January Wrap-Up 2017

In My Life

This month was hard. It started out great, with a trip with my grandparents and spending lots of time with my friends, but then school started. This semester is going fairly well, but it is still extremely stressful and tiring, and I still have college applications looming over me, even though I’ve turned them all in.

Trump’s inauguration made everything worse. I honestly have trouble believing what our country has come to in so short a span of time. I’m angry and terrified, and honestly, feeling hopeless. The stress of school, which I’ve barely learned how to manage, is now matched with the stress of wondering what horrific thing Trump will do next. Seeing the world come together at protests is incredible, but it’s not enough to snap me out of the constant funk of despair. Additionally, the violence that we’ve seen across the world has broken my heart.

But this month was not all bad. Here are some good things:

  1. My journalism class published another issue, and it looks incredible.
  2. I made a jar in ceramics with a lid that fits.
  3. I started a (low key) bullet journal for 2017.

On This Blog

I had nine posts this month. Not as many as I’d like (I’ve already broken my three posts per week goal…wow), but more than there could have been. I’m happy with the content I put out, so that’s what really matters.

Top Ten Tuesdays

Discussion Posts

In Reading and Reviewing

I read three books this month, and started four others. I know. It’s pretty bad. I am in the middle of two books for school—Twelfth Night and Dante’s Inferno—and I am enjoying both. I started two others, The Ghost Bride (which I might DNF because I have been reading it for a month) and Slasher Girls and Monster Boys (which I will finish, but it is a short story anthology and I am taking it slow).

Here are the books I actually read:

  • Black Powder War (Temeraire #3) by Naomi Novik — 3.5/5 stars (probably won’t be reviewed)
  • My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows — 5/5 stars (review)
  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn — 3.5/5 stars (review)

Long story short, there will be lots of reviews to come, as soon as I finish reading the ones I am in the middle of.

In Writing

This month was AWFUL for writing. I finished my WIP right at the end of 2016, and although I have lots of research, editing, and character development work I want to do…I just didn’t do it. I didn’t even really work on scholarships (although I did submit a few applications). I have big plans for productivity in February.


How was your January? Did you read any great books? What books do you plan to read February?

2017 Resolutions

IT’S 2017! LET’S DO THIS.

2016 was rough, but I managed to accomplish 6/10 of my blogging resolutions. This year, I’m widening my resolutions to include blogging, reading, and writing. We’ll see if I can accomplish them.

blogging

1. Post three times a week. This is a constant goal of mine that I struggled with in 2016, but that I want to bring back for 2017.

2. Write more discussion posts that I’m proud of. I accomplished this in 2016, but I want to push myself even further.

3. Be more consistent with Top Ten Tuesday posts. This fell apart at the end of 2016, but they are honestly so much fun to read and write.

4. Stay up on my reviews, and make sure I actually have fun while writing them.

5. Make my reviews more thorough, including calling out problematic things I notice and including trigger warnings.

5. Keep making 52 Letters my own, especially with adding some more personal posts and working on my graphics.

reading

1. Read 60 books. Last year I read about 55, the year before, about 70, so 60 seems like a good goal. I want to push myself without stressing myself.

2. Read more diverse books, especially ones by marginalized authors and #ownvoices books. Hopefully at least one a month

3. Never take longer than 2 weeks to read a book. After that, the book is kind of dead to me, and I just need to move on.

writing

1. Edit my WIP and get it to a place where other people can actually read it.

2. Bring back Hell and Styx, my short story series. I’ll need something to write while editing my novel.

3. Work on my short stories and poetry. One of my main regrets is that I did not do this in 2016.

4. Just keep writing.


What are your goals for 2017? Are there any I should add to my list?

2016 Blogging Wrap-Up

Hi everyone! As 2016 (finally) ends, I wanted to look back at what I accomplished as a blogger and as a writer this year. To see my favorite books of 2016, you can see my reading recap from yesterday.

2016 was both a great year for blogging and a rough one. With second semester of junior year and first semester of senior year, it was easily the busiest year of my life so far. I blogged less in 2016 than I did in 2015, but I wrote more posts that I’m proud of. I think my book reviews are getting better, and I pushed myself to write more honest, emotional discussion posts.


Resolutions

Here are the goals I made for myself for 2016, as well as if I accomplished them.

1. Post three times a week. ~ about 50% successful

2. Read 75 books. ~ Loool, no. I only read 

3. Use better graphics consistently. ~ Yep.

4. More discussion posts. ~ Yeah, actually.

5. Write reviews directly after I finish a book. ~ Yes…ish.

6. Interact more with the blogging community. ~ Sure.

7. Start doing readathons. ~ Lol, no.

8. Get back into Weekend Words. ~ Not even a little.

9. Increase the writing focus of 52 Letters. ~ Nope.

10. Have fun. ~ Always.

All in all, about 6/10 is pretty good. 


Blogging, Writing, and Life News

1. In March, I redesigned 52 Letters. I am still using that design that I created and am still 110% in love with it.

2. In April, 52 Letters turned 2!

3. In May and June, I took part in two University of Iowa International Writing Program #Flashwrite Poetry MOOCs and discovered how much I love poetry.

4. I started a bookstagram account (@52lettersinthealphabet)! (And then senior year started and it died…whoops.)

5. In June, I decided to start over with my WIP. Over summer break, that draft went from zero words to nearly 62,000 words!

6. In November, I created a review directory for 52 Letters.

7. 52 Letters reached 600 followers! Thank you all SOOOO much!

8. In December, I finished my WIP! It took me just over six months and is 99,800 words. It is the fastest I have ever finished a draft of a novel, and (I think) the best thing I’ve ever written. It still needs a lot of work, but that’s 2017’s problem.

9. Today, I turn 18 and officially become an adult! I’m half excited, half terrified. 


Blogging Favorites

Discussion Posts

The Importance of Platonic Relationships

Which Blog Posts Do I Actually Read?

What It’s Like to Read YA as a Girl Who Cries…A Lot

What Looking for Myself in Books Taught Me About the Need for Diversity

Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Books I Have Enjoyed With Less Than 2000 Goodreads Ratings

Top Ten Parts of High School I Wish YA Authors Talked About More

Top Ten Characters I Would Name a Cat After

Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me in a Haunted House


How was your blogging 2016? Which posts are you most proud of? What are your plans for 2017?

Discussion Post: Ten Random Bookish Confessions

I’ve seen some posts like this floating around (sorry I don’t remember specific bloggers’ names!) and thought, what the heck, it’s an easy (and hopefully interesting) post. I’m in the middle of a blogging slump, which is driving me crazy, but with finals and college apps, I don’t really have the time or energy to get out of it.

1. I can’t skim books.

I see bloggers saying all the time “I just skimmed it”—and I don’t get it. This isn’t a snotty “how could you dare skim a boring book” thing; I don’t care if other people skim. I just can’t get my brain to skim fiction books. (Textbooks, though…)

2. I reread ALL THE TIME.

Probably a quarter (or a third) of the books I read this year were rereads. I LOVE rereading books. Sometimes I just reread a favorite, but other times, I reread because of a series. I can’t just read the second/third/etc book in a series, I have to read every book that came before. It’s ridiculous, but it means that I get to appreciate every series as a whole (every, single, freaking time a new book in the series comes out).

3. I’ve used the same bookmark for almost three years now. (But if I’m not using it, I use a random scrap of paper.)

One of my best friends made me a bookmark at the end of freshman year, and I’ve been using it ever since. It was “laminated” in packing tape, but even so, it’s starting to show its wear. Up until that point, I was a “random scrap of paper” person, using folded-in-half post-its mostly.

4. I read in class (but not while the teacher is talking).

Most of my reading these days happens at school…which is one of the reasons I don’t read very much. Up until this year, I had a ton of free time in class, which meant I could read about a book a week. Nowadays, I read a lot less.

5. I can read for hours, but it’s not always a good thing.

If I’m on break, I can spend half a day reading one book, not even really moving. I’ll have fun while I’m doing it, but when I look back, I realize that I didn’t get as much out of the book as I would have if I had read it more slowly.

6. I take good care of my books…but I have no idea how to keep spines from breaking.

I don’t dog-ear pages; I have mostly stopped getting crumbs or food stains in my books. But I can’t keep spines from breaking. I just can’t.

7. I love sharing books (but I keep getting burned).

I love owning books, so I like to share them with other people to validate owning literally every book I read. Through middle school, I never had a problem with lending books to people, but recently, I have stopped getting books back.

8. I can only read one book at once.

If you’re one of those people that can be in the middle of three books at once, props. I can’t. I tried when I was younger, but I always ended up reading one book and ignoring the other.

9. Fan art freaks me out.

This is nothing against fan art artists! I love you guys. But I take my own mental images of characters really seriously and am terrified of losing them, so I never risk looking at fan art.

10. I don’t read hardcovers with their dusk jackets on.

I love hardcover books! I love how dusk jackets look! But when I’m reading a hardcover, I take the dusk jacket off. This keeps the jacket from being destroyed and makes it easier for me to hold the book itself.

Discussion Post: Blogging for Likes

I’ve been mulling over this topic in my mind for a while now, and I’ve finally decided to get over myself and just write it. This was partially inspired by Victoria’s post @ Doodles and Scraps in which she talked about how she feels about getting likes versus getting subscribers, and the difference in her follower and like counts:

Like I said, my follower count is going up, and it’s amazing! My likes seem to be going down a bit, though? Not hugely, just by a couple, so I’m averaging around 15 likes per post. For someone with nearly 700 subscribers, that seems awfully low.

I think a lot of WordPress bloggers can relate to this sentiment. Unlike a platform like Instagram, where hitting 100 likes is relatively simple, WordPress is not a “like heavy” platform. I have almost 600 followers, but if one of my posts gets 20 likes, I basically die of happiness.

Now, I love WordPress. It is easy to use and looks fairly professional. It is the home of hundreds of amazing book bloggers. The WordPress Reader app on my phone is my main method of blog-hopping. I’m not going to abandon WordPress because it’s hard to get likes…I’m not that shallow.

I am kind of shallow, though.

That’s what this post is about. I’m going to lay out my feelings on blogging for likes, and I’m honestly curious to see if you guys feel the same way.

So…do I want likes?

Umm, yes. Likes and comments are awesome. They make me feel like people actually care about what I’m saying and they help me take pride in my posts. Getting WordPress notifications is sometimes the best part of my day.

Of course, I like comments more than likes, especially on a review or a discussion post when someone is really responding to my content. I think we all crave the personal nature of a comment…but I also enjoy the little rush of a like.

So…do I blog for likes?

Yes? No? Sometimes?

Yes: I take part in Top Ten Tuesday because it is a fairly reliable way to get traffic to my blog and the posts generally do well in terms of likes.

No: I don’t tailor the books I read to match with current hype. I pretty much just read what I’m in the mood for when I’m in the mood for it and then write a review.

Yes: Sometimes I choose not to write a review for a second book in a series if the review for the first book totally flopped.

No: I throw out some poetry on my blog every once and a while. I know the poems won’t attract a ton of likes, mainly because this is a bookish blog more than it is a writing blog, but I still do it because I enjoy it.

So here’s what it comes down to:

I have a blog because I love talking about books. Blogging helps me revisit the books I’ve read, learn about new ones, and celebrate my favorites. I didn’t start my blog to get likes or followers—I honestly didn’t think it would happen. And overall, I don’t blog for the likes, I blog for the act of blogging and to be a part of the community.

But still, it would be dishonest to act like I don’t care about likes. I choose which posts to put energy into based on how well I think they will do. I’m a high school student with a limited amount of time to blog and a desperate need for good news, so it is impossible for me to separate the act of blogging from people’s reactions to my posts.


What about you? Do you think about likes when you’re writing a post? Do you care about likes/comments/followers? Was this post relatable or foreign to you?

September Wrap-Up 2016

In My Life

Ugh, this month was rough. School has started to get real, hitting me with a lot of tests and larger assignments. College app deadlines are quickly approaching, meaning that I have to spend any extra time working on essays or supplements. Not exactly my definition of fun.

On This Blog

I had nine posts this month. I would have had more, but the entire last week of September was crazy and I didn’t have time to finish up and post anything. The good news is that I am actually proud of ever post I published, especially my discussion posts.

Book Tags:

Top Ten Tuesdays:

Discussion Posts:

In Reading and Reviewing

This was an okay reading month. I have started to slip back into my school-year reading habits, finally (sort of) finding time to read during the school week.

I read 5 books this month and published two book reviews this month. I am currently reading Empire of Storms (NO SPOILERS) and it is killing me.

  • A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray — 4/5 stars (caught up on this review)
  • Medea by Sophocles — 4/5 stars (review)
  • The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle #3) by Libba Bray — 5/5 stars (review to come)
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys — 4/5 stars (review to come)
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff — 4/5 stars (review to come)
  • Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas  — 5/5 stars (review to come)

In Writing

Fiction writing did not happen in September. I barely wrote 2,000 words in the entire month! (*covers face in shame*) My goal for October is to figure out a way to work writing into my weekly homework schedule. I cannot stand letting my WIP sit untouched for so long.

That’s not to say that I didn’t write anything in September. I wrote SO MANY drafts of college essays. I am finally getting to a place where I don’t hate everything that I write about myself (yay for small victories) but I still have a long road paved with supplemental essays ahead of me.

Part of me is glad that the writing skills and habits that I developed this summer transferred over to college essay writing. And part of me is really pissed that essay writing has replaced fiction writing in my life.


How was your September? Did you read any good books? What are you planning to read next month?

The True Meaning of 5/5 Stars: A Closer Look at My Rating System

Like basically every book blogger, when I write a book review, I include a number rating (out of 5) to indicate holistically what I thought. And like basically every book blogger that does that, I have a page on my blog that lays out just what each rating means. (Here, if you’re interested.)

And yet, lately, when I’m writing reviews, I have felt like I need to clarify my rating system. And since I’m a blogger who sucks at coming up with original post ideas, I decided that I could clarify how I choose my ratings with a discussion post.

So, what do I think you need to know about my rating system that isn’t abundantly obvious?

It comes down to this: I rate a book based on if I think it fulfilled its potential. This means that two books can both get 5/5 stars, while one can be waaaaayyy more memorable, emotional, and/or “important” than the other.

Why would I do that, you ask?

I look for different things from a fantasy novel than I do a contemporary novel. If I pick up a contemporary romance with a hilarious title and a cutesy cover, I am expecting it to cheer me up, make me laugh, and fill me with romantic butterflies. If I pick up a fantasy with a foreboding title and a dramatic cover, I am expecting it to take over my life with its gripping plot, its creative magic, and its fascinating characters.

I go into some books looking for a pick-me-up. I go into other books looking to be destroyed. Sometimes, all I want from a book is for it to change how I see the world.

Because of this, I feel that I cannot rate all books on the same scale. If I did, the only (or very nearly) books that would earn 5/5 stars would be intensely dramatic, 500-page-long fantasy novels with a dozen characters and twice as many subplots. (I’m looking at you Brandon Sanderson and Sarah J. Maas.)

That isn’t fair for me. If I go into a book looking for a cheery romantic story, and that book delivers a cheery romantic story and commented on a few of society’s flaws, then that book earned 5 stars. 

At the same time, if I go into a book expecting it to have deep characters, plots, and world-building, and it doesn’t deliver, then that book probably gets at most 3 stars, even if it was a pretty good story. 

So, how does a book earn 5 stars?

There is obviously no easy formula. My expectations, the genre, and the story itself set the criteria for the ranking. However, I would say that all books I give five stars have a few key things in common:

  • They talk about society’s flaws. 
  • Their plot is complex. Bring on the subplots.
  • The characters feel alive and realistic, and they grow over the course of the story.
  • The writing is strong and complements the series.
  • The story’s society—whether that is a make-believe world or a high school—is complex and nuanced.
  • The story evokes specific emotions in me, no matter what mood I was in before I started reading.

So what do you think? Do you rate all of your books on the same scale? Do you agree with my rating system, or do you think it is unfair?