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Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Book Haul 2/28/15

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.

For Review:

This was a surprise in my mailbox, as I'd already been sent an ARC. I guess the book gods decided that I needed a finished copy as well? Maybe I should play the lottery while my luck holds? Since it was unsolicited and I already have the book, will be having a giveaway for this one to spread the love.

 photo vanishinggirls.jpg
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)



What did you receive this week?


Friday, February 27, 2015

Write On Review-a-Thon {13}

Write On Review-a-Thon {13}

The Write On review-a-thon is a monthly event created and hosted by Brianna at The Book Vixen. It’s 2 days dedicated to getting reviews done, whether you have one review to write or 30+. This edition of the review-a-thon takes place all day Friday, February 27th and Saturday, February 28th.

Review-a-Thon Details:

  • Reviews can be of the written variety or in video format.
  • This event is not limited to book reviews. If you write/vlog reviews for movies, super cool gadgets, or anything else, you are welcome to participate.
  • To participate, create a post on your blog with a list of reviews you need to complete. 
  • On February 27th, get working on those reviews!
  • There will be a wrap-up post linky on The Book Vixen on March 1st.

Reviews to write:

  • Captive by Aimee Carter
  • Uncle John's Weird, Weird World
  • Personal by Lee Child
  • Spider by Jennifer Estep
  • Art of Neil Gaiman

Reviews to format:

  • Anni Moon
  • Last Words
  • Worlds
  • Since You've Been Gone
  • Vanishing Girls
  • Love & Miss Communication
UPDATE:  Not bad for my first review-a-thon in awhile! I almost caught up on my reviews and have everything formatted now for my reviews-in-waiting. I'm calling this one a success!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Old Posts: To polish or not to polish?

lolcats.com
The last time my computer crashed, it crashed hard. I lost everything, including all the pictures that I had uploaded to my reviews. Because I had saved the bookcover pictures I used in my reviews to my hard drive, when my PC crashed, all the pictures disappeared. Now I use photobucket to play it safe, but I'm left with lots of old reviews with no pictures.

One of my goals this year is to replace the missing pictures. I like seeing what the bookcovers look like when I'm reading reviews, so assume that others do as well.

Well, I didn't get very far. While I was charmed to see what my old reviews looked like (wish I could write short reviews like that again!), I hadn't included any information about the book. No title, Goodreads link, author's name, synopsis, etc. Just my review, all alone in all its glory.

So I added the missing information to one review, then stopped because I wasn't sure if I should continue. Was I destroying my old reviews by bringing them up to my current standards? If I changed them, then I'd lose the record of how I began. What to do?

I once heard a story about an old sailor who went into a tattoo parlor to have his tattoos retouched. The tattoo artist tried to talk him out of it, pointing out that if the faded tattoos were retouched, then they wouldn't be 40 year old tattoos any more. They may have been old and faded, but they were the originals and told a story. Not sure if the sailor took the artist's advice or not, but I've always liked that story.

So now I'm left with a dilemma about whether or not I should update my old reviews.

On the one hand, I could preserve my old reviews and just add the bookcovers. I'm 99% sure that I had bookcovers on all of my reviews, so I'd just be replacing something without any new additions. That way I'd have a record of my old reviews and can always look back to see how they've evolved.

On the other hand, I could update the reviews to include all the missing information and bring them up to par, so to speak. I've read more than one post recommending that we polish our old reviews to breathe new life into them and expose them to new audiences.

I'm leaning towards just adding the bookcover and not messing with the original review. But then the anal part of me speaks up and wants to update everything!

So please help me out? Do you update your old reviews? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill and shouldn't even worry about the missing pictures? Does anyone care if there's a link to Goodreads? Do you want a synopsis? I put the title and author's name in the post title, so is that enough? I need advice, as the voices in my head keep arguing! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Obsession In Death book review - another great Dallas/Roarke story!

Book Review: Obsession In Death by JD Robb (Alexia's Books and Such) Title: Obsession In Death
Author:  JD Robb
Release Date:  February 10, 2015
Publisher:  Putnam
Source:  personal library
Synopsis:
Eve Dallas has solved a lot of high-profile murders for the NYPSD and gotten a lot of media. She - and her billionaire husband - are getting accustomed to being objects of attention, of gossip, of speculation.

But now Eve has become the object of one person’s obsession. Someone who finds her extraordinary, and thinks about her every hour of every day. Who believes the two of them have a special relationship. Who would kill for her - again and again…

With a murderer reading meanings into her every move, handling this case will be a delicate - and dangerous - psychological dance. And Eve knows that underneath the worship and admiration, a terrible threat lies in wait. Because the beautiful lieutenant is not at all grateful for these bloody offerings from her “true and loyal friend.” And in time, idols always fall… (Goodreads)

My Review:

Obsession In Death is the is the 40th book in JD Robb's In Death series. The fortieth! I don't think I've ever stuck around a series for even half that long because I tend to get bored, but this series just keeps getting better and better!

One of the things that I love about these books is how the characters change over time. For instance, Eve started out a loner who was happy to be alone and didn't want anything to do with other people. She lived for her job and that was it. Over time, she met, fell in love with, and married the perfect man. She also collected quite a few friends, which still bewilders her most days.

In this story, Eve realizes just how many people have entered her life and may now be in danger because of their connection to her.

The killer is obsessed, and being the center of attention is hard on Eve. She wants the focus to be on the victims and on bringing their killer to justice, not on her. I really love how focused Eve is on the job and how she doesn't let anything get in her way!

Another nice thing about this series is that you can read the books as stand alones and don't need to read them in order. While knowing the history adds an extra dimension to the stories, it's not required because the author does a nice job explaining everything you need to know. Would be a little too intimidating to have to go back and read all 40 books!

Another well-paced plot with an interesting storyline. JD Robb (aka Nora Roberts) is an incredibly talented writer and I really love the universe she's created! I don't usually like police dramas or mysteries, but she's really sucked me in with Dallas and Roarke! Already looking forward to the next one!



Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Book Haul 2/21/15

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:

I've been doing pretty well with turning down review offers, but every now and again one catches my eye and I wind up saying yes. Here are two of them:

Spy Interrupted: The Waiting Wife by T. Dasu
Spy Interrupted: The Waiting Wife by T. Dasu

Jane Austen meets John le Carre in the riveting international romantic thriller Spy, Interrupted: The Waiting Wife, which follows a newlywed couple on an emotionally wrought journey rife with love, intrigue, and suspense. (Goodreads)

***

Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland
Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

This unforgettable debut novel asks us to look up from our screens and out at the world…and to imagine what life would be like with no searches, no status updates, no texts, no Tweets, no pins, and no posts. (Goodreads)


NetGalley:

I know that I'm supposed to stay off of NetGalley until I make a dent in my TBR pile, but the Buzz Books don't count because they're just samplers. Right?

Buzz Books 2015: Young Adult Spring
Buzz Books 2015: Young Adult Spring

This second edition of Buzz Books: Young Adult Spring provides substantial pre-publication excerpts from 26 forthcoming young adult and middle grade books. Now everyone can share the same access to the newest YA voices the publishing industry is broadcasting for the spring/summer season. (Goodreads)

***

Buzz Books 2015:  Spring/Summer
Buzz Books 2015:  Spring/Summer

Our sixth Buzz Books edition evokes all the excitement of Winter Institute with substantial pre-publication excerpts from nearly 40 adult titles. Enjoy access to the newest voices the publishing industry is broadcasting for the upcoming season as you discover breakout books from established authors, sparkling debuts from soon-to-become literary stars, and fascinating memoirs and inspirational nonfiction. (Goodreads)


Purchased:

The Dallas series is a must-read series for me and I can't resist downloading a copy as soon as they come out! Love reading about Dallas, Roarke, and her friends!

Obsession In Death by JD Robb
Obsession In Death by JD Robb

 Lieutenant Eve Dallas walks the thin line between love and hate in this fabulous 40th thriller from #1 New York Times–bestseller J. D. Robb… (Goodreads)




What did you receive this week?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Superheroes Anonymous book review

Superheroes Anonymous book review
Title:  Superheroes Anonymous
Author: Lexie Dunne
Release date:  November 18, 2014

*Review copy provided by the publisher*

Everybody in Chicago has a “superhero sighting” story. So when a villain attacks editorial assistant Gail Godwin and she’s rescued by superhero Blaze, it’s a great story, and nothing more. Until it happens again. And again.

Now, the media has dubbed her Hostage Girl, nobody remembers her real name, and people are convinced that Blaze is just Gail’s boyfriend Jeremy in disguise. Gail’s not so sure. All she knows is that when both Jeremy and Blaze leave town in the same week, she’s probably doomed. Who will save her now?

But when the villains miraculously lose interest, Gail is able to return to her life…until she wakes up strapped to a metal table by a mad scientist who hasn’t read the news. Escaping, and now more than human herself, she’s drawn into a secret underground world of superheroes. She’ll have to come to terms with her powers (and weakness) to make it in the new society, and it’s not easy. After all, there’s a new villain on the rise, and she has her sights set on the one and only Hostage Girl. (Goodreads)

My Review:

This is a fun, unique read about a woman dubbed "Hostage Girl" by the media because villains keep kidnapping her to try and get superhero Blaze's attention. Kind of like focusing on Lois Lane instead of Superman. I sort of wish that Gail had been more proactive when it came to protecting herself instead of always waiting for Blaze to rescue her, but I still liked her!

Once her rescuer leaves town, Gail thinks that her life will now get back to normal and starts to relax. Unfortunately, it seems that every villain hasn't gotten the memo and Gail is taken hostage once again, only this time by a mad scientist. Holding her hostage for several weeks, he keeps giving her a mysterious cocktail of drugs, which has an odd effect on her. Then the mad scientist's house is raided and Gail escapes. 

Somehow the concoction the mad scientist gave her results in Gail developing superpowers! Very cool! Now Gail not only has to learn the extent of her powers, but also how to control them. Good thing there's a Superhero Lair where she can be taught by the experts!

This part of the story was my favorite, as Gail was starting to come into her own. Learning to fight, exploring her powers, and getting to know some of the other superheroes take up most of her time now. Loved her budding romance!

Unfortunately, Gail is still a little too naive and trusting for someone who has been kidnapped so many times. There was more than one instance where I wanted to reach through the pages and smack her upside the back of her head! Why doesn't she trust her new friends more? Why is she taking so many stupid risks? Why Gail, why?

This was a really fun read for me, until it suddenly ended. I honestly thought that I was missing pages as the ending was so abrupt. It's like one of those old TV shows that suddenly end as the stagecoach is heading straight for the cliff! Wait! I need to know what happens next! Evil, evil cliffhanger! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dark Triumph book review - a great read!

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFeversTitle:  Dark Triumph
Author:  Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: eBook received from the publisher via NetGalley

Syopsis:
When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge - but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for... (Goodreads)

My Review:

This book has a slight overlap with the first book in the trilogy, Grave Mercy, which I've never really come across before. Most of the sequels I read start either shortly after the first book or somewhere down the road, so I got a little kick out of the overlap.

Like the first book, this one has a cast of characters listed at the beginning. This is one of my reading pet peeves, so I skipped ahead to the story. Why do authors feel the need to list every single character in the book? Please just let us meet them naturally, as the story progresses!

Sybella is a Daughter of Mortain (aka Death) and has been trained as an assassin at the convent's island retreat. Sent undercover to spy on her evil father, her latest assignment may prove to be too much for her. Her father could decide to kill her at any moment, her oldest brother patterns himself after Daddy Dearest so is just as bad, and her "favorite" brother wants to become a little too intimate for words. Talk about a dysfunctional family!

Some of the characters from Grave Mercy make appearances and while it's nice to see them again, this could be read as a stand-alone. I really enjoyed getting to know Sybella and my heart broke for her more than once as we learn more about her past. Despite everything, she is a survivor and has found new purpose in her life serving Mortain.

Really loved the action and adventure in this one! Great characters, some dark twists and turns, and a satisfying ending make this a must-read if you like fantasy!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Turn Offs & Turn Ons - What do you look for before following a new blog?

lolcats networking
Recently I found a link-up of new to me blogs, so I checked them out to see if I wanted to follow any. Since there were over 90 blogs, I had to make quick decisions on whether or not to add them to my Bloglovin' feed. I found myself a little harsh with my quicksnap judgements, but better I don't follow now than have to unfollow later.

No new posts within the past few months? Next!

Not in English? That one's easy because I can only read English, so next!

Flashing or sparkly background? Hard to read color scheme? Next!

Auto-play music? People still do that? Next!

Confusing or cluttered layout so I can't tell where your most recent posts are?  Next!

Nothing but cover reveals or book blasts? I want at least some original material, so next!

All condensed posts so I have to hit "Read more" to see what they're about? And some of the ones I found only had part of a giant picture and no post! Stop making me work so hard! I can understand condensing older posts, but maybe have the latest one fully fleshed out? Next!

Odd post titles so I have no clue what they're about? Again, stop making me work so hard. Next!

Nothing on your site but a genre I don't read? No offense, but not gonna follow.

Have a review on one of my favorite authors? Automatic follow and I love you!

Pop-up ads that won't stop popping up? Why do you want to annoy your readers that way? Next!

Giant headers or post images that take up half the page are annoying, but not a deal-breaker if your content is good. Giant font, on the other hand, IS! File this one under Terri's Odd Quirks.

Oddly enough, the Adult Blog warning didn't deter me. I follow a few so-called "adult" blogs that are well written with wide ranging tastes, so didn't want to miss out on a hidden gem.

Out of the 90+ blogs I checked, I wound up following only six. Was I too harsh or quick to judge? What are some of your automatic follow/don't follow requirements?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Death by Roses book review

Death by Roses book review Title:  Death by Roses
Author:  Vivian R. Probst
Publication date: February 14, 2015
Publisher: Select Books
Source: Meryl M. Moss Media Relations, Inc.

Synopsis:
For the first time in nearly thirty years of marriage, Art McElroy Sr. buys his headstrong, disapproving wife a dozen yellow roses. Hours later he discovers her lifeless body seated on the toilet. Mae Rose McElroy's sudden death leaves a void in her family and in the entire Midwestern farming community of Fairview. It's a void Mae Rose will attempt to fill, herself, from the hereafter by meddling directly in earthly affairs. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

My first impression of Mae Rose is that she's not a very nice person. One of those women who seems to be angry all the time. Her husband Art seemed like a nice enough guy and I actually felt sorry for him for having to put up with her. Then she dies in a fit of rage, and everything changes.

Mae Rose is escorted to Heaven by her mother, who explains how things work. I really liked the idea of a Viewing Pane, which allows the deceased to see life on Earth. The dead are only supposed to observe, not interfere, but Mae Rose isn't one for playing by the rules.

We also meet Mary Lee, aka "Scary Mary" because of her long string of successful horror movies. Mary Lee only has a short time left to live, but isn't quite ready to go because she has yet to win an Oscar. She doesn't like playing by the rules either.

Mae Rose and Mary Lee seem to be the main narrators, but we also hear from Mae Rose's husband, Mary Lee's nurse, and several others. The multiple POVs could be a little confusing at times and the transitions a little choppy. There's also a time jump that could have been handled a little smoother, as I wasn't sure how much time had actually passed.

Watching Mae Rose and Mary Lee's relationship was amusing at times, as they are both strong-willed women learning to share one body. Art's journey was sadder, as he has a tough time adjusting to life as a widower. I wasn't sure where the story was going at times, but was pleased with the eventual ending.

The story is funny, touching, and a bit maddening. I did like that after finishing the story, it stayed with me. Don't want to spoil anything, but think it was a worthwhile read despite a few small hiccups.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: Shattered

Shattered by Kevin Hearne Title: Shattered 
Author: Kevin Hearne

ARC received via Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review

For nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the Earth - Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive while pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

We get to meet another Druid in this book; Atticus' archdruid, who trained him way back when. And what a character! Renamed Owen to fit in with the modern world, he's a crusty, no-nonsense man who isn't afraid to cut Atticus down to size and put him in his place when needed. Loved that!

In this story, Atticus takes turns narrating with Owen and Granuaile. The multiple points of view were easy to follow and added a nice depth to the story. Unfortunately, it took me much too long to catch onto the fact that each chapter heading had a symbol to let you know who was narrating that chapter. d'oh!

Really enjoyed Owen's introduction to the modern world, although he took several things in stride that I thought would stump him. It was nice to see the old Druid hold his own without Atticus having to babysit him!

And while Oberon the wolfhound will always be my favorite character, I was thrilled that Granuaile got her own wolfhound as now Oberon will have a playmate! Looking forward to these two getting to know each other.

Really enjoyed this one, but think it would be best enjoyed if you've read at least some of the previous books. The author is very talented and has come up with some great characters! Can't wait for the next book!


Saturday, February 7, 2015

My Book Haul 2/7/15

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:

Was thrilled when the publisher offered to send me a review copy of Neil Gaiman's newest book! I'm a huge Gaiman fan, so really looking forward to reading this one. And it's short stories! I love short stories! *swoon*

 photo triggerwarning.jpg
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things--which includes a never-before published American Gods story, "Black Dog," written exclusively for this volume. (Goodreads)

Swapped:

While I'm not longer an active participant on PaperbackSwap.com, I still receive emails whenever one of the books on my wishlist becomes available. I still have credits, so received this book in the mail about a week after accepting the offer. Not sure when I'll get to it, but it still sounds like a good read.

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster
Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster

Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens. Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exit.

Is this nightmare a result of the hypnosis? Will Kyle wake up with a snap of fingers to roars of laughter? Or is this something much more sinister? Narrated on a set of found cassette tapes at an unspecified point in the future, Human.4 is an absolutely chilling look at technology gone too far. (Goodreads)



What did you receive this week?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

January Wrap Up

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Monthly wrap up posts seemed to help keep me on track last year, so going to try them again this year.

Books read

Didn't make my reading goal last year, so lowered it from 100 to 75 books. In order to meet my Goodreads goal, I need to read 6.25 books per month. Not a good start because I only read 1 book this month:

  1. The Stolen by Bishop O'Connell

Blog Goals

Have updated my perpetual To-Do list again! I was a little surprised to discover that I hadn't backed-up my blog since last January and hadn't updated my Reviews Page since April. I also had to catch up on cross-posting my reviews to Goodreads and Amazon, which I hadn't done since April. Oops! 


Commenting

Started the month off strong, then got sidelined by the flu. Once I was back on my feet, jumped back into the blogosphere and am trying to visit at least five blogs a day and leave comments.

Overall

I took part in the 31 Day Blogging Challenge hosted by Parajunkee and learned quite a few things. Have some new tools to use while trying to improve and grow my blog. I've been thinking about her suggestion to recycle old posts and think I'm going to do this by promoting older reviews on my social media accounts. Maybe feature one a week so I'm not spamming everybody?

I've also been playing around with the time I schedule my posts, but I'm not sure it makes a difference. I know it doesn't matter to me as a blog reader since I follow most blogs via Bloglovin, but maybe it will have an impact on my social media accounts.

Decided to focus on my Facebook Page and Tsu account instead of spreading myself too thin by trying to keep up with them all. Have to admit that I've never quite gotten the hang of Google+ and never seem to be on Twitter at the right time, so am scaling back.

Speaking of Facebook, can anyone recommend some good groups for book bloggers? I joined a couple of groups that looked promising, but no one seems willing to help the other group members and just keep promoting their own pages/blogs. I'd love to join a supportive group where we would like or share things on our Facebook pages!

Discovered that I really, really need to use my online timer to keep me on track. Even if I only plan on checking "one quick thing" and don't think I need to time myself, suddenly it's three hours later and I've got nothing done! I changed the alarm to the Dr. Who theme song, so it always makes me smile when time's up.

Here's to a great February!

Monday, February 2, 2015

31Days Blogging Challenge Day 31: Put Your Blog To The Test

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 31:  Put Your Blog to the Test

Your task today is to put your blog to the test.

Rachel lists ten ways to put your blog to the test. I did well on some, not so well on others, and was totally confused with a few so skipped over them.

Test the speed of your blog - I used Website Speed Test, but my results were all over the place. Anything under 3 seconds is supposed to be good, but my results ranged from 2.17 to 15.4 seconds. Unless I hear otherwise, going to assume that my blog's load speed is in an acceptable range.

Test your server by doing a load impact test - not really sure what the results on this one mean, but didn't have anything in red so assuming that's good!

Use BrowserShots to see how your blog looks on all servers - This was a surprise, as my blog didn't look right in any of the screenshots! I've checked Chrome, Explorer, Opera, and Firefox and it looked okay, so am taking these results with a grain of salt.

Is your site mobile friendly? - I checked using both Mobi and Google. Mobi said that my blog would display very poorly on mobile phones, but Google said I was mobile friendly. Another test result I'm going to take with a grain of salt.

Check security, RSS and the general status of your blog using Is My Blog Working - Finally! A test that I passed with flying colors!

Check for broken links - I know that I have several broken links on my site and finding/correcting them is an ongoing project. There are quite a few, so it might take awhile.

Check how popular your site is, how engaged your users are and other stats using Alexa - Well, that was depressing.... My global rank is over the 14 million mark. This is why I don't like ranking sites!


A little sad that the Blogging Challenge is over, as I learned several things and had fun to boot! Have several new tools to play with and going to try a few of the ideas Rachel suggested. Love these challenges, as I always learn something new!


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