Lots of other blogs with vast archives do this so I figured I might as well try it out too. What is a ‘blast from the past’ here on The Mad Reviewer? Well, for our purposes it will be me plugging some of my older posts way back from 2012 and 2013 (possibly even 2014) that my newer subscribers may have missed. Some of them are not the best written but I’ve definitely improved over time and my older posts are definitely a reflection of my blogging inexperience. They’re still pretty cool, though, if I do say so myself.
So here are some random articles over the years that I’ve particularly liked or had fun writing:
1. Why are Zombies so Scary? (March 2012)
Here in this post I examine the reasons why zombies used to terrify me and why they continue to terrify other people, even with the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead. Read the comment section to discover how zombies are like cows as well.
2. What Makes a Character Memorable? (March 2012)
What makes a character memorable? Why is it that some characters stick out to us and we remember them years later whereas some characters you forget instantly after finishing a book?
3. Accuracy in Historical Fiction (April 2012)
My views surrounding accuracy in historical fiction have slightly changed since this post but the essence of it is true: most history is exciting enough that it doesn’t need to be changed by authors.
4. A Plea for Diversity in Fantasy (April 2012)
No, this isn’t about racial and other diversity (I’ve addressed that in other posts) but instead this was a desperate plea for some unique plots in fantasy, YA fantasy in particular. I think part of my problem at the time was the fact it was the height of Twilight fever and I desperately needed a form of brain bleach to displace all the Team Edward vs. Team Jacob nonsense.
5. Should Reviewers Give Bad Reviews? (July 2012)
Yep, this controversy has raged for years and will continue to go on long after this generation of bloggers quits. Should reviewers give bad reviews or simply not post bad reviews? I think by now you guys know what side I’m on.
Three years ago, around 5:30 pm I started The Mad Reviewer. I was half asleep and exhausted after work but had been planning to start a blog for a solid two weeks or so. I had all of my first posts typed up to post right away and my first review was The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. It was rough and not very well written I must admit, but I like to think I’ve gotten better after three years and 600 more reviews as practice.
So here I am, three years, 600 reviews and 200,000+ views later. On my first day ever, my blog got 18 views whereas now I average anywhere from 150-200 views per day, depending on what I post that week and any holidays that are currently going on. It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve made so many friends and met so many interesting people (as much as one can make friends and ‘meet’ people online) and I’ve learned a lot. Here are just some of the things I’ve learned in three years of writing nearly daily:
1. Even though not everyone sticks around for long, you do build up a core section of regular commenters.
People follow and then unfollow your blog; that’s just the way the internet works. But over time, blogs build up communities of sorts where a few people will comment pretty regularly on your posts. It’s gratifying to see that community build and change over the years and although I love all of the comments I get, the comments from you regulars always mean so much to me. It shows me that even when my writing is not necessarily my best, you’re still willing to give it a read and leave your thoughts behind. That’s a pretty incredible feeling and I like to think we’ve had some pretty interesting conversations and debates over the years.
2. Blogging can be exhausting and that’s normal.
You will eventually get burned out. That’s just the way blogging goes, like so many other creative pursuits. You’ll be posting daily and regularly and all of a sudden something awful will happen in your real life that completely throws everything off. Or maybe something happens that isn’t all that dramatic and you just lose the ‘shiny new’ feeling you get when you blog. Either way, every blogger will hit a slump. Mine was just recently after my beloved boss/mentor/role model died in May. It was really bad in July and August but this January my resolution has been to move on and write daily like I used it. So far so good and it’s such a relief to get back on a schedule. It just makes me feel better about the whole thing.
That’s why my main advice for new bloggers is this: you will burn out eventually. But when you do, take a break and get back on that horse.
3. Some posts will be surprisingly popular; others will not.
If you write articles with popular internet buzzwords like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘nude’ (preferably in the same sentence), you’re going to get a lot of views. 42% of my traffic last year came from a post with just those words and most of those views were from search engines. Rants like the aforementioned rebuttal are satisfying to write if only to let off some steam and it’s also satisfying to look back on those rants and see that they’re still popular.
But I’ve got some bad news for new bloggers: the articles that you generally will care the most about and put the most effort into will not be the most popular. (Especially if you’re a book blogger.) In general, what you like to write about and what your core group of loyal readers loves will not be as popular with the general public. I love to write about obscure historical figures in my Forgotten Figures series but the problem with writing about obscure historical figures is that they’re obscure. Not many people search them out.
Of course you can love to rant about popular topics and get views from those, but don’t be surprised when articles you put your heart and soul into don’t get the number of views that are proportional to the effort put into them.
4. There are some bad times, but there are mostly good times to be had.
Sometimes, just like in real life, people can be assholes online. This shouldn’t be news to anyone who has ever been online. Sometimes those assholes will attack you. It’s just a fact of life on the internet, particularly if you’re female (then you get all of the bonus sexual harassment in addition to regular harassment!). And if you’re a book blogger like me, it’s inevitable that an author will go ballistic at you for doing something ‘wrong’. Whether it’s rejecting a review request because your requests are closed or not being totally 100% happy and completely positive in your review of their work, you’re going to get attacked by an author. You need to develop a thick skin and deal with it, unfortunately. They’re not going anywhere.
Those are the low points of being a book blogger. They’re rare, but they are there. Fortunately, most of the times will be good. Your posts will be read by at least a couple loyal readers a day and you’ll meet some amazing people in the publishing industry, be they editors, bloggers or writers. You’ll get to share your love of books and that’s really what book blogging is all about, at least for me. The good times have definitely outweighed the bad here on The Mad Reviewer.
Yes, it’s that time of year again: time to recommend books that I loved. Particularly new books that I just read this year. In this Part One I’ll be recommending fantasy, science fiction and speculative fiction. And then in Part Two I’ll be recommending the remaining major genres: historical fiction, romance and just a miscellaneous category. All links go to my actual reviews of the books where you can find links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and sometimes Goodreads in the newer reviews. Enjoy!
When the blog tour for this book went around, I almost didn’t join up because I thought it sounded stupid. But I would have lost out if I hadn’t because Aranya is one of the most unique, well-written and diverse fantasy worlds that I’ve ever encountered. It has dragons, shapeshifters, people of many different cultures, vivid characters, beautiful writing and a believable fantasy world all jammed into one action-packed story. I fell in love with it from the first page and I just cannot recommend it enough. Everyone needs to buy this book.
I picked this one up because the head of one of the blog tour companies I’m affiliated with absolutely gushed about it. We generally have the same taste in books so I couldn’t pass it over. Like with Aranya, I’m glad I didn’t. Selah, the main character, is just one of those characters you’ll never really forget and Henry is also very unique. Putting them together into what’s not necessarily the best situation where both of them face rape and possibly death if they separate makes for a lot of tension, but it also gives them common ground. They start to trust each other, become friends and eventually it turns into love but Selah is keeping a secret that could break them apart.
I recommended this one last year as well and I really just can’t recommend it enough. Jill Braden has created a diverse fantasy world in The Devil’s Concubine and her main character QuiTai is perhaps one of the best female characters I’ve ever seen in fiction. She’s almost always one step ahead of her enemies but sometimes things don’t go exactly the way she wants to. She’s ruthless and beautiful but also caring and gentle, paying for the schooling of Ponongese children in Thampurian schools and fighting for Ponong’s independence (in subtle ways, mind) from their Thampurian masters.
This is another return recommendation and Prophecy of the Most Beautiful certainly deserves it. Diantha Jones has created a vivid fantasy world of gods and goddesses based on Greek mythology…and it’s a world that’s in great danger as the main character Chloe becomes the Pythia of prophecy. Will the world as the gods know it end? Or will Chloe lose everything she holds dear? You’ll be on the edge of your seat for this first installment in the Oracle of Delphi series!
If you’ve ever thought about reading the books the famous TV series is based on, you really should just read it. It’s an interesting take on a quasi-Medieval fantasy world that’s not all roses and rainbows. George R. R. Martin glamorizes nothing about the period and even goes to great lengths to show how horrible it is but at the same time, creates some great characters. He writes some of the best female leads in fiction and there is a reason that the book series was adapted into a television series: it’s just that good.
Ooh, a science fiction book aimed at teens that contains actual science! It’s a shocker, I know, but I was actually fairly impressed with the first installment in the Partials Sequence. You’ve got believable characters, more plot twists than you can count and an interesting post-apocalyptic world where not everything is as it seems. With lots of moral ambiguity and just a little romance, you really can’t go wrong with Partials. I guess in hindsight I should have seen the main plot twist but it’s really how that particular plot twist came about that’s more interesting to readers than the nature of said twist.
This is not a new book at all, but I just can’t recommend it enough. It’s a new take on zombies, one where two man-made viruses designed to help man combine to create—you guessed it—zombies. Only this isn’t your typical zombie novel; it’s more of a political thriller that happens to have zombies because Feed takes place 26 years after the event called The Rising. How has humanity changed because of zombies being a constant threat, a threat that can arise every time someone dies? And what happens when some people decide they know better than everyone else and try to mold the world to fit their ideal? Find out in Mira Grant’s amazing novel!
Captivate was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me because (and I’m not sure why I thought this) I thought this would be a book about mermaids. That’s not quite the case, although mermaids certainly were the inspiration for the whole underwater city. Captivate does in fact have a love triangle, but it’s much, much more realistic than so many out there in YA fiction. It’s actually kind of natural but in the end Miranda makes a choice, something that also rarely happens in just the first book of a YA series or trilogy. So if you’re looking for YA with some romance, but want something a little less stereotypical, Vanessa Garden’s debut is for you.
Spark is book one in the Feyguard series, a spin-off series to the main Feyland trilogy Anthea Sharp wrote. It can be read as a stand-alone novel, though, and that’s in part because it is very well written. Spark herself is a pretty awesome main character as the premier gamer in the world as well as a member of the Feyguard, sworn to protect mortals from slipping into the world of the Fae through the Feyland game. This isn’t the most science-intensive science fiction, but the incredible technology of Anthea Sharp’s future world is enough to even make a non-gamer like me drool.
Within YA, Crewel and the sequel Altered stand alone in their uniqueness. The plot isn’t necessarily entirely unique, but Gennifer Albin hits upon such an unique idea that it’s disorientating at first. A world where fates are spun like thread seems more fantasy than science fiction, but there is an actual scientific explanation. It also makes you really ponder the idea of free will vs. controlling factors (be they a deity or really terrifying science). And if you’re like me and hate YA characters that can’t seem to keep their mouths shut ever, you’ll love Adelice. She can actually control her emotions and knows when and when not to say certain things. What novel idea!
This is the kind of gift you’d really only give to your closest friend because (and I don’t say this lightly) there’s a ridiculous amount of trigger warning content within. There’s rape, physical violence and some pretty awful decisions that the main character Rain has to make, all in the name of a possible cure for her little brother’s terminal illness. It’s a dark story, but also one of beauty, forgiveness and redemption. Trust me when I say that it’s not for the faint of heart, but that it is an excellent book.
This is sort of urban fantasy/speculative fiction. What would happen if humans found out about supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters? If your answer was “kill them”, you’d probably be right. And then what if in that world, supernatural creatures then obtained the same rights as humans? Well, that’s the world Sadie Stanton lives in, where her boyfriend Cameron was murdered for being a supernatural creature and where she fought to push through legislation declaring personhood for all supernatural beings. One year after, things are heating up in the town of Adelheid as murders seemingly perpetuated by vampires and werewolves keep cropping up. Will Sadie be able to get to the bottom of things?
I read this one last year, but it’s really stuck with me and that’s in part because of the main character Catrina. The Genesis is set in a futuristic world where a corporation keeps kidnapping and killing vampires in the search for the key to their immortality. Catrina becomes a vampire in this rather dark world but instead of going into complete denial about being a vampire like so many other narrators, she tries to learn everything she can about it. Shocking, I know. The only thing that’s a little annoying in this book (to me anyway) is that we don’t really know much about Catrina. However, this book is only the first in a series so I guess we’ll learn a lot more about her in the future.
I recommended this one last year and I’m going to recommend it again. Prince of Thorns is a dark fantasy/science fiction novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that is very clearly our own. (Jorg reading old Latin philosophy in original Latin being the first clue.) Our main character Jorg is ruthless, utterly vile and will stop at nothing to become Emperor. And he’s only 14 years old! Normally a character like Jorg would repulse me but he is very compelling and when you learn his backstory bit by bit, it’s no wonder that he’s so horrible. But he’s also brilliant and strategically minded, meaning that the whole book is a fast-paced and interesting read.
In a world where vampires rule and humans are their slaves, one teenage girl named Allison Sekemoto is scrounging on the edges of society to survive. Rather than submitting to the vampires’ bloodletting twice a month she decides to run to the outskirts of the city and scavenge for food. Only, her life gets turned upside down when she is attacked by feral vampires and is saved by a regular vampire who then turns her so she can survive. She has to figure out not only how to survive as a vampire but how to reconcile her bloodlust with her code of ethics that’s strictly against killing for blood. Julie Kagawa is one of those writers that gets better with time and by the end of this trilogy, you’ll look at vampires just a little differently.
If you don’t see your favourite genre here, stay tuned this week for part two, which will contain my historical fiction, romance and miscellaneous genre recommendations. Did you see any new books that you might check out? Or are some of your favourites already on here?
I started my own challenge way back in 2013 so it’d be a darn shame not to finish it. I actually read and reviewed 191 books in 2013 but I counted the longer novels toward my challenge. Anyone who doubts whether I actually reviewed these books can go verify them on the ‘My Reviews‘ page. Right now I’m just going to talk about my statistics from the reading challenge (in which I read 104 books).
Total pages read: 43,985
Average pages per book: 422.9
Time spent reading (assuming an average of 100 pages/hour): 436.85 hours
Time spent reviewing (assuming 45 minutes/review): 78 hours
Um, wow? I had no idea I spent that much time reading, but I guess I really do spend a lot of my time with my nose in a book. More than most people, I’m thinking. Even with blogging, I had no idea I spent that much time actually writing reviews! But by the time I find cover pictures, blurbs and actually write the darn things an average of 45 minutes has gone by. That means that since I reviewed 191 books this year I spent 143 hours and 15 minutes writing reviews. I earned my blog name, that’s for sure.
The 2013 Mad Reviewing Reading & Reviewing Challenge is still in progress of course but I’m liking it so much that I figured I may as well start people on the sign up sheet. The challenge is the same as last year:
The Mad Reviewer Reading Challenge is to read and review (either on Goodreads, Amazon or your own blog) 104 books in one year starting January 1, 2014 and ending December 31, 2014.
I’m fully aware that not everyone has time to read 104 books which is why I’ve created different levels of the challenge that you can aspire to:
1. Mad Reviewer: 104 books in one year. (2 books a week all year.)
2. Crazy Reviewer: 52 books in one year. (1 book a week all year.)
3. Slightly Sane Reviewer: 26 books in one year. (1 book every fortnight all year.)
4. Sane Reviewer: 12 books in one year. (1 book every month all year.) Continue reading
From now until January 1 this post will be a sticky on my front page. Basically, if you’ve finished The Mad Reviewer Reading & Reviewing Challenge for 2013, please tell me here. Leave me a comment with a link to the site where you did all of your reviews and I’ll go verify that you really did reach the level you claimed to reach. Then I’ll post your name and the level you completed here, which also means that I’ve entered your name in my jar for the grand prize draw of internationally shipped books. (If you need a refresher about the rules click here.)
Just as a refresher, here were the levels and the number of entries you’ll get:
1. Mad Reviewer: 104 books in one year (4 entries)
2. Crazy Reviewer: 52 books in one year (3 entries)
3. Slightly Sane Reviewer: 26 books in one year (2 entries)
4. Sane Reviewer: 12 books in one year (1 entry)
Here are some of the people that have completed the challenge so far and what levels they achieved:
1. Sharon Stevenson of Sharon Stevenson’s Blog
2. Kim of Read Your Writes Book Reviews
3. James of James’ Reading List
4. Myself (Full breakdown here)
1. Diantha Jones of DJ’s Book Corner
2. Scatty of The Big Nerd
SLIGHTLY SANE REVIEWER
1. Shirley of fordsthoughts
2. Caleb Flanagan of 20four12
1. Ashutosh of Ashutosh’s Blog
2. Margaret Taylor of Steam Trains and Ghosts
3. Devina of Hot Chocolate And Books
4. Raya of midnight coffee monster
5. Walki of The Masquerade Crew
Yes, it’s November 30th and almost the end of another year. My second blogging anniversary is coming up in January, but more importantly my reading and reviewing challenge will be coming to an end at 11:59pm on December 30th. I’m hoping to announce winners the very next day, but it may be a couple days afterward as I collect the names and enter them into my draw.
So I’m basically finished. I’m going to review a few long books (Cleopatra’s Memoirs, 11/22/63, etc.) and then add any of the long books I didn’t count from the rest of this year. I’ve read and reviewed far more than 104 books this year and although I won’t reach my 500 review goal I’m pretty happy with how this blog has been running.
My question for you guys now is: If you’re participating in the challenge, do you think you’re going to finish? What level are you finishing? Will you try again next year?
And if you’re not involved in the challenge, read all about it here and tell me this: would you like to participate in the 2014 version? Why or why not?