As stated in my post about the lack of time I have been in a very busy phase in my life the past few months and still am. I am juggling married life, social life, work life and my passion for reading/reviewing and TV. And to be honest I’m not doing a very good job of it in my own eyes. The post mentioned above, some hefty and emotional discussions over the past weeks with hubby and finally a good talk with fellow booklover and friend Leontine, have made me stop, think and assess what I am doing and why I am trying to do it all and have it all.
Over the passed months the fun of reading has been slipping away in small doses. Reading slumps were coming more frequently than the usual once a year little slump I used to have. And I have also experienced some serious reviewing slumps (am in one again as we speak). There are reading challenges I’ve put myself up to. There is the ever-growing TBR pile which has become Mount TBR in my eyes, an insurmountable mountain of which I will never reach the top because I just keep buying and buying books I will need at least 5 lifetimes to read. Combine this my reviewing for ROOB, which I absolutely love to do (do not get me wrong on that!) reading is becoming kind of a chore. And the way I do things, I am a real ALL or NOTHING kinda person, the fun of it was beginning to disappear. And I want reading to be fun and not a chore or an obligation hanging over my head like Damocles’ sword. In order to bring the fun back, steps need to be taken. I must say that this self reflection has been brutal and confrontational. I don’t like to deal with confrontations, not even when I am the one confronting myself and avoid them as much as I can, but sometimes it must be done and decisions and changes must be made. The decisions I have made are not as final as to stop with my blog or to stop with my reading and reviewing because I have too much fun doing these things and they are very helpful in keeping my sanity when “real life” beats the crap out of me. Nonetheless, some pretty drastic changes are coming in the foreseeable future.
The first change has been in the making for a while now. As some might know (if you follow my presence on Twitter) I am in the process of doing a make-over of my blog. This was not inspired by the self-reflection by the way, it is a recurring phase I go through periodically (been blogging since 2004, book blogging since 2007). Sometimes this phase is after 6 months, sometimes after a year, sometimes after 2 years but there comes a point when I am fed up with the colors, header and lay-out of my blog and I go for a change. Well, I hit that bump again a few months ago. Wanting change, something else, a fresh wind, something new and unique. Since then own domains, websites from scratch, WordPress, Blogger pre-made templates and even considering hiring someone to make a custom template are all options that came up but failed to mold to my wants and needs. A lot of frustration ensued that literally made my head hurt and when I was about to give up, I found a pre-made Blogger template that, with a little online help, fits my needs perfectly. When the newly formatted blog is up, props will be duely given to the one who made this template.
At the moment I am doing the conversion to the new template, which is a time-consuming process and I am afraid to say when the made-over blog will be launched, but rest assured that it IS coming, and hopefully within a few weeks, but it would be safer to think in months…
Linked to the first change (blog make-over) is a change in my reading and reviewing. A question in the interview I did for Heather Long’s Blog made me stop and think and set the spark for this change. The question was:
When you read, do you find yourself mentally writing a review or does that process begin after you’ve finished the story?
When I was answering this question it dawned on me (I am sometimes a bit dense, I know) that when reading I AM mentally writing the review or at least part of it. I read books with reviewing them in mind, making notes, marking quotes. Even when not reading the book I am busy thinking of what I can use in my review, hearing things on TV, movies, radio and from people and thinking: Oh I could use that in a review. It’s becoming almost obsessive (who am I kidding?…it already is obsessive!) and I am not liking that. This has prompted me to review my own reading and reviewing habits and I decided it has to change!
Don’t worry! I am not going to stop reviewing books, I am just going to do it differently and I’m going to allow myself to not review EVERY book I read. The books I do review aren’t all going to get the extensive reviews I am used to making. I have decided I want to read for fun and relaxation and enjoy reading, instead of analyzing a book to pieces because I must review it. This is going to be hard, because I am a creature of habit, as most human beings are, and breaking some of my habits have proven to be very, very hard. Of course my opinion of the books I read will still be voiced only in a less extensive and for me less pressing manner. I will be doing mini-review round-ups of books read in a certain period of time, so there will be short impressions/reviews of multiple books in one review-blogpost. Occasionally longer and more extensive reviews will appear, naturally for the ARCs and requests read for ROOB and the occasional ARCs and requests for my own blog. I also know there will always be books that drive my fingers to the keyboard and they start typing away effortlessly, which will lead automatically to writing “full” reviews and I will welcome those moments. But no more forcing myself to write extensive reviews. Maybe that way I can bring the joy of reading back for myself!
Linked to this second change is the rating system I use on this blog. I started out using the star rating system from ROOB, after a while I somewhat modified the descriptions and added flames for the heat level in books but I never was comfortable with either the stars or the flames. I have been debating for a while what to do with the rating. First I thought to completely get rid of any rating but that isn’t it either for me. I still want to rate a book so comparison can be made between books without having to read an entire review. So I decided I wanted a different rating system since the stars aren’t working for me that well anymore. I contemplated the popular A-F/DNF rating I see a lot around blogland, contemplated 1-10 rating I also frequently encounter but ultimately I have decided to use the 0-100 rating because it gives me more and plenty of room for nuance between different book ratings than stars, A-F and 1-10 do. Following the change in rating I have also decided to drop the heat level rating (flames) I use now. Same as with the stars they are not working for me the way I intended them to. And thirdly I am not giving descriptions for the ratings given. With a range from 0 to 100 I assume the numbers will speak for themselves as to show how much I liked or didn’t like a book.
The fourth change, and this is one is going to be the hardest, has to do with my book-buying addiction. I buy too many books, really. I kid you not. For every book I read I buy at least 3 or 4 new ones. I have a TBR pile which I have started calling Mount TBR of over 800 books!! Take into account that I read on average about 4-8 books a month….well you can do the math…This has to stop. I have to stop. I was well on my way to lessen the amount of books bought by not starting with new authors but since Twitter that resolution has been thoroughly flushed down the drain. Tweeting with other booklovers and authors is THE way to discover new books that just beg me to buy and read them. But I am going to have to be strong and wield some major will power on this. I have to stop buying new books because someone else has bought and read them and is raving about it. But more importantly I need to stop glomming! When I buy one book by a certain author I have this compelling need to buy their entire backlist, if possible and all new releases by that author, the moment they hit the stores, even without having read a single word by that author! And believe me I have tried not to do this but have failed profoundly and miserably. But I am determined now. As I said, this has to stop. I will need a few more lifetimes to read all the books I already have and that is hoping I’ll live to get very, very old!!
In order to tamp down the book-buying frenzy the first thing I decided, is to cut down the genres (to a certain extent) I buy. I have always said that I am a waste basket when it comes to reading. You can put almost anything in front of me and I’ll read it. This is still true but over the almost 3 years I’ve been reading English romance fiction I have developed certain and clear preferences. When I read solely in Dutch I already had a preference for chicklit, contemporary, thrillers and historical. When I switched reading in English, paranormal romance, romantic suspense and erotic romance were added to the mix and you can imagine how much money I spend, keeping up with all the books I want to read in all these genres, not to mention new voices (authors) coming out of the woodworks practically every month to add to the pile.
Since I have started reading in English I have read 300+ books and from those I have discovered what I like a lot and what I like a bit less and it comes down to liking contemporay romance (including erotic), (romantic) suspense/thrillers/mysteries the best. So I have decided to focus on these genres with both my reading and buying. However, this doesn’t mean that paranormal, historical or (urban) fantasy romance will not be bought/read any longer. Are you kidding me? I have series on the shelves in those genres that must be either read or finished and couldn’t even think not to do that! But still focus will be on contemporary and suspense.
The second thing I am going to try in making Mt. TBR a bit smaller is I am going to review my bookshelves with an extremely critical eye again (yes I have done this before) and purge all the series I have this “meh” feeling about after I bought them AND series that I know aren’t going to be read in this lifetime because there are always other books that are screaming louder to be read and these books just stay on the shelves, unread, taking up space. And I have discovered that once an author has been purged from the shelves, the compulsion to buy said author’s new releases also disappears. So for me it is the only way to reduce the buying.
If I could donate these books to charity, for example Maya Rodale’s SHARE THE LOVE initiative, I would, but sending books in bulk to the US is something I truly cannot afford at the moment. So I will try and sell the books second-hand as much as I can, and probably do some giveaways on the blog. That way I can make sure the books go to a place where they won’t just sit idly on the shelves but will be read and treasured in a better way than I have been able to do. And I will raise a bit of money for the “Get Pearl to an RT or RWA Convention Someday”-fund. This way I hope to get Mt. TBR to a reasonable size and to control my book-buying frenzies. That’s not to say I won’t try out new authors when the gut-feeling makes itself known, but it won’t be in the amounts it has been and is at the moment.
And with all these changes I hope my enjoyment in reading and blogging and consequently life in general will return and I will be able to remain the happy reader, reviewer and person I have always been. So stay tuned for the new and improved look and layout, the mini-reviews, the new rating system, the giveaways of the purged books and the lessening of Mt. TBR. All coming soon to this blog.