Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Swoons

Designed by Skylar Finn
It's another spectacular Sunday and so it's time for another sweet edition of Sunday Swoons! Remember it's more fun if you join the party and you are free to take the topic/theme in any direction you want to! Have fun with it! 

If you're just joining the party, Sunday Swoons is an original feature hosted by Skylar Finn @ Life of a Random and myself, wherein  we chat about a different swoon worthy topic every Sunday. 

1. You're welcome to use the button Skylar designed as long as you cite her as the source/give her all the loving credit she deserves! 

2. You can post in whatever style you would like: list, discussion, etc. as long as what you are talking about goes with the topic for the week.

3. You either must follow the topic given OR you can do a post on the opposite of the topic we give. (Example: Our topic-- Top 5 Favorite Couples, Your topic-- Top 5 Least Favorite Couples.)

4. Your posts don't have to have anything to do with books you are reading right now. If you reference specific books, they can be past or older reads. (It's nice if you put in the Goodreads link to the book, or another site that will take readers to the book's synopsis, cover, and other information.)

5. Please remember to link back to us in your post, giving us credit for the feature! Also, you can add your link to the link-up tool at either of our posts ( it may only work on mine the first time because we are still working that part out.). 

This week's topic is: The Friend Factor in Relationships: How other friends fit into main characters's relationships and what affect they can have.

I'm kind of fudging with how well my post fits the topic, but I really have been wanting to discuss this and since it is related to the topic I'm rolling with it and maybe I'll throw a little something else in too that fits the topic better. It depends on how long the post is looking like it is going to be.

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One thing I've noticed lately in a lot of more "cookie-cutter," (as I like to call them) type YA books, is that there is always one girl friend or the main character, usually their very bestfriend, that is a total guy magnet, and flirtatious and/or provocative, maybe not all the time but whenever there is a hottie involved.

I've never understood why the main character can't be the confident, flirtatious and score all the guys they want. I also feel like it would be really hard to be the bestfriend of someone with such a strong personality like that. (Not that the personality is strong but that the personality is so strong AND made up almost entirely of the qualities mentioned previously.) It can't be good for the self confidence at least for certain types of people. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that these characters aren't like certain real people, or that they are bad for others, I'm simply pointing out that you have to have a certain amount of self-confidence not to feel inferior, at least to a small degree, to such a confident well loved person.

I'll admit it, I actually love these characters. They don't at all bother me, I don't have any problems with them. I just start to wonder things, like the questions brought up earlier, why is it never the main character with that kind of personality? Obviously if the main character didn't have the right kind of personality to get along with their firecracker bestfriend without conflict or other emotional repercussions and deeper issues in the relationship. Why do we never see any of this in books? I mean they can't all be perfect matches of personalities.

How do you feel about these characters? What patterns and repercussions have you noticed?


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Uffda, as much as I would love to talk about something else that fits the topic better or make a list of examples of something, but I just don't have the energy to, sorry guys. I guess I'm keepin' it short today.

Next weeks topic is.... Couples on Covers!




Tools of the Trade Day 7: How to make your blog more well known


How to Make Your Blog More Well Known:

1. Find blogs that you like and leave a comment on the post. The owner of the blog might go and comment back and possibly follow you.

2. Make blogger friends. That will obviously make you get more followers and you might be able to do fun features with them on your blogs.

3. Let yourself be known to the blogging world. There's a group on Goodreads called Blogger Lift where all bloggers can join and get more followers, learn more about blogging, and can meet more bloggers.

4. In Goodreads, there is about at least 1 thread about blogs in each group. You could post updates on your blog and links to your posts and maybe some people will check out your blog.

5. Follow a lot of blogs. There's about a 1 out of 10 chance that someone that you follow will follow you back or at least check out your blog too.

Clarissa is the fabulous blogger behind the book blog Books Equal Awesomeness. She's fairly new to the game but definitely knows what she's talking about so check out her blog here and read some of her reviews!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Stacking The Shelves


I've been trying not to get too much stuff lately, but I did get one thing so I'm linking up with Tynga @ Tynga's Reviews anyways.

From Net Galley and Abrams Publishing:


Thanks so much to Net Galley and Abrams for the e-ARC copy! I was highly intrigued by the synopsis for this one and the title is just lovely! I don't typically like historic fiction, but I have a soft spot for suffragists and the entire concept was compelling and unlike anything I've ever heard. Check it out on Goodreads

What did you get?

Of Monsters and Madness


Of Monsters and Madness

by Jessica Verday

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A romantic, historical retelling of classic Gothic horror featuring Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee, from a New York Times best-selling author.

Summoned to her father's home in 1820's Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of gruesome murders in which he might be implicated. She is torn romantically between her father's assistants-one kind and proper, one mysterious and brooding-who share a dark secret and may have more to do with the violent events than they're letting on.
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Expected publication date: September 9th, 2014
Received from: Liberty Bay Books
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Oh goodness, this was an interesting one for sure. I was really intrigued by the idea of a Poe inspired book and was very excited to get my hands on it. Naturally it was weird and twisted, Poe is weird and twisted, so it makes sense, but I don't know, this might have been a little too weird and twisted for me. 

The pacing of the plot I found to be awkward and poorly done. I had no idea what direction it was going in until I was only about 60 pages to the end. Then it went in a crazy wild card direction. It went Jekll and Hyde on me folks. Who would'a seen that coming? I sure didn't and that was a huge turn off for me. Not because it wasn't predictable, I don't like predictable, I like surprises, but I like practical and realistic surprises, which this was not. It was far far from it. That twist came from absolutely NO WHERE. The ending was almost worse if that's even possible. I have never been more confused when reading. It was going along one way then all of the sudden it was a new chapter and things were happening that I had no idea where happening and I was so SO lost.  Let's just say it was greatly flawed. 



The writing was acceptable, if a bit mundane. It didn't stand out in a good or a bad way. I suppose that is better than it being horrid. Right? 


I couldn't really love any of the characters. I didn't really connect with them. They didn't really have especially strong or vibrant personalities. They felt bland and two dimensional, they were just kind of there. They didn't really seem to grow or develop. Like the writing, they weren't bad, they just weren't anything special.

Last Thoughts: It was not my cup of tea. It was bland and the whole thing seemed kind of black and white in a way (lacking color and interesting things). It was strange and not in a good way and the plot kind of ruined the whole thing. Without characters that I really, really loved to redeem the book, it had nothing I could really enjoy. I give it about one and a half stars out of five. 

If you feel like it you can add it to Goodreads or buy it through Liberty Bay Books. Don't let my opinions stop you! You may like it!


Gif. Consensus: 






Tools of The Trade Week Day 6: Battling Blogger Burnout


Blogger Burnout
To begin the wind down part of  Tools of The Trade week I'm going to talk about the dreaded blogger burnout with you guys!

Every blogger has at least heard of the phenomenon and many bloggers have experienced it, myself included. It's horrible. (For those of you who don't know what it is, blogger burnout is when bloggers are overwhelmed and extremely stressed causing fatigue, frustration, and apathy from all that blogging requires. This all can often cause them to stop blogging all together for a prolonged amount of time.)

For me burnouts begin when posting and writing reviews begins to feel like work that I don't want to do rather than something fun to do in my spare time. This usually occurs when I have a long list of posts and reviews I need to complete and don't know where to begin. So I'm going to list some ways to prevent it and some things that can cause it.

Cause: making a list.

I love lists. I make tons of lists on sticky notes and plaster them everywhere when I am attempting to be productive or am starting to get overwhelmed. This often backfires, because when I am so stressed that I start making lists it is usually because I have so many things I want to get done. When I have a lot of things to get done then my list is really long and it overwhelms me even more just looking at it! Here is the thing, when I make lists I have to finish that list the day I make it so when I have a massive list of detailed posts to write there is no way that I can do it all in one day and it is crazy to feel like I have to finish them all, but that's how I feel when I write them all out. It gets so overwhelming that I procrastinate until I avoid posting all together, and thus the burnout begins.


Prevention: make a list

I know crazy right! I just said that making lists can cause burnouts and now I'm telling you to make a list to avoid a burnout! What? Allow me to elucidate (yay big words, I love big words!), so if you read what I said above then you should have noticed that what overwhelms me about the lists is the self pressure and mindset of them as well as the sheer size. I actually find lists quite helpful for trying to get things done. Here is how to make lists helpful rather than harmful.

-Make lists shorter and more achievable by organizing them by date, priority, subject, or other method.
Example: Today's Posts 
               -Feature A
               -Review X?
-Remind yourself that you don't have to do everything on your list today. If you do choose to make one big list (I really don't recommend that method, but hey, it's your life), you may decide to scribble a note reminding yourself of this at the bottom or deadlines by each individual item on your list (prioritize).

Prevention: make a calendar.
This is a great and more visual alternative to making a list. For a really long time I thought all those bloggers that actually planned out posts were certifiably insane. (Sorry guys, I was wrong. I loved you guys anyways though.) It helps me because I can put posts where I want them and see what things I have to do by what date and it keeps me from feeling like I have to get them all in one day, but I can still see all that I want to do and have it recorded so that I don't feel like I'll forget about a post idea.


Cause: all work and no play. 

As I mentioned above, burnout frequently happens when blogging begins to feel more like work than something that I enjoy and becomes a hassle. I think to hard about what posts I need to be doing and all the reviews that I should do, but maybe I'm not that excited to do. If I'm not excited about the things I need to do and I have a lot of things I need to do but don't want to do, then I get into this "Eww, this is not fun and it feels like work and it's just such a pain!" funk/mood. That usually ends up with me choosing to not post because I have no desire to do seemingly unnecessary gross work.


Prevention: do something fun!

If it begins to feel like work and your not excited about any of your posts then take a step back and really look at the posts you are planning on and ask yourself if you really need to do them. If you actually have to do them, that's fine, but sometimes you'll find that you are only posting them because you feel obligated to when there is actually no reason that you should have to. If the latter is the case then toss those gross work-ish posts and brainstorm some fun ones that you can get really excited about. If you really do have to do the work posts, realize that there is no reason you can't sprinkle in some fun discussions or games, or something else you're excited about in between! (If you want. If additional posts stress you out even more then don't even go there, just leave it be, push through and change some other things and try other methods!)

Cause: the "have to" feeling.
I mentioned this when I talked about work posts, feeling or thinking that you have to review everything you read or every book you mention on Goodreads, your blog, Google+, or other media can end badly. Let's face it there reviews we just don't want to write. Whether it is because we don't feel like we have enough to say about a book, we felt too neutral about it, or while it may have been a very entertaining book, we can't think of how to analyze it in any amount of detail, there will always be reviews that we just don't want to do.

Prevention: realize that you DON'T have to review every book.
For a long time I felt like I had to review every single book, I touched and I would be so upset with myself if I missed a review or couldn't write a good one for a book. I've learned, and I've gotten over that. Sure there are some books that we need to review because we were given it in exchange for  a review, but there are lots more books that we got on our own time that we have no obligation to review if we don't want to or don't have time to. Just because you mention it doesn't mean that you have to review it.

Prevention: mini reviews.
You guys have read my Short and Sweet reviews and lots of other bloggers have their own similar version of the same thing. These mini, paragraph long reviews, are one way I deal with having a huge list of books that I want and need to review. They are fast and easy and I can check several reviews off my list at once by doing them this way, since it takes so much less time than a full review.

Prevention: fall in love again.
It's easy to get so caught up in blogging and life that we forget to do the little things that we really love and what got us blogging in the first place. Sometimes it all takes over and we don't get time to read or do whatever else. Schedule in time to read, take a break for a few days a week, or set aside some time just for reading or doing those little things. (You can (should try to) do this without completely stopping blogging!) Fall in love with your favorite activities all over again!

Prevention: ask for help! Reach out!
I absolutely cannot stress this one enough. The other things I listed are all pretty basic and are things many people already do. This one though is something I have trouble with remembering to do and that I think most people don't think about. For a lot of bloggers one of their favorite parts of blogging is the community, how close-knit, helpful, loving, welcoming, and accepting other bloggers are (followers too! I love you guys!). No one minds if you reach out to them and ask for help, or request a guest post or invite them to co-host, or do something else on your blog, or for you. Catherine @ Stray Imaginations has been a life saver for me this year. When I go on trips she is always happy to thrown the occasional post up on my blog so that my followers don't get bored, I can relax, and my blog continues to show up regularly in all my followers feeds. Whether you ask a fellow blogger to do a guest post, help you host and organize a feature or event, or basic maintenance  like how to format something, work a program, or use HTML, every blogger I've ever met has been happy to help with whatever I need if they can! It is amazing and it can really help take some stress off! I don't know a single blogger that would be upset or weirded-out that someone asked for their help (it is actually pretty exciting to most bloggers that you respected them enough to think that they could help you! It means a lot to them too!). Don't be scared to contact other bloggers for help (or just for fun)! It is a big part of keeping the blogging world spinning and spinning happily at that. I am always happy to help in anyway I can and you can always reach me on Goodreads, Facebook, or e-mail.


Briana is a high school student obsessed with reading and writing. She started this blog a few years ago and enjoys the fact that there is always more to learn. She is working on accepting her mistakes and the fact that she'll never know everything and is currently drafting a plan for world domination. If you have any suggestions on how she could accomplish this, or just want to chat about books and other things, go ahead and hit her up! She'd love nothing more than to talk with you...except maybe ruling the world. In the meantime you can email her or message her on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tools of The Trade Day 5: All About ARCs


What are ARCs? 
ARC stands for Advance Readers Copy. ARCs are copies of books that aren't yet released. Publishers typically use them as marketing tools.

What do you need to get ARCs?
Each publishing company has their own specific guidelines as to who they allow to get ARCs, but, in the blogging world, most publishers use the following as guidelines:
• The blog has been up and running for 6+ months
• The blog has a decent amount of followers and page views (500+ is preferred by most publishers, but remember that every publishing house has their own guidelines)
• Reviews are honest and informative
• There are comments on your posts

So, if you fulfill those requirements, how do you get ARCs? 
Netgalley and Edelweiss are two of the most common ways to get ARCs. You can browse through a catalog of books available on these sites, and request whichever interest you. If you're approved, you will be given a digital copy of the ARC to read and review.

If you want a physical copy of an ARC, typically you email the publishers with your request. Make sure to state your name, your shipping address, the ARC you're requesting, your blog statistics, and why you're interested in that particular book.

For your convince, I've compiled a list of some of the more popular publishers with the email you should contact them at for ARC requests.

HarperCollins
• Macmillan -> Contact information is listed - by imprint - here.
Simon & Shuster
Scholastic 
Bloomsbury 

If your book is published by a publisher not on this list, you can find the person you need to email your request to by going to that publisher's website, finding the "Contact Us" page, and looking for the "publicity contact."

What happens now? 
After you've sent a request to a publisher via email or requested a digital title via Netgalley / Edelweiss, one of three things will happen:
1). You'll get a reply saying your copy is on it's way. (Or, if you requested it digitally, you'll be approved.)
2). You'll get a reply saying you can't get a copy because there aren't any left / you don't have enough followers / etc. (Or, if you requested it digitally, you'll be declined).
3). You don't get any response at all.

If you get declined, don't give up! Work on making your blog better and keep trying. ARCs - both digital and physical - are not free to make, so publishers have to be relatively limited with who they allow to get them :)

Zoe is a talented young blogger who blogs on both The Infinite to-read Shelf and Deadly Darlings Death-Defying Reviews. She is passionate about reading and loves YA books and reading thought provoking books. Her favorite part about blogging is meeting other bloggers and people that share her love for reading so feel free to leave a link to your blog below!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tools of The Trade Day 4: 9 Things You Need to Know About Interacting with Authors


9 Things You Need to Know When Interacting With Authors

Before I was a blogger, I was an awkward fangirl. I would kind of freak out when I met my favorite authors. One time, I even cried. Yeah, that’s me. I was a freshman in college and I ended up crying at Francine Rivers’ book signing (not like sobbing, but I got choked up and teary-eyed) just because her books meant so much to me.
Telling an author how much their books have impacted you is NOT a bad thing, far from it. They need to know how much their work has affected their readers, but you also need to make sure that you don’t make them feel weird or awkward as well, because no one likes being that guy.
So I’m going to give you a few reminders when you meet authors. I know, I know, you’re probably saying, “Who does this chick think she is? An expert on meeting authors?” Well, not really. I’m just a girl who interacts with a lot of authors. Most of the times it’s through social media like Twitter, Goodreads, and email, but I do have some experience with author signings and meeting authors personally.
Over the last six months, Addison and I have become really good friends with two authors: Julie Murphy, author of Side Effects May Vary. She lives in North Texas and attends Irving Public Library events all the time, so we became friends through those events and doing various promotional posts for her book. She’s a super person! Addison and I both adore her spunk and witty personality and overall hilarity. We also became friends with Martina Boone, author of Compulsion (which will be released in October). I became friends with her after reading her ARC. I told Martina that I absolutely loved the story, and through that, I became part of her Street Team and other promotional groups. Obviously, as a blogger it is what we can do for the authors, but through that, you become friends with these people. Yes, they create the most astounding worlds and heart racing characters, but they are still people, and they love getting to know fellow book-lovers.

So here are my reminders to people who interact with authors:

1. Shake their hand. 
Instead of overflowing with fangirl words and begging for your book to be signed, shake their hand. That goes a lot further than a signed book in my opinion. Also, authors aren’t used to shaking hands with every one of their readers because they are busy writing signatures, but when you make a point to actual shake their hand, that takes the author out of the normal monotony of a signing.

2. Don’t completely go all fangirl crazy. 
I can’t imagine how many John Green fans have gone up to him and just started sobbing uncontrollably. Yes, sometimes that’s just the way your body reacts, but if you can’t express to him in words what you think about his books, write it down in a letter and give it to him at the signing so he can read it later. That will last much longer than his memory of a sobbing teenager. That doesn’t only go for John Green but any other author that might make you react in such a way.

3. Congratulate them. 
If they are an award winning author, congratulate them on their hard work. Because yes, it was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that went into the writing of their book, and those who are talented enough to win awards like the Michael Printz, William C. Morris, Newberry, etc., should be congratulated for a job well done.

4. Recommend a book you think they would like. 
They read too! Obviously say that you enjoyed their book, but make sure to tell them another book you enjoyed after reading theirs.

5. Whatever you do, do not threaten them. 
We know the stories of people who faux threaten authors about hunting them down if they decide to kill a certain character. At almost every panel I’ve attended, at least one of them has a story like that. It makes them feel uncomfortable, so for Christ’s sake, don’t threaten them.

The following reminders are for bloggers:

6. DON’T shove your blog down their throats. 
I’ve seen a few people do this, and it makes me cringe. The authors are always gracious, but you can see the small grimace on their face when this happens. We are there to help them, not help ourselves. Obviously, it should be an equal partnership, but make sure you are professional. Whenever I meet an author, I give them my card, but I wait until after they’ve signed my book and we’ve chatted a bit. I normally tell them that I would be willing to promote their book if they find they need extra promotional events, and that’s it! I don’t say anything else (unless I received an ARC from the publisher). But don’t make them want to throw your card away after meeting you.

7. When emailing authors, be professional. 
Tell them who you are and a short description of your blog or at the event you met them at, then tell them what you can do for them. If you want an interview with an author, ask and add the questions as an attachment so that they can do it quickly and not have to email you back a dozen times. It’s not impertinent, it’s preemptive. However, give them a way out, such as saying that you understand they are very busy because they may not have time to actually answer questions. Be kind, be gracious, and be professional. This also goes for requesting ARCs from publishers (though that would create an even longer list of dos and don’ts).

8. When authors give you promotional items, give them out! 
If you get an ARC of a book, don’t hoard it, allow people to borrow it freely. It was given to you freely, and you should freely allow others to take part in the joy of the ARC (unless they are eARCs -that’s something completely different). If they give you bookmarks or bookplates, give them out in your giveaway boxes, or maybe give a few to the local library if you really have a bunch. Any publicity is good publicity.

9. Overall, be kind, be courteous, and be generous.
No one likes a self-entitled person.

Don’t overthink this list, because no one wants to be a stick-in-the-mud, but these are valid points that you should think about before attending events. Be true to yourself when you meet authors. They are just people after all who just happen to write stories that you love. Treat them like you would a normal person and everything will turn out all right.

My name is Amanda. I run a blog called Of Spectacles and Books along with my co-blogger Addison. Both of us are in grad school getting our Masters in Creative Writing, but between crazy classes and studying and living out our adventures, we devour YA books. We sip them in the mornings along with a big cup of coffee and other times we gobble them up in the kitchen right next to our salads. But mostly we just love reading and discussing books with other book-lovers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The School Year is Coming! The School Year is Coming! (AKA brace yourselves for the impending doom)


Warning: this will contain a bunch of gifs and memes and such.


That llama is me when the mere thought of going back to school for even a day crosses my mind. I seriously think I may just spontaneously keel over dead if I have to endure three more years of not only high school, but going to high school at my school. Freshman year was the worst school year of my life. In all areas, social, academic, everything. I can't do another three years of that. So I am attempting to hold on to hope and remain optimistic that this year will be my year.  A fresh start and all that good stuff. Send me good vibes people, I'll need it.
(Big. BIG, shout out thank you to Skylar from Life of a Random for helping keep me optimistic and for the pending first day email for motivation and pep.) 

Here are some pictures that sum up my feelings about school:

That isn't a good feeling my friends. No one enjoys that feeling. At least in my opinion but that may be my introverted-ness and social awkwardness speaking. 

And this is so much worse:

To me that picture is less the night before and more when you have to try to wake up in the morning EARLY! 
Speaking of waking up early, I auditioned for our symphonic choir and I got in which I am eternally grateful for and excited about but here is the thing. I don't do mornings. I getting up at 9 is early for me, some mornings I get up at 12. Getting out of bed at 6 something in the morning to get to school by 7 something is a serious struggle especially when it is dark and cold out. Now to go to rehearsals for choir which are before school that STARTS, I emphasize STARTS (that means you are in the room and singing your heart out at this time) at 6:50am. That's right I have to wake up then at about six or just before. Not six something. Six. And getting up at six only gives me like a half an hour to get ready. That just doesn't happen. I don't primp or anything, but I wake up then lay around for half an hour or more before i can convince myself to get up. Needless to say, I am very glad that hoodie, jeans, and messy bun look has come back. 

Anyways, back to the real reason for this post. I wanted to let you guys know that from September 3rd on I will have FAR less time to read and to post so things will die down a lot. Sorry, I wish it didn't have to be so, but it is inevitable. Also, in light of the impending and complete monopolization of my time by school, I have decided to drop some features. Maybe temporarily, maybe permanently, I'm not sure yet. Right now the only one I'm dropping is Teaser Tuesday, but more may follow. Also, others may become every other week events or something. 

Thanks for understanding guys! And to all of you who are also starting school soon (high school or otherwise) or who have recently started, I wish you the best of luck, and the least of awkwardness. (or something like that)


Confessional

Confessional

Yup you heard right, I'm going to spill my guts to you guys. Some are about reading, some are about writing, and some are about blogging, while others still are about other bookish things. These are in no particular order, and for no particular reason. 

1. I cant handle used bookstores. I hate them with a passion, I don't want anything there and it all feels so unorganized, not to mention the smell! You won't see me in a used bookstore, ever. Maybe a book store that sells  used books but not a used book store.

2. I remain unimpressed by the smell of books. I don't not like how they spell, although some are nasty, but I just don't get what smells so great about them, why people love the smell so much. 

3. I am terrified to read in places like the bath tub. My wittle book babies might get hurt or fall in and drown!

4. I do dangerous things like read while cooking. It freaks my family out a little bit and I am pretty sure it is because they think I'll burn the house down. To me that's not the dangerous part, the dangerous part is that my baby (book) might get food on it or something.

5. I can't use bookmarks. I used to have to use a bookmark. Now I just flip the pages. However, Max- I loved the bookmark you gave me and have made a point of using it for everything, and I have been enjoying it so maybe the phrase "I can't" is inaccurate. How about I typically don't?

6. Sometimes I skip sections, or even *gasp* whole pages. I really, really try not to do this, but when I am super tired and the writing begins to just drone on and on and on about little details that don't matter, over describing boring things. Well, then I might just let my eyes slip over that part and on to a more exciting part, making sure I don't miss anything of course. 

7. I have been doing a bad job of posting reviews. I am SO infinitely sorry about this one. I don't really have any good excuse, other than I have been pretty behind as far as reading and don't have anything to review. This is something I kick myself for everyday and promise to try to be better at. 

8. Sometimes I really don't want to writer certain reviews. Ugh, there are some books and some times where I would rather do anything other than write a review on it. Some are just really hard to review even ones I liked, but usually the hardest ones to review are the ones that I have no strong feelings about, those obnoxious three star ones that aren't bad and aren't good

9. I procrastinate writing, and sometimes reading, like there is no tomorrow. I am so awful about this. It is utterly despicable. I seriously get board and think of doing those things and then groan and try to find something different to do, even though I really love nothing more than reading and writing once I get started. That is the key, getting started. 

10. I am horribly awkward at author events. I have some struggles with anxiety (minor depending on the situation) and unless I am comfortable with the surroundings and at least a few people that I am very comfortable with the entire thing and interacting with people. If you are my friend I won't shut up, and there are times where I don't know most of the people, but I am very much at ease and just the right amount of chatty. Author events are not one of these times. Not at all. Not even a little bit. Just no. I apologize to all of the people I've encountered at these things. I really have nothing against you, I may even wish to befriend you, but I just can't

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 PicMonkey.com 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.

YOU HAVE SUCCESSFULLY CREATED YOUR OWN HEADER. *cheers* I knew you could do it.
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.

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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 short...it 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?)