Hi Virtually readers! I’m not sure about you, but reviews tend to be the posts that get the least traffic and comments on Virtually Read. This seems strange to me, considering reviews are basically the backbone of what book bloggers do. While I can’t claim that I’ve hit the ‘book review that everybody wants to read’ formula yet, I have learned something about book reviewing since I started (pls don’t read my first reviews they’re terrible), so that’s how this post could help you. Continue reading “How to write a kick-butt book review (that people actually want to read)”
Hi Virtually Readers! I recently unfollowed quite a few blogs and followed some more. This got me thinking about why I follow some blogs and don’t follow others. So if you’re wondering what I look for in a (book) blog, then you’ve come to the right place.
Hi Virtually Readers! Life is crazy sometimes and we have been blogging for three years. That’s 16.8% of our lives. It’s almost unbelievable that three years ago two girls sat by a laptop and signed up for wordpress and started to write about books. But, obviously, we’re very happy to be here. As you may notice, we have a new design! Isn’t it pretty? We’re still working through a few kinks, but Shar did this a few weeks ago and I supported her and offered somewhat helpful advice along the way.We are going to have a giveaway at some point during this year, but our lives are just a bit busy right now, so that won’t be for a while.
Hi Virtually Readers! Cait, a most wonderful blogger, ‘replies’ to her search terms in her monthly recaps. Shanti and I have always found this most amusing, so today I’m going to reply to some of the search terms that lead people to our own blog. Also, our blogoversary is in two days (!!!) (yes, we won’t shut up about it. This only happens once a year, after all). So this seemed a fitting thing to do? We have more celebrations planned for next week. Some deliberate misunderstanding, and a great deal of gentle mocking, is going to go down.
Hi Virtually Readers! Our 3rd blogversary is next week! That’s kind of hard to believe and pretty exciting. One thing we thought we’d do to celebrate is get you guys to ask us questions which we’ll answer next week.
About what? Anything, really. Blogging tips (because we’re *totally* experts), how we write posts, what we do when we’re not reading or blogging, why we started this blog, how to be as fabulous as we are…. anything. (If we don’t like the question, though, we won’t answer it. So just consider that before you ask what I’ve named my left little toe.)
All you have to do is enter your questions into this google form here. If it’s not working, please tell us and I’ll try to fix it.
What is this? A new blog! What are you doing, Shar and Shanti? Don’t you like this blog?
Fear not, mortals. We’re not moving. However, Shanti and I have both been wanting to have a blog dedicated to things other than books for a while now. Daylight Differentials is going to be for our thoughts, opinions, and anything that isn’t bookish. If this interests you, then you should totally go and follow us there or on Bloglovin.
If you just like our post about YA books, don’t worry, we’re not abandoning Virtually Read. In fact, something low-key exciting is going to happen to it soon. You’ll know all about that when it happens. Daylight Differentials is going to have more sporadic posts. Unlike Virtually Read, we won’t have a posting schedule, so posts will probably be more infrequent (but still quality. Fear not). But if you want to hear about our travels later this year or general thoughts now, you should totally follow us.
Have you ever wanted to start a non-bookish blog?
Hi Virtually Readers. The other day I realised something: since I started blogging, the way I read has changed. This might seem very obvious, but it surprised me, so I decided to write about it. *nods*
#1–I am more critical
Before I stared blogging, I read for fun. I would think about whether I liked the book at the end to some extent (for example, I could definitely say which books I liked more than others) but I wouldn’t try to analyse or criticise or think deeply about what I liked or disliked in a book and why.
Now, with everything I’ve learned in English class as well as my own discretion, I think critically about a book. Did I like the plot? Why? What star rating would I give it? Did I like the writing style? Why did this character click with me? Although I don’t review every book I read, I review a lot of them because of book blogging. Even with the ones I don’t review, I’ll think critically about it more while reading it and after I finish.
#2–I don’t DNF
When I just read for fun, I would DNF (not finish) all the time if I wasn’t enjoying a book, didn’t have the time, had to return it to the library, or just wasn’t in the mood. Now I rarely DNF for two reasons:
- Firstly, because even if I don’t enjoy a book, I can still write a review and think critically about why I didn’t like it. In fact, I (weirdly) really enjoy writing negative reviews because sometimes I get my inner rant going and it’s fun.
- Secondly, because of numbers. Even though I don’t have a goodreads goal, I like reading books and the feeling of accomplishment from finishing them. I do count how many book I read in a year and not finishing is a waste of time because I’m already partway through the book and I might as well finish it so it can count.
#3–I read different kinds of books
Book blogging has affected my reading choices for various reasons, which is probably the biggest way book blogging has affected my reading life. Although I mainly read YA before we started blogging, I choose books differently. Before, I’d choose what was available at my library, often from series or authors I enjoyed, and I’d often choose based on the blurb. I just liked browsing and picking up whatever looked interesting. Now I choose based on:
- Genre–I mostly read YA because most other bloggers I know also mostly read YA
- Recommendations– If a blogger I know and who might have my taste has shouted about a book, I’ll be more interested in reading it, because then we can talk about it together and there’s more fun for everyone.
- Release date–I used to read any interesting book, no matter how old it was (and my library didn’t have a lot of new books). Now I read mostly releases from the last few years because more bloggers will have heard of it and be interested in my reviews.
(is this even a word?)--I choose hyped or popular books that more people will have read (Which often are most recommended by other bloggers and are newer) because I think people will be interested in my reviews, plus I want to know what all the noise is about.
Yes, blogging has affected how I read by making me think more critically about what I read, not DNF, and choose different books. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I would say thinking critically is a positive change to my reading life. Finishing books is usually good, but also can just mean I end up not enjoying reading because I force myself to finish what I don’t want to. And while I want to review books other people will be interested in, I also am growing up. I want to read more adult books, and not be limited by trying to read only for the sake of the blogging community. I want to read for myself.
Has blogging affected what you read? What about ARCs? Do you think blogging has improved your enjoyment of reading?
Virtually Readers, today I’m going to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s kind of about Instagram, but it’s also about being Someone on the Internet and real life. I don’t know how well I managed to articulate my Thoughts, but hey, I tried, right?
I don’t have my life together. Like, at all. But that’s not something I talk about on this blog.
I don’t talk about how I feel a low-key anxiety spinning around my stomach whenever I think about my exam grades or finishing school. I don’t talk about the bad days, where I feel like I’m never going to be good enough (at chemistry or music or whatever). Same goes for my friendship problems, or the fact that I don’t know where I want to go for university, or even if I really want to major in what I think I want to major in.
On a lower level, I don’t talk about (or photograph) my messy room (although let’s be honest, most of the mess is Shanti’s) , or how much time I spent procrastinating on the Internet or otherwise today and how much I hated myself for it, and how I hated the sound of my alarm clock this morning because I’m so tired, and how I love my cat but have to push her off when she sits on me while I work, and how my toenails, which I painted bright pink a few weeks ago, are now half grown out and chipping.
* * *
A few months ago, we had to write an English essay about a type of media. I read my classmate’s draft, which was about how Instagram, specifically lifestyle accounts, make their followers feel like they’re not good enough because their lives aren’t perfect like the person’s they see on the screen. They hold themselves up to standards nobody can reach, not even the people who run these accounts, because they obviously don’t photograph or talk about the messy, imperfect parts of their lives. (This is a generalization). It was a pretty good essay, but I didn’t have Instagram at the time, so it didn’t really capture my attention all that much.
When I did get Instagram, I soon figured out I’d like to have a theme. For the last few months, I’ve settled on a sheet music background. I’ve scrolled around and found other beautiful, themed feeds with attached captions that made me feel like I was the only one who didn’t have her life together. (side note: I really don’t think my theme is amazing or great or anything. So many other bookstagrammers do a really good job. I just try. It’s not like the number one thing I put effort into or anything. )
Obviously, this isn’t true. But it got me thinking about how online identities make it very easy to choose what you show about your life. It’s easier to paint it in a rosy light when most of the people who follow you don’t see the rest of your life. And as followers, it’s easy to forget all the things the person doesn’t write about—the hard things and the messy things that are just as real as the beautiful feed or tweet.
I’m not trying to say this is bad, necessarily. I personally wouldn’t really feel comfortable discussing all the hard and messy aspects of my life online. Taking beautiful pictures of books or the Easter eggs I made is easier, not quite so personal (although that’s not to say that books or thoughts about books can’t be personal).
I guess all I’m trying to say is that we all know our own messes better than we can ever know other people’s, especially when everybody else is creating an image—a persona—on the interwebs (I just love that word). And as a community of book nerds, I think we should all remember that a perfect feed or lovely blog post doesn’t mean we’re complete failures. Let’s appreciate what other people do share about their lives, and appreciate the messes of our own.
So if you like my Instagram feed (or someone else’s tweets or a tumblr page), that’s great. But just because that is all match-y and coordinated, don’t assume I am, and wonder how you can ever keep up. Because I’m a total mess. (A nice mess which is able to function, but a mess nevertheless). And when I read our blog posts or look at your feed, I’ll try to do the same for you.
Do you ever have this problem? How do you decide what you’ll post online and what you won’t? What’s your favourite thing about social media vs. real life?
Recently I’ve been thinking about how when I’m reviewing a book, or reading someone else’s review, I see discussions of how realistic a book is. So I wanted to discuss a) What make a book realistic, b) whether this is a good thing, and c) how there are different types of ‘realisticness’. Hopefully this will leave me (and you) with a better idea of what we’re saying when talking about the realisticness of a book.
What realistic means
I’ve come up with a definition, which I totally made up I can guarantee is 100% reliable and the best definition ever.
- Displays relationships realistically. This can mean whatever you want it to mean, but I’m thinking about how most friendships don’t form in a day, and often involve disagreements.
- Realistic characters. I think this should mean characters that aren’t perfectly good or bad, but somewhere in between. Characters should have issues other than two many suitors. Characters that get hungry and frustrated and angry, just like nonfictional human beans.
- Realistic plot. i.e, not entirely action. I’ll further discuss what realistic plot means in the next section.
- Realistic conflict does not involve trying to choose a boyfriend or fighting over pointless things like what is for dinner. (or maybe people do fight about this?)
- Realistic setting… I’m not really sure what I mean with this. But the plot and characters interact with the place they’re set, right? So if these things don’t deal with place, e.g physical distance, transport, what it looks like out the window, and (if it’s set in the real world) technological advances, behaviour and language and clothing of the time, then it’s not very realistic. (e.g something set in India during the British Raj where it’s not hot and everybody says ‘yo’ ‘sup?’ and ‘gangsta’)
Disadvantages of realistic books
- ‘real life’ (or is this just my life?) has a lot of character development and like, no plot. There’s a lot of action that goes nowhere and needless conflict and dead ends and no finish line with all the loose ends tied up in sight.
- A book would take forever if everything that happens in real life (awkward crushes, going to the bathroom, meals because hunger is a thing, having to sleep and do homework) was written about.
- Sometimes, it’s nice to escape the boring real world, and in that case you don’t want a book that’s realistic
Advantages of realistic books
- It’s more relatable. Like, if we have to deal with getting hungry and so do the characters, then it’s we can empathise with the characters better.
- It’s easier to imagine! For example, it’s easier to understand how a character slowly makes friends than imagining the character falling in love in a day. Because we’ve probably done the former but not the latter.
- Sometimes you can learn about yourself by reading about characters. But if they’re running around killing monsters rather than spending half an hour crying because they’re failing at making a friendship bracelet not that I would ever do that then that can’t really happen.
Types of realism
I was originally thinking about this post in terms or contemporary books, as in ‘How similar is this book to real life?’ But I realised that there can be different types of realisticness, as you can see in my definition. A fantasy can have realistic characters and conflict, but the setting is never going to be like where I live, because there are no monsters where I live. (Or are there? Who can know). A historical novel can be meticulously researched, but maybe the characters just don’t act like any human of ever because they’re too perfect.
In summary, when we’re evaluating how realistic a book is, I think we should consider the multiple facets or realism. What worked? What didn’t? Could I imagine this happening in my town? Did I like it being realistic? Was there a plot? Hopefully thinking about what we mean by ‘realistic’ will help us review more accurately.
Did you get to the end of this gargantuan post? Do you like realistic books? Why? What is your definition of realistic? What’s a realistic or non-realistic book you’ve read recently?
Hi Virtually Readers! It’s a day for a discussion, which will be fun. Today I want to talk about books that take place over a short period of time. For these purposes I’m defining ‘short period of time’ as less than two weeks, which is a little random, but whatever. These books tend to be action packed and suspenseful—but they also have problems.
First though, why would a book take place over a short period of time? A few ideas:
- There’s an artificially imposed deadline (people make it). This is the whole ‘you have to do X thing by X date, OR ELSE. Examples: Six of Crows, Heist Society, The Conspiracy of Us, The Scorch Trials.
- There’s a naturally imposed deadline. This could be the end of the world or someone’s impending death. Examples: We All Looked Up, This is Where it Ends (sorta human, but you get my point)
- The book just takes place over a short period of time without a deadline. Examples: The Sun is Also a Star, When We Wake, What We Saw.
- Things are happening at a great rate to add tension to the plot and stress to relationships.
I find that these books are usually mysteries and action novels (which could be set in fantasy, sci-fi, or within the *gasp* real world), and anything where tension matters. And if you ask me, they work if they’re well plotted. Everything happens fast. There’s no time to get bored, and it creates suspense.
Deadlines are also great for emphasizing relationships. Pre-existing relationships are put under stress. Limited time can force conversations to happen, old hurts to be confronted, and add tension by creating arguments between characters. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are great examples of this. Because the characters often have to work together to beat the ‘bad guy’, they get really close, fast. (I’m talking about romance especially). The tension forces characters to reveal secrets and generally we, as readers get to know them well.
And so I get it. I get why these books are written, and why they’re read, and I might have written a book with a short timeframe (3 weeks) too (though it needs lots of edits, so who knows what will happen), and I have read lots of books like this, and they can be good books, and often are (good job for reaching the end of the run on sentence). But here’s the thing: Most of the time, that’s not how real life works. You don’t fall in love in a day. You don’t make very complicated and cool plans in a day. You don’t get a plot in a day. You don’t change your views entirely in a day. (well, less than ten days, but you get my point).
And I don’t know how to feel about it. Of course, I don’t want to read ‘the boring stuff’—the days when nothing happens to contribute to the plot. But in terms of relationships and hey, character development, that’s when you (or a character) become who you are, and know who your friends are. It can be exciting to read these stories. But in your life, there are few times when action is fast. Often, it’s painfully slow. Relationships might start in an instant, but getting to the point where you’re comfortable being your usual self around someone can take months, if not years.
Fiction has never claimed to be reality. That’s kind of the point. But I can’t help thinking that when things happen fast, they might fall apart later (which, no spoilers, but Nicola Yoon definitely addresses at the end of The Sun is Also a Star), and when you fall in love in two minutes, you might break up in two days, and when you construct a bridge in two weeks, it’ll fall down a few months later. In a short amount of time, when there are conspiracies to reveal–that’s when a lot of real life, the things that aren’t plot related happen.
These short timeframes lend themselves to instant easy relationships, and in my experience, that’s not how people work. Or rather, it’s not how people work most of the time (Anyone who has ever had a ‘summer camp’ or ‘MUN conference’ friend may know this. It doesn’t really last) . And that sort of bothers me.
I’m not going to stop reading books with short timeframes. But writing this, and thinking about it, has made me remember that YA is not reality (most of the time), my life has no action–oh yeah, and what really matters is not the stress and fast pace of thrilling situations, but what you do afterwards. How’s that for inspirational?
Do you think that short books can have unrealistic relationships? What are some short timeframe books you like? tell me in the comments