The Book Blogging Pressure to Review Books: A Discussion

At the very end of 2021, I published a post where I talked about 4 book-related resolutions that I had for the new year. One of those resolutions was to only write book reviews when I felt like it, and not force myself to review every or most books that I read. I ended up getting quite a few comments from people saying how they, too, felt pressured at times to review books, so I thought I’d write a discussion post about it!

So first of all, why do book bloggers, or people on other bookish media, feel pressured to review books? There’s quite a few different answers to this, and you can tell me your own reason below in the comments, but I think the answer is that we have the platform, and we feel like a lot of times, that’s what the platform should be used for. If we have book blogs, I mean that’s what the blog is for, right? So it feels like something that, as a book blogger, we’re obligated to do.
There are also times when we feel pressured because of how the platform is formatted. For example, on goodreads, as soon as you mark a book as read, it drops down a giant box asking you to review it, a box that takes up the whole page. It’s right there so it does make you feel pressured to review it.
And of course, there’s the idea of social media popularity. If you review a book (most specifically on goodreads in this case; I’m not very familiar with any other book platforms other than goodreads and blogging) you’re more likely to get likes on goodreads than if you simply rate a book. You’re putting your actual thoughts down, not just a simple out-of-five star rating.

For me, I used to feel pressured to review books because I thought I should show people what I actually think once I finished a book. It was definitely some of ‘you have a platform so use it’ and a little bit of the idea that I might get more likes if I review it. But here’s the thing: I did not like writing these long reviews on all the books. I just didn’t have that many thoughts on these books. Sure, I enjoyed them, but most of the books I read aren’t mind-bendingly good, in my opinion, or rant-ably bad. They’re just good books, but for books that are in the middle like that, I just don’t have enough things to say. And when I felt so pressured to write these reviews, I began to almost dread them. I would put off marking books as read on goodreads because I didn’t want to have to review them, and so my goodreads shelves just got all disorganized and stuff. And maybe that’s a small, silly thing – who cares what my goodreads shelves looked like? – it was also a small, silly reason to be putting off as simple a thing as marking a book as read.

So I want to ask you: why do you read? Do you read because of the popularity that comes from reviews? Do you read because you have a platform so you feel like you should be reading? First of all, if that’s the case, please try to find something that you actually enjoy reading and don’t read just for others. But my real point is, we read because we enjoy books. Because we love the stories that they provide, and the reason that we have book blogs, or other bookish media is so we can share that love with the world. But sharing what you love about a book should not come at the expense of your enjoyment of said books. Your blog is your own, and you should post what you want. Though book blogs have many uses, above all, they’re a place to show your love of books, not to advertise all the books you read because you think you’re obligated to. Reviewing a book is essentially free advertisement for an author (well, either that or you’re telling people to stay away if you didn’t like it) and no one’s making you do it! You are doing a favor by reviewing books and it is 100% your choice.

Now, what about ARCs? The main point of ARCs is, of course, to read and then review them, in order to get the news out about this new book, and get the hype up. And it is a privilege to be able to read a book before it is published and offer one of the very first glimpses into a book that anyone’s going to get. So I’m going to say a few things. First of all, obviously if you enjoy reviewing books and are just never tired of writing reviews, go ahead. I don’t know if I had to say that. But second of all, if writing reviews is sometimes a task for you, only request the ARCs that you are really, truly excited for. The anticipated releases that you’ve been following since they were first announced, the authors who you’ve loved since their debut. Often, we can get too swept up in the chance to read these totally new books and go on requesting sprees and end up with a whole bunch of books to read and review. So please – only request books that you really want to read and review. It’s a bit of a disservice to the author and publisher, when you are unable to review books.
The above being said – still put your mental wellbeing and reading enjoyment above anything else. If you are truly dreading reviewing an ARC, you just can’t get around to it and it’s putting you into a slump and making you unhappy…just don’t. While the point I made before this one was a preventative measure, this one is a more final measure. At the end of the day, it’s still your choice, and you should do what you really do think is best for yourself.

Personally, I’ve stopped requesting ARCs at all these days. It is true that at times I get jealous seeing people having read a book that I’m so excited for earlier than me, while I have to wait, but I find the pressure to review the ARC too be too much; in fact, I find it to be even more so than when reading a book that isn’t an ARC, because I just have this idea in my head that I have to review the book all through the time that I’m reading it, and that’s not fun.

All of this being said, am I telling you to stay away from reviewing books at all? Of course not. Even I still review most of the books on goodreads – but my reviews are just a sentence or two, simply my base thoughts on the book that I’m reading. When I really want to talk about a book, I’ll write a book review about it on my blog, because putting all my thoughts into goodreads is still exhausting and not something I enjoy (it’s true I don’t write many book reviews on my blog; I’m trying to get better about that, and writing a few more when I enjoy a book and want to talk about it).

I guess my final advice to you, and the main point I’m trying to get across with this post, is that it’s still your blog, and your goodreads account, no matter what, and you get to control how much or how little you put on there, what you put on there, etc. And overall, reading should be enjoyable for you. Reviewing books, while a big part of the book community, should feel like something you want to do to share your thoughts about the book you just enjoyed, and not ever a chore that you have to complete.

Do you enjoy reviewing books? Do you feel the pressure to review books because of your platform? How often do you write reviews?

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Welcome 2022: Reading Plans for the Year

It’s now been 2022 for a few days now, and I wanted to do a post on a few books I wanted to read, goals I have, and more for 2022! This post is basically just miscellaneous beginning-of-year things, but I figured I may as well write it. Let’s get into it!

The Goodreads Reading Challenge

I started doing the Goodreads reading challenge in 2020 for the first time, when I actually started using Goodreads more. Personally, I don’t actually pay much attention to this throughout the year; it’s just something for me to keep in the corner of my brain. I have, for the past two years, set my goal to 100 books, and though I surpassed that goal easily both times, I’m going to keep it at 100 this year, too. First of all 100 is just a nice round number and I like it, but second of all because we were in a pandemic and in quarantine for the last two years, and though the quarantine was not fun, it did allow me a lot more time for reading. Since in person school has started this year, I’ve had much less time for reading, so I actually think that 100 books is a very reasonable goal for me right now.

Books I want to read in 2022

Last year, I published a post where I named 21 books that I wanted to read in 2021. It was a pretty interesting post, with a lot of great books on there, but I’ve decided not to do that again for two reasons. First of all, I only actually ended up reading 10 of the books on that list. I am absolutely terrible at sticking to TBRs, and the fact that I had an entire 365 days to read 21 books (especially given that in all, I read 157 books in 2021) really proves that. The other reason that I didn’t want to do this list again is because I think that it mostly ended up being a lot of books that are popular and/or very hyped, and so it was more books that I felt like I SHOULD read, but not books that I necessarily wanted to read. Obviously, there are a lot of books that I do want to read, out there, but I’m just awful at thinking of them off the top of my head, and more often than not, the books that I want to read are ones that I see somewhere and then immediately go off to request from the library.
So, instead of writing an entire post about the books I want to read, I just thought I’d share a few books that I’m really excited to pick up. Not any fixed number, just however many books there ends up being.

  • What We Devour by Linsey Miller. This one, I honestly just want to read because of the ace rep, which I’m super excited for! Unfortunately, I’ve seen some less than glowing reviews about this book, so we’ll see what I think.
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab. This is a book that it seems like everyone knows about by now, because it was all the hype last year. I finally got this one for Christmas this year, so I’m excited to read it!
  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo. Another one that people seem to love! And I’m really interested in this; I don’t read much historical fiction, but I find that I really enjoy it, so I hope this one’s great, too!
  • Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. Honestly, that goodreads summary covers so much, I don’t really know where to start. But I’m excited for the indigenous rep, and it sounds like a great mystery as well!
  • Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. I’ve seen this one EVERYWHERE, and I’m super excited for it, I can’t wait to pick it up!

Anticipated Releases

I do not pay as close attention to upcoming releases as a lot of other people do, so this is going to be another pretty short list, but there are several upcoming releases that I’m very excited for, so I thought I’d share them here, as well!
(By the way, I’d highly suggest you go check out the post that May @Forever and Everly did on upcoming releases, it’s a much more comprehensive list than mine!)

  • Fire Becomes Her by Rosiee Thor. Rosiee Thor is an author that I’ve followed for a while now, and I’ve talked to her a bit as well, and I am SO excited for her second book! I mean, people say it has a 1920’s vibe, plus there’s magic (that you drink, if I remember correctly?) and overtaking the rich, so…what more could you need? (oh plus it’s queer, very very queer)
  • Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie. I’ve heard about this book so much that I’m honestly surprised it’s not already published? It’s a debut book about a girl who starts to question her sexuality and I’ve read many reviews already that say it’s wonderful, so I really cannot wait for this one.
  • Loveless by Alice Oseman. Technically Loveless is already published in some places, but it comes out in the US on March 1 (though the release date has been pushed back several times so who knows if this is true). And I am SO EXCITED to finally hold this wonderful book in my hands!!! (by the way – thoughts on the US cover? I’m really not sure what to think).
  • Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, by Meg Long. I actually don’t know very much about this book, but it sounds really interesting and unique. Plus, dogsledding! We don’t see that in books very often!
  • Icebreaker by AL Graziadei. Queer sports will ALWAYS be something for me to be excited for, and I’m especially excited for this one because it’s about professional sports, and there are very few out people in professional sports (in men’s professional sports)
  • Aces Wild by Amanda DeWitt (no cover yet). This book has an entire cast of asexual characters. Plus, it’s a heist book, and the main character is described as ‘modern asexual Kaz Brekker.’ What more could I need?
  • Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix by Anna-Marie McLemore (no cover yet). I am SO excited about this book, because I read Gatsby earlier this (school) year and have been trying to get my hands on Gatsby retellings now (of which there are very few). And this one has transgender Nick AND transgender Gatsby.

What’s your goodreads reading challenge goal? Have you read any of the books I want to read this year? What are some releases that you’re looking forwards to?

Spoilers! A discussion

Don’t let that title fool you! I’m not giving you any spoilers in this post (well, aside from spoilers on how to avoid spoilers–if you don’t want to know how to avoid spoilers in books, turn back now!!!)
Anyways, hey everyone I’m back again because after not posting for 1.5 weeks I’m now posting a whole bunch!
Once again, I’m here with a discussion post that April @Booked Till Midnight and I collaborated on (you can find our discussion post on retellings here and here!). We’ll each post half the discussion on our blogs, just like last time, and I’m super excited to share this post that we’ve put together all about spoilers! You do not necessarily have to read both parts of the post in order to understand either one but please head on over and check out April’s post anyways because over there you’ll find even more ideas about spoilers! You can find her post here.
Let’s jump right into it!

How do you avoid spoilers?

Phoenix: Well, as we will talk about/have talked about (go check out April’s post for more details!), you can avoid goodreads summaries. 

April: Ugh Goodreads summaries are the bane of my existence. Not to be dramatic or anything.

Phoenix: Some other things that you can do are avoid talking to people who are obsessed with the book (and I’m sure they will be EXTREMELY annoyed about that), and DEFINITELY don’t tell people what part you’re at, unless you want the ‘oooh, are you at this part? (proceeds to give a spoiler because you are not, in fact, at that part yet)’

Be careful with the reviews you read before you read the book. Sometimes, it can be good to read reviews to see some different opinions on the book before you start it, but there are times when review writers can leave spoilers that they don’t mean to, or that they don’t realize are spoilers.

April: *shutters* Reading that entire spoiler-minefield of a paragraph hurt my heart a little bit. The flashbacks to the gut-wrenching spoilers I have seen *shutters again*

Twitter is where I have been spoiled the most. I mean bookish social media in general is always dicey, especially when it comes to a popular book, but Twitter especially has been far to spoil-y to me in the past.
Most recently with Rule of Wolves. I literally don’t know why or how, but people were posting spoilers before the book even released. Like, what?!?!  I was in the middle of my Grishaverse read, cause the show and everything, and the absolute pain— y’all I can even. It hurt my very being. Spoiler warnings are your friends, kindly use them.

Will getting spoiled cause you to not read a book?

I will almost certainly still read a book even if I’ve been spoiled for it (once I finish groveling in the painto my soul). If anything, it makes me more curious because now I know this thing–how can I walk away from this book now? Of course, this does not mean that I WANT to be spoiled for a book. Also, if I’m spoiled for a book I have no intention of reading, I won’t pick it up. As long as my will to finish the book is greater than the soul-crushing nature of the spoilers, I’m a go.

What are the effects of spoilers?

If I am spoiled for a book, I will probably spend most of the book looking towards that thing. This sometimes hurts my enjoyment of the rest of the book, given that I’m searching for this part and might not pay as much attention to the other parts of the book. Spoilers give expectations, for the lack of a better word, that definitely affect enjoyment of the book. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. I will say that if you sit on the edge of your seat the entire time waiting, waiting, building up hope, dreams, and expectations the chances of letdown of HIGH. 
Also, procrastination. I will probably put off reading the book a bit longer too just because I know things and that element of surprise of hold the phone, WHAT?? is gone.

What else counts as a spoiler?

Lists are my best friend. May I present to you Two More Things That Are Spoilers, But I Don’t Know Where To Include Them So Here Is a List… 

  • Death will always be a spoiler for me. 
  • Knowledge of painful endings will always be a spoiler for me 

I also think that little hints about things that the MC figures out throughout the book are spoilers. Sometimes I see them in goodreads synopses and THAT is something that really annoys me. My best example would have to be in Not Your Sidekick, a superhero story. In the summary, it says something (in spoilers below) that isn’t actually acknowledged until about 200 pages in the book and it’s a really big hint.

The thing it says:

the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby.

And that’s it for this post! If you need another reminder: please go check out April’s half of this post to read even more on spoilers. What’d you think of this post? What do you think are and aren’t spoilers? Please, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!
As always, stay safe and keep on reading!