Saturday, January 31, 2015

31Days Blogging Challenge: Days 28 & 29 catch-up

Parajunkee is hosting a Better Blogging Challenge again this year. She hosted something similar for 2014 and I had fun taking part, so thought I'd try it again this year! I like that the challenge is pretty flexible and you're not locked into doing every single task.

Still playing catch-up

31 Days of Better Blogging

Day 28:  Contact Info

Your task today is to make sure your contact info is up to date and posted in an easy to find location.

Done! I recently updated my Contact Page so am good to go! Still working on getting the page tabs back to my header, but for now they're on my left sidebar.

Day 29:  User Friendly

Your task today is to make sure your blog is user friendly!

Pretty sure that my blog is user friendly. I try to keep the sidebars uncluttered and periodically add/remove widgets. All the page links work properly. 

Does anyone have a problem with the font size or color I'm using? I like the contrast, but am thinking about changing the font color.

Please let me know if there's anything I can do to improve my blog's appearance!

Friday, January 30, 2015

31Days Challenge: Days 23, 25, & 27 catch-up

Parajunkee is hosting a Better Blogging Challenge again this year. She hosted something similar for 2014 and I had fun taking part, so thought I'd try it again this year! I like that the challenge is pretty flexible and you're not locked into doing every single task.

Fell behind because of the flu, so still playing catch-up!

31 Days of Better Blogging

Day 23:  Pros and cons of blogging

Your task today is to write your pros & cons of blogging.

This seems like a pretty simple task on the surface, so I went with my first impressions instead of tormenting myself over the "correct" answers.

Pros
  • Receiving ARCs
  • Discovering new authors/titles
  • Interacting with fellow booklovers
  • Making new friends all over the world
  • Receiving comments on posts, showing that someone has actually read them!
  • Ability to attend BEA 

Cons 
  • Too many non-relevant email review requests
  • Pushy authors who won't take no for an answer
  • Having to read certain books instead of what I want to read
  • No comments on a post I struggled with. Did anyone even see it?
  • Pressure to read faster
  • Is very time consuming
  • Still feeling like a blogger newbie after 5+ years 

I'm sure I'll think of other pro & cons later, but these were the first that came to mind. For me, the pros outweigh the cons more often than not. And I think I've gotten over most of the blogger envy I used to struggle with, so that's something.

Day 25:  Blog Schedule

Your task today is to set a blog schedule.

I try to schedule posts in advance so I'm not scrambling around at the last minute, but usually fall behind after having a couple of posts under my belt. Darn procrastination gene!

I've been looking for a new meme to take part in, so that would help with scheduling. And I like Rachel's idea of having 3 posts ready and waiting, but want to aim for at least six so I have a nice cushion.

Day 27:  Target Audience

Your task today is to figure out your target audience.

Since I've never done a reader survey where I've asked personal information, I went to various tracking sites to try to figure out my demographics.

I don't want to install anything on my blog that I'd consider an invasion of privacy, so don't know the ages or gender of my readers. All the sites do agree that the majority of my audience is based in the US and come directly to my site instead of being referred by social media or another blog.

Not sure how I can expand my reach internationally, but guess I need to work on my social media accounts. I've started paying more attention to my Facebook page and recently signed up for Tsu. Twitter is a total time-suck for me so I'm not on very often, and I've never really gotten the hang of Google+. *sigh*


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Stolen book review - an unexpected disappointment

The Stolen
Title:  The Stolen

Author:  Bishop O'Connell

Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse

Source:  Review copy provided by Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, LLC

Synopsis:
Tonight, for the first time in over a century, a mortal child will be kidnapped by faeries.

When her daughter Fiona is snatched from her bed, Caitlin's entire world crumbles. Once certain that faeries were only a fantasy, Caitlin must now accept that these supernatural creatures do exist--and that they have traded in their ancient swords and horses for modern guns and sports cars. 

Hopelessly outmatched, she accepts help from a trio of unlikely heroes: Eddy, a psychiatrist and novice wizard; Brendan, an outcast Fian warrior; and Dante, a Magister of the fae's Rogue Court. Moving from the busy streets of Boston's suburbs to the shadowy land of Tir na nOg, Caitlin and her allies will risk everything to save Fiona. But can this disparate quartet conquer their own inner demons and outwit the dark faeries before it's too late? (Goodreads) 

My Thoughts:

While the premise of this book really intrigued me, the story itself let me down a little. The plot was interesting, the characters were intriguing, the writing was good, and I love anything to do with the Fae. So why didn't this book draw me in as expected?

Most of the story is told from Caitlin's point of view, then it splits and we have Caitlin's and Eddy's parallel adventures. The duel story lines were easy to follow and interesting enough, but I found myself putting the book down more than once for some reason.

After stewing about it for awhile, I think that it was the pace of the plot that ultimately put me off. We know from the synopsis that Caitlin has to travel to Tir na nOg to try to retrieve her daughter, but it takes almost half the book before they even cross!

While it's important to set things up, it felt like the author was giving us almost too much information. I kept waiting for Caitlin to cross over into Fae territory and I admit that I became impatient.

While not a bad book, it was just okay for me. If anyone else has read this one, I'd love to know what you thought! It took me much too long to finish this one, but I'm not 100% sure why.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

31Days Challenge: Days 18, 19, and 22 catch-up

Parajunkee is hosting a Better Blogging Challenge again this year. She hosted something similar for 2014 and I had fun taking part, so thought I'd try it again this year! I like that the challenge is pretty flexible and you're not locked into doing every single task.

Still playing catch-up after a wicked bout of the flu!

31 Days of Better Blogging

Day 18:  Social Network...Go!

Your task today is to check out a new social network.

Rachel lists four new social network sites that she thinks are worth checking out:  Tsu, Medium, Learnist, and Secret.

The only one of these that I've heard of is Tsu, but only because I followed Kevin Hearne there. I followed him from Facebook to Google+ to Tsu. Hope he settles down soon and picks a social media platform, as I'm exhausted! ha!

I like the looks of Tsu because it's pretty intuitive and reminds me of Facebook. I've found a handful of authors and book bloggers there, but haven't explored it in depth yet. If you want to join, here's my link.

Day 19:  Change It Up

Your task today is to change something in your blogging routine.

While schedules and routine can be good, changing things up a bit can stimulate creativity and freshen things up.

I'm not ready to change my blog design, but am thinking about taking part in a new meme. Just have to find one I really like, so am open to suggestions!

Also like Rachel's suggestion about changing the time we post. I usually schedule my posts for the morning, but maybe I'll try posting them in the evenings instead when more people are home and online.

Day 22:  Check Under the SEO Hood

Your task today is to check how well your SEO is doing.

Have to admit that I'm not 100% sure what SEO is exactly, so need to read a few tutorials. I know that I have several dead links that I need to deal with, but not sure where to go from there.

Rachel does suggest having unique post titles, but most of my posts are reviews so not a whole lot I can do to jazz those up. I follow a few blogs that create eye-catching titles, but you wouldn't know that they were reviews until you clicked. I like full transparency and to call a review a review, but it's certainly something to think about....

Friday, January 23, 2015

31Days Challenge: Days 14, 16, & 17

Parajunkee is hosting a Better Blogging Challenge again this year. She hosted something similar for 2014 and I had fun taking part, so thought I'd try it again this year! I like that the challenge is pretty flexible and you're not locked into doing every single task.

Still playing catch-up after a bad bout of the flu....

31 Days of Better Blogging

Day 14:  Competitors

Your task today is to narrow down a list of competitors. Take note of who you think of as “competition” and follow and pay attention to what they do.

Glad that Rachel made this a challenge, as she clarifies what she means by "competition." While none of us are really competing against each other with our blogs, she points out that there is some competition for blog tours, ARCs, author interviews, and so on. Since I more or less wait for email invitations and don't solicit anything from authors/publishers, I guess I've taken myself out of the competition.

But, based on her parameters, I'd prefer to think of them as role models or inspiration. Once you find someone with similar reading tastes and blog stats, then see if they can inspire you to do better. Maybe they have features that might work on your blog? Which content has the most comments and shares? Do they use social media differently? Who are they following that you haven't discovered yet?

I like her idea of finding similar-to-you blogs and using them for inspiration. I also use the so-called "Big Fish" blogs as inspiration. I'm still not comfortable with asking someone to guest post on my blog because I don't want to impose, but that's my issue and I know I need to get over it. Think I'll think more on this challenge and maybe implement some of her suggestions down the road.

Day 16:  The Buddy List

Your task today is to create a blogger buddy list.

I sorta-kinda have a buddy list. I have the blog roll on my blog, plus have different groups set up on Bloglovin and Twitter that I try to check most often. I don't mind leaving comments and connecting on Facebook, Tsu, or Twitter, but am too shy to take it beyond that.

Day 17:  Goals & Missions

Your task today is to get a firm grip on your blogger goals and mission. Do you have them? If not - get on that…

No mission statement for me, but I do have some blog goals. To remind myself, I made a permanent page on my blog with daily tasks as well as long-ranging goals.

One of my unwritten goals is to grow my blog and interact with my readers on a more consistent basis. I'd also love to attend BEA this year, but that's more a physical goal as I need to build up the strength in my knee. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

31Days Challenge: Days 10, 12, & 13

Parajunkee is hosting a Better Blogging Challenge again this year. She hosted something similar for 2014 and I had fun taking part, so thought I'd try it again this year! I like that the challenge is pretty flexible and you're not locked into doing every single task.

I was hit pretty hard by the flu earlier this month, so am playing catch-up!

31 Days of Better Blogging

Day 10:  Email Signatures

Your task today is to revamp your email signature.

Have to say that I'm happy with my email signature as is. I have my two blog names, with links, right under my name. I'm hesitant to add my Twitter name since I'm rarely on Twitter, but maybe I should add my Facebook page address? What do you think about adding a description, like "Reader. Reviewer. Blogger." in there too? I just don't want to clutter up my signature too much or be annoying.

Day 12: Menu System

Your task today is to inspect your menu system. Is there something on there that really doesn’t need to be? Is there something that is missing?

Aside from not being able to figure out why I can't get my menu back under the header, I think it's okay. I've got pages for Home, About Me, My Review Policy, Challenges, My TBR Pile, Blog Goals, and Contact Me. Anything else I should add?

Day 13:  New To You Blogs

Your task today is to find five new to you blogs and leave them a comment.

This was made easy by Parajunkee including a linky in her post where you could leave your blog name and link. I visited several new-to-me blogs and found way more than five to follow! Fingers crossed that I've found some new blog buddies!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

31Days Challenge: Days 7, 8, & 9 catch-up

Parajunkee is hosting a Better Blogging Challenge again this year. She hosted something similar for 2014 and I had fun taking part, so thought I'd try it again this year! I like that the challenge is pretty flexible and you're not locked into doing every single task.

The flu hit me pretty hard earlier this month, so I'm playing catch-up.

31 Days of Better Blogging

Day 7:  Highlight Your Popular Posts

Your task today is to discover which posts are your most popular post and highlight them on your sidebar or in a post.

Have to admit that I'm a little conflicted about this one. I'm hesitant to add another widget to my sidebar, and the "if you liked this" suggestions at the bottom of posts didn't work out too well last time I tried it.

Isn't having my archive on the sidebar enough? Does anyone look for the most popular posts on a blog? Inquiring minds (mine) want to know!

Day 8: Recycle Your Posts

Your task today is to recycle a post from a year ago – or longer.

This is another task that I have mixed feelings about. Most of my posts are reviews, so I'm not sure how I would update them for recycling. Unless I did a reread review, but it's been ages since I've reread anything so that's probably not an option. Maybe a post featuring some of the series I've read? Or a Top Ten list of favorite reads with links to the original reviews? Any suggestions? Or should I stick to new content only?

Day 9:  Social Media Checks & Balances

Your task today is to clean up your social media. Unfollow people that aren’t needed and focus on the social network that works for you!

This task was pretty easy for me, as I use the same avatar for all of my accounts so no need to update. I already have my Facebook and Twitter followers in different lists, but I'm not ready to unfollow anyone at this point.

I'm hardly ever on Twitter, but I've started spending a few minutes every day checking my feed and retweeting anything that catches my eye. I'm doing the same thing on my Facebook page.

Not quite ready to check out my "competitors" to see how they handle social media. Where would I even start? Do I even have competition? I have friends and people I follow, but I don't really think that we're competing for anything.

I have set up a spreadsheet to track my blog stats on a monthly basis. Surprised to see that I get so much traffic from Pinterest, so think I need to start spending more time there. I also set up a Tsu account, but that seems a little stagnant right now. Maybe because it's still so new?

In case you'd like to connect, here are my social media links:
Facebook
Twitter
Tsu
Pinterest

Monday, January 19, 2015

Love, Lucy book review

 photo LoveLucy.jpgLove, Lucy by April Lindner

**ARC received from the publisher**

While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, 17-year-old Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. 

After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

In exchange for attending her father's choice of college, majoring in business, and giving up acting, Lucy's parents send her and a friend on the vacation of their dreams:  a month-long backpacking trip through Europe ending in Italy, Lucy's favorite country.

Arriving in Florence, Lucy is eager to start exploring and doesn't want to waste a single minute. Charmed by the city, she is determined to enjoy herself after a falling out with her friend. While wandering around town, Lucy runs into one of the hotel workers busking in a piazza and he offers to show her around.

Lucy and Jesse have a whirlwind romance, starting in Florence and continuing to Rome. It's the perfect vacation romance, her very own Roman Holiday (Lucy's favorite movie).

But all good things must come to an end and soon Lucy is starting college and trying to settle into her new life. Despite promises to keep in touch, Jesse rarely responds to Lucy's emails and she soon fears that he's found someone else.

Trying to move on, Lucy finds herself drawn to the drama department and auditions for a play, despite the deal she made with her father. You just know that this can't end well, but Lucy is determined.

While Lucy was an okay main character, I wish that she wasn't so wimpy when it came to standing up to her father. I didn't like her sneaking around behind his back and breaking their deal. Should her father have insisted she give up her love of acting entirely? No. But Lucy caved and agreed to his bargain, so she shouldn't have gone back on her word. Maybe she could have tried renegotiating or something, but I didn't like the dishonesty.

Then there's her relationship with a new boyfriend. Is Lucy entirely over Jesse? Should she enter a new relationship if she isn't? Will she ever hear from Jesse again?

This story is based on A Room With a View, but I've never read the original so can't compare them. I did enjoy the story, but Lucy annoyed me more than once with her immaturity. I think this one would make a nice beach read.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Book Haul 1/17/15

My Book Haul

In need of a new way to showcase titles, I decided that My Book Haul seems like a good fit. I like giving books a little special attention as sometimes it can be awhile before I'm able to review them. Sad to say, but some get put on the shelf and gather a little dust before I'm able to give them the love they deserve. I've included links to Goodreads if you want more information on the books.

For Review:

Lauren Oliver is one of my favorite authors, so was thrilled to receive an email invitation to review her newest book! Can't wait to see what she's come up with this time!

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident. (Goodreads)

***

This is a little outside my comfort zone, but I read an excerpt and was intrigued enough to give it a read. Hope it lives up to its promise!

Last Words by Rich Zahradnik
Last Words by Rich Zahradnik

In March of 1975, as New York City hurtles toward bankruptcy and the Bronx burns, newsman Coleridge Taylor roams police precincts and ERs. He is looking for the story that will deliver him from obits, his place of exile at the Messenger-Telegram. Ever since he was demoted from the police beat for inventing sources, the 34-year-old has been a lost soul. (Goodreads)

***

This was a surprise in my mailbox and I'm a little confused why anyone would think it's a good fit for me, as I don't even like war movies. Think I'll try to find it a new home, as I doubt I'll ever get around to reading it. Unsolicited books are getting weird for me....


Global Predator by Jack Maclean
Global Predator by Jack Maclean

High above the mountains of the North West Frontier, a Global Predator circles waiting to unleash its Hellfire missiles. (Goodreads)



What did you receive this week?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 EBook Reading Challenge

2015 EBook Reading Challenge

I had fun with the ebook challenge last year, so decided to sign up for another one this year! As much as I love real books, I really love the convenience of ebooks! If you want more details about the challenge or would like to sign up, head over to Annette's Book Spot!

Challenge Guidelines:


  • This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2015 - Dec 31, 2015.
  • Anyone can join, you don’t need to be a blogger. You can post reviews to any book site (i.e. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Goodreads, etc).
  • Any genre or length of book counts, as long as it is in ebook format.
  • You can plan your books in advance or as you read them.
  • When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the E-Book Reading Challenge.
  • Sign-ups will be open throughout 2015, so feel free to join at any time during the year.

Levels:

1. Bits - 5 ebooks
2. Bytes - 10 ebooks
3. Megabytes - 25 ebooks
4. Gigabytes - 50 ebooks
5. Terabytes - 75 ebooks
6. Empty the Cloud - 100 ebooks

At the beginning of each month there will be a roundup post for you to add your reviews for that month. The linky will remain open for the remainder of the year, so if you forget, feel free go back and add them when you remember.


I'm shooting for 25 ebooks again this year, the Megabytes level. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 5, 2015

When book review

When book reviewWhen by Victoria Laurie

*eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley*

Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client's young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie's whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it's too late? (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Maddie has seen death dates on people's foreheads for as long as she can remember. It's an odd talent, but I'm not sure if that would be more of a blessing or a curse. Since Maddie doesn't know how the person will die, just the date, I got the impression that Maddie views it as more of a curse.

When the son of a client disappears on his death date, the FBI gets involved. Suspicious of Maddie's so-called ability, she is viewed as a suspect when more teens start to disappear. Torn between her uncle's request to stop telling people their dates and her mother's need for the cash, Maddie just wants the murders to stop.

Things go from bad to worse when they try to warn her BFF's new crush of her rapidly approaching death date. Unsure if a person's death date can actually change, Maddie and Stubby can't simply sit by and do nothing. When the girl disappears, Maddie and BFF Stubby find themselves accused.

Really enjoyed this story, and loved Maddie! She's in a tough spot, but does her best with what she has. I was more than a little annoyed at her mother for using Maddie's talent in a somewhat cheesy way, but more so for basically giving up when her husband died. No child should be forced to take care of their parent. especially when the parent becomes an alcoholic.

The ending of this one took me a little by surprise, as I didn't see it coming. Was satisfied with how things played out, and enjoyed the nice little twist at the end. Well worth reading!





Sunday, January 4, 2015

What's In A Name Challenge 2015

What's In A Name Challenge 2015

Trying to take some of the self-imposed pressure off, I wasn't going to sign up for any reading challenges this year. But this challenge is so unique and fun that I couldn't resist! I actually finished it last year and have high hopes for this year! You can check the website for more details and if you want to sign up.

The basics

The challenge runs from January to December. During this time you choose a book to read from each of the following categories (examples of books you could choose are in brackets):

  1. A word including ‘ing’ in it (The Time Of Singing, Dancing To The Flute, Lex Trent Fighting With Fire) My examples are verbs but you can of course use other words.
  2. A colour (The Red Queen, White Truffles In Winter, On Gold Mountain)
  3. A familial relation (Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, Dombey And Son, My Cousin Rachel) By all means include in-laws, step, and halves.
  4. A body of water (The River Of No Return, Black Lake, Beside The Sea)
  5. A city (Barcelona Shadows, Shanghai Girls, Under The Tripoli Sky)
  6. An animal (Black Swan Rising, The Leopard Unleashed, The Horse And His Boy)

Extra information


  • Books can be any format (print, audio, ebook).
  • It’s preferred that the books don’t overlap with other challenges, but not a requirement at all.
  • Books cannot overlap categories (for instance my example of Black Swan Rising for ‘an animal’ could be used for the ‘colour’ category or ‘animal’ category, but not both).
  • Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed, it’s encouraged!
  • You don’t have to make your list of books beforehand, you can choose them as you go.
  • You don’t have to read your chosen books in any particular order.

I have some ideas for a couple of the categories, but am open to suggestions if you know of any good reads that will fit! Wish me luck!



Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Book Haul 1/3/15

My Book Haul

In need of a new way to showcase titles, I decided that My Book Haul seems like a good fit. I like giving books a little special attention as sometimes it can be awhile before I'm able to review them. Sad to say, but some get put on the shelf and gather a little dust before I'm able to give them the love they deserve. I've included links to Goodreads if you want more information on the books.


NetGalley:


Worlds by Joe Haldeman
Worlds by Joe Haldeman

By the author of The Forever War: In the near future, an idealistic young student visiting Earth from an orbiting colony becomes ensnared in radical politics and a dark conspiracy of violent destruction. (Goodreads)

***

Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne
Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Is it possible to outrun your past? Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother, Sydney, have been trying to do just that for five years. Now, things have gone from bad to worse. Not only has Edie had to move to another new school she's in a different country. (Goodreads)

Gifts:

I have the best friends ever! Look what my friend Tammy (Bo's Book Nook) sent me! Some books she had picked up at Comic Con, my favorite candy (Rowntree Fruit Gums), and Dr. Who Titans figures! Isn't it awesome to have such great book friends? Love that girl!

Tammy gifts
Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore
Thud by Terry Pratchett
Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson
Prey by Tom Isbell


What did you receive this week?

Friday, January 2, 2015

31Days Day 2: Time for Spring Cleaning

Parajunkee is hosting a Better Blogging Challenge again this year. She hosted something similar for 2014 and I had fun taking part, so thought I'd try it again this year! I like that the challenge is pretty flexible and you're not locked into doing every single task.

31 Days of Better Blogging

Day 2: Time for Spring Cleaning

Today's task is to do a bit of spring cleaning on your blog. Look at your sidebars and remove anything extra that you don’t need, remove widgets and plugins that are taking up space.

Sidebars

There weren't too many things on my sidebars that needed updating, but I did remove my old challenges and replace them with this year's model. I also removed some tour badges for partners I no longer work with. For some reason, I can't get my Page tabs back, so need to work on a solution as I'd rather have them across the top than on the side.

Anything in particular you'd like to see?

Blogroll

I updated my blogroll to add some new blogs I started following, but left most of the old favorites. I usually use Bloglovin' to visit blogs, but this gives me a heads up if someone has posted something new. Thinking about rotating the blogs I list, but not sure how so will keep this idea on the backburner for now.

Links

This will be a work in progress, as apparently there are an awful lot of broken links on my blog. I used Dead Link Checker, but there are quite a few out there.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

 photo newyears.jpg

Happy New Year!


Maybe 2 books a week was too much to hope for?


















Um........


Hope everyone has a happy and prosperous 2015!