• Reading Life

    How to Read More Books This Year

    *Hello! In this article, I discuss the strategies I use that help me read more books every month. I hope these tips help you meet your reading goals this year.

    Hello! Let's discuss the strategies I use that help me read more books every month. I hope these tips help you meet your reading goals this year.ο»Ώ

    How I read more books.

    We all want to read more, but to do that we have to make more time to read. Setting that lofty Goodreads goal isn’t going to get you anywhere unless you are willing to say no to other things and pick up a book instead.

    Getting, and keeping, my motivation to read is something that comes “relatively” easy for me. It helps to have constant reminders. Every time I look at my bookshelves I see all of the books I have yet to read. As it happens, I look at my bookshelves a lot. They are conveniently in our living room underneath the TV. And every time I glance in that direction I pick out more books that I want to get to this year.

    I also get a lot of motivation from making a monthly TBR. (That’s “To Be Read” for anyone who doesn’t know.) Once I decide what books I want to read, I get serious about checking them off the list throughout the month. As of right now, I’ve read half of the books on my TBR for the month and it’s only the 14th.

    It has also helped me to have a goal. I have a yearly goal on my Goodreads(let’s be friends!) and a monthly goal to read 10 books. One thing that motivates me is to be bored. I’m the kind of person that will read almost anything with words on it. Yep, I was the kid that read the nutrition facts and ingredients on the cereal box because it was something to read. So, when I find that I’m wandering around the house or bored with my current activity, it’s time to pick up a book.

    I did a quick bit of research into my screen usage, targeting #bookstagram specifically.

    Because I have an iPhone, I know exactly how much time I was spending on Instagram. It was too much and eye opening enough that I ranted about it in this post. Once I put a limit on my Instagram time, things changed dramatically.

    It’s funny because now I hardly check my Instagram. I only allow myself 1 hour per day. Yes, that’s right, one hour in a 24 hour period is allocated to Instagram. Mindless scrolling is a thing of the past because I don’t have time to do that and actual important things on there. You know, like posting, replying to comments and DMs, that kind of thing. There’s not enough time in 60 minutes to do both.

    This simple thing has really increased my reading time. Last week I was able to read 4 books in seven days. Normally it would take me seven days to read 1 book.

    Further field results.

    My husband took this a step further and deleted Instagram and all of the games off his phone. He’s discovered that he now has lots of time to read. And, just for context, he works around 60 hours a week, so don’t go using your job as an excuse not to read.

    There are a few other things that I choose not to do like watch tv, Netflix, or movies. It’s not that I don’t enjoy those things. (Have you seen The Umbrella Academy on Netflix??) I would rather be reading, so it’s easy for me to say no to that stuff.

    There is one more thing I cut down on to create more reading time, and that is online browsing. This is one of my weak points and it’s so easy to get sucked into it. A solution I have found is to write in my bullet journal what I want to look up so that I can do it later. That way, if I remember I need to order diapers off Amazon when I’m reading, I can jot it down and do it later. It’s a great solution to a constant problem. If you don’t bullet journal, use a notepad or sticky notes to jot down what you need to remember later.

    What are some of the things you have tried to get more reading done and to stay motivated to read when Netflix is calling your name? Let me know in the coments!

    Happy reading,

    Alicen

    P.S. Catch my March 2019 TBR here!

    P.P.S. A book I recently finished is Crown of Feathers and a book I just started is The Song Rising.

  • Reading Life

    February 2019 Book Chat + Annotating Books

    *Hi! πŸ€—Welcome to what is soon to become a traditional monthly post on TCS. In these book chats I talk about all the great bookish things I’m loving in my life right now.

    Annotating books, book rating system, bookish things I love.

    New book rating system.

    I’ve been experimenting a lot with book rating systems because I’m trying to find a system that will work perfectly for me. The thing I’m loving about this is that I can customize it to my specific preferences.

    *A while ago I wrote in a blog post about my book rating system and I have since then changed it. You can find that blog post here.

    I first started using a system to rate my books when I found this video by @book_roast on YouTube and I followed this system to a “T”. I soon found that it was too strict for me. The books I was reading weren’t getting a rating that reflected how I really felt about them. So I adjusted it to the system I mentioned in my blog post above.

    That system was better, but not perfect. I most recently found this video by Amanda on YouTube that is based on @book_roast’s system but it’s much less strict and has fewer categories, which is a lifesaver.

    Currently, my system is to rate a book by five categories with a 1-10 scale, 1 being horrid and 10 being unbelievably amazing. I then add up the 5 scores, divide them by five and assign them a star rating based on that number. It’s much simpler than @book_roast’s original method and I don’t feel like I’m being redundant when I write my book reviews.

    *Note: you can pick whatever categories you want to rate books by. I rate character, world, plot, writing style, and enjoyment. I also assign the 1-10 scale emotions. 1 being “absolute trash, I hated it.” 10 being, “I’m dead”.

    Annotating books.

    Another thing I’m starting to delve into is annotating books. I found this video by @littlebookowl to be extremely helpful in explaining what annotating is and her specific method for doing it.

    For a long time I have felt that I’m not very good at talking about books and I know that annotating has been the missing link for me.

    I have yet to start annotating books, but I did use her index card method in the last book I read and it was extremely helpful. One modification I’m going to make is to create character cards. Creating character cards will really help me determine what it is about the characters makes me like them or hate them. Which is usually the determining factor in me liking the book or not.

    Things that are saving my life.

    *When I say, “saving my life” I don’t mean in a literal sense. I just mean that these things have been immensely helpful or they just make me a little bit happier than I was before.

    The Libby app.

    I don’t know about you, but the Libby app, which is the new version of Overdrive, has been really great. There are a lot of titles that can be borrowed without being on a holds list. I really like it for mega thick fantasy books that have teeny tiny type. With Libby, you can make the text bigger so you don’t have to strain your eyes to read those itty bitty words.

    Always Fully Booked Planner

    Another thing I’m absolutely loving is the Always Fully Booked planner by Little Inklings Design. Megan is absolutely the sweetest person on the planet and her planner is a book lover’s dream. Unfortunately, the 2019 planners are sold out.

    I know, why am I telling you this? If it’s sold out what’s the point. Well, my dear friend, the point is for you to go bookmark her website, sign up for her email list and then when she announces the 2020 planner in the fall, you can go ahead and order. Your future self will thank you. Oh, and also check out her other products! She has bookmarks, stickers, prints, and mugs.

    Drawing boxes in my reading journal.

    Ok, why is this saving my life? I have started drawing boxes around my book reviews in my reading journal and it has been life changing.

    The thing is, I love my reading journal (and my bullet journal for that matter) but I can’t stand rows and rows of messy jumbled up handwriting. I think it’s ugly and it makes me cringe every time I see it. So I started outlining my pages and it has made a world of difference. All I needed to do was give my words some boundaries and my brain is happy. πŸ˜ƒ

    reading journal, book reviews, annotating books

    Things I love.

    Owlcrate and LitJoy Crate.

    These two book subscription boxes are some of the best things I do to treat myself. I know it’s a risk to buy these kinds of boxes because you don’t know what you are going to get, but the surprise is half the fun for me. It’s also really nice to get a newly released book each month. Most of the time I can guess what the book is, but that just helps me make sure I don’t go out and buy it myself.

    You can sign up for Owlcrate here and LitJoy Crate here.

    Five star reads.

    Last, but not least here are the last few books I read that scored 5 stars from me.

    Out of the three The Mime Order was my favorite one.

    That’s all from me today!

    I hope you found the videos on book rating and annotating helpful and fun!

    Happy Reading,

    Alicen β˜•οΈ

    P.S. Do you feel like your bookshelves could use some TLC? I wrote a blog post all about decluttering your books. You can find it here.

  • Reading Life

    How to Get Organized Bookshelves

    *Book lovers LOVE to organize their books. I can’t tell you how many times I organize my books per month. It’s something I’ve been doing a lot lately as I add new books to my collection. Since I’ve been doing it so much, I’ve got a really good system going for myself. Read on to see how I keep my bookshelves organized.

    Need ideas to keep your bookshelves organized? Follow my tips so that you can always find your next read. And have nice looking bookshelves.

    Bookshelf Organization: Yes or No?

    Are you the kind of person that likes to have your books really organized on your shelves? Or will you just stick them anywhere there’s room. If you’re the second person, I get you. I used to just stick my books wherever I could find space for them.

    Now that I’m older, and take a little more pride in my bookshelves, I give them a lot more attention and care.

    Organizing your bookshelves is a very personal matter. It all depends on shelf space, the number of books you own, and how you want to display them. I personally like to have extra space on my shelves so that I can face some of my favorite books out where everyone can see them.

    I have separate shelves for my fantasy, historical fiction, and nonfiction books. Not shockingly I have 2/3 more fantasy books than anything else.

    But I also like to have my shelves pretty organized. I first sort them by genre, then author, then series, and finally size.

    Once I get them sorted by genre I sort my books by author. After that I sort those books into their respective series.

    The last way I sort my books might seem a little odd to you. Size? Who sorts their books by size? I sort them by size because it is aesthetically pleasing to my eye to have the books all the same height or to ascend or descend by height on a shelf. I’m really not sure why this is a big deal for me. It never used to bug me.

    Does this little quirk make organizing my bookshelves a little harder? Yes, yes it does. But are my eyes happy? Yes they are.

    Other ways to get organized bookshelves

    Some people are particularly talented at organizing their books by color. I am not that kind of person. And a lot of my books are dark so when I tried this I had mostly black bookshelves. I also could not stand that my series were out of order. I’m sorry but, Eragon must go next to Eldest. They are book brothers and they belong together.

    Other people like the look of their books without the jackets on them. I couldn’t handle that either. My books looked foreign to me instead of the old friends I was used to. Another trick I have to make my shelves look nice, is to keep the books in a series in the same format. So either all hardcover or all softcover. I also do my best to keep them all with the same cover art. I know a lot of books and series get new covers every so often. It would bother me to no end if I had some books in the original covers and some in the new covers.

    A lot of this stuff is totally up to your preference. My goal is to give you some ideas to get your own system started and to keep your bookshelves organized and looking good.

    I hope these tips were helpful. If anything use them as a guide and tweak the system until you find something that works just right for you.

    Happy Reading,

    Alicen

    P.S. Another way I keep my bookshelves clean is by doing periodic book unhauls. You can read about my system for that here.

  • Reading Life

    How to Konmari Your Bookshelves

    *Do you ever feel like you have too many books? I know, I know. How can a book lover have too many books? Well, we can, and here’s what to do about it.

    How to Konmari Your Bookshelves. Do you ever feel like you have too many books? I know, I know. How can a book lover have too many books? Well, we can. Here's the simple method I use to Konmari my books. It doesn't take much effort, but it will spark joy every time you see books you love on your shelves.

    What do we do with all of these books?

    With Konmari picking up steam again, it feels like we’ve all got the decluttering bug. It also doesn’t help that it’s a new year and we all want some change, right? I did the whole Konmari thing about two years ago, and I’m still reaping the benefits from it.

    If you are wondering, yes, I did Konmari my books. And it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. I had so many books. More than I could, or would, read anytime soon. So I got rid of most of my books. I only kept the ones I really treasured or that I honestly thought I would read in the next year.

    Konmari and Books

    I took my book collection, which took up an entire wall, and narrowed it down to one 5 shelf bookshelf. They didn’t all fit properly, but that was all the space I allowed myself.

    Things have changed a bit since then. I now have 4 Billy bookcases from Ikea. They are just the small, 3-shelf ones and I love them! I am back to buying and collecting books. I still un-haul books, just not as extreme as when I Konmari’d them.

    Since going through the Konmari system with my books, I have learned what qualities a book needs to have before I will decide on keeping it or un-hauling it.

    What books do we keep?

    My books need to be interesting to me. Sometimes we get books that we just won’t read. We pick up a book from a book sale that sounds mildly intriguing, but we never get around to reading it.

    I’m here to tell you that you can get rid of those books that have been laying around for 2 or more years and you still haven’t read them.

    Books + Emotional Attachment

    Another thing I need is an attachment to a book. Is it a story that I treasure? Some examples from my shelves are Harry Potter, The Inheritance Cycle, The Passage series, The Uglies series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, etc. I have a big emotional connection with these books. So I keep them. Will I reread them? Yes!

    You might be wondering what to do if you read a book and you liked it enough to think you would reread it, but it’s been a while, and you still haven’t reread it. My advice is to determine how big your emotional attachment is to the book. If you still have pretty big attachment to it, then you should keep it. It’s not hurting anything sitting on your shelf if, every time you look at it, you get all the feels. Follow? Good.

    I really don’t have a huge list of tests that a book has to pass to stay on my shelves. And I’ll be honest and say that the books I un-haul the most are nonfiction books that I had every good intention of reading and then just never got to. If the motivation is gone to read it, please do yourself a favor and get rid of it.

    To recap, here’s my test a book has to pass to stay on my shelves.

    • Do I have an emotional attachment to the book?
    • How long has it been on my shelves unread?
    • Am I motivated to read this book?
    • Did it seem interesting when I picked it up, but now it’s just meh?

    I’m sure if you think about it you can add more criteria to this list. It’s not complicated, but it is personal. You should never feel pressured about which books you keep or get rid of. I just want you to be happy with your shelves. Once you do go through your books, you’ll be surprised at how much you want to actually read the books on your shelves.

    Donate to Your Local Library

    When I do a book un-haul I love to donate my books to my local library. Even if they don’t need a copy of the book on their shelves, they will sell them in their used book sales. For a lot of libraries, these book sales are important financially.

    So do your local library a favor and donate books that are in good condition and fairly current. No one wants your old medical textbook from 2002, you should probably just recycle that.

    Happy reading,

    Alicen

    P.S. Here are the links to the Billy bookcases I have from Ikea. The wide ones and the skinny ones. I have two skinny ones in the middle of two wide ones. In my opinion, these bookcases are well worth the money. So much better than cheap Wal-mart or Target ones.

    P.P.S. If you want to know what I’m reading this month you can find my list here!

  • Current Reads,  Reading Life

    January Book Chat + What I’ve Been Reading

    *I’ve been doing these quick lit posts for a few months now and I’ve gotten pretty bored with them. If we are honest with ourselves, do we really need another list of books? No, no we don’t. So this month I’m changing it up a bit.

    Let's talk about books and the perks of being a reader! Current reads + my favorite book subscription boxes.

    Welcome to the January 2019 book chat.

    So let’s change this up a bit. The past few months I’ve just been making a list of the books I had read recently and a little blurb about each. I’d like to try something new and list the last book I loved, my current read, and then we will chat about books and the reading life.

    The Book I Loved

    The last book I loved was The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. There’s an antihero, what can I say? If you hang around for a bit you’ll discover that I’m a huge sucker for antiheroes. Especially if they have super broken pasts and they are just trying to do the best they can. Bonus if the main character falls in love with them. Gah, the feels.

    My Current Reads

    My current reads are Switch on Your Brain and The Cursed Child. Switch on Your Brain is an excellent book about mental health and it dispels the myths and mystery surrounding it.

    I am giving The Cursed Child a shot. I know it’s gotten a ton of bad reviews (which I don’t read). I’m excited to read it even though it’s a screen play. I would rather just have another real book, but I can deal with it. It will, if anything, be quick reading.

    Book Chat Time

    Lately I’ve really been paying attention to the way I rate my books. I never thought it was important to go through the process of reviewing and rating books. But now that my reading life is much more important to me than it ever has been, I’ve found this to be a great addition.

    I know a lot of readers are very stingy with their star ratings. I’m not. I can’t be. I love a lot of books and I can’t let a really strict rating system skew how I feel about my books. Almost all of the books I read are high 3 stars and up. If I get attached to a character the chances of it being a 4 or 5 star read skyrockets.

    I think one of the great things about reviewing books is that you can really dig into the story and find out why it did or didn’t work for you.

    I was first introduced to a great rating system by G from @book_roast. I’ll leave the link to her original Youtube video here. Check it out, it’s really good. After using her system for a while I’ve realized that it’s way too strict and books I love weren’t getting the ratings I felt they deserved. So, I’ve altered it a bit but all credit goes to G for coming up with this in the first place!

    The Cozy Shelf Book Rating Method:

    Unlike G, I don’t have a great acronym for my method but it’s ok with me. I kept most of the same categories she uses. I changed just one word because it made more sense to me. The most change you’ll see is in the 0-10 scale and the star rating scale.

    The Categories:

    Enjoyment:
    – Did I love it? Was it just ok? Or did I not finish it?

    Intrigue:
    – Could I not stop reading it? Or did I have to force myself to finish it or to at least get through some parts of it?

    Writing Style:
    – Did I like the author’s voice or the way it was written? Did I like whose perspective it was written from? Is the writing unique? Or does the writing take away from the story or just confuse me?

    Plot:
    -Do I like the way the story played out? Was it too easy to guess? Or did it surprise me?

    Logic:
    – Is the book confusing? Does the storyline make sense? Are unfamiliar terms explained well enough or at all?

    World:
    – Do I know enough about the world for the book to make sense? Are things unique to the world explained well enough? Can I imagine what it might be like to live in that world? Do I want to live there?

    Character:
    – Do I like them? Is there someone I can root for? Are they fighting for the best thing? Or does every thing they do irritate me?

    My feelings about each category:

    As I go through each of these categories I give them a rating from 0-10. Here’s the scale:

    *0-3: Very Poor:
    – 0: I hated it.
    – 3: Could have been a lot better. I am pretty disappointed.

    *4-6: Just Ok:
    – 4: I really didn’t care about it.
    – 6: Okay. Could have been better but I’ll deal with it.

    *7-9: The Best:
    – 7: Good! I really enjoyed it.
    – 9: Am I still breathing?

    *10: I’m dead.
    – What is this world? What do I mean? Who is me? What do I do with my life now? (Flails at pieces of self.)

    How the books get a star rating:

    After I rate them from 0-10 I add up each category and then divide by 7. I take that number and assign it a star rating according to the scale below.

    • 0 – 1: no stars
    • 1 – 2: β˜…
    • 2 – 3: β˜…β˜…
    • 4 – 6: β˜…β˜…β˜…
    • 7 – 8.9: β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
    • 9 – 10: β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…

    It’s pretty straightforward, but if you watch G’s video it will give you a little more insight than this post.

    Conclusion:

    I was going to chat about some of my favorite book merch, but this post has gotten a little long. I’ll save it for another time. I am trying to come up with a PDF of my book rating system so that you can print it off and tuck it in your own book journal.

    Thanks so much for hanging out with me today! This was fun!

    Happy reading,

    Alicen

    P.S. You can also check out my January 2019 TBR here. I’ve already knocked two books off the list! What have you been reading? LetΒ meΒ knowΒ inΒ theΒ comments!

    P.P.S. Oh, and don’t forget about The Cozy Shelf Reading Challenge! You can still join us! Get all the info here.

  • Reading Life

    Best and Worst Books of 2018

    *Today is the day I talk about my best books of 2018 and my worst books of 2018. I try to keep it real without bashing books too badly. They are, after all, something that the author worked very hard at. I respect them and all of the effort they put forth, even if the book wasn’t my favorite.

    The best and the worst books I read in 2018.

    Worst Books of 2018

    *These books just weren’t for me. I mean no disrespect to you if you loved one of these books. If you don’t like to read negative things about your favorite books then feel free to skim down to my best books of 2018 section. Thanks!

    Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer

    worst books 2018

    This book was ok for me until the end. I wish I never would have read the epilogue. I could have just skipped the whole book actually. I didn’t like the main characters at all. I couldn’t get myself to care about them. And the ending made me lose all respect I may have had for the main character. He couldn’t think for himself at all and it just drove me nuts.

    The Selection by Kiera Cass

    worst reads 2018

    I wanted to like this book. The cover always caught my eye when I would see it at the library. But, it was just too naive for me. The love triangle drove me crazy and I couldn’t stand the main character’s inability to be honest with herself.

    Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

    worst reads 2018

    For me there were too many things wrong with this book. I appreciate the thought behind it, but I absolutely cannot accept how straight women are represented in this book. I debated not putting this book on the list because I actually didn’t finish it, but I thought that I owed my fellow readers a warning about it. The straight women in this book are represented basically as pushovers who will do whatever they are told because they have no choice. But the lesbian characters put up a fight over their situation in life. And that’s just not ok with me. ALL women should feel that they can stand up for what is right. That right doesn’t just belong to a certain group of women.

    The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson-Levine

    worst reads 2018

    I loved this book as a little girl. It’s one of the stories that really kick started my reading life, but I wish I would have just left it as a nice memory. It was so dull I had to force myself to finish it.


    Best Books of 2018

    Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

    best books 2018

    This probably one of my favorite reads of 2018. It is the only guide book you need for decorating your house. It is super straightforward and guides you step by step through the entire process of cozy minimalizing your home. I wish this book had been published 8 years ago when I was decorating our first house. The thing I like the most is that you can use this system no matter where you live or if you own or rent. It’s probably going to be my go-to bridal shower gift.

    The Court of Thorns and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas

    best reads 2018

    I know this is cheating a bit because this is a series, but these were literally my favorite books this year. I normally don’t reread series very often, maybe once ever 3 or 4 years, but I think this might become an annual thing, at least for a couple years.

    The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’Amour

    best reads 2018

    I’m really not into western books, but then, I wouldn’t really consider this book western either. It was basically magic and I really really loved it. I was thinking about it for weeks afterward. It still pops up in my mind every now and again. I really need to make reading more of L’Amour’s books a priority.

    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

    best books 2018

    I spent the first half of this year immersed in historical fiction, which is one of my favorite genres. This book was extremely well written and I really liked it. I wasn’t a big fan of the ending, but you can’t always have a happy ending, you know?

    So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

    best books of 2018

    This was the best personal growth book that I read this year. It was very logical and void of all that wishy washy feel good crap that is in most of the self help books available today. The concepts inside are so simple that you’ll wonder why more people don’t know about their existence.

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

    best books of 2018

    This was only the second time I have read this book. The first time was when it was published so it was pretty much new all over again. Even though I’ve seen the movies a thousand times, it was still so good. There are so many more things in the book that don’t get mentioned in the movie. I have also found that I’ve made a lot of connections between this book and the Fantastic Beasts movies. I’ve put together quite a few theories about the wizarding world, and with Dumbledore in particular. If you’ve watched The Crimes of Grindelwald, then you might want to consider reading The Deathly Hallows. You never know what you’ll discover.


    That’s all for me this time. What were your favorite and least favorite books this year?

    Happy Reading,

    Alicen

    P.S. Have you heard? The Cozy Shelf is hosting a year long reading challenge! You can get all the details in this post.

  • Reading Life

    Banning Book Labels

    *Today, I’m talking about banning the ever-present book label. I don’t mean any stickers you find on books. I’m talking about attributing characteristics to books. Books don’t need us readers shoving our opinions of what we think they should be onto them. And neither do the readers of those books. 

    Do you label books? I prefer not to because I feel as though it gives people the wrong idea as to what they are about.

    *Disclaimer: I’m going to mention briefly a couple of topics that are a hot debate with the rest of the world at the moment. Just be warned that I’m not picking a fight and I am not bashing any one person for the way they choose to live. So don’t attack me. Because I’m not attacking you. 

    What is a book label?

    A book label is any word or characteristic that we assign to books other than the genre that it is part of. A good example is when watching a YouTube video discussing books the youtuber will blurt out “This book is so feminist!” or “It’s so empowering!” or “It represents LGBTQ so well!”, etc.

    Um….thanks for giving that book an agenda?

    Why do we feel the need to label books?? Can’t a book just be a book and a story just be a story? When I’m watching a YouTube video or reading an Instagram post or a blog post and the person comes at me with a book label, I’m not going to pick up the book. I don’t care how much it meant to them or how amazing the story is.

    I don’t want to read the book with that person’s agenda for it in the back of my mind. Their opinion of the book will alter the way I feel about the story whether I notice it or not. I want to read the words as the author intended. That way I get a really good idea of what the author is trying to tell me.

    For the Freedom of Reading

    So, dear readers, book reviewers, and discussers of books, please, please stop labeling the books. Let the author’s words speak for themselves. Stop giving their words agendas.

    And for the love of all that is freedom, stop forcing your book opinion onto fellow readers. Because they have the right to read the book for what it is and the story it tells.

    Happy reading label-free books,

    Alicen

    P.S. Do you hate book labels too? Let me know in the comments what your least favorite book label is!

    P.P.S. In this post I discuss how I feel about bad book reviews.

  • Reading Life

    How to Find Amazing Content Creators

    *In this post I walk you through my steps to find and decide if content creators are worth my attention. This is a rather unconventional post, but my husband asked me to write it. So, here I am.

    5 simple steps to find content creators you'll love

    Step One:


    Pick a topic. I know, this sounds so elementary, but it’s important. Without picking a specific topic you really don’t know where to start your search. Your topic can be anything that you are interested in. Books, gaming, cooking, science, space, cats, etc. If you are interested in something there’s likely someone else who has created content for it.

    Step Two:

    • After you pick your topic of interest head over to Google, Instagram, Youtube, or Facebook. Do a basic search. Out of the results that pop up just pick one that looks the most interesting to you and watch or read it. 
    • A really easy way to find new content creators to follow is to look at the creators you already follow and look at the people that they follow. It’s really easy to do this on Instagram and Facebook. Not every person they follow will be interesting to you and that’s ok. 

    Step Three:

    This process takes a lot of trial and error. After I’ve picked someone out in step two I’ll take a deeper look at their content. My process on Youtube looks something like this:

    1. Find new content creator.
    2. Take an initial look at their videos.
    3. Like the first two videos quite a bit.
    4. Start video # 3 and something will come out of their mouths that I absolutely do not relate to. And that’s fine. I just move on and start looking for someone else that I can better relate to.
    5. For every 5 people, I find I probably only stick with one of them.

    That’s my process for YouTube. It’s more or less the same for Instagram. I pay a lot of attention to Instagram stories and if they say something I don’t agree with I’ll stop following them. Sometimes it will be weeks later of watching someone and I’ll suddenly realize that I don’t care for their content and they really annoy me. The freedom comes from realizing that you don’t have to continue following someone after you realize that they aren’t for you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been following them for a year or two months. 

    Step Four:

    This is probably the most important step in the process. Have high standards. It’s so important to make sure that you aren’t following people just because they have a ton of subscribers or followers. Having 200,000 subscribers on YouTube does not mean that you will connect with them at all. My number one rule is not to follow people who do not have the same moral standards as me. This automatically reduces the amount of creators that I sift through. One thing that I cannot tolerate in any content is swearing. It just drives me up the wall. If you can’t talk about something without using the “f” word your opinion has no value to me and I won’t ever tell anyone to ever look at your content. You can speak without being vulgar. It really is possible. 

    Step Five:

    Once you’ve gone through this process a few times you’ll start to be able to pick creators that are for you rather quickly. YouTube is my favorite place to find new creators. These creators usually have social media accounts so that makes finding people on Instagram and Facebook that much easier.

    I hope these tips will come in handy as you go about looking for creators that can inspire you. 

    Happy Searching!

    -Alicen

    P.S. Who are some of your favorite content creators?

  • Reading Life

    How to Keep a Book Journal

    Have you ever wanted to start a book journal? I’ve always thought the idea was intriguing and I did keep one once upon a time. After starting book journaling a few weeks ago, I’ve decided that it’s probably the best thing ever! Well, next to Harry Potter. Anyway, if you’ve ever been interested or you are ready to take the plunge into this rabbit hole, I hope this post about my reading journal sparks some inspiration in you.


    Disclaimer: This post is completely bookish and nerdy. If neither of those things appeals to you, then feel free to skip this read. Book lovers, read on!

    What is a book journal?

    reading journal quote

    Short answer: a notebook you keep a record of all the books you’ve read. Long answer: continue reading this post and get all the details on what a book journal is or can be for you.

    I started my book journal because it’s a bit nostalgic for me and I also like to keep track of what books I’ve started and finished or ones that I’ve abandoned. In middle school and high school I kept a “book journal”. I used quotes there because it wasn’t too fancy. A spiral bound school notebook did the trick for me. But somewhere along the way, I figured I didn’t need it anymore so I trashed it! Ugh! It would be so interesting to see what my 12 to 16-year-old self was reading. I kinda remember what I was into, but not really. I’m sure all the info is stashed on some library account somewhere because let’s face it, free books. But I have no idea how to track that down or if they would still have my info on file.

    I thought that now would be a really good time to start the habit back up again. Mostly because I need proof for my 35-year-old self that I did read books when my boys were 5 and under. I’ve also been really intrigued by the notion that you should track what you don’t finish. I never thought of that before but it’s almost more interesting to me than what I did read. It gives me a better picture of what I really enjoy reading. And I just like to be sassy and hate a book that everyone else is talking about and loves.

    Why don’t I just use Goodreads?

    Because I hate it. It’s clunky and ugly, and I can’t figure out the interface. I would rather spend hours writing out my TBR with a pen and notebook than spend hours searching (and getting distracted, because, internet) on Goodreads. On a more important note, what if Goodreads got shut down and you lost your TBR forever??? A tragedy I tell you. Keeping my reading records in my book journal is way more accessible than Goodreads. No internet connection required!

    Here’s a peek inside my reading journal:

    reading journal cover

    Here’s a short list of the things I keep track of in my book journal.

    • TBR lists: I keep these separated by genre because I know what genres I tend to gravitate toward. If I’m looking for my next great read you’ll find me perusing my historical fiction list. I used the website alibris.com to categorize my books by genre. I tried Goodreads but it wasn’t specific enough. Technically most of my TBR is fiction so I needed to be a bit more specific. I may be switching to bookdepository.com because it’s prettier and faster. Alibris.com load times are awful and it’s not my internet speed.
    • Reading Challenges: I have participated in 2 reading challenges this year and I’m starting a third today (August 1, 2018). They are the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge, The O.W.L.s by Book Roast, and the N.E.W.T.s also by Book Roast. I’ll link all of these great resources down in the P.S. of this post.
    • Books Read: My 2016 and 2017 lists are incomplete because I know I didn’t write down everything I read. I also have a 2018 Books Read list that looks way more impressive than it actually is.
    • Books I’ve Bought: I don’t have anything listed because I haven’t felt like going through my shelves trying to remember what I’ve bought in the last 7 months. #lazy
    • Books I’ve Tossed:  I do occasionally go through my shelves and get rid of books I know I won’t read or that I won’t read again. I might not add this collection. It just depends if I toss any books the remainder of this year.
    • Quotes: I have written down some quotes from a good book I’ve been reading. I’m not sure I’m going to keep doing this because it’s not neat and tidy like a list. I may be the only one that this bothers but I don’t like big blocks of text in my dotted journals. It drives me crazy. It just looks messy and I have a hard time knowing what I’m supposed to be reading. It’s quite a traumatic experience. I don’t seem to have this problem with lined journals. I can write lines and lines of text in those. Does anyone else have this problem with dotted journals?

    Here’s a close up of my 2018 Book List.

    I wanted to show you the signifiers I use. I learned these from Anne Bogel of modernmrsdarcy.com. I’ll link the class below.

    book journal signifiers

    I use a bullet (β€’) to add a book to my list. This usually means that I’ve started it. Then I write the name of the book and place a comma. The author’s name goes next followed by parentheses with the date I started the book. I leave the parentheses open until I’ve finished the book. When I finish it I write the date, close the parentheses and that’s it.

    I occasionally mark whether the book was hardcover or paperback but I’m learning that this isn’t really useful information for me to write down. The stars (*) are for books I absolutely love. Typically these are books that I think about for several days or weeks after I’ve read them. If I didn’t finish a book I draw a circle next to the title. For instance, you can see that I didn’t finish Behold the Dreamers. This is a super simple way for me to keep track of the books I’ve been reading.

    Note: For anyone that Bullet Journals, the systems I use in my reading journal will look very similar to the Bullet Journal system.

    That’s all I’ve got so far. I just started this system in July and I’m adding to it as I go. The best thing I like about this way of book journaling is how customizable it is. Just like the Bullet Journal system I can tailor it to my life and the way I like to journal. The most exciting thing about this journal is all the things I’m going to learn about my reading life. Just as we are all different so will our reading lives be different from everyone else’s.

    Are you a reader who would like to keep track of all the bookish things your heart desires? This method of book journaling is an excellent way to do it! I found out that a simple “book journal” search on YouTube yielded a lot of great book journal videos. It shocked me how much in-depth people get with their book journals. Charts and graphs galore! Now that I think about it, YouTube gave me the best results for learning how to book journal. I didn’t have much luck on Pinterest.

    Happy Reading,

    Alicen

    P.S.

    If you want to learn exactly how I book journal you should check out Modern Mrs. Darcy’s one hour class on book journaling. I paid for it and immediately watched it twice in a row. It is worth all of the $15 I paid for it. I plan on watching it again soon so I get even more out of it. 

    On Instagram, you can search for these hashtags for inspiration: #bookstagram #bookjournal #bujoforbooklovers

    Here is the link for the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge.

    For more Bullet Journal help please check out this blog post from Modern Mrs. Darcy.

    This isn’t particularly book journal related, but if anyone is interested in the O.W.L.s or the N.E.W.T.s (insert Harry Potter fangirl here) you can get all the details from this video and this video. I also recommend finding @book_roast on Instagram and @MagicalReadthn on Twitter. I absolutely adore her and I love that she puts all this time and effort into something so nerdy!