Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tools of The Trade Week Day 3: The Art of Starting a Review (Part Two

The Art of Starting a Review (Part Two)

First sentences are always the hardest. Whether you are saying hello to a stranger or writing a novel, finding the right words to get everything rolling is the most difficult part of the entire project. Writing a book review is no different.

This is why, a few months ago, I wrote a post entitled "The Art of Starting a Review," sharing a few ideas for review starters that I tend to use. When Briana contacted me about taking part in a blog tips-and-tricks feature, I decided to make another post offering more ideas. If you are battling your brain to develop a fantastic first sentence, here are some ideas that could help.

1. Put it in someone else's words. If you're having trouble thinking of a catchy opener, why not borrow from someone else? You can quote an important line from the book and then explain its significance (in a non-spoilery way, of course). Or you can repeat a popular idea or saying that the story centers on and analyze the story's success in dealing with the topic. Example reviews from me: 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody, Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

2. What you see's not what you get. If a book turns out to be dramatically different than its cover or synopsis would indicate, I often start out my review by pointing out the misleading element and discussing the way it skewed my expectations. It is often easier to talk about what a book is NOT rather than what it is, and describing your preconceptions provides the perfect segue into your thoughts on the book itself. Example review from me: Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

3. All tied up. What did you love more than anything else about the book you are reviewing? Write an opening paragraph about that element, followed by paragraphs about how your favorite thing affected other aspects of the story. Ask yourself, "How does X affect Y?" and find a way to tie each point back to that first paragraph. Example review from me: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Good luck with your next book review. I am sure it will be fantastic.

Emily is a teenager who, feeling that her fellow high school students could not adequately understand her passion for books, turned to book blogging as a way to discuss literature with other YA readers. She fills her spare time by being a choir kid and an amateur journalist, organizing everything in sight, running on the treadmill, talking like a Londoner, eating weird health foods that no one else likes, wearing shirts made of lace, and spending time with family and friends. Emily tries to avoid encounters with bugs, but she loves to meet humans (this means you) and would therefore be ecstatic if you visited her book blog or talked to her on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Beautiful People Round Two

It's my second time linking up with Sky and Cait for Beautiful People! It was helpful last time and I'm excited to share my characters more with you guys!

 For those of you that don't know, Beautiful People is a meme designed to help writers learn more about their characters. The hosts (that'd be Sky @ Further Up and Further In, and Cait @ The Notebook Sisters) will give you 10 interview questions for you to answer on your own blogs. It's open all month and starts on the fifth of every month!

I'm using Finn this month, he is a major character in my first WIP "The Island Killer." Find out more about that story and my other WIP on my "About Me" page.

This is the closest picture of Finn. He doesn't have a beard though and is younger.
Meet Finn
1) What does your character regret the most in their life?

Finn doesn't regret much, he tries his hardest to live life to the fullest. If he were to regret anything it would probably be something that happened in his past. A time when he wasn't there for a loved one or special event.
2) What is your character's happiest memory? Most sorrowful memory?

He is generally a pretty relaxed and happy person, he makes the best of everything. If he had to pick a happy moment it would probably be a time when he just relaxed and had fun with his family. He's happy with friends too, but family is the most important to him. He doesn't have as close of  bonds with friends. He doesn't have too many sorrowful memories because he tries to be so bright side, it would probably be something that happened when he was pretty young like the death of a relative a little bit removed.

3) What majorly gets on your character’s nerves?

He's one of those annoying people that never appears to get annoyed by anything, but he has a secret temper that rarely comes out. He may show frustration with a tough/stubborn and negative person (sound like someone we all know and love?), but he'll keep it reserved and in check. The only time you'll see him out of control mad is if you are messing with someone he loves. 

4) Do they act differently when they're around people as opposed to being alone? If so, how?

I think he is pretty much the same but probably a bit quieter and more reflective. He is always really happy and relaxed but he tries to talk more than he is really comfortable with around other people. Really he is pretty introverted, but he tries to be at least a "medium level" amount of talkative (I don't know how to phrase it, sorry.) in public to fit in and make people happy. 

5) What are their beliefs and superstitions? (Examples: their religion or lack of one, conspiracy theories, throwing salt, fear of black cats.) 

He's the kind of guy that is superstitious without being superstitious, ya know? He's the guy that is going to teasingly warn you off of stepping on cracks, even though he knows its total bull, but still somewhere deep inside he can recognize that there may be a one in infinity chance that it could be real. 

6) What are their catchphrases, or things they say frequently? 

He doesn't really have any (yet unless I come up with some to add in later) unless the person needs to relax then he will say relax a lot, but really the only real repetition in his speech is the fact that he pauses, interjecting things like, uh, and um. 

7) Would they be more prone to facing fears or running from them?

Ooo, I don't know, he is one of those people that appears and tries to be fearless, or at least has convinced themselves that they are. He'd probably end up doing a little bit of both. Maybe run then turn back to face them once he was ready, or just kind of be conflicted about how to handle his fears, torn between facing and running, not wanting to do either.

8) Do they have a good self image?

He's doesn't have self image issues, but he doesn't flaunt it to impress people. He likes to look nice because he enjoys it, and he is confident, but he isn't overly confident and he still has a few insecurities, who doesn't? 

9) Do they turn to people when they're upset, or do they isolate themselves?

He does a little bit of both. He tends to keep it inside unless it's absolutely necessary to talk to someone, but only if it is necessary to resolve the conflict that is upsetting him and only with the specific person that the conflict is directly with. (that was kind of a muddy explanation, sorry.) However, he doesn't really isolate  himself. He does spend, more time that usual alone, but family time is even more important to him when he is upset, even if it is just sitting quietly with them. 

10) If they were standing next to you would it make you laugh or cry?

Finn would hope you'd laugh but who knows? If you cried it would probably be tears of sheer joy, or from laughing too hard.

Teaser Tuesday

It's that time of the week again! I'm joining up with MizB from Should be Reading.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read

2. Open to a random page

3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

4. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"Joseph gave me a thoughtful look, and then he said quietly, "You've had a shock. Let me get you something--chocolate, perhaps?" (pg.57) Inamorata by Megan Chance

Briana may or may not have picked this quote solely based on the fact that the character speaking is smart enough to know that chocolate is the solution to all problems, especially emotional ones. Right now she is wishing she had chocolate, but her family is on a health kick so sadly there is none to be had. She has been told that the comfort of knowing that you are being healthy should out weigh any lack of chocolate induced sorrow, Briana has decided that that is a load of poppycock. 

Tools of The Trade Day 2: How to Make a Header (for Blogger)

How to Make a Header (for Blogger)

I LOVE making headers for my blog (and blog buttons but that’s another post for another day ;)). It’s just a really fun way of using creativity and artistic-ness and bringing what I imagine for my blog to something that actually exists. Or sometimes it ends up looking like I used the crayon tool on Paint and didn't spend two hours on it.  At this point, no. No, it isn't fun. But the rest of the time it is. *grins*

I know a lot of people are at a loss as to how they can make a header that looks good for their blog. So I’m going to teach you a few steps and tips, and pretty soon you’ll be making your own gorgeous headers. Easy peazy lemon squeazy!

First of all, let me just say that for those of you who don’t really want to put that much time and effort into creating a design for your blog, there are two websites you need to know about:

~Hot Bliggity Blog (Free backgrounds in three sizes: standard, widened, and full-width.)

~Shabby Blogs (Free EVERYTHING. I’m serious. Backgrounds, headers, buttons, etc.)

And if you still want to dive into the scary world of header creation… welcome to the dark side. Mwahaha. Just kidding, but really, kudos to you and let’s get started. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’m going to use Ninja Reader as the blog name. If a book blog already has that name, sorry. It wasn't intentional. Because let’s face it, if I knew there was a blog called Ninja Reader, I’d be all over it. ;)

Step 1: Find your header size.

This is really important. While it doesn't matter how tall your header is (in theory), it has to be a certain width/length.

You find it by going to your Blogger homepage, clicking on your blog name, and going to LAYOUT.

Once you’re on the Layout page ( you've probably been there a lot already) you need to click Edit in the Header section which I have marked in red with extreme precision.

A smaller window will pop up that looks like this:

Underlined in red, is the width of the header area—920 pixels. In order to find this, you’ll have to remove your current header. Don’t worry though, once you've checked for the width of the header you can click CANCEL and everything is exactly the same as it was before you made the change.

Note: You probably notice the green rectangle around “Instead of titled and description.” This option needs to be selected when you’re using a header you've created for your blog.

Step 2: Brainstorm.

Now that we know that the header space is 920 pixels wide, we can leave headache-inducing parts of the header making process for a little while and have fun. Brainstorm! What kind of look do you want your blog to have? There is an amazing rainbow of possibilities—professional, artsy, cute, vintage, etc.

You need to decide what you want for your blog. In the case of my imaginary blog, Ninja Reader, I’m going to go with a slightly abstract look while also tying into the Asian aspects that the word “ninja” brings to mind. I also decide that I’m going make the background clear (I’ll explain that later) and just make the header pop with awesome font and color accents.

Obviously, you’re not going to get it exactly the way you want it on your first try. Maybe you won’t like the colors, maybe you’ll decide that you don’t want professional; you want artsy. It’s a given that you might have to make tweaks. Therefore, even though I put the brainstorming step here, brainstorming is going to happen all throughout the whole process.

Step 3: Start creating your masterpiece.

Now I know what I want, so…uh….what do I do now?
First, I go to a very handy website called because I need to make a blank to use as my canvas.
There will be four icons up front and center. Click on the Design one.

This brings up a page that’s possibly going to make you freak out. Don’t freak out. You've got this. *grins*

You’ll automatically be in the first section that kind of looks like a gray square (circles above in red) as soon as the page loads. Then click on Resize which is also circled in red. I like red.

As you can see from my awesome artwork, the number on the left is the width in pixels and the number on the right is the height in pixels. The option “Keep proportions” will also automatically be selected. We don’t want that since that makes our header square. So unselect that.

Remember the width we found near the beginning? Put 920 in the left square and, because I don’t want my header to be too tall or too skinny, I put 300 in the right square. I've chosen for my header to be 300 pixels tall but you can adjust this measurement to whatever you want. Don’t forget to hit Apply!

Now that you have your canvas the right size, we need to change the background to transparent like we talked about before.

As you can see, it will be in the same section as the Resize option. Instead, though, you’ll click on Canvas Color. 

Click the Transparent option and leave everything else alone.

The checkered grey and white background means that my header space is now transparent. It’s really important to remember that the same is true for images found through Google or any other search engine. If they have this background or a similar one like this:

Then only the image will show when used (not a white background). If possible, these are the images you want to find to use on your header. They will fit seamlessly into your header whether the background is transparent or orange or black or any other color.
Now that we’re ready for application of awesomeness to our header, we need to first choose a font for our blog title. You can find the fonts by clicking on this:

There are an amazing variety of fonts for you to choose from and most of them are completely free. For our example blog, I choose the font Nightbird.

Then I’m off to find images to incorporate into the design. When you do this, you’re going to have to save the image to your computer in order to load it onto PicMonkey.

To load the picture, you have to click on the butterfly option from the menu of icons. When you’ve done that, click on the ‘Your Own’ button.

Find the image (you can only choose one at a time). Once you’ve selected it, it will appear on your header. You can adjust size, color, and rotate it.

Note: A problem that might come up is that your image is over your blog title and you want it to be behind it. If so, all you have to do is right click on the image and choose the Send to back option. Now you’re all set. 

Have fun with it! This is my favorite part of the whole process. Tweak this all you want.

On my personal blog I don’t have a tagline, but for this blog I decide, “Hmm, I think a tagline would look cool.” Of course, following the whole coolness of ninjas. ;)

I choose to make up my own instead of using a quote or something like that and come up with “Read, Review, Ninja Kick.” (It stinks I know. But it’s kick butt.)
This is what my header looks like now…

Push save. After you do that, this page will come up.

PicMonkey will automatically have the file named ‘Untitled’. In the part circled in red, you can change the name to whatever you want. Make sure you’ll be able to remember it easily though. Otherwise, you’ll NEVER be able to find it if you’re like me and have a gazillion downloaded files.

Now you have two options. Either you can choose Save to my computer which will place the file in your Pictures folder (most likely) or you can choose the Download it link (in blue) at the bottom left-hand corner. It’s completely up to you and personal preference.

Just for fun, and because I want to see the result of my work (hehe), I’m going to try it out on a nameless blog I keep to test out designs.

And there it is.
What do you think? Are there any other questions you have that I didn’t cover?

Skylar Finn is the pen name of a recent high school graduate (who never gets tired of saying she's graduated). Her real name is top secret because she's secretly a spy. That does spy stuff. Secretly. When she's not spying, she blogs about books, life, and chocolate at Life of a Random. Skylar loves talking with bookworms about everything so don't be shy. She's probably weirder than you anyways.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Salt & Storm

Salt & Storm

by Kendall Kulper

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the sea witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe and prosperous at sea. But before she could learn how to control her power, her mother - the first Roe woman in centuries to turn her back on magic - steals Avery away from her grandmother. Avery must escape before her grandmother dies, taking with her the secrets of the Roe's power. 

The one magical remnant left to Avery is the ability to read dreams, and one night she foresees her own murder. Time is running short, both for her and for the people of her island who need the witches' help to thrive.

Avery has never read a dream that hasn't come true, but a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane tells her he can help her change her fate. Becoming a witch may prevent her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers it will also require a sacrifice she never expected. And as she falls in love with Tane, she learns it is his life and hers that hang in the balance.


Thank you Liberty Bay Books for loaning me this ARC copy!
 Expected publication: September 4th 2014.


Tattoos, witches, and murder, oh my! Salt & Storm  has it all, it is packed with magic, themes, emotions, family and society issues. It's a story of survival, it's supernatural book, it's a romance novel, it's historic tale, Kendall Kulper wrapped a taste of almost every genre into one thick book
(general concept:)
That was one of the things I loved. She had a little bit of everything so it was unique and was interesting for a wide audience, but it was smooth. She wove the different elements together so that it didn't feel like a weird mixture of everything with certain things just thrown in. In worked for me. 

Kulper's writing was very enjoyable. I liked her voice a lot, and her writing had a silky kind of flow to it that a lot of writing lacks. The way that she wrote made it seem less like you were reading peoples actions, clunky, ordinary, and slow, but more like you were watching a painting come to life before you and listening to poetry that dances on the breeze, but this all happens in a subtle way. It doesn't feel like she was trying really hard or anything and it's not like hard core artistic sounding all of the time, it just has a great feeling. 

Avery, her family and friends, and even the more minor characters were very well described. They were more of  show not tell descriptions and I enjoyed that. When she did tell us exact descriptions, they were tastefully done and not flat and boring. Each character that came into the picture had a vivid personality that you got a feel fore pretty much immediately which is hard to do. This impressed me, and made it really fun to read, it also made it easy to really immerse yourself in the story and fall in love with the characters. The character's personalities themselves didn't really stick out from others as being especially special or interesting, but they were still pretty darn great.

The emotions and character development were stunning and raw. The root of the entire story for me was really the emotion. It set the book up, along with themes about basic human nature and it fleshed it out. Every scene was vivid and intense but not in a way that seemed melodramatic. It made the entire book relateable and strong. The emotions will sweep you away. Also, it provided a great opportunity to develop Avery, and as I said earlier delve into psychology and human nature and express themes about these elements without making it seem like that was what you were actually getting out of it. It didn't seem like a book about psychology and human nature, they were simply woven in as themes that weren't shouted at you but that you had to read between to lines to find. I loved that. It was very well done.

The plot was actually very well done. I was a little bit worried that it would be flat and boring since the story line was so straight forward. Avery knows from the start that she's going to be murdered. So the entire thing seems like it would be pretty simple with not many interesting or surprising places to turn, but Kulper took it and ran, keeping you guessing until the very end. And that ending...

Talk about stunning! It was amazing! I thoroughly enjoyed the entire plot and as I said that ending was to die for! I was very happy with what Kulper did with the plot.

Last Thoughts: Overall I loved this book to death. The artistry that Kulper obviously possesses was very evident and absolutely beautiful. She did an amazing job crafting Salt & Storm.  It was stunning and raw and is sure to be loved by a wide range of readers. It is a must read for all YA readers.  I give it four and a half to five stars out of five. 

Add it on Goodreads and buy it through Liberty Bay Books here

Gif. Consensus:

Tools of The Trade Week, Day 1: Five Things You Should Learn From Other Bloggers

Five Things You Should Learn From Other Bloggers

Hello, Reader, Writer, Critic subjects! You might remember me from my failed kingdom takeover from last spring, and your *cough* gracious leader was still kind enough to let me back so long as I stopped referring to you as peasants (she’s just that nice.) But if you don’t remember, my name is Catherine and I venture to you from the lands of Stray Imaginations, a prosperous blog from across the bay.

And I’m here to offer you five pieces of wisdom.

First, a disclaimer: I am a budding leader, still reeling from the transition of princess to queen. (read: I am a beginner and know almost nothing.) This became a problem when I promised Briana a guest post meant to teach her peas…I mean, subjects…how to thrive in blogging themselves—because, you know, it might be a bit more time until I’ve reached the status of ruling a thriving blog.

Then, a realization: Execution might be a vital aspect, but learning is important, too.

So, without further ado: Five Things You Should Learn From Other Bloggers:

1) What’s Interesting

When you begin reading blogs—namely, a lot of blogs, as it often happens—you usually don’t end up reading all the posts every day. That would be exhausting. Some posts just aren’t interesting to you. Some posts just aren’t interesting, period. If you find you’re skipping a certain kind of post, or style, or topic—and similarly important, other people aren’t responding, either—it’d probably be smart for you to shy away from writing those posts yourself.

2) What options are available

Blogger. Wordpress. Goodreads. Booklikes. Twitter. Pinterest. Top Ten Tuesday. Waiting on Wednesday. Stacking the Shelves. Netgalley. Edelweiss.  Hardcovers. Paperbacks, E-books. Basically, THERE ARE SO MANY OPTIONS. Even if you don’t do everything—which you shouldn’t, because again: exhausting—it’s important to know what’s out there and what will work for you.

3) What’s aesthetically pleasing

DESIGN! I love design, even if I have recently been struggling to get my own sorted out. If you head over to my blog anytime around the date this post is published, you’ll see it’s under some major construction (with scattered elements from my old and new design alike.) My new reveal probably won’t be perfect, but I do think it’ll be an improvement. With this go around, I paid more attention to other blogs and made sure to notice which aspects affected my first impressions. (Some Google research on design principles helped, too.) If, like me, you’re too proud or cheap or controlling to pay someone else to do your re-design, pay attention. What designs made you want to stick around, read more, and get to know a new blogger?

4) How to do certain things

Bloggers are awesome (obviously,) and some are even so awesome that they’ll tell the rest of us how certain aspects work, like commenting systems or blog buttons or basic html. I even follow a couple blogs that specifically post tips and tutorials, which is important if you’re a part of the category I described above. I’ve found this kind of information can be really useful. Plus, there are cool people like Briana who set up whole events to aide bloggers in their treacherous plights. I recommend starting a bookmark folder with important articles or tutorials for later use. (You might thank yourself later.)

5) What you like

Lastly, most importantly: Write what you enjoy. That’s how you have fun, and that’s how you connect with people similar to you. Sounds simple enough, right?

Like I said before, I’m nowhere near escaping beginner status. Learning is definitely a lengthy, on-going process, but it’ll hopefully be worth it in the long run. Either way, I’ll always have the blogosphere to thank.

(Speaking of which, thank you for having me, Briana!)

Lastly, some questions: How much do you pay attention to what other bloggers do? How does this influence your choices? What important lessons have you learned?

Happy August,

Catherine is a book nerd, word lover, and obsessive daydreamer. You could call her what she really is—a reader, a writer, and a blogger—or you could say she's a paranormal creature/tribute/wizard/alien/Divergent/revolutionary who will one day save the world, preferably while still a teenager (She did say she liked to dream, didn’t she?)

Launching in 5...4...3...2...1...BLASTOFF!

I am so excited to FINALLY be able to kick off this event! I hinted that this was coming months ago but it took a lot longer than originally planned! I know that while not all of my followers are bloggers, a large majority are, so I wanted to do something for all of my blogger minions out there.

One of the most important things I've realized through my years of blogging is that no one knows what they are doing. We like to think we do. We like to think that there is this rule book that we all follow, and everyone knows everything just because they are bloggers, and that there is some magical source that tells us everything we need to know. Sadly that's just not how it goes. You learn how to do things, by doing them, and screwing (see what I did there? it was bad, sorry.) up a lot. Sometimes we learn things from other bloggers or by asking for help, but really, most things are different for everyone anyways, because everyone has just been doing there own thing. I used to be ashamed when I didn't know what things were like GFC or the Liebster and Sunshine awards. Now I realize that a lot of people don't until they ask and/or do a lot of digging and research. It's ok to not to know!  The only problem for me is that realizing this doesn't help because I don't like not knowing. I have to know!

So I created this event so that bloggers new and old can learn a little bit more about blogging and can know a little bit more, without having to figure it out the hard way. Tools of the Trade will be a week long event, with helpful post written by bloggers for bloggers (and any non-bloggers are always welcome too!), in an attempt to share the knowledge that we've gained. Each day there will be a different guest post--and one of the days I'll do a post too--that shares tips, tricks, how tos, ect. Enjoy and here is to a great and inspiring week!

P.S. A huge huge thank you to all of the guest bloggers who helped me make this happen! (I'll do an acknowledgements post later on but I want it to be a bit of a surprise who will be posting and when, so I haven't named names yet.)