Every time I finish a great book, I say to myself “DAMN what a reading year I’m having!” … and every time I remind myself it’s only MARCH somehow, I picture this:
Seriously though, it’s been quite a good year already for me. I am having so much success with the books I’ve been picking out. I’ve talked about my lack of five-star ratings from 2018 as well as me generally getting pickier with the books I choose to read and rate so highly, but I’m doing REALLY well so far. Honestly I’m just here today to be excited about some books, share my thoughts on this bizarre phenomenon, and more.
Books read so far: 32
Average rating: 3.9
5 Star Reads
Girls with Sharp Sticks was one of my most anticipated reads, and I genuinely can’t believe I had the ARC in my possession for months and didn’t read it. I promise you, this book is perfection. I LOVE Suzanne Young and each of her books/series gets better than the last. If you want to hear my entire saga with this duo and thoughts on Crooked Kingdom itself, click that link. Long story short: I put off reading it because I was nervous and then realized I HAD to read it before KoS. It did not disappoint, clearly. And finally, last but certainly not least, The Bride Test (review to come) was an utterly perfect rom-com for me. It didn’t have some of the slightly cheesy sexual dialogue from the first book in this companion series, so I liked it a half-star more 🙂
4.5 Star Reads
You can see my King of Scars thoughts in the same place as the CK ones above. This was pretty damn amazing, despite the similar annoying reading experience of trying to get into a groove with fantasy (never can!). Field Notes on Love was such a pleasant not-really-surprise-but-kinda. I loved Smith’s previous book but some of her earlier stories never worked for me. This was such an amazing story. And my most recent 4.5 star read, which WAS a pleasant surprise, is The Goose Girl. I thought I’d enjoy it but genuinely not this much!
Maybe it doesn’t look overly impressive, but we’re only three months into the year. It took me all of 2018 to get FIVE books rated five stars and I’ve already read THREE by March. It averages to one five-star book a month (really two were in January and one in February, FYI), which means that (in a perfect world) I could have upwards of 12 books with a perfect rating this year. Imagine?!
Why the success?
1. Despite the fact that I’m reading a lot of review copies (47% of my books so far!), my ratings are great. I’m requesting books I’m genuinely excited about and not waiting to read them.
I would usually associate review copies with slightly lower ratings. I think this is because I would be click-happy, browsing for books that sounded interesting in the moment instead of focusing on books I already had on my lists. I’ve found that requesting books I’m excited about and have on my Goodreads TBR directly impacts how good my review books are, or how well they work for me. I’m not distracted by the shiny cover and then later regret getting approved.
The second part of this is the whole “not waiting” thing. I’ve shared my methods for reading ARCs recently and that’s been so helpful. I read books whenever I want, whenever I’m in the mood, and just schedule my review for later near the pub date. Capitalizing on my mood reading and excitement is so beneficial in my reading life.
2. I’m letting my guard down a little bit.
As I’ve said, I started to get picky and fickle about which books I rated five stars. Some highlights from that post I’ve linked before explain this:
I don’t feel like I give a lot of books five stars anymore. Even when I look back on the book and wonder WHY I was so picky and critical, I don’t go back and change it. Why? Five stars is almost an instinct for me now. I just kind of know when the book deserves it I guess. I can’t use my little rating report to determine it’s five stars, because why bother? Because I use more of a gut reaction than anything, the number of five star ratings are few and far between…
I think I’ve gotten pickier about contemporary books in my old age. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I’ve been reading YA contemporary since I was like 13 years old so I have over 10 years of experience (holy shit). Some books deserve 5 stars right off the bat because they’re interesting, powerful, and unique. If a book breaks away from certain tropes or cliches or predictability, I’m on board. Super on board. Some of the other books in these categories here (fantasy, mystery/thriller) are “newer” for me so I’m not sure what I like yet. I’m still working it out. That could be why it’s harder to pin down a 5 star read for me; I have less to compare it to.
I still feel like five-star reads are a gut-level decision for me, but I do think I’ve let my guard down. Instead of focusing on life-changing perfection, I just focus on the books that I loved. The ones where I can barely think of any flaws. The five-star rating means the book was the best kind of book you could hope for, met or exceeded your expectations, and made you feel all the things.
3. I’m fine-tuning my preferences and reading what I want or like the most.
This kind of goes along with everything else, but I really feel that I have a grasp on what will work for me at this point. I know which kind of books are up my alley and which aren’t. I read them when I want to read them. Instead of forcing myself to read things I don’t like or joining clubs/blog tours with books that I will not want to read, I am focusing on those I DO want to read. This is different than reading out of my comfort zone. I have some genre-based goals, like reading more historical fiction and retellings or reading less than 50% contemporary novels… but that’s because I never try to read them, not that I don’t like them.
4. I’m developing a TBR system that works and still allows for mood reading.
I developed my ARC strategy and the other pieces that fall into a TBR system recently, and I think those factors help me really focus on reading the right books at the right time. Instead of forcing certain books to meet unrealistic or unnecessary goals, I’m reading books that satisfy multiple logical goals or deadlines. In conjunction with only requesting books I really want, only signing up for blog tours of super anticipated reads, picking book club selections based on my existing TBR, and everything else I mentioned here… my TBR lists for each month mix in my moods and required reading in a balanced way. It’s fun to pick out a TBR when I have categories to strive for and a good mix of genres and topics.
5. I haven’t read any bad books on purpose.
I wrote a post on this back in 2017, where I would sometimes read books I KNEW would be bad (for me / in my opinion) in between great books. I think there’s still some part of me that does this without realizing it, or thinks about doing it, but I have pretty much stopped doing this on purpose. I would view them as a palate cleanser between really great, highly anticipated, perfect books. Why? I think this was mostly because I was afraid I would overdo it on the good books and end up rating them lower by comparison. I needed some kind of buffer in between so I could fully enjoy the next book without worrying about a book hangover affecting it.
This sounds somewhat logical, despite being a bit stupid (why would you read a bad book on purpose, you idiot). I think the other half of this is that I was always self-conscious of my high average book rating each year. Am I not as critical of a reader or reviewer as other people? Maybe, but I think it’s more that I know what I like to read. I’ve fine-tuned my TBR and curated books based on what I KNOW will work for me. I take calculated risks on books out of my comfort zone still, but they are still generally interesting to me and I’m hopeful about them when I start reading.