward or confusing sentences, grammatical errors, messed up punctuation, repeated words, and more. This is also the stage where I forget literally everything I know about grammar and punctuation. 

Time: All told, this part take about thirty minutes. 

Break, Again. I just love taking breaks, okay. Breaks are like my favorite thing ever, along with books and pizza and Twenty One Pilots. 

Formatting. At long last, it’s time to copy and paste my post into the Blogger dashboard (or whatever it’s called). This is my second favorite step in the whole process. (Also, you might be wondering why I don’t just write the post directly in Blogger. It would make sense. But I have this minor phobia of accidentally publishing my unfinished work, so I take measures to keep that from happening. Capiche?) 

Here’s where I add pictures and check spacing and try to make sure everything looks at least halfway decent. After I’m happy with the formatting, I put it in preview mode and read the post in that window. Usually, in this pass, I notice a handful of smaller typos and punctuation issues that didn’t show up well in Scrivener, although sometimes I end up reworking large sections. For instance, in Monday’s post, I ended up deleting three entire paragraphs because I realized they just weren’t working for me. (Seriously, if you want to catch errors and problem spots you’ve grown blind to, changing the formatting helps a lot.) Once I’ve input these changes, I put the whole thing in preview mode again and do one more read-through, mostly to make sure I didn’t introduce any new errors when I was making my last round of edits. Then I muster my feeble courage, breathe a small prayer, and press the publish button. 

Time: Depending on how much formatting and editing needs to be done, this stage can take anywhere from one to three hours. 

Have Minor Meltdown. Okay, I don’t really have a meltdown, don’t worry. But I do immediately check my blog one more time, just to see that the post went up without a problem and that I didn’t miss some glaring formatting error (about 10% of the time I do actually find something that needs fixing). Then, I share my post on Twitter (if I remember to) and on my Facebook (if I feel the post is extra special). 

Wait. And then I wait and try not to check too often for comments. 

Conclusion. If I fudge the numbers a little (since I don’t keep track of my actual times and since not every post is the same), I would say the entire process takes about four to seven hours from start to finish, not counting breaks. Obviously individual posts will require different treatment on a case-by-case basis, but this list is just to give you a general idea of what I do. 

Now it's your turn, my little coffee beans. If you’re a blogger, what is your blogging method? How long does it usually take you to write and edit a post? And, since I feel like throwing in a random question, what are some of your hobbies (aside from blogging and reading)?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Delectable Collections

I’ve been posting a lot of reviews, bookish discussions, and the like lately. And while those are loads of fun to write, my brain is also eager for a break from constant story analysis. Consequently, in order to give my head a bit of a break, I’m just going to throw some bookish recommendations at you. Okay? Okay. 

Recently I got thinking about short stories and novellas and how I don't read nearly as many of them as I should. That got me thinking about the short stories and novellas that I do own and how it would be nice to fangirl over them with other people. So I'm going to talk about seven of the short story/novella collections on my bookshelves here in Virginia. (Just click the cover photos for the Goodreads descriptions.) 


I would be a little bit shocked if you have not heard of the Lunar Chronicles by now. Just as clarification, though, in case you are somehow unfamiliar with the series, STARS ABOVE is a collection of stories/novellas set in the Lunar Chronicles universe. I don’t know about you, but the series conclusion, WINTER, left me with a bookish hangover, and it’s nice to be able to step back into this fairytale world. As of the writing of this, I’m only halfway through STARS ABOVE, so I can’t give a complete and final opinion on it. But from what I’ve read so far, it’s definitely a winner. Also, can we just stop for a moment to admire the cover? I mean, I had thought WINTER’s cover was pretty spectacular, but this puts all the covers in the series to shame. Even if you never plan to read this, I still recommend buying it because it would make a great decorative piece for your house. Just saying. 


I haven’t heard many people talking about THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, a collection of short stories by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne. And this is a massive, crying shame because THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES is marvelous. While these stories aren’t Stephen-King-level scary, they do capture the odd, quirky, and mildly sinister quality of children’s fairytales, and they are a lot of fun all around. The book also contains delightfully creepy black and white illustrations, so obviously you need to read it. *nods sagely* Of course, I have to admit that I’m especially partial to Stefan Bachmann’s contributions because I am a huge fan of his other works, THE PECULIAR and THE WHATNOT (and I’ve preordered his newest book, A DROP OF NIGHT, which releases tomorrow *incoherent happy screaming*). But even if you aren’t familiar with any of these authors (or maybe especially if), this book offers a great chance to sample their writing styles and see if you might be interested in their full-length works. Plus, the cover is gorgeous, so it’s a win-win. 

(Side note: My only confusion about this book is that the supposed cover photo of the hardback edition, courtesy of Goodreads, (shown above) says “40 tales brief and sinister,” while my actual copy of that same edition clearly says “36 tales brief and sinister.” If any of you know the explanation for that, I would be immensely grateful if you shared it in the comments, because I’ve been wondering about it since before the book came out in 2013.) 


This is another book I don’t see mentioned often, which makes me infinitely sad. *weeps dramatic reader tears* All the stories in this book are so beautiful they make me want to cry (and I do NOT say that lightly). Essentially, this book is a companion to Ray Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451 (bonus points if you recognize the connection between A PLEASURE TO BURN and the first sentence in FAHRENHEIT 451). This collection includes a bunch of the short stories Bradbury wrote as he was hashing out the ideas and themes he would later cover in FAHRENHEIT 451. It also includes two preliminary drafts of FAHRENHEIT 451 that give a fascinating look into the evolution of the story (which, in case you weren’t aware, is perhaps my favorite book of all time—no big deal). Pretty much anything I say by way of recommendation is not going to do this collection justice. Bradbury is more talented at short story writing than any other writer I have encountered, and his love of literature and ideas and thought just drips off the page. Honestly, I don’t know of any other author whose works are better for getting me out of reading and writing slumps. 


I would actually be a little surprised if you haven't at least heard of this book, but, in case you haven’t read it yet, allow me to shove it in your face. *aggressively shoves book* FOUR is a collection of four novellas and three scenes from DIVERGENT, all written from Four’s point of view. 

I like this collection because I think it does what ALLEGIANT doesn’t quite manage to do. It gives us a better understand of Four/Tobias and his backstory—thus making him more sympathetic. It offers us a chance to see Tris from another point of view. And it provides us with a more detailed look into the events that took place before and during DIVERGENT. Most importantly, though, it makes Four sound more like the strong, enigmatic, troubled Four from DIVERGENT, rather than the moody, somewhat petty, frustrating Four from ALLEGIANT. (Also, in case you’re wondering why I seem to be sending mixed messages about ALLEGIANT lately, it’s because I am. And I fully intend to discuss the entire trilogy, as soon as I have space in my bookish schedule to reread it.) 

Perhaps my only complaint about this collection is that the stories didn’t feel like they were long enough and there weren’t enough of them. FOUR is only 285 pages long, and I would have been perfectly content if it had been 400 pages (but I do understand how that might have been overwhelming for the author—I’m just being cantankerous). 

*   *   *

On this note, I did want to stop briefly to discuss something. (Sorry brain, I guess I’m not giving you a break after all.) Not everyone is interested in companion collections like STARS ABOVE, A PLEASURE TO BURN, and FOUR. Some people get very upset when authors don’t just finish a series/standaone and then move on. They complain that the companion stories never add much to the narrative and that it would have been better if they’d never been written. People accuse the authors of doing this for money, or deride them for being unable to write new, fresh stuff. 

But in doing so, they ignore some of the bigger reasons why authors might write companion collections. For instance, as I mentioned briefly, A PLEASURE TO BURN was all written before FAHRENHEIT 451, which means FAHRENHEIT 451 wouldn’t exist without it. It is especially valuable to fans of the beloved classic because it shows how the story developed in the author’s genius brain. As for FOUR, I would argue that it is valuable because Veronica Roth initially began writing DIVERGENT in Four’s viewpoint, and I like that she gets a chance to give a tip of the hat to her original drafts. I also like getting the chance to see what DIVERGENT might have looked like had she decided to keep Four as the main character. And STARS ABOVE fills in some of the gaps between CINDER, SCARLET, CRESS, FAIREST, and WINTER, and even offers us an epilogue to the entire series. So I would argue that none of these collections are pointless or extraneous. 

They give the authors a chance to share with us more than they were able to include in the actual series or standalone itself, and they give us a chance to honor the author’s desire to do just that. On top of that, postpartum depression is a legitimate concern, and if a collection like this can help the author part with the storyworld they have spent years developing, in a way that is less traumatic for them, then I say the collection is definitely worth it. 

Ultimately, if you don’t like companion collections and if you feel they don’t add anything to the reading experience, well, you aren’t required to read them. But I will always be eager to gobble them up and come back for more. And I know I’m not the only one. So there. 

*   *   *


Maybe you thought you could get away without hearing me talk more about Ray Bradbury today, but if you assumed that, you were wrong. And in case you weren’t aware of my mild Ray Bradbury obsession, well, now you are. This. Collection. Is. A;sdlfajsdl;fjasd;flasdf Translation: It’s too beautiful for words. All of the stories are marvelous and deep and thoughtful, tangible and powerful and unique (insert a hundred more glowing adjectives here). They convey the beauty and tragedy of scientific and cultural progress, and they give us a wonderful window into Bradbury’s gorgeous mind. His writing is probably the most poetic prose I’ve ever read, so I highly recommend that you try this book before I get on my knees and make a fool of myself begging you to. Because I totally will. 


Once more, in case you thought I was done touting Ray Bradbury’s writing, you were mistaken. But, fortunately for you, you will be saved the glowing praise on this one because I haven’t actually read THE ILLUSTRATED MAN yet. My understanding is that there is some crossover between the stories in this one and the stories in A PLEASURE TO BURN and A SOUND OF THUNDER, but I also see a lot of titles that I don’t recognize in the table of contents, so I’m looking forward to reading them. Like I’ve said before, Ray Bradbury is my writing hero and, at this point, I seriously doubt I could ever be disappointed with something he’s written. I just don’t think it would be possible. 

Aside from the fact that my edition isn’t nearly as attractive as the cover I posted above, the only reason why I haven’t read this one yet is that, since Ray Bradbury passed away in 2012, there are no new stories and books coming from him anymore (I know, strange how that works). And it’s a little bit sad to think that I will eventually run out of new Ray Bradbury material. Which is why I’m trying to take it slowly. (That being said, I do plan to tackle THE ILLUSTRATED MAN this year, as well as two of his full-length novels, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES and DANDELION WINE.) 


While I have read most, if not all, of GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES, it’s been a long time, and I’m looking forward to a refresher course. (I won this collection from Ashley’s lovely blogversary giveaway when I won STARS ABOVE. Thanks again, Ashley!) I’m especially excited about this edition because it is beautiful. Along with the attractive cover and endpapers, it has a built-in ribbon bookmark and gorgeous illustrations. If every book on earth were as beautiful as this one, I’m fairly certain I would die of happiness. So if you’re interested in brushing up on or acquainting yourself with GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES, I highly recommend this edition. 

Well, that’s it for today, little coffee beans. Do you like short stories? What do you think about companion collections? Have you reading anything by Stefan Bachmann? Do you like Ray Bradbury’s writing? (The answer is yes.) What are some short story/novella collections you’re excited about? Any recommendations?